January 22, 2024

A Day to Remember

Sinclair Ferguson
A Day to Remember

“Remember” is a common command in Scripture. Yet Christians often forget one of the Bible’s most important passages about remembering. Today, Sinclair Ferguson discusses the Sabbath, a day devoted to remembering the Lord.


This week I want to think with you about some of the things that Scripture urges us to remember, things that we shouldn’t forget. If you looked up a Bible concordance, I think you’d find that the words related to remembering and forgetting appear about two hundred different times. And obviously, remembering is a fundamental Christian spiritual duty. Some of these verses may come to your mind, probably one of the most famous, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1), and there’s another one I think should come to mind, but I’ll mention it later on. But first of all, a question: How do you remember? You know how people tell you that you should think, but how do you go about thinking? And I think the same is probably true of remembering. It’s all very well to be told to do it. But how do you do it? Can you really make yourself remember?

When I was a child, I was taught that if there was something I needed to remember, I should tie a knot in my handkerchief, put it in my pocket, and when I needed to remember it, take the handkerchief out, and I would be able to remember it. And it worked for a while.

Later on, when it stopped working, I developed the technique of going to the spot where I thought I had last remembered what I had forgotten, and sometimes I stood there for quite a long time forgetting. But what was I trying to do when I did that? I was trying to trigger in my mind, trying to, as it were, click on the file of the information to get it to open up so that I could remember what it was that I should be doing or thinking or where I should be going. In other words, I was trying to stimulate my memory banks. Now, is there some kind of spiritual equivalent of that? Well, the Scriptures do teach us how to develop a really healthy spiritual memory.

Not, it should be said, in the way we would be taught to do it by Eastern mystics—that is, by emptying our mind. In fact, the very reverse. What Scripture teaches us is the key to remembering is filling our minds with the truth of God and then employing the stimulants that God has given us to remember the things that we must never forget. But what are the things we must never forget? Well, we’ll talk about one or two of them later in the week, but I want to mention one very briefly. It may come as something of a surprise. It’s actually one of the most helpful things the Bible tells us, and it’s one of the most important verses about remembering that you find in the Old Testament. It’s in Exodus 20:8–11. I wonder if you remember what that is.

It’s the commandment to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Now, why is that so important? I think it’s important, a key to remembering, for this reason: that from the very creation, God has given us one whole day every week when we can leave aside our work, when we kind of leisure to think about Him, time to read His Word, time to spend with fellow believers, time to sit under the ministry of His Word. And through these different avenues, God stores up in our minds the truth that He wants us to know and the truth that He wants us to remember. I think people often make the mistake of thinking that the Sabbath commandment is about one day in the week, but if you read it carefully, you’ll notice it’s actually about seven days in the week: six days you work; one day you rest. And actually, if you think about it, Adam’s first full day was his day of rest.

So, he was called to live on the basis of a day when he could reflect on God’s creation, God’s goodness, store his mind with reflections on who God is and how great He is, and then work through the rest of the week on that basis. And that rhythm is really very important. We need that space to have our minds decluttered and to have our minds filled with the truth of God’s Word. It’s the day when our whole beings are intended to be recalibrated into this weekly rhythm of rest and work and rest and work.

I wonder if you’ve discovered what you do when the cursor on your computer screen freezes up. I remember how amazed I was after trying all kinds of things when I found the instruction saying, “Close the program, turn off the computer, take out the plug for thirty seconds, then reverse the process and reboot,” and lo and behold, things worked very smoothly again. And remember, the Sabbath day is that kind of command. It’s saying, “Close the program of the other six days, turn that off, wait for thirty seconds, reboot, and you’ll be recalibrated in such a way that you’ll be able to live with greater pleasure for the glory of God.”

I think it’s one of the saddest things about evangelical Christianity that we see that commandment as probably the darkest of commandments. It’s almost the commandment that you daren’t mention among evangelical Christians. And I say it’s sad not because I think we should get back to legalism or some dark form of Sabbatarianism, but because we failed to recalibrate our lives that way, and actually the evidence of it shows in so many different ways. There are so many things that we forget because of this one thing that we haven’t remembered. So, if you’re listening to this on a Monday, put something in the pocket of what you’ll wear this coming Sunday, just in case you forget to remember.