The Ten Commandments Part 1
A League of His Own
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 2, 2005

 

Main Passage: Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)

 

Well, it’s been over a week since Christmas and we’re already into the New Year. But that Christmas fruitcake is still sitting around the house. So if you’re wondering what to do with it, let me give you a few options…

The Top Ten uses for fruitcake…
[used earlier in the service]

10. Stand on it when you change a light bulb.
9. Give it to the cat for a scratching post.
8. Put it in the trunk of your car for added traction when driving in snow.
7. Use slices to balance that wobbly kitchen table.
6. Use as speed bumps to foil the neighborhood drag racers.
5. Collect ten and use them as bowling pins.
4. Bury it in the backyard for future archaeologists to discover.
3. Use it as a malfunctioning boomerang.
2. Use it to build bomb shelter.
1. Use it as a gift for your mother-in-law.

Well, there you have it. The Top Ten ways to use that leftover fruitcake. Later on this morning we’re going to take a look at another Top Ten list… God’s Top Ten… the Ten Commandments. And they don’t talk about fruitcake, unless maybe in regards to making a graven image. God’s Top Ten helps us live lives that honour him and live in peace and harmony in our society. So you can look forward to that in about a half an hour.

 

They used to be posted in classrooms and courtrooms, they used to be required reading growing up, they even provided the basis for one of the most revered films of all time. But that’s the “used to be’s. What about today, January 2, 2005? What relevance do the Ten Commandments have for today?

We’re going to explore that over the next 10 weeks including today as we take a fresh look at the Ten Commandments. And in so doing we’re really going to try to answer three questions about each… what, why and how? What is the commandment saying, why is it important, and how does it relate to me today? And I think as we do this you will be amazed at the timeless wisdom of these commandments. No other system of laws even comes close to these.

Before we get into the first of the Ten, though, I want to talk about the Ten Commandments in general. So let me quiz you. What are the Ten Commandments? Can you name them?

PARTICIPATION
HAND OUT LAMINATED CARDS

You probably know them best out of the King James Version of the Bible. I’m using the wording found in the New Living Translation. From that translation in Exodus 20, here they are… God’s Top Ten…

1. Do not worship any other gods besides Me.
2. Do not make idols of any kind.
3. Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.
4. Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5. Honour your father and mother.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not testify falsely against your neighbour.
10. Do not covet.

Now let me clarify something. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He didn’t say… “Moses, here are ten things I think are important. Let me list them for you… Number 1…” No, God didn’t actually say He was giving us Ten Commandments. He just gave us commandments. And then people looked at them later on and counted them up and decided to call them the Ten Commandments.

Besides, there are actually a lot more than ten commandments that you’ll find as you read through the Bible. But these ten seem to be a pretty good summary of the rest. And if you wanted to summarize them even further, you can. Check this out…

Mark 12:28 (NLT)
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the discussion. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Now, you’d expect Jesus to quote one of the Ten Commandments we’ve already listed from Exodus 20, wouldn’t you? But no, Jesus quoted from an entirely different book of the Bible (Deuteronomy 6) when He says…

Mark 12:29-30 (NLT)
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’”

Basically, “Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got.” And then He adds from yet another book (Leviticus 19)…

Mark 12:31 (NLT)
“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Let me put the Ten Commandments back up on the screen. Now, Jesus said the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got. Doesn’t that pretty much summarize the first four?

And how about what Jesus said was the next most important… “Love your neighbour as yourself”? Doesn’t that pretty much wrap up the rest of them? The first four deal with our vertical relationship with God, and the last six deal with our horizontal relationship with others.

So here we have these Ten Commandments that can be summarized as “Love God and love others.” Why? Why do we have these Commandments? Are they simply there to spoil our fun? Are they there to make us feel guilty? Are they there to be put on plaques and argued about in the courts?

Here are three reasons I think God gave us the Ten Commandments:

 

Why are the Ten Commandments Important?

 

1. They show us our need of God.

Galatians 3:19 (NLT)
Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are…

When you really understand the heart of the Ten Commandments, you can’t help but recognize how far you fall short of the standard for living that God expects of you and me. None of us is perfect… none of us is without sin… all of us need the grace of God and the forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ to make us right in His eyes and set us free from bondage to sinfulness.

(Further study: Romans 6:15-23; 7:1-25)

 

2. They help restrain evil people.

The problem is, we’re all evil. No mother has ever told her little boy, “Kick your sister, pull her hair! Get mad and talk back to me, rebel when you are a teenager.” No Father has to take his daughter aside and teach her how to throw a tantrum or how to be moody. We are all born with an inclination to rebel and do the wrong thing.

Romans 5:12 (NLT)
When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race.

So the Ten Commandments help keep that sinfulness in check. It sets up boundaries so we can know right from wrong.

It’s interesting to me that these Ten Commandments are recognized as the foundation for our entire system of law. For thousands of years, people have recognized the wisdom of these Commandments and their value as a means of maintaining law and order in society. They set up boundaries and define what is right and wrong. And it worries me that our society is slowly rejecting these timeless principles and turning to what seems right in our own eyes.

1 Timothy 1:9-11 (NLT)
[These laws] are for people who are disobedient and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful… who are sexually immoral, for homosexuals and slave traders, for liars and oath breakers, and for those who do anything else that contradicts the right teaching that comes from the glorious Good News…

 

3. They serve as a guide for Christian living.

Looking at the Ten Commandments and understanding how they apply help us to understand the kind of people God wants us to be… the kind of people we were meant to be. The Commandments are not just commandments… they’re principles for living. They’re values that reflect the values of God.

Psalm 119:4-7 (NLT)
You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your principles!
Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands.
When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should!

(Further study: Psalm 119:1-73)

 

Hopefully that gives you an understanding of the value of the Ten Commandments and a better perspective on what we’re talking about here this morning and over the next nine Sundays, too. Now let’s dive into the first commandment…

Exodus 20:3 (NLT)
“Do not worship any other gods besides Me.”

Those who are familiar with the Commandments as they were taught to us as children will recognize this as, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” And basically it means, honour God as God.

Wilbur Williams is a professor of Biblical Literature and Archaeology at Indiana Wesleyan University, and over the past thirty years or so he has asked literally thousands of students to rearrange the Ten Commandments, putting what to them seemed to be the most important laws first. He said that 90% of the time the last six commandments were placed before the first four, with “Do not murder” topping the list almost every time.

[Here they are in the order he sees most commonly…
Do not murder. (6)
Do not steal. (8)
Do not testify falsely against your neighbour. (9)
Do not commit adultery. (7)
Honour your father and mother. (5)
Do not covet. (10)
Do not make idols of any kind. (2)
Do not worship any other gods besides Me. (1)
Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. (3)
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (4)]

Time and time again people feel that the most important commandments are those which involve our horizontal relationship with other people and the least important involve our vertical relationship with God. But really, it should be the other way around.

“If you get the first commandment in place you don’t have to worry about the others. By simply having a proper relationship with God, you’re not going to have to worry about having a proper relationship with man.”
~ Wilbur Williams

Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to Love God, and the second was to love others. And we see that in the very order of the Ten Commandments. The very first one is, “Do not worship any other gods besides Me.”

Why? Is God really that insecure? Is He some cosmic egotist that He jealously needs our worship? No, it’s not that God is afraid of the competition. It’s that he knows that nothing and no one else can be trusted with that #1 spot in our lives. How many people have you known who have allowed family to occupy that top spot, only to have their spouse leave them or their kids rebel against them? Or the person whose number one spot is occupied by their career and they sacrifice everything for that god, only to arrive at work one day and find that they had been downsized or right-sized or whatever they call it these days?

Everyone one of us worships a god of some kind. You might not call it a god, but when someone or something occupies the highest place in your life, it is in effect your god. And we all have something that’s most important to us.

In ancient times, people had their gods: they recognized them as gods, they called them by their names, and they worshipped them and made idols to represent them. Athena was the goddess of wisdom. Bacchus was the god of wine. Baal was the god of nature and procreation. Serapis was the god of productivity. Mammon was the god of wealth/money; Venus, Aphrodite, and Diana were the goddesses of sex. Even Apollo the sun-god was worshipped as the god of life. And they had a multitude of other gods, too.

Today we use different names for these “gods.” We don’t worship Athena; we simply worship knowledge. We don’t name Bacchus; we just worship alcohol. We don’t talk about Serapis; it’s just fertility. Mammon’s name doesn’t come up much, we simply worship money. Apollo isn’t mentioned; instead we just worship the sun on the beach. Venus, Aphrodite, and Diana aren’t commonly called upon; we just worship sex. The name of the god is not all that important to God, what we are worshipping is. You can write this in your notes…

We worship what we are inferior to.

You ever think about that? Worshippers must always worship something above themselves. For me to worship something is to admit that I’m inferior to it. Because we don’t worship down. We must worship up. And there is only One up. Listen to what the Bible says…

Psalm 8:5 (CEV)
You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honour.

Above us is only God. Beneath us is everything else. So no one but God deserves our worship. Not an angel, not a government, not a heavenly body, not the rain, not fire, not another person, certainly not an animal, or money, or sex, or fame, or popularity. Only God alone.

So if you and I are going to put God first in our lives, what does that mean?

 

God Must Be F-I-R-S-T in My…

 

Finances

Whatever is first in your life is going to be where you invest your money. Now, I generally avoid talking too much about money here on Sunday mornings, but there’s no escaping the truth found in Matthew 6…

Matthew 6:21 (NLT)
“Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.”

I was listening to a tape this past week by John Maxwell. John used to pastor a Wesleyan church in San Diego, but now he travels the continent speaking to Fortune 500 companies about leadership. On this tape, John tells of an experience he had when he was a pastor in his first church. One day a man in the church came to talk with John. He was not real happy with the way things were going, and he told John that he had decided to withhold his tithe until things got straightened out. John looked at him and said, “Well, don’t tell me.” The man responded, “Well you are the pastor. Who should I tell?” So John said, “Don’t tell me, tell God. You are robbing God. As a matter of fact, let’s pray about it.” So John kind of took the guy by the arm and pulled him down on one knee and said… “Just pray after me, ‘Dear God, I’ve decided to rob you.’” The man pulled away real quick… “Wait a minute – I didn’t mean it like that.” And John says that the man got the point and even thanked John for helping put things in perspective and he kept on faithfully giving his tithe… not to John, but to God.

[I was recently talking with another pastor in our district who’s in the process of building a new facility for their church. So they’ve been through the process of raising funds and people have made pledges to give a certain amount over the next few years. My friend told me that there was a new couple who started coming to the church right at the beginning of the campaign. He was out of work but felt God leading Him to make a pledge. So the man promised he would give, and a week later he was hired as an executive at a local company. But as time went on, he got upset over one thing or another and decided that He wasn’t going to give anymore. A week later, they cut his job. My friend’s tempted to email the man and ask if he thinks it’s just a coincidence.]

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you that if you tithe faithfully that you will become wealthy and never have any financial pressures at all. But I am telling you that God will recognize your faithfulness and will care for your needs. Actually, I’m not telling you that; God’s promising you that! In the Old Testament book of Malachi He promises that if we tithe…

Malachi 3:10 (NLT)
“I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!”

It’s amazing to me that we can trust so many other people and things to supply for our needs, but we won’t trust the promises of God!

Why is Giving to God Important?

  • Your giving honours God.

    Proverbs 3:9-10 (NLT)
    Honor the LORD by giving him your money and the first part of all your crops.
    Then you will have more grain and grapes than you will ever need.

    Tithing means returning 10% of your income to God and it’s a Biblical principle. And it’s an important step of obedience and faithfulness. Your tithe is not a “membership fee” or a payment for services; it is a form of worship. Notice that the passage says “the first part.” Circle that. God’s not looking for your leftovers. He’s not looking for a tip. He’s looking for you to worship Him with your giving and trust Him to supply all your needs.
     

  • Your giving shows your priorities.

    We’ve already looked at this verse…

    Matthew 6:21 (NLT)
    “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.”

    It’s actually kind of a cycle… If God is first in your life, then you will give to His work. And if you give to His work, it will reinforce His place as first in your life. By giving in obedience to the Word of God, you acknowledge the place of priority God has in your life. You reinforce that God is your first love, and the role of greed and selfishness in your life is weakened.

    “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.”
    ~ Billy Graham
     

  • Your giving makes ministry possible.

    It’s a fact of life that everything costs money, including the work of the Church. Your giving helps pay for ministry tools and resources, outreach, facility rental, charitable gifts, mission work, personnel, and more.

    Malachi 3:10 (NLT)
    “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple.”

    In other words, give your tithe… 10% of everything you make… in the place where you worship so that the funds will be available to carry on the work I have called the church to do.

 

God needs to come first in your finances. He also needs to come first in your interest.

 

Interest

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God.

Living a God-honouring life is not something you clock-in for. You don’t take vacations from it and you don’t get holidays off. It’s a way of life, not a vocation. Putting God first means that He will impact every single area of my life all the time. But you know what? It’s not a chore to live that way. Just like in any relationship, if you love someone the things that interest them begin to interest you, too. And loving God means that His values become my values, His interests become my interests, His concerns become my concerns… It’s what He thinks that begins to matter most to you.

“Ultimately, we live our lives before an audience of one. It is what He thinks that counts the most.”
~ Dr. James L. Wilson

 

Relationships

Ephesians 4:2-3 (NLT)
Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.

Notice that God the Holy Spirit is to be at the center of our relationships. Putting God first in our relationships means that we always allow the love of God to be expressed through us. When someone wrongs us, we don’t lash back in anger. Instead we return evil with good. When we get involved in a romantic relationship, we don’t lose all self-control and give in to our desires. It means we respect the boundaries that God has set up for healthy relationships. Some of the later commandments actually get into this, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

 

Schedule

Ephesians 5:16-17 (NLT)
Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.

I’ve often said that if you want to know what comes first in someone’s life all you need to do is look at two things: their bank statements and their calendar. Because where people spend their money and where they spend their time gives a pretty good picture of what’s really important to them.

So if I were to look at your bank statements and your calendar, what would I find? Do you prioritize God and the things of God? You may say He’s important to you, but do your actions back that up? It’s true that actions speak louder than words, and you do make time for the things that are important to you.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)
Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.

So your schedule should include time not only to be a do-gooder but to invest in the things that contribute to spiritual growth… Bible reading, Prayer, LIFE Group, attending church, worshipping God, devotional reading, personal study… Does your schedule show that God is first in your life?

 

Troubles

Study after study shows that when people are going through a rough time and they pray, things get better. Sometimes the whole situation improves, sometimes it’s the perspective of the pray-er that changes. But the evidence suggests that God can be trusted with your troubles.

If that’s true, and I think most of us here would agree with that, why is it that God is so often our last resort and not our first? We try to solve our own problems and look to all kinds of possible answers to the questions of life before we turn to the source of life… God. He is the only One who can adequately deal with each and every problem we face. We need to put Him first in our lives because anything else that we put in that position will ultimately fail us when we need it the most. Let me show you some pretty powerful verses from the Bible. And notice, these are promises we’re given…

Psalm 50:15 (NLT)
“Trust Me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you…”

Psalm 55:22 (NLT)
Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you.

1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you.

You can put God first in your troubles because He can be trusted. He will never leave you or abandon you to your problems. He will stick with you until you get through it. The Bible actually describes Him as a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

(Further reading: Daniel 3)

Sometimes God removes us from the troubles of life, but I think more often than not He helps us through them. And He doesn’t do it from a distance… He’s right there with us.

 

Okay. Here’s your opportunity to respond to God this morning. Would you close your eyes for a minute? If He’s been speaking to you this morning, then don’t put Him off. You need to respond. Perhaps He’s been speaking to you about one specific area of your life that you’ve been holding back on, and you know that you need to put Him first there this morning. If that’s where you’re at, then while everyone’s eyes are still closed, would you just life your hand and acknowledge that you’re giving God first place there this morning?


 

 

 

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