Ten Commandments Part 1
A League of His Own
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 2, 2005
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
[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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
(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
~ 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
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
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
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
God Must Be
F-I-R-S-T in My…
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!
is Giving to God Important?
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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
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?
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?