The Law: What Is It? Why Have it? What Difference Does It Make?



 

We are in a series called Epic, tracing God’s story through the Bible.  One message in that series concerns the law, given to God’s people through Moses. In this message I attempt to answer these questions:

What is it?
Why do we have it?
What difference does it make in my life today?

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Ten Commandments, Eighth Command

You shall not steal.  Exodus 20:15 NIV

The eighth commandment is not about cheating on your taxes. Oh sure, that is a sin, and the commandment applies there, too, but if you limit God’s instruction to theft of property, then you have diminished the word of God.

We are rising a generation of takers! We have developed into a society that steals from each other. For example, I go to my children’s school and there are three parents at the office waiting for the principal so they can complain about their child not making the team. I stand in the line at the grocery store and everyone is looking for the quickest line. No one is trying to let someone else through first. I ask someone to do me a favor and they reply, “What’s in it for me?”

We spend more time shopping sales for the best bargains for more stuff we don’t need than we do planning how we can give to world missions. We save and save our money so that when we see someone in need we can buy ourselves the latest flat screen TV. We budget our tithe after we see if we can meet our current obligations. We never worry about issues of money until our wallet is affected. We tend to give out of our wealth, never out of our poverty.

Can you relate?

Remember, Jesus looks beyond our actions straight to our heart. He considers our motivation. Let me ask you, what does He see? Does He see a heart with no desire for personal gratification, looking out for a neighbor before yourself? Does He see someone who desires to give more than receive?

I can’t see your heart, only you and God can, so examine yourself today. Do you find, like I found when examining my heart that you need to grow your heart in the area of giving?

You shall not steal! Become a GIVER today!

Ten Commandments, Seventh Command

You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14 NIV

We, as a society, no longer place a value on life. I know I should have included this comment along with the thoughts on the sixth commandment not to murder, but it fits here as well. When you commit the sin of adultery, even adultery of the heart, you are de-valuing the other person and yourself. You are essentially saying, “I’m cheap, my life is worthless”, or, as the case may be, you are saying, “You’re cheap, and I’m going to take advantage of you.”

There was a day when women were respected. Men opened the door for them, stood up when they entered a room, and stood outside in the rain so a lady could enter a building first. The desire of a man was to care for his wife, and this caused a wife to respect and admire her husband. Roles were defined clearly and no one argued about them.

Please understand, I am not living in the dark days, longing for a return to a day when women had no place in business, politics, or even the church. I am not advocating dictatorship for the male species. Far to the contrary, I am pushing for a Biblical example of relationships between males and females. You may not know something. I t is certainly not taught by the media these days. Here is a little secret: (promise not to tell?) Boys and girls are different!

The seventh commandment is broken when we fail to see the importance God places on us as individuals, on our marriages, on our sex lives. God desires for us to be pure, and this, according to His word, can be accomplished only through the marriage relationship.

Look around today. You will surely see some of the beautiful people God has created. (I know how to admire beauty.) Recognize that they are more than animals. They are creations from a living God, creations in which God has placed His spirit. They were created in His image and were important enough for Him to send His Son to the cross.

Ten Commandments, Sixth Command

You shall not murder.  Exodus 20:13 NIV

A conversation with God:

ME: Finally, a commandment I can keep. I am so glad the sixth commandment is no problem. I’m not too bad after all. I know that I have never murdered anyone. I have barely killed a fly. I’m a pretty good guy!

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

ME: What was that? Did you hear that? Well, anyway, as I was saying, I am pretty good compared to…

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: Anyone who calls his brother a fool will be subject to the fires of hell.

ME: There it goes again. Excuse me, but I am trying to gloat. I have been faithfully reading these Ten Commandments, and I finally come across one that I am pretty good at, and you keep interrupting me. Now, let me continue. I have never murdered anyone….

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: In his heart a man plans his course….

ME: Now wait a minute, just wait one minute. Are you trying to say that if I get angry with someone to the point of name-calling, that I have planned in my heart to murder them?

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

ME: So, in other words, I think what you’re saying is that when I get this angry, I am guilty of breaking this commandment, just as if I carried through on the act of murder.

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: Yes, for all have sinned and fallen short of my Glory.

ME: What am I going to do then? I have broken them all.

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: Don’t be afraid, just believe.

ME: I am a murderer, according to you God, and you are telling me just to believe?

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. If anyone calls upon the name of the Lord, he shall be saved.

ME: So you’re my answer. Jesus is the way! Praise God!

A VOICE FROM ABOVE:  Well done, my good and faithful servant.

Ten Commandments, Fifth Command

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 NIV

To honor means to respect and to appreciate, but actually goes much deeper as well. It means to add reputation to or to increase another’s value. When you are to honor your parents, it means so much more than to obey. That is to increase their good name by having one of your own.

What is it like to call you a son or daughter? Can someone be proud of you? I’m not talking about that love a mother or father naturally has for a child. I’m talking about bragging rights, and not about accomplishments either. I remember attending one of my son’s elementary school parent-teacher conferences. I was filled with joy as the teacher showed us paper after paper with 100 or A+ on it. Both my boys have done so well in school academically, but I may have been the only parent that night to ask the questions of my son’s teacher, “What about his character? Does he get along with others? Does he show compassion? Does he strive to make friends with his classmates?” And I even asked her, “Can you tell that he is a believer?” Praise God, I had something to brag about!

Isn’t that what we should aim for: to have a reputation of being like Christ? Is that a noble goal? Could you see this as a necessary part of any parent’s plan for their child’s future? In this all-for-me world, shouldn’t we focus a little more on character?

I praise God often for granting me the privilege of being raised in a Christian family. Both sides of my parents have a long history of being active in church, loving God, and serving Him faithfully. What will I contribute to that legacy? Will it continue or end with me?

You too have an awesome responsibility! Your actions and your heart will determine what is said about your children and your children’s children for generations to come. You are deciding now, based on the way you live your life, what the future will be like for your descendents. The Bible states over and over again that blessings are passed on by generations, as are the curses of God. Which are you leaving behind?

If your reputation was being built on just the last week, last month, or last year, what would it say about you? Would it honor your mother and father? Would it add to the value of your name?

This fifth commandment is a tough one if we strive to live up to it. By the grace of God, may we accomplish His will as we live our lives, striving to be like Him, and create in our hearts a desire to make Him Lord of everything?  Your reputation is at stake! And the honor of your mother and father!

Ten Commandments, Fourth Command

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8 NIV

The Sabbath was a big deal to the Jewish people. It meant no work, absolutely none. It involved everyone. Rest was demanded; you had no choice. It was a statement of faith. If you loved God, you observed and honored the Sabbath.

What’s changed? Has the word of God gone dull? Absolutely not! The word of God is active, living, never changing! So where do we fit into this fourth commandment today? We are to keep the Sabbath Holy!

Sabbath means to rest. First of all, this means we are to rest. We have somehow determined in this society that it is wrong to rest. We need to join a committee, plan an activity, sign the kids up for ball (soccer, basketball and baseball– all at the same time), be reading the latest novel at all times, fix gourmet meals, compete for the yard-of-the-month club, advance a career, and be lean, trim men or women of God. Whew, that made me tired just typing it!

In all the madness is God able to get your attention? Take some time off, my friend! You deserve a break. Give yourself a rest. Take a Sabbath for yourself. Slow down! Take time to enjoy life! Take a long walk on a long pier! Watch the world go by for a while! Be still and know that He is God!

Remember that every day is God’s. If you are one of His children, your life is in His hands. He is taking you to where there is no more time, but for now your time is His. If you want to fully follow His will (and why would you not?), you will need to take time to rest. God’s creation example to us is to rest. God didn’t need the rest, but it was an opportunity for Him to, by example, reflect on all He had made. We need that time to renew ourselves, as well as our relationship to Him.

And keep the Sabbath (your time of rest) Holy. God is Holy, so be Holy in all you do! What is wrong to do on Sunday is wrong the rest of the week. Don’t have two standards. Be the same on Monday that you are on the Sabbath. Keep your time of rest holy! Whatever you do to unwind, do it to the glory of God. Let others see the reflection on your face and know that you have spent time with the Father. Your time of rest will renew your strength and keep your heart pure.

Finally, look forward to the Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4). One day Jesus is returning to redeem God’s people from this world of sin and disappointment. He will wipe away our tears and clothe us with eternal joy. We will enter our Sabbath rest.  It means the final rest, the one for which we have waited, the one where we share our inheritance with Jesus!

Now that is what I call rest! Are you ready

Ten Commandments, Third Command

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. Exodus 20:7 NIV

What’s in a name? Did you ever ask your parents why they called you what they did? My middle name is that of my great grandfather’s. It is a rather unusual name, so when I was in school, I never wanted anyone to know it. I would give them my initial, but I tried hard to keep the name hidden. Today, I am proud of the name Aubrey! It was the name of a good Christian man by all accounts. He was well known for His good deeds and His dedication to God. I never knew him, but I will strive to leave behind the positive reputation he left. I am honored to carry on his name.

What do you think of when you hear the name Benedict Arnold? Does traitor come to mind?   What about Mother Teresa? Do you think humility? Martin Luther King? Does equality for all fit? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Billy Graham? What is in a name? A name has meaning, and we apply worth to a person many times based on a name.

God? What do you think of when you hear that name? Jesus? Holy Spirit? I am not even going to insult you by suggesting that you would ever think of using God’s name in a dirty joke or an expletive phrase. If you are a follower of Christ, you surely have more respect for Him than that. But, what importance do you give to His name?

Do you revere His name? Does it bother you for others to insult Him? Are you getting to know more about Him each day? Do you tremble at His word and the realization that the name that is above every name took the time to care for you? If I said the name JESUS would it light a smile on your face?

Are you starting to understand that His name is to be revered, respected, honored, loved and obeyed? When God gave the third commandment, He knew people would hit a hand with a hammer or watch their team win the Super Bowl and express their dissatisfaction by yelling, God _______. His heart hurts at their lack of respect, but God is just as concerned about you and me, the so-called faithful Christian. Are we ascribing to His name the honor it is due?

He is God! He is the designer, creator, sustainer, and planner of the universe! He is greater than all we can ever hope and imagine. He is worthy. Let’s grant His NAME, His powerful, wonderful, ever-lasting name, the proper place in our hearts and minds!

Ten Commandments, Second Command

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Exodus 20:4 NIV

The second commandment, much like the first, is easily dismissed as a not meant for me type of verse. I want to caution you not to close your mind to the application. Most of us, if we our honest with ourselves, will violate this command at some time, maybe quite often in our life.

Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus? What does Jesus look like? Close your eyes for a minute a get a mental image. You have one, don’t you? Is that what He looks like? Has the mass production of a $45 portrait become your image of the living God, Creator of the universe? Wasn’t He the same Jesus who appeared from nowhere among the disciples in the upper room shortly after the resurrection? Can your image of a mere man do that?

Did you wear your cross around your neck today? Was that the cross upon which Jesus die? Does the symbol give your comfort? Do you draw strength from it? What if you lost it? Would Jesus still have access to your heart, or is it only through that piece of metal that He can reach you?

Now, please understand, I am not asking you to take down your Lord’s Supper scene or take off your cross necklace.  I am asking you to consider the image you have of God. Is He more to you than a really good story? Is He more than the legend of the ages or the object on your grandmother’s Christmas card? Is He bigger than a fuzzy feeling in your heart? Is He God?

God is more than we give Him credit for being! The second commandment is to remind us and command us to give God the credit He deserves. He has no equal. There is no image to which you can compare Him adequately. There is nothing wrong with having something around your neck to remind you of your love and devotion to Jesus, but it is not a replacement for that personal relationship.

“To whom (or what) will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25)

To whom? Tell God today that everything pales in comparison!

Ten Commandments Series, First Command

Yesterday I spoke to our church about the law, but I did not have time to talk about each of the Ten Commandments. Over the next ten days I will share some devotionals about the Ten Commandments I have previously written for my devotional ministry.

I need to be very clear on this truth, Jesus paid every debt of the law.  Read Romans, Galatians, and even Jesus own words in Matthew 5:17.  Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law, He came to meet its righteous demands, which we could never meet on our own. Still, the law today has value in showing us the things God values, how we don’t measure up, and our desperate need for His grace. The law is a good reminder of the things that matter most to God.  As I share this series, I’m thanking God for His grace.

Commandment One:

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3 NIV

Is there anything in your life that has come between you and your relationship with God? I apologize if I am stepping on some toes, but this is a fair question. No, I’m not asking if you use an Ouija board to predict and plan your life. I’m not wondering if you worship your car or bow down to your TV.

I’m asking if there is anything or anyone you put in front of your personal, intimate relationship with the only one and true God of the Bible. Still looking at me with a puzzled look? Let me share a few examples:

Would you rather be late for work or late to church? Are you more likely to skip your favorite TV show or your morning devotion? Have you ever given up a meal to spend urgently needed time in prayer? Who do you say “good morning” to first each day? What does your checkbook say about your devotion to God? Is the first thing you grab with your coffee a newspaper or a copy of the precious word of God? To whom would your children (or your spouse) say you are the most devoted? Are you insulted more by the use of the Lord’s name in vain, or an insult of your alma mater?

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I hope you have some steel-toed shoes on today! Mine are going to need a good soaking tonight! Remember, Jesus took the Ten Commandments to a higher level. Anything between you and God, anything that keeps you from your fervent, passionate, constant devotion to Him, is breaking that first commandment.

You can rejoice with me that He offers forgiveness, but let’s start today to obey His perfect word! Let’s put Him first! Let’s let Him be supreme in our life! Let us begin, right now, making sure there is NO god, BUT GOD!

And I’ll pray for your toes!

Waiting On God When It Feels He Is Nowhere Around

I met with an awesome couple today that is going through one of those waiting times on God.  I could sense the tension developing in them as their patience, and literally their faith, is being stretched.  I could easily identify with their situation, because I have personally been there many times.

What should you do when it feels like God has forgotten you?

Here are 7 things to remember or do in those times when God appears silent.

  • Be honest with God, those closest to you, and ultimately yourself about your fears.  We are not meant to be silent sufferers.
  • Keep in mind that you are not alone.  All of us go through times of uncertainty.  Even the great heroes of the faith had times of doubt.  Don’t beat yourself up emotionally because you are in one of those times now.
  • Remember that just because you feel a certain way does not mean the way you feel is truth.
  • Recall truth:
  • That God has promised to “never leave you nor forsake you”. Even when you feel abandoned by God, He is closer than you can imagine…and, He cares!
  • That God has promised to work “all things for good”. That means He has a plan, even when it doesn’t seem that He does.
  • Don’t sit still for long without doing something you already know to be doing.  Volunteer, help others, stay busy, pray, seek His face.  Be active in living out your faith during this time.  Idleness is one of Satan’s best friends.
  • Know that God prepares for some of His best work as He makes you wait.
  • Read Psalm 27 and 121.

Have you ever been in a time like this?  I would love for you to leave a brief testimony here to encourage others.