We cannot completely fathom God. There is so much that we do not and cannot understand or know about Him; yet he is can be known. When I personally think about God and who He is, I am overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder. I am reminded that He cannot be fully understood by humans, he is way above our finite comprehension. God is eternal, He has no beginning or end and our small minds cannot grasp this. His love is never ending, and this can overwhelm us, because why would a perfect God love imperfect sinners like you and me? His grace is unfathomable and yet we are completely dependent upon it; because we are saved by grace. Everything about God is perfect…His love, power, and holiness etc. How do I know this? Because just like the children’s song says, “The Bible tells me so.”
The Bible is essential to all believers. It is wonderfully complex in theological truths, and as the introductory video shows it is simple enough for a child to have a basic understanding.
Everything we do know and need to know about God is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is synonymous to God’s Word and as Christians we embrace the Word of God as truth. Not only is the Word truth, but it is also a glimpse of who God is, in it we see his attributes, his nature and his works and, we will see in a moment, is profitable to the believer in many ways. One way specifically is that it points us in the direction as to how we are to live as followers of Jesus Christ. Knowing, learning and reading the Bible is essential to knowing God and Jesus and knowing God and Jesus is essential to life.
For the next eight weeks we will be in a series titled “We Believe”. Each week I will talk about one of the core beliefs of our church as outlined in our statement of faith. The first core belief is that “We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the inerrant, inspired, and infallible Word of God. God’s Word is the final authority for faith and life.” As the pastor of this church my single goal, passion and desire is to teach the Bible in a way that every believer may be equipped, edified and trained in the ways of the Word of God. The Word of God is alive and active and (as we will see) it is profitable for believers to live the life that God intends for us to live.
A Little History Lesson
Some. common questions asked are how did we get the Bible that we have today and is it trustworthy? These are not questions that can be easily answered in a concise manner. There are processes as to how we got the Bible translations we have today (and there are literally hundreds of translations) and on top of that thousands of scholars throughout the centuries who have worked tirelessly and prayerfully over the translation and canonization of the Scripture. I don’t have enough time to answer these questions satisfactorily in the time allotted, so I will be talking on this topic with the foundation that many people over the centuries have faithfully worked to translate the Bible, thus we can conclude that the Bible is a Divinely inspired book. The Scriptures have God’s fingerprint or marks all over them and have many divine qualities that include…
The Bible we have today comprises many components and a few include…
Jewish Bible (Canon) – The Hebrew Bible is often referred as the TaNaKh. These are the Jewish Scriptures that early Christians embraced as their own body of holy writings and they were/are considered authoritative. The phrase “Old Testament” refers to the portion of the Christian Bible that includes the Jewish Scriptures that the early Christians accepted as their own sacred books. The Jewish Scriptures consist of three parts. The first letter of each part make up the name TaNaKh.
New Testament Canon
Definition of canon – Greek word meaning “reed”… This is a measuring stick. The basic meaning and understanding of the definition refer to any rule or standard of which things could be compared or measured. Thus, the canon represents those texts that are of central importance to a given group, in our case, the Christian religion. In Christianity we refer to these sacred writings inspired by God and are authoritative.
(Read 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17)
The Apostle Paul is writing to his protégé Timothy. He is writing from prison in Rome to encourage him during the times of trials and tribulation in the church. He writes
Vs. 14: “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. You know those who have taught you.” Paul has instructed and mentored the young Pastor Timothy. We also find that Timothy’s mother and grandmother (Lois & Eunice) were integral in raising Timothy as a believer in Jesus Christ.
The sacred writings Paul mentions makes one wise to salvation are the scripture as a whole (N.T. and O.T.) reveals Jesus and teaches us about him.
All Scripture is inspired by God – Some translations read, “All scripture is breathed by God.” This is a vivid illustration. All the Sacred writings that Paul just mentioned are inspired and ordained by God’s authority over all other secular writings. The Bible, the Word of God, was given by the Spirit of God to men throughout history and it is without error (infallible). It is trustworthy, dependable and divine.
John Calvin writes, “This (authority of Scripture) is a principle which distinguishes our religion (Christianity) from all others, that we know that God (has) spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they have been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.” What Calvin is saying is as believer’s we need to establish and be good with the fact and truth that Scripture is God’s Word and not mans. It is divine and commissioned by God.
The Apostle Peter confirms this in 2 Peter 1:21, “because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 2:13 – “W also speak these things, not in words not taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.”
The Bible is God’s Word… This truth is essential to our Christian faith
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (ESV) This weapon is not only used as a means of defense but also is used to strike back. The Word of God is powerful; when Jesus was tempted in the desert, he used to Word of God to fend off the devil and it was sufficient. It is living, it is active, and it is transformational. Everything about the Word of God points to Jesus and Jesus is the fulfillment of the Word of God (I John 1:1). If you are a believer you must cling to the Word of God; you must know it and love it, for in it is power, salvation and truth.
The Word of God is…
It is LIVING –meaning that it gives and contains life. God’s Word still speaks to the hearts of individuals today.
It is ACTIVE and has power. As I stated already, the Word of God has the power to transform and change individuals for the glory of God.
It is PIERCING which means it has the power to convict and correct.
Because the recipients of Timothy’s letter embraced the Word of God, they also experienced the same trials, tribulations and persecutions that the Church of Jesus Christ was facing all over the world. The same people who had it out for Jesus had it out for his Church. These same men had Jesus killed. These same men had prophets killed. These same men inevitably opposed all. humanity by hindering Paul, his companions and the churches, from sharing the Gospel on a grand scale. Because of this some were not able to receive salvation… But God will and does always have the last Word.
Scripture is Profitable for…
The Commission (Applicable to us today)
Thus, we as believers must hold on to the Word of God and proclaim the truths found in it. For the Word of God is alive, it is active, and it is sharper than any double-edged sword and judges our thoughts and intentions of our heart. We cannot hide from God or from His Word, for we stand naked and exposed before God as to who we are in heart, mind, body, and Spirit and we all will give account for what we have done for the sake and Kingdom of God. This can be a wonderfully refreshing truth for us, or it can be a terrifying reality. The great thing about all of this is you have the ability to embrace the Word of God and cling to Jesus or you have the freedom to reject the truths of His Word and continue in the ways of the flesh. My prayer, hope, and desire for you today is that you would embrace Jesus for there is power in His name and in His Word.
 Raquel, S. T. (2016). Canon, Old Testament. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
We are continually being told by media, society, and culture to never be satisfied or content with what we have. In 1965 the Rolling Stones wrote a song about this us and they tried, and they tried, and they tried, and they tried and they “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. The entertainment industry has a saying “Leave your audience wanting more.” This is why so many TV shows, books, and movies end in cliff hangers… they want you coming back for more. We are constantly bombarded with ads for products that are “New and Improved”, “Bigger and Better” or “version 2.0” because companies are continually “improving” their product and thus leaving consumers never fully satisfied. We are not only never satisfied, but I believe we are being told a lie that true satisfaction and contentment can be found in possessions, people, or power. Yet, some, like King Solomon, realize that true satisfaction can never be found in those things, and we know that we can find satisfaction and fulfillment, it is just a matter of perspective.
How many of you have ever spent a long time saving up for something you really thought you needed (car, home, gadget, etc.) and when you finally get the item you find that it isn’t as great as you were hoping and you are even a bit disappointed with your purchase? This has happened to me multiple times and it just serves as a reminder… True fulfillment and satisfaction is not found in stuff. In fact, the opposite seems to be truer. The more stuff you have the less fulfilled and satisfied you are.
For the past nine weeks we have looked at the nine commandments respectively and how each one applies to us. We have now arrived at the final commandment found in Exodus 20:17, “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Many have shortened this command to simply say, “Do not covet.” The Bible has some strong words against the sin of coveting, in fact the word is often found smack dab in the middle of a list of egregious sins like envy, murder, strife, and so on.
So, what does it mean to covet? What does coveting look like today? What part do discontentment and contentment have in coveting? These are some questions I aim to answer today as we conclude our series in the ten commandments.
What does it mean to covet? I think it is appropriate to start with defining what coveting is not. It is not the prohibition of desires, pleasure and wanting of good things, because God has given to each of us desires, longing and blessing. We are creatures of desire. The tenth commandment does not mean we should be unfeeling creatures without hopes, dreams or ambitions. The Bible actually often commends desire when they are in their proper place. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” Isaiah. 26:8 says, “Yes, Lord, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown.” However, desire that is sinful and disordered (selfish) can lead to sinful covetousness and our desires ultimately need be redirected so that they draw us nearer to God, helps us truly love our neighbors, and fully glorify God. But we must have proper perspective with our desires. We are human and many of the things we desire are fleeting worldly pleasures, and God does not shame us for having these desires. Instead he says, “I can give to you something far greater and more fulfilling than the trivial fleeting desires you are so determined to possess.”
J.I. Packer writes, “Coveting is the root of all social evil; desires that burst the bounds beget actions to match.” A simple definition of coveting is when we want for ourselves something(s) that belongs to someone else. It is longing for and desiring for someone else’s stuff to be your stuff. Some Biblical examples include David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and Ahab with Naboth’s vineyard (Turn to 1 Kings 21:1 – 8, 11 - 14). Coveting is desiring something or someone that is not yours to have. James 4:2 – 3 says, “You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Author Kevin DeYoung writes in his book THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: WHAT THEY MEAN, WHY THEY MATTER, AND WHY WE SHOULD OBEY THEM, “Just as adultery of the heart is lust, and murder of the heart is hatred, so theft is the heart of covetousness.” Coveting, like the previously mentioned, is a matter of the heart. It is not only a matter of wanting what is not yours, it goes deeper to the point of being angry or resentful of someone because they have what you want. It’s an attitude of I am angry because you are happy, and I would be happier if I were in your shoes.
Coveting is usually at the root of breaking the previous nine commandments. When we covet we make the objects of desire gods and idols. We will profane the Lords name to get what we want. We will not rest until we acquire what we think we need. We will dishonor parents, our neighbors’ husband or wife, and others in pursuit of attaining our sinful desires. We will murder, steal, and lie to take what is not ours. Ultimately coveting leads us to failing to fully love God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
What Does Coveting Look Like Today?
Let’s take a closer look at this commandment so we can get a mental picture of what coveting looks like today.
The words: “Do not covet your neighbor’s house…”
The heart: “I do not like my home, I wish we lived in the Jones’s home because it is bigger, fancier, and they have a pool.”
The words: “…Do not covet your neighbor’s wife…”
The heart: “I would be so much happier if my spouse was more like so and so’s spouse. My neighbor doesn’t deserve such a good spouse. If he/she were my spouse, I would treat them the way they deserve to be treated.”
The words: “…his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The heart: “It’s not fair. I look at Facebook every day and see my friends going on luxurious vacations to Hawaii and cruises to the Bahamas etc. I wish we could do that whenever we wanted.”
Now, I should note that there is nothing wrong with noticing what other people have, but most of us rarely stop at just noticing, and we rarely, if ever, give thanks to God for blessing others. Unfortunately, we take note of what others have and stop being thankful for all that God has blessed us with. We grow discontent with what we have.
The Seed of Coveting: Discontentment
The seed of covetousness is discontent. When we are discontent, we are dissatisfied with what we do have, and we desire to gain what does not belong to us. The world promotes discontentment from an early age…
The world says, “If you want to be happy, you need more. You need bigger, and better.” In fact this movie is geared towards younger kids and this scene explains exactly what they world tells us. Now, I don’t want to say this is a bad movie because it does not necessarily pain the girl in a positive light and ultimately, she understands contentment to a degree.
The heart of discontentment is unbelief. We do not believe that God is big enough to help us or good enough to care. We look at what God has given to us and we refuse to accept that what he has given us, where he has placed us, or what he has kept from us is actually a blessing and a gift and he knows exactly what we do and don’t need.
The Cure for Coveting: Contentment
If the seed of coveting is discontentment, then the cure for coveting is contentment. “Do not covet” is a call to contentment. Contentment means that you are completely happy, satisfied and fulfilled with all that you have. Now this can apply to us materialistically but more importantly it should apply to us spiritually.
Concerning materialism, the Apostle Pau writes in Philippians 4: 11 – 12, “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. 12 I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul has learned to find satisfaction in whatever he has. He is blessed when he has little and he is blessed when he has much… but most of all he is content because Jesus gives him strength to do what he needs to do with what he has or does not have. Many take this verse out of context to mean that you can accomplish whatever you want because Jesus will give you the strength, but in reality this verse is about contentment and being satisfied in Christ and with what he has given you.
Paul also writes in 1 Timothy 6:6 – 10, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. 8 If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” He is saying that we need to be content with whatever we have, not with how much we have, how expensive it is, or how we get it. True godly contentment means you are and know you are blessed with whatever you have, and God is the root of your satisfaction.
The writer of Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied (content) with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” The author encourages you to be content (or satisfied) with everything you that we have (whether a little or a lot) because in the end what really matters most is that we have Jesus and he will not let you down or abandon you. And this verse brings up a question that needs to be asked of all believers rich or poor, wanting or well off, healthy or sick, in marriage or singleness, in work, home, or school… IS JESUS ENOUGH for you? If all was stripped from you (and I pray this does not happen) but if… would Jesus be enough for you to be content and satisfied? Are you willing to be content in your discontentment? Your flesh may want more, but the Spirit says, “I am enough.”
As I wrap up this series, I encourage every one of you who has been on this ten-week journey to take some and check your heart, because these commandments are truly matters of the heart. Ask yourself… “Is Jesus all I need? Or do I NEED more?” Jesus is the embodyment and fulfillment of the law and only he can save. I have said countless times that keeping the ten commandments will not save us and it certainly doesn’t account for our righteousness. However, the true purpose of the ten commandments are to reveal our sin nature and rebellion: we do not like being told what we can and cannot do, but in reality the law, or 10 Commandments, if anything, should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for Jesus. They show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep His commands perfectly. They reveal that we are sinful people. We can either view the 10 Commandments as rules constraining and restricting to keep us under God’s thumb or we can view them as ways for free people in body, heart, and mind, to live in obedience to the God who has truly rescued, delivered and set us free through Jesus Christ.
During this pandemic I have been watching way too much television. One of the shows we have been watching as a family is the game show To Tell the Truth. This is a celebrity television game show based on the original show of the same name that ran from 1956 to 1978. The premise of the show is a panel of three celebrities meet three people who all claim to be the same person with the same incredible talent, job or achievement. One tells the truth while the other two try to deceive the celebrities. The panel of celebrities have a chance to question each participant before taking turns deciding who they think is telling the truth. In a nutshell it is a game about deception and deciphering the truth from lies.
I mention this because we are continuing our study on the Ten Commandments and we are nearing the finish line as I talk about commandment 9 “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Or as many have come to know this commandment as “Do not lie.” As we begin to delve into this commandment and passage I think it is important for us to know and understand that this commandment means more than just not lying. Bearing false witness goes deeper than lying, it is actually a judicial term because in ancient biblical times witnesses were important in the courtroom process. They did not have body cams, smart phones or other recording devices to verify ones claims. In court the defendant had to depend solely on witnesses and their creditability and corroborating evidence. A witness needed to be trustworthy and honest. So really this commandment deals more with loving your neighbor as yourself and integrity other than just being a person who tells the truth.
It is safe to say that telling the truth and telling lies are completely opposite of one another and the Bible has much to say about them both. We see from start to finish there is a battle between truth and deception and who/what are behind each one respectively. We know in the end truth wins, but that does not mean the battle will be easily won. My goal for today is to look at some passages pertaining to these contradictory terms and conclude how this commandment applies to us and how we can live honorable lives before God by rejecting deceit and embracing the truth. However, before we can fully understand this command, I believe it is important for us to begin with looking at truth.
“What is Truth?” This was the question Pilate asked Jesus in response to his claim, “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify of the truth” (John 18:37, 38). Interestingly the Apostle John does not write Jesus’ response to Pilate. Did he say anything? Did he give a dissertation on truth and John failed to write it down? Was what Jesus said kept from John? Was it not important? For some reason John does tell us. He does say that after Pilate’s encounter with Jesus that he declared Jesus innocent.
We often, and most correctly equate the truth to a word that means honesty, purity and integrity. But I would suggest the truth is more than a word, it is a person, the second person in the Trinity… Jesus Christ. We are told in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and with Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in John 17 :17 Jesus says, “Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth.”
In Ephesians 6:14 we are told, “Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist.” The belt or girt in Roman armor (which is probably the style of armor Paul is using for the example) was a vital piece of the armor. It was usually a 6-8” leather belt that every piece of armor was attached to and was used to tie loose flowing garments. Without the belt nothing would be secured, and the armor would eventually fall off or hinder the soldier. It was a foundational piece of the armor. The truth is foundational to the believer because Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except through me.” Thus, we rightly conclude that Jesus is the belt, He is the truth that holds everything together. Spiritual victory is hinged on the truth of Jesus and the Gospel... The truth. We are in a vigorous battle for truth and God wants us to tie up our garments and connect our armor to the belt of truth of the Gospel and to allow this truth to be the foundation of all we that are in Jesus.
So, we see the truth is the Word, the truth is God and the truth is Jesus and all are one in the same. Thus, we conclude that Jesus and all He does (his life, death, and resurrection) represents truth. So why is telling the truth so important? Because the truth is the very nature of God/Jesus and in order to reflect the true character and nature of God we must speak truth and make every effort to be truthful in our speech and actions.
Lies & Deception
So, if the nature of God/Jesus is truth then in contrast the nature of Satan/Devil is lying. Jesus says in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Deception and lying is Satan’s nature as Jesus says when he lies, he speaks from his own nature. Satan is liar and a deceiver… this is his job and it is what he does. He is a liar to the extent that Jesus call him the “father of lies.” What does this mean for you and me? It means that when you willfully and knowingly lie and deceive you also take on the nature of the devil. When you twist the truth, deceive, lie (even the “little white ones”) you are doing the work of the devil. I know this sounds harsh and maybe even condemning (or convicting) but the is what the Word of God says, and the Word of God does not lie.
The Face of False Witnesses?
If the truth looks like Jesus and lies and deception looks like Satan, then what does bearing false witness look like to us today? As I stated earlier in the message that commandment nine is not just about lying. It certainly includes lying, but it does go much deeper. I mentioned that this commandment deals more with the great commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself than it does to just being someone who does not lie.
Four Faces of Bearing False Witness – These are four ways or areas where we break commandment 9
The Bible has much to say about dishonesty, deceit, and lying lips and much about faithfulness, honesty, and integrity. Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are detestable to the LORD, but faithful people are his delight.” God hates when we lie but delights in us when we speak truth.
Proverbs 6:16 – 19 say, “The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Twice in these verses we are told that God hates lying. This is not redundancy for the sake of redundancy, it is there for a reason and I think we need to take note of this and see how this affects the way we talk to and treat others.
Honesty Is Such a Lonely Word
In the end, when all is said and done our words matter. We must be careful with how we talk to and about others. The damage we can do to a person’s reputation can be irreparable if we are careless, hateful and deceiving with our words. Sadly, I have found that it is much easier to convince someone to believe something negative about a person than it is to convince someone to believe something positive about them. I have also notice that when people embrace a lie, deception or falsehood about someone, it is hard to change, and in some cases impossible, their minds and convince them otherwise.
What is our takeaway for today? They are simple… If you are a Christian then use your words for God’s glory and edification of others. We should not embrace deception, division, gossip, or slander in our words or actions. As Christians we should speak well of and to one another. We must purpose in our hearts to be kind to each other by speaking the truth to and about one another.
Finally, our words must be truthful and trustworthy at all times… Why? Because we have a message of truth to proclaim and we need to be trustworthy if we want people to receive and hear the truth of Jesus Christ. Because why should people trust us as we speak about eternal things if we cannot be trustworthy in speaking about earthly things. This is a hard reality. We must always speak truth and embrace truth because Jesus is truth and we all need to cling to him and the trustworthy promises of His Word.
In 2008 our family went on a trip to the city of Boston. When we arrived in the city, we parked in the Boston Common Garage. We had a nice day together as a family and spending some time with friends that we hadn’t seen in a long time.
When we returned to the garage, we were putting our items back into our van and we noticed the van was a mess. So, we did what every good parent would do, and we blamed our kids for being a bunch of pigs. Upon further inspection I noticed that my laptop computer bag was unzipped, and I always zipped it. When I looked inside it, I noticed that my computer and iPod were gone. We began looking around the van, because we had all of our luggage in it, to see what else was missing. Fortunately, nothing of real value was taken.
When I finally grasped the reality that we had been robbed I experienced a flood of emotions… fear, violation, and anger. I was fearful that maybe the thieves were still around and wanted to confront us for more. I felt violated because someone broke into our car and went through our personal items. I felt anger because how and why would someone have the audacity to break into a family vehicle, go through their possessions and take what does not belong to them. Needless to say, the cops were called, nothing was ever found, and the amount stolen was too little to file an insurance claim… But now we have a story to tell… The day we were robbed in Boston.
I tell this story because it is fitting for today’s message as we are continuing our series on the Ten Commandments. For the past seven weeks I have been talking about the Ten Commandments and how each one applies to our lives. Today I will be talking about commandment eight, “Do not steal”, thus the reason for the story. Now before I get into this topic, I don’t want some of you tuning me out because you believe you don’t have a problem with stealing because you live a life of honesty and integrity. First, I want to commend you for determining in your heart to live this way and second, I want to warn and remind you as I have week after week that obedience to the commandments is not just outward obedience, it is also a spiritual and heart matter. We must be careful to protect ourselves from the subtle traps of greed, hoarding possessions and stinginess which are certainly spiritual and heart matters.
Tim Keller writes in his book COUNTERFEIT GODS, “Greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it is not a problem for them.” One of the reasons why you may feel as though you are immune to the idolatry of greed and possessions is because you may not have a lot of money thus you don’t have a lot of possessions. Let me be clear you do not need to be rich or even have a lot of possessions in order for greed and materialism to become an idol.”
“Do Not Steal”. Like the past two sermons I believe this commandment fits in the “no duh” category. Anyone who considers themselves a believer or a non-believer would generally agree that stealing is wrong. People who have dedicated their lives to taking from others are not viewed positively in our society, or any society for that matter. Jesus says in John 10:10, “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” He is saying that a thief is someone who is committed to taking something that does not belong to them (taking possessions and life), but Jesus is committed to giving that which does not belong to us (life) and he gives it in abundance.
Nobody likes a thief, because of their lack of regard for life, possessions and God. But I think about the heart of stealing and then I begin to look at my life and I am challenged because there are ways that we do practice thievery in our lives, if we are not careful. When I think of the root of stealing, thievery, and robbery I look to the heart to see the ways that we practice thievery against God and others.
There are four ways we can break the eighth commandment on a regular basis maybe not even realize we are.
1.Steal from God (Malachi 3:8)
2.Steal from others (work, time, and materially… Iron Maiden album from Todd)
3.Greed (doing whatever it takes to get and keep what you have)
4.Not being generous with what God has given us (1 John 3:7)
Stealing from God
How do we steal from a sovereign God, who owns everything and needs nothing? Go to Malachi 3:8, 9 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me!” “How do we rob you?” you ask. “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions. You are suffering under a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing me.” Now the context of this verse is how Israel was withholding their tithes against God and not giving to Him what He commanded. Yet, I believe the verse is applicable to us today. You see, when we withhold anything from God we are stealing from him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” Everything we have belongs to God and this includes our bodies, and our very lives.
When we withhold our tithes, time, talents and our very being from God we are robbing from Him. When we use all that God has given us for selfish gain, we are not worshiping God or giving Him honor and glory.
Stealing from others
I told you the story about how we were robbed in Boston, I was also reminded of something I did as a teenager. I remember borrowing a record from one of my best friends. He put his name on the right corner of the record so that it wouldn’t get lost. I had this “great idea” that if I simply scribbled through his name the record would be mine. He confronted me on getting the record back and I told him that the record was mine. He argued and said it was his because his name was on it. I said, “I don’t see your name on it. So, it must be mine.” He didn’t buy that excuse an took his record back.
That act could have ended our friendship, but thankfully it didn’t. We are still friends today. I was not a Christian at the time, but I knew better and this was a selfish act on my part. I was not honoring my friend or respecting his possessions.
Greed: Do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you?
Matthew 19:16 – 30 - The Rich Young Ruler: A young rich man came to Jesus and asked him what “good thing” he must do to inherit eternal life? This meeting with Jesus was doomed from the very beginning. Why? Because the young ruler was asking what work or good act does HE have to do in order to gain eternal life? He was looking for a good moral act to be his savior and not Jesus. Then when Jesus tells the man the one work he does have to do he tells him to go and sell all his possessions and give to the poor and follow him; he went away sad because he had a lot of possessions that he wasn’t willing to part with. Jesus then talks about the difficulty of a rich person entering the kingdom of heaven because often a person of wealth seeks significance and security in his possessions and not in Jesus.
The question we need to ask ourselves right now is, “Do we look to our possessions for our significance and security or can we find significance and security COMPLETELY in Christ and the work he has accomplished for us?” Does your stuff define who you are? Are you so consumed with what you own, where you live, and what others think of you that you dedicate your whole life gathering, and protecting for yourself all you have acquired?
Matthew 6:19 – 21- Treasures of heaven: In this account Jesus informs his listeners to not lay up his or her treasures in earthly possessions that will decay, go out of style or consume your time protecting because others want to steal it. In this Jesus tells us point blank about the fleeting of our earthly possessions. What we have will decay, it will go out of style and it may be lost or stolen. He basically said, “When you die you can’t take what you have with you.” Jesus’ warning is so contrary to the western mindset. We live in a society today where there is no such thing as contentment. The world is constantly throwing discontentment at us so we will always want more. You should never be satisfied with what you have and you should always want more.
Hoarding & Generosity
Luke 12:13 - 21 – The Rich Fool: In this parable Jesus talks about a young rich man who spent his whole life gathering, protecting and hoarding his possessions. The comedian George Carlin would say, “He had so much stuff that he tore down the buildings that he kept his stuff in and built bigger and better buildings so he could put more stuff in them and spend his whole life resting and partying with his stuff.” The problem was the young man spent his whole life gathering, saving, and hoarding thus wasting his life because he died at a young age. Luke 12:15 hits the nail on the head, “And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” In other words, don’t waste your life hoarding, acquiring and protecting because your life does not depend on your stuff. Jesus calls us to generous living and not hoarding. We should be willing for the honor of God to live lives helping and blessing rather than acquiring and gathering. 1 John 3:17, 18, “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him – how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and truth.” When we live generous lives we are loving in action and truth.
Proper perspective on possessions and generosity
Obviously, we live in a society of greed and materialism. So, what is the true follower of Jesus’ proper perspective on possessions, greed and stuff? I don’t think the Bible alludes to having things as necessarily being bad. It does make clear that if the stuff we own begins to own us then we have a problem. Jesus says in John 6:26 – 29 to not to waste our time, energy and resources working to acquire or invest in material things of this world. Instead we are called to invest in the spiritual things or the important things in life. Use your time, energy, resources and even possessions for the Kingdom of God.
Acts 2:42 – 47 In the ancient Church there was a practice among believers. They would meet together, pray together, worship together and live in community together. We also see that in this early church the believer’s felt compelled (maybe by the prodding of the Holy Spirit) to sell or share all their possessions so no need would go unmet in the body of Christ. Those who had a lot shared their “stuff” with those who didn’t. I believe they understood the value of community. If there was a need, the people banded together to meet it. It was as simple as that. What was the result? The Lord added to their numbers daily.
Throughout the New Testament the body of Christ gets together to meet the needs of those in need. The Church should spend more time being generous our act of worship and less time gathering, protecting and hoarding. Does God want us to sell everything and give to those in need? Maybe. Another question we should ask is are you willing to part with your possessions if that is what he is prodding you to do?
So how does this all apply to us? In closing Timothy Keller introduces the concept of deep idols (below the surface idols that is sin in our hearts that affects our basic motivation so much so that they become idols) in our lives. I believe materialism, possessions and greed are deep idols. He writes in his book Counterfeit Gods about the effects of deep idols. Our hearts are a reflection of who we are and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope that we have of ever having a changed and generous heart for the glory of God.
What is marriage? Is marriage only about love, attraction, and living a fairy tale life that is dreamy and magnificent? Certainly, love, attraction, and happiness have a part to play in the marriage union and I think most Christians strive and pray for a happy marriage; one that will last a lifetime. But is happiness, attraction, and fulfillment the glue that holds marriages together? Is the key to a successful marriage found in finding the “right person who “gets you or completes you” and will make you happy forever and ever? I would suggest it is more than this.
We are continuing our series on the 10 commandments. Today, I am going to talk about the commandment that should technically be very simple to keep but because it is based on a covenant with another person made before God it is one that broken far too often both in the Christian and non-Christian spheres.
“Do not commit Adultery”
The word adultery, for some, is a seemingly harsh word and the more common, “softer” phrase people like to use for adultery is “having an affair”. You know, like an event or an occurrence that just happens. According to the website verywellmind.com, “typically, an affair is considered a betrayal of trust. It has the ability to cause significant distress in relationships and there are many reasons why people cheat on their partners (they include lack of communication, financial stress, low compatibility, emotional or physical disconnect, or lack of respect).” Notice sin is not one of the reasons. The article continues, “What's important to remember is that your definition of an affair is what matters most. Every person and every relationship is unique, and some couples may differ in the way they view this subject.”
So, what this website says is, adultery is subject to interpretation. I would venture to say that modern thought would agree with this statement. It is easier and less judgmental to say affairs are what you think they are instead of what God says adultery is. But this isn’t how God has established the covenant of marriage and the commandment to not commit adultery.
The word adultery comes from the Hebrew word that means “have sexual intercourse with anyone other than a spouse, as a married or betrothed person.” Simply put it is an act unfaithfulness towards your husband or wife. The marriage union is a public covenant made between two people before witnesses and God. Now, this isn’t what we think of when we attend a marriage ceremony. I know that doesn’t sound romantic, however covenant keeping is not about romance, it’s not about an expensive and elaborate wedding, it is about faithfulness to your spouse and to God.
In the many years I have been in ministry I have counseled countless men and women before they took their marriage vows and entered into wedded bliss. Some of the couples that I have counseled and married are still flourishing and others came to an abrupt end mere weeks after the wedding ceremony.
One question I ask in counseling is… “Why do you want to get married?” Usually (not always) the answer is, “We want to get married because we love each other and want to be happy and spend the rest of our lives together.” Who doesn’t right?
Timothy Keller writes very early in his book THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE, “While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It is a burning joy and strength, and yet it is blood sweat and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true… At times, your marriage seems to be an unsolvable puzzle, a maze in which you feel lost.” Keller does not suggest that love has no part to play in marriage because it does; he is saying that true marriage is not rooted in romanticism or keeping that “feeling” of love burning bright because there are times when romance and young love is not present. Quite honestly we face difficulties in marriage. This is why ultimately the sacrament or institution of marriage is rooted in Jesus (which always results in true love).
Adultery: An Affair of the Heart
Marriage is making a covenant. Marriage is about promising to be faithful to your spouse and making a covenant to honor, respect, and love her until the day you die. It’s also about keeping a covenant before God regardless of the difficulties you may face as a couple. God instituted marriage and he blesses it. The marriage union between man and woman is a beautiful thing, it is a gift from God, and it is a great example of how God remains faithful to His bride (the Church) regardless of her faithfulness.
Adultery is the opposite of marriage; it is breaking the covenant or promise between a man and woman thus dishonoring your vow or promise to your spouse AND to God. Adultery is the ultimate act of betrayal to your spouse and brings dishonor to God.
Now, we see in modern society that “having an affair” or committing adultery has become more acceptable in society. It has become the norm in many cases. I would venture to say that anyone watching this knows someone who either has committed adultery, was the one committing adultery, or had adultery committed against them. So, we know that in almost every circumstance the act of adultery always ends in someone getting hurt emotionally, experience heartbreak, and/or one or more people being betrayed. Adultery always affects someone negatively and this is why commandment seven is important.
If you recall, Jesus was approached by a religious leader and asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responds, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets depend on these two commands.” When we are unfaithful to our spouse, we break the two commands that Jesus says are the most important and that all things depend on them. When adultery is committed, we not only sin against our spouse, but we also sin against God. Covenant breaking is disobedience, and disobedience leads to rebellion.
Now, most of you can say , “I have been faithful to my wife/husband, so this commandment doesn’t really apply to me.” And my response is to remind you what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. No temptation has come upon except what is common to humanity.” What am I saying? Be on guard to preotect your marriage. Always pray for your marriage, for your spouse and yourself to be and remain faithful to your promises and vows.
My second response is to be mindful because adultery is not always a physical act. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:27 - 28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Just like murder, adultery begins with and is an issue of the heart. This, my friends hits a bit closer to home for many. So we must be mindful to pray for protection of over hearts and I would encourage you to pray the prayer that Job prayed in Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I look at a young woman (or man)?”
When Adultery Hits Home?
So how does this message speak to us today? It is important for us to recognize and understand that Jesus tells us that if your heart is not right with God, then you are guilty of commandment breaking and that commandment breaking is not just a physical act of betrayal and dishonor to God, it is a spiritual act of rebellion.
I would like to conclude with some practical points for when adultery hits home. When it does there are so many emotions that one can experience. Now, I do not want to diminish the emotions of hurt, betrayal, sadness etc. Those are common and natural responses and one would not be human if they did not experience those emotions. However, there are some responses we can choose to show if adultery has impacted you, your marriage or your relationships.
I think it is fitting to end with the story of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus in John 8:7 – 11. The civil law at the time declared that this woman should be stoned to death for being caught in the act of adultery. Jesus tells the crowd, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” We see that eventually the crowds left, and the adulterous woman faces Jesus who says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord,” she answered.
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
This is a beautiful act of forgiveness. However, some think Jesus let her off easy or didn’t take the sin seriously, but Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. Jesus has called this woman to a changed life; a life of repentance and for a transformed heart and this is what Jesus wants from us all.
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.