Summary: The keeping of the Ten Commandments is simply not enough.
Obedience is the very best way to show what you believe.
Action is the key.
Do it immediately.
Joy you will receive.”
While I believe that this song holds a great deal of truth, it simply is not complete. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments for the Israelite community, God knew that obedience to a set of laws would never produce lasting joy. But more importantly, God knew that all human beings would fall short and sin, even those who were most rigorous when it came to following the letter of the law.
Consider the Pharisees. They contended that they not only followed the Ten Commandments but they added further instruction to purify themselves of all unrighteousness. Yet, Jesus did not commend them for their efforts. Rather, he called them hypocrites. In their attempts to obtain righteousness they had clearly deviated from God’s plan and the spirit of the Ten Commandments.
This is the message shared with us by Paul in the letter to the Philippians. He argues that there is not one iota we can do to deem ourselves worthy.
Paul was circumcised, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee. In the NIV translation it says, “as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Paul went so far as to persecute the church out of a sense of legalistic righteousness.
What God had created in an effort to bring us closer to Him had, in all actuality, pushed the self-made righteous farther away from God and God’s will for humanity. The Treasure Chest Study Bible puts it in this way: “God wants you to stop sinning. Stop lying. Stop cheating. Stop being rude… God wants you to clean all that out of your life so there is more room for him in it. That’s God’s goal for you.” When we are so caught up in our own behavior we can not be caught up in the richness of God.
Paul was able to come to that all important realization. Unfortunately, it took blindness and a spot light to catch his attention. Friends, if you are waiting for God to beam down a special message to you, wait no longer. It has already been delivered in the form of the Bible. God has spoken that we might all receive a Word that is just right for our hearts.
Stuart Briscoe, in his book entitled The Ten Commandments: Playing by the Rules, writes that God gave the Ten Commandments to show us our sin and lead us, convicted, to Jesus Christ the Savior. For it is by the blood of Jesus Christ that we are set free. It is only when we come to Christ that our life is giving true meaning. Christ alters our perception.
Briscoe shares the following personal story: “Once, on a plane, he had his Bible out, doing some catch-up reading. A stewardess came up and said, ‘Mustn’t spill coffee on the Good Book, must we?’ ‘No, we mustn’t,’ he responded. Awhile later another one had a word with him, then stayed and talked. She said, ‘You know, four years ago the Bible was a dead book to me. Then something happened, and I can’t explain it, but I can’t get enough of it. I devour it.’
‘I know what happened,’ Briscoe answered. “Have you ever read a book that was boring, then one day you met the author? Afterwards you picked up the same book and said, ‘I know who wrote this,’ and it became the most exciting book in the world to you.
‘Yes, that’s what happened to me. I met the author.’”
Sadly, many people have read the words on the pages of a Bible without ever knowing the author. It is only when we meet face to face with the Lord of the universe that we will experience the true joy of our hearts.
To put it another way: my sister, Mariann, once worked for the Foreign Candy Company. As a sales representative, she had to take displays of their products to shows. Many times they were not able to give out real samples of the candy. So she had beautiful trays of “mock” candy. And even though a sign clearly labeled the “mock” candy as models and not for human consumption, people would every once in a while sneak a bite of delicious plastic. What was most amazing was there were those who thought it was the real thing.
The Pharisees thought they had the real deal in keeping every letter of the law. The law was the complete story, they presumed. Unfortunately, it was the reason why they were unable to embrace the truth.
The law is not a substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And frankly, we in the church have grown “soft” in this area. I find it extremely disturbing at a funeral to hear the details of one’s life without an acknowledgement that a person knew Jesus Christ. Too many times, I have heard reports of wonderful works, but no mention of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The truth must be told, the law does not grant salvation – Jesus does.