Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Ten Commandments Part One: Why?


I will venture to say that many people, most of them Christians, are afraid of the Ten Commandments. They are concerned that God might really mean them. One reason why pastors don’t often teach on them is because many don’t understand them and how they apply to the Believer’s life. Yet, the Bible is very plain when it comes to explaining the continuing role of God’s law in our lives.

Matthew 19 NKJV

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"

17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

18 He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "’You shall not murder,’ ’You shall not commit adultery,’ ’You shall not steal,’ ’You shall not bear false witness,’

19 ’Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’"

20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"

21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This morning it will become clear, once and for all, why God gave the law to His Children. Before we attempt to understand the law itself, we need to understand what God intended when He first decided to give it. Without this knowledge it may be impossible to embrace the New Testament revelation and the grace-filled application of the 10 Commandments. So today we will discover: Why?

It’s not hard to imagine that there was a time when people did not know what God expected of them. (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 10:16) For generations their hearts had been darkened by sin and separation from God and they had no inner witness guiding them in the right ways, (Ephesians 4:18; 1 John 2:27), and - there was no Bible … no written record of God’s interaction with man. Left to themselves, people have no chance of finding, understanding, or pleasing God. (Proverb 29:15)

When we first meet the chosen people in the Bible, it speaks of them as children, God’s Children, (Psalms 82:6), – but children nonetheless and children who need a teacher to instruct them. (Galatians 4) It is no different with anyone’s children, including God’s. Children possess an innocent, although destructive, “self will”. The deficit of wisdom and the knowledge which exists in a child’s mind serves to make them dynamically unprepared to successfully manage life and its complexities. In addition, as children grow through adolescence and into adulthood, their life experiences don’t always serve to make things better – life, left as the only teacher, often results in people being wounded, disappointed and bitter.

Children cannot be left alone to guide, guard or grow themselves by themselves. Children are incapable of making the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons without being given guidelines. The dangers were just too many and the risks too great for God to abandon His Children to the elements of this world and leave them without instructions for life. For this reason, God gave His Children the law.

Once, when my children were children, there was a law in my house. In fact, in the summer of 1981 Brenda and I took a sheet of paper from a legal size yellow tablet and thereon we inscribed our law and posted it on the bedroom door as a reminder for our 2 year old son and 4 year old daughter. They could not even read but I hoped that someday they would. But even though they could not read, they could understand that we had clear expectations for their lives and that we intended to govern their behavior.

Now some might think it strange or overkill to write out a set of rules for young children to follow but I think it more strange to raise a family with no defined expectations and no clear instructions. The scriptures tell us that before the law there was no sin. (Romans 7:7ff) This simply means that where there are no expectations there can be no infractions. In other words: Instruction before correction. Children should be taught the unchanging rules of life.

And, lest someone think that 2 year olds are too young to learn the do’s and don’ts of life … rethink – By the time a child is two they learn to recognize people, eat, sit, crawl, walk, talk, form their own opinions, make their demands known and even have the capacity to speak multiple languages. Don’t imagine they can’t understand what “no” means! Say it early and say it kind … but mean it when you say it. Nothing will pay off quicker, better and longer than kind yet firm consistency.

On the top of this yellow sheet of paper we wrote our heading in big letters. It said, “Hammonds’ House Code of Conduct”. Below was a written list of rules to follow along with a punishment assigned to each rule if the rule was broken. The list contained things which would be wrong in anybody’s house and also things which we considered wrong and would not allow from our children in our house.

Lying was on the list … it would get you 2 spats with the well respected, “Rod of Correction”. Stealing was also on the list as was disobedience and being disrespectful. Along with the biggies, there were also some annoyances I wanted to curb. Among these were fussing, whining, allowing the screen door to slam behind you, having to be told twice and getting back up out of bed … which only received 1 spat, never aimed at hurting but only as a consistent form of discipline to remind and train their soul to obey the rules. (Proverbs 22:15; 23:13)

Every time there was an infraction of a rule, Brenda or I would calmly and kindly remind them that the behavior was unacceptable, take them to the door and show them where it was on the list, (providing we were home), ask them to get the “Rod” and bring it to us, administer the proper correction, set them in our lap, verbally forgive them, then pray for them to remember the rules in the future, give them a big confirming hug, put it behind us and forget it.

One night I had to administer that same discipline 21 times in a row to Ashley for getting back up out of bed – and we had company … it was another pastor friend and his wife. They were amazed with the level of kindness and consistency which we administered correction. Years later they commented how it affected them and their image of God as a loving Father who patiently corrects His Children whom He loves. (Hebrews 12:6-11)

You know what the hardest part was? Brenda and I disciplining ourselves to follow the rules. You see, we committed to each other, to God and to our children that we would also follow the rules which demanded each time our children broke one that we stop what we were doing and pay attention to them. Letting it slide because we were too busy would send the message that we were not committed to our word or that they were not important.

You might think that this took a lot of time from our family but you would be mistaken. It so happened in our family and in every family that I have ever seen employ this tool, that if consistently followed by the parents, every home will come into order and be a peaceful and happy place with happier children and healthier relationships within 6 weeks. I would trade 6 weeks of work for a life time of rewards in any arena of life. And, that’s what happened in our home. We realized that we weren’t raising children, we were raising adults – adults who would hopefully one day be raising our grandchildren and perhaps decide what nursing home we live in.

So, if my son disobeyed the rules, I taught him it was wrong and I disciplined him; If my daughter hit her brother, I taught her it was wrong and I disciplined her; If one of them lied, one of us would teach them it was wrong and discipline them; If they disrespected or talked back to their mother, I taught them and disciplined them. Never to hurt them and not one time did I discipline either of my children in anger.

We consistently taught them and disciplined them, not for our own good but for theirs. It was our hope that they would have a good life and it was up to us to give them the keys to this good life.

Today they are sitting here at 32 and 34 years old with kids of their own. You know, I’m not going to punish them for fighting with one another but I sure do hope they don’t … I certainly taught them that it was wrong.

I taught them how to have a good marriage, deal with disappointments, keep a job and manage life – if they don’t, I’m not going to hope they depressed, divorced, get fired or fail in life. In fact, I’m going hope the opposite. I was given to them by God to teach them and guide them in their formative years and to hopefully be a trusted counselor to them for the rest of their life. But, they are no longer little children, they are still my children, but grown children, and I no longer have any desire to punish them. If I hear them cuss, I no longer wash their mouth out with soap – why … because they are no longer under my law – I taught them right and it will be best for them if they do not forsake instructions.

Our rules protect and guard our children while they are children. If they are given no laws, where is their guard? If, when they are older and on their own, they stray from the commandments of their father or the instructions of their mother, it is their choice – but we hope they don’t. (Proverbs 6:20-23)

So, why did God give us the law?

The Apostle Paul asked the question:

“What purpose then does the law serve?” (Galatians 3:19a)

He answered this question in the continuing verses:

Galatians 3

23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Schoolmaster: Tutor; Guardian; Guide

Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

The whole reason I taught my children right is so that when they grew up they would live right and establish righteousness in the earth.

It’s the same with the law.

Why did God give us the law? To show us the way He expects His Children to live.

Once we lived under the penalties, under the punishments, under the curses of the law. (Galatians 3:13) However, when we come to Christ, we are no longer under the law,(Romans 6:14), neither are we expected to become lawless, (Romans 6:1-2), however – God is not out to punish us … but … living without respect to the commandments of God will set a person up for failure in life. God is not the sinner’s enemy, but rather His friend.

God won’t make you fail, but He might allow you to fail … the choices in life are squarely yours. God loves you and hopes you will follow His instructions. That’s grace! But, if you are His Child, He will love you whether you do or don’t!

In case you aren’t sure how the law of God applies to you as a Believer under grace. This Wednesday evening we will begin to discover the New Testament revelation and the grace-filled application of each one of the Ten Commandments.

We will start where Jesus left off talking to the young rich ruler of Matthew 19, with what is referred to as the first table of the law. If you want to study and get ahead, read Exodus, chapter 20.

However, to leave you with something of value to consider this week, let me say: You know right from wrong. (Hebrews 10:16) Stop justifying your wrong decisions like a little kid and start doing what you know is right. (Isaiah 1:16-20)

God’s grace is sufficient!