Summary: You will not win unless God is first.

Putting God First

Exodus 20:1-3

Rev. Brian Bill


A friend of mine took me to Spoon River Raceway in Canton on Tuesday. It was my first experience at the track. My ears are still ringing and I can’t get the dust out of my mouth. Since this was a new experience for me, I had a lot of questions that I peppered my friend with all night. I’m sure some were pretty stupid but I asked them anyway. One question I asked was this: “How does the guy in the lead know what’s happening behind him? Does he have a rear view mirror?” My buddy laughed out loud and then he said, “There are no mirrors. It doesn’t matter what’s happening behind you if you’re in first place. Just keep your eyes on the finish line and drive hard.”

As we launch into our “Stone Tablets in a Wireless World” series today by focusing on the first commandment, it strikes me that if we keep this commandment to put God first, it doesn’t matter what’s happening behind us. We need a laser focus on the finish line as we drive hard to know God in all His glory. The first commandment is as follows: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

During this summer series, we’re learning the commandments in consecutive order. I talked to a single mother this week who has been teaching her children the commandments based upon how we learned them last week. She actually hit me up for the rest of them. I praised this parent because she’s doing exactly what she should be doing by passing along the commandments to the next generation.

That’s what we’re attempting to do in our children’s ministry and student ministry as we partner with parents in the evangelism and discipleship of children. We want to equip parents so that they can connect their kids to Jesus. That’s why we hand out the “Parent Connect” sheets each week. We also email them to parents and post them on Facebook. Please take advantage of this practical tool by going over them together with your child.

Let’s review the Commandments we learned last week. I recognize that we have new people each Sunday but you’ll be able to pick up these commandments quickly…if you participate.

1: Hold up one pointer finger - point to the sky (one God; no other gods)

2: Hold up two pointer fingers – have one bow before the other (no idols)

3: Hold up three fingers – place over mouth (don’t take God’s name in vain)

4: Hold up four fingers – place on cheek as if to nap (Sabbath rest)

5: Hold up five fingers – place hand over heart (honor parents)

I’m going to add another one today.

6: Hold up five fingers on one hand and the pointer finger of your other hand – turn pointer finger into a “gun” and aim at the other hand (don’t murder)

Simple, But Not Easy

Before we look at the preamble to the commandments, I want to share some principles put forth by Philip Ryken that will help us understand and apply them.

1. Follow the biblical rule. What does the rest of the Bible say about each commandment?

2. Follow the inside/outside rule. Am I living out this command internally as well as externally? Don’t just focus on the outward action but on the inward attitude. Jesus did this in the Sermon on the Mount when He equated lust with adultery and anger with murder.

3. Follow the two-sided rule. Where a sin is forbidden, the corresponding duty is required; and where duty is required, the corresponding sin is forbidden. When a particular vice is condemned; a particular virtue is commanded. For instance, the command that forbids murder simultaneously requires the preservation of life. The true intent tells us what to do as well as what not to do.

4. Follow the rule of categories. Each commandment stands for a whole category of sins: “It governs not only the specific sin that is mentioned, but all the sins that lead up to it, and all the supposedly lesser sins of the same kind.” Giving too much time to a possession or a sport or hobby can lead to outright idol worship. A white lie is still a lie.

5. Follow the brother’s keeper rule. Don’t encourage someone else to do what God has told us not to do, or keep them from doing something that God has commanded. Without a doubt parents shape their children’s moral character, both for evil and for good. This also means that we need to watch our example. It certainly means to stop someone from gossiping because if you don’t you’ll be drawn into it as well. Be careful about sharing in someone else’s sin or leading them astray by your sin.

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