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Archive for Ten Commandments


Worship 101

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This week I’ve posted three foundational points that are basic to my understanding of worship. They were:
1. Worship is based on our redemption in Christ. (Exodus 20:1-2)
2. God identifies himself as the exclusive object of our worship. (Exodus 20:3)
3. We must guard our hearts against idolatry. (Exodus 20:4-6)

The fourth basic concerning worship found in Exodus 20 is God is to be reverenced and worshipped for who He is. Exodus 20:7 states, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” Or as the KJV reads, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” I grew up in a Christian home, and the cardinal sin was “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” Nothing would cause my mother to flare with anger more quickly than that! I was not permitted to use common euphemisms such as “Oh my gosh,” or “golly” or “geez.” While the third commandment certainly would cover profanity, I don’t think that’s the main issue it seeks to address. The command is directed toward those who misuse God’s name to create a personal advantage or who take the name of God lightly. Irreverence is the issue. Profanity can be a part of that irreverence, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The next commandment reminds the reader that, in the words of Robert Webber, worship is a verb. “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT). Sabbath was given by God for rest, reflection, and renewal. The ability to stop all activity was and is a sign of trust in God for our provision. Sabbath was also to remind us that we must be intentional about worship, and regular at that.

As a part of my preparation for this series I’ve been reading Christ Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell. Reading his survey of the history of Christian worship reminded me of the gifts of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation emphasized the participation of the congregation. The liturgy and the Scriptures were produced in the vernacular of the people. Congregational singing was instituted as well. God is to be revered in worship. It begins with Him and must be about Him.

The final six commandments deal with our social responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves. Worship, therefore, is in the context of community. We worship as the people of God, not the persons of God. Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Why is corporate worship important? First, because we encourage one another. Is it possible to worship alone? Sure. But if I neglect the opportunity to worship with others I might begin to think that I’m the only one with a problem. When we gather, we gather with others who face challenges and difficulties. Our mutuality inspires us to move forward by faith and to encourage others to do the same. The other reason for corporate worship given by the writer of Hebrews is that there is an urgency to our mission. “The day of his return is drawing near” challenges us to remain engaged in the mission of the Church and the message of the Kingdom.

Thanks for checking in this week. I trust that these thoughts on worship from Exodus 20 will challenge you and bless you as you think about our ultimate priority!

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Worship 101

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Our worship is based on our redemption in Christ. Unless we see that clearly, much of our “worship” will be conducted in vanity and will be for the most part self serving. Continuing in Exodus 20 we find the first commandment where God identifies himself as the exclusive object of worship. “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3, NLT).

Postmodernism has done much to deconstruct absolute truth including the Bible’s exclusive claim of monotheism. In one of my previous pastorates I preached a sermon that highlighted the exclusive claims of Christ. Afterwards I was confronted by a person who was indignant that I would make such a bold claim. “I think in the end all Gods are the same. We’re all praying to the same God and we’ll all end up in the same place.” The person continued, “If you are going to continue to preach that there’s only one God and one way of salvation, I’m going to have to find another church.” I simply replied, “If every way is ok then no way is necessary, and all of this is a colossal waste.”

God’s first commandment to the people of Israel was to always hold fast to the conviction that God is one and there are no others beside Him. This conviction does not justify spiritual arrogance or grant permission to be judgmental. You can hold a conviction without being angry about it. But if we yield to a system of plurality, we make worship about us instead of about God. We think of what we want and not what God desires. Which leads naturally into the second command.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on thoseb who love me and obey my commands” (Exodus 20:4-6, NLT). The claims of God are exclusive, yet our hearts are naturally inclined to idolatry.

Israel had scarcely caught their breath from their deliverance from Egypt. One would think that their dramatic rescue would have left a lasting impression on their hearts. Yet as God speaks these words to Moses on the mountain, Aaron is making a golden calf at the base. Why are idols so compelling? The thing about an idol is that it doesn’t have to be something we carve or chisel and erect on the mantle above the fireplace. It can be anything. An idol is when we take a good thing and make it a god thing. They can be subtle. Romans 1: 21-23 reads as follows: “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” Birds, animals, and reptiles were examples of idols in Paul’s day. In our day, we use birds, animals and reptiles as mascots for sports teams. Those of you who know me know that I like sports as much as the next person. But there’s a fine line between fanaticism and worship. We wear player jerseys, collect memorabilia, and pay big bucks for tickets. According to Deadspin, 41 of 50 states list a college coach as their highest paid state employee. Again, I’m not anti-sports. I’m simply trying to point out that idolatry is seductive and slippery, and once we erect them in our hearts they turn on us and become demanding taskmasters.

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Worship 101

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Yesterday I began a four week series at First Baptist Church on the subject of worship. In my preparation, I was reminded of Elmer Towns’ famous observation that the first murder in the Bible occurred over a dispute concerning worship (cf. Genesis 4:1-9). As I reflected on the story of Cain and Abel, I thought about how deeply we think and feel about worship. God too, for that matter!

The first sermon was titled “Worship 101” and was taken from Exodus 20. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t that where we find the 10 Commandments?” You are correct. Perhaps a little background will help you see the method to my logic. For 400 years the Israelites had been enslaved by the Egyptians. God saw their suffering and heard their cries and sent Moses to emancipate them from Pharaoh’s grip. There are plagues and the Passover, then the Exodus. Israel loaded up and moved out of town. The climactic end to their flight occurred as they passed through the Red Sea and stood on the shoreline while God folded the waters over Pharaoh’s army like a blanket.

Israel moved to the base to Mt. Sinai and set up camp. Moses went up the mountain to meet with God who gave him the Law. The first four commands are not just a list of rules. They are commands that are designed to help us know how to appropriately relate to God and to one another. These commands informed Israel as to how they were to worship.

Consider for example the prologue. “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery” (Exodus 20:2, NLT). The 10 Commandments represent God’s first words to the Israelites following their deliverance from slavery. As a redeemed people, their first priority was to learn how to worship God. Here’s the point: Worship is based on our redemption in Christ. The God who speaks is the God who saves, and He saves us so we might worship him. John MacArthur calls worship, “The ultimate priority of the Christian life.” We worship because of God’s saving grace.

Several years ago we permitted my daughter to get a dog. She was interested in a “rescue dog,” and surveyed the adoption listings from several area shelters. She found a Golden Retriever that she thought would be a good prospect, so we made an appointment to visit the shelter. When we arrived, the keeper introduced us to the dog who barely paid any attention to us. He just ran mad circles around the fenced in yard. While he ran round and round, another Golden came over and sat before us. “He’s a new intake,” the woman remarked. “Haven’t had time to put him on the website yet.” “Is he available?” we asked.

As the keeper told us his story, the dog that we would come to know and love as Jackson sat trembling before us. “We’ll take this one.” Rescue dogs can be a mess, and Jackson has been no exception. He’s chewed up countless shoes and two good pieces of furniture. We discovered that he was blind in one eye and had contracted Addison’s disease, both from suspected blunt force trauma from his previous owner. He takes two medications daily to regulate his Addison’s and believe it or not, depression. But he follows me around the house, regardless of where I go. If I’m at the table, he’s there. If I move to the couch, he’s there. If we sleep with our bedroom door closed, he lays across the threshold. I’d like to think that in some way Jackson behaves this way because he understands he’s been rescued and has been afforded a life that he never dreamed was possible.

That’s the first lesson in worship. We worship because we have been redeemed by Christ. He rescued us, and our worship is our appropriate response to God’s saving grace. If we don’t get that part down, much of what follows is meaningless.

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The Goal of Simplicity

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The book, Simple Life, describes four areas where Americans struggle most. Those areas as I have previously mentioned are time, money, relationships, and connecting with God. As I thought about Rainer’s research and the list that was discovered, it occurred to me that the Ten Commandments cover the same essential content. The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20:3-17, and deal with
1. The exclusive worship of God and the rejection of idols;
2. The provision of rest through the declaration of Sabbath;
3. Prioritization of family established through honoring parents and spouse;
4. Material possessions are put into perspective as appropriate value is described.

So then, why were the Ten Commandments given in the first place? I believe the answer is found in the preamble to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.” (Exodus 20:2, NLT)

The Law was not given to be an end unto itself. The Law is not a set of rules established to restrict you or bind you. The Law was given to set you free, not to make you legalistic. Like the Law, simplicity can become a dangerous thing. Richard Foster calls simplicity the most public and outward of all spiritual disciplines. He adds that simplicity can be dangerous because it can easily become an end unto itself.

In my new series titled Enough, I want to examine what the Scriptures say about simplicity. Here’s the disclaimer: if we seek simplicity for the sake of simplicity, we’ll land in deep legalism. Simplicity cannot become an end unto itself. The end game cannot be for any other purpose than for the purpose of freedom. If simplicity becomes a point of pride, or if it’s used to elevate one’s self, or if it’s used to become a standard of judgment that is wielded against other people, then it has diminished into legalism. The goal of simplicity is not simplicity. The goal is freedom.

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Posts for My Graduate #10

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Ten is a pretty long list when you blog them one at a time, so thanks for enduring the journey. I hope it’s been helpful. Before I deal with #10, let me take a moment to review the other nine guiding principles from the Ten Commandments:
1. Establish God as the ultimate priority of your life.
2. When you get worship right, a lot of other stuff falls into place.
3. Be a person of character whose word reflects who you are without resorting to “swearing.”
4. Make sure you keep plenty of margin in your life for rest and reflection.
5. Remember that you are not self-existent or self-sufficient.
6. Love other as the Lord Jesus has loved you and forgiven you.
7. Keep your passions in check.
8. Show respect to others, including their stuff.
9. Value the reputation of others by telling the truth.

Number 10 comes last in the list, but is not least in importance. Exodus 20:17 tells us, “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

The bottom line is that we are not to covet. Rather, we are to learn to be content with what God has given us. Covetousness, like envy, desires to have something someone else has. It could be someone else’s personal property. It could even be a trait or talent someone possesses like athletic ability, speed, height, or intellect. When a person covets, they enter a thought process that believes if they have what someone else has, they can be like them. This is why advertisers use celebrities to promote their products.

Here’s the underlying issue: What’s wrong with being you? What’s wrong with having what God has given you?

You have to learn to be content with what you have, but even more important, you have to be content with who you are. I don’t think God is opposed to having nice things. I think God may once in a great while scratch his head in amazement at how much we love stuff. And even more, how much we’d prefer to model our lives after some other human than to pattern our lives after Jesus.

To be content means to be “self contained” or “self sustained.” It means to be “freely independent.” Contentment is satisfied with who one is and what one has because he or she has learned to become satisfied with Christ alone. (Philippians 4:10-20)

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Posts for My Graduate #9

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“You must not falsely testify against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

Back in the day of the Bible, evidence in the courts was appreciated but not necessary. If two witnesses came forward with an accusation that was in agreement, it was considered to be enough evidence to merit a conviction and warrant punishment. The system assumed that people would not make false accusations.

Today our legal system demands more evidence. But the principle behind this command is still very real to us today. It’s important for us to remember that as people of love we have a responsibility to value one another. Love is entrenched in truth. Lying is bad. Lying about someone else is worse. The Bible gives a lot of information about how to deal with enemies. Making up false things as an act of revenge is not on the list.

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Posts for My Graduate #8

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Like the prohibition against murder, the eighth commandment should be a no-brainer. “You must not steal” (Exodus 20:15). By this time in your life, you are fully aware of the laws against taking things that don’t belong to you. Perhaps you even know of a person who has been arrested for shoplifting. Maybe you know what it feels like to have something taken from you that is yours.

What’s the attitude behind stealing anyway? One attitude of those who steal insists on demanding their own way whether they’ve earned it or not. There’s a sense of entitlement that claims “I deserve this” or “They have plenty already” or “They won’t miss this one thing.” It’s plain and simple selfishness.

Another attitude behind stealing is self dependency. This attitude leads to stealing because they believe that there is no one who will provide for their needs. Therefore, they take care of their own needs using any means necessary.

Ultimately, obeying the command against stealing is about showing respect for others. One of the worst ways you can disrespect another person is to take something from them that is not rightfully yours to take. I think a person can even steal from another by simply not taking care of things they borrow. But a person can also show disrespect by taking the reputation or dignity of another person by using words that diminish and tear down. By spreading false things or passing the blame, a little bit of their reputation is stolen.

If you think about this command in a broader sense you’ll realize that #8 is not just about taking stuff. It’s about showing respect to others and yourself.

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Posts for My Graduate #7

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Command #7 says, “You must not commit adultery.” Specifically it forbids breaking one’s faithful commitment to their spouse in order to gratify a sexual desire. Generally speaking it offers a strong word of warning against all sexual sin.

When Jesus addressed the issue of adultery in Matthew 5:27-30, he cut to the core issue which is lust. In those verses, Jesus linked the lust of our hearts with the focus of our eyes. In other words, your eyes become windows to the heart. What and who you look at cultivates lust in the heart, which in turn can lead toward the physical act of adultery.

By way of principle, let me simply say that you cannot be easy on your passions. We are created to be persons with desire, but unchecked desire is dangerous. Those who are ruled by their passions and desires eventually end up breaking promises.

I often think about the Old Testament story of Joseph who was confronted by his master’s wife. Joseph lived as a household slave in Potipher’s home. Because he was handsome and well-built (Genesis 39:6), Potipher’s wife pursued him (Genesis 39:7). Joseph gave Potipher’s wife three reasons why he could not give in to the woman’s solicitation: My master trusts me; you are his wife; and God sees me (Genesis 39:8-9).

Oswald Chambers once wrote that “an unguarded strength is a double weakness.” Ruthlessly keep those passions and desires in check!

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Posts for My Graduate #6

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Perhaps the most famous of the Ten Commandments is number 6, “You must not murder” (Exodus 20:13). It prohibits the intentional killing of another human being for personal reasons.

When Jesus dealt with this command in the Sermon on the Mount, he went deeper into the issue and spoke out against the internal emotions that lead to the external act of killing. He said, “If you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).

So what’s the takeaway? Jesus acknowledged that life is filled with difficult people. But anger, unforgiveness, vengence, and murder are not appropriate ways to deal with those challenging people. Difficult people evoke passionate emotions that can lead to words and actions used to intentionally hurt them. The only thing that can overcome the need we have to settle every score is to possess a love that values the difficult person and sees them as Jesus sees them.

Ephesisans 4:31-32 teaches, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

It would seem that the beginning point of learning to love difficult people is to remember God’s love for us. After all, we’re not always the most lovable either. God loves us in spite of ourselves. We are frequently difficult, yet God extends grace to us anyway. We can never escape difficult people. Love them like Jesus loves you.

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Posts for My Graduate #5

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So far I have described some of the principles from the first four commandments which focus on our relationship with God. The next six commandments are directed toward our relationship with other people. The first one is addressed to your relationship to your parents.

Exodus 20:12 states, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Honoring your parents is a lifelong commitment. Ephesians 6:4 reminds us that children in the household have the responsibility to obey their parents. But in a few days you’ll be gone and out into the world. You’re entering that transitional phase of independence from your parents. However, God never releases you from the responsibility to render honor. Why? God places us in families for a purpose. We are not self-sufficient or self-existent. When we honor our parents we are reminded of the important role that others play in our lives. Like the guy once said, if you ever see a turtle on a fencepost, you know it didn’t get there by itself! Honoring your parents reminds you to be humble, because you didn’t get where you are on your own.

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