Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Ten Commandments

Many people struggle to recite the ten commandments. These commandments were given to the people of Israel. They were designed to lead the people of Israel to living a holy lifestyle. The ten commandments were intended to give the people directions or guidance in meeting the needs of each other in a loving and responsible manner. These commandments were God's laws of love for His people. If we strive to live by them we will be living the way that God would intend for us to live. My question is this... If they are so important to us as Christians why would we not know them or strive each day to live by them? Let's take a look at the ten commandments and see what they mean to us.

#1 Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me"Remember that the Israelites came from Egypt, a land with many gods and idols. It wasn't uncommon for people to worship many gods for different reasons. The more gods the more blessings was the mindset back then. So when God said to worship and believe in Him, that wasn't such a hard thing to accept. But to not worship any other gods before Me, was hard to accept. God wanted His people to trust in him alone. He was the one that lead them out of Egypt, and He could not be their God if they didn't put Him first. God made this His first commandment and we should live by it each and every day.

#2 Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image"
Today we are tempted with all kinds of things that can take the place of putting God first. Other gods that we might worship today could be, money, fame, work, or pleasure. We can make these things gods of our lives if we focus on them too much. When they begin to control us and everything we do, then we are at risk of making them idols or the "carved images" that take our focus away from God. I'm reminded of a mission trip I took to Brazil a few years ago. I was amazed at the crystals (pieces of rock) that many of the Brazilians would worship and pray to. God commands that His people worship Him and by keeping Him the center focus of our lives we can avoid making all these other things gods or idols.

#3 Exodus 20:7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain"
Today people use God's name without regard for His power and majesty. His name is His identity and we reveal a lot of how we feel about Him by the way we use His name. We should always respect His name and use it appropriately. Worship and praise of His name is an appropriate use of His name. Use His name in cursing or jest is an abuse of His name and God's 3rd commandment was that we not do this.

#4 Exodus 20:8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy"We are all so busy running around with a list of things to do. God knows we work, but he also knows we need rest. The sabbath day is one day out of seven that we rest, we reflect on what God did for us. To observe a day of rest and worship reveals just how important God is to us. I thank God that he wants us to rest after working hard all week long. It's just another example of God's love for us.

#5 Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother"
God wants people to live in peace for generation after generation. His plan was for the Israelites to have respect for authority and build strong families. We are to respect our parents, we should honor their position and listen to their teachings. God gave us parents to nurture and love us and guide us through our young years. He commands us to honor our parents.

#6 Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder"Again God was setting down laws or commandments that would establish a better life for those people He loved. To commit murder would mean that hate and anger was at the heart of your motive. The problem with anger or rage, is that it reflects the opposite of what God is all about. God wanted the people of Israel to experience His love and peace and murder is preceded by hate, and God commands us not to murder.

#7 Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery"God has always placed value on the family. He created the family with the first two people He created "Adam and Eve." He expects us to love each other and to be faithful to each other as husbands and wives. When we join together in marriage we become one. To commit adultery damages the relationship between the husband and wife and has the possibility to destroy the union. Later Jesus would speak on this as well. Matthew 5:28 Jesus said... "Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" Just like murder comes from the hatred in your heart, adultery comes form the lust in your heart. God commands us to not commit adultery. To lust after someone is the first step to the actual act. We need to recognize it when it happens and ask God for forgiveness and seek His help and strength to overcome the desire of the flesh.

#8 Exodus 20:15 "You shall not steal"Stealing is not being respectful of others and what they have or own. It's not ours and to steal it mean to take it without regard for the consent or knowledge of the other person. This shows a complete lack of respect. Even if we borrow something and forget to return it that's stealing. To maintain harmony in community we must value and respect each other and this was one of the reasons for God's commandment "not to steal."

#9 Exodus 20:16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"Bearing false witness means lying in court. We should always tell the truth. We should always be honest. We also can bear false witness by leaving out a part of the story, or only telling half truths. If we don't stick to the facts or we twist the story to deceive someone then we bear false witness. God warns us against deception and even though deception is abundant in our world today... it's something we as God's people must not participate in. God commands us to tell the truth and not bear false witness against others.

#10 Exodus 20:17 "You shall not covet"To covet is to desire for or wish for the possessions that others have. To lust after, to desire to own it or have it even though it's not ours to have. To covet is more than thinking, "I'd like to have one of those." It's resenting the other person because you don't have it. It's about envy and greed. We need to put our trust in God to provide for our needs. True contentment comes only from God. We live in a world today where everyone wants to keep up with the Jones. The sad thing is that we feel we will be happy and content if we only had his job, or her career, or their house, car, etc. etc. etc. God commands us not to covet.

One last thought about the ten commandments...
The ten commandments also reveal to us our shortcomings and they convict us of our sin and our need for a Savior. Many people think that if they can live by the ten commandments then they will somehow be good enough to be allowed into heaven. Kind of like, earning my way to heaven. The ten commandments are not a list of things to do to get into heaven, they are a list of how God's people should live and to obey God's commandments will allow God's love to flow from His people to others and creating a life of holiness.

If you are one that thinks you are a good person and that God will let you go to heaven because you keep the commandments, then lets look at just three of the ten commandments and see how good we really are.

Have you ever looked at someone with lust? In all your years, has that ever happened to you? If it has, then God says that you have already committed adultery in your heart and that makes you an adulterer.

Have you ever taken anything that didn't belong to you? Borrowed something and didn't ever return it, taken a pen or supply from work? If this has ever happened to you then you have stolen that item. And that makes you a thief.

Have you ever lied. Have you just twisted the truth or even left out a part of the story. have you ever deceived someone by not stating the exact facts but rather stretched the truth some. If you have then that makes you a liar. And God command us not to bear false witness.

Just these three commandments alone I believe everyone has disobeyed at one time or the other in the course of our lives. That of course makes each of us, Lying, thieving, adulterers! Now tell me were good enough to be allowed into God's wonderful perfect sinless place called heaven? Of course we're not. We can not earn our way into heaven. The ten commandments were never intended to be a legalistic set of rules to obey to earn favor with God. They were intended to guide us to a life of what God would want and expect for us as His children. They reflect His love for us and as we strive to obey them, we show His love.

Note: How do I get to heaven?
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Because of our sin, we are condemned to go to hell unless we realize our need for a Savior. Jesus died to pay the debt for our sins. He took our place and died on the cross so that we are not guilty anymore. He makes us righteous. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. But it's nothing that we did to earn this, God offers us the free gift of salvation if we'll just believe in Jesus and live for Him. You see we have to realize just how pathetic we are. We are lying, thieving, adulterers and we deserve to go to hell because of it.

Romans 10:9 says... "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

Romans 10:13 says... For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

I thank God that I don't have to obey a list of commandments to be saved. When I call on Him as my savior I can be saved from hell and live with Him eternally. I do thank God for loving us so much that He has given us the "Ten Commandments." They help us to live the way God has always wanted His people to live, as loving compassionate people, and they reveal to us our sinfulness and our need for a Savior.

Stay focused on Christ, and live for Him!

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