A long time ago, God called Moses to the top of the mountain and handed down a basic set of rules for Israel, the people of the Lord. We call that list – the Ten Commandments.
How many can you repeat? Here is a short version …
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make idols, carved images of Me.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet.
At first reading, you might say, “Hey, not bad, I’m good for 7 out of 10,” or something like that. And, you would be missing the point. The Big Ten are not a test that we pass based on 70%. They are not a checklist that St. Peter will bring out as you stand at the gate of Heaven. (OK, that’s just wrong in so many ways, but give me some latitude here.) Jesus said that all of the commandments of the (614!) Law are fulfilled in just 2 – “Love God wholeheartedly; and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” There is a major issue among Christians about the First (Old) Testament. Are we obligated to it? Should we throw it away?
Jesus did not abolish the Law, He fulfilled it. In Him, we find our sin forgiven and our relationship with God restored. And, how do we know what sin is? A good place to start is with those Ten Commandments. When we think about them deeply, we begin to understand just how far we have fallen from what God planned for us.
“No other gods?” Superficially, 99% do not have a problem there. We are convinced that there is one God, right? But, what or whom do you treat as like a god? What directs your behavior, owns your loyalty? Ah, for some their kids are little gods. For others, it is their career. Well, let’s jump down to “take the name of the LORD in vain.” Does saying “Oh, God” in a moment of surprise count? Are we in the clear as long as we do not say “Jesus Christ” in a profane way? Well … actually, no! God does not want us to write His Name on our lives like a brand and then make Him look bad by our behavior. “If you say you belong to Me then act badly or ignore My honor, you’re offending Me.”
And, so it goes.
The depth of sinfulness in us is revealed by the Law, which could leave us hopelessly in despair, or cause us to become hypocritical because we just deny the truth. That is why Jesus came to set us free from condemnation and to transform us into God’s people, inside out. Think back to the first giving of the Ten Words (the Decalogue). Did Moses bring them to Egypt and tell the people if you start living by this new law you will be set free from your slavery? No! God delivered His people miraculously when they met His grace with faith. Then, He gave them the law to show them how to stay free, the unique people belonging to God.
Similarly, Jesus came to give us freedom from our slavery to sin. When we are touched by the Spirit, moved by grace, and respond with faith – He saves us. We stay free as we come to understand the holiness of God and let the Spirit reshape us.
As I read Exodus 20 again this morning, I did so with reverence. I also read those word with the interpretative help of Jesus’ words, thanking Him for doing in my life what I could never do for myself: make me holy and acceptable to God. Are you trying to keep the Law by yourself? Does the burden weigh you down or cause you to run from Him, hiding because of guilt? Christ has made a new Way, opening the Holy Place to us with the final offering – His own body and shed blood. Now, He invites us to come near and stay free.
Here is a word from the Word. “because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:14-22, NIV)
(the new/old song of the saved)
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone I’ve been set free
My God my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love amazing grace
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine
Chris Tomlin | John Newton | Louie Giglio © 2006 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Vamos Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055