Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Study the Ten Commandments - Part Six

Last time, we made the point that the Ten Commandments were given to us by a God who was setting us free, not enslaving us. Most unregenerate men won't ever realize this. They will scoff at the idea. What the world always says about Christianity is this,
"Oh, you are all so straight-laced. You Christians Can't ever have any fun."
And they think that we are enslaved by the Law given by God.
"Your God is always saying, 'Don't, don't, don't! And you can't ever do anything fun. All the Bible is is a book filled with 'Dos' and Don'ts.'"
Instead of free men, they think we are the slaves.

Interestingly, Doug Wilson comments that all the freedom the world wants could be done in a six by eight foot prison cell. You can read pornography is a prison cell. You can smoke dope in a prison cell. You can be immoral in a prison cell. So, who is the slave here? It's not us in bondage, but them; because Christ has set us free. What they are doing is enslaving people in their own lusts - enslaving them in sin - all the while calling us slaves. And too many Christians buy that lie. They envy the world its sin.

We are the free ones. God freed us from the bondage of sin. That's what Romans chapter Six is all about. Romans 6:6 says,
"Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
We used to be slaves. Now we are emancipated.

Then Romans 6:16-18 says:
"Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that ones slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."
God's law frees us. It frees us to live righteously. James even calls it the law of liberty in James 1:25,
"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
Don't get hung up that New Testament repeatedly says we are not under law but under grace. That doesn't mean we are lawless. On the contrary, As Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 9:21, we are "not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ." We aren't bound by the Old Testament ceremonial or sacrificial law. Christ came to fulfill the law and be our once and final sacrifice. But God certainly expects us to keep the moral commands of God that, yes, were repeated in the New Testament.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Study the Ten Commandments - Part Five

Why would God give us rules like the Ten commandments? Well, doesn't every good father do that? We, as dads, are a lot wiser than our children. We've been around the block a time or two more. We know that there are some things in this sin-damaged and cursed world that are dangerous. There are things so devastatingly dangerous, so devastatingly shattering to our lives, that we want to protect our children from them. So we set rules.

What kind of rules do parents set? "Don' play in the road. Don't talk to strangers. Eat your vegetables. Don't wander out of sight. Stay out of the medicine cabinet." Do you see what I'm saying? We want to protect our kids.

God feels the same way, so He sets down rules - rules that, if we follow them, will give us a better life and protect us from the dangers that are out there. And who can doubt that, if we keep the Ten Commandments faithfully, our lives will be better? And like any good father, God will also set punishments if His kids disobey. That provides the incentive to stay on the straight and narrow way. This is why God gave us the Ten Commandments. They are God's loving rules to us as for protection - given to us because we are God's special children.

Israel was, according to the preamble of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-2, a special treasure to God. The verses say, "And God spoke all these words saying, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." God did something special for Israel. He personally rescued them out of miserable bondage in Egypt, and He is now establishing a personal relationship with them as His special people.

He has now chosen us in the church to be Christ's special people, Christ's very bride. Israel and the church are God's special people. We are His because of something He did. With Israel, it was bringing them out of slavery in the land of Egypt by the passover event where the lamb was slain and the blood applied so that the death angel would pass over them as it took the firstborn in every Egyptian household. With the church, it was when God redeemed us out of slavery to sin by the death of His own dear Son, Jesus, on the cross of Calvary where He shed His blood for us to pay the penalty for our sin. We too, therefore, have a special relationship with God, and a special obligation to Him as His redeemed people.

Do you see? The Ten Commandments are set in the context of God bringing His people out of slavery, not leading them into slavery. God is leading them to freedom. The same is true for us. Jesus said in John 8:36, "Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Paul adds in Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." We are free people whom God has given rules to live by, not to mnake us slaves, but to protect us.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Study the Ten Commandments - Part Four

The Ten Commandments were not punishment given to the people of Israel, but
God's love letter to them. That's been our point over the past few blogs. We ended the last blog by quoting the chapter just before God gave the Ten Commandments. We read from Exodus 19:3-6. In particular, I want to point out this thought: God said, "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to Myself." Whereas, God dealt harshly and in anger with the Egyptians, God acted in love toward the Israelites. Like an eagle, He swooped down and carried them away from their oppressors.

But what does God mean when He says, "I bore you on eagle's wings?" If you were a regular reader of Ranger Rick magazine, you'd understand. The mother eagle would make a huge nest high in the top of a tree - sometimes all of eight feet across. She would fill the nest with leaves and animal fur, and even her own down, so it would be nice and cozy for the little eagle - for awhile anyway. But when the time was right, she would make things very uncomfortable for little eagle.

The mother eagle would pick up her fledgling and carry him into the sky to dizzying heights. We're talking about nose-bleed elevation. Then she would drop him. Down, down, down he plummets. He's never flown before. Life has been comfortable, with every care met. But now there is nothing to keep him from smashing on the ground far below except his own two little untried wings, and he's never been to flight school. Surely this story is going to have a tragic ending, the little eagle thinks.

Well, not so fast. Mother eagle has been watching, and what does she do? Just before that little eagle crashes into the ground, she swoops down under him and catches him. "Oh, Thank God!" he shouts. Then his mother flies him back up to the stratosphere only to drop him all over again, and again, and again, until finally he gets it and takes off flying.

We too were headed for a crash. We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). Then Christ swooped down to rescue us and give us new life and sustain us every day. Israel was the Old Testament example of that. They were dead as a nation, without hope in bondage in Egypt, when God rescued them, cared for them, and sustained them. And now, He has a plan to direct their steps, their conduct, as they learn to try out their new wings and live as His special people. So God gives them these rules.

Doesn't every good father do that? We, as dads, are a lot wiser than our children. We know there are some things in this sin damaged and cursed world that are so dangerous, so devastatingly shattering to our lives, that we want to protect our children from them. So we set rules. "Don't play in the road. Don't talk to strangers. Eat your vegetables. Stay out of the medicine cabinet." Do you see what I'm saying?

God feels the same way. He sets down rules that, if we follow them, will give us a better life and protect us from the dangers that are out there. And who can doubt that if we keep the Ten Commandments faithfully that our life would be better?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why We Study the Ten Commandments - Part Three

We've been stressing that we really need to know what God expects and what God demands of us. We as a nation need to know this if we are ever going to turn the faucet off again on the broken sewer line that is modern America. Think of what this country could be again if we only began to live by the Ten Commandments - if every day we would say,
"I will honor God and obey Him. I will be in church on Sunday to worship. I will honor god given authority. I will not murder or hate. I will not commit adultery or lust. I will not steal, lie, or cheat. I will not envy and covet."
Can you imagine what kind of a nation this would be if we all did that?

Do you see why we need the Ten Commandments? Can you see why we need to obey them? Can you see how that would transform our nation? We wouldn't need locks on our doors any more. We wouldn't need to worry about getting lost in our cities at night out of fear for our lives. Taxes would drop because we wouldn't have to keep our prisons open. Could you imagine if people really got serious and obeyed the Ten Commandments? But we need to know them in order to obey them.

But, why don't we? Is it because we look at them as this big, old list of horrendously restrictive rules written by some distant God out in heaven somewhere in space who is miserable and unhappy within Himself who wants to take it out on us and make sure we never have any fun either? Unfortunately, people look at God as just that. They think of Him as this cosmic killjoy who wants to keep us in a straight jacket and never wants to let us do any of the things that are fun and exciting. And if we step out of line, they think He's promised to zap us like a bug flying into one of those bug zappers.

How totally, totally wrong they are, and you are if you think that way. God is not a harsh old grandfather with a long white beard who doesn't want us to have any fun. That's not our God at all. On the contrary, the law was given to us by a God who loves us immensely. The commandments were given to us because keeping them is good for us. You really need to understand this. The commandments are almost a love letter from God to His people. They are a tender, heartfelt expression of God's love for us.

You can see this if you look at the chapter in Exodus before God gives the commandments. In Exodus 19:3-6, we can see exactly what God told Moses to say to the Israelites before He gave them the law. We read:
"And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you shall speak."
How's that for a statement? This was their first stop on their wilderness wanderings. The memory of recent events were vivid in their minds. Oh, they remembered being trapped in Egypt and worked to the bone. They remembered the crack of the whip and the sting on their backs. they remembered their baby boys being fed to the crocodiles. And they remembered God bringing them out of that. It was God who heard their cries of distress. It was God who came and rescued them in might and power - sending the ten plagues, parting the red sea, feeding them and watering them daily, leading them with a pillar of fire. "I swooped down like an eagle and rescued you," says God. "I did that for you."

So would the God who was moved to compassion after watching their misery for four hundred years now subject them to more misery by bullying and browbeating them with Draconian rules and regulations? NO! God continues to love them by giving them these rules. We'll talk more about that next time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Study the Ten Commandments - Part Two

The trouble with mankind is that, on the one hand, we don't know who gets to set the rules; but, on the other, we all want to set our own rules. We all want to be able to do our own thing. We all want to be able to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong.

The other way people respond is to rely on the shifting sands of public opinion to determine moraltiy. Whatever the majority decides is right must be right. Except that kind of thinking by the majority in Nazi Germany led to the attempt to exterminate the Jewish race in the Holocost. Who could honestly think that was right? A majority can be very, very wrong, and yet we want them to decide moraltiy? How foolish!

When I was little, I knew exactly what was right and wrong. It was whatever my dad said. If I didn't follow his rules, I'd get clobbered; but I knew exactly what was expected of me. Shouldn't we want to know what God expects? Shouldn't we want to know what God's rules are?

When I go for a drive, I really like it when they put those helpful signs along the road that tell me what the speed limit is. I know that if I disobey those signs, the nice policeman may come along and give me a ticket and my insurance will go up. What I hate is when I am on a stretch of roaad where there are no signs, and I have no idea how fast I can get away with going (If you know what I mean). I really want to know what the rules are and who the authority is.

Well, in this universe, God is the authority. He created us, so He can decide. He can set the rules. His rules are summarized in the Ten Commandments. In these commandments we find an all encompassing statement touching virtually every part of our lives. They give us the parameters by which we are to live. They don't cover every detail, rather they summarize God's requirements for life. The first four deal with our relationship with God, and the last six deal with our relationship to our fellow man.

Even these were summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22: 35-40, when one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourswelf. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets."
The first commandment, loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, is a summation of the first four commandments; and loving your neighbor as yourself is a summation of the last six. And they are tied together. You will never be able to love your neighbor as yourself until you first love God with all your heart. So these two summarize the Big Ten, But they themselves are a summary of a Bible full of rules. The Old Testament has a total of 660 separate commands. Combined, they are called the Law.

It's not like you have a Bible full of rules and regulations and the Ten Commandments are another ten added to the others. They are a summary that contain all the commandments. The others explain the Ten, the Ten explain the Two. If you want to know how you can love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, you can look at the first four commands. If you want to know how you can love your neighbor as yourself, you can look at the last six commands. Do you see? If you really loved God most, you wouldn't make any idols to other gods. You wouldn't blaspheme His name. You would take time each week to devote to Him. Do you see? That's what loving God looks like. This is why we need the Ten Commandments.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Study the Ten Commandments

We've begun a new series of sermons in our church on the Ten Commandments, but a lot of people ask, "Why study them? Why should we take the time to study something so outdated?" After all, everyone knows the Ten commandments, right? There is something about lying, and stealing, and . . .um, oh, yeah, thou shalt not kill. Let's see, that's three . . . Ah?

The Ten Commandments seem to be something we would assume most everyone would know - that everyone would want to know. Wouldn't people want to know what God expects from them? But sadly, that is not the case.

Our society has become so secularized, that we've believed the lie about our constitution (or should I say, misrepresentation) that there is a wall of separation between church and state. By that, they mean that the wall of separation was built to keep religion from messing around in people's lives and in governmental structures, not the other way around. As a result, we've pretty much banned the Ten Commandments from public life. They can no longer be posted in public buildings or school houses because somebody might (gasp!) actually be influenced by them and follow them.

As a result, although 97% of Americans claim to believe in the Ten Commandments, only 5% can name three or more of the commandments. Try it and see how you do. Sadly, they are not a part of most people's lives. We as a society are woefully ignorant of what God demands of us.

And that reflects in our behavior. How evident that is if we only read the daily newspapers or tune in to the news on our radios or TVs. We have become a society that is morally bankrupt, throwing off all moral restraint. We have a national epidemic of crime, AIDs, abortion, divorce, drugs, and pornography in this country - a country that was given birth on Christian principles. And people wonder why.

Yet, we as a people don't want anyone telling us what to do. We say,
"So what how we live our lives! What difference does it make if we don't keep our word? People will get over it. So what if we get our passion in someone else's bed. Our spouse needs to be more broadminded. We're entitled to some pleasure. So what if we're too focused on our work. No one has a right to tell us what to do."
And we can go on and on making our rationalizations. but we forget that God does have a right to tell us what to do because He made us. And God did tell us in the Ten commandments.