Summary: This is the first of a ten sermon series on the Ten Commandments
Step #1 – Choose The True God
I. The Ten Commandments In The News
When people arrived at the State Judicial Building in Montgomery, Alabama on the 1st of August five years ago, they came face to face with something they had not expected. Without telling anyone about his secret plan, Chief Justice Roy Moore had installed a 5,280 pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments in the center of the rotunda. Some thought it was a novel idea. Others thought it was a waste of space. Still others felt it was a violation of the separation of church and state. They took the judge to court seeking the removal of this colossal and offensive monument – and they won. Judge Moore was ordered by the 11th Circuit Court to remove the monument because it was a violation of the First Amendment.
Judge Moore refused. He believed that the Ten Commandments were not only the foundation of the law, but the basic moral code that should govern the behavior of all people in every nation. And many God-fearing, faithful Christians agreed. The result was a relatively nasty public debate over the role of the Ten Commandments in American Society. But as the debate raged it quickly became apparent that many, if not most, of those who supported the Ten Commandments didn’t really know what those commandments actually were. It is presently estimated that 90% of Christians in America can’t name the Ten Commandments. And even the few who can quote them may not fully understand what they are and why they were given.
So, let me ask you, “What are the ten commandments?” Why did God give them? The answer to that question may surprise you. Let me suggest to you that while I value Judge Moore’s desire to stand up for the ten commandments, I’m not sure that he fully appreciates why they were initially given to God’s people. To understand that, we need to remember a bit of the story. God had called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt in order to worship Him. Pharaoh refused, so God sent a series of plagues to change his mind. Finally, Pharaoh let the people of God go. Three months later they find themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai. They are free from tyranny but relatively confused about how to build a nation – after all, most of them were uneducated slaves.
So God comes to them and tells them that out of all the nations in the world, they will be his treasured possession; that they would be a kingdom of priests to the surrounding nations. But, to fulfill that mission, they must not be just another nation, they must be a special nation, a unique nation, a holy nation. So God gives this new, fledgling people ten primary sayings to guide their conduct and shape their character. If they lived according to these ten overarching principles, they would live truly significant lives. They wouldn’t be like the other nations, they would be different – a peculiar people.
Now, what that means is this: The Ten Commandments were not designed to make the nations moral. They were designed to make a specific group of people different. You see, the commandments were not given to the nations, they were given to one nation – Israel. They were give to a specific group of people, called into relationship with God, in order to make them peculiar, unusual, holy. Then, when the nations saw how peculiar this nation was, how truly significant their lives had become, they might gain a holy curiosity and be drawn into relation with God.
And while we live in the days of the New Testament, the Ten Commandments are still to function in that way – with one key difference. Believe it or not, the Bible tells us that as New Testament believers, God has etched these commandments not on tablets of stone but upon your hearts. Looking forward to the day when Christians would be filled by the Holy Spirit, Ezekiel said the following, “I will give you a new heart…And I will put my Spirit within you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” You see, in some sense we are not just to memorize the ten commandments, we are to become the ten commandments. We are to submit ourselves to Christ and God will etch those commandments within us and cause us to live them out. We are not to demand that the commandments be posted in a courtroom. We are to make sure they are written upon our hearts. We are to allow them to shape our lives so that others might see how unique we are, how significant our lives have become, and be drawn unto the God who has called us.