Summary: The 10 commandments are an expression of the character of God. Here we find a picture of what it means to be godly people; people who, having been brought into God’s kingdom by grace, are seeking to live in line with the Father’s character and will. Our t
Today we being a series on the 10 commandments: The 10 Greatest Struggle of your Life. Before we begin I want you to notice that these are not 10 suggestions or 10 guidelines. These are not optional extras for the specially pious. They’re not even ten rules for a successful life or 10 ways to happiness.
But nor are they a checklist for getting into God’s kingdom - not even a way of determining whether God is pleased with us.
No. What they are is an expression of the character of God. Here we find a picture of what it means to be godly people; people who, having been brought into God’s kingdom by grace, are seeking to live in line with the Father’s character and will.
You see, the danger with something like the 10 commandments is that we too quickly begin to concentrate on what we do, or what we say, and forget about the God that we’re seeking to serve. If you’ve lived any length of time I’m sure you’ll have seen the results of people concentrating on what we do rather than who God is and what he’s doing. Usually it ends up in a set of legalistic rules that define and restrict, that exclude and disempower, that take away the joy of being God’s people. What we need is a way to think about these commandments that allows us to begin to live them without messing them up.
There’s an expression we find used regularly in God’s word that might help us as we grapple with what it means to live out the 10 commandments. That expression is "The-Fear-of-the-LORD". This is how the Bible describes a life that’s lived appropriately in response to the person of the Living God, the Almighty God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
It’s a phrase that’s often misunderstood, though. It’s not fear simply in the sense of being afraid. If that were the case we’d never be able to understand the gospel of God’s love. But we can’t just change the word either. People have tried to substitute reverence, awe, respect, but none of those words seem to be sufficient, do they? No, what we’re called to is "Fear-of-the-LORD". What we’re called to is a recognition that God has involved himself in this world at a personal level; that the Almighty God, the unknowable God, who sits in unapproachable light, has lowered himself to our level, to reveal himself to us, to invite us into his life, to invite us to become part of his involvement in the world. Jesus comes among us and invites us to follow him, to walk with him on the pilgrim way. We find ourselves standing, no, walking, on holy ground, just like Moses at the burning bush, living in the presence of God.
I wonder if you’ve ever stopped to think about the fact that every step of your life, God, the Holy God, is there walking beside you. Does that make you stop and think?
Imagine walking into a room and finding yourself in the presence of the Prime Minister, or the Queen, or the President of the United States. It’d stop you in your tracks wouldn’t it? Your conversation would stop; you’d wonder what to do next? Should you quietly leave? Should you just stand there silently and hope no-one notices you? Should you say something?
But now we’re talking about being in the presence of Almighty God! Here’s something far beyond any worldly grandeur. Here is the one who created the universe. How are we to respond? The appropriate response is "Fear-of-the-LORD". In other words we respond with a life lived in the light of God’s presence with us every step of the way.
Again, though, the danger is that we take these commandments and make them into a set of rules that we think God is measuring us against as we walk beside him. Then the temptation is to do what the Pharisees did: we begin to add extra rules that cover the particular circumstances we find ourselves in. If we’re going to tithe, for example, what things should we tithe? Should we tithe the parsley and mint that we pick from our kitchen garden? If we’re to keep the Sabbath holy, what can we do and what can’t we do? For example, how far can we walk or drive to church on the Lord’s day? Is it OK to hold a picnic after church? Or to play sport? Or do the washing? And so we go on, making more and more rules to help us take control of our lives. And therein lies the problem. The 10 commandments are given to us to make it clear that God is in control of our lives, not us. But God isn’t like a judge, over on the sideline, judging our performance like the judges at a diving competition or the gymnastics. No, He’s the one who walks beside us, involving us in his work in the world.