God's Top Ten

(Exodus 20:1-17)

From the book of Exodus, and repeated again in the book of Deuteronomy we have the Ten Commandments, in Greek their called the Decalogue, and I call them God' Top Ten.

In recent years the Ten Commandments; and the public display of the commandments have come under fire by some who feel the commandments are obsolete or infringe upon the separation of church and state. And there are still others who feel the Ten Commandments were written to ensure humans don't have "fun," particularly when the seventh commandment is mentioned.

Some of you older and wiser folks will remember that back in the 1950's and 1960's the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated granite monuments of the Ten Commandments to many municipalities across America. Now, more recently, the gifts of those monuments erected on public property and courthouse lawns has become the basis for lawsuits and legal battles.

One such legal proceeding took place locally in Frederick, and of course there was the very public legal battle in Alabama where the Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore authorized the placement of 5,280 pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the building rotunda. Of course as we know two months later the monument was removed through further legal action and Justice Moore more was suspended. And although I have real issue with folks and organizations who work to undermine God and God's law, I'm more concerned about how we as Christians treat the Ten Commandments.

People may fight to keep the Commandments from being publicly displayed but they can't keep us from living in accordance with God's Top Ten. We can complain all we want that an extreme minority of folks in this country are taking Christianity away from us, and destroying the very foundation on which this country was founded, by removing the Ten Commandments, prayer and other Christian symbols and rites from our schools and other public buildings, but what are Christian's really doing about it.

Displaying the Commandments on paper, in stone, or in a stain glass window is secondary to ensuring the Ten Commandments are etched on our hearts. The Ten Commandments are God's law, a law to be lived not just displayed.

The truth is Satan is not only succeeding in his bid to remove the Ten Commandments from public display, he has already succeeded in removing them from the hearts of many Christians. A business man who was well known for his ruthless behavior once told Mark Twain, "Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mt. Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top." Mark Twain said, "I have a better idea, why don't you stay in Boston and follow them."

Last week I spoke of getting to the root cause of our problems not just addressing the symptoms. Well, if we would spend as much energy living as a public display of the Ten Commandments as we do complaining and protesting the removal of them from public display, I believe we wouldn't be having as many of the problems we're now having. There's no better witness or public display of the Christian faith, including the Ten Commandments, then living it.

So, as I did last week I'm suggesting we need to deal with ourselves first when it comes to respecting and following the Ten Commandments, then we can better deal with the more public display and affirmation of God's law.

So with this in mind how are you doing with the Ten Commandments? Let's review what the Ten Commandments mean. And before we begin let me make one observation for you. The first four Commandments address our relationship with God, our vertical relationship, and the following six address our relationship with one another, our horizontal relationship.

When you see displays of the commandments sometimes you'll see them displayed that way, four on one tablet and six on the other, rather than five on one and five on the other. As a matter of fact here in this building you'll see them displayed both ways. To my right in the stain glass window they're displayed and five and five. But in the stain glass window in the office area they're displayed four and six.

So let's begin with the first four commandments and lets consdier what they have to say to us about our relationship with God.

Number 1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me. The first Commandment is about absolute loyalty to God and God alone. The creator of the universe declares He is our God and our Deliverer. He asks us to demonstrate our love for Him by having no other gods, and by not following false teachings, or false religions.

Be careful of those who claim to be Christian but don't speak of God, but rather speak of themselves. And be careful of false religions which place their hope in crystals, tea leaves, cards, other human beings, and the like.

Number 2. You shall not make yourself an idol. The second Commandment is about worship. God prohibits the worship of images or idols. You might remember when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets he found his people worshiping a golden calf they had made.

Today's idols include ourselves, other people, money, cars, houses, power, and so on.

Number 3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord. This commandment is about reverence. God instructs us to respect His holy name and not to use it in vain. Now what does vain mean? In the Hebrew language vain has a broad application meaning: iniquity, falsehood, vanity, emptiness, in other words showing disrespect. So this commandment means far more than swearing, it deals with anything that disrespects God or God's name.

Number 4. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Now this is probably the most violated commandment of the ten. The fourth commandment is about sanctification and relationship. God instructs us to remember the Sabbath and keep it set apart for holy purposes so we can draw nearer to him. God initiated the Sabbath rest at creation, blessing and sanctifying the day of rest. God wants us to use the Sabbath to worship, study His Word, and to fellowship with other Christians. These activities serve to strengthen us and energize us for the week ahead, and they offer us opportunity to further our relationship with God.

Now the remaining six commandments instruct us on how to live with one another.

Number 5. Honor your father and your mother. The fifth Commandment is about respect for parental authority. God teaches us to show love for our parents by honoring them. Now I know this can be hard sometimes, we certainly don't always agree with our parents. But this commandment doesn't say we're supposed to always agree, it says we are to respect and honor.

In other words we are to respect our parents experience and wisdom, and try to understand where they're coming from, not simply blowing them off as being out-of-touch. Parents don't necessarily have all the right answers, but they do have wisdom that comes from life experience and mistakes they've made on their life's journey, and that alone deserves respect.

Number 6. You shall not murder. This Commandment is about respect for human life. God instructs us to love, not hate, and to demonstrate the same to others by not committing murder. This commandment prohibits antisocial killing, because it poses a threat to the very existence of the community.

Number 7. You shall not commit adultery. This commandment is about maintaining purity in relationships. God asks us to demonstrate our love by not committing adultery. In other words we are not to have sexual relations with a person that's not our spouse.

Number 8. You shall not steal. The eighth Commandment is about honesty. God instructs us not to steal. We're not to take something that doesn't belong to us without the owner's permission. And yes this applies to the pen or paper clip we may have picked up at work and brought home.

Number 9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. This Commandment is about truthfulness, it doesn't speak to lying in general but about lying in a court of law. The very survival of a community is threatened when the weak, disadvantaged and falsely accused can find no remedy before impartial judges informed by credible witnesses.

Now this doesn't mean lying beyond the courtroom is alright. The Lord teaches us to love others, not to deceive in order to discredit or demean someone to our advantage, or to make ourselves look better.

Number 10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Commandment 10 is about contentment. God instructs us not to lust after things that belong to someone else, because lust can entrap us and lead to even more sin.

Now that we've reviewed the Commandments has anyone here ever violated at least one of them?

There are some folks today who say the Ten Commandments no longer apply because when Christ came he abolished all Old Testament law, but this isn't true. As a matter of fact it's recorded in the book of Matthew that Jesus said, "I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the Law." (Matt. 5:17)

The Ten Commandments are the moral laws of God's people. Christ taught God's law, which is recorded throughout the New Testament, so the Commandments are still in affect today. And on your bulletin insert of the Ten Commandments I've included at least one reference in the New Testament for each commandment for your further study to prove this point. So God hasn't changed his thinking over the years about His law, people have.

A letter to Billy Graham was quite telling of how some think about God's Word. The letter writer asked, "How many of the Ten Commandments does God expect us to keep today?" To the chagrin of the letter writer, Billy Graham responded, "All ten! Just because we have chosen to reduce our standards doesn't mean God has lowered his."

In addition our historic Methodist understanding of the Ten Commandments was set forth by John Wesley. In affect Wesley said in one of his sermons, "The moral law containing the Ten Commandments, and enforced by the prophets, Christ did not take away…The moral law stands on an entirely different foundation from the ceremonial or ritual law…Every part of this law, meaning the moral law, must remain in force upon all mankind and in all ages" (Sermons on Several Occasions, 2-Vol. Edition, Vol. 1, pg 221)

Humankind needs standards and rules to live by. Many might say we don't but we do. By nature humans prefer order over chaos. If we had no rules, no laws, no standards, humanity would destroy itself, and probably would have by now. And you know Satan thrives in chaos and would like nothing more than for us to turn on one another, and turn against God.

So to help us the Ten Commandments serve as a mirror to show us just how we're doing in meeting God's expectations. And it's this mirror of our shortcomings that ought to drive us to the cross, where Christ paid the debt for our sin.

When the Ten Commandments were written thousands of years ago they served to motivate people to survive so that no ones life would be taken away.

With Jesus' new revelation to the Pharisees of the two greatest commandments to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and to "love your neighbor as yourself," (Matt. 22:37-39) love became the dominant motivator to follow the Ten Commandments, not survival.

Therefore because of Christ, and our new life in Christ, our motivation for following the Ten Commandments is no longer survival and fear, but love.

Love itself does not trump the Ten Commandments, rather it's because of our love for God and others, we ought to follow them. Therefore, I'm persuaded that the heading for the first four commandments is "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and the first four commandments provide the direction for achieving this.

Likewise I'm persuaded the heading for the remaining six commandments is "love your neighbor as yourself," and the last six commandments instruct us on how to achieve this type of relationship.

God has given us a gift in the Ten Commandments, a gift to be cherished and a gift to be followed. So I encourage you to make God's top ten your top ten as God's Word demands, and you will experience relationships that are richer, deeper, and more blessed.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade