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.
The late evangelist D. L. Moody had a sharp temper which he learned to
control—sometimes. One evening Moody was conducting two evangelistic services
back-to-back. After the first one, as Mr. Moody was standing near the door,
welcoming the new crowd, a man approached him and delivered a highly
offensive insult of some sort. Moody never later repeated it, but it must have
been something that pushed his button for in a sudden fit of anger, Moody
shoved the man and sent him tumbling down a short flight of steps.
The man was not badly harmed, but Moody’s friends wondered how he could
now possibly preach the second service. “When I saw Mr. Moody give way to his
temper,” said an observer, “I said to myself, ‘The meeting is killed.’ The large
number who have seen the whole thing will hardly be in a condition to be
influenced by anything more Mr. Moody can say tonight.”
But Moody called the meeting to order, stood, and with trembling voice spoke
these words: Friends, before beginning tonight I want to confess that I yielded
just now to my temper, out in the hall, and have done wrong. Just as I was
coming in here tonight, I lost my temper with a man, and I want to confess my
wrong before you all, and if that man is present here whom I thrust away from me
in anger, I want to ask his forgiveness and God’s. Let us pray.
“Do not murder.”
We are continuing our series on the Ten Commandments and today we are going to focus on Commandment 6. This commandment is pretty straight forward and is one commandment that even unbelievers will agree with. I would venture to say that we ALL know that murder is wrong. Sometimes people get into arguments over what this sixth commandment actually means. At the surface it says what it says… “Do not murder.” But one of the most common questions asked is, what is the difference between killing and murdering? I will talk about this in a few moments. However, my purpose today is not to spend time trying to justify the differences between murdering and killing, but mostly to spend time looking at how this commandment is intended help us love our neighbors and live God-honoring lives.
The sixth commandment is easy to remember, in fact it is just three simply words… “DO. NOT. MURDER.” Seems like a straight forward commandment doesn’t it? However, when we begin reading the Bible it only takes four chapters before this commandment (which wasn’t technically a commandment yet) to be broken.
Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Both brothers were hard workers… Cain was a worker of the ground and Abel was a shepherd. We are told that both brothers brought offerings to the Lord. The sacrificial system had not been established yet so we are uncertain as to why they gave offerings. Cain is mentioned first as bringing an offering of fruit from the ground and Abel brings an offering of his flock (animal sacrifice). We are not told why specifically but Abel’s sacrifice had regard (favor) with God and Cain’s offering God had no regard (unacceptable).
Genesis 4:5 says, “Cain was FURIOUS and he looked despondent.” Cain was angry with God! He was furious and could be translated as Cain “burned with anger.” He harbored bitterness towards God and his brother in his heart.
The Lord asked Cain why he was so angry… not because he didn’t know but he was giving Can the opportunity to openly confess to God his sin that was lurking in his heart. God was challenging Cain to step back and look at his heart and make the necessary changes to do right. God basically says Cain has a choice to make… “If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted?” God mercifully challenges Cain by telling him he does not need to be angry.
God says, “Sin is crouching at the door” – This imagery is vivid, and it is of an animal waiting to pounce its prey. God was saying if Cain continues to harbor anger in his heart this sin will overtake him and ultimately dominate him. “Its desire is for you…” The word “desire” is the same word used in God’s curse on the woman when he says, “your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” This desire will all consuming and it will have control and power over Cain if he does not subdue it. God gives Cain the opportunity and the ability to take control of his sin.
Apparently, Cain does not heed God’s warning or challenge. Genesis chapter 4: 8 says, “And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” We are not told how the crime was committed and I don’t think it really matters, but we are told the end result was Abel is murdered by his brother.
Now, as we read this account, I think it is safe to say that what Cain did was wrong. Cain murdered his brother in cold blood. The sixth commandment, which would not be established until centuries later, prohibits the taking of innocent human life. And I have established that most people would agree with the sixth commandment because it is right to respect innocent human life.
The sixth commandment tells us that we should all value the sanctity of life from conception until death. All life is precious to God and we have no right to murderously take an innocent life no matter how young or old. We are created in God’s image, we are his image bearers so this gives us the call and duty to be protectors and preservers of life here on earth.
So, what is all the hub bub bub? Do not murder… what more do I need to say? Why not skip over this one and move to commandment seven?
The Heart of the Murder
Well, let’s go back to Genesis 4 and the story of Cain and Abel for a moment. Why was God displeased with Cain’s offering? Some believe, and I agree with them, that God’s response to their offerings was not so much in response to what was given, but how it was given. The issue was his heart. The text suggests that Abel gave an offering out of worship and Cain gave out of duty. According to 1 John 3:12 Cain’s deeds were evil and this is apparent (and actually written) because Cain became angry with God because God didn’t accept his offering and he acted on his anger as well. God knew he was angry as it was apparent with his facial expression (“Why do you look despondent?”).
Cain’s heart was not right. His heart was filled with anger, bitterness, and jealousy. We know this because he acted on the desires of his heart. his heart was blackened with murderous thoughts, jealousy, fury and eventually acted on them thus murdering his brother.
This is where things begin to get interesting and the reason why we can’t casually read over commandment 6 and move on. Why is that? Because murder is not just a physical act is it also an issue of the heart and I believe we need to get to the heart of the murder.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:21 – 22, “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder,[a] and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults[c] his brother or sister, will be subject to the court, Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.”
Did you hear that? Jesus has just taken one of the most agreed upon commandments and takes it to the next level. He says that not only is murder wrong, but so is anger against your brother or sister.
In fact, John the Apostle takes it even a step further when he writes in I John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” Simple translating… If you hate someone, then you have murdered them.
Our hearts are deceitful and wicked and Jesus tells us, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Did you catch that? Out of the heart comes MURDER.
This means that not only is it wrong to take the life of another innocent person, but it is wrong to harbor hatred, anger, and bitterness in our hearts toward then. All life is precious and how we treat, and value people matters.
I love this quote from J.I. Packer, “The commandment rests on the principle that human life is holy, first because it is God’s gift and second because man bears God’ image. Human life is thus the most precious and sacred thing in the world, and to end it, is God’s prerogative alone. We honor God by respecting his image in each other, which means consistently preserving life and furthering each other’s welfare in all possible ways.”
So, what is our takeaway in response to commandment 6?
The absolute opposite of murder is love. When we show Christ-like love to those who love us, hate us or are indifferent to us we are fulfilling the Great commandment of Jesus Christ and thus bringing honor to God’s name.
Loving the loveable is easy for the most part. But loving the unlovable can be difficult and we can ONLY do this by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we close today, I encourage you to check your heart. Are you harboring anger, bitterness, rage, jealousy, hostility, or the list goes on in your heart? Take some time and allow God to soften your heart and allow Jesus to transform your heart. It is in Jesus that we are able to lay sin-filled hearts upon him. If your heart is not right with God today, I want to beg you to allow Jesus to work on you and transform your heart into a heart that beats with love, compassion, and in tune with Him.
Children are a blessing from God and the responsibility of parenting is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. I love my children so much and as their father I pray for, love, discipline and instruct them in the ways of the Lord. As a father these are the joyous responsibilities I have. Is it easy? Not always. Am I always faithful in parenting the proper way? Unfortunately, I am not. I am human and flawed but I do rely the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit in my life to help me to be the best parent God intends for me.
I remember back in 2000 when my daughter Micaiah was born, and I experienced a special kind of love and connection with another human that I had never experienced before. The idea of being a parent scared the daylight out of me and I had no clue what to expect in raising a daughter better yet with all four of my children. I did and do know, however that I along side my wife have the joyful responsibility to raise our children to be respectful, kind and followers of Jesus Christ. We as parents also have the privilege of being our children’s provider, protector, instructor and examples. Ultimately I (nor can any person) force my children to love God and become followers of Christ. The only thing I can do is instruct, pray and show them by example Jesus in my life.
Parenting can be one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs in life. If any of you are parents, you know exactly what I am talking about. Unfortunately, Children do not come with instruction manuals. There are certainly numbers of books, workshops and programs that can help a person to parent, but we ultimately know there is no one specific way to parent a child because each child is unique.
Today we are continuing our series on “The 10 Commandments”. Today I will talk about commandment 5 and I am certain all parents have quoted this one to their children thousands of times.
“Honor your father and mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Parents and Children
Now, before I talk about children and being obedient to parents, I would like to talk a few minutes about parenting. Parenting has changed over the years, decades, and centuries. The way you and I parent is most likely very different than the ways our parents parented us, and our children will most likely parent differently than we parented them. Here are two examples, one taken from ancient Jewish culture and the other from the Greco-Roman world. In both the Jewish and Greco-Roman world honoring parents was second only to honoring God. In fact, some writers said parents were like gods to their children. Honoring parents was expected as an ethical starting point, an expectation New Testament writers shared.
The power of fathers was almost unlimited in the Greco-Roman world. They determined whether a newborn baby had the right to live or die, and many baby girls in particular were abandoned to die. Fathers could and did sell their children, especially girls, into slavery. They could punish them as harshly as they wished, work them hard, or even put them to death. Ecclesiastes 30:1 – 30 is representative of attitudes in the ancient world: A father who loves his child will whip him and beat him often while he is still a child. A father should not pamper his son, play with him or share in his laughter.
Fortunately, this type of parenting is not tolerated today (but unfortunately this kind of abuse still exists in some families).
Read Ephesians 6:1 – 4
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
I would be interested to know how many of you have ever quoted the first part of this passage to your children? I know I have. I usually say it when my children are being naughty, disrespectful or disobedient. This is probably one of the most quoted passages in the Bible concerning the relationship between a parent and a child. It is a challenging passage to teach because it says so little about parenting but we like to use it as the foundation of our parenting; but beneath the surface we can see (with a little digging) that it also has a lot to say about the parent child relationship as well. What I have found is that it can point us in the right direction of what parenting can and should look like.
Verse 1 - 3: In the previous passage Paul has established the order of the marriage relationship. He spoke to both husbands and wives and gave them instructions on the roles each plays in the marriage relationship. In the passage we are looking at today he continues his instruction as he continues to talk about the family unit and speaks directly to children and parents.
He begins by addressing children and commanding them to obey and honor their fathers and mothers. Why is child to be obedient to his parents? Obedience is necessary because “it is right”. From a Christian perspective God commands children to be obedient because it is a sign of their relationship with Jesus. At ground level a child must be obedient simply because as the anonymous ancient author who goes by the name Ambrosiaster writes, “(children) must obey their parents because they derive their existence from them. It is therefore just that they should show respect to the people from whom they originate.” However we can see at a deeper level Paul is speaking to children but also to parents as well. It is important to point out that before our children can be obedient they need to be instructed. As fathers and mothers we have the responsibility to bring children up in the Lord and it is equally important that both father and mother be united in effort to bringing up our children. In Proverbs 6:20 – 21 children are exhorted “keep their father’s commandments” and “not forsake their mother’s teaching.” This ultimately leads to the parent leading a child in the ways of God; to teach and instruct in the ways of the Lord (the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom). As parents our role is not to be a slave driver imposing our will on our children. We are called to love, instruct, pray and lead our children in the ways of the Lord. As we lovingly lead as parents the response of a child is obedience because as the parents are allowing Christ to lead as the head of them they trust that the parents are leading them in truth in love.
Not only should this result in obedience but also honor. Honor basically means that you are ascribing to your parents respect and worth. Just so you know the extent of how important God views the command of honoring parents we read in Deut. 21:18 – 21 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” This is some serious stuff. Now, I do not believe this was a regular practice of the Jews, but it certainly set the guidelines for establishing what it means to dishonor your parents.
Thankfully this civil commandment is no longer practices since today obedience and honor are not something that kids readily show to their parents. In fact, it seems the opposite is the case. I have heard how some children speak to or treat their parents and honestly I am appalled the children speak and treat their parents the way they do AND that the parent allows this disrespect to exist. If you don’t believe me, I would invite you to come to the school some day and observe. I work at a Christian school and I hear kids talking back, slandering, yelling at and even swearing at their parents. I have also seen children hit their parents, speak disrespectfully to them and basically walking all over them and the parent does little to nothing in response (I have also witnessed parents doing the same to their children and it is no wonder they act the way they do). Maybe I am old fashioned but this is not how God established the parent/child relationship.
Kids, God has established your parents over you, and He has entrusted you to them to bring you up in the ways of the Lord. I know there are times when you may think your mom or dad is just trying to make your life miserable (and that they actually enjoy this) but God has clearly given them the responsibility to train and instruct you in the ways of God. We may be fallible (or sinners) but God has given us the mandate to be the ones to help you to grow into young men and women who know Jesus and walk according to his ways. Like I said, we can’t impose this relationship with Jesus on you, this is your decision to make. We can only point you in the direction you need to go.
Verse 4: No Paul turns to the parents (he speaks mainly to fathers but it is implied that mothers are included as well). Do not provoke your children to wrath. What does this mean? H.A. Ironside writes in his commentary on Ephesians, “As Christian parents, have in mind your children’s well-being. Do not be needlessly demanding of them, do not lay upon them burdens that are too hard for them to bear, for remember, as children have the Lord Jesus as their example, you have God himself as your.” It calls for the parent (more specifically fathers) to be even tempered with their children. We are to never discipline out of anger and rage. We are not to be so overly critical of our children that we tear them down and crush their spirit. We are to lovingly discipline and instruct as to encourage and build up our children. As frustrated as I can get with my children at times I will never physically harm my children but this is not to say that I won’t correct them lovingly. Ambrosiater gives a great reminder to parents, “Parents ought to teach their children by showing them an example of moderation, so children will choose what is best for them. Parents ought to remember that they were once children themselves and did not want to be provoked by their own parents… so each of them should treat the other in the way they want to be treated themselves.” 
So, what is the point and purpose of commandment five and how can we practice it well today? First, and foremost I do not believe that this commandment is intended to give permission for or accept abuse in any shape way or form, nor is it for parents to dominate and treat their children harshly. I do believe it is a commandment that promotes honor and obedience to our parents which in turn glorifies our God in heaven.
Now, I know that being a “good kid” may not be the norm in our society today, but it certainly should be the “norm” in the church today. God has given clear instructions to children (honor your father and mother) and for parents (do not provoke to wrath) and when we follow these instructions we can live our lives honoring and glorifying our true Father who is in Heaven, this my friends is a great place for us to start.
 Snodgrass, Klyne. (1996). The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, p.325. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Books.
 Bray, Gerald L., (2009) Ancient Christian Texts: Commentaries on Galatians – Philemon (Ambrosiaster), p. 59. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press Academic.
 Ironside, H.A. (1981). Galatians & Ephesians (In The Heavenlies), p. 294. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers
 Bray, Gerald L., (2009) Ancient Christian Texts: Commentaries on Galatians – Philemon (Ambrosiaster), p. 60. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press Academic.
There are twenty-four hours in a day or 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds in a day. What we do with those hours varies from person to person. Some spend most of their time working a job, going to school, caring for the children, volunteering or work around the house. For some of us there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in a day to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished. We are all busy doing one thing or another. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with all the work I have to do, but honestly working and staying busy comes pretty naturally for me.
Sometimes I feel as though I am too busy, and I do not get the rest I need. Stephen Covey wrote, “People expect us to be busy and over worked. It has become a status symbol in our society – if we’re busy, we’re important; if we are not busy then we are embarrassed to admit it. Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives.” This is so true about society today.
Now, don’t get the wrong impression that hard work is bad, in fact it is the opposite true. Work is essential and work is good. I thank God for the work I am blessed to do. Because of work I am able to provide for my family and fulfill my God-given call. Work is a blessing from God. God established work. He ordained it in Eden when he placed man and woman in the garden to care for, maintain and inhabit. I believe work was created to be pleasant, joyful and fulfilling. The problem with work came with the introduction to sin.
Rest on the other hand is another issue altogether. Preaching a message about rest is very difficult for me. Why? Because I don’t really know how to truly rest. Rest has almost become a dirty four-letter word. Unfortunately, some of you are like me and rest does not come very easy… I believe we can’t rest because we don’t want to, BUT because we don’t set aside time for it, value it or tell ourselves resting is a bad thing. Did you know that rest is one of the key themes of the Bible? Genesis begins with rest, the Psalmists write about rest, and Jesus talks about entering his rest. Rest, like work, is a gift from God and today I am going to talk about rest and the Sabbath.
We are continuing our series on the Ten Commandments. For the past few weeks, we have looked at the overall purpose of the ten commandments and I talked about what they were and were not. The commandments were not given as a means to make us holy and righteous, but instead they were given as a way to reveal our sin nature and our inclination for rebellion against God. So far, we have looked at the first three commandments and I am going to continue today with Commandment 4.
Ex. 20:8 -11: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. 11 For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.”
Before I delve into the fourth commandment, I think it is important to go back to Genesis and understand what the Sabbath is and then determine why it is important for us today.
Q: Why do we need rest? A: Because God modeled rest for us.
Q: What is rest? Is it lying around lazily and doing nothing or is there more to it?
Vs 1, 2: On the seventh day God’s work was finished. It was complete. Everything He set out to do was finished and then we are told He rested. There is no implication that God dropped everything and went into cruise mode or vegged out for a day. I like the NET Bibles translation for the word “rested” which is “ceased”. The Hebrew word for rest is “shabbat” which is where we get the word Sabbath. I should note, God’s rest was not a result of exhaustion or because he was tired, but it was a ceasing, finishing or completing his work of creation. On the seventh day God had Sabbath. This does not mean simply ceasing work just to pick it up again, but it means being satisfied with what He had done and considered these things complete. So, the real question is, if God rested, shouldn’t we? God rested on the seventh day, but the author/narrator clearly implies that (humanity), made in the divine image, is expected to copy his Creator.
Sabbath – We read about the Sabbath throughout the Old and New Testament. Sabbath simply means to stop from ordinary work and from your normal activity. It does not mean to stop all things and lay around mindlessly watching sports, eating junk food and not showering.
Exodus 20:8 – 11 gives specific. details about the day of Sabbath.
Rest: A Biblical Perspective
So, what does rest look like? We need not look any further than the Bible. Before I begin, I want to reiterate that there is a distinct difference between resting and laziness. The author of Proverbs writes negatively about the person who is lazy and does not work. In fact, the Bible never talks positively about laziness. Laziness and rest are clearly two opposing ideas.
In the Psalms rest is synonymous to being still or waiting.
Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite passages and I think is one of the best passages that defines rest. “Be still and know that I am God.” The words “be still” means to cease or stop… Stop those things causing you burden… things like worry, hard labor, frustration, anxiety, planning etc… just stop and trust God. “Be still” could also be defined as have peace of mind. Rest have your mind at ease because God is in control.
Psalm 37:7 – “Be still before the Lord and wait…” Stop! Wait! Do not fret (worry).
In Luke 10:38 – 42 we are introduced to two sisters Mary and Martha. The sisters had invited Jesus over to their home. When Jesus came Mary sat at his feet and listened to His words and teachings. She was literally resting at the feet of God and basking in His presence. Martha, her sister, on the other hand was running around the house like a chicken with her head cut off. She was making sure the house was clean, cooking the meal, setting the table kind of acting like some of you when preparing for guests or a family Thanksgiving dinner. Eventually Martha had had enough. She approaches Jesus and says, “Can you see I am killing myself trying to get things ready and my sister, the bum, is just sitting here doing nothing. Could you please tell her to come help me?” She thought that maybe Jesus could convince her sister to help around the house a bit. Do you know what Jesus’ response was? I can assure you it wasn’t what Martha wanted to hear… Luke 10:41, 42: “The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.’” He was saying to Martha, “Stop being a busy body, your sister has chosen what important, spending time with me, and I will not take that away from her. Life is too short to be concerned with the little things of this world. Spend your time on things that really matter.” Now get this. Jesus was not saying Martha was wrong, he was just letting her know at this very moment of time I am (God himself) here with you so, rest and worship. We’ll get to the other things (the meal) later, right now… Stop. Wait. Rest in the Lord.
Matthew 11:28 – 30: Is probably one of the most well-known passages that deals with rest. Jesus teaches that true rest comes from him. If you are weary, tired, stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed with life, then come to Jesus and in him you will find rest. Jesus says to put our burdens on him and when we do our souls will find rest. This is a promise for future rest and a promise for rest today.
Many of you are stressed, overworked, burdened or full of work related (whatever that work is) anxiety. Your minds are racing, your heart (spiritual and even physical) is heavy and unhealthy, and you have a hard time ceasing from work activity. You may be thinking right now, “I wish he would hurry up and conclude because I have a ton of things I have to do today.” Stop. Wait. Rest in Lord.
Since we no longer live under OT rule and law because Jesus came and fulfilled the law, the what does Sabbath look like for us today? I believe first and foremost we should continue to take a day of rest from our usual work and activity; and the rest should involve worship. Gathering today together to worship is participation in and observing the Sabbath. The point of the (Sabbath) day is to “stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another”  Resting in the presence of the Lord through worship, fellowship, prayer and communion is primarily what a Sabbath should look like. The irony is that we don’t stop working on the Sabbath… Things still need to be done (at home and in the church). Meals need to be cooked, dishes washed, lawns mowed… Children led during the Sunday School hour, babies need to be watched in the Nursery, music needs to be played etc. These should not be burdensome, and I understand that sometimes they DO become burdensome. However, when they do we need to cast that burden on to God and he will give you the strength and joy you need to complete it for his glory.
I conclude with this marvelous quote from Tim Keller who sums up nicely what Sabbath means for us today, “Only Jesus offers you a 'finished work' to rest in. In fact, the very definition of a Christian is not just someone who admires Jesus, emulates Jesus, or obeys Jesus. A Christian is someone who ‘rests in his finished work’ instead of your own. Remember, God was only able to rest in Gen. 2:1-3 because his work was finished. A Christian is someone who knows that it would be quite all right if he or she died tonight. You've already finished your work--everything that actually has to happen within your lifetime has happened. The rest is gravy, icing. Gravy and icing are quite tasty, of course--but not absolutely necessary.”
Because of Jesus our work is finished. We can rest today because of the finished work of Jesus. And yes, we also labor and toil day after day but our final rest… our eternal rest is found in Jesus and I can rest in that.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Ge 2:1–3). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Ge 2:1). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Ge 2:1). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
Exodus 20:1 - 17
We are continuing our series on the Ten Commandments. For the past couple of weeks, we have looked at the overall purpose of the ten commandments and I talked about what they were and were not. The commandments were not given as a means to make us holy and righteous, but instead they were given as a way to reveal our sin nature and our inclination for rebellion against God. Thus, when we have a proper view of the law, or the 10 Commandments, they should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for a savior found in Jesus Christ. At the core they show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep the commands perfectly.
The first commandment warns of worshiping the wrong god (there are no gods besides me) He is the ONLY God; He is not one of many gods and He certainly is not the greatest of multiple gods. No, He is one God and there are no other gods except for Him. The second commandment warns against worshiping God in the wrong way. This includes imagining the true God as like yourself or something lower. This means we have the tendency to make God into something of our own limited understanding, likeness, or ability to control. Today I will talk about the third commandment and it warns against irreverently misusing and abusing God’s Holy name.
What’s So Important About a Name?
Our names identify who we are on a personal level, but over time our name embodies who we are. If you have known me for a period of time and you hear the name “Jeff Holton” you would immediately have a mental picture of my physical appearance and probably associate my name with a characteristic or personality trait I have. The mention of my name could bring a positive, negative or indifferent response. Really names trigger positive or negative responses all the time. When I mention the names Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler, or David Koresh they would probably trigger negative responses and thoughts in your mind. But when I mention Mickey Mouse, Mother Theresa, or Martin Luther King Jr. they probably trigger a positive response or thought.
So, what’s the big deal about names? For parents, choosing a name for a child can be sort of a big deal and sometimes a daunting task. I remember with our first daughter, Carrie and I would spend countless hours talking about, researching, and debating over the name of our first daughter. Truth be told this was a long process for all of our children. We wanted our children’s names to have a biblical significance and meaning to them, honor a loved one, be unique and not start with the same letter as anyone else in the immediate family.
So really our names are precious, which is why we don’t like our names ridiculed, twisted or made fun of. I remember a nickname that was given to me as a teenager that I wasn’t overly fond of. I have always been a big boned boy (at least that’s what my mother said) so I have been on the heavy side for most of my life and having the name Holton doesn’t bode well with being fat… You know Whole Ton… As in Jeff weighs a Whole Ton! Yeah, kids can be mean. But the nicer ones would call me “Half ton”. I honestly don’t miss my teenage years. But, before you go and say, “Poor Jeff people made fun of his name,” I had my fair share of name calling myself.
On the other hand, sometimes we give cute or fun nicknames to one another as terms of endearment or surnames. Ultimately our names do not define us, they identify us. However, this is not the case with God.
“Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
The LORD’s Name
I have spent some time talking about the importance of names and how they describe us yet do not define us. God’s name is different, His name is who He is. Let’s go back to Exodus 3 when Moses encounters God in the desert. It is in the encounter that God commissions Moses to be the one to lead the Israelites out of captivity. Moses says, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?” God tells Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also tells Moses, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation." In this passage God gives Moses His proper name “LORD”. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters, you know that this is referring to the proper name of the GOD. In Hebrew, the name had four letters YHWH ( (which is called the tetragammaton: which means “four letters” יקוק yodh, he, waw, he) and the widely excepted pronunciation is Yahweh. This pronunciation was almost lost because Jews considered it so holy that they replaced its vowels with those of other divine names. The Jews came to respect this word with such reverence that they would not speak the name because they did not want to unintentionally take the name in vain. So, whenever they came to this name in their reading, they pronounced the word adonai which means my lord. The English versions have basically followed the same pattern. They translate the proper name Yahweh with the word LORD in all caps.
We see the name of God is LORD (YHWH) and that gives Him a title, but how does this name define Him?
Read Exodus. 34:5 – 7
The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, “the Lord.” 6 The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed:
The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.”
The LORD is…
Misusing the name of the Lord…
This brings up the question, “What are the consequences for profaning or misusing the name of the LORD?”
According to the Levitical law for the nation of Israel one should be put to death for misusing the name of the LORD. Thankfully this law does not apply today because it was a civil law given to the nation of Israel. However, the law does show the severity of breaking this law.
We have already established that we are not under the law but under grace, so how is it that we dishonor or profane the name of the LORD today. Here are four ways.
As I conclude this message today, I want to challenge you to pray today, as you reflect on the holiness, sovereignty and greatness of our God, and determine do your words, worship, and actions bring honor or dishonor to our great and mighty God? I will warn you that if you do accept the challenge, you will be convicted (we all will) and you must determine in your heart today, am I going to commit to living my life to bring honor to God’s name in my home, workplace, and neighborhood.
Last week we started our series on the Ten Commandments, and I established that the true purpose of the ten commandments are not to make us holy and righteous, but instead reveal our sin nature and inclination for rebellion against God. Thus, when we have a proper view of the law, or the 10 Commandments, they should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for a savior found in Jesus Christ. At the core they show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep the commands perfectly.
I also talked about commandment one and at the very heart is about love. Because when we love God with all of our being, we cannot and will not worship anything or anyone over the God who has called us to Himself.
Today I want to pick up where we left of and talk about the second commandment and how it is relevant and applies to our lives today.
Go to Exodus 20:4. - 6
Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, 6but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands (Exodus 20:4 – 6)
What do you think when I say the word idol? Is idolatry even a thing for modern humanity? I mean aren’t we more civilized than ancient humanity who seemed to need carved graven images, statues or effigies to bow down before, worship and offer sacrifices in order to function in a sane life? There is some validity to that question, however I think this view of idolatry is a bit distorted. I will talk about this in a few moments.
What Are Idols?
In Exodus 20:4 – 5 God introduces us to the sin of idolatry. This second commandment prohibits people from making any images or statues (whether on earth, below the earth or in the heavens) and bowing down in worship to them.
Since the first commandment warns of worshiping the wrong God (there are no gods besides me), then the second commandment warns against worshiping God in the wrong way. This commandment includes imagining the true God as like yourself or something lower. This means we have the tendency to make God into something of our own limited understanding, likeness, or ability to control. This is what the Israelites did at the base of Mt. Sinai while Moses was receiving the law. When the Israelites were worshiping the golden calf (as you can read about in Exodus 32) they weren’t worshiping foreign gods like Baal, Ra, or Osiris. They were worshiping their perception or creation of God. They had created an image in the form of a golden calf and worshiped it as God. They used their imagination to create and conceive a physical representation of what they believed was God. Thus, even if their motives were right (which I highly doubt), they were creating an image of god, who could not be created. This was their sin. They created a god of their own understanding and imagination. I have heard people talk about acknowledging or worshiping the God of their own understanding and I flinch a bit because they are talking about worshiping an idol. What we perceive or imagine God to be in our own minds is dangerous and goes against the second command. J.I. Packer writes, “No statement starting, ‘this is how I like to think of God’ should ever be trusted. An imagined God will always be quite imaginary and unreal.”
Do We Worship Idols Today?
Some watching or listening may be thinking, we know that we shouldn’t make statues in God’s image, so why is this commandment even relevant or applicable to us today? The answer is everything in our lives and in this world has the potential to become an idol!
Modern humanity may not worship statues or carved images, but I would argue that many do not have other (both seen and unseen) gods that they worship today. Think back to the days before social distancing while watching or participating in worship as a favorite performer or sports figure does what he or she does best to entertain the masses and you may change your tune. Now, I am definitely not saying that participating or attending sporting events or concerts makes you an idol worshiper, but there is a tendency to do so. When this pandemic has subsided go and observe Raymond James Stadium on a Sunday morning, the Tropicana field during MLB season, or visit the Amelie arena for a concert or hockey game. I promise you will see plenty of idol worship.
According to author and Pastor Timothy Keller, “A counterfeit god (idol) is anything so central and essential in your life that, should you lose it, your life would be hardly worth living. An idol has so much controlling position in your heart that you spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought.” Professor Tom Shippey states, "(Idols are when we) take the hearts fondest desires and magnify them to idolatrous proportions.” Anytime we need something to represent or to see God we are undermining his freedom. No image can capture God’s glory. We do this with buildings, pulpits, relics lying around the church or any image that we need in order to bring us into the presence of God.
This even happens in churches today. I think back over the years I have been in ministry and I remember once being criticized for moving a pulpit from the area where I preached. and the reality was, that pulpit had become an idol. Another time I asked a pastor friend if I could borrow some candelabra’s from his church for a wedding. He agreed to let me. As I went to the church to pick them up, I was stopped by the church secretary and told, very sternly, those candelabra’s cannot be removed from their place since they were the only items that had survived a church fire in prior years. In fact, they are not even supposed to be touched without gloved hands. Those candelabra’s had clearly become idols. Idolatry can have many faces in our churches… It can also include a “style” of praise and worship. One person says, “I can only worship God with hymns and organs”. Others say, “No, the only way I can truly worship God is only through modern praise songs and bands.” When the reality is, God should be worshiped regardless of musical styles. Some have elevated intellectualism as their gods. For some, Pastors need to be seminary trained, MDiv degree holders, and fluent Greek scholars and a lay person could never properly lead a congregation in worship of God. Now, there is nothing wrong with seminary training, but one’s training is not what qualifies one for ministry. For some churches a smart, seminary trained, and well-read pastor is a requirement for one in order to properly institute the sacraments and effectively lead worship. I am sure that many of you can share similar stories of items or methods of worship that have become idols in church.
Is all idolatry bad?
The short answer is yes. We know that God does not tolerate idolatry. Throughout scripture we read about how God will not take second seat to anyone or anything, in fact Exodus 20:5 says, “I am a jealous God”. The problem we have is that there are many potential idols in our lives and sometimes these can be things that are good, healthy, and advantageous when viewed and used properly… but when we place them above God and worshiped (kiss hand in affection) they can subtly become idols, no matter how good or advantageous they may be.
Can Believers Have idols?
As mentioned earlier Tim Keller wrote, “Anything can be an idol, and everything has been an idol.” How is this so for Christians?
Idols of the Heart – Read Ezekiel 14:1 - 6
“Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. 2 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 3 ‘Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and have put their sinful stumbling blocks in front of themselves. Should I actually let them inquire of me? Therefore, speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: When anyone from the house of Israel sets up idols in his heart and puts his sinful stumbling block in front of himself, and then comes to the prophet, I, the Lord, will answer him appropriately. I will answer him according to his many idols, 5 so that I may take hold of the house of Israel by their hearts. They are all estranged from me because of their idols.’ Therefore, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Repent and turn away from your idols; turn your faces away from all your detestable things.”
What Can Idolatry Look Like for Us?
When we depend on or look to anything more favorably than God as our source of joy, security and salvation then it/they have become idols in our lives. Here are a few thing that have the tendency to become idols in our lives if we are not careful.
Has something in your life taking precedence over God? If so, then this “something” has become an idol/god. We are created beings and we were created to worship God. Unfortunately, our natural sinful inclination in not to worship God, but to worship things created by God. Romans 1:18 – 23 says, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
Our sinful tendency is to worship anything other than God. We so easily exchange our worship for God with the temporal and fleeting. We replace God with subtle physical idolatry (people or things) or idols of our hearts (Unseen and possibly good).
My prayer is that you take some time this week and pray about identifying the idols in your life and seek to replace them with the true, life-giving, fulfilling, and joyful worship to the only one who is worthy of praise. When we faithfully allow God to search our hearts, He is going to deal with us individually and when He does, we need to be prepared to make the necessary changes in our lives so we can be right with God.
 Packer, J.I... Keeping the Ten Commandments . Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (Dutton, 2009), p. xvii
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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.