Sermon: Proud Parents

honor parents

The Fifth Commandment: Honour your father and mother.

One day a rabbi was seated next to an atheist on an airplane. I know sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.… but it’s a good story. 

Every few minutes one of the rabbi’s children or grandchildren would come to his seat to see if he needed anything – food, drink, something to read. They’d just come and check on him. The atheist commented, “The respect your children and grandchildren show you is wonderful. Mine don’t show me that respect. ”

“Think about it,” the rabbi said. “To my children and grandchildren I am one step closer to the God who created the Hebrews, the God who spoke to us at Sinai. To yours, you are merely one step closer to the apes.”

That story, in a not-so-subtle way, communicates an important message. Being the people of God has a profound impact on how we treat other people, especially the ones closest to us. It stands in stark contrast to the bumper sticker that says, “Be nice to your children; they’ll choose your Old Age Home ” Or the one that reads, “Honor your father and mother; they haven’t made their will yet.

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There were three reasons that this command was needed.

1) Remember that the ones who were addressed by God through Moses were just released from 400 years of slavery. 
They had lived in a culture that devalued age, as you got older it was harder to work and if you could not work, you were worthless. We do the same thing today. It’s called early retirement.

2) They lacked the social structure that would provide for people in need. 
That’s why there are so many commands about how they were to provide for the poor and even for strangers who were living in their land. There were no retirement plans or pension funds; so older people had to rely on their children when they could no longer care for themselves. But God knows that we are inherently selfish, that’s why the New Testament is filled with Commands to Love one another, Care for one another, Give preference to one another, look out for the good for one another.

3) It is the first command with a promise. 
God says that those of us who will honor our parents will have long life and health. Now I don’t believe that there is some king of mystic magical connection between long life and loving mom and dad. I have known scoundrels who have lived long lives and know people who loved their family dearly die at a young age. 
But that’s not the promise. Guess where children learn to honor their parents? From their parents. If an adult doesn’t honor his parents then he is teaching his children not to honor him.

One of Grimm’s fairy tales is about a little boy who lived with his father, his mother, and his elderly grandfather. The grandfather was feeble and his hands shook. When he ate, the silverware rattled against the plate, and he often missed his mouth. Then the food would dribble onto the tablecloth. This upset the young mother, because she didn’t want to have to deal with the extra mess and hassle of taking care of the old man. But he had nowhere else to live.

So the young parents decided to move him away from the table, into a corner, where he could sit on a stool and eat from a bowl. The young mother said, “From now on, you eat over there.” And so he did, always looking at the table and wanting to be with his family but having to sit alone in the corner.

One day his hands trembled more than usual; he dropped his bowl and broke it. The young father yelled, “If you’re going to eat like a pig, you’re going to eat out of a pig’s trough!” So they made the old man a wooden trough, put his meals in it, and told him to eat out of it. And he did.

Not long after that, the couple came upon their four-year-old son playing out in the yard with some scraps of wood. His father asked him what he was doing. The little boy looked up, smiled, and said, “I’m making a trough, to feed you and Mamma out of when I get big.”

The next day the old man was back at the table eating with the family from a plate, and no one ever scolded him or mistreated him again.

If we are going to truly honor our parents, there are three things we must do.

Respect Them


Paul said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother.” (Ephesians 6:1-2a). 
Children are to obey their parents. But honor or respect is more important than mere obedience. It’s possible to obey without showing respect. You can do as you’re told and still be rebellious at heart.

It’s like the little boy who was standing in the back seat of the car, riding down the road with his parents. His parents told him to sit down and put on his seat-belt because they were concerned about his safety. His father told him once, then twice, then a third time. His mother looked back and asked him to sit down. He defiantly said, “No, I will not sit down!” His father told him if he didn’t sit down he would give him the spanking of his life. So the boy sat down. But then he said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”
There’s obedience, but there’s no respect.

We tend to honor people whom we think deserve it or earn it – we honor great athletes with awards, we honor successful politicians with positions of authority, we honor successful people with plaques. But God says that we are to honor our parents not just because of what they have done, but simply because of who they are. This may be a hard pill for us to swallow, but God didn’t say to honor your parents if they’re honorable. Nowhere does God say that respect must be earned before you have to give it. God simply calls us to honor our parents simply because they are our parents. Nowhere in this commandment does it tell us that we are to honor them because they are great parents, or even good parents. We are to honor them because of the position they hold in relation to our lives.
Value Their Advice


Another way we honor our parents is by valuing their advice. Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction…” That’s not always an easy thing to do because most of us have gone through a stage where we didn’t think their parents know much of anything at all.

I was like most teenagers; I believed that my parents were stupid. But I’ve learned something over the years. Just because I had more education than my parents it didn’t mean that I was smarter. There are some things that nobody learns except by living, having experience, failing at some things and bouncing back.

Let Them Know You Appreciate Their Efforts


There are some things that are just proper and right. One of those things is showing honor to the man and woman responsible for bringing you into this world, feeding you, taking you to the dentist, sitting up with you when you were sick, and doing the million and one other things that go with being a parent. So God says, “Honor your parents.” It’s the right thing to do. Even after children have grown up and have families of their own, they still have a responsibility to honor their parents.

We owe our parents a huge debt of gratitude. They deserve our honor for the simple reason that they have done so much for us!

I have no doubt at all that what has helped me more than anything else to honor my parents’ efforts is being a parent myself. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s difficult and it’s costly, not just in terms of finances, but of time, energy, and emotions.

If we can honor our parents for nothing else, we can honor them because they took on a difficult job. I encourage you to let your parents know that you appreciate what they’ve done for you.

I want you to see that this command of honoring your father and mother is so special that it has a promise attached to it. What is that promise? “…That your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

Paul quotes this command and he says, in Ephesians 6, that this “is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”

How we treat our parents not only impacts them, it also impacts us. There is a blessing or a curse for us based on our treatment of our parents. To honor or fail to honor our parents is a choice that takes us down one of two roads. The choice is ours.

It is important for us to honor our parents and the time to do it is now. The day will come when we will be unable to show them the honor that we would like to give.

Some of you don’t have your parents with you any longer. I hope you don’t have to look back and say with regret, “You know, I never told my father how much I loved him. And as many times as I was in her house, ate her delicious cooking, and received her unfailing love, I never told my mother how much I loved her.”

If you still have your parents but have been reluctant, embarrassed or simply thoughtless about giving them explicit statements and expressions of your love, don’t make the mistake so many others have lived to regret. Spend time with them. Drop them a note or call just to let them know you are thinking of them.

One last word — a challenge, really — to those of us who are parents: be honorable. Even though our honor isn’t based on our worthiness, we still need to live a life that makes it easy for our children to honor us.

We are to be teachers of what is good and right. We’re to teach our children the values that build character and the God that defines those values. And we’re to model for our children God’s values and his integrity and unconditional love. If we take our role as God’s authority in the home seriously, we have reason to hope that when our children leave home they will always choose to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.

The principle at the heart of this fifth commandment is this: make family a priority.


Sermon: Holy Day

sunday-sabbath-day-cw

The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day

“Remember to keep the Sabbath holy…. the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”

What does the Sabbath mean?
In verse 11 we read that God rested on the Seventh day and blessed the Sabbath, so we assume that the Sabbath day was Saturday or the Seventh day. But Sabbath doesn’t mean seven; Sabbath means “to rest from labor.” 
God commanded that the Jews observe this day of rest every week.
And God was very serious about this commandment – “you Jews need to take a break, prop your feet up, and rest for a while. I don’t want you doing ANYTHING on this Sabbath day.”

It doesn’t sound as serious as “Thou shalt not commit adultery” or “Thou shalt not murder.”
When God says, “I want you to take it easy for a while” what would you suppose would be the penalty for not doing that? 
Probably nothing..

But as with every command God wasn’t joking. In Exodus 31:14 it says, “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people.” That’s pretty scary! If you don’t stop and rest one day a week, you will be put to death. That’s pretty heavy!

Why the Command is necessary


1. God knows how important it is that humans rest.



In a recent study several soldiers were observed in various conditions to determine at what stage they achieved the maximum level of output. It was discovered that after seven consecutive days of hard work, each soldier’s performance dropped. But the most interesting thing was that even though the soldiers’ performance level dropped, the soldiers themselves were unaware of it. They thought they were still operating at maximum level. 

Many of us think we don’t need to rest, we think that it would be lazy to take a break every now and then. But God knows the importance of rest. God made us. He knows how much this body can handle. And he knows that if we don’t take time to recharge our batteries, that we will very quickly destroy ourselves.

2. God knows how much humans don’t want to rest.



Parents fully understand this, because we see the same resistance with our children. Have you ever watched young children fight sleep? They whine and cry; keep themselves busy, running and playing so they can’t fall asleep. But whatever they’re doing, no matter how frenzied their efforts to stay awake, they’ll insist they’re not tired. There are times when a mother or a father simply has to make a child rest.

God knew that man needed rest from his labor, and he also knew that man would resist it. And if God had said, “You know, you guys really ought to take a break every now and then,” there’s not a single one of us who would have taken Him seriously. But we tend to listen when God says, “Either you stop and rest for a while or I’ll kill you.”
3. The Sabbath was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel

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God had promised to provide for Israel, and they had promised to be obedient to God.
There were two things which stood as symbols of that covenant – Circumcision, and the keeping of the Sabbath.
When other people living around the Israelites noticed that the Jews didn’t do any work on the Sabbath, it would provoke questions in them. Everyone else worked seven days a week. You had to if you were going to survive, or at least that’s what they thought. “Why do you Jews only work six days a week and refuse to do any work on the seventh day?” To which, they could respond that they did this as a testimony to the fact that they belonged to Almighty God and that they were trusting in Him to provide for their needs.

4. The Sabbath was a test of the Israelites’ faith in God

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The Jews were farmers and so God, knowing how crucial timing was to a farming culture would surely make an exception to this rule for those times of the year when the crops were being planted and harvested. Surely they could work right through the Sabbath and then make up for it later when they were just sitting there watching the crops grow. Right? …..Wrong!

This law was a test of their faith. Was their faith in their own ability to get that crop in the ground and then harvest, or was their faith in God, the one who made the crops grow in the first place?

In a previous congregation, a man came to see me. He owned a nursery but his life was falling apart. Business was bad, his fiancé had left him and he had turned to booze. I spoke to him about Jesus and he was baptized. He joined the worship group and came to practice every Thursday evening but couldn’t come to church on Sundays. But then one Sunday he was there with his guitar. After the service I spoke with him and he told me that he was closing the nursery on Sundays. He had been reading the Bible I gave him when he was baptized and felt convicted. I told him that he was crazy –Sundays are the best days in the nursery business. I suggested that he take Mondays off instead but he was adamant. It was a turning point for him –the business picked up dramatically, his fiancé came back and they were eventually married. He passed that personal test of his faith!

The problem is that we sometimes don’t have enough faith in God to really believe that He is going to meet our needs, protect us, and carry our burdens. If we don’t work those extra hours, then we’re just not going to be provided for. So we work and we wear ourselves out seven days a week because we just don’t believe that God can take care of us.
But God is serious about this commandment. He’s not just messing around.

By the time of Christ, the Sabbath day was kept with a vengeance by the Jews. By then it had become such a distinctive feature of the Jewish religion that anyone who knew anything at all about the Jews were aware of their strict refusal to work on the Sabbath day.
However it came to symbolize legalism at its worst.

The Jewish rabbis had taken God’s command to absurd extremes. 

The Mishnah, which gives us a written record of Jewish tradition in the time of Christ, includes 1,521 rules on how a person could break the Sabbath. Among these are such things as separating two threads, writing two letters of the alphabet side by side, tying a knot, reading by candlelight, and so on. As if that weren’t enough, each of these prohibitions generated debate as to what constituted an offense of its kind. For example, could you put in your false teeth or was that considering carrying a burden? Some rabbis said you could, but others said it was wrong.

But the command was never intended for such absurd purposes. Jesus tried to put things back in their proper perspective by saying in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” God meant for the Sabbath to bring peace and rest.

The Jewish legalists had taken a beautiful commandment and turned it into a harsh and hateful ritual. They took a day of rest and turned it into a burden. From the start, God had intended it to bless his people. It was a time when families and friends could be together, a time when devotion to God could be shared, a time when the spirit and body could be refreshed. But instead, the Pharisees made the Sabbath something that absolutely wore people out trying to follow all their guidelines.

Like all of God’s laws, the Sabbath was designed not to be a burden, but to be a delight. It was designed not to inhibit freedom, but to protect.
So today let’s close with the three things the Sabbath law protects.

First, ironically, it protects the dignity of work.



Notice that vs. 9 of Exodus 20 says, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”

Contrary to what many of us think, work is not a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. In the garden, God gave Adam a job to do. He was to tend the garden and keep it. Work was a part of the world God called good. So when God gave the Sabbath regulation, he wanted to be sure we understood that he was not condemning work, but rather he was giving us a way to protect the dignity of it.

It doesn’t matter what you do, it always seems that your work is never done. And after awhile, if we aren’t careful, our work becomes toil. There is all the difference in the world between work and toil. Hard work gives us that good, tired feeling at the end of the day. Toil just makes us tired. Meaningful labor leaves us satisfied. Toil leaves us drained.

The Mishnah says that even if you can’t get all your work done in six days, on the Sabbath, you should live as if all your work was done. The Sabbath was a way of dignifying labor. And imagine what those people felt when they heard God decree this command. They’d been slaves for 400 years.
 And slaves don’t get days off. Taking one day out of seven to rest and focus on God protects the dignity of work.

Second, it protects the dignity of human beings.

Did you notice that the command includes slaves?

“On the Sabbath you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.” Everyone and everything was to take a break from work.

Why? Human beings have always judged themselves and others by what they produced. They did it then. We do it now. 

We equate busyness with importance. The busier you are, the more important you are. We virtually celebrate our crowded schedules and unavailability to our families and our early mornings and our late nights because we have come to believe that an idle person is a worthless person. If you aren’t out there burning the candle at both ends then you can’t be a very important or successful person. 

Our dignity is determined by busyness.

So God said, “One day a week, stop it. Just sit down and stop trying to prove how big you are by how much you have to do. Even I, who created the world took a day of rest. And you are not more important than me.” God wants us to realize that who we are is not the same as what we do. He wants us to understand that our worth as human beings isn’t tied to our productivity. We are valuable because we exist in his image.

I once heard that Busy was an acronym for Being Under Satan’s Yoke. And as I see my diary fill up each day I believe that’s right. And I have no excuse to say that I’m doing God’s work –He won’t let me do that.

Third, and most important, the Sabbath was designed to protect our relationship with God.

If all we ever do is work we not only lack the time to reflect on the nature and glory of God, we begin to lose our need for him. If I, by my skill and energy and power and knowledge can carve out of this world a life of ease and comfort and success, why do I need God?

Soon I begin to imagine that God is dispensable, and that I am indispensable. They need me, the people at the office or at the hospital or at the church or at the school. If I’m gone, what will they do? We become seduced by our own sense of importance.
Taking a day away from the world of demands and deadlines and expectations is God’s way of saying, “Dip your hand in a bucket, then pull it out and see what an impact you made.” 

It isn’t that we aren’t important to the people who count on us and to whom we are responsible. The point is that the most important responsibility we have is to God.

The Sabbath is a holy place in time where we remember our need for him, the unquenchable necessity of his presence.

That’s why taking a Sabbath from work has to include God. Rest without spirit is the source of corruption. A Sabbath is more than a day off. It is a day away from the world. A day in which we remember who God is and who we are. A day in which we get our priorities back in line. We recognize that God is the indispensable one, not us.

There is a story about a meeting between Satan and his minions. He asked them, “What’s the most effective thing we can do to wreak havoc and pain on the earth?” 

One said, “Tell them there is no God.” Another said, “Convince them that they’ve wandered too far from the right path to ever return.” Still another said, “Convince people that there are no consequences to their behaviour.” They all agreed that these were great ideas. But a voice came from the back and said, “What if we convinced them that there is plenty of time.” And Satan loved it.

Time is the first thing God ever declared as holy. If we think that attending to our relationship with God is something we will get to someday then we treat time like one more commodity among all the other things we think we control. We de-sanctify it.

I know that the Sabbath day isn’t binding on us any more. But the principle is. We need to redeem the time we have, because we never have as much as we think.

Today I wonder how do you spend your time? Do you fill your time BUSY – Being Under Satan’s Yoke or do you take time to be still and know God? 

Today Jesus’ invitation is still offered. “Come to me, all of you who are tired and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your soul.”


Sermon: Mighty Name

Mighty NameThe Third Commandment: You shall not take the Name of the Lord in Vain

In Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice in Wonderland”, Alice was having a conversation with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare one afternoon. And the March Hare scolded her, saying, “You should say what you mean!”
Alice said, “I do — at least, I mean what I say — that’s the same thing you know.”
The Mad Hatter says, “It’s not the same thing a bit! You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”
The March Hare adds, “You might just as well say “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”

We know that it’s not the same thing, and as Christians we need to say what we mean and we mean what we say, especially when it comes to God. Today we are looking at the Third Commandment .

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

The very name of God is sacred. The Jews took this command so strictly that they avoided pronouncing God’s name altogether. They were so afraid of using it in vain that it got to the point where it was pronounced only once a year, that was by the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

A class of students were studying Hebrew under an orthodox Jewish rabbi. One day the students were reading the Hebrew text out loud. One of the rules of the class was that when you came to the name of God you were not to pronounce what was in the text. You were to change the name to “Adonai” which is Hebrew for Lord.
Well, one of the students inadvertently pronounced the name of God and upon hearing it the rabbi put his hands over his ears and ran from the classroom. No one saw him for several days. When he finally surfaced again they found that he considered himself so unworthy of hearing the name of God that he spent days in prayer asking for forgiveness.

Now, that’s probably a little extreme. What’s the big deal? In fact, you might even wonder why the name of God is even mentioned in the third commandment. Why didn’t God just say, “I am the Lord, and you need to take me seriously”?

After all, as Juliet said to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

And there is a degree to which that is true. The four-legged creature we call a “dog” could just as easily have been called a “zuffle” and it really wouldn’t have made much difference.
But, in another sense, Shakespeare was very, very wrong. Names do make a difference.

In the scriptures, the significance of a person’s name defined their life. A name wasn’t just a label. It stood for the person, revealed his character and identified his role. And sometimes they needed a name change.

In Genesis 17, God said, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.”

When twins were born, they were given names the names Esau which means red or hairy and Jacob which means grabber or deceiver — which is very fitting for his whole life. But, following a wrestling match with God, the Lord gave Jacob a new name: Israel, which means “one who struggles with God.” And that name eventually became the way of identifying the entire Hebrew nation — they were a people that struggled with God.

When Simon came to Jesus, Jesus said, “You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called Peter (which is translated, a stone).” (John 1:42).
Those passages let us know that their names were significant statements about the purpose of their lives.

Now look at this can of Coke. If you look good enough at this you will see a little TM after the name, which stands for Trademark. Even though we use the word Coke to describe nearly every kind of soft drink, the name Coke is the sole property of the Coca Cola Company.

What do you think would happen if I took a cup of water, added some caramel coloring to it and some sugar and then slapped a Coke label on it and tried to sell it? I would get sued because I had put the same name on my product that was on their product. Well, what’s the problem with that? What’s so important about the Coke name?

The name stands for everything that they are as a company – their entire reputation – is wrapped up in that name. So we can understand why they would get upset when someone uses that name in an inappropriate way.

Now if we can understand that about a can of Coke, how do you think God feels when we use His name in an improper way?

The last part of Exodus 20:7 says that God will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

So how do we take God’s Name in vain
There are at least two different areas in which the name of God can be used “in vain”.

  1. We misuse God’s Name in our speech
  • One of the things God was concerned about was the use of His name in the taking of vows. In Leviticus 19, God said, “And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.”
    It’s as if God was saying, “Don’t you ever use my name in any oath you don’t plan to keep. Don’t ever claim to tell the truth or make a promise on the basis of my name, and then fail to fulfill that promise! My name is too holy to be attached to anything empty or untruthful.”God’s point is that when a person uses His name to take an oath and then neglects to do what he said he would do, he smears the name and reputation of God. You’ve proven that you don’t take him seriously.Jesus goes a step further. In the 1st century the Jews had established an informal system of oath-taking. If you swore by God, you were bound to it. But if you wanted to get out of your vow you could make it you promise on something or someone else. For example you could say, “I swear on my mother’s grave.” Then when you wanted to get out of it, you could later follow up with, “Ha, ha, she’s still alive!”

    The Pharisees believed that the closer your vow was to God, the more seriously you had to take it. But the further away from God and his name you moved, the more latitude you had with the truth.

    Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:37, “But let your ’Yes’ be ’Yes,’ and your ’No,’ ’No.’

  • Another way that we misuse the name of God is in profanity.
    There’s a verse in Isaiah 52:5 where God is mourning the plight of his people. As he lists the evils of that day, he says, “My name is blasphemed continually every day.”

Sound familiar?

We hear it in movies, on television, at work or at school. We’ve all known people who get angry or frustrated and use God’s name to condemn whoever he sees as the source of his problem.

What in the world could be more unholy than condemning someone or something in the name of the God who desires for all men to be saved?
When we take the name of God and misuse it, we reveal something about ourselves — either we misunderstand the nature of God, or we just don’t care about him.

“God” and “Jesus” have become adjectives.

Most people will say, “I didn’t mean anything by it.” But the point God wants to get across is that we shouldn’t utter God’s name unless we do mean something by it, because his name does mean something. And we ought to have respect for that which is holy.

This is the third command that tells us how important God is to our lives. He’s not just “background noise” in our lives. He is the reason for our lives.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder Colonel Sanders said, “Becoming a Christian cost me half my vocabulary.”

2. We can misuse God’s name through our lifestyle.
When God gave his covenant to the Jews, the nation of Israel carried around the responsibility of bearing God’s name. The Jews became God’s people. That meant, among other things, that they bore the responsibility for carrying God’s name to the rest of the nations of the world.

When others looked at Israel, they saw God’s people. They got an idea of what God was like. They carried God’s reputation with them just like every can of Coke carries the reputation of its parent company.

When I was at school the headmaster would tell us over and over again that we represented the school. How we acted reflected on the whole school and affected the reputation of the school.
In the same way, the actions of Israel reflected on God and God’s name because they were God’s people. They had a responsibility to live up to their role as the bearers of God’s name.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:21-24: “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.””

God’s name was blasphemed because of the way they were living. They were teaching all the right things, but they weren’t living it. And as a result, God’s name was taken in vain.

In Malachi 1:6, God says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ’In what way have we despised Your name?’”

God says, “You’ve despised my name, you’ve taken it in vain.” What was their response, “What are you talking about? How have we done that?” And so God goes on to explain that they despised his name by not living lives of righteousness. These people had shown contempt for God’s name, but it wasn’t through their words; it was through their actions.

The Israelites were supposed to bring their best animal as a sacrifice. Specifically, the sacrifice was to be a one-year old male lamb that had no blemish or spot, no broken legs, and no disease. Instead, they were bringing the leftovers – the ones that they and no one else wanted.

God says in vs. 8, “Try offering them to your governor!” What they were bringing to God supposedly to honor his name was something that their public officials would have laughed at and been offended by.

God’s name was supposed to be lifted up and magnified in Israel so that the rest of the world would see what a great God they had and magnify Him. But instead, Israel through its actions had thrown mud on God’s name so that the rest of the world laughed at their God rather than praising Him.

You see, anyone can talk about God. When someone sneezes, we easily say, “God bless you!”

But faith isn’t just talking about God. Christianity isn’t about words; it’s about a relationship.

That’s why this command talks about our sincerity to God in terms of using his name with reverence. God is holy. He deserves our reverence and our worship — not just our words, but our genuine, sincere faith and worship. When we talk about God, we need to mean what we say.

This commandment is calling us to authentic faith. God doesn’t want you to merely say that he’s number one; he actually wants to be number one. When it comes to God, we need to “practice what we preach.” After all, if you’ve given your life over to Jesus, you bear his name. When you call yourself a “Christian,” you’re saying that you are his representative. Your actions are a reflection on his reputation.

Sometimes God may need to say to us, “Change your life or change your name?” We cannot call ourselves a “Christian” and act like the world.

If we are to bear Christ’s name, then our lives must have a quality about them that reflects the meaning of his name.

As Christians, we carry around the name of Christ wherever we go. We are the people of God. Wherever we go and whatever we do reflects back on God and how the world thinks of Him.

Using God’s name in vain is more than a ban against cursing.

And it shouldn’t cause the kind of extremism experienced by Jews, who are afraid to speak the name of God at all, lest they misuse it in some way.

This third commandment is an instruction to use God’s name with reverence and to mean what we say. It is a call for sincerity in our relationship with the Lord.

Ultimately, the question we need to answer for ourselves is this: “How much respect do I have for God and His name?” Am I using the kind of language that is going to bring honor to the name of God? Even further, am I living my life in such a way as to bring honor to the name of God?

Names are important. Acts 4:12 tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”


Sermon: No small gods

No small gods

The Second Commandment – You shall not worship idols (I am a jealous God)

It was in the year 1141 that the Weinsberg Castle was brought under siege. All the villagers had crowded inside the castle and they were surrounded by the army of King Conrad III. Inside were the crown jewels of Germany, which were in the trust of the Duke of Welf, and there were storerooms full of gold, silver and fine jewels.

Eventually a truce was negotiated. The women and children would be allowed to leave and they could take with them anything they could carry. The men would be put to the sword.

The gates of the castle opened and out came the women and children and they were carrying their husbands!

They valued their marriages more than the crown jewels of Germany and all the gold and silver in the castle.

The Second Commandment is like that …

Exodus 20:1-20:17 READ TOGETHER

And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

In the First Commandment God said, “You shall have no other gods”.

In the Second He says, “Do not make any idols … for I am a jealous God.”

These two words are linked.

God has an intensely passionate love for us.

He desires a pure relationship which is not obscured by anything or anyone else.

He does not want us to mess around with lesser things.

God is passionately against idols because He is jealous – not because He counts idols as rivals, but that He wants to fiercely protect the love between us and Him. Our inclination is to give God second place but He wants us to be lovers.

As Jeremy has been teaching on Sunday evenings at “A Second Look,” God has a perfect relationship in the Trinity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So perfect is this relationship that while we speak of Three Persons, there is only One God.

Whatever the Father does the Son also does… (John 5:19)

I and the Father are One … (John 10:30)

I am in the Father and the Father is in me … (John 14:10)

And so on …

There is a perfect unity in their relationship – so much so that we struggle to comprehend it … it is alien to us.

And it is so foreign to us because of the Fall. Because of sin, we are separated from God.

In the beginning, God made man in His own image … there was the sense of deep union and intimacy between God and us.

God created us to co-exist with Him in this pure relationship – and this relationship was perfect and pure – until it was obscured by sin.

AND SIN, at its root, is really the rejection of this pure relationship which God desires.

The continued story of the Bible is then, as Jeremy so aptly puts it, a love story in which God as lover is in passionate pursuit of those whom He loves.

And in this story, man continually fails to love God purely despite God’s repeated acts of reconciliation.

  • The second beginning in the account of Noah, where everything is wiped out and God begins with the one righteous man
  • The Call upon Abraham and the covenant promise for him and his family to be God’s people forever
  • Moses’ rescue of the people from slavery in Egypt and new covenant terms in Passover Meal and the Ten Commandments
  • The redemption from exile in Babylon and the promise of a new Kingdom to replace those that failed
  • And then, finally, God breaking the pure bond in the Trinity to send His Son away from Himself to be the ransom and redemption of those separated from Him. He gives Himself, He lays Himself down, He becomes a servant and sacrifice so that, by true love, He might win back His beloved.

Jesus is God’s most perfect act of reconciliation.

Why is God so concerned about reconciliation?

Why does God say that we shall have no other gods?

Why does God forbid the worship of idols?

God loves us with a deep, deep passion – a furious love!

Time and again, the Bible describes our relationship with God in terms of marriage.

In Ephesians 5 we read … (from verse 23)

  • The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church
  • As the church submits to Christ so wives should submit to their husband
  • Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church

The Song of Songs is a love poem of the deep and intimate relationship between God and His people, described as the relationship between and Lover and his Beloved.

Jesus told several parables about weddings, marriages, brides and bridesmaids, and each of them referred to God’s desired relationship with His people.

In Revelation, we have this beautiful picture of the new Jerusalem, God’s saved people, His church, coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And in the Book of Hosea, the prophet is called to take an adulterous wife, so that he can experience God’s own heartache at the unfaithfulness of His people.

And here we find the reason for the Second Commandment!

God is jealous for us.

He is resentful if we are attracted to, or involved with, something or someone else.

He is fiercely protective of the relationship which He has with us.

God is not only our Creator – He is also our Lover.

And because of His love He is also our strength and our redemption. He gave His Son for our salvation, He sent the Spirit to be with us and to encourage us so that we would never need to be be lost to Him again.

Does this not tell you something about God’s jealous and passionate love?

God does not hate us.

He has not given a set of rules to curb us.

God has no desire to punish us for our sin.

It is, perhaps, because we have humanized His character and His love that we fail to see this; and I have to use words like “resentment” to describe how God feels about our unfaithfulness.

We expect God to be angered by our unfaithfulness … and there is no doubt that He is, but His response is different to our own.

I know a man whose wife had an affair with another man. I counseled him, prayed with him, met with her, tried to set up meetings between them, all to no avail.

Unknown to me, He bought a gun and stalked them for months, looking for the opportunity to kill them both. He was that angry.

They were eventually divorced in a bitter court battle.

One Sunday I preached about Hosea and his wife Gomer, as I did here a few months ago. I spoke of God’s heartache and His passion for reconciliation. I told of how Hosea loved his wife despite everything she had done because he saw and felt God’s pain too. And I showed how, in the end, they were reconciled – Hosea and Gomer, through the love of a husband …. And God and His people! Through the sacrifice of Christ. And of how Peter in 1 Peter 2:10 speaks of the consequence of God’s reconciliation in changing the names of God’s people from the names given to Hosea’s children: Lo-Ammi (not my friend) to Ammi (my best friend); and from Lo-Debar (not loved) to Debar (loved most of all).

That week, my friend came to my office with his ex-wife, and asked if I could marry them again.

As a result of hearing of God’s love and relentless pursuit of His unfaithful people, this man had gone back to his wife; and declared his continuing love for her.

There was, no doubt, the miracle of God’s timing in it all … and that too is love!

God doesn’t want us to make idols for ourselves.

Wood and metal figures are not really an issue for us today.

And even things like sport, wealth, fame don’t come close to being worshipped as idols in the sense which the Bible uses.

The real issue is that we are so easily unfaithful to our loving God.

We do run after lesser things.

God is not foremost in our heart, He is not the passion of our lives.

BUT, we are foremost in God’s heart. We are the passion of His being. He loves us with an everlasting love – His love will not be diminished by our casual affairs, but His heart aches.

For this reason, He says … You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.

Why does God punish the children for the sin of the fathers to the 3rd and 4th generation?

Well, you see, this sin is a man-imposed separation from God. If one generation chases after lesser lovers … the following generations do not know the powerful love of God. But God will raise up, by His Spirit, a succeeding generation who will come back to Him. (Family rather than church)

And for those who stay in God’s love? Our Father blesses them for a thousand generations … for ever!!!

Have you found yourself drifting to lesser lovers? Have you found pleasure in the sheets of the world’s way? Come back to God – His arms are always open for those who come to Him. (Prodigal Son)


Sermon: Only One God

Only One God

The First Commandment – Only One God

 

Last week we began to look at the Ten Commandments. Specifically we examined the power of the Ten Commandments showing that they concisely, clearly and compassionately outline the grace of God and the response to that grace human beings are called to make towards God.

 

We saw that …

  1. They are rooted in a relationship.

They are like the wedding vows between God and His people.

God pledges his power and love and promises and presence to His people and in turn, He expects loyalty to himself and compassion toward others. They are descriptions of how we are to live in relationship with God.

 

  1. They outline human response to the grace of God.

Before God ever commands us to do anything or to refrain from doing anything, he first saves us. He didn’t give the Ten Commandments until He had rescued the people from Egypt – only then, did He give them instructions on how to live. The Commandments are our response to God’s grace.

 

  1. They move our faith from the abstract to specific behaviour.

Almost everyone will tell you that they believe in God, but its the obedience to God that turns faith into a reality. The Ten Commandments give us guidelines for moral and ethical behaviour.

 

  1. They set a personal responsibility for the well being of the community.

The “you” in each of the Commandments is singular; they require a personal response and it is only as we take personal responsibility for our own lives that we begin to set the example for the whole community.

 

  1. They illustrate the connection between our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with each other.

The first four commands describe our relationship with God. The last 6 describe our relationships with each other. When Jesus answered a question about which was the greatest command. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this; Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

What Jesus did was summarize the Ten Commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor.

 

Each week I want us to hear all of the Commands.
So lets read together Exodus 20:1-17.
And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The first commandment starts with an absolute truth.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

 

It begins by telling us who God is in relation to us.

I am the Lord your God!

 

It specifies why we should obey him?

I brought you out of Egypt! I saved your from bondage and slavery.

 

It tells us what He want from us?

You shall have no other gods!

Why did Israel need such an obvious and elementary introduction to the commandments?

We’ve got to remember that Israel had been in Egyptian captivity for 400 years. For 400 years Israel had been subjected to Egyptian culture, religion, economy and oppression.

And the most important thing is that Israel had no religion to sustain its identity. They came to Egypt a handful of people, a single family, running from a famine. They were refugees.

 

All the ritual, all the stories that we assume were always there, didn’t exist until after their enslavement. They had been completely indoctrinated into Egyptian culture. They didn’t even know God’s name, which was given to Moses in the desert of Midian.
There were no stories. No songs. No scriptures. Nothing to shape and mould their faith. So God began with the basics.

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. I am your saviour. Your deliverer.

Then God issued the first command. You shall have no other gods before me.

 

The idea of having only one God would have been a completely new thought to those people. The Egyptians served many god’s and interestingly enough, each plague of Egypt was a direct assault on one of those gods. The Nile was worshipped as a god, so God turned it to blood. The sun was worshipped, so God darkened it. The first born was worshipped. So God killed them. (The only protection then, as today, is the blood of a lamb).

The Israelites had been completely surrounded by a polytheistic culture for as long as any of them could remember. So when God demanded exclusive loyalty, it was a revolutionary idea.

And, I guess, its a pretty revolutionary idea today as well.

 

Our world has drifted pretty far from God. Our culture has assumed that we are self-sufficient and no longer need Him. The dreadful irony of it all, is that we now have to also believe that we are an accident of creation and have no apparent purpose in the universe.

The consequences are potentially horrendous – and we are seeing many of these already – massive drug and alcohol abuse, increase in domestic violence, elective abortion, euthanasia, acceptance of homosexual and other perverse sexual behaviour and so much more.

 

So why did God demanded complete allegiance?
Think about I like this …

Divorced parents face a particular kind of problem one time or another. In almost every situation the children will try to play one parent against the other.

If mom won’t let me have what I want, then maybe dad will. And because the parents feel guilty about the breakup of their home they are vulnerable. If one says no he or she is the bad guy.
The kids end up loving you not for who you are, but for what you give them.

God doesn’t want that kind of dysfunctional thinking.

In this first command God is saying, “This is going to be a single minded parent family. I am both your father and mother. If you need anything you come to me. If you want to know how to live, you come to me. I am all you need to make it.”
This first command is absolutely foundational to the rest. God could have simply said, “Take a day off. Be nice to your parents. Don’t kill each other. Etc. Etc. Etc. ” But then the obvious question would be, “Why?”

 

Why should we do certain things and avoid others? If there is no ultimate standard of authority outside our own feelings there would be no reason to recognise the laws as anything but an arbitrary list that could be dismissed any time we feel like it.

 

This is exactly what has happened in the world today!

Today there are those who want to keep the Ten Commandments, the Scriptures and the God of the Scriptures out of our culture. When I was in Merredin, we taught Scripture at both primary schools. But after a couple of years, a parent came onto the School Council who opposed it. She rallied the council and the parents and managed to convince enough people that it was a bad thing and so we had to stop teaching Scripture classes at that school. (Incidentally, in the interests of economy, the government amalgamated the two schools and now Scriptures classes are taught across the board and a Christian Chaplain has been appointed as well).

 

I understand exactly why they want to get rid of Scripture classes; I know why some people oppose the Ten Commandments as a basis for moral behavior.

 

In their subconscious they understand something about the Commandments that we don’t. They don’t mind the parts about stealing and killing and lying. Everybody pretty much agrees with those. They don’t really mind the part about being kind to your parents. Most everybody finds that comfortable – after all don’t we put special emphasis on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The part which the opponents of the Ten Commandments can’t live with is the first command; you shall have no other gods before me.

They understand how powerful that command is. They understand that if you recognise the sovereign, exclusive authority of God then you can’t merely dismiss a commandment just because you don’t feel like obeying it.

If I believe that there really is only one God, if He is the only saviour of the oppressed and enslaved, then he must be obeyed.

So what does that say about us if we casually tell a lie or tolerate an untruth? What if we don’t hold to our marriage vows? Or if we indulge thoughts of covetousness?

Does it not mean that we need to go back to the first commandment and ask ourselves, “Have I allowed another god to take the throne? Is self ruling where God should be? Or Success? Pride? Sex? Work?

If we will honour God as the only God in our lives, it won’t matter whether the Ten Commandments are formally recognised by our society or culture or not. They don’t need to be posted on the walls of the law courts because they will be posted everywhere a Christian goes. And the testimony of our lives will be impossible to silence.

Today we need to ask ourselves who is our God?

And if we are really honest with ourselves not all of us will be able to say YHWH. There are many of us who simply want to keep God happy by doing the bare minimum, but we also struggle to keep the God of self happy.

You see, in the struggle between God and self, neither ends up happy.

God demands exclusive allegiance to Himself. He doesn’t do that in any kind of authorative or punitive way. He does it out of His love for us that brought Christ to the Cross. He demands allegiance because He knows the right way for us to live and He wants the very best for us.

 

So where are you with God this morning?

I have often found myself in the battle of wills with God. I have thought that I am safe in my own choices, but as I have walked with Him, I have found that the most glorious choices and the safest places are in Him.

 

The prophet Habakkuk, questioned God one time about His choices, offering his own human wisdom. God’s response of immutable mercy stunned him …

I heard and my heart pounded,

my lips quivered at the sound;

decay crept into my bones,

and my legs trembled.

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

18       yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior. [1]

 

I invite you to come forward this morning to pledge yourself to God as your Saviour and Lord!

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Hab 3:16–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


Sermon: The Power of Ten Words

Ten Words

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

A little while ago Time Magazine ran a cover story entitled “The God Gene.” It was about research being done in over a dozen universities in the United States. Different researchers in different universities from California to New York are all looking into the same question: Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power? The remarkable part of this study is that the researchers say “yes!”

Does that surprise you? To be honest I was a bit surprised by, not so much by what the researchers found, but that they agreed that to some degree we are all looking for a higher power, someone else to be in control. We have a deep longing for there someone, something to guide our paths and to give us hope.
Blasé Pascal, a French philosopher, is known for his work in maths, and chemistry. At age 12, he had discovered the principles geometry and at 16 wrote “The Geometry of Conics”. He also invented the calculating machine and the theory of probability.

In his mid-thirties, Pascal became interested in religion. And he penned the theory that these scientists are trying to prove today. You have probably heard his theory without knowing where it came from. He wrote: “Within each one of us there is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill.” If that is true then everyone of us was made to seek out God.

Growing up in a church school I was taught indirectly what it meant to seek out God. I watched chaplains and priests profess with their lives that if you want to fill the God- Shaped vacuum in your life then what you need to do is find God’s will for your life and follow it perfectly. These people who had an early influence on my life taught me that I needed to lean on the perfect way of keeping God’s Law.
The problem I ran into was that I couldn’t keep the law perfectly. I really struggled to find God through trying to keep the rules and ended up never forming a relationship with Him. I now know that God uses the rules to bring us closer to Him and that only a personal relationship will fill the God shaped vacuum in your life.

To prove this I want to look, over the new eleven weeks) at the most famous set of laws the 10 commandments in a way that we see the grace of God in every command.

We live in an age that has lost its way. Though we don’t condone murder or theft, we are debating whether it’s okay to lie and commit adultery. On a recent visit to the Melbourne Business School, the Principal of Wesley College wrote that they were teaching ethics to future CEO’s using Utilitarian, Aristotlean, Kantian and Natural Law Theory – where is the Biblical viewpoint?

In the introduction to her book, The Ten Commandments, Dr. Laura Schlessinger writes; “Each day we make many, seemingly minute decisions about things that don’t really seem earth shattering. So what if we broke a promise? So what if we find passion in another bed while we or they are still married? So what if we are too focused on work, TV, or clubs to spend time with our family? So what if religion is not a big deal in our lives? When one adds up all the so-what’s,” one ends up with a life without direction, meaning, purpose, value, integrity, or long-range joy.”

I doubt that you can find another passage in the Bible that so concisely, clearly and compassionately outlines the grace of God and the response to that grace human beings are called to make than the Ten Commandments.

Each week I want for you to hear all of them. So when we get together we will hear the whole law and then look into the relationship that comes from each law.

So lets read together Exodus 20:1-17.
And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The Ten Commandments are more correctly “The Ten Words”. They were first given verbally to Moses on Mount Sinai, according to this account in Exodus 20. They were later twice written by the finger of God on both sides of two tablets of stone. Moses shattered the first pair in response to Israel’s sin of the golden calf, according to Exodus 32. The second pair were deposited in the Ark. In Deuteronomy 5, Moses republished them in a slightly modified form.

 

This morning I want to start by talking about the power of these Ten Words. Any document that has lasted as long and has exerted as much influence on humanity as this one must have something going for it.

1. They are rooted in a relationship.
Look at Exodus 19:4-5.
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
These are not arbitrary laws that require blind obedience to an invisible authoritarian. Vs.5 says, “If you keep my covenant.” A covenant is a sacred promise between two parties. You can have a contract without having a relationship. But you can’t have a covenant without a relationship. The Ten Commandments are like a wedding vow in many ways.
God pledges his power and love and promises and presence to Israel. In turn, God expects Israel’s loyalty to himself and compassion toward others.

God didn’t simply jot down the Ten Commandments then answer Israel’s question, “Why should we do this?” by saying, “Because I told you so.” Often, God does tell his people to obey because, “I am the Lord.” But even then his commands are predicated on this relationship. The Ten Commandments are built on responsibility. God is as bound by them as we are.

That’s why, in part, the Ten Commandments don’t work with people who don’t have a relationship with God. Why should a person avoid stealing if he or she doesn’t acknowledge the God who said, “Thou shalt not steal”? Why should a person honor their marriage commitments if they haven’t already made a commitment to the God who said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”?

The power of the Ten Commandments lies not in the fact that they are laws, but in that they are descriptions of how people live in relationship with God. It is true that they are law. But more than that, they are words that describe a relationship.

2. The Ten Commandments outline human response to the grace of God.
Exodus 19:1- 2 uses the word ” After” twice. 1 In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

After what? Vs. 4 answers that question. “After I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.”

And Exodus 20:2 says “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

Before God ever commands them to do anything or to refrain from doing anything, he saves them. Moses did not show up in Egypt with two stone tablets and say, “If you guys will agree to obey all these commands, God will deliver you from Egyptian slavery.” He showed up and said, “God has heard your cry and has sent me to deliver you.” Then, and only then, did God outline the response Israel was to make.

Exodus 19:4-5 outlines this order perfectly. Vs. 4 says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.”
Vs. 5 says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” Deliverance first. Commandment second.

Remember what happened just 40 days after they first received the commands? They decided to violate at least the first two of them by building the golden calf and having a pagan party. And what did God do? He forgave them and reissued the commands. That’s grace.

Paul in Romans, said that the law is good. The law doesn’t save us, it does however describe how saved people respond to the grace that saved them.

3. The Ten Commandments move faith from the abstract to specific behaviour.

If you were to do a nationwide survey and ask people, “Do you believe in God?” I’ll bet the numbers would surprise you. A huge percentage would say, “Yes, absolutely, I believe in God.” But then if you examined their lives you’d find that what they profess to believe and how they live show very little correlation. I can say to Margie, “I love you.” But if I never act out that love in specific, concrete behaviour, my words are empty.

Faith, like love, is too easily kept in the realm of theory. The Ten Commandments don’t allow us to claim belief in God without demonstrating that belief in concrete actions and behaviours. They require us to affirm our faith in the daily grind of living.

So instead of, “Do you believe in God?” the Ten Commandments ask us ten questions,

“Do you honor anything or anyone above the one true God?

Has God been replaced by something physical or material in your life?

Have you dishonored God’s name by using it in a frivolous manner?

Is your work more important than your relationship with God?

Do you honor your father and mother?

Do you value human life?

Have you kept your marriage vows?

Do you respect other’s rights of ownership?

Do you tell the truth?

Are you content with what you have or do you covet the possessions, relationships and successes of others?”

To God, our answers to those specific questions about behavior and morality demonstrate our belief.

4. They require personal responsibility for the well being of the community.
The “you” in all these commands is singular. One of the reasons, maybe one of the top three reasons, our world is in such a moral mess right now, can be summed up in these words; “It’s not my problem.”

Really, it doesn’t make a big impact on my life if someone in Adelaide covets his neighbor’s way of life.

If someone in Sydney lies about a business investment, big deal.

If someone murders his business partner in Perth, that’s just too bad.

Those sins don’t affect me; it’s not my problem. The problem is, though, that almost everybody feels that way. And sooner or later you are going to be lied to, or robbed.
When God came down to the mountain, hundreds of thousands of people were gathered around its base. He didn’t address the crowd, though. He addressed each and every individual. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me. You, standing there by that rock, and you over by that cedar tree, and you too, the one in the red turban who is thinking in his heart how glad he is all these other people are hearing all these commands. I’m talking to you!” There is a connection between personal responsibility and the welfare of the community. The Ten Commandments shout at the top of God’s voice, “It is your problem!”
Every lie you tell or tolerate, every covetous thought you allow to live longer than a flash, every secret lust, every act of dishonesty, all of them matter. And the only way we will see our nation healed is if we take the personal responsibility to make it a holier, healthier nation beginning with ourselves.

5. They illustrate the connection between our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with each other.
The first four commands describe our relationship with God. The last 6 describe our relationships with each other.

In Mark 12 Jesus answered a question about which was the greatest command. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this; Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” What Jesus did was summarise the Ten Commandments. Love God. Love your neighbour.

These days in our culture we’ve edited Jesus’ summation of the Ten Commandments from two down to one. As long as people love each other we’re happy. You can keep God, thanks. All you need is love. The problem is we can’t get everyone to love each other. You see God is love. You get rid of God, you lose love.

What sounds like a thoroughly New Testament teaching had its origin in the Ten Commandments You can’t have a healthy, holy relationship with humans without having a healthy, holy relationship with God.

 

At the beginning of this message, I said that if you want to fill the God-shaped vacuum in your life, you need to find God’s will for your life.

Mostly we are told that means we must follow His rules … I have realised that it is much more than that.

 

If I want to know God’s will, I must surrender my own will.

 

And that is really what these ten words are all about!!

 

Over the next ten weeks we are going to see what this might mean in each of the ten commandments but you don’t need to wait that long to surrender your own will to God – you can come forward now for prayer!!!

 

 


A Prayer of Confession for our time

A prayer prayed by Pastor Joe Wright at the opening of the Kansas State Senate. Not sure when it was but sometime before 1999. Still relevant today.

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the airwaves with profanity and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your
will… Amen