Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Ten Commandments Series - Part 3 False gods


There is a right way and a wrong way to get anything – including the things God wants us to have …

Some of the greatest temptations come not from the devil trying to make us bad but rather from our own attempts to get what we feel we should have.

Many times we are tempted with a sense of entitlement. This is the reason why most people feel justified in their sin. It’s an “I’m doing this because” or “I deserve it” or “It’s mine” kind of justification.

Sometimes the devil tries to make us fail and at other times he tries to make us succeed. However, he is powerless to do either without our help.

These truths are mirrored in the account of the temptations of Christ. “The devil took Jesus to an exceedingly high mountain, (Matthew 4:8), and showed Him all of the kingdoms of this world and their glory.”

Matthew 4

9 And the tempter said to Jesus, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ’You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’"

I was 14 years old the first time I remember seeing a person do something wrong for what they said was the right reason. I was working hauling hay for a guy who was 19 years old and admittedly the wildest boy I knew. My mom didn’t like me being around him because he was so unpredictable. I’m going to call him Bill instead of using his real name because 15 years later he and I had both changed and I became his pastor and he often still watches me preach online. And, I have never shared this story with anyone, including him, but perhaps he will remember it, or maybe not. Nonetheless, it was a singular moment frozen in time for me … we all have them.

I always remember being a deep thinker. I hardly allow a moment to go by in my life which I am not analyzing to see what wisdom or understanding I can squeeze from it. I don’t always follow the wisdom I glean from these moments but I do catalogue it and am able to vividly replay it over and over in my mind. That summer day holds just such a memorable molten moment for me.

Bill, as I’ll call him, owned a 1955 Buick 2 door hardtop with a 322 cubic inch V-8 that turned out a whopping 236 horsepower. Buick boasted it to be the fastest model on the market, series for series. My dad had owned one just like it in 1959 and 1960 when we lived on Peyton Street, just off Homestead, right down the road from Houston Gardens Elementary in east Houston, where I went to 1st grade. That year I rode with my dad from Houston all the way to Plattsburg, NY in an emergency run to help his little sister who was about to deliver her 3rd child when her Air Force husband was killed in a car wreck. Man that car would run! I’ve got some other memories of that car I think about on occasion.

Well, Bill did have a wild nature and living with his sister he was void of any parental oversight as well. He was a strong and good looking boy, intelligent but quick tempered and a bit of a smart-aleck. We broke off hauling hay for lunch that day and hopped in the Buick for a fast ride to the only store in Corley, Texas - population - maybe 50. The whole store was only 20’ by 30’ and stacked high with food and supplies the owner thought the little country community might need. The coke box was on the back wall, hidden from view of the cash register and lunch meat counter.

When we walked in Bill told the owner that we wanted two thick bologna and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise, and then we proceeded back to the coke box. Bill pulled out an RC Cola for himself, opened it quickly, looked to see if he was hidden from the owner’s view and drank it like he was pouring it down a hole. He then put the bottle in the case of empties which always sat beside the coke box, got out two more, opened them and handed me one. He noticed the look on my face and said: I’m not going to pay for that first one because I was in here yesterday and he overcharged me for lunch. I’m just making up for it.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. All of the sudden I felt challenged to make a judgment. Was this right or was this wrong? I mean, if the man overcharged Bill why not simply even the odds by taking something from the store. My thoughts demanded attention and decision. I felt, like at other times before and since, that whatever I decided was going to last me a lifetime. That’s not the kind of decision I could make in 10 seconds while standing at a coke box waiting to get accused of stealing. I decided that I would have to chew on this one a while to come up with the right answer. Like I told you earlier, I am by nature a deep thinker. To give you a little insight into how much I like to think: my oldest grandson gave me a riddle to think on over a year ago and although I haven’t had the time to devote to figuring it out, I still won’t let him give me the answer – I want to save it to think about when I get some time … I like to think.

Well I finally made a decision in the coke box incident. Without a doubt:

· It is wrong to do something wrong because you were done wrong

and even bigger than that – I decided:

· It is wrong to knowingly do wrong even if you know your wrong will accomplish something right

It’s wrong to do bad to accomplish good. The good you accomplish will always have a bad shadow over it. I decided that there just had to be a better way, even if it cost more or even if some things don’t ever get fixed.

Now you might think, “Everybody knows these things!”, but you would be mistaken. Many people live their lives justifying their behavior because they feel some sense of entitlement to do whatever they need to do in order to get whatever they feel they deserve. And it is sad to say that they often surround themselves with friends who agree with them and often, in their minds, they even imagine that God agrees with them.

The devil tempted Jesus to do just that; to get what He deserved the quick and easy way – a shortcut to success without all the paperwork – all of the kingdoms of the world and all their glory … it is what Jesus wanted and what He deserved and all Jesus had to do to get it was … just do a little wrong. Certainly God would understand …

Oh come on now – Jesus was out in the wilderness by Himself – who was going to know how He got what was rightfully His anyway. There was nobody there to tell on Him and really, who would care anyway. Wouldn’t He make a better king than all the other kings who were in place? What was the downside … it’s not like Jesus was going to continue worshipping or listening to satan – all He had to do was bow just this once and from here on out He could do whatever He wanted … and besides that – nails hurt and people don’t like Me anyway! Surely God understands – can’t you see - we both get what we want and nobody has to get hurt. I can’t imagine God being against the devil losing all of those kingdoms … what kind of God would want His Son to be crucified anyway if He didn’t have to be? Who would want to serve a God like that?

That’s just not the picture of “my god”. “My god” wouldn’t be that way

Well, this is the problem – it may not be the picture of “your god” but the picture of your god might not be an accurate portrait of the one and only, true and living, ever faithful “Almighty God”, Ruler of heaven and earth, Supreme Creator of the Universe. Only God can paint that picture.

Don’t work on your own or with others to create and fashion an image, even if it is a mental image, of a god who agrees with your notions, your morals or your standards of life. Rather, fashion yourself to agree with Him, Almighty God. Don’t paint your own picture of God and:

Refuse to create an image of God for yourself.

Hence, our Commandment for the Day: The Second Commandment

Exodus 20

4 "You shall not fashion for yourself any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;

5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

I would venture to imagine that your spouse would not want you to be carrying around a picture of another man or woman in your wallet, or even in your head, thinking they were better looking, more desirable or wishing you could be with them – neither will God put up with it. He is a jealous God!

Love Him and keep His commandments …

There is no justification for continuing in sin!

Even though every one of us has sinned and God is yet willing to show each one His mercy. Today, if you will not harden your heart, allow the Holy Spirit to mercifully convict you of sin – repent – and commit to living a life pleasing to Him.

Don’t allow anyone to fashion a false god for you to serve.

There is only one God, worship no other!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Ten Commandments Part two: A Shadow set in Stone

Teaching Series - Part 2

A Shadow Set In Stone


Production Note: (Once we go live I am going to ask someone to come to the platform to assist me. I will give them a flashlight and ask that the house lights be dimmed. My assistant will attempt to shine the flashlight in such a way that I can make some shadow hand puppets on one of the big screens. We will want to capture these images on camera for viewers and post production edit potential. After making a few, hopefully recognizable shadow puppets and getting the congregation to guess what they are – I will conclude by revealing what they already know but aren’t focused on. These are neither dogs, nor rabbits and turtles … rather they are all shadows of my hands. I will conclude and lights will come up and I will make brief application as we turn to our beginning text.)

Colossians 2

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

At one time, a shadow set in stone was the only reality known to the children of God. However, just as a shadow is but a dim outline of a body, the law was but that same dim outline – a shadow of the truth – but now we have the body, Christ Jesus, with all the clarity and detail which no shadow could ever reveal. The law was but a shadowy resemblance of a solid substance upon which the light was shinning.

Why embrace an obscure representation or attempt to make a lasting relationship with but a dim outline of the truth when the truth itself has been revealed unto us. The law is the shadow of Christ, the shadow of truth, set in stone, without depth, without dimension and without life.

Hebrews 10: 1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

A shadow set in stone can no more save a man than can the blood of bulls and goats. It takes life to begat life and no stone has that power. The law was meant only to represent a truth which it could never reveal. A shadow cannot touch you, comfort you or have relationship with you. We know the difference between a solid substance and a mere outline set once and for all in stone. Christ is the truth revealed while the law was but a shadow of that truth during which time the truth was kept concealed.

Hebrews 10

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,

20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.

Only when the light is come and we have seen the substance can we ever truly understand the shadow. And by the way … the shadow is not alive and the shadow knows nothing … it is but a shadow. The shadow does not determine nor design the body, rather the body defines the shadow.

Tonight we will continue our study of The Ten Commandments to help us discover the New Testament Revelation and the Grace-Filled Application of the law – A Shadow Set In Stone

Part One of this series asked and answered the question: Why? Why did God give us the law? As the Apostle Paul put it: What purpose does the law serve? (Galatians 3:19ff) Our studies Sunday revealed the law was a schoolmaster which was designed to bring us to faith. Once we come to faith, we are no longer under the law or its punishments, penalties and curses. However, this in no way encourages a person to become lawless.

When I was a child my mother taught me it was wrong to lie. When I lied she punished me. Today I am no longer under her law or subject to her punishment. However, it is still wrong to lie and lying can set me up to fail in life. She taught me right and it is now my responsibility to live right.

Let’s begin this evening’s study with a simple survey of the First Table of the Law as recorded in: Exodus 20

By the time the Children of Israel get to Mt Sinai in Exodus 20 it has been 45 days since they celebrated the first Passover and came out of Egyptian slavery, crossed the Red Sea and began their journey through the wilderness. God had provided manna in the mornings and meat in the evenings. The number of days are important here because they are a shadow of things to come. They will add up to 50 days between the killing of the Passover Lamb and the appearance of God in the fire on Mt Sinai.

The New Testament revelation of this Old Testament shadow confirms that Salvation came at Passover but the Power and Presence of God comes at Pentecost – 50 days after Passover, both in the OT and in the New!

It was on the day of Pentecost that God gave the Ten Commandments to His Children at Mount Sinai.

The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)

When Jesus was questioned by the young rich ruler, recorded in Matthew 19, Jesus first recounted those commandments which were listed on the Second Table of the Law – those Commandments which deal with how man should treat man. Even though the young rich ruler had kept those specific commandments, he still felt empty and unsatisfied with his life and relationship with God. It was then Jesus pointed the way to eternal life … the key to eternal life is contained on the first table of the law – let’s read:

Exodus 20

1 ¶ And God spoke all these words, saying:

2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

It is vitally important in understanding the law that we understand God’s intent and how God is revealing Himself, His heart and His hope for the relationship He is offering to His Children. He begins:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

When I was a much younger man, serving in the military, I was continually around very important and high profile world leaders. As a body guard for high ranking US and Foreign dignitaries and a personal driver and primary security for the Commander in Chief of All Allied Tactical Air Forces in Europe who was also the Vice Commander of NATO during the Cold War, I was continually surrounded by the most important figures and decision makers of the day.

Although I was a nobody, my boss was a somebody. Once while I was visiting with him in his office I saw a plaque on his desk, it read:

“In an official society where one man is officially superior to another, the superior, if he is a gentleman never thinks of it, and the subordinate, if he is a gentleman, never forgets it.”

In other words, you should never make your boss feel like he has to say, “I’m the boss!” It is a bad feeling to be forced to defend yourself or remind your followers that you are in charge. And yet, this is exactly what God is doing … why … evidently because He feels they need to be reminded.

It is important to remember who paid the price when they didn’t have to … at least, God thought it an important prelude to giving His commands.

· I am the Lord your God

· I’m the One Who brought you out of Egypt

· It was Me Who brought you out of slavery

Nobody else did this for you – it was Me! That should be enough to show you how I feel about you … when I could have chosen anybody … when others would have loved for Me to choose them … I chose you! (Deuteronomy 7:6-11; John 15:16; 1 Peter 2:9)

Now all God wants is for us to choose Him back! He is fully committed to the relationship, first and most, and He is asking for the same level of commitment from those whom He has rescued.

And, by the way, He has rescued you and me … all He still wants is for us to choose Him back! This is the shadow of a marriage to come – God is talking to the Body of Christ and every member in particular.

Commandment Number One: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Every commandment, each set of instructions, all laws of God and any decision God makes is always aimed at the good and the future of His Children.

God knows that no other god will love you, care for you, devote themselves to you or treat you the way He will. He can’t stand the thought of you marrying or being devoted to something else you worship more than Him. He is a jealous God … but a God who love you and is wholly devoted to you. (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Exodus 34:14 – His Name is “El Qanna” – A Jealous God {not the God of jealousy, but a jealous God})

God is acutely aware that all other gods are false gods with empty promises who are only in the god business for their own benefit and who in the end will leave you out in the cold to fend for yourself.

One of the gods men choose to replace the Lord of Glory is money. There are others, but money is at the top of the list. In fact, God says that the love of money is the root of all evil. ( 1 Timothy 6:10) And, those who serve money will end up straying from the faith and pierce themselves through with many sorrows. Jesus further said:

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)

What is the NT revelation and grace-filled application of this first shadow set in stone?

Don’t let anything or anyone take the place of your first love.

Don’t allow anything to become more important to you than God. God does not like anything that demands or receives His time, His attention or His affection from you. He loves you and He knows:

“Ain’t nobody gonna treat you like Jesus …”

You don’t go a treatin anybody like Him!

Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24;19:21)

Is that clear enough for you? … just in case it was still a bit shadowy!

You shall have no other gods before Him.

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!