Here are some basic principles which will answer many of the questions you have been asking. Unless you know the PURPOSE of the Sabbath, you can't understand HOW to keep it.
YOU are "missing out" on a lot of the good things in life. There is a reason! Life lacks the real meaning and purpose it should have. "Every day is the same old thing!" you hear so many people say. But God didn't intend it that way! He has given us a specific blessing, which, when really understood, appreciated, and rightly used, will give us the zest for life that we otherwise lack. This blessing is God's Sabbath Day. You need a new insight into this command. Here is an article that will better enable you to receive the rich blessing intended. Recent issues of the "Good News" and the "Plain Truth" contained articles on "The Sign of a Christian" and "Has Time Been Lost?" These articles proved that the true Sabbath was to be a sign between God and His children forever, and that the true seventh day has never been "mixed-up" or "lost."
Made for Man
Christ said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). He didn't say it was made for the Jew, but for MAN — for all mankind in other words. And it was made for him as a blessing. Keep this principle in mind. It was made for you, to help you, to enable you to live a happier and more godly life. God's true Sabbath is one of the greatest blessings that has ever been bestowed upon mankind. It signifies that the Creator is our God and we are His children. Our Creator knew that we would need a period of rest every seventh day, and this is one of many opportunities the Sabbath affords. Each of us tends to become overly absorbed in our daily cares during the week, but God foresaw this, and set aside the Sabbath as a time when we can completely for get our routine work and get closer to God in study, meditation, and prayer. The wonderful part of it all is that we can keep this period of rest and spiritual revival with complete confidence that God will bless and prosper us because we have done this! If we would quit working every few days and take a needed rest, we might naturally expect to get behind in our finances and material pursuits. But God has said just the opposite! So if we keep His Holy Day, we can rest assured that it will be gain instead of loss, even looking at it materially. Do you realize what this amounts to? God is giving us a paid vacation every seventh day! Human reasoning might not grasp this right at first. But God has promised this, and the experiences of hundreds of people have shown that God meant what he said. You may not be prospered immediately if you begin keeping God's commandments and paying your tithe faithfully as He has commanded. But in His way and time, God will begin to bless and prosper you in ways that you may never have expected. In Isaiah 58:13-14, God inspired Isaiah to write that if we kept the Sabbath and delighted in it, we would remember Him and He would cause us to have life in abundance, spiritually and materially. Notice that we are not to seek our own pleasure on the Sabbath. Yet, we are to delight in it. This means that we should be so busy doing good to others, and getting closer to God in prayer and study, that we will not even desire to seek any earthly amusements. We will be happy because we are able to rest, to worship God with peace of mind, and because we have a special time to do good. This same passage says we are not to speak our own words on the Sabbath. What does this mean? It shows that we should not spend the Sabbath in idle talk, but should be reading, discussing and meditating upon God's word. Then we will be drinking in the ideas of God instead of mere human notions. What a privilege it is to have a whole day in which we can read and discuss the way of life that is revealed to us in the Bible. In order that we may have our minds free from last minute duties on the Sabbath. God has commanded that we prepare for it the day before. Exodus 16:22-25 shows that we should do any baking or time consuming boiling before the Sabbath. Long hours of cooking and Stewing should never clutter up God's day. So do all your "sprucing up" and any heavy cooking on Friday, the preparation day. Then at sunset Friday evening, when the Sabbath begins, you will have put all worldly cares aside and will be able to enter the Sabbath in a spirit of rejoicing and worship toward God.
Duties on Sabbath
Your time should never "drag" on God's Sabbath! Some people experience this when they first begin to keep He Sabbath, but it certainly isn't the way God intended. When we understand it properly, the Sabbath will be filled with interest and joy. The true Sabbath is not a negative thing! Christ set us an example of how to keep it. In Mark 2:23 to 3:5, Jesus showed that it was all right to procure food on the Sabbath if it is necessary. He told the Pharisees that He was Lord of the sabbath — not. Sunday! Then Christ healed an infirm man on the Sabbath, and showed that it is lawful to do good on that day. What kind of good should we do on the Sabbath day? God commanded in Exodus 20:10, that we should not work on the Sabbath. So the kind of good that we do on that day is not the kind of hard physical labor which we might do on other days. "Doing good" is not to be used as an excuse for performing those material duties, however helpful to others, which can just as well be done some other day. There is one exception to this prohibition. That is in the case of an "ox in the ditch" (Luke 14:5). This refers to a genuine emergency, not some material duty you "put off" until the Sabbath. The principal example of doing good on the Sabbath that Christ gave us was that of healing the sick or infirm that came to Him. (Matt. 12:9-13). He did not go abroad seeking them. Also, we find that He was constantly meeting with others and teaching them God's ways on this day. We can all use the Sabbath as a time to comfort and minister to those who are sick and infirm on this day. But this does not mean that we should burden ourselves with purely material services. Jesus didn't when he helped the sick according to their faith. Remember what he told Martha: "Thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41,42). We should especially try to help those who are interested in the true teachings of the Bible, because in this way we can minister to them both spiritually and physically. As we shall find later, we are to meet with other true worshippers on the Sabbath. But if this is impossible, we may well use the Sabbath as an opportunity to meet with others who we know are really interested in the truth, to explain the Bible to them in their own homes. We are not to attempt to force God's truth on people at any time. But we are always to be ready and willing to explain the Bible to anyone who is sincerely seeking God. Some of our brethren in Texas use a portion of the Sabbath for this purpose and have helped a great many people in their community to come to a better knowledge of God. STUDY the word of God (II Tim. 2:15)! This should usually be your first duty on the Sabbath. Then you will be ready to answer the questions of those you are trying to help (I Peter 3:15). Remember that the principal command is to rest from our usual routine on the Sabbath, and to worship God and remember him as Creator. The Bible reveals that "doing good" on the Sabbath is serving others in a way that shows the power of God in our lives. Christ didn't labor for several hours to heal the sick on the Sabbath. Instead, He invoked the very power of the Creator to release Others from the bonds of sickness. So we should not spend most of the Sabbath caring for the physical needs of other people. By drawing closer to God on this day, we will then be able to help others in a lasting way thru the power of God's Spirit. "Sewing for charity" and other physical services may be worthy at the proper time, but such routine labor should not fill up God's Sabbath day. Physical things will "perish with the using." So use the Sabbath primarily to learn God's ways and make them a part of your character — and help Others to do the same. The Spirit of God in you will last forever!
In Luke 4:16, we find that Christ customarily met with others on the Sabbath and read from God's word. Lev. 23:1-3 tells us that the Sabbath is to be a holy convocation for God's people. A convocation is a commanded assembly. God commands you to convoke or meet with other true believers whenever this is possible on the Sabbath. However, this does not mean that you are to meet on that day or any other day with those who are blinded to God's truth and refuse to keep all His commandments. Paul commanded Christians in II Cor. 6:14, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion hath light with darkness?" Christian fellowship should be with other people only thru God and his Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him (Acts 5:32). So remember that you cannot have true fellowship thru Satan, or his ministers, or his churches who refuse to obey God's commandments. When it was impossible to meet with others in a church on the Sabbath day, the apostle Paul and his helpers "went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made." (Acts 16:13). This is an admirable example for many of us, because getting closer to the natural handiwork of the Creator brings one closer to God. The hand of God is seen in everything good and beautiful. Notice that instead of going to the river to fish, as so many do on the "day of the Sun," Paul went to a river to help others seek God in prayer.
A Light to the World
Christ told his followers, "Ye are the light of the world" Matt. 5:14. How much the world needs people who will fearlessly show it the way out of this spiritual darkness! But can you be a "light" to other people while continuing in the same man-made doctrines and practices they do? NO you can't! You must live by God's word to show forth the true light that will eventually turn people from darkness. You must be different from other people by obeying God by having his sign. Most people won't like you for doing this. Christ said in John 3:19, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Men were so steeped in their own customs, then as now, that the true light of the gospel offended them. So you can see that real Christianity is not the way to be popular with men! But doesn't this show what an important "light" your keeping of the Sabbath can be to others? It is a sign that sets you apart from those following the broad way that leads to destruction.
It is easy to use the latitude and privileges of the Sabbath as a means to abuse it. You should not be overly strict or self-righteous like the Pharisees. On the other hand human are usually inclined to "stretch" the freedom God gives us and begin doing our own work or pleasure on the Sabbath. Taking a walk on the Sabbath is fine so long as it doesn't turn into a "hike." Some people ask about the mention of "a Sabbath day's journey" in Acts 1:12. There is no special command anywhere in the Bible limiting travel on the Sabbath. This "Sabbath day's journey" was a custom of the Jews and is nor a biblical command. However, you certainly shouldn't walk or drive so far on the Sabbath as to tire yourself unduly or to interfere with your worship of God. After sitting in church or studying for some time, a leisurely walk is very refreshing and beneficial. Also, a lengthy drive is sometimes necessary to enable you to meet with other true worshippers on the Sabbath. Within reason, this is not wrong. It serves to strengthen you spiritually and therefore glorifies God. Here is another problem? Should you kindle a fire on the Sabbath Day? The command in Exodus 35:3 was inserted in connection with instructions regarding work on the tabernacle. It was chiefly intended to forbid the kindling of a fire to melt metals or sharpen tools. However, it certainly can refer to unnecessary work done in preparing food which could be prepared on the day before. So it would not be breaking the spirit of the law to light a fire for heat in wintry weather or to warm up previously prepared food. Feeding and watering stock is necessary on the Sabbath and permissible (Luke 13:15). But if you are raising so many cattle or chickens that your "chores" add up to three or four hours' hard work, then you had better cut down on the number of your livestock or else change occupations. Our age of "specialization," when a few farmers become virtual slaves to provide food for hundreds of city dwellers, is not God's way. No man should be "tied down" to his occupation as so many are today. DON'T try to justify breaking the Sabbath by saying that "your occupation requires it"! Remember that this worldly, competitive system is called "Babylon" in the Bible and you are commanded to "come out of her" (Rev. 18:1-4).
God inspired Solomon to write "train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Pro. 22:6). This command would certainly apply to teaching your child to keep the Sabbath. However, you should remember that even sweet little children are by no means converted. They are basically selfish, and usually lack the understanding and will power to keep God's law as an adult. But they should be taught to rest from their routine work or play on the Sabbath as much as possible. They should be instructed in a kindly and straightforward manner that the seventh day is holy to their Heavenly Father, and that they can show their love for Him by refraining from their usual play on that day and thinking and learning about God. Your children should be taught these things gradually and only as their age makes it possible for them to understand. If trained properly from infancy, a ten or twelve year old child should have enough respect for God's Sabbath that he does not spend his time reading "funny books" or listening to radio serials on that day. Love and chastening must go hand in hand in. this training. But a child so trained in God's ways would have a priceless advantage in his knowledge of life and its real meaning in relation to the Creator.
In Exodus 20:8, we find the original command, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Never forget that God has made the seventh day holy time'. You and I are commanded to keep it that way. I have already shown you in God's word that we are not to do our own work, pleasure, think our own thoughts, or speak our own words on God's Sabbath Day. To keep the Sabbath day holy: You can't spend a lot of time in worldly visiting or "shooting the breeze," or even "courting your girl." You can't be running down town for a cup of coffee or an ice-cream soda. That kind of procuring food is entirely UNNECESSARY. You can't spend several hours listening to worthless radio programs or reading the "funnies." You can't wait until after sunset on Friday evening to begin your cleaning up and preparing for the Sabbath, unless, of course, a genuine emergency has interfered. I could go on, but I think you should get the point and grasp the principle involved. Let's NOT "kid" ourselves! When God said to put the Sabbath day to a holy use, He meant exactly what He said. But we should learn to be so happily employed in doing the good things prescribed for that day, that we will have no time or inclination to violate the prohibitions anyway. So let's keep the Sabbath in a positive way! Use the Sabbath as a day to rest from worldly labor, to get closer to God in prayer and study. Take time to do good to others, to care for the sick, to visit the afflicted. Assemble with other true believers on the Sabbath if this is possible. Then you will truly be a "light" to those around you. The Sabbath separates true Christians from this world's churches with their pagan holidays and "day of the sun." So KEEP holy the days God made holy! Rejoice in the blessings and opportunities that the Sabbath affords, and remember that it is a sign between you and the true God.