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Does anyone here think they could list all of the Ten Commandments? Do I have a volunteer who is willing to come up here and try?

How many of you knew you could come up with six out of the ten?  The thing is, people used to know them all.  They were actually taught in school.  It was considered a standard part of an education in America to learn the Ten Commandments.  Did any of you grow up reciting them as school was starting? How many of you had them hanging up on a wall in your house?  They were prominent because they were considered to be the standard regarding the way we conducted our lives.

I have been teaching through the Beatitudes on Wednesday nights recently.  These are the attitudes and actions that when we possess them and execute them, they produce a blessing in our lives.  Rather than think of the Ten Commandments as rules and roadblocks to a preferred way of life, could we view them as the guardrails that not only help us stay God-focused and provide protection for us, but also, they are the means through which God brings great blessing to our lives.

Allow me to phrase the Ten Commandments like the Beatitudes are phrased in Matthew 5:

Blessed are they who put God first. (Put no other gods before/but Me.)

Blessed are they who need no substitutes. (Don’t make or worship idols.)

Blessed are they who honor God’s name. (Don’t misuse God’s name.)

Blessed are they who honor God’s day. (Keep the Sabbath holy.)

Blessed are they who honor their parents. (Honor your parents.)

Blessed are they who value life. (Don’t murder.)

Blessed are they who keep their marriage vows. (Don’t cheat on your spouse.)

Blessed are they who respect the property of others. (Don’t steal.)

Blessed are they who love the truth. (Don’t lie.)

Blessed are they who learn the art of contentment. (Don’t crave what isn’t yours.)

You could call the Ten Commandments the “Ten Don’ts,” I suppose, but I would rather view them as the “Ten Do’s.” I want my life to reflect that I value, with intention, the way of life that God has said will be for my good.  So, I want these ten principles to be mainstays on my “to-do” list. 

Each one of these ten commandments involves a person’s heart, first. When we violate any of them, it is a sign that our hearts are in trouble.  When we have problems on the heart-level, and those issues go unaddressed, we forfeit blessing after blessing that God wants to give to us.

This is the “Year of Alignment” at our church.  I have talked much about how we get in line with Jesus, how we align ourselves with His Word, how we line up with His will, how we allow Him to set the standards for our lives.  Our desire to follow God’s standards reveals the quality of relationship we have with Him, and the quality of our relationship with Him reveals the condition of our hearts toward Him. If we have no regard for God’s standards and what He is asking of us as His children, we cannot claim to be in a love relationship with Him. 

If our attitude is, “God, I don’t care what you think, God, I don’t care what you say, God, I’m going to live the way I want to live, and You have nothing to say about it”-if that is our attitude-then the love of God and love for God isn’t in our heart. Let me illustrate it this way:  If when we got married, my husband said to me, “Now, on our wedding day, I’m going to profess my love for you and you, alone.  I’m going to make promises to you, to love and cherish you and to respect you and support you and consider you and your feelings as I make decisions and go through life.  I’m going to make commitments to you.  I will testify on that day that you will be my number one earthly priority and person and that the way I spend my days on earth will reflect those commitments,” if he said those things to me ahead of our wedding day, I would believe, “Wow, this guy really loves me.  He is in this with me for life! There will be a sharing of our lives from our wedding day forward that will change our lives forever.” I would feel so chosen, so seen, so valued, so special, right?

But what if, even though his words said, “I do,” on our wedding day, what if his actions after that said, “I don’t?”  What if we got home from the honeymoon, and he went for days and weeks without spending any time with me?  What if he started dating other people even though he was married to me?  What if he sometimes slept at home but sometimes slept at other people’s homes?  What if he told me he loved me when we were together, but he also told other people he loved them when he was with them? What if I only saw him occasionally?  What if he drained our bank account dry because he was buying so many gifts for all of the other love interests in his life that we were left penniless?  Thankfully, that’s not what happened in our marriage, but what if it had?  Would his behavior have backed his words on our wedding day?  Of course not!  And what would it say about the condition of his heart towards me?  It would say his heart was uncommitted, his heart was divided and perhaps that his heart wasn’t in our relationship at all.  I would likely believe he never loved me in the first place, and would I put up with any of that?  Not on your life!  His actions would have advised me regarding the state of his heart.

Church, our actions, not our words, tell the truth about what is in our hearts.

Because God knows we have a propensity to make promises and then to wander off, to get off track, to be pulled in the wrong direction, He began the Ten Commandments in a specific way.  Look at Exodus 20:1-3 with me.

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before[a]  (or besides) me.

Before we unpack this first of the Ten Commandments, let’s not overlook the first six words of the text.  They say, “And God spoke all these words.”  Who spoke all of the words?  God.  Does it say that God spoke some of the words?  Most of the words?  It says God spoke them all.  So, where do the Ten Commandments come from?  They come from God. The Ten Commandments aren’t the fodder of some self-help book.  They aren’t called, “Ten Suggestions for a Better Life.”  They aren’t recommendations.  They are commandments, spoken by God, and they have the weight of His wisdom and sovereign authority behind them. 

The Ten Commandments, spoken by God have lasting moral authority.  You won’t find a better set of principles upon which to build a life.  They cannot be improved upon.  No one can come up with a new list that can supersede the list God has handed down.  They aren’t outdated, so they never need to be updated.  Every word God speaks is unchanging.  He never has to recant or take something back.  He speaks it because it is true, and it is eternal and forever fixed.  Psalm 119:89 says, Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. God isn’t going to back up from His Word.  He won’t be talked into something less than what He has declared. 

There has never been, nor will there ever be a time when God says, “I’m just joking, go ahead and steal something if you want it. It really isn’t a problem for Me.”  He will never say, “I made a mistake.  It is OK for you to murder if you have a decent reason.”  It won’t happen.  He won’t all of the sudden give us license to pick the commandments we agree with or the ones we like and give us permission to leave the rest alone.  These words were spoken by God, and He is the authority on right and wrong, on what is bad and on what gets blessed.

Not only does God’s moral authority trump any earthly idea, but God’s intentions trump any human intention.  God only wants what is best for us.  He doesn’t put things on the list that are toxic.  He doesn’t command us to do things that will create trouble for us.  Not one of the ten will cause you tears or harm.  Not one of the ten will take life from you.  Not one of the ten will leave you questioning if God really loves you. Not one of the ten will give you a stomachache full of regret.  Not one of the ten will hold you back from anything that will add value to your life.  He only wants to give us good and perfect gifts, James 1:7.  The Ten Commandments are perfect.  They are a gift, given by a good God, for our good. 

If you or I were making the rules, we would have great reason to question whether they would work for us or not.  We would have great cause to wonder if they had value, if they were correct, if they would be helpful.  Thank Heaven none of us made them!  Only God, who has the best intentions, whose insight is right from start to finish, only God came up with this top ten list.

Besides, if I had been the one to come up with the Ten Commandments, you might think, “What does she know? Who is she to tell me how to govern my life! Have you seen the way she drives?”  Or whatever you might think.  It wasn’t a random person who gave us some random rules.  It was the Almighty, Perfect, Creator God.  That ought to give us pause.  That ought to stop us in our tracks.  That ought to get our attention. 

Moses wanted the people to know that he wasn’t coming up with this list on his own.  God, alone, had decided what made the list.  And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before[a]  (or besides) me.

Notice the footnote in verse 3.  Although it reads, “you shall have no other gods before me,” that doesn’t mean that as long as the one, true living God is number one, we can worship other things as gods below Him. That is why I added what the footnote says if you look at it.  It says, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” God is not only to be our number one, but He is to be our only one when it comes to who or what we worship. Nothing else and no one else is worthy of our worship.

God had to address this right out of the shoot because the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt.  The Egyptians were polytheists.  They believed in and worshiped many gods.  The Israelites had seen the Egyptian worship practices.  They watched them worship, Hapi, the God of annual flooding or water.  It was thought that the Nile River was his bloodstream.  The first plague, a judgment against, Hapi, was the turning of the Nile River to blood.

The next god, Heket, was the Egyptian god of fertility.  God sent a second plague on Egypt which was a plague of frogs. In judgment of Heket, frogs were seen everywhere.  They were in their houses, in their food, in their clothing, in every possible place. 

The Egyptian God, Geb, was over the dust of the earth.  So, what did God do in the third plague?  He turned the dust of the earth into lice, and lice were all over the people and the animals.  (That gives me the heebee geebees.  Anyone have an itch they need to scratch all of the sudden?)

I could go on, but you get the point. As God freed His people from slavery in Egypt through a series of 10 judgments on their false gods, He was demonstrating His power over every god, thereby establishing Himself as the only One, True, and Living God.  Only God could free them from their bondage.  Only God can free us from the bondage of sin. 

That is why God begins the Ten Commandments this way:  And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before[a]  (or besides) me.

God had brought His people out!  It was no small thing.  There was a great demonstration of His power in the process.  Not only were there ten plagues, serving as ten judgments against Egypt, but the parting of the Red Sea was no small feat!  In the giving of this first command, God was reminding them of their recent history and just who it was who had the power to liberate them.  He was reminding them that the place of slavery, the place of bondage, was the land of the false gods.  If you want to be rescued, if you want to know freedom, if you want to enjoy life, then be freed by, walk with and serve the one, true living God.  Only He can bring you out of what binds you!

Have no other gods besides Him because He alone can save!  Anything you look to for satisfaction, fulfillment, or validation has the power to enslave you!

If people are your god, you will do anything to gain their approval, even compromising your values.

If entertainment or excitement are your god, you will do anything to experience it, even compromising your beliefs.

If power is your god, you will do anything to acquire it, even compromising your integrity.

If social media is your god, you will be possessed by it, even compromising your sleep and dedication to work.

If material possessions are your god, you will be consumed with work to acquire them, even compromising your relationships.

Whatever you say “yes” to on a repeated basis has the potential to become the priority of your heart.  If your “yes” isn’t firmly reserved for God when He calls, you may be in danger of breaking this first commandment. 

I mentioned the “Year of Alignment” again at the top of this message.  Here is what I believe:  If you get this commandment right, the first of the ten, the rest will fall into place.  If God is on the throne of your heart, you won’t be jealous of others, wanting what they have because you will be content with what God has provided for you.  If God is on the throne of your heart, you won’t lie about other people because you will love and value them the way God does. This first commandment in the Old Testament is really saying the same thing as our key verse for the year.  It is Matthew 6:33. It basically says that if we seek first God’s Kingdom, God’s will, God’s way, if He is in His rightful place in our lives, everything else will take care of itself.

A man purchased a statue of Christ at an auction and put it in the living room. The next day his wife decided the statue belonged in a different room. When their five-year-old daughter saw her mother moving the statue, she blurted out, “Where are you going to put God?”  That’s a great question, isn’t it! Where are you going to put God? That’s what the First Commandment is asking you: “Where are you going to put God? Will He have the first place in your life? Or will you stick him in some out-of-the-way place where he won’t cause any trouble?”

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before[a]  (or besides) me.

If we were to translate the Hebrew word for word here, it would read:  Not shall there be for you gods before my face. There shall be no gods, no pursuits, no relationships that have the elevated status whereby you worship them.  “Get them out of my face,” God says.  “Remove them from the equation because they will mess with the relationship you and I have and can continue to cultivate.”

We cannot go where God wants to take us, and we cannot enjoy God the way He wants us to know Him if He is competing for our affection.  The God who has rescued us from sin and bondage has proven His affection for us.  Why would we give other pursuits the priority of our time and affection?

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