Preach // 28th Jan 18 // 630 at TRINITY Lewes
As usual these are notes from my preaching, but have to say up front this sermon is largely taken from Just 10 by J John – so go check out the book!
10 Commandments Intro and then 1st commandment
So, we are at the start of a new series looking at the 10 commandments.
Now before I start if I asked you what the ten commandments are would you be able to name them? Without looking in the bible, see how many you can remember. Have a quick chat to the person next to you. I’ll give you 2 minutes!
Now the clever of you might be able to see the wall behind me and cheated! But if you didn’t cheat, how did you get on? Can you remember them all? 5 or more…?
Did anyone get all 10?
Ok well let’s read the passage and find them all out shall we..?
// Read passage //
So now we’ve got them all, I want to ask you a question – do you think that these commands are still relevant for today, for the 21st century? I know it might not be black and white but if essentially you think they are relevant – hands up for yes…
You Gov did a survey last year that showed Most Brits think only six of the Ten Commandments are still important. The least important being to keep the Sabbath, You shall have only one God (looking at today), and you shall not use the Lords name in vain. Less than 25% of people thought these were important…
Ok so we’re going to come back to that. Let’s start with a bit of background…
Recommend book Just 10 – J John – basically this sermon is sponsored by this book! Such a good intro to them for today…
So we’ve just read Exodus 20 but actually the 10 commandments appear in several places… here we read how God gave them to Moses on Mt Sinai and then later in Deut 5 they are repeated, as part of the laws for Jews. (also mentioned in Exodus 34 & Deut 27)
We know, that the 10 commandments were given from God, in the desert after the people had been freed from slavery in Egypt. Going to do a quick recap on that
If you remember Pharaoh had finally let them go and they followed Moses who led them to escape even when Pharaoh’s men came after them.
Now at this point in Exodus 20, where we are today, they have been only 3 months free, it’s still early days in what would pan out to be quite a long time in the desert! But there’s already been a fair bit of grumbling – we’ve got no water, we’ve got no food, we’re going to starve, they were so ungrateful!
Anyway, so, Moses goes to see God, and God gives him a message to give the Israelites: you can read all this in Ex 19 >>
I’ve given you freedom. Got you out of slavery and if you stick with me, and follow my guidance then you will be my treasured possession, a holy nation.
That’s a pretty big promise right? And of course the people were like yeah, let’s do this.
So Moses goes back and tells God, the people say yes…
So God’s like, ok, tell them to get ready – in a way a bit like preparing for going to an epic party or a wedding, They all have to get clean, then he tells them where to go and what to do so they are safe.
Then this amazing sort of ceremony happens, the people, all clean and shiny gather, God appears in fire and smoke on the Mountain. And he keeps saying, make sure the people are safe, this is dangerous stuff. I am dangerous. And finally Moses goes up the mountain to meet God.
And then.. then God speaks out the 10 commandments
Then he goes on to share more of the laws, this goes on until pretty much the end of the book.
But meanwhile the people have got a bit fed up of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, saying ‘as for this fellow Moses… we don’t know what has happened to him… like he’s just some guy, not the man who was led by God to free them from slavery?
And so Aaron who’s been left behind to keep an eye on things, gets a bit confused and encourages them to make an idol – the golden calf.
Thankfully God sees what’s going on and send Moses back to the people, God is all up for destroying the people and starting again with Moses, but it’s Moses that says well hang on a minute, bit harsh right? So God relents and sends Moses down the mountain with 2 tablets inscribed with the 10 commandments, inscribed by God, the work of his hand…
Which Moses promptly broke in anger, throwing them to the ground, when he saw what was going on in the camp. There follows deaths, plague and Moses seeking repentance for the people, from God.
Eventually things seem to calm down and God makes Moses carve out 2 new tablets and takes them back up the mountain to God so he can inscribe them again.
So there we are. Story of the 10 commandments, that are really the basis of the laws God gives to his people.
And in fact they have been the basis of so much since then, they even form the foundation of the legal systems of the western world, are enshrined in the heart of our governmental structures and they have set out the values at the very core of our civilisation. Just 300 words or so, and yet so much is based on them
Are they still significant to us today? How can they continue to give us a Godly moral code for this technologically focussed contemporary culture? Well over the next 10 weeks we are going to look at each one and hopefully address that very question, to help us apply them to the culture in which we live.
J John suggests that the commandments are still there to ‘turn us to God’s forgiving grace found in Christ. When we have received that grace, the commandments – and the Old Testament law in general – then it acquires a new role: it becomes our guide and guardian in seeking Jesus.
And what other guide do we have in that sense? Where do we get our morality?
We are society tells us, Iiving in a post-Christian world. This modern era derives its morality wherever it likes! From the voices that shout loudest, from celebrities, from social media. I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me,
oh yeah I believe in God, but not your God, I’m not religious. And they go on to describe a God basically they have made up in their image, how they want him to be, and so everyone’s God is different in that sense and their life rules go along with it, made up to suit them or drawn from a range of sources.
talk about Twitter poll here and how various articles written about changing them…
Here’s the thing, the commandments were written by God, inscribed on stone by God’s own hand, and appear in God’s word not once but several times.
I think much of our approach to them boils down to how we feel about the bible.
And I’ve got to say it AGAIN – read your bibles!
Bring them to church, look you don’t have to read a bible to become a Christian but if you want to remain on that path, aim to grow closer to God, understand Jesus, you need to read your bible regularly. It is the No,1 way God speaks to us. Of course it’s not the only thing, prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit, church, they are all things that help us grow in our faith but this is a key one!
Is this God’s word or not? If so we can’t just pick and choose – we have to get to grips with all of it and you know the OT makes up a pretty big chunk… and there are 5 whole books relating to the law.
And anyway all the bible is about Jesus – we have to read the OT as if pointing to Jesus… it is pointing to the messiah
JESUS is always our focus
And don’t just read it but pray first – just a one liner, ask God to reveal himself to you in whatever but you are reading at that time. And there’s loads of things you can do – our daily email that sends out bible reading notes, bible in one year, fresh start notes…
Anyway, biblical morality… a lot of people think the bible isn’t relevant, it’s from thousands of years ago, defunct…
And we could ask whether the decline in people accepting biblical morality has had an affect on society?
I 100% think it has.
Some academic research, carried out in 2011, showed that Britons are less honest than a decade before. British people today are also
‘more likely to tolerate extramarital sex,
or failing to leave a contact after damaging a parked car than those of 2001’.
There once was a common purpose, a common morality and a common identity and when someone said
‘be good’, ‘that is wrong’ or ‘they are decent people’ everybody knew what they meant.
There was, if you like, a ‘standard standard’. That is no longer the case: as a society we don’t have the same agreed understanding any more do we?
I’ve been thinking about truth this week – we cannot agree on what is truth. Same with right and wrong – we can’t agree the same moral standards across our society any more.
And I really think we need something that helps us to continue to do that.
1st commandment //
So we’d better look at the first commandment or I’m going to run out of time!
Exodus 20: 2-3
“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 me.
The way the commandments are set out is actually very similar to a legal agreement or treaty. They start, like most legal documents, with the name of the one who makes the agreement.
In this brief introductory sentence, the one who makes the treaty and its commandments, sets out who he is.
And low and behold it’s God. Da narr…
And what a great first line – it’s shaping what is to come, in who God is. A declaration.
The phrase ‘I am’ is important, God tells Moses when he asks who he is in Ex 3 ‘I am who I am’.
It’s a name or title that he comes back to. Tell the people ‘I am’ sent you
And Jesus later uses the same phrase in John’s gospel we can read, 7 times:
I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger” (John 6:35).
I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)
I am the door” (John 10:9).
“I am the true vine” (John 15:1).
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6)
These are the “I ams” ! if you want something to think about this week – start with these.
Each statement Jesus says something about who he is, about why he is here…
Jesus the son, as part of the TRINITY, is part of this I am that God says here at the start of the commandments, when he says:
I am the Lord your God…
It’s a name but also a statement of all that he is. I am God but also – I am the Lord YOUR God – I’m here for YOU. I love you, you are my people.
He has taken them from slavery and brought them to freedom. He has redeemed them from the awful land of Egypt where they were enslaved to Pharoah.
Just as later we see that Jesus redeems US from a life of being chained to sin, freeing us from the certainty of hell. It’s a parallel of the freedom available through God.
Vs 3: You shall have no other gods before me.
Why not? Why only him? I mean this is about it’s more than just believing in the one true God – we believe Jesus is THE way to the Father – he says I am the way the truth and the life…
Well I think that goes back to what I was saying earlier. If not him then who? Who is God if not this one?
Without direction we falter, we follow the wrong paths.
Just look at the Israelites when Moses went up the mountain, as soon as he was gone for a little bit they started going astray. It’s a bit like, sometimes they do those TV experiments where they put children in a room without an adult to see how they will behave. Not always but often, it doesn’t take long for the kids to play up, do the very thing they were asked not to do, or encourage each other to do something silly.
Even now I sometimes feel like I can’t leave my kids along for fear of what they’ll do!! It is in our nature, in our DNA!
And as I said, so many people have a belief in some kind of God, but it’s one they’ve made up for themselves. A false God – a God besides the one true God.
God wants a relationship with us because he loves us and he wants the best for us and he knows that without him we will get into all kinds of trouble, so:
You shall have no other gods before me
Is not just a command, it’s a loving request: stick with me, I love you, I want the best for you, I’d even send my own son to die for you…
In fact all the other commandments revolve around this first one. without this at the very start they might just be good moral groundings, but they come from the heart of who God is and for our well being. We’ve just seen God warning people to stay back, to be careful of his power – I don’t think this was in a threatening way but in a compassionate way.
And now? Back them God revealed himself through people like Moses, through prophets, people were separated from God by sin but now? Now the barrier is gone, the veil torn in two we read in the NT when Jesus died the barrier between us and God was broken down.
Now we can be with God through knowing Jesus. Instead of Moses going up the mountain and passing on what God said, we can talk to him ourselves. That’s what we do when we pray….
And in Jesus we see what God is like. Jesus who was compassionate, who felt sadness, who recognised the fake news of the day,
who died for us,
that is the same God who gave us these commandments, who says, let there be only me. He longs to be with us…
SO, relevant for today? Well if God is the same yesterday, today and forever then yes!
Are they relevant?
And 1 John 5:1-3
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
Ultimately he still just wants to be in relationship with us. There are always going to be challenges to that, that is life! But The 10 commandments help us even today to be closer to God, to Jesus, to his good and perfect plan for us…
You can take God out of the commandments if you want. You can see them as just a moral code. you can amend them to suit what you feel is best for the 21st century, for your life if you want. But then you are just making God as you want him to be, to suit you, to fit your life.
So as we continue in this series I’d like to really encourage you to engage with this topic and seek Jesus through the commandments. How can each one help you be closer to the God who loves you without question, with unfailing, inexhaustible, eternal love.
What do you really want? Do you want to seek the one who feels that way about you? Do you want to follow his guidance for your life, or do you want to find your own?
It’s your choice…