The moral law is a revelation of God’s character. It represents His heart, and it is supreme in heaven and on earth. Just as with laws in the tangible realm, such as gravity and electricity, you can either comply with the laws in this field, or you can despise, ignore and violate them. God gave us a free will, and it’s our choice. However, just as with the physical laws, there are consequences to our decisions!
When men, women and societies follow these laws, they are under God’s protection, provision and blessing. When they disregard or disobey them, the repercussions are devastating.
The enemy wants to trick us into believing that living by rules means slavery, but rules create liberty. Think of rules as agreements for a minute. Imagine what would happen if there were no rules for driving, and we all could do as we pleased. What if there were no agreement on which side of the road you would drive or any speed limits?
You either could stop or go at a traffic signal regardless of whether the light was green or red, and cross traffic could do the same.
I read a story this week about one of the few professional golfers I’ve had the privilege of meeting—Chi Chi Rodrugez. In fact, I have his signature on a cap.
He invited a friend to hop in the car and go for a ride with him. He sped off, driving faster than he should. They came to a signal which turned yellow then red, but he barreled through the light.
The friend riding with him yelled, “What are you doing? That was a red light!” Chi Chi answered, “My brother taught me how to drive, and he never stops at red lights.” They came to a second red light, and he did the same thing. “Are you trying to get us killed?” his friend screamed. “That was a red light!” Again, Chi Chi answered, “My brother taught me how to drive, and he never stops at red lights.” The next light they came to was green, and this time Chi Chi came to an abrupt stop.
“What are you doing?” His friend asked. “Can’t you see the light is green? Why did you stop?”
“I stopped in case my brother was driving down that street,” Chi Chi replied.
Given such scenarios, would you have more freedom or less if there were no rules of the road? The obvious answer is less because you might wind up dead. Rules create liberty.
In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the schoolchildren of Kentucky have the constitutional right not to be assaulted by the presence of the Ten Commandments on their classroom walls. The majority report revealed its rationale:
“If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey the Commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the Establishment Clause.”
In other words, the passive display of the Ten Commandments was not permitted because the students might actually obey them!
As The Wall Street Journal reported, the court handed down its decision without hearing oral arguments; and despite the fact the Ten Commandments plaque was paid for by voluntary contributions, no state money would be used, as well as a footnote was to be printed on each panel posted stating that it was not intended as a religious guide but as the basis of the secular legal codes of western civilization.
In one fell swoop, the Supreme Court declared the Ten Commandments—which have provided the basis for public morality of western culture, particularly in the first 200 years of our nation’s history, and was used as a text to teach English—was an improper display for impressionable young minds.
Such decisions have left our culture without a moral compass. As were the people before the flood and as were the Israelites during the time of the Judges, every person is doing what is right in his or her own eyes, and it commonplace to call “evil good and good evil.” We are adrift without direction in the sea of emptiness. We are in an ethical crisis, assaulted on all sides by secularism, consumerism and relativism. Lying is pandemic, and immorality is epidemic from school classrooms to the halls of Congress.
Public schools are instituting values or character education, using psychological and sociological rationales. I appreciate all such efforts, but the success of these programs is limited for reasons rooted in the very structure of the Ten Commandments. The educators are attempting to enact the ethics of the second half of the Ten Commandments which have to do with not lying, stealing, etc. without taking heed to the first half! They are trying to teach young men and women how to love their neighbor without first training them to love God! All such attempts will fall short; because unless you first love God and have God living in you, it is not possible to live out His character, which is what loving your neighbor is all about.
There is a long word that describes a prevalent attitude among evangelical Christians today. That word is antinomianism. The prefix anti- of course means “against.” Nomos is the Greek word for “law.” So antinomianism means “against the law.”
The reasoning for antinomianism is this: “Jesus’ atoning work on the cross releases me from the demands of the law, so I can live however I please.” This heresy has plagued Christianity from the beginning. The apostle Paul encountered it in Corinth. People were using their freedom in Christ to behave in a very immoral manner.
Jude warned his readers about certain immoral men circulating among them perverting the grace of God. Evidently they were trying to convince believers that being saved by grace gave them license to sin freely, as their sins would no longer be held against them.
Jesus spoke against the Nicolaitan heresy in
Legalism is attempting to achieve righteousness and salvation by your own good works instead of trusting Christ. Praise the Lord the monstrous burden of sin and guilt has been lifted from our shoulders! On our own, we cannot satisfy the just demands of the law. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, releasing us from the law’s curse. However, this in no way implies we should not seek to please the One who redeemed us and be conformed to His character! Nowhere did Jesus say His followers were free to live however they chose, but in fact reinforced the validity of the moral law for all time!
As He said in
Jesus fulfilled the Law in His own life and teaching, harmonizing it with the old, clarifying it, adding to and it completing it! When a person becomes a Christian, the Ten Commandments become for that person a joyous source of knowing God’s will! Living out the principles of the Ten Commandments is the way we express new life in Christ and results in more and more grace being bestowed upon us!
As leading evangelical pastor and author Kent Hughes writes in his book Disciplines of Grace, “Authentic preaching requires the unvarnished preaching of the Law. Put another way, the gospel is not fully preached without the proclamation of the Law.”
He goes on to bemoan the presence of so many unregenerate or unsaved Christians in our pews! “The reason for this tragic situation,” he writes, “is that the evangelical presentation of Christ as Savior often centers on His being able to ‘enrich life’ or make one ‘complete’ or…to add Christ as a mere religious component of one’s lifestyle.”
When this is how the gospel is presented, people accept Jesus with little or no awareness or acknowledgment of the depth of their sin and lostness. There is no true repentance, and so their lifestyle doesn’t change a bit when they are baptized and received into church membership.
“What is needed,” says Hughes, “is the preaching of the Law. Such people need to be brought to Sinai, the mount of doom and the consuming fire of God’s holiness…Having been to the mount of doom, one can then be led to Calvary, the mount of grace and the consuming love of God.”
For the Christian, it’s quite simple. Jesus authored the Law, and He kept the Moral Law. Today, He sends His Spirit to indwell believers. The Spirit then internalizes the Law in His people and gives us the power to live it.
As Paul explains in
As we begin our 10-point journey, I would like to ask you commit first to read them over regularly regardless of whether post them. You’ll find them written in Exodus 20 and again in
Second, I would ask you to memorize one a week with me.
Third, if you have a family, teach your children one commandment per week so they, too, will be able to recite all 10.
Fourth, talk about them with others. Share what you’re learning each week with friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers.
Finally, pray weekly for God’s blessing on yourself, your family and your church as you live out God’s will through obedience to the Ten Commandments.
Next week, we’ll begin going through them one by one; but this morning, let’s turn to the chapter before they appear and read together Exodus 19:3-6: “Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.'”
The reason I wanted to start here was to put the Ten Commandments in context. Satan always wants to wrench God’s Word out of its rightful settings. He wants us to think of God as a prude, a long-bearded, stern-faced, arm-crossed killjoy who doesn’t want us to have any fun! He wants us to view God’s commands as harsh, legalistic, cold and confining. However, the Ten Commandments are an expression of the overflowing love of the heart of God for His people. He gave them to reveal His character and to show the path to true blessing. They are given for our enjoyment and delight, to keep us safe and happy.
You might also say they fall in the genre of love letters! My wife and I have a shoebox full of the love letters we sent back and forth when we were dating and then engaged. She used to write little love notes and stick them in my lunch. One time while I was attending Talbot Seminary, I came home and she asked me how I liked my sandwich. I told her, “It tasted good. Thanks.” She kept looking at me, waiting for me to say more. Finally, she asked if I noticed anything unusual or special about it. I racked my brain. It was good, but her sandwiches always were. Exasperated she said, “Did you read my note?”
“What note?” I asked. She had put it inside the bread, and I had eaten it with the rest of the sandwich!”
You may never have thought of it this way before, but it really will help you receive the next 10 messages if you approach the commandments as a tender, loving handwritten letter from Father God who loves you more than you can imagine!
The Lord was telling Moses, “Before you give My words to the people, before anything, else, will you remind them I bore them out on eagles’ wings?” The people who originally heard these words knew very well what God was talking about, because the memory was still fresh in their minds.
• They remembered being trapped in Egypt, in trouble and bondage.
• They remembered groaning because of the oppressive cruelty.
• They remembered looking at their children and realizing there was no hope or future at all for them beyond slavery, hard toil, the lash and early death.
• They remembered standing at the shore of the Red Sea with the water lapping at their feet and the chariots of Pharaoh thundering toward them.
• They remembered the despair they felt because they couldn’t go forward or back.
• They remembered having nothing to drink in the wilderness, their throats parched and their children crying for water.
• They remembered being hungry in that barren place, with no provision or way to get food.
• They remembered how God had swooped down on eagles’ wings and:
• lifted them out of slavery;
• how He had parted the Red Sea;
• how He had opened up springs of water in the desert; and
• fed them day after day with manna, the bread of angels.
This is the context of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Do you really think God delivered all those people out of slavery just to brutalize them and browbeat them? Did you ever stop to think about how much the Lord longed after those people and delighted in them? Did you consider how much He longs for you and delights in you? Out of His love, He penned one of the most profound love letters ever written. He wrote it with His own hand, the very finger of God.
He wrote the Ten Commandments out of a heart of love,
• wanting to remove the confusion from our lives;
• wanting to spare us from the life-sapping ravages of sin;
• wanting to keep us from the traps of the enemy;
• wanting us to realize our destiny as His sons and daughters.
Just as God had a plan for the Israelites, He has a plan for you, too. Don’t ever doubt it! Right now you may be puzzled by your circumstances and may feel you’re getting nowhere fast. You may be crying out, “Where are you God?”
Yet just as the mother eagle has her eye on her chicks, God’s eye is on you. He will catch you up on His wings and take you where you never could go in your own strength.
The same love letter He wrote to the Israelites is addressed to you. It has your name on it. Will you open it and start down the path of becoming everything God designed you to be, receiving all the good things God wants to give you?