What does it look like when we embrace life as God is directing us through his commandments? Picking the right priority is the only way to lasting peace and God shows that he should be your priority; reminding us of what he’s already done before laying out the laws.
Listen. Twenty eight years ago, this November, I married the love of my life, her name’s Coletta. And when we got married, I found that there were some rules that came with the marriage relationship. Some of them I knew about, some of them, I was a little surprised by, okay? Like some of the ones I knew about like, okay, because I’m married, I don’t date other women, right? Like that’s pretty forward. Nobody’s shocked, right? Like there’s no husbands out there going, “That’s where I went wrong.” Okay? No, no, no. Okay. I don’t date other women. I don’t spend time alone with other women. I don’t entertain attraction to women either in person or on a screen. Okay? So those are some basic kind of rules.
There’s some rules that I didn’t expect. Like every single day of my life, I submit to having more pillows in my life as a married man than I ever thought possible. Can I get an amen from any other guys out there? You with me on this one? Like I had no idea. I had no idea. That was just one of the rules that I submitted to, there’s just gonna be a lot more pillows than I was expecting. And more kinds of pillows, right? I mean, there’s throw pillows, which you are not allowed to throw. Like that’s another rule I had to find out about. There are sham pillows which are the only ones that are appropriately named in my mind. That’s a different story though.
Now, imagine for a second that I wasn’t married and I decided I’m gonna follow all those rules. You know, I’m not gonna date anybody else, I’m not gonna think about anybody else, I’m gonna go to HomeGoods and buy out their pillow section, would I have a marriage relationship? No. Because rules don’t create relationships. They regulate them. They keep them moving in the right direction and they help them to be everything that they were intended to be. And that’s really the right lens for looking at the commandments that we find in Scripture, and especially, it’s the right lens for thinking about the Ten Commandments. They don’t create the relationship. We can only have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. God loves us. He sent his Son to die for us. He paid the price of our sin. He rose from the dead. And when we put our faith in him, we begin a relationship with God. It has nothing to do with the rules, but then the rules help regulate that relationship we have and they help it be everything that it can be.
And now here’s… I think, it’s good news actually, to say that the rules aren’t necessary for the relationship but it’s actually even better news that the rules are leading us to somewhere in the relationship that we all wanna be. Here’s the thing we need to understand. The Ten Commandments, this might be counterintuitive, but the Ten Commandments are all about joy. Do you know that? All of God’s commands are really about joy. They’re about allowing us to experience a relationship with God that is filled with joy. That is what God wants for us and the rules are actually about helping us get to that place where we experience that. I love the way that Jesus said it. He described this relationship between the rules and joy. He said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remained in his love. And I’ve told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” I love that. Jesus isn’t just interested in a little joy, but in complete joy. He’s interested in lives that are literally filled to the brim and spilling over with joy. And what he says is the commands keep us where the love is. The commands keep us where the joy is.
So as we begin this series of the Ten Commandments, let’s just ask a diagnostic question. This is the question. How’s my joy level? Think back over the last year and a half, we’ve been dealing with this global pandemic, and political strife, and racial tension, all these kinds of things, anybody feeling like you’re just overflowing with joy at the moment? Like really the last two years have just produced more joy in you than you ever thought possible and you’re having a hard time containing it? Anybody? I’m not getting a lot of takers on that one. Anybody feel like your joy level is running a little bit low right now and can be honest with each other? If you’re watching online, go ahead and type in the comments, yeah, my joy level is running a little bit low.
I wanna tell you something that I’ve discovered in my own life. Joy isn’t rooted in circumstances. And so if your joy is running low and the temptation is to go, “It’s because of these circumstances,” we’re actually misunderstanding what joy is and we’re misunderstanding what actually makes it possible. In fact, here’s what I’ve come to understand in my own life, that when I find that my joy level is running low, I can’t blame it on circumstances. I can almost always trace it back to some way that I’m living in a way that is stepped outside of the place where joy is. And the Ten Commandments are actually a really, really helpful frame for helping us understand how to stay inside the place where love is, where joy is. And throughout this series, you may find that one or more of these places are things where you’ve actually stepped over the boundaries. You’ve moved into a place where joy is not possible. Joy we’re longing for just isn’t to be found there.
Sometimes when we step over the boundaries set by the Ten Commandments, it’s obvious, we know that we’ve done it, right? Like there are commandments that are pretty straightforward. Like don’t commit adultery, don’t kill other people. And it’s pretty easy to go, “Yeah. You know, I haven’t done that.” But sometimes the reality is what those commands point us to or principles, ways of embracing life as God intended it to be that we’ve actually begun to…we’ve violated those principles. We’ve moved outside what those principles are pointing to us towards, we’ve moved into a place where joy is not really available to us, and we haven’t necessarily seen that that’s what’s happened. So as we go through this series, you’re gonna find, you’re gonna find that you’re challenged at several places to step back inside the place where love is, where joy is.
So with that context in mind, why don’t we go ahead and dive into the first two commandments. If you wanna grab your Bible, start making your way to the Book of Exodus. We’re gonna be in Exodus chapter 20, verse 1. The Ten Commandments are given to us first in the Book of Exodus, Exodus, the second book of the Bible. And it’s named the Book of Exodus because it’s about a leaving, it’s about a departure, an exit, okay? At a certain point in their history, the people of God, the Israelites, had been enslaved in the nation of Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt for several centuries, but at a certain point God sent his man, Moses, down to Egypt, and through a series of miraculous events that God performed, the Israelites were set free. They were set free from their bondage to slavery. They traveled from slavery into the desert towards the Promised Land and as they were traveling towards the Promised Land, they came to a mountain called Mount Sinai somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, probably. And as they got to that mountain, Moses went on top of the mountain and God came down to the mountain and he gave his people the Big Ten. He gave his people the rules. He gave his people rules that were ancient. I mean, Western morality’s based on these rules. Most scholars, even if they’re not religious, will say that these ten rules form the foundation for the way that the Western world thinks about ethics and morality. They’re ancient rules, but they’re ultimately for joy, and as we set out of the series, they’re rules for modern joy. It’s a long time has passed since those people were camped at the mountain, getting these rules from God, but nothing has really changed. These rules tell us where the love is, they tell us where the joy is. We have ancient rules for modern joy and God gave them to them saying this…and God spoke all these words, “I am the Lord, your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” So that’s our first rule. That’s the first ancient rule for modern joy, “You shall have no other gods before me,” he says.
But before we dig into that commandment, we actually need to start with what God starts with. Because I want you to notice, he actually doesn’t start with the rule. He starts with two statements about himself, doesn’t he? He starts with two descriptions of who he is and these descriptions are really important because they set the context for understanding the commandments. And, in fact, if we don’t understand this context, we will be confused about the commandments. We’ll turn them into something they were never intended to be. So here’s the two things God says about himself. Number one, he says, “I am the Lord, your God.” Now, that’s the English translation. Almost every English translation I know follows the same tradition in translating the original Hebrew there. But it’s not a literal translation. It’s a traditional translation. The literal translation is not, “I am the Lord, your God.” The literal translation is, “I am Yahweh, your God.” And if you don’t know the word, Yahweh, here’s what you need to understand. The word God is a little bit generic. It sort of speaks of all kinds of divine beings, real and imagined. Yahweh way is not a generic word. Yahweh is a very, very specific word. It’s really, it’s the proper name of God. God is giving them his proper name.
He says, “This is my name, guys. I’m trusting you with my personal name. It’s very personal information, I’m giving you. He says, “I am Yahweh.” By the way, some of you are gonna really like this. This is kind of a bonus for those of you who like this kind of thing. The Hebrews considered the name Yahweh so sacred that they didn’t say it out loud. And so, in fact, when they came to the word Yahweh in Scripture, instead of saying the word, Yahweh, they would say Adonai, which is the Hebrew word for Lord. And almost all English translations sort of follow that tradition today. Instead of writing out the word Yahweh, we actually translate the word as Lord, even though it’s not exactly what it is. If you’re ever reading through the Bible and you come across the word Lord but it’s all in caps, that’s actually code for you’re actually seeing the proper name of God Yahweh there.
By the way, this is…somebody of you will really like this. Hebrew is only written with consonants. They only write the consonants originally. You just kind of had to know what the vowels were. So to keep people from accidentally saying the word Yahweh, what they did was to remind them, they put the vowels for Adonai, the Hebrew word for Lord, around the consonants for Yahweh. And if you pronounce the consonants for Yahweh and the vowels for Adonai, what you get is the word Jehovah. It’s not a real word. And I’m sorry. I know I’m messing up a bunch of Bible studies right now, but if you’re ever reading a Bible study that like says, “Well, this is what the word Jehovah means and this is what Yahweh way means and this is what Lord means,” they actually haven’t done their homework because Yahweh way is the real word. Adonai is another keyword for Lord but Jehovah is just those two words smooshed together. It’s not a real thing. It was a reminder, hey, when you see this, don’t say it out loud.
And why did they consider it so sacred? Why were they so hesitant to say the word out loud? Because in the ancient world, names had power and to give someone your name was to give yourself to them and it was an invitation to intimacy. And so for God to give the Hebrew people his name, Yahweh, was an invitation to intimacy, it was an invitation to relationship. We would see that same thing reflected in the fact that he doesn’t say, “I am Yahweh. I am the Lord, the God.” What does he say? He says, “I am Yahweh the Lord, your God.” You see that invitation to relationship? He doesn’t just wanna be God. He wants to be your God. And this is an unbelievable treat if we think about it for a second, especially when we remember who this is, right? This is the God who created a universe so vast we can’t even begin to imagine it, right? And he flung stars across the heaven so vast that we can’t even grasp the outside edge. We can’t even understand the size of our solar system, let alone the hundred billion galaxies filled with the hundreds of billions of stars. We can’t even begin to deal with that. This is the same God who did that. This is the same God who created life and life is so complex that at the molecular level, it’s so intricate and so incredibly well-designed that we can’t even begin to understand how it functions at that level. So whether it’s the macro or the micro level, we’re talking about a God of infinite wisdom, and intelligence, and power. And this God, the God, you understand this, the God wants to be your God. Because the invitation that he makes to the Hebrews is the same invitation he’s been making to every one of us ever since then. He says, “I wanna be your God.” It’s an invitation to intimacy. It’s an invitation to relationship. Just think about this for a second, the God wants to be your God.
How can we skim past that? Like we can fly on to other things. This is so important and it’s such a foundational understanding of everything else that comes in this list of rules. The God wants to be your God and he’s done everything possible, everything necessary to make that relationship a reality. He says…this is the second thing he says about himself, he says, “I’m the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” And please do not miss this. Before he gives the do’s and don’ts, he tells them what he’s already done. You see that? Before he gives them laws, he reminds them of how he’s already loved them, what he’s already done for them. This is so important because if we don’t get this right, we’re gonna see the commands as something that they’re never intended to be. It’s so easy to look at the commands and go, “This is the checklist, right? This is how I get on God’s good side. This is how I earn God’s love. This is how I get God to be committed to me because I show him I’m committed to him by doing these things and then he’ll be committed to me, right?” No. What God shows here is he was already committed to them before he gave them any commandments. He has already done for them so much before he ever asked them to do anything for him.
Listen, this is the principle and we see it throughout history. God’s commitment to us comes before his commandments for us. You hear me, church? This is so important. If you don’t get this right, you’re gonna misunderstand the commandments. God’s commitment to us comes before his commandments for us. We not only see it here, we see it throughout Scripture, most famously in the death of Jesus. God loves us so much he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin so that everything that separates us from God could be removed. God did that for us. And when did he do it? Here’s how the Apostle Paul says it. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t come die for us after we cleaned ourselves up, he didn’t come die for us after we committed that we were serious about doing our best. Jesus died for us while we were still living in rebellion against him. That’s commitment to us way before any commandments for us.
We see the same thing in the life of Jesus. At one point Jesus looked at his disciples and he gave them a command. He said, “A new command I give you, love one another.” But look at this. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He didn’t just say, “Here’s the new command,” He demonstrated his own commitment to love before he called them to a commitment to love one another. It’s a principle we see over and over again in the Bible. God’s commitment to us comes before his commandments for us. And it’s so important that we get this right because if we don’t, again, what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna look at the commands and go, “That’s how I get in the front door. That’s how I get on God’s good side. That’s how I get God to love me.” And God says, “No, no, no. My love came way before my laws.” Rules don’t create relationships. They regulate them. They allow us to stay where the love is, where the joy is. And it’s with that context in mind that we can come back and we can deal with this first commandment.
He says, “You shall have no other gods before me. Now that I’ve told you what kind of God I am and what I’ve already done for you and how much I’m committed to you, now I want you to pay attention to this command so you can stay where the love and the joy is. You shall have no other gods before me.” And you might underline the word “before” there, it’s a very important word. It’s phrased in a kind of an interesting way. God says, “Don’t let any other gods come before me.” This is about priority. And it’s interesting, He could have easily said, “Hey, there are no other gods, so why would you look to anything else?” But he didn’t say that. he said, “Just don’t put anything else before…don’t put any other gods before me.” There are other places where he says there are no other gods.
There are other places where he declares that fact, Deuteronomy 32:39. He said, “See, now that I, myself, am he,” meaning the God. He says, “There is no God besides me.” You notice that, that word, “besides” there? It’s not before there, it’s, there’s no God besides me. What he’s saying there is literally in the original Hebrew is there’s no god with me. In other words, God’s kind of going, “Hey, guys, I’ve been looking around and yeah, there’s no one else up here. Like I’m it. I’m the only one.” Okay? But it’s interesting in the first commandment, he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say I’m the only God, He doesn’t say there’s no other gods beside me. He says, “You will not have any other gods before me.” And what we need to understand is the way he phrases that is part of understanding it. What he’s telling us is this, is the first commandment is about making God your priority. The first command is to make God your priority, it’s to put God first.
Now, why does he say it like that? Why does he say put me first if there are no other gods? Here’s what God knows and that we sometimes forget, God knows that the world is filled with wannabe gods competing to be our priority. Even though there are no other actual gods, the world is filled with wannabe gods competing to be our priority. There are pretend gods. There are spirits who pretend and there are things that we promote to the status of gods. Well, it’s filled with them, spirits that pretend and things that we promote to the status of gods. And God says, “You need to take all of those and they need to take a backseat to me.” And we get this one wrong all the time. There’s spirits who pretend… See, here’s the thing. What I’m about to say is not super PC, I know that, but we’re not a PC-driven church, we’re a Bible-driven church. And the Bible is very clear that there are other religions out there that are nothing more than human ideas dressed up as divine revelation. That there are things out there that are nothing more than human ideas and they’re like, “Nobody’s gonna listen to Bob, so I’m gonna tell them God said it.” There’s no spiritual power, there’s nothing to it, the Bible often calls them philosophies. Political ideologies would probably fit into that category, but the Bible is also clear that there are other religions out there that are absolutely in touch with other spiritual forces. There is spiritual power behind some of those other religions out there. The problem is those powers are not God’s powers.
In that same passage where God said, “There are no other gods besides me. I’m the only one up here,” He also said this, he said, “They sacrifice to demons.” Now, some English translations render that as false gods, but the Hebrew word literally is demons. “They sacrifice to demons which are not God, gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear.” Wait a minute. He said there’s no other gods. Well, and what’s he talking about now? He’s talking about spirits that pretend to be gods and he says they’re demons. God created angels. There were a group of angels that rebelled against God and they became what we call demonic forces and they love to trick people into thinking that they’re God. They love to invite worship. They love to get people to make them the priority and sometimes there is real spiritual power around that. The problem is these things don’t have the power of God and they absolutely do not have the love of God. They have no lasting joy or peace to offer us. And yet Christians often are guilty of kind of Frankensteining their faith, kind of mixing and matching, sewing together a faith that’s partly real God and partly these pretend gods.
I was on an airplane several years ago and I was talking to a woman and at a certain point we got kind of into spiritual stuff and she said, “Well, let me tell you about my spiritual life.” And here’s how she identified herself. She said, “I’m a Quaker Mormon.” And I was like, “No, you’re not.” Because that’s like saying you’re a Siamese poodle. They’re two radically different things. They don’t go together. The Quakers believe in the God whose story is told in the Bible. Mormons believe in the caricature of that God. Mormons believe in the caricature of that God where that God is actually a human being just like us at some point. He became God and then got his own planet. That’s a caricature of the true God and the man who peddled that claims that he got it from an angel. And I’m gonna tell you, I’m not sure that he was lying about that. He might very well have gotten that from an angel, but I will tell you this, it was not one of God’s angels, they’re these things that God calls demons.
But before we are too hard on her, I think we need to understand that Christians do this all the time. I can kind of tell you how many times over the years I’ve had conversations in church where somebody would come up to me and go, “Hey, Pastor. Really glad we’re here today. But hey, I was reading my horoscope this morning and I had a question.” And I’m like, “What?” Spec the truck up. If you’re reading your horoscope on the way to work, interesting, you’re practicing astrology. That is spirits pretending to be God’s, okay? But I consistently encounter people without even realizing they’re doing it, Frankensteining their faith, meshing it together with false spiritual forces, people that, you know, they’re as quick to consult a psychic as they are to read Scripture. People who are as quick to play with a Ouija board, looking for insight than to go to God in prayer. It happens quite a bit. And so I actually think this is a really important question, knowing that there are spirits who pretend, I think, as followers of Jesus or as people who wanna make God our priority, we have to ask ourselves this question, “How am I Frankensteining my faith? How am I Frankensteining my faith? Where in my life am I saying, well, God’s my priority, but I’m also looking to these other things, these false spiritual forces, these false sources of hope.” They’re only pretending and bringing those into the mix as well. How am I Frankensteining my faith? We need to deal with that question.
There are spirits who pretend. There are also, and this is probably the bigger issue for most of us, there are things we promote to the status of gods. There’s a whole laundry list of them, sex, money, success, political ideologies, political parties, political figures, our careers, fame, influence, experiences. I mean, the list can go on and on. And the things on the list aren’t necessarily bad things, the problem is they’re not God things. And yet we often promote them into the place of God. And we would say, “Well, I’m not worshiping them. I’m not treating them like God because I’m not worshiping them, right? And I would say, “Yeah. We’re not praying to them, but we’re absolutely prioritizing them.” And the reality is that’s what worship is. Do you know that? At the end of the day, to worship something is to prioritize it. It’s to make it first.
And, by the way, there’s a weird thing that we do in our culture when we talk about priorities. And the weird thing is we talk about priorities, plural. The word priority is supposed to be a singular word because the word priority means first. So the idea of talking about priorities means multiple firsts. Does that make any sense to you? When was the last time you were in a competition and multiple people came in first and you felt good about that? No, because the reality is if you have multiple things that are first, there’s really no first, right? And the reality is as much as we like to talk in our culture about getting your priorities straight, the sentence itself is broken. When we say, “Get your priorities in order,” we’re saying, “Get your firsts in order.” Wait, what? Hey, here’s the reality, here’s the brutal reality, if you have priorities, you don’t have a priority. If you have priorities, you don’t have a priority. God says, “Have no other gods before me.” Have no other priority. God says, “Make me your priority.”
And sometimes I think we hear that and our natural inclination is like, “Well, that’s kind of selfish of God, right?” What’s wrong with God? Is he an egomaniac? Is he just incredibly insecure that he has to come first? And what we fail to understand is that God says, “Pick me because I love you.” God says, “Pick me because I’m the only one who can actually give you the life that you’re longing for, the life that you were designed for, but it’s a life that’s only possible when you pick me as your priority.” See the reality is this, unless we pick the right priority, nothing else will work. Unless we pick the right priority, nothing else will work.
Years ago, I think it was like, I don’t know, five or six or seven, I saw an illustration of this. It was so powerful that I still remember it. You got a life. And there’s a lot of stuff that goes into our lives or it should, God should be the biggest one, but God, we definitely need to get God in there somehow. We got other big priorities though. You know, we’ve got relationships, we’ve got careers, we’ve got, you know, personal health, taking care of ourselves. I mean, lots of different things that they’re kind of big deals after God, but then the reality is that we have a whole lot of other things that just kinda like they just take up our day, right? And here’s the way most of us do it. We don’t actually pick our priorities. We just kind of deal with our circumstances as they come. And yeah, it’s messy. Anybody ever feel like they drop balls? Yeah. And then we come along and we’re like, “Okay. But I got these other really important things. You know, I got to deal with my marriage. I got to get my relationships in order. I got to take care of myself, or my career,” whatever it is. And then…
Okay. I should get this. Lid, close it all up. All right, good. So like, oh, geez. Yeah. It just doesn’t work. And sometimes we think, “Well, you know, God wants to be our priority and then he wants to push everything else out.” And that’s not true. Actually, God’s okay with all that other stuff. God wants to make it work. And so God says, “Put me first. Make me your priority and then I’ll help you figure out this marriage and relationship stuff, I’ll help you figure out this career stuff. Taking care of yourself, I’ll help you figure that out. Then all this other stuff, you know, we’ll find places for that too.” He’s not looking to push it all out. You’re just learning to sift it so that it fits. And even though some of those other things we dropped, he’s like, “No, we can make room for those too.” God wants to make your life work. But if he’s not the priority, nothing else is gonna work.
He’s not going to push everything else out. He’s looking to make it fit in a way that actually brings peace and significance. And here’s the reality, some of us need to recognize there’s something in our life that has taken his place and it needs to be demoted. So we ask the question, “How am I Frankensteining my faith?” that’s for the spirits who pretend… For those things we promote, here’s the question we need to ask, what needs a demotion in my life? What needs to come after God? Not because God is selfish but because it’s the only way the other stuff’s going to work in the way it’s supposed to. What needs a demotion in my life? And if you’re not quite sure how to answer that question, maybe you’re going, “There might be some things, but how do I sort that out?”
Here’s a couple of other questions you might ask. One of them is, “What does my calendar say?” What does your calendar say about your priority? It’s amazing to me how often people will come to me and they’ll go, “Yeah. If it’s not on my calendar, then it just doesn’t happen, right? I live by my calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it just doesn’t happen. And I’ll sometimes go, “Hey, can I see your calendar?” And I always get really nervous. Never give a pastor your calendar. And then you kind of flip through it and you’re like, “What’s interesting, I mean, you say that God, you know, God’s your number one priority, but he’s literally not on the calendar anywhere, I mean, not daily time with him set on your calendar, like weekly time of worship set on your calendar.” “Oh, yeah. I do those.” And “No, no. You just told me if it’s not on the calendar, I don’t do it.” Isn’t that interesting? Our calendar often reflects our priority. What about your calendar? Does it reflect the importance of God in your life?
How about this? What does your bank say? You’ve got a forensic accountant come in and look at all the ways you’ve spent money over the last 10 years, what would it reveal about your priority? You can ask the question, what shakes everything else when it gets challenged? I’m gonna be honest with you, for me, I realize that when somebody criticizes me or gets upset with me for something I’ve said or haven’t said or whatever it is, like that shakes everything in me. It shakes my confidence, it shakes my mood, it shakes my joy, it shakes everything. And what that means, let me just be honest with you, what that means is that my need to be liked has gotten out front of my God. What I’ve really realized is that that shaking that goes on in my life, that is the temper tantrum of a petulant wannabe God. What is it for you? What is the one thing in your life that if it gets threatened shakes everything else? Maybe it’s your finances, maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s your kids or your…it’s your career or something like that. That thing that if it looks like it’s not gonna work out exactly what you’re hoping, suddenly everything looks like it’s falling apart. Listen, that is a temper tantrum from being thrown by a petulant wannabe God.
Maybe the last question is what would somebody who knows me well say about my priority? That’s a risky question, but if you really wanna figure out what needs to be demoted in your life, you might ask somebody in your life that question. Here’s the reality, we often find that our life is a mess because we’re picking the wrong priority. And some of us, as I did that first thing, you’re like, “Yeah. Things just don’t fit. Things aren’t going everywhere. Things are falling apart. I can’t get any traction. I can’t get any movement.” Like I’ve been there. I know exactly what that is like. But if that’s what you feel about your life, then you might need to say something to yourself, something that I’ve had to say at different points in my life to myself, sometimes you have to look in the mirror and you have to say this, you have to say, “My life’s a mess because I keep picking the wrong priority. My life’s a mess because I keep picking the wrong priority. It’s not because God’s not good. It’s because I haven’t let him be God. I haven’t made him my priority.” It’s a tough thing to say, but it’s the thing we have to say to ourselves. You might need to go home, you might need to look in the mirror and you need to say, “My life’s a mess,” or maybe you just need to do what I do, “Dude…” I don’t know how you talk to yourself. That’s how I talk to myself, “Dude, your life’s a mess because you keep picking the wrong priority.”
And the reality too is sometimes we don’t even pick the right priority or the wrong priority. We don’t pick priorities at all. We just kind of deal with things as they come. And in other words, what’s really happening is circumstances are choosing our priority for us. But in one way, though, whether it’s deliberate or unconscious, we’re putting something in the first place that’s not capable of dealing with the other things. The only priority that’s worth picking is the one that can bring everything else together under the way that works, right? Listen, you can’t go to work and ask, you know, “What does my 3-year-old want me to do here?” You can’t go home and look at your husband, or your wife, or your boyfriend, or your girlfriend and go, “What does my work want me to do here?” You know, the only priority should be the one thing that can bring everything together. So that’s how we know that kids and careers should not be the priority. What should?
Well, God begins the Big Ten with a very simple but incredibly important statement. He says, “Pick me. Pick me as your priority. Pick me because I love you.” The reality is the picking the right priority is the only way to true peace and lasting joy. I love the way Jesus said it. He said, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and they beat against that house, and yet it did not fall because it had built its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose up, the winds blew and they beat against the house and it fell with a great crash.”
Here’s what I don’t like about that. The storm came against both houses. Picking the right priority does not exempt you from the storms of life. I wish it did, but the reality is that putting God first, picking God as your priority is not a hard right turn onto Easy Street. I mean, you see what’s going on in Afghanistan right now as our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted, their lives are in incredible danger right now? It’s not because they didn’t put God first, it’s because they put God first. The reality is there are a lot of wannabe gods out there, whether they’re pretending or we promoted them, and they lash out when we stop making them our priority. Our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan are experiencing that right now. But here’s the thing, there’s a huge difference between facing difficult circumstances and falling apart in the face of them. And God’s promise is if you put me first, I’ll get you through this and I’ll bring you to joy. I’ll even bring you joy in the midst of the storm. Here’s the reality. God is the only priority worth picking. He’s the only voice out there saying pick me because I love you and I have joy for you. Because how do we do it? How do we start picking God as our priority?
Well, number one, we’ve talked about it a little bit, you can demote something. Identify that thing that’s been getting out front of God and demote it. Sit it down and go, “Hey. We got to have a hard conversation. I’m gonna have to let you go. Maybe I can find a job for you in the mailroom, but you don’t get to be boss anymore.” Identify that thing and demote it. Okay? Number two, you can join us for the rest of this series because really, the next nine commandments in very practical ways, work out what it looks like to make God the priority. That’s why this was the first one because it’s foundational for the other nine. So make sure you don’t miss that over the next few weeks. Another thing you can do is you can schedule time with him. We mentioned that already. Maybe literally go into your calendar and schedule time when you’re gonna spend time reading God’s Word, or praying daily, or worshiping weekly, being part of a small group, which, by the way, is another thing we can talk about.
Before I do that, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about serving. Another thing you can do to start putting God first, you can start serving. Start actually putting not only your, you know, finances in God’s control, but also your time in God’s control. Being on mission with him. I love it, I got a text this week from a friend of mine here at Mission Hills, and he’d be embarrassed that I’m sharing this, but I was so proud of him, he texted me and he said, “I’m watching all the stuff going on in Afghanistan and like maybe I could sponsor some Christian refugees from Afghanistan to come here and I can get them set up and help them kind of get life going here. Do you know who I could talk to about doing that?” And I was like, “No, but I’ll find somebody and I’ll let you know and we’ll get this figured out.” But what I love about it was he wasn’t just going out and pointing out, “Oh, these are bad decisions. This was handled badly. This is a bad thing that’s happening,” he’s going, “How can I do something good?” He’s looking to serve as the church. I love that. What he’s doing, he’s making God a priority. He’s making God the priority. Serving in the church or as a church is a powerful way to start making God the priority. And then I said, “We’ll come back to it. This is important.”
Another thing you can do is you can join a community that’s making God their priority. We talked about it a few weeks, you can join a small group that’s making God a priority so you can push each other on towards doing that. Last option I’ll share with you just…this is all just some stuff to kind of get the ball rolling. Another thing you can do for some of you is you can say yes to following Jesus. Because I know some of you are listening to this message and God’s never been the priority. Maybe you’ve been part of a church in your life and maybe you haven’t. Maybe this is your first time with us but you’ve never made a deliberate decision to say to God, “I’m gonna put my trust in you.” Remember who we’re talking about, is the God who loves us so much, he sent his own Son to die for us, raised him from the dead and gives us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sin, adopted into the family of God, and to live with God forever simply by putting our faith in what he has done for us already. And if you’ve never made that decision, today is the day to make that incredible and incredibly important first step in making God your priority.
Would you pray with me? God, as people who have put our faith in Jesus and have that relationship, we just confessed to you that there are ways that we have allowed other things to get out in front of you. For some of us, they’re spirits who pretend and for many of us, they are things we’ve promoted, but we recognize them. We confess them to you right now. We ask for your forgiveness. And we’re grateful knowing that your love comes before your law. Your commitment to us comes before your commands for us and so we can be confident that every time we identify those things, we’ve allowed out front, you are quick to forgive us. And we ask for strength of your Holy Spirit to start making steps to make you our priority because you’re the only priority worth picking.
As followers of Jesus too, we take a moment right now, we just pray for those listening to this message around the world who have never taken that incredibly important first step of getting into that relationship with you. And if that’s you, if you’ve never made that decision to trust Jesus, today’s the day. Everything that God promises in Scripture comes from the relationship. And it’s a relationship he’s inviting you into right now. It’s a relationship you can begin simply by saying yes. You’re just gonna say something like this, just have this conversation with God in your heart right now, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’ve made a lot of other things my priority. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I’m ready to say yes to faith in you. Jesus, I’m gonna trust you. I’m gonna seek to make you my priority. I receive forgiveness, adoption into God’s family, and eternal life. Amen.”
I had several people will make that decision this weekend. Can we celebrate that decision? This is awesome. Hey, if you made that decision for the first time this weekend, would you please let us know? We just wanna celebrate with you. We wanna get you some resources to help you begin experiencing everything that God has for you. So if you’re watching online, you can click the button below me that says I committed my life to Jesus. Anywhere else, you can simply text the word Jesus to 80875, 80875. Let us know you made the decision so we can celebrate and also so we can get you these resources to help you begin experiencing it. Would you stand with us? We’re gonna head out of this place, you’re gonna turn off this live stream in a moment, we’re gonna go out into a world where there are a lot of wannabe gods clamoring, competing to be our priority. So let’s take a moment before we go out into that chaos to worship the only God who’s worth picking. Amen? Amen.
We are wired to worship and as we move through life, we must make sure to keep our attention on God and not give our worship to other “things” that are not worthy of our focus. We can strengthen our relationship with God by following his commandments and this week we are guided through the pitfalls of modern idolatry.
You know, last week, we started a brand-new series, and we are in a series on the Ten Commandments. And so we’re gonna be walking… Last week, Pastor Craig started us and I’m gonna continue on commandment two. And we’re gonna go for the next 8 weeks as we walk through these Ten Commandments. And here’s what we hope, our hope, just like every other series that we walk through, that we will not just know good facts, or we won’t just kind of understand what the Bible says, but we will actually allow ourselves to be transformed by God and to be able to see what it looks like for us to look more like him, and to join him on mission. And so today is no different. Although we’re talking about these rules and these commandments, there’s something pretty powerful in the midst of it. And if you’re with us this summer, you know that we were in a series in the Book of Galatians. It’s a New Testament letter. And the whole idea of that letter of Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote it to believers, people that were newer in their faith, because there were some people that were trying to get them to follow a whole bunch of rules and said, “If you follow these rules, then you can have a relationship with God.”
You see, they were so dead set on the Law, the old covenant, the Old Testament covenant, that they tried to bring that along in their relationship with Jesus. And so the letter to the Galatians was all about Paul saying, “No, no, no, that’s not what you do. Rules cannot create relationship.” But yet, here we are just a few weeks later, and what are we talking about? We’re talking about commandments, we’re talking about rules. It seems like we’re taking a sharp deviation from what we just talked about this summer. But in actuality, we have to understand that this is just a key principle. And Pastor Craig eloquently led us in this last week so if you haven’t listened to last week’s message, I encourage you to do that. But one of the things we realize, that rules don’t create relationship, but they absolutely regulate them. That if you think about our relationships that we have on earth, no matter what relationship, I mean, there are standards, there are rules, there are ways in which…principles, ways in which that we interact with one another, our relationship with God is no different than this.
And so we are talking about these commandments, these Ten Commandments that many of us throughout the course of our lives, you may have heard referenced. You don’t have to be a churchgoer to have ever heard of the Ten Commandments. But here’s what’s interesting, not only are we diving into this reality that we’re looking at these rules, understanding they don’t create relationship, but they regulate them, the subtitle of what we’re talking about, this series, The Big Ten, the Ten Commandments, is ancient rules for modern joy.
And so some of us might be sitting like, “I still don’t understand this. How do rules and joy go together?” Because if you were like a kid, or like me, like when your parents give you rules, there’s typically not a lot of joy that follows those rules. But yet there is this relationship between rules and commandments and joy that is found. And here’s why. Because through the Ten Commandments, what God is doing is he’s actually prescribing to us what a life with him at the center looks like through these commandments. And these principles and these rules are not created to control us, but to point us towards a Kingdom-focused life that God has for every single one of us. And joy, true joy and freedom is not found in a life without any rules to do whatever we want, but it’s actually found…the abundant life is found where God and his purposes, and his principles are at the very center and core of who we are. And so we’re gonna unpack a little bit more of the context of where God’s people were in the midst of God giving Moses the Ten Commandments and communicating it.
But just for a basic understanding, we’re gonna break this down a little bit more, God’s people had just come out of Egypt. They had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. And so five or six generations of Hebrews had come up, enslaved and in slavery in this empire that’s called Egypt. God had just rescued them out of that, God had claimed that they are his people, that he shows up, and he rescues them, and he leads them out of bondage, their backs are up against the Red Sea, pharaoh’s army is barreling down on them because he’s regretting letting them go. And then God parts the Red Sea, they walked through it, and then the waters converge on the Egyptian soldiers that were chasing after them. So God had just rescued them. Do you know what God was demonstrating? God was demonstrating his love, his rescue plan, he’s initiating his pursuit of humanity.
And so here’s the interesting thing that we understand. Here’s the context, that God was telling them that he loved them, that God’s commitment to us always comes before his commandments for us. And so God isn’t just laying down a bunch of rules, God is actually affirming his commitment to his people by rescuing them, and saying, “You know I love you. You know I’ve rescued you, you know I’ve pulled you out of bondage and slavery. And now that I’ve shown you my affection, now that I’ve shown you my love, now that I’ve shown you my commitment, I’ve got some commandments because our relationship needs to be regulated with one another.”
And so as we talk about the second commandment this week…last week, Craig launched us in the first commandment, do not have any other gods before me, don’t worship idols, we’re gonna talk about the second commandment. And the second commandment actually has a little bit to do with idolatry. On the surface, they almost seem like they’re the same commandment. But they’re not. They’re very different. Because the second commandment actually centers on this concept that we’ve got to understand this gargantuan issue in our walk with God. And here’s the issue. What is worship? What does worship look like? How do we worship? And who do we worship? There’s a couple of things that I want us to consider as we launch this idea. We’re gonna consider that we might find ourselves worshiping other things instead of God. We may actually find ourselves as we talk today, as we walk through the Scripture, that we not only worship other things, instead of God, we try to worship things alongside of God, so we add other things to kind of worship because we think our life’s gonna go better. And then we’re actually gonna consider how we actually use worship, to try to manipulate God and keep God in a box.
And I think it’s good as we talk about this concept of worship to fully understand this concept. It’s good to talk about what worship is, but sometimes it actually helps us to think about what it isn’t. Like, I think if we would ask somebody and say, “What is worship,” we would be tempted to say that worship is the 20 minutes in church, where everyone stands and the band is up front and leads us in songs before the pastor starts speaking. Like, that’s what we think worship is. And for some of us, like we’re really awkward singing. Like, I remember the first time I walked into a church. The first time I walked into church… My background, I was born in another country, I grew up Muslim, I met Jesus in college. I walk into this church because I figured, well, that’s what I should probably do now that I follow Jesus, so I go to a church, and the church was meeting at a high school auditorium, which was really weird to me. I walk in, and everyone is standing and singing, which was really weird to me. And not only are they singing, they are seeing a song about a bloody lamb and people being covered in blood. And I was like, “Man, they’re right, Christians are nuts. Like, what did I get myself into?”
But the reality is worship isn’t a standing and singing words put to harmonious music. Worship is much, much more than that. A framework that I like to think about when I think about this idea of worship, is worship is ascribing ultimate worth or value to someone or something. That worship is us ascribing value, or worth to someone, or something. In a way what worship is, is ascribing value to something or someone that we’re ascribing value. We’re deeming that person or that thing worthy because we believe our identity and our worthiness comes from that person or that thing. You see, follow me here, that when we talk about worship in the Christian sense, the way that biblical worship looks like is we identify in our minds, we know that God is Almighty, that he is Creator, that he spoke, and the world began, he knows every hair on our head, and he accepts us, and he embraces us.
So in our worship, we actually, we reflect that worth back to him in our lives, not just our singing, but throughout the way we live our lives because we make this statement knowing that as we acknowledge him, we know that he is the one that gives us our worth, and our identity. Worship outside of any of that is actually not true biblical worship in spirit and in truth. Because the problem is, it’s not that we cease to worship. The problem is that the object of our worship becomes confused and our worship can very easily become warped because we find ourselves worshiping a whole lot of other things. Even though in our minds, we say, “Hey, we’re here, I wanna worship God, I wanna live for God,” but the way that we live our lives does not connect with that.
So consequently, many of us find ourselves in a place where we worship a plethora of things. We may not be singing to them, or coming to a gathering to learn about those things, but we absolutely are giving our life to those things, that it seems like every moment of our day, we’re thinking about these things, we give our energy to these things, we give our effort, our emotions, everything is centered around these things that we create that we typically find ourselves worshiping. On one hand, we say that we trust God to provide for our needs, but then it’s our job, our vocation, our financial status, the government, our relationship status, how people view us, that we very quickly find our identity and our value in these other things. And when we do that, we’re actually clouding our worship, and we diversify our worship portfolio. That we have all these little things that we start to give our lives to because deep down inside… Do you know why we do this? Do you know why our hearts gravitate towards idols? Do you know why God, in the first two commandments, that one-fifth of the Ten Commandments is centered on this idea of idol worship? Is because our hearts were created to worship. God created us in his image, so that we would worship. Like that’s a part of our beings. We are spiritual beings, with physical bodies. And the spiritual being part of us craves God and it craves this thing, worship. So when we don’t worship God, we quickly find ourselves worshiping a lot of other things.
And I don’t think we divide our worship because we don’t love God. I wonder and as we’re gonna take a look, I wonder if it’s ultimately because we’re not sure we can fully trust God. We’re not fully able to trust that God is who he says he is, that God is able to provide what he says he’s gonna provide. And because I don’t fully understand God’s ways, I’m gonna go out and I’m gonna create all these other avenues or ways for me to be able to be satisfied through things in life. But I think sometimes we’ve got to realize, like this morning, that we create idols because we’re not sure God is trustworthy enough. You see, we’re wired to worship, we’re wired for these things. And so that’s why as we take a look at the second commandment, that we understand that it is God and God Almighty, that is worthy of our worship. And my hope is as we take a look at the second commandment, as we unpack this reality of worship, we’re gonna be able to see things just a little bit differently. Then we’re gonna take our Christian life from an intellectual ones in our minds, and move it towards an actual expression of how we live our lives in worship before God Almighty, because he is the one that gives us our ultimate worth.
So with all of that understanding, with all of that foundation, let’s dive into and take a look at the Ten Commandments. Again, we’ve made the statement, where we’re at right now in the history of God and his people, God had just rescued his people. But I wanna give us a little bit more time to think about what had happened to God’s people for 5 or 6 generations, 400 years, almost twice the amount of time that the United States has been a country, they were in captivity, 400 years.
And what had happened over those 400 years? What had they grasped? What had they understand? What had they started to observe about the way that the Egyptians worshipped? That the Egyptian culture was rooted in this idea of idol worship, that there was many statues and not just the Egyptians, but many of the other pagan religions, and many of the other pagan countries and nations and empires, they would worship by this thing, they would create these statues. And these statues that they would create, they would be animal-like creatures, and there were animals from the air, there was birds, and there was beasts, and there was fish, and they would create all of these statues and what the statues would represent. The statues themselves weren’t God. They recognize that the gods were not the statues. But what the statues did is they actually stood in place of the gods or goddesses. And so as they would worship through that statue, they believed that they were actually eliciting power from these gods or goddesses so that they might be able to do things for the humans as they provided this type of worship.
And here’s the thing about the idols that were worshiped and the gods that were worshipped by the Egyptians, it seemed as if when the Egyptians would call on these gods, things would happen, that there was power in these idols. But just as Craig walked us through last week, it’s…they weren’t gods or goddesses as the way that we know God, Yahweh the Creator to be God, they were lesser gods, they were more fallen angels, they were demonic forces. And absolutely, there was power in the demonic realm, but those powers are greater than God’s power. Look at it this way, when Moses went before pharaoh, and demanded that pharaoh let God’s people go, his staff, Moses’ staff turned into a snake. And then he took the staff and he touched it in the water and the Nile, the water of the Nile became blood. Well, the magicians and the enchanters of pharaoh did the exact same thing, their staff became a snake and they turned the water into blood as well.
And so here’s what we find, there is power in these gods, but they’re not God the way that we come to know God Almighty. So there were these statues, and that’s what God’s people had observed for 400 years, watching all of this take place. And not only were there statues of these gods or goddesses, it was very customary for these cultures to have statues of their kings, or their rulers, or pharaoh. And so there would be these statues of the king that were placed all over the kingdom, and what those statues would represent is that king was represented on that land, and those statues represented…they were almost the ambassadors saying that this land belongs to this king.
So creating statues and worshipping through these statues was nothing new to God’s people, when they had come out of Egypt. And so this is where we find ourselves. And this is why the first commandment that God said, “You should have no other gods before me,” because there is danger in idolatry and replacing God. You see, and so as they walked and as they lived in this idea of Exodus, in the Exodus, God’s people knew that God loved them. And they loved God, they just weren’t sure how to correctly worship him. And I wonder if we might find ourselves in a place very similar to what the Hebrews would realize, that we live in a culture that tells us to worship anything and everything, and not just worship with our time and our energy, but to actually gain our worth and our identity from things of this world. See, they’d just come from captivity in this nation, and they adopted all of the things that the Egyptians had worshipped. And a good parallel for us is to understand that we might find ourselves in that exact same place, that we find our worth from all these different lesser gods that have been created.
So with all of this background, with all of this understanding, after God had said, “You should have no other gods before me,” we understand a little bit more why the second commandment was so important. “You shall not make for yourselves an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them for I the Lord your God, I’m a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me but showing love to a thousand generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Basically, here’s what he’s saying, “I know where you’ve been. I know what you’ve seen. I know the kind of worship that you have seen other people engage in. But don’t do it like that.” Like some people look at this verse, and we say, “Well, that means we shouldn’t make any images of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath. Don’t make any images of God.” Well, that’s not what this is saying. Because he’s not saying, “Don’t make any images, he’s just saying don’t worship those images.” Because when we worship those images, we are tempted to worship those or to use those as a substitute to worshiping God and living for God.
You see, the first commandment very clearly tells us who to worship. And the second commandment gives us a warning on how to worship. And it forbids this false worship. And you and I may not be bowing down to these statues that people would do in this culture, but we absolutely cloud our worship by allowing other things to creep on our lives. So here’s what it kind of looks like. Take a look at this dinner plate, this kid’s dinner plate. And for many of us, this is what our life looks like, we have all these compartments that are a part of our life. And God goes in this compartment right here. And then our job goes in this compartment, our finances go here. Our relationship goes here. The way that we want people to view us maybe physically, maybe how healthy we are, or unhealthy, whatever it is, how we physically look, that goes here, then we have all these little compartments. But here’s the danger of that. That many of us… I don’t know if you guys have ever seen a kid…I’ve got one of my kids like will not even allow his food to touch. Like won’t even allow. Like for me, I just mix everything up and just eat it all, all together. But for a lot of us that’s what our life looks like. It’s compartmentalized. God’s here, finances here, relationship here, marriage here, or desire for marriage here, you find all these different compartments. And here’s the problem with that is we’re asking God to coexist with all these other things that we have in our life that we believe are actually gonna give us the life that we want and fulfill us with our deepest desires. But here is the problem. Nothing in this world can fulfill us because the only one that can fulfill us is the one who created us.
You know, Tim Keller says it this way, “The greatest danger is not that we become atheists, but that we ask God to coexist with the idols in our hearts.” You see, that’s the greatest danger. It’s not that we stopped believing in God. It’s that we actually elevate everything else to a godlike status in our lives. See, God deserves wholehearted worship directed towards him alone, not a coexistent sharing of his glory with other idols that we create and lean on. But here’s the thing about God. He’s not gonna force us to worship correctly. He gives us a choice. And here’s the choice. He says, “What are you gonna base your life on? Where are you gonna find your identity? Where are you gonna find your worth? Are you gonna find it in things of this world? Are you gonna find it into the one, the only one that knows you deep down inside?” Here’s the thing about God is he won’t settle for anything less than our wholehearted devotion, he’ll continue to pursue us until we lay down our wholehearted devotion.
So here’s a few dangers that we’ve identified with idols. First of all, one of the dangers of idolatry is that we would worship something instead of Jesus, that we would cut him out because we’re not even sure we can trust him. So that we go after and we start worshiping and find our worth in other things. The second danger is we try to worship other things alongside of Jesus, and actually compartmentalize and put everything on the same playing field, and just ask him to be a part of our lives. And the third danger that we’re gonna find is we actually use worship, or use these idols to kind of get what we want, almost in a way we manipulate God and put him in a box.
And here’s what’s really ironic about the Ten Commandments, that just as Moses was up on Mount Sinai, receiving these commandments and the rest of the instructions from the Lord, God’s people, the Israelites, the Hebrews had come out of Egypt, and they’re waiting at the base of the mountain for Moses. And time goes by and they start getting impatient, and they start getting impatient, and they start getting impatient. And they think to themselves, “Well, God must care for us because we saw the miracles, we saw the plagues, that miraculously God rescued us from Egypt. We were up against the Red Sea. God rescued us there. God must love us. But has he abandoned us? And that guy, Moses that was leading us…” They actually tell Aaron, Moses’ brother, you can find it in Exodus chapter 30, they tell Aaron, “Hey, we don’t know what happened to your brother, the one that kind of led us here, like we’re not sure what happened to him. But we’ve got to do something about this, because we’re just left here abandoned.”
And so they gather all the gold earrings, and all the gold bracelets, and all the gold that they brought out of Egypt. And they erect this idol, they create this god, they create this golden calf. And here’s the thing about the golden calf, if you look at the history of the people in that region, cows and calves were very sacred animals. And so they didn’t create this golden calf because they wanted to worship the calf, they weren’t wanting to worship that golden calf. But what they believed they were doing is they were creating an avenue for God to lead them. You see, calves and cows were actually ways in which some of the gods, some of the other nations would believe their gods rode cows to go from one place or another. It was almost like a mode of transportation. And so what they were trying to do is saying, “We don’t know what God is up to. We know God is real, he’s rescued us, the person that was supposed to lead us is gone. So maybe we are supposed to erect this golden calf, this golden statue, and maybe help God out a little bit, so that we can get to where we wanna go.”
They created that idol because they grew impatient. And they were trying to manipulate the outcome. And where did they learn all of this? They learned it by the way of life they lived, when they were in Egypt. You see, when you try to manipulate God, you’re no longer worshiping him or finding your worth in him. You’re finding worth in yourself. You’re not leaning on to his power, or his strength. You’ve taken all the control for ourselves. So they created this calf just like everybody else did. But God would not be boxed in. But the correct way of worship is letting God loose. You see, here’s the problem, when God rescues you from your former way of living, you cannot go back to that same way to receive the living water that only comes from the wellspring of life that is found in Jesus.
You see, the story of the Exodus is a story of Moses leading God’s people out of the physical bondage in Egypt, which becomes a precursor to Jesus leading God’s people out of spiritual bondage. What God’s people experienced physically in bondage in Egypt is the exact same type of bondage you and I experience spiritually in our life. So Moses was sent to release the Israelites from a physical bondage, and Jesus came, so that we might be released from spiritual bondage of these many idols that we follow after. You know, for my life, for much of my life, with my story, I was growing up as a little Iranian kid in Southern California, I really didn’t have a ton of friends. I didn’t know the language very well. I didn’t know the culture well at all. But here’s what I knew, I was bigger than everybody else so I can play football. And that was like the only place that I would find my acceptance. And so from elementary school, to the playground, to middle school, to high school, like that’s what my life was all about was being a part…being known as a football player. That’s anything my life was about. That was my identity. That was where I found my worth.
And then I find myself coming to Colorado playing football at Colorado State when we used to be good. And I found myself at Colorado State. And same thing my entire life, my entire identity, anything I was was known as this football player. And then my senior year…I’d worked really, really hard the years previously, and my senior year was supposed to be the first year I was gonna start. Like, I was looking for this, I worked my tail off all summer long, just so I’d have this opportunity. And three days before our first game, in my senior year, in practice, I ended up getting my eighth concussion. So…wait, I forgot what I was saying. I’m just kidding. I shouldn’t say that, I shouldn’t say that, I shouldn’t say that, it’s a terrible joke, terrible joke.
But after I got that concussion, the doctors were like, “No way you’re gonna be able to play again.” So they literally, like literally took my helmet out of my locker and wouldn’t give back to me. And so this thing that was my identity for so much of a part of my life like was taken away. And because my life had been built upon this place, where I found my acceptance, and where I found my worth, when that was taken away, guess what else went downhill, my worth and my identity. So here’s the danger with the idols that we’ve created in our lives that we worship, we give our time, our energy, our thoughts, our emotions to all of these things… And these are good things. Sometimes they’re actually really good things.
An idol doesn’t become an idol just because it’s a good thing. It becomes an idol when it becomes an ultimate thing. We allow these things to become our ultimate desires, our relationship status. I mean, that’s my only desire is changing my relationship status. My children, my life, my job, my car, my vacations, how I look online, like we give all of our energy into these things because we have falsely believed that these things will actually give us our worth. So the question for us is, well, what do we do? How do we live? How do we worship? I believe it begins with daily surrender, a daily acknowledgement, surrendering, believing that God is supreme and worthy of our continual submission.
And here’s what it looks like played out in our lives. Instead of this plate being our life and the life that we wanna create, and I wanna put God here, and my job here, and my finances here, and my vocation here, all these, instead of creating our life, here’s what a life of worship looks like. The plate is Jesus, and anything and everything else in our life gets placed in him, that every part of our being, everything that we pursue, the plate itself is Jesus. He’s not just something on the plate, he’s not just something on our lives, he is our life. And if we went through our lives understanding that he is the totality, and the foundation of my life, and I have him at my core, then I can add these other things that are good things on to that, but understanding they will never take the place of who Jesus was intended to be in our lives.
One of the other reasons we don’t worship images of God is because Jesus is the image of the Lord Almighty. Colossians chapter 1, verse 15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Like we don’t create images, because Jesus is the image. We already have the opportunity to live, and to worship, and to walk with him on a daily basis. You see, for these Hebrews, they thought that they had to add things on to worshiping God, because they couldn’t fully trust him. And here’s where I wanna pause for a moment. And I think deep down in my heart, you’re not logged on online, because you don’t, like, want anything to do with God. You’re not here in this place, because you don’t want anything. I believe in my heart, we are here, we’re logged on, we’re engaged, because there’s something in us that desires this connection with God Almighty.
And yet, because we don’t understand his ways, and yet, we’re not entirely sure if we can fully trust him, we allow our hearts to be divided to go after all these other things. So we try to add things onto the plate. Well, can I tell you that Jesus plus friends is really good. Jesus plus my family is great. Jesus plus church and gathering is exceptional. It’s wonderful. But Jesus plus nothing is everything for us. That’s all that we need. When we understand that he is the plate, he is the one who created us, that knows us, and wants to be in relationship with us, that God says, “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love,” this is a fundamental truth of our identity, that he has loved us with an everlasting love. Whether we feel it or not, you belong to God for eternity, to eternity. And for us, our life here on this earth is just a little opportunity with the moments, and the hours, and the days, and the years, that we have on this earth to simply reflect back and say, “God, I love you too.”
You see, every day we have the opportunity to respond to God with a thankfulness for his love. That’s true worship, living in a state of thankfulness, making the statement, choosing to say, “I don’t know why this is happening, I don’t know why a certain thing hasn’t happened yet, but I’m willing to trust you. That I refuse to worship these other idols. I refuse to allow anything else to get into the way of my relationship with God.” Do you remember when I said that kings would set up those statues all across their kingdoms? So that anyone that came across that land would know, “Oh, that statue is a representation of that king, that king owns this area. He rules over this area.”
Do you know in Genesis 1:26, do you know God said, “Let us…” that God had…the Triune God speaking, “Let us make mankind in our image and in our likeness.” That we are the representation of God in this world. That his imprint, his fingerprint is upon us. That we don’t have to go out and create and to create these images of God because first of all, Jesus is the image and you and I are representations of that image, no matter where we go. There was this interaction that Jesus had, with a few religious leaders. It’s captured for us in the Gospels. And the religious leaders thought they wanted to trap Jesus, they wanted to get rid of Jesus. And so they kept trying to come up with words and things to say that would get Jesus to slip up and hopefully people wouldn’t follow him or he’d be arrested.
And so they thought they came up with the perfect question. And they said, “Jesus, are we to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” And they were giddy, like they thought they had him because if Jesus said, “Yes, pay your taxes to Caesar,” then what he was doing was aligning himself with the evil Roman Empire, and people would stop following him and listening to him. Or if Jesus would say, “No, don’t gotta pay your taxes to Caesar,” guess who’s gonna get really upset? Caesar. Seemingly, they had Jesus, they trapped him. But Jesus being Jesus, he said, “Why don’t you take out one of those coins, the denari. Why don’t you take out the coin?” So they took out the coin. And Jesus very just quietly says, “Whose image, whose image is on that coin?” They look at the coin, and they’re like, “Well, it’s Caesar.” And Jesus is like, “Great. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. His image is on it, give it to him. But also make sure you give to God what belongs to God, his image is on you.”
You see, that’s the idea of what it means to live a life of worship. It doesn’t mean don’t pursue your career. It doesn’t mean don’t pursue these good things. Don’t allow those things to be ultimate things. And we find our worth in not what we pursue, we find our worth in whose we are, and whose image we’ve been created in. I think maybe some of us just need to be reminded that no matter how messed up our life has gotten, or how twisted things have been for us, we’re image bearers of God. And he’s not embarrassed that we’re his mage bearers. He’s claimed us and he’s redeemed us, and he loves us in a way that we may not understand. And so again, worship, it’s not singing in church. It’s living a life bringing glory, honor, and praise to the only One that can give us our true identity, and our true sense of worth.
If at any point today, if you find yourself in a place saying, “Ah, it’s time for me to surrender, it’s time for me to stop finding my worth in these other things. I wanna find my worth in Jesus and Jesus alone,” we wanna come alongside of you. Simply take out your device, take out your phone, and simply text the name Jesus to 80875. We would love to be in contact with you, and help you, and walk you through this idea of finding your worth, and your identity in him and in him alone. If you’re able, would you please stand with me as we close in prayer? Father, thank you so much for your grace and your mercy. We thank you that even in the midst of our lives where we don’t fully comprehend, or fully understand where you’re at, or what you’re up to, God, that we can surrender to the power of your Holy Spirit in our lives, and choose to worship you and worship you only.
So Lord, even though our hearts are these idol-making factories that create these different things that we wanna pursue, Lord, would you bring us back to the reality that you are the God, the one who knows us, and who leads us, and guides us. So as we sing this last song, God, I pray that you would continue to affirm these things in our hearts. In your name we pray. Amen.
Week three of our series focuses on the third commandment. Against God’s instruction we often use God’s name to justify our personal agenda and increase our own credibility. Instead we need to be someone who doesn’t need to justify your actions in an effort to prop up your reputation.
In fact, if you look at the Bible, what you’re gonna see consistently is that God invited people into a relationship, and then gave them the rules. He invited them to a relationship first and the rules came second, okay? Belonging doesn’t depend on behaving. The reality is according to the Bible and according to this thing called the Gospel of Jesus Christ, belonging depends on believing. Belonging to God depends on believing in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. When we say yes to following Jesus, we’re adopted to the family of God, we belong to God, and everything begins to change from there on out. So, the way we say it here at Mission Hills is this, it’s believing leads to belonging. Does that mean the behaving doesn’t matter? No, it’s just we gotta get in the right order. Belonging comes from believing. So believing leads to belonging, and belonging leads to behaving.
Behaving is important, but we gotta put it in the right place or we turn it into something God never intended it to be. I mean, the reality is this, as we’ve been saying in this series, rules don’t create relationships. Rules don’t create relationships, they regulate them. They regulate relationships that we already have. They keep the relationships moving in the right direction. That they allow the relationships to become everything that they could and should be. And that’s really the lens we have to look at the Ten Commandments through. They’re the rules that regulate the relationship that we have with God through faith.
Now today, we’re gonna be diving into the third commandment. So, if you wanna join me, we’re gonna be in the Book of Exodus chapter 20, starting in verse 7, Exodus 20, verse 7. And I wanna say this, I think that the third commandment is probably the most misunderstood of all the commandments. It’s the most misunderstood of all the commandments. And because of that, two things happen that I think are of deep concern to God. The first one is this, because we misunderstand the third commandment and we often end up breaking the third commandment without even realizing that’s what we’re doing, we are hurting the cause of Christ. We’re actually keeping the Gospel from advancing into the world and in individual lives in the way that it should. In fact, I know that there are many people here today listening to this message who are struggling with God, struggling to believe that God is good. And it’s because you have been wounded deeply, you’ve been hurt deeply by somebody who was actually breaking the third commandment. Misunderstanding the third commandment is hampering the advancement of the Gospel into the world and into our individual lives.
Second thing that happens because we misunderstand this commandment is we fail to see it for what it is. We fail to see it as an invitation by God to become the people that God intended us to be, and to enter into a life that that has all the things that God wants for us, including joy. We don’t see it as the invitation that it is. Hey, listen, I don’t know how many of you are dog owners. I don’t know how many of you are dog people. Because Mission Hills is filled with good and godly people, I’m gonna assume it’s most of you, okay? And I know there’s some people out there going, “Well, pastor, I’m more of a cat person.” I just want you to know it’s okay. God’s still working on me in some areas too, okay? You’re gonna get there. But here’s the thing about your dog, your dog thinks you’re amazing. Like, your dog thinks you’re brilliant. Your dog thinks that you are trustworthy and reliable to the highest possible degree.
I mean, think about it. When was the last time you said to your dog, hey, do you wanna go for a walk, and your dog looked at you skeptically? Like, “Yeah. I’m not falling for that one again.” No, I mean, for me, at least I say, you wanna go for a walk, and my dogs lose their minds, right? I don’t even have to be inviting them on a walk. Like, I can be talking to Coletta, and Coletta can go, oh, yeah, I went for a walk with so and so today, and our dogs are like, “We’re in. You said it, we’re totally in.” I mean, man, they believe us, our words have weight with our dogs. And here’s the thing, like, can you imagine how incredible it would be if everybody thought as highly of you as your dog does? Can you imagine if everybody thought you were as trustworthy and reliable as your dog does? Can you imagine if for everybody else, your words had as much weight as they do for your dog? That’s why we’ve called this message, “Be who your dog thinks you are.” Because that’s actually third commandment territory. A lot of people don’t realize that, but that’s actually what the third commandment is inviting us to.
So Exodus chapter 20, verse 7, third commandment says this, and I’m gonna read from the New International Version. If you grew up in church, this might seem a little different than the wording you might have grown up with, but the third commandment in the New International Version says this, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” I love that translation. I really think it’s maybe better than any of the other ones. It’s captured the intent of this. But again, it sounds a little different than some of us may have grown up with. How many of us grew up hearing kind of this version of it that would say something like this, “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain?” How many of us heard that kind of growing up? Yeah. That was the one I always heard. You get that in the English Standard Version, New American Standard, the old-fashioned King James, “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.”
And I’m gonna be honest, when I was growing up, I had no idea what that meant. Like, how do you take God’s name? What does that even mean? And then, I remember hearing as a kid that when a guy and girl get married, she would often take his name. She would change your name to his name. And I was like, “Is that what God’s talking about? He’s saying don’t rename yourself God?” Like, who would be vain enough to…? Oh, right there, right? Yeah. That must be an expression of vanity. That must be why it’s saying. And I couldn’t even imagine why anybody would do that. I mean, I knew a few people who thought they were God, but even they weren’t vain enough to rename themselves God, right? I just, like, it’s one of those commands that, like, I don’t guess this one really applies to me. I would never think of doing that and I can’t imagine anybody doing that.
And then, I started hanging out with some Hispanic families. And it’s interesting with Hispanic families, especially if they’re Jesus followers, a lot of times you’ll find in Hispanic Christian family somebody named Jesus. Like, named Jesus. And I remember the first time I met a Jesus, I was like, “Dude, like, I don’t wanna be the bearer of bad news, but you might wanna think about changing your name.” Right? Like Fernando, have you thought about Fernando? I think Fernando’s a great…I love Fernando. Maybe Juan, okay. I mean, there’s a lot of options, but I don’t think you wanna call yourself Jesus, right? But obviously, that’s not what this is talking about. It’s not.
And I was told maybe what you were told. I think a lot of us were told that, “Oh no, taking the Lord’s name in vain, misusing God’s name is when we use God’s name as an exclamation or an expletive.” An exclamation or an expletive, it’s when you step on a Lego and you get religious, right? Or somebody cuts you off in traffic and you go Old Testament prophet on them, right? You’re calling damnation from God upon them and the bucket of rust that they drove into your life on, right? Or nowadays, we see something amazing and we post it online with OMG, right? Oh my God. And it’s so interesting, right?
Like, our faith as a culture has, like, tanked, right? I mean, the degree and the influence of faith in our culture is like on a pretty steady downward trend, but the mentions of God in casual conversation have cranked up, right? I mean, you hear, oh my God constantly, and it’s not an expression of reference, right, it’s just an exclamation. Now, listen, here’s the thing, like, I’m gonna say to you, we shouldn’t do that. We shouldn’t use God’s name as an exclamation or an expletive. We shouldn’t do that. It’s disrespectful, but that’s not what this is talking about. This is actually talking about something much more serious than that. Something, again, that many of us do without even realizing that we’ve stepped into third commandment territory.
Okay. So, what is this talking about? Well, I think to answer that, it might be useful to move from the New International Version and pass the New American Standard and English Standard to what I call the CLT version, which is the Craig’s literal translation version, okay? Here’s a pretty literal translation of the original Hebrew of this command, basically it says, “You shall not lift up the name of the Lord lightly.” Pretty literal translation. You shall not lift up the name of the Lord lightly. Now, there’s three key pieces to it that if we understand, we’ll begin to zero in on what exactly this command is about. The first one he says is don’t lift up. And the Hebrew word there literally means don’t raise up like a flag. So, just don’t wave it around, okay? Basically, he’s saying kind of this. He’s saying, “Hey, don’t wave the God flag.” You might think of it, don’t play the God card, okay? Don’t bring God into the conversation. Don’t go waving God around in your conversation, okay? That’s the first part. Second part, he says, don’t lift up the name. Now, in the original language, he actually uses his original name, his proper name, Yahweh. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago that when God gave his people his name, it was an invitation to intimacy, it was an invitation to relationship. Names had power. Names were a lot more than just the sound you called somebody. Your name was your reputation, right?
We even do that in English today, we’ll say things like, you know, “My good name got dragged through the mud.” Right? My reputation got attacked. Name equals reputation. And the idea here is don’t go waving God’s reputation for some reason that’s not really called for. Because here’s the thing, we do this sometimes, right? We meet somebody, maybe we meet somebody famous, or we meet somebody that’s got some power or some authority, and so what do we do? We name-drop. Anybody here ever name-dropped? Can we be honest with each other at church? Come on, come on. My kids used to do it all the time. I’d hear them, “Well, Dad…” That was one sister trying to get the other sister to do what she wanted by bringing somebody else in with a little bit more authority. We name-drop, whether it’s parents, or the boss, or some other person with influence. We name-drop. And basically, what this command is saying, don’t lift up the name of the Lord. He’s basically saying, “Hey, don’t name-drop God’s name.” Stop name-dropping God. Stop name-dropping Jesus into the conversation.
Now, why would anybody do that? Why would you name-drop God into a conversation? The answer is so that you can get something that you want, right? So that you’ll get them maybe to give you their trust. They’ll trust you. Or maybe they’ll give you a second chance. Or maybe they’ll give you money or something else. It’s try to get something from them. And he says, “Hey, listen, don’t lift up the name of your Lord God lightly.” Sometimes translated as in vain, meaning uselessly or without cause, without a really good reason. And the bottom line really, what this command is saying is this, it’s saying, “Hey, don’t use God’s name for your gain.” That make sense, church? That’s the heart of it. Don’t use God’s name for your gain. Don’t bring God into it so you can get something you want out of it. Now, we would never do that, would we? We’d never bring God into it so that I can get something that I want out of it, would we? We do. I think there’s two ways that it happens pretty frequently. And we often use God’s name to, number one, to justify our agenda, and number two, to increase our credibility. That’s the two main ways that I think we do this, sometimes without realizing what we’re doing.
We use God’s name to justify our agenda and to increase our credibility. So, we use it to justify our agenda. And what I mean by that is what we basically communicate is, hey, it’s not my agenda, it’s the Almighty’s. This is not what I want, this is what God wants. We do it all the time. I have a friend, he’s a guy I coach, he’s a pastor. And he was telling me a while ago, he said, you know, there’s a weird culture at this church that I inherited, and the culture is that nobody has opinions. They all have a word from God. He says, “Every Sunday, there’s a woman who comes up to me and she says, ‘God told me to challenge you on that point.'” Every single week. And it’s usually about politics or some social issues, but she never says, “I disagree with that point.” She never says, “I’m struggling to understand how you could say that.” She always comes, she says, “God told me to challenge you on that point.” He’s like, “What am I supposed to do? What should I say?” And I said, “Well, next time she says, ‘God told me to challenge you,’ just tell her, ‘Well, God told me to say it. So I don’t know what we do now.'” Right?
But here’s the reality if I can be honest with you, pastors are the worst at this. Pastors are the worst at this. Playing the God card to get someone to get on board with their agenda. I remember years ago hearing a guy preaching on TV and he said, “God told me to tell you that if I don’t raise a million dollars by so and so a date, he’s gonna call me home.” I remember thinking, “Well, bon voyage.” Okay. Like, God didn’t tell you to say that. You’re using God to justify your agenda. That’s third commandment territory right there, okay? Pastors do it all the time. And here’s the reality, and this is where it really gets painful. History is littered with this trash. You hear me, church? History is littered with this trash. People have used the name of God to justify the crusades. People have used the name of God to justify the Holocaust. People have used the name of God to justify slavery. People are still using the name of God to justify racism, and prejudice, and injustice. They’re using God to justify their agenda. And that hurts the cause of Christ.
I regularly encounter people who say, “I don’t understand how you can say God is good when he was in favor of the Holocaust.” I don’t know how you can say God is good when he was in favor of the crusades, or slavery, or racism, or injustice. And I go, “Well, God’s not in favor of those things. Well, people have been saying for a long time, God told me to do this. God led us do this.” They’ve used the name of God to justify some pretty terrible things, but it wasn’t God. They were using God’s name to justify their agenda. And as I said, I know that there are many people listening to this right now, you are struggling to believe that God is good. And the reason is because you grew up in a home where you had somebody in your life who hurt you. That they controlled you. Maybe they even abused you. And they claimed it’s not what they wanted, it’s what God required. I know there are people listening who have had that experience. God was the sharp end of the stick used to keep you in that person’s line. And if that happened to you, I just wanna say, I’m sorry. But I know it’s the reality, this is what happens when we use God’s name to justify our agenda.
Now listen, if it comes right out of the Bible and you’re quoting it in context, that’s important. If it comes right out of God’s Word and you’re quoting it in context, feel free to say, “God told me,” feel free to say, “God said.” Shoot, if a bush catches fire and the words of the bush are in alignment with the words of the Book, that’s important too because there’s other spirits out there, okay? If the bush catches fire and the words of the bush line up, they’re consistent with the words in the Book, feel free to say, “God said.” But apart from that, maybe be careful about putting your words in God’s mouth because God has a word, he has a term for when we put our words in his mouth. God has a term for when we use his reputation to justify or to pursue our aspirations. He has a word, and that word is false prophecy. He has a pretty dim view of false prophecy. In the words of a legitimate prophet, man named Jeremiah, this is what God said, “And then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets,’ and you put a little of air quotes around that or you should, ‘the prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I’ve not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries, and the delusions of their own minds.'” It’s an interesting list.
He says, “They’re prophesying to you false visions and divinations.” Those are messages that came from other spirits than God. Reality is we and you have an enemy, and that enemy would like more than for his ideas to be put in God’s mouth. And sometimes we receive those messages from those spirits, but somehow we end up passing them off as God’s truth. And boy, let me tell you something, Satan has a field day when that happens. There’s some racism and some prejudice that I think fits into that category really neatly. He says, they’re prophesying idolatries, messages they got from idols. And an idol, of course, it’s something we put out front of God. And then having put it out front of God, we begin to treat it like God. And then its messages, we treat like divine revelation. I see it happening in American Christianity sometimes with politics. We put a political party kind of out front of God, and then the politics actually becomes our idol. And we confuse the words of our political party with the Words of our God. And that’s just not always the case. Listen, it’s fine to think of yourself as primarily Republican and primarily Democrat. That’s fine. But don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that your party is your God.
I don’t belong neither the Republican or the Democrat party. I heard a new friend of mine said the other day, “I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat. I’m a Christicratican.” I was like, “I’m joining that party, a Christicratican.” Yeah, it’s fine, take the good stuff from your party, repent the bad stuff, whichever side of the aisle you’re on, but don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that your political party speaks the Words of God every time they show up on a platform somewhere. Be careful about that. It happens in ministry too. Sometimes we make idols out of methods of ministry. It’s so interesting to me. I’m an expository teacher. If you don’t know what that means, it means that my typical way of preaching God’s Word is to take a passage and to unpack that passage. Take it apart, explain the pieces of it, put it back together, talk about how we live it. Sometimes I preach whole books, sometimes I preach sections of books, sometimes I preach just an individual passage. But probably 95% of the time, I preach a whole passage on a given weekend. It’s called expository teaching.
And that’s the way I’m wired. It’s the way I prefer. I think it’s a good way of doing ministry, but it bothers me when people begin to say, “That’s God’s way of doing ministry.” And I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it from people in this church that they look at other churches who don’t do it that way, other churches that… There’s another way of preaching that’s pretty common that’s called topical preaching. And that’s where people take kind of a topic we find in the Bible, and then they look throughout the Bible for different places to see what God has to say about it in different places. And they bring those together in a sermon, that’s called topical preaching. In the seminary, we called it systematic theology. It’s a really good thing. But some people who prefer topical or prefer expository teaching, look at people who do topical preaching and they go, “That’s not God’s way.” And I go, “How do you figure?” Because here’s the thing, the only model of preaching we find in the Scripture is actually topical preaching.
The only model we find if you look in the New Testament, if you look at sermons in the New Testament, they’re picking and choosing verses from the Old Testament. They’re moving quickly through them. They’re not going in-depth in any of them. That’s topical preaching. The only model we find in the Bible is topical preaching, and yet I’ve heard people who like expository preaching going, “That’s not God’s way, expository teaching is God’s way.” No, it’s not. And we need to be more in love with God’s Word than with a particular method of teaching God’s Word. Listen, just so you calm down, I’m not getting ready for a big change. This is who I am. We can be for what we are without being against what we aren’t. And by the love of God, let’s stop saying what we’re for is what God is for. This is a method God uses, but he uses those other methods too. We’re not gonna make idols out of methods. We’re not gonna make idols outta political parties. And we’re not gonna take the words that we find from those methods, from those parties, and put them in God’s mouth. He says, “There’s false delusions.” Amen. Amen.
And then he says, “There’s delusions of their minds.” They’re just crazy. They had an idea, maybe it was a good idea and they elevated that good idea to the level of divine revelation. It’s false prophecy. It’s using God’s name to justify your agenda, and God takes a pretty dim view of it. Just listen to this if I continue on in what he says here. Listen, he says, “Therefore, this is what the Lord says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name, ‘I didn’t send them, and yet they’re saying no sword or famine will ever touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine.” God’s got an ironic sense of humor, right? The things they say I would never do, I’m gonna do to them. Don’t put my words in your mouth. No, got that wrong. Don’t put your words in my mouth. Don’t use my name to justify your agenda. Let’s not forget third commandment has a threat, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord of God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Ten Commandments, only two of them have threats. This is one of them. Fifty percent of the threats in the Ten Commandments are attached to this idea of using God’s name to justify our agenda. Serious business.
There’s another way that we use God’s name for our gain, and that is sometimes we use name to increase our credibility. We’ve probably all done it without even thinking about it much. You say something to somebody and they’re like, “I’m not sure I believe it.” So what do you do? You go, “Swear to God.” Some people just got nervous. I swear on a Bible. My grandfather used to tell me outrageous stories and he loved Jesus, so I wanna believe he was telling the truth, but sometimes I’d question him and he’d go, “I’d swear on a stack of Bibles.” Anybody heard that one? And I was always like, “Well, I mean, one Bible I’d still be skeptical, but if you’d do it on a stack, like…” We’ve even incorporated into our legal system, right? You go in and you put your hand on the Bible and you say, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” say it with me, “so help me, God.” We’re using God to increase our credibility.
Seemed like a good idea, except that Jesus said this. Again, you’ve heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows that you have made.” “Keep your promises, keep your word,” he says. “But I tell you, do not swear in oath at all, either by heaven for its God’s throne or by the earth for it is his footstool or by Jerusalem for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.” And what he’s talking about here is that…see, the ancient Israelites knew that the third commandment prohibited them from using God’s name to increase their credibility, from using God’s name to get people to believe them when they made promises. And so, they’d kind of have figured out a workaround which was, we’re not gonna swear to God. We’re not gonna swear by God. We’re gonna swear by things that are precious to him. We’re gonna swear by heaven or by the earth, by the City of Jerusalem, or by the hairs on my head because they knew that even the hairs on our head are precious to God. Did you know that? Even the hairs on your head are precious to God. That’s how precious you are to him.
They didn’t swear to God, they swore by things that were precious to God. And Jesus says, you’re doing the same thing. You’re using God to increase your credibility. So what’s the alternative, right? Because we need to have our words have weight, don’t we? We need people to trust us. We have important things to say. We have kids to raise. We have families to lead. We have work to do and people to influence. We need to be people whose words have weight. If we can’t use God to prop up our reputation, if we can’t use God’s name to give our words some weight, then what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to get weight for our words? Here’s what Jesus says the alternative is. He says, “All you need to say is simply, ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ and pay attention to this. He says, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” That’s pretty serious, right? Anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Like, that’s right there parallel with a third commandment saying, “Hey, God will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” God says, Jesus, this is a big deal. This third commandment territory, this is place you do not wanna be.
Why is this such a big deal? I think it’s because God knows and his Son, Jesus knows, and even the devil knows that here’s the thing, when we use God’s name, when we use God to prop up our reputation, it’s God’s reputation that suffers. You hear me, church? When we use God to prop up our reputation, it’s often God’s reputation that ends up suffering. So, Jesus says don’t do it. He says, just use a simple yes or no. And I love the simplicity of that, but it’s important to understand that Jesus isn’t just telling us what words to use, he’s also telling us how to make those words work. He’s telling us how to give those words some weight. And it doesn’t come across very well in English, there’s no easy way to do it in English, but he repeats yes twice, and he repeats no twice in the original. And essentially, what he’s saying is something like, literally it’ll be like, let be your yes, yes and your no, no. And like, well, what does that mean? Well, here’s basically what he’s saying. He’s saying, “Hey, let your yes actually be a yes, and let your no actually be a no.” Does that make sense?
What he is really saying is this. He says, when you say yes to that good thing, do that good thing. Well, how often do I need to do the good thing that I said I’d do? Every time. If you’re gonna say yes, let your yes actually be a yes. And that bad thing you say, “No, I’m not gonna do that,” don’t do it. Never do it. So let your yes actually be a yes, let your no actually be a no. And you know what happens over time? If you say it and you do it, your word begins to have weight. People begin to look at you and go, “I can trust you. I can trust you with little things, and ultimately, I can trust you at the big things.” You’re gonna tell me God’s good, well, I haven’t seen you be a man or a woman of your word up to this point, so why would I believe your word on that? But when our words begin to have weight, all of our words have weight, including the most important words that we have to speak to people is we’re living on mission with Jesus. And so basically, what Jesus says here is this, “Hey, stop bringing God’s reputation into it to prop up your reputation.” Here’s the alternative, instead of using God’s reputation to prop up your reputation, how about this? How about become a person who’s doesn’t need propping up? You hear me, church? That’s what the third command is inviting us to. That’s what Jesus is unpacking it and pointing us to. Become a person whose reputation doesn’t need propping up, become a person whose word has weight because their word is true every single time.
Let me give you a couple of practical things that I’ve learned over the years. I was gonna say God told me these things, but I’m gonna back it up just a little bit and go, these are some things that I’ve learned over the years that I think that help in becoming a person whose reputation doesn’t need propping up. Number one, it’s very practical truth, okay, it’s just basic wisdom and it’s this, under-promise and over-deliver. It’s really good advice actually, under-promise and over-deliver. I didn’t use to be very good at this. My family used to help me. One of my responsibilities in my other church was building the sets for our sermon series. And my family’s always really good about helping me, and I was really bad about telling how long it would take. I would always tell them, “I think it’s gonna take a couple of hours. Couple of hours, we’ll get this done.” It never took a couple of hours. There’s a couple of times it took a couple of days, and I lost some credibility. I’m just gonna be honest with you. I mean, to the point now where, you know, even years after that, you know, I’ll say something about how long something’s gonna take. I think, “Well, I think it’ll take a…” “No. Stop. Hang a second. Let me guess, two hours?” Yeah. My words lost some weights.
Another area that I struggled that I think a lot of us need to kind of lean into is that I needed to learn that sometimes what I need to do is I need to say no. I need to say no. It’s better to say no to some good things so that I have the space to actually deliver on some great things. Some of you if you’re like me, you want people to like you and so you’re quick to say yes, but what it means is you often under-deliver on what you promise. It’s interesting there’s a parable, it’s in Matthew 21 if you wanna read it today. And Jesus is using the parable to say something slightly different, but there’s a principle in the parable, I think. And basically, he said, hey, there was a man with two sons. And he said to the first son, I want you to go out into the vineyards and work today. And the son said, “No, I’m not gonna do that.” But then he said…but later on he changed his mind, and he went out and he worked. And then, the second son, the man said to him, “I want you to go out in the vineyards to work.” And the son said, “Absolutely Dad, I’m there, I’m in,” but he didn’t go.
Now, which one actually did the will of his father? And again, Jesus make a slightly different point, but you see the principle there. It’s better to say no and then surprise and delight than it is to say yes and disappoint, right? It’s better to say no and then delight than it is to say yes and then disappoint. Sometimes we need to under-promise and then over-deliver. I’m gonna be at your game, and then we actually show up at the game, but we show up early to the game, and you painted your daughter’s name on a sign, and you got a video camera going, and you’re in the front row. And you start to give your words some weight.
Second thing we can do to become a person whose reputation doesn’t need propping up, just practically it’s this, it’s own the occasional failure. Let’s just be honest with each other, sometimes we’re not gonna deliver. There are circumstances sometimes that are outside of our control and sometimes we’re not going to deliver. And the question becomes what do we do at that point? Here’s what we’re not gonna do. We’re not gonna go, well, yeah, I’m sorry. I wasn’t able to do it, but it was traffic, but is that incompetent person in the next cubicle, they didn’t get me the numbers I needed. It was this thing that happened, or my family did this. It was outta my control. So sorry, but not sorry. No, no, we’re not gonna do that anymore. We’re just gonna go, “Hey, I said I’d do this, and I said I’d do it by this time and I didn’t. I did not deliver. I’m sorry. Would you forgive me? Is there anything I can do to make it right?” You do that on the occasional failure and your words are gonna start to have some weight. And the more your words have weight, the more you begin to experience the life that God intended and the more you become the kind of person who’s not only becoming like Jesus, but able to join him on mission because people listen when through the help of the Holy Spirit, we become people whose reputation doesn’t need propping up.
Let me give you a couple of questions to wrestle with as we figure out what does it look like to put this into practice in my life? The first one is just very simple, but it’s an important question. What’s my rep? Like, what’s your reputation? You might even think about asking some other people around you, like, how much weight do my words have? How much do you think that I’m a man or a woman of my word? What’s my rep? Number two. How have I used or am I using God’s name to justify my agenda? That’s for Holy Spirit to speak to you. You might find that there’s some things and maybe they’re good things, maybe they’re not good things, but you’ve been justifying it by bringing God into it but, in fact, what you’re trying to do is get something out of it for yourself. Sometimes our motives get kind of confused. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to sort that out. How are you using God’s name to justify your agenda? Similarly, ask the question, how have I used or am I using God’s name to increase my credibility, rather than being a person who’s yes is always a yes and who’s no is always a no? That’s the best way to give your words weight. That’s the best way to increase your credibility. But we go for shortcuts. So how are you doing that? And the last question is just this, where am I over-promising and under-delivering?
Let’s pray. Hey God, thank you that your reputation is perfect. Thank you that your Word always has weight because it’s always true. We’re told in Hebrews 6:18 that it’s impossible for you to lie. It’s not unusual. It’s not rare. It’s impossible. Your Word is always true. Your yes is always yes, your no is always no. Lord, we confess to you that we have not always lived the same way. We had said yes and failed to deliver. We’ve said no and done it anyway. We asked your forgiveness for those things that your Holy Spirit brings to our minds right now. And beyond that, Lord, we’ve broken the third commandment. We’ve used your name lightly. We’ve lifted it up lightly. We’ve used your name to justify our agenda. We’ve used your name to increase our credibility. We’ve propped up our weak reputation with your strong one, and we ask for your forgiveness. And we’re grateful for the fact that your Word is always true, and your Word says that when we confess our sins, you’re faithful and you’re just and you forgive us.
And so we accept your forgiveness, and we thank you for the blank slate to begin rebuilding our reputation, not for our sake, but for your glory. Lord, we pray together right now for those people that are listening to this message that they’re struggling with you. They’re struggling to see you as good. And maybe they’ve never even said yes to faith in you because they’ve been hurt by somebody breaking the third commandment. They’ve been hurt by somebody using you as a sharp stick to prod them into place. And it was never your agenda, it was always theirs. And if that’s you, if you’re listening to this and you’ve never said yes to Jesus because of something like that, please hear, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that that’s happened. But here’s the truth, God is good. He’s so good that he loved you by sending his own Son to die for you. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of your sin. Three days later, he rose from dead. That’s a fact of history. And he offers us a relationship by simply putting our faith, our belief in what Jesus did for us. That’s how good God is.
And if you’ve never said yes to that relationship, here’s how you do it today, today’s the day. Set aside the hurt, set aside the pain, all those things have gotten in the way and just come to Jesus in this moment. You’re just gonna say something like this, say it with me, say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Thank you for the proof of your goodness that you sent your Son to die for me to pay the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. And I’m deciding right now to put my faith in you, my belief in you. Jesus, I’m saying yes to following you. I accept your adoption into your family, I accept the forgiveness of my sins and this new relationship with my Creator.” Amen.
Can we celebrate those who made that decision today? We love that. We love being a part of that. And if you made that decision today, we would just so love to celebrate you. Would you do this for me? You just let us know you made the decision. If you’re watching online, you can click the button below me. Wherever you are you can always text the word “Jesus” to 80875. If you’re on one of our campuses, feel free to stop by the welcome center on your way out and tell them, “I said yes to Jesus today.” However you do it, we wanna celebrate with you and we wanna get you some resources. We just need to know where to send them. God’s Word is good. His reputation is flawless, ours aren’t. But through the power of God, we can move in into that place that our words have weight so that we can give him glory. Amen.
Sabbath is a gift from God encouraging us to rest and recharge. God doesn’t need our worship and instead provides worship as a way to remember who and whose we are. We should lean into the rhythm of remembering our God and restoring our strength through praise of Him.
Craig: Well, hey, so good to have you with us today. We are in the middle of a deep dive into the Ten Commandments here at Mission Hills. If you’re just joining us, here’s probably the most important thing you need to know about the Ten Commandments. We’ve said this every week so far, we’re gonna say it every week going forward, because it’s so important. This is the lens that we need to use to look at the Ten Commandments, and this is the lens, rules don’t create relationships, they regulate them, okay? Rules don’t create relationships, they regulate them. So, following the rules is not how we get a relationship with God. We get a relationship with God by following Jesus, by putting our faith, our trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But when we have that relationship, the rules, the commandments God has given us help us to regulate them. They help us to keep the relationship moving forward, and they help the relationship stay where all of the good things that God wants us to experience in that relationship become possible. All the good things like peace, and meaning, and significance, and hope, and ultimately even joy.
And I realize that might be a different way of thinking about the Ten Commandments, that they’re ultimately supposed to lead to joy, but we really believe that’s true of all of the Ten Commandments. And it’s especially obvious, it’s especially evident, in the fourth commandment. We see that potential most clearly in the fourth commandment that we’re gonna take a look at today. If you wanna grab your Bible, we’re gonna be in the Book of Exodus, starting in Chapter 20, verse 8 today. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a sermon on the fourth commandment, but the fourth commandment in case you’re racking your brains right now going, “What is fourth commandment?” Fourth commandment says this, says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a message on that. I can only remember ever hearing one of them. I was a young youth pastor at a church and the pastor preached on this commandment. And he took a pretty, what’s called an aggressive stance. I remember at one point in the message, he looked at the congregation he goes, “Listen, if you go out to lunch after church at a restaurant, you’re breaking the fourth commandment.” And I was like, “Hold on, really?” And then he went a little further, he said, “And worse still, you’re causing other people to break the fourth commandment. You’re causing the waiters, and the waitresses, and the shafts, and all those people, you’re making them break the fourth commandment. You know what the Bible says about causing other people to sin? “It’d be better to be thrown to the ocean with a millstone hung around your neck.” And I was like, “Oh, boy.”
Let me tell you that message gave Coletta and I a lot to talk about that afternoon over lunch at Chili’s. I honestly, in my personal and professional opinion, I think he missed the heart of the fourth commandment. Okay, so what is God’s heart in the fourth commandment? Well, let’s take a look at it in its entirety. Fourth commandment. Exodus 20:8 says this, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. And on it, you shall not do any work and either you nor your son, or daughter, or your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, for in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. And therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.”
Now, it’s interesting. The fourth commandment is the longest of the Ten Commandments. And I don’t think that’s because it’s the most important of them. I think the most important one’s probably that first one, the foundational one about making God a priority. So why is it longer than all the others? I think it’s because it’s the one that we have the hardest time following, honestly. And you can almost even see that in the commandment itself, right? Like, he really digs into some specifics about, like, who’s supposed to pay attention to this, right? You know, he says, “You’re not supposed to work.” And you can almost see people going, “Oh, excuse me, like, who?” He goes, “You.” “Well, what about…?” “And your sons and your daughters.” “Well, what about…?” “Not your animals either.” “Well, not the foreigner?” “Okay, no, no, nobody’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to be a day of no work,” right?
And I think God almost sort of told us right off the beginning, “You guys are gonna have a hard time with this thing. And you’re gonna have a hard time doing what I’m calling you to do. And so, I’m gonna drill down.” So, it’s the longest of the… It’s not the most important, but because I think it’s the hardest one for us to understand. And here’s the thing, if we look at what the whole Bible has to say about the Sabbath, basically, the whole of boils down to two principles, two things that the Sabbath is really about. And it’s these, the fourth commandment is about having a rhythm of remembering our God, that’s the first one, and restoring our strength. Take a look at the whole Bible, when I say about the Sabbath, those are the two things that come out time and time again. The fourth commandment is about having a rhythm or a periodic regular rhythm of remembering our God and restoring our strength.
Now, the remembering our God part’s pretty easy to see in the commandment itself, right? He’s got all this holy language, right? He says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” At the very end he says, “Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.” In the middle, he says, “The seventh day is a Sabbath Day to the Lord your God.” In other words, it’s God’s day, right? It’s a different day than the other days. It’s a set-apart day. It’s a sacred day. It’s a holy day. And this is the reason that historically, God’s people have used one day a week to really focus on their faith, to really focus on worshiping God. For the Jewish people, that was Saturday, that Saturday was their Sabbath. Christians in the first century changed their Sabbath to Sunday, because that was the day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. But both Jews and Christians from the very beginning have always had a day where we focus on worshiping God because it’s God’s day, it’s a day to remember our God.
Now, remembering our God also involves remembering two things about ourselves that are really important. Remembering our God is also about remembering who we are and whose we are. Remembering our God is also about remembering who we are and whose we are. So who are we? According to the Bible, we are made in or as God’s image. We’re made as sort of God’s hands, and feet, and creation. We’re made to represent God and his interest and extend his influence into every corner of creation itself. We’re made to be on mission with him. We find that on the very first page of the Bible. That’s who we are and that’s an incredible privilege. We’re kind of like royal ambassadors for God. That’s an incredible privilege. But we also have to remember not only who we are, we also have to remember whose we are, right?
We represent the King, we don’t replace the King okay? We’re the King’s men and women. We’re his servants. We’re his soldiers. We’re his missionaries. We’re all those things. We’re his. And the reality is that we often get that wrong. Sometimes we ask what the Psalmist asked, which is, “What is mankind that you’re mindful of him? What’s the big deal about human beings?” And we see something of the value that God puts on us, and we get a little puffed up, and instead of trying to represent God, we begin to try to replace God. We kind of push God off the throne, and we go, “I’ll just have a little seat here. I think I’ll just call the shots from here on out.” And here’s the reality, every problem that you’ve ever faced in life, every problem that you have faced that you are facing right now, every problem you ever will face in life, ultimately traces back to someone trying to replace God rather than represent him. You hear me, church?
Every problem you’ll ever face in life, ultimately traces back to somebody trying to replace God rather than represent him. It might have been someone else doing that to you, but it also might have been you or it might have been you and someone else doing it together, you’re both trying to replace God, you’re fighting for God’s place on the throne. And the world is the mess that it is because of this attempt, this regular choice to replace God rather than represent him. And so, what do we need to keep from doing that?
What we need is that we need a regular reminder of who we are and whose we are, right? We need a regular reminder of who we are and whose we are. And that’s part of remembering our God. And the primary way we do that is by having a day of the week where we really focus in on worship.
And let me tell you something about worship that I am surprised by how many people misunderstand. A lot of people seem to think that God commands us to worship him because he needs his fix. It’s almost like God’s trying to get his worship fix, by getting us to have one day a week where we do it. But let me tell you something really important, God doesn’t need your worship. Okay? God existed for all eternity before he created you and I and our worship, and you know what? He was okay. If you and I never worship God again, God will be just fine. But we won’t. You and I won’t be. So here’s an important truth to understand. God isn’t made stronger by our worship or weakened by the lack of it, but we are. We are weakened by our lack of worship. We are strengthened by giving worship to God. It’s the way that God designed us, the way God got built us. And so, ultimately, this commandment to worship God, to remember our God, is actually really good for us.
And I have people tell me all the time, “Hey, you know, I know I should go to church, I know I should worship, but I’m just, I’m so busy,” or, “I’m so tired,” or, “I’m so tired of being so busy.” Anybody? You ever feel like that? Yeah? People tell me all the time, “I know I should go to church, but I’m just so tired. I’m so busy.” And I get that. I do understand that. But what I usually wanna say back to them is “No, no, no, you’re too tired not to worship. You’re too busy not to go to church.” Saying you’re too tired to go to worship is like saying, “I’m too tired to eat a good meal. A healthy meal.” No. If you’re that tired, you desperately need to put something in your body that will strengthen you to move forward. He said, “I’m too busy to get to go to church.” No, you’re too busy not to go to church. That’s like saying, “I’m too tired. I’m too busy to get a good night’s sleep.” You know, the busier you are, the more tired you are, the more desperately you need that in your life.
Well, I know what it’s like to be tired. I do. A lot of people seem to think that senior pastors practice a reverse Sabbath. That’s where you work for one day, and then you have six days off. I get people all the time asked me like, “Do you do anything the rest of the week?” Yeah, I have a couple of things. In fact, most weeks, at the beginning, well, not maybe most weeks, but quite a few weeks at the beginning of the week, the first thing that my assistant says to me, she goes, “I’m sorry about this week.” And she doesn’t need to be sorry. She does an incredible job managing my schedule and guarding my time and energy for what matters most. But the reality is there’s just a lot to do, okay? So I understand what it’s like to be busy. I understand what’s like to get to the weekend and be tired.
And I’m gonna be honest with you, I often drive to church and I have this prayer, I say to God, “Hey, you know where you said that, you know, your strength is perfected in my weakness? Well, this is gonna be a good weekend then, right?” Because I’m whipped. Like, I’m running on fumes. And you know the only thing that actually fuels me to get up here, the only thing that actually energizes me to get up here and to try to help people follow Jesus by teaching his Word, it’s worship. And some of you see me, I hang out by the sound booth usually, and I sing the songs, and I lift my hands, and I even do a couple little dances sometimes. I got a couple of little moves that aren’t bad for a white boy like myself. But that’s where the fuel is coming from and we’re all built that way. Whether you know that or not, you are built to worship and it’s actually a good thing that God calls us to worship. God calls us to remember who he is because it’s actually fuel for our souls.
So the fourth commandment is about having a rhythm of remembering God because it’s good for us in lots of ways. The fourth commandment is also about having a rhythm of restoring our strength. It’s having a rhythm of rest. It’s having a rhythm of ceasing and stopping a lot of the things that we do so that we can begin to recharge. That’s actually what the word Sabbath means. The word Sabbath is actually the Hebrew word for to stop, or to cease, to rest. The first time it shows up is in the Book of Genesis chapter 2, verse 2. It says this, “By the seventh day, God had finished the work that he had been doing, all the creating of the universe. And so, on the seventh day, he rested from all his work.” He ceased. He stopped. He took a break. Now, question, it’s a deep, tough theological question, but let me ask you anyway, do you think God needed to rest because he was whipped? Do you think God said, “I’m gonna take a break because, like, I did all this and, whew, I just need a nap.”
No. God has infinite energy. God never runs out of strength, okay? So why would he stop? Why would he cease? Why would he rest? And I think the answer is God was setting an example for us. Because God never gets tired, but we do. Can I get an amen? God never runs out of strength, but we do. And the interesting thing is, you know, we usually rest because either we’re worn out or we’re trying to keep ourselves from getting worn out, right? God didn’t rest because he was worn out, God rested because he knew that we needed it. And so, he set an example for us. And that means again, don’t miss this, it means that the fourth commandment is good for us. God gave it to us because he was trying to be good to us. God gave it to us because he loved us and wants the best for us.
Jesus made that extremely clear when he was talking about the Sabbath. And Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” You see that, church? The Son of God said, “Hey, by the way, here’s what my dad did. He gave us a Sabbath, he gave you a Sabbath, he gave you a rest day for you. He didn’t create you so that you could rest, he created the Sabbath so that you could rest.” Because we need it. It’s for us. It’s about recharging. And here’s the reality, there’s only so much juice in the battery, right? There’s only so much juice we got in the battery, so we need to recharge on a regular basis. And how do we recharge? Two things have to happen to recharge. Number one, recharging requires plugging in. Number two, powering down. Recharging requires plugging in and powering down. It requires plugging into another power source, right? Because plugging into a greater power source than you have. And that’s what we talked about already in worship. That’s what worship is. Plugging into God.
But we also have to power down. We have to lower the demand enough that we could actually begin to recharge. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience, but sometimes, you know, I’ll plug my phone in to charge because it’s getting really low, and I’ll plug my phone, and if I leave my phone alone, right? Couple hours, it’s good to go. It’s got a full charge. But if I keep using my phone, even while it’s plugged in, a couple hours go by, and I look at the charge, and I realize it’s not really charged all that much. It’s what we call a trickle charge. Most of the energy coming in is actually going to powering the device that I’m using rather than actually recharging the battery. And here’s the reality guys, a lot of us are doing life that way. We’re counting on a trickle charge because we’re never really unplugging, we’re never really disconnecting, we’re never really stopping, we’re never really ceasing, we’re never really resting. And so, we’re always tired because we’re just trickle charging. We’re not powering down. So even though we might be plugging in, we’re not powering down.
Here’s an interesting reality. The Bible commands one day of rest. In Western culture, it’s standard to have two days of rest, we call it the weekend. But during the pandemic, there’s been an increasing movement to have three days of rest. It’s called the 4-day workweek movement. And I realized, by the way, some of you listening to that are like, “That’s crazy. I haven’t had a day off in six months.” We’re not talking about you. But there’s an increasing movement to have three days. And it’s interesting, a lot of leaders that I hear are talking about that movement, they’re going, “People have just gotten lazy.” And here’s the thing, I don’t think they’re lazy, I think they’re exhausted. I think the exhaustion level in our culture has never been higher.
Recent study found that 75% of workers in the United States are either currently struggling or have recently struggled with burnout. Burnout isn’t just being tired, it’s being tired in a way that normal rhythms of rest don’t help. Can’t fix. How many of us, let’s be honest can we? Online, I want you to say in the comments if it’s true for you too. How many of us when somebody says, “How are you doing?” Our first gut reaction is, “I’m tired?” Come on. Come on. It’s a lot of us, yeah. That’s a symptom of burnout. How about this? How many of us have ever gone on a vacation and come back feeling pretty good, but like 10 minutes into Monday morning, you’re like, “I need another vacation, yeah? That’s probably a symptom of burnout, actually. The rest isn’t doing it. So it’s interesting, right? We have the Bible mandating one day of rest. We’ve made two days sort of standard. And we’re moving towards three days. And yet the reality is in some senses where we’re working less than ever, and we’re more tired than ever. What gives, right? What’s going on?
And I think the answer is, we’re not unplugging or we’re not powering down. And maybe we’re plugging into God, and that’s good, and that’s healthy. But we’re not powering down enough to actually begin to recharge. We’re not doing anything other than bringing a trickle charge in. Now, a lot of reasons for it. One of them honestly, is our cell phones, can we just be honest about that? Because our cell phones make it really hard to disconnect, right? Our cell phones keep us checked in when we should be checked out, right? Because let’s face it, I mean, you can be laying in bed and you can check your work email, or Slack, or you can, you know, check out, well, maybe if your insecurity or your jealousy isn’t running at full capacity, you check Instagram, right? You scroll through Facebook and see what everybody else is doing that’s picture-perfect and feel bad about yourself, and then try to get a good night’s sleep, right? We can do that in a way we’ve never been able to do and that’s part of the problem.
But the reality is that our cell phones are actually just one symptom of the real problem. And the real problem is this, our lives are out of rhythm. Our lives are out of rhythm. And it’s interesting, we don’t talk that much about rhythm. In our culture, we talk a lot about balance. We talk about work-life balance, work-friends balance, work-family balance. We talk a lot about balance. But I actually don’t think balance is what we’re supposed to seek. In fact, as I read the fourth commandment and what the Bible has to say about this call to a Sabbath, what I realized is that God’s plan for us isn’t balance, its rhythm. Say that again. It’s so important. God’s plan for us isn’t balance, it’s rhythm. Think about it. If God’s plan was for balance, we should have had an 8-day workweek, right? Four days and on four days off. And a lot of you are like, “Ooh, let’s do that.” Right?
But that actually wouldn’t be good for us, because the reality is a too much rest can break us just as badly as too much work. Like, you can kill a car engine by revving it too hard for too long. You can also kill a car engine by leaving it idle for too long and the oil congeals and the next time you have to try to get it running, it burns up in short order. The reality is, we’re not called to seek balance. So here’s the thing about balance, here’s the problem with balance. Balance is about stasis, okay? Balance is about stasis. It’s about getting everything lean together just right. It’s about get better getting everything perfectly distributed in its proper place, right? And then praying to God that nothing gets added to it because that’ll destroy the balance. It’s also about praying to God that nothing gets taken away from because that’ll destroy balance just as quickly. It’s about praying to God that nothing comes along and bumps the perfect balance we’ve achieved in the slightest way and it all comes crashing down.
I mean, the reality is that first off, balance is elusive, it’s really hard to do. Secondly, it’s fragile. It’s incredibly easy to destroy. And third, while balance might be impressive, it’s not life-giving. Balance is not life-giving. Let me have you listen to perfect balance. So I’m gonna give you a sound of something that has a perfect balance, perfect stasis of frequency of pitch, and the volume. Here is the sound of perfect balance. When do we hear that in life? When life is over, right? It’s a harsh, jarring, unsettling sound, but it is a perfect example of balance. It is perfect balance. It is perfect stasis. But do we want it? No. We want this, right? But that’s not balance. That’s rhythm.
Let me tell you three things that are important to understand about rhythm. First, rhythm isn’t just a sign of life. It’s a source of life. Rhythm creates energy. Rhythm creates momentum. I mean, even right now. I mean, I can see some of you you’re are kind of bobbing your head a little bit. If you’re not quite that expressive, maybe you’re beginning to tap your foot a little bit, right? See, rhythm actually imparts energy and moves us forward. It’s not just a sign of life, it’s a source of life.
Second, rhythm can be busy and still healthy. If you got the right rhythm going on, you can begin to add in some other things. And you don’t have to add them in an equal measure. Like, Logan back here can play the kick drum a lot more than he plays the snare. It’s still rhythm. Everything’s not getting equal weight, everything’s not balanced. He can start playing the hi-hat, and he can get really busy on the hi-hat. It’s a lot going on there. It’s still healthy. It’s still energizing. It still moves us forward. Sometimes you can even get to the point where you realize that what drummers do is they can do fills. He can hit a lot of stuff for a moment. We have seasons where things are really busy, right? But when you have rhythm, you can allow for those and you can come out of them every bit as healthy as you went in. You can actually come out of them with more momentum than you went in with.
The third thing you understand but rhythm is this, rhythm depends on not doing as much as doing. This is the one that’s, it’s hard for us to recognize because we go, “I hear the kick, I hear the snare, I hear hi-hats, I hear those things, but the only reason you could hear them and distinguish them is because they’re not happening all the time. For every time the kick gets hit, there’s a whole bunch of times that it doesn’t. For every time you hear the snare, there’s a bunch of times that you don’t. Even the hi-hat that’s going much, much faster, you could hear them because it’s now but not now, now not now. Rhythm is about what we don’t do as much as what we do and that’s what the fourth commandment is telling us. Like, you gotta not do so that you can do.
And listen, if the search for balance is a search for stasis, the search for rhythm is the search for what’s appropriate. Rhythm is about appropriateness. It’s about what’s appropriate in this season, in this moment and not in this other. And we have different seasons of life. We have short ones, we have long ones. We have rhythms and seasons during the day, during the week, the month, the year, and even beyond that. And it’s always about what is appropriate in this season, in this moment, and what’s not. When my kids were at home, I made a decision, I wasn’t gonna write books until they weren’t in the house anymore. I decided it wasn’t appropriate for me to be writing because I needed to be focused on them while I had that opportunity. Now my kids are out of the house and I’m beginning to think through what does it look like to maybe re-enter that space a little bit? But it’s about what you do and don’t do. It’s about the search for what’s appropriate in the moment in the season.
God loves rhythm. God’s all about rhythm. I don’t see much about balance in the Bible, but I see a lot about rhythm. Let me read you one of the most famous passages about rhythm. Ecclesiastes 3, “There’s a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. There’s a time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up. A time to keep, a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” See, that’s rhythm. It’s not balance, it’s rhythm.
It’s what’s appropriate in this moment and not in this other moment. It’s about finding rhythm. That’s what the fourth commandment is all about. The fourth commandment is about having a rhythm of remembering our God and restoring our strength. You know, some of you may know this, I’ve shared it before that for years I’ve struggled with sleep. And I’ve tried everything and it just wasn’t making any difference. Well, earlier this year, God actually brought a healing into my life. And for those of you who’ve been praying for me, just thank you so much. I really believe God was responding to that. But he didn’t respond with a new miracle drug, and he didn’t respond by some kind of miraculous event that I just went to bed one night and started sleeping fine. What he actually did is he brought a guy into my life, who asked me some questions, and he said, “Oh, yeah, you’ve confused your brain.” “What do you mean?”
He goes, “Well, you had some problem that was keeping you from sleeping, maybe a sleep apnea, maybe it was stress if something was going on. And the problem is the way you handled it destroys your rhythm. The way you handled it confused your brain. And so now you get in bed and your brain is like, “Wait a minute, what do we do here? Is this where we get anxious about not being able to sleep? Is this where we think about that big meeting that’s coming tomorrow? Is this where we check our email, or our Twitter feed, or our Instagram? Is this where we watch TV? What do we do here again?” And so, what he began to do with me is to start re-establishing the right rhythms. We sort of figured out, okay, when is it appropriate to work? And when is it appropriate to not work? And when is it appropriate to connect with my wife and my kids? And when do I start getting ready for bed? And when do I actually go to bed and get in bed and start to try to fall asleep? And when do I get up again? It was all about rhythm. I mean, the problem had been that I had basically ignored God’s call to rhythm. And by the grace of God bringing this man in my life, like, I’m sleeping again. I’m not struggling with sleep in the same way. I sleep consistently. But it’s rhythm. That’s why we call it this message,” Forget Balance, Find Rhythm.” That’s what God’s calling us to.
So, I’m gonna give you a homework assignment. This is God’s homework assignment for you, I believe. I want you to ask yourself this question, what’s my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythm of five things? And you need to think in all of those seasons, because things differ from season to season. So, in terms of your daily, your weekly, your monthly, or yearly rhythm, five things of God, family, friends, work, and rest. By the way, if you wanna grab these notes, you can always grab the Mission Hills app and go to the message notes, and you’ll see all of these things we’ve talked about today.
But I want to ask you that question, of these five things, like, what’s my rhythm of these things? And you might be going, “Well, hang on a second, there’s some stuff missing, like, what me-time?” Let’s rest. Rest doesn’t just mean that we lay on the couch. It means that we do things that are different than the other things that we do. We’re doing the things that we enjoy, things that actually pour strength into us. Me time fits into rest, you’re like “Well, what about my household chores?” That’s work. Like, if you don’t necessarily want to do it, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting paid for it or not, we’re just gonna call that work, okay? But I want you to think deliberately about it, like, what’s my rhythm? And begin to seek God’s rhythm. And I’ll give you four tips as you do this. Number one, remember think rhythm not balance. Not about everything getting equal weight is about what’s appropriate in this moment, in this season, and what’s the right rhythm?
Second thing is this, understand that rhythms are not rigid. One of the things that Jesus pushed back on was a very rigid interpretation of the fourth commandment that they couldn’t allow for anything to flex. Rhythms aren’t rigid. There can be adjustments. If you have the right rhythm, you can handle those kinds of things.
Third thing is this, is anticipate that rhythms change with the seasons of life. If you have kids at home right now, your rhythms are gonna look a little differently than if you don’t have kids at home. If you have little kids at home, you know, your rhythms, just forget about it for a while, right? No, I’m kidding, you can actually find rhythm, but it’s gonna be different than it looks like when your kids go off to school. Rhythms change with the seasons, keep that in mind.
And fourth, and just remember this, that rhythm is as much about what you don’t do as what you do. Let’s just forget rhythm…forget balance. It’s an elusive and ultimately draining idol. And it’s not gonna be able to give you what God calls you to. God says, “Forget balance, find rhythm.”
And by the way, we’re really just covering God’s heart for the fourth commandment here. If you’re interested in digging in a little bit more, especially to how Jesus dealt with the very rigid understanding of that in the first century, we actually created some bonus material. And so, you go to the Mission Hills app, and under the message questions, we actually record a little video where you can dig into some more detail. I mean, it will be a great thing to watch with your Life Group, maybe talk about your Life Group, or with your husband, or your wife, or your family, or some friends. Because Jesus had a lot to say about how the first-century religious leaders were approaching the Sabbath and really missing the heart of it. So if you wanna dig into that, feel free to grab that. But in the meantime, let’s listen to God’s call to find rhythm. Would you pray with me?
God, we thank you that your goodness is on display so clearly in this commandment. And we recognize that in your call that we would have this regular rhythm of remembering you, and who we are, and whose we are. And in his regular rhythm of restoring our strength, you are showing us your goodness. And we ask for the leading of your Holy Spirit to find rhythm. And we pray for those that are listening this message that they don’t have the relationship with you that we’re talking about. The relationship is regulated by these rules, but a relationship that can’t be gotten just by following them. Those come after. And if that’s you, if you’re listening this message and you don’t have that relationship with God, it may be that you’re feeling pretty worn out and tired today. And the reason, ultimately, is because you don’t have peace with God. Maybe your sin is weighing heavily on you, the wrong that you’ve done, you’re struggling with the guilt and the shame of that.
You need to hear the words of Jesus when he said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin, to set you free from it, to forgive you of it. To give you rest, but it’s a rest that’s only available in him. It’s a rest that’s only available by faith. And if you never said yes to faith in Jesus and the rest that’s made possible by that, here’s how you do it, just right here, right now, have this conversation with God. Say, God, I have done wrong. I’ve sinned and I feel the weight of it. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead and I’m ready to follow you. I’m putting my faith and my trust in you. I accept your forgiveness and your rest. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision for the first time today? We love that. If you did make that decision for the first time today we would so love to be able to celebrate with you. Would you let us know you made the decision? You can just…if you’re watch online, click the button right below me. If you’re somewhere else, you can always text the word Jesus to 80875. Either way, we just wanna know where to send some free resources to help you begin living out this new relationship with God in rhythm. Hey, would you stand with us? Forget balance, we wanna find rhythm. That’s what the fourth commandment is all about. So before we head out in the world that’s gonna challenge, let’s take a moment to find our rhythm with our God.
Continuing in the series on God’s commandments, we now look at the fifth commandment; this is probably a familiar directive and it instructs us to honor our parents (and other authorities). Unfortunately, as we grow up it is easier to default to our own selfish nature, rather than honoring our God by following this instruction. However, when we learn to submit, we are freed from selfishness.
That is the appropriate response to that. But it says the highest standard is not that you don’t actually kill somebody. The highest standard is actually that you don’t harbor anger, and animosity, and bitterness, and anger in your heart even. That’s really what it’s calling us to. He said in this kind of very similar way. He said, “You’ve heard it said don’t commit adultery. But I tell you, if you look at a woman lustfully you’ve already committed adultery with her your heart.” That’s the highest standard. That’s actually the finish line is that we don’t entertain attraction to anybody other than our spouse, in our hearts even. Adultery is just the first step. It’s not the finish line. And we tried to take that approach throughout the Ten Commandments. It’s gonna be particularly important, though, to keep that in mind as we look at the fifth commandment today.
Now, the second thing you may not know about the Ten Commandments, and it’s really important to understand, is that they break into two sets, you can actually categorize all the Ten Commandments into two very distinct sets.
And it’s interesting, at a certain point in his ministry, some people asked Jesus, “Hey, what’s the greatest of the commandments?” And he responded very quickly, he said, “Oh, it’s to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” So loving God, that’s the first commandment, the most important one. But he said, the second one is like it. And the second one is to love your neighbor as yourself. So in other words, to love others, he said, “That’s really the two most important commandments really, that’s all the commandments put together, it’s love God and love others.” And it’s interesting, the Ten Commandments are organized in exactly that way, they follow that same pattern. And what I mean is, the first five are about loving God, and the second five are about loving others. The first five are about loving God and the second five are about loving others.
One of the ways you can see that is if you look at the first five, you’ll notice that commandments one through five all have the same phrase in them, and that phrase is, the Lord your God, that’s the cue that these commandments are about, the Lord your God, they’re primarily about loving God. And the second set of five, six through ten, don’t have that phrase in them. Okay, so that tells you okay, first five are about loving God, the second five are about loving others. Now, well, the reason I tell you that today and the reason I think it’s so important for understanding the fifth commandment is the fifth commandment on the surface really feels like it’s about loving others. But it’s in the first set. It’s in the first set and it’s about loving God.
So even though it looks like it’s about loving others, it’s actually really about loving God. Let me show you what I mean, if you wanna grab a Bible, make your way to Exodus chapter 20. We’re gonna be starting in verse 12 today, the fifth commandment says this, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” That’s the fifth commandment, “Honor your father, and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” And there’s that phrase, do you see it? The Lord your God is in that. But this is the last time in the Ten Commandments that we see that phrase, after that the commandments don’t have that.
And again, that’s a cue that this is primarily about loving God. And I think that’s good news and it’s bad news. It’s good news for people who listen to this and they struggle with the idea of honoring their mother and their father because honestly, your mother and your father weren’t honorable. Some people struggle with the idea of honoring their mother and father because their mother and father weren’t honorable. You may have grown up in a home where you didn’t have a loving father or mother, that they neglected you, or mistreated you or maybe even flat out abused you. And the command of God that we’re to honor our mother and our father might feel impossible, it almost might even feel a little bit cruel, because they’re not the people who are worthy of being honored. And it’s good news to understand that this command really isn’t about them. It’s actually about God, and that there’s something about the process of figuring out how to honor people, even if they’re not honorable, that actually impacts in a positive way our relationship with God. That this is really ultimately about loving God.
And so if you’re coming from a background like that, that this is a hard command for you I just want you to know, I get it, I’m sensitive to that. But I wanna encourage you to stick with us throughout this message. Because what’s at stake is really more about your relationship with God than it is about your relationship with your parents. And this idea that the fifth commandment is more about God than our parents is actually bad news for other people. It’s bad news for parents, okay? Because it means that this is not like God throwing us a bone as parents, right? This, I mean, let’s be honest, this is like a parent’s favorite verse in the whole Bible, right? This is like the ace in the hole. This is the ultimate answer to the most annoying question ever, right? Like, I don’t know about your kids, my kids from ages about, like two to like, I don’t know, 12 or something. They had one question that they just asked endlessly. And it was a one-word question. Do you know what the question is? It was why, right? Why? Everything was well why?
And like, listen, you ask your kids to do something that you know is important, right? And they come back and ask you, “Well, why?” And like, I was a good parent, you’re good parents. And so we want our kids to understand the reasons why we’re telling them to brush their teeth, or eat their vegetables, or look both ways before they cross the street, or not get into vans driven by strangers, right? And so we’re good parents. So we explain it to them. And we explain it to them, and they look at us and they go, “But why?” I’m like, “Okay, I’m gonna go, well, I’m a patient, and I’m a kind person. I’m gonna go a level deeper, I’m gonna explain to you.” And then we go a level deeper and then they’re like yeah, “But why?” And here’s the thing, like, I don’t care how patient and kind you are. I don’t care how enlightened of a parent you are. At some point, we all do what we swore we’d never do. We all say to our kids, what our parents said to us, and we swore we would never say that to our kids. We get one why too many. And we look at our kids. And we go, “Because I said so.”
And our kids look at us with love, and adoration, and respect. And they say yeah, “But why?” And at that point, this is a great first to have. At that point, you can go “Because God has said so.” Well, yeah, “But…” “No, no, no, no. You got to take it up with him now,” right? And so to find out that this verse isn’t actually for our parents, that’s a little bit of a disappointment. But it’s not. The fifth commandment really is more about loving God than it is about loving your parents. And another way that we can see that and not only does it have the phrase, the Lord your God, but also there’s something different about this command that’s not true of any of the other ones. This command has something none of the other ones do. And that is it has a promise. Do you see it? Honor your father, and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God has given you.
Some of the other commandments have explanations, a few of them, two of them have threats. This is the only one with a promise. This is the only commandment with a promise of blessing built right into it. And it’s important to understand that this is a promise of blessing. This is God saying, “If you do this, I can bless you.” And I say that because it sounds almost like a threat, doesn’t it? You know, honor your mother and father so that you won’t die. Which really feels like honor your mother, and your father so they don’t have to kill you. Honor your mother and father so they don’t have to pull out that clause from the parenting manual that says, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it.” Right? It sounds a little bit like a threat, but it’s not a threat. It’s a blessing. It’s actually a promise of a direct blessing from God because of righteousness.
See, it’s interesting that the Bible very clearly teaches, the Bible teaches that long life is a possible blessing of righteousness. And I say possible blessing because it’s not like a vending machine, okay. It’s not like well, if I do these things, then I automatically live for a long time. No, that’s not the case. There are certainly people who are not righteous who have long lives and there are people who are righteous who have short ones, okay? This is not a promise that if you do this, you’ll always receive this. But what it is is…I got that right. It is is…what it is, is a promise that God can’t bless you with long life and he won’t bless you with long life if you’re not willing to do this. God can’t offer that blessing. And understand that it is a promise of blessing. Again, this idea of long life it’s clear throughout Scripture that this is one of the tools in God’s blessing arsenal.
Proverbs 16:31 says, Gray hair, that’s a sign of old age, right? Gray hair is a crown of splendor, it is attained in the way of righteousness.” How do you get there? By living righteously, by obeying God. When he was installing Solomon as King of Israel after his father David, God said this to Solomon, “And if you walk in obedience to me and you keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” It’s a possible blessing by God, it’s not a threat. It’s a blessing. But and I think that’s really important to understand, it’s also a condition of blessing. It’s a condition of blessing, the command to honor our parents is a condition of God’s blessing. God’s saying, “Hey, if you don’t learn to do this, I can’t give you long life.” And it’s not because he’s unable to. But it’s because there’s something about honoring our mother and father that allows God to bless us with long life. And if we don’t do it, he goes, “I can’t trust you with long life.” The implication is if you don’t do this, and I gave you a long life, the damage that you would cause is so great, I can’t afford…I can’t do that to the world. I can’t do that to people around you.
There’s something about honoring our mother and father, that allows God to bless us with the possibility of long life because he says, “You’re gonna do something with that long life that’s worth doing. You’re gonna bless rather than curse, you’re going to be a blessing rather than a problem.” So there’s a promise of blessing here, but it’s also a condition of that promise. And the question we need to ask is why? Well, what is it about honoring our mother and our father that would allow God to trust us with long life, to bless us in that way? What is it about our relationship with our parents that so deeply affects our relationship with God? Well, I think the answer is this. Honoring our parents is where we first learned to experience the power of submission. Honoring our parents is where we first learn to experience the power of submission. Honoring our parents is we first learned to submit to somebody else’s authority but our own. And in doing that, we begin to actually experience the power that comes from submission.
So honoring our parents is our first step in experiencing the power of submission. And by the way, I know that the concept of the power of submission feels like an oxymoron, right? It feels like it belongs in the same category with jumbo shrimp, or a minor disaster, or controlled chaos. It feels like those two words don’t go together, power and submission, they don’t go together. Because in our culture, we tend to see submission as happening either because you lack power or because you’re in the process of losing it. We think people who submit either lack power or they’re losing that power. But that’s not the way the Bible teaches submission. According to the Bible, submission is actually power set free from enslavement to selfishness. That’s how the Bible teaches submission. Its power set free from enslavement to selfishness.
So it’s actually not about having less power, or losing power, it’s actually about gaining power. But that only happens when we shake off the chains, the bondage that our power has to selfishness. I mean, let’s just talk about the life of Jesus for a second. I don’t think anybody who knows anything about Jesus would claim that Jesus didn’t have power, right? I mean, he walked on water. He told storms to chill out and they did. He told blind people to open their eyes and they saw. He called dead people out of graves and they came. Demons cowered in fear before him, kings were fascinated by him and wanted to spend time with him. Jesus had all the power. But check out this description of Jesus, in Hebrews 5:7, “During the days of Jesus’s life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one, to God, who could save him from death. And he was heard because of his reverent submission. It’s a fascinating statement. He was heard because of his reverent submission.
The implication is that the resurrection happens because of his reverent submission. In other words, Jesus’s submission didn’t make him less powerful. It actually made him more powerful. It gave his prayers more power. Well, we see the same thing in Philippians chapter 2. You might even read that this afternoon, it’s a very interesting thing to think about and to meditate on. We’re told that we’re supposed to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature of God, he was God in the flesh, did not consider equality with God something to be held on to, but he emptied himself and became obedient, submissive to his Father, submissive to death, even death on a cross. All the power in submission. And because of that, Paul goes on to say in Philippians 2, “He was given the name above every other name.” That’s power. That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
His submission didn’t mean a loss or a lack of power, it actually meant more power. Why? Because power set free from selfishness is greater power. But see here’s the problem for us. Here’s the problem. Our default setting is power enslaved to selfishness. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, took that first step into sin and selfishness, we’re born with our power enslaved to selfishness, in bondage to selfishness. And by the way, let’s just be really clear about this, you have power, do you understand that? You have incredible power; God gave it to us so that we could do what he created us to do. We were made as God’s image, we were made to represent God in creation, we were made to extend God’s influence into every corner of the creation that he’s built. And to do that, he gave us tremendous power. You see it all the way back on the very first page of Scripture. When God describes human beings, he says this, “God blessed them and he said to them, Be fruitful, and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky, and over every creature that moves on the ground.” You understand those are power words, right? Subdue, that’s a power word, rule, that’s a power word. God delegated us tremendous power. The problem is that power that God gave us is now enslaved to selfishness. We use that power not to accomplish his purposes, but to accomplish our small, sinful, selfish purposes. Our power is in bondage.
And here’s two problems with power enslaved to selfish. Number one, power enslaved to selfishness produces pain. The power that we have enslaved to our selfish desires actually creates pain in the world around us. And that’s the reason many of you are struggling with the idea of honoring their mother and father. Because you experienced that you grew up in a home where the power that they had over you produced pain in your life. It’s the reason so many of our marriages are a mess. It’s because we have power, but it’s enslaved to selfishness. And so we’re biting and sniping at each other, trying to get what we want out of it and our marriages suffer. It’s the reason our politics is so divided. It’s the reason the world is such a mess because power enslaved to selfishness produces pain. But and this is also important to understand, power enslaved to selfishness reduces power. It produces pain, but it also reduces power, it causes a loss of power, we are not as powerful as we were created to be because our power is enslaved to selfish. I mean, just think in just very everyday circumstances, right? If you have a driver’s license, and I know a lot of us have driver’s license, if you have a car, take a look at your car and look at the speedometer.
Notice, that puppy goes up to 160. You have the power to drive 160 miles an hour, you have the power to drive 160 miles an hour through a school zone. Like if you’re running late for something, you have the power to drive 160 miles an hour through an active school zone, you have that power, but if you do it, you will not have that power for long, right? Like you’re gonna lose the license, you might lose your freedom for a while, right? See what happens in just the everyday realm is that the use of power for selfish purposes ultimately tends to lead to a reduction in that power and it happens in the spiritual realm as well. The more we use our power for sinful selfish purposes, the more God restricts that power and the influence that we have. Okay, but what’s the solution to that if that’s our default setting? What’s our solution to that?
Well, on one level, the only lasting solution is the Gospel. It’s the good news that God’s power is not enslaved by selfishness. God uses his power for our benefit, to bless us, to give us what we need to experience life as he intended it. God’s power is not enslaved to selfish. And God’s love for us is so deep that he sent his only Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price of our sin. God’s power is not enslaved to selfishness. And neither is Jesus’s. I mean, Jesus came and he said, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Jesus went to the cross; his power was not enslaved to selfishness. He died on the cross for us, and three days later, he was raised from the dead and he offers us salvation, offers us forgiveness of sins, an eternal relationship with God, all by faith and what he’s done for us. But here’s the thing, that Gospel and the hope of the Gospel, we can only take hold of the hope of the Gospel by an act of submission. You see that? To take hold of the hope of the Gospel we have to come to a moment in our lives where we say to God, “I get it. I’ve done it wrong at this point, but I get it, you’re God, and I’m not and that’s the way it should be.” That’s how we take hold of the Gospel, or the hope of the Gospel. It’s an act of submission.
And as followers of Jesus, it’s a daily act of submission that allows us to experience all the power that comes from submitting to God, but we have to do it constantly. At least I do, I have to constantly throughout the day go, “Right, right. I’m sorry, I got it wrong again. Sorry, God, I get it. Yes, your God, and I’m not and that’s the way it should be.” It’s that constant act of submission that allows us to take hold of the hope of the Gospel, but also to experience the power of the Gospel and the power of God in our day to day lives. But our default setting isn’t submission. Our default setting is all our power enslaved to selfish, so how on earth do we get to that moment where we can submit to God and take hold of the hope of the Gospel? How do we get to the point where we can daily submit to God and experience the power of the Gospel in our lives? And the answer is that’s why the fifth commandment’s there. The fifth commandment is there to get you started, to get you to that place where you can make that pivotal decision, and you can make those regular ongoing decisions to experience all the good, and the joy that God has for you. The fifth commandment is there to teach you how to do it. Really, here’s the thing, honoring our parents enables us to experience the power of submitting to God. It’s in our relationship with our parents that we learn to unshackle our power from the bondage itself, so even just a little bit. But it sets the stage for doing it then with other authorities in our life, with teachers, and coaches, and bosses, and governments. And then ultimately with God.
And so that’s the reason the fifth commandment is there. And that’s the reason the fifth commandment is primarily about your relationship with God, because honoring our parents enables us to experience the power of submitting to God. It’s where we learn how to do it. And so here’s really good news. That when we choose to honor our mother and our father, what we’re actually doing is we’re transforming our relationship with God. What we’re actually doing is we’re taking on the discipline and the practice of freeing our power from selfishness. And the good that comes into our lives when we’re able to do that is so powerful. And I wanna talk a little bit about what it looks like to honor our mother and our father or to honor authorities in our life. But before I do that, I just wanna acknowledge that there’s some people listening to this message that it’s probably easier to figure out how to honor your mother, and your father, because you’re still living at home. And if you’re still living at home under their authority, it’s probably pretty easy to figure out what it looks like to honor them.
But some of you don’t live at home anymore, you’re not under your parents’ authority in the same way. And so you might be thinking, well, like, “Is there any benefit to me figuring how to honor my mother and my father?” And my answer is yes. Because at any stage of life, when we deliberately choose to obey this commandment, figure how to honor our mother and our father, we actually bring something powerful and transformative into our relationship with God. So even if you’re not living at home, under their authority, honoring your mother and father can be transformative in your experience of God. And some of you are in a place where you don’t even have living parents. And so you’re thinking, “Well, then how can I possibly practice this? And how can I experience that benefit, that transformation you’re talking about?” And my answer is, it’s not gonna be with parents anymore if you don’t have living parents, but it can be with other authorities. Because remember what we said that the commandments aren’t a finish line, they’re our first step. Well, we start with our parents, but then it moves up to teachers, to coaches, to bosses, to government, to God. And all along the way, the practice of honoring those who have authority over us actually enables us to experience more and more the power that comes from submitting to God.
And so we can do what the Apostle Paul said, I’m not crazy about it. I really wish he hadn’t said this. Romans 13:1, Paul said, “Let everyone be subject, submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established and the authorities that exist have been established by God.” Anybody comfortable with that? Of course not. And it raises questions and like, “How can that be?” And I’ve heard people go, “Well, Paul would not have written that if he saw the governments we have today.” And I’m like, “Well, yeah, I don’t know if he would or not, but I can tell you that the governments he was talking about were worse. When you look at the ancient world and what kings and governors did, we don’t have it worse. Now, listen, I’m not saying that that means all government authorities are righteous, holy, godly people. And I’m not saying that we cannot or should not use our influence, our votes to get ungodly, unrighteous people out of office. We absolutely should do that. But while they’re in office, we have to recognize that this verse says, “There is no authority except that which God has established.”
And so the reality is that even in the way that we deal with governing authorities, and maybe their bosses, maybe they are government officials, the way that we deal with governing authorities actually is just another way to apply this concept of learning the power of submission. And so I think no matter where you are in life, whether you’re at home with parents, or you’re out of the home and your parents are somewhere else, or you don’t even have living parents, we’re still called to and we’re given the hope that comes from learning to submit. Learning to honor. Okay, so what does it look like to honor? Our parents in particular, or maybe authorities depending on your situation in life? Well, here’s the thing. The general principle is this, honoring authorities enables us to experience the power of submitting to God. Okay, that’s the ultimate goal, right? That when we honor authorities, it allows us to experience the power of submitting to God. Okay, so how do we do it?
What does it look like? One of the first things we can do is this, we can give weight to their words. The Hebrew word for honor literally is the Hebrew word for heavy, so to honor somebody is to give weight to them. And practically speaking, what that often looks like, it means that we give weight to their words. We consider that their words have substance, they have significance. Now, understand that giving weight to their words looks different in each stage of relating to our parents, okay. And my friend, Scott Ridout has a great way of thinking about stages of parenting. So the first stage is just you’re caregivers. The second stage is you’re cops, okay? The third stage is you’re coaches. The fourth stage is you’re consultants. And then the fifth stage is you become care receivers. And each of those stages probably has a different way of thinking about what it looks like to give weight to their words. So if you’re in the care receiving stage, to give weight to your parents’ words, is to obey them, okay? It’s to do what they say. I think the same thing is true in that cop stage, we give weight to our parents’ words by obeying them at that stage.
Now, obviously, if they’re telling us to do something that goes against what God says, then we go with God, and not our parents. But apart from that, we don’t go, “Well, I don’t like that. That’s not the way I’d prefer to do it. I really wish we could do it…” No, no, we obey them. That’s how we give weight to their words. Now, when we move into the coach phase, it looks a little bit different. Because if parents are doing this right in the coach phase, it’s no longer just issuing commands. It’s beginning to actually coach towards success. It’s stepping and go, “Hey, I see this and I wanna caution you about this, or I see this and I’m really proud of you. And I wanna encourage you to lean into that, okay.” It’s often unsolicited, but it’s more counsel than it is command.
And at that stage then it changes. If you’re in that stage with your parents, then what it looks like to give weight to their words is to listen. Not just blow it off, not to roll our eyes, but to listen, and to understand that they may know something that we don’t know, because they’ve been around longer than we have. And they may have earned some wisdom. And so we listen to what they have to say. That’s how we give weight to their words. And then when you move into the consultant phase, the big difference between coaching and consulting is coaches can just step in and go, “I need to give you this advice.” Consultants need to be asked. My kids are one of them’s fully in the consulting stage. And one of them’s kind of in-between coaching and consulting. And what happens in that stage is like, I don’t offer unsolicited advice nearly as much. I wait to be asked, but my kids regularly honor me by asking for advice. That’s how we do it in that stage, we ask for advice. We take the initiative to go, “Hey, here’s what I’m dealing with. Have you ever faced that? Or what was it like when you did that? And what should I be thinking about? And what am I missing? And I’m thinking about doing this, what do you think?” My kids do that and it’s really profoundly honoring. It’s humbling too to have grown kids who ask for advice, but I feel honored in that. They’re giving weight to my words, but it looks like asking for that advice.
And then we move into that last phase, the care receiving phase, and this is maybe one of the hardest phases. And I know many of you are in this phase right now. And it’s difficult, especially when you’re dealing with parents at that stage that are struggling with dementia. And maybe they want things that you can’t give them. But I wanna suggest to you that in that phase one of the ways we give weight to their words is we ask their desires; we ask what they want. And again you may not be able to give it. You know, the 95-year-old who has dementia but insists they wanna live alone and continue driving their car and you’re like, “But you can’t see. Like I can’t necessarily give you that.” But asking the very question like what do you want? Or you wanna continue to live in and continue to drive? Why is that? And understanding what’s going on there.
And again, you may not be able to give into it. But it’s so important that at that stage that even though we’ve kind of flip-flopped that when we were kids, they cared for us and now they’re adults, and we’re giving care, but they’re not kids, they’re not children. And when we treat them like children, we disrespect them, when we treat them like children, we dishonor them, and we fail to do what God’s told us to do. And so even if it’s as simple as just asking their desires, we wanna give weight to their words even in that stage. So that’s one of the things we can do. We can give way to the words. And if you don’t have parents, you can think well, what does this mean in terms of my boss, or my other government officials or these kinds of things? What does it mean to give weight to their words?
Another thing we can do is we can express gratefulness for what they’ve given. We can express gratefulness for what they’ve given. Even the worst parents, at the very least have given you life. It’s a gift of God through them. You can thank them for that. If you can’t thank them for anything else, at least you can thank them for that. But the chances are that even really bad parents, there’s a few other things along the way that they fed you, they clothed you, they sheltered you, maybe every now and then they did something right that you remember, because it was the star shinning in the darkness. That wasn’t what it normally was like, but you can still remember that and you can thank them for that thing. And many of us, honestly, we had fantastic parents, and the list of things that we should be grateful for is extremely long. Sometimes it just goes unvoiced, it goes unsaid. And in that way, we fail to honor them.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got on the day before our wedding, our pastor told Coletta and I, “You should sit down with your mom and your dad, and you should tell them the things that you’re thankful for. As you’re going into this new stage, like make the transition with gratitude.” That is so powerful, I’m so glad. We can continue to do that and give honor to our parents in that way. Same thing with other authorities in our lives, we can be grateful for certain things that we have experienced that are good even when we have lots of stuff that we disagree with or that we struggle with. But there may be one or two moments that gratefulness is good for us. It’s good for us.
The third thing we can do is we can help them feel like they’re not forgotten. Help them feel like they’re not forgotten. A simple phone call, a visit, some of them, you can even text. I can’t text my dad, he doesn’t text. But my mom texts, she doesn’t understand texting. She sends pages and pages of text. Like I look at it, my thumbs are tired just reading it. I’m like, “How did you even do that?” But I love that I can kind of stay in an ongoing conversation with her. I love it with my kids. If they’re out of the house, we text usually one or two times a day at least. And there’s that point of connection, and it helps to feel like I’m not forgotten. We can help our parents feel like they’re not forgotten. And in that way we honor them.
The fourth thing that I would suggest is this, we can forgive them for their failures. And I know this one’s hard. For many people, those failures are deep. And the wounds are profound. But we can forgive them for their failures, not because they deserve it. Not necessarily because they even asked for it. But because it’s what God calls us to do, and it sets us free. And let’s be honest, how many of us are parents? If you’re online, go ahead and type in if you’re parent, okay, keep your hands up and keep them up if you’re a perfect parent, right? People are like, “Get that hand down,” because we know we’re not, right? We’re not perfect parents. Yeah, our parents screwed us up. And we swore we would never screw up our kids the way they screwed us up. And if you’re good, you didn’t, you invented new ways. You invented new ways to mess your kids up, right? I did.
None of us are perfect parents. And so maybe we can summon a little forgiveness in our hearts. And if that’s not enough to summon it, then maybe we recognize that the Bible talks a lot about the danger of unforgiveness. In fact, we’re told that if we’re unwilling to forgive others, then God withholds forgiveness from us. It crimps the hose of the flow of God’s grace and power into our lives. And so we can honor our parents by forgiving them. Again, not because they’re worthy of it. Maybe not even because they asked for it. But because we need it. And it’s what God calls us to do. And in doing it, we’re set free from enslavement to selfishness, or anger, or bitterness, or resentment, and free to experience more of what God has for us.
So let me just give you five questions to wrestle with. The first one very simply is how can I give weight to my parents’ words in the stage that we’re in? By the way, you can always get these notes and these questions in the Mission Hills app. Just got Message Notes or Message Questions. But how can you give weight to your parents’ words at whatever stage you’re in? That’s one thing to think through.
Another one is this? How can I express gratefulness for what they’ve given? What are those good things that you can be grateful for? Third question is what’s one thing I can do this week to help them feel that they’re not forgotten? What’s the one thing you can do this week? Fourth question, have I really forgiven them for their failures? And I know this is the hard one. But have I really forgiven them for their failures? And last, and here’s the reason I asked this question before I give it to you. What we know is that our relationship with our parents often becomes a lens through which we engage in our relationship with God.
It’s the reason some people struggle to see God as a good and loving Father because they didn’t have a good and loving father. Some of us can easily see God that way because we were blessed by a good and loving father, but the lens that we look at our parents with often is the lens that we look at God with. And so sometimes we have to take those steps to change that lens. And so I encourage you to wrestle with this question, you and the Holy Spirit, what have I transferred from my relationship with my parents to my relationship with God? How do you see God through the lens of your relationship with your parents, and specifically, and maybe in some ways that aren’t so healthy and aren’t true, of what Scripture teaches us about who God is, as opposed to our parents?
Let’s pray about this, would you join me? God, thank you for this word. And it’s not an easy one. But Lord, we recognize how deeply selfish we are, and how much the power that you’ve given us has enslaved that selfishness. And so, Lord, we stand together, and we give you thanks for this command, to learn, to set that power free from selfishness. It begins in our relationship with our parents, and it moves on ultimately so that we can take hold of the hope of the Gospel and the power of you in our lives. Lord, we confess that we have not always honored our parents. And in that way, we’ve actually hurt our relationship with you. And so we ask for strength through your Holy Spirit to figure out what it looks like in different ways to begin obeying this command and experiencing a deeper, intimate relationship with you. And as followers of Jesus, God, we pray, those that are listening to this message now that don’t know you as Father and they don’t have that relationship with you. And if that’s you, I can just speak to you for a moment.
My hope is that if nothing else today, what you heard is that God loves you. And that his power isn’t enslaved to selfishness. In fact, he used his power, he sent his own Son Jesus to die on the cross for you, Jesus’s power wasn’t enslaved to selfishness, he died on the cross to pay the price for all of your wrong, all of your sin. And he rose from the dead and he offers you forgiveness of sins, relationship with God, and eternal life, simply by putting your trust, by submitting to him, and putting your trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, today’s the day, today’s the day to take that incredibly important step of submitting to God, and here’s how you do it just right here right now and have this conversation with God in your heart, say this with me. God, I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I get it. You’re God, and I’m not. But that’s not how I’ve been living. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. Jesus, I believe you rose from the dead. I understand you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with God, and eternal life. I’m ready to submit to you. I’m ready to put my trust in you. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.
Hey, can we celebrate those who made that decision today? Love it. And if you made that decision today, we would so so love to celebrate with you. Would you do me a favor? Would you just let us know? If you’re watching online, you can click the button below me. You can always text the word Jesus to 80875, you can stop by the Welcome Center on your way out let them know you decided to follow Jesus. But either way. You’re just gonna let us know you made the decisions so we can celebrate. We wanna give you some resources to help you begin experiencing all that God has for you that comes from the power of submission. Hey, would just stand with us. Let’s worship our good and so unselfish God.
We see God’s motives for commandments through Jesus’ teachings. When it comes to the sixth commandment, it moves deeper than a prevention of physical murder to capping emotional harm. Earthly judges view your actions, but God judges your heart.
That yet God has…He is the one that initiated the relationship with us. But the commandments, the Law that is listed in the Old Testament were ways in which God calls us to live, to regulate the relationship that he himself has engaged with us. And so if you are here and if you are not a Jesus follower, you don’t call yourself a Christian, I’m so glad that you’re here, but I do want you to know that God is in the business of inviting people into relationship, and it’s not about how good or how bad we live our lives. The subtitle of this series in the Ten Commandments is “Ancient Rules for Modern Joy.” And some way, somehow in Scripture, throughout all the Scripture, the 66 books that make up what we call the Bible, there is a theme that is kind of seen in it that when we walk in the ways that we are supposed to walk, we actually get to experience joy. That joy can be found in following the ways in which God has intended us to live our lives.
And so these ancient rules for modern joy, the Ten Commandments, they’re understanding ways in which God’s way looks here on this earth. You know, in my life, specifically, I’d say over the last, let’s just say 16 months to 2 years, I have been really engulfed in and kind of reading and steeped into some of the ancient prayers and literature of the church. You know, people that have gone before us for hundreds of years, there have been prayers and creeds that have been proclaimed. And over the last few years, I’ve really been reading through all of these. And yet there’s one that I’ve looked at almost on a daily basis. It’s nothing that’s kind of out of this world, it’s nothing that many of us aren’t familiar with. It’s actually listed in Scripture and it’s called the Lord’s Prayer. And towards the end of the Lord’s Prayer, there is a line that for some reason, I’ve never seen it this way before, it’s kind of have captured my heart. And the Lord’s Prayer starts to close at the end and it says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
And it’s just those last words, “on earth as it is in heaven,” that has really started to compel me. What does it look like for us to live our life in a way that we would actually represent the Kingdom of God here on this earth? And its passages like the Ten Commandments, like the Law of Moses that’s in the Old Testament, we’ll talk about in a moment, passages like the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus taught, that gives us a picture of what does it mean for our to be rooted with this kingdom mindset? To see ways in which we ought to live if we do call ourselves Christians. To see life and have a posture before God and a posture before people that brings glory and honor to him that reflects the ways of heaven on earth.
Last week, Pastor Craig actually gave us two great things that we are to understand as we fully understand and really wrestle with the idea of the Ten Commandments. The first principle is this as we take a look at the Ten Commandments, again, Pastor Craig talked about this last week, I’m just reemphasizing it, that each of the commandments, each of the Ten Commandments is a first step, not a finish line. That each of the Ten Commandments in themselves, it’s basically, hey, this is baseline. And to be honest, they’re really not that outlandish requests. Like, when you look through the Ten Commandments, it’s like, hey, will you just not tell lies? Like, just don’t lie, okay? Tell the truth. And how about we not steal from each other? Let’s not want things we don’t have. Let’s, like, not mess with each other’s spouses. And by the way, like, let’s just not kill each other. These aren’t, like, huge, like, things for us. But again, they’re just a first step. They’re just a starting point, but they actually go much deeper as we’ll see here today. So that’s the first principle, understanding the Ten Commandments.
The second one is this, the first five commandments have everything to do with how we love and interact and worship God. The first five are about loving God. And the second five are about loving others. How do we interact with one another? How do we express our emotions? How do we live our lives in relation to people and our neighbors living around us? And it’s a beautiful picture. And as you understand the first five commandments are about loving God, the second five commandments about loving others, it really emphasizes the words of Jesus in what we have come to know as a Great Commandment. When the followers of Jesus asked him, “Hey, which of the rules, which of the commandments, which of the 600-plus Laws of Moses, which is the greatest commandment?” And Jesus says, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” So there’s this framework that’s in the Ten Commandments that we are to look at.
And the Hebrew people, the people that were God’s people that had just come out of Egypt, out of slavery in Egypt that Moses had led into the desert, Moses went up to Mount Sinai and he received these commandments and other ways in which his people were to live and worship him. Moses was up on Mount Sinai and when he came down, they got a basic understanding of what it meant to relate with God. You see, Moses came down and he gave them the Ten Commandments and the other laws. It was almost like in their day and age, they only saw a relationship with God in black and white. Here’s these rules, here’s these commandments, here is the Law, this is how you are supposed to live. But for you and I being on this side of the ministry of our Messiah, Jesus, being on this side of God coming to this earth incarnate as the person of Jesus being the Messiah, living his life, teaching, healing, going to the cross, dying, being buried, and resurrected on the third day, and then filling us with his Holy Spirit, on this side of all of that, we actually have the pleasure of looking back at the Law and the commandments not in black and white anymore, but we actually have the opportunity to see it in a high definition color. We get to see the reasons why and the motives behind all of the different rules and laws and commandments that God had set up in the Old Testament.
But as we dive through this 6th commandment, Exodus chapter 20, verse 13, “You shall not murder,” we say, “Okay. Well, that’s pretty easy. Let’s go home.” Like, “All right, cool. I won’t kill anybody.” Like, “That’s it. Can I just leave now?” But I think we’re actually gonna see something. As we peel back the layers, we’re actually tempted to say, “Well, I’m not gonna shed anybody’s blood. I’m not gonna kill anybody. So this has nothing to do with me.” But in reality, as we take a look to examine what the heart behind this is, we’re actually gonna find that every single one of us wrestle with this every day of our lives. You see, to get a full understanding of this commandment and all of the Laws of Moses, it’s always helpful to look at the teaching ministry of Jesus. That Jesus very often, he actually references the Law of Moses. He oftentimes references the commandments because there is something deeper that goes on underneath the core of our lives beyond just whether or not we follow these actions.
And Jesus’s teaching ministry is emphasized nowhere more than the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel writer, Matthew, the Gospel according to Matthew, the first book of the New Testament actually has five different teaching sections in it. And this is fascinating and I geek out on this sort of stuff, but there’s five teaching sections of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Many scholars actually connect that to the first five books of the Old Testament, which is called the Torah or the Jewish Pentateuch, the original five books that actually build the foundation of the Jewish faith and then the Christian worldview and the Christian faith as well. So it’s almost as if Jesus is portrayed as a new Moses, the final prophet that was to come. And his most famous teaching that is outlined in the Gospel of Matthew is the Sermon on the Mount. And in this Sermon on the Mount, you find Jesus on a mountaintop, kind of like Moses going to Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God. It’s almost like Jesus is on the mountain giving the sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, giving us a deeper picture of what does it mean for us to live in relation with God? Almost a new Torah or a new covenant, a new way of interacting with God, a new way of interacting with each other.
And Jesus starts off in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, and you have what we call the Beatitudes. You know, blessed of the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. And then he shifts and he lets his followers know that they are to be salt and light in this world. And then after that, he has this really kind of a direct conversation about the fact that Jesus says I did not come to wipe away the Law, I’m not here to say you don’t have to live that way anymore, but I’m here to show you that I have actually fulfilled the Law. And then after that, there’s a series of opposites that are marked by a certain formula and they go like this, and Jesus says, he says, “You have heard that it was said,” and then he inserts one of the commandments or inserts one of the Law, “You have heard that it was said, but I tell you.” You see, it’s not just a teaching tactic. Jesus didn’t come to just be a teacher for us, a great teacher of ethics. He was a prophet with one specific purpose in mind in his teaching, to expand the vision of God’s people for kingdom living on earth as it is in heaven. God’s Kingdom reflected here, a new way of covenantal life, the kind of spiritual clothing that his children, his people were to wear.
So as we look at the Sermon on the Mount, as we look at the teachings of Jesus, as we look at the Ten Commandments, I found it helpful to think of it’s almost like clothes that we are to put on as we express the Kingdom of God here in this world. And what Jesus was showing, there was a righteousness that was better than those of the religious leaders. That there was a way of forgiveness and prayer which wasn’t limited to a synagogue or going to a place, but actually a faith that his people could live out as they go about their lives. And Jesus showed that the commandments were simply a starting point, and he continued to emphasize the core of what God meant. You see, Jesus’s teachings aren’t about, like, just being nice and, like, living a nice, clean life and you’ll get a reward in heaven. But his teachings are guidelines for kingdom-minded people that wanna be more like him and join him on mission as we say here at Mission Hills a lot.
And within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus illustrates kingdom living with a few practical issues. And one of them he actually references is this commandment, “Do not kill. You do not commit murder.” Follow me in Matthew chapter 5, verse 21 and listen to what Jesus says specifically about this commandment. “You have heard that it was said…” Remember, this is his tactic now. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” So think about that. If you murder, there is judgment that’s gonna come. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or a sister…” this ain’t just talking about siblings that took, like, a toy from you, like, this is anybody. “If you’re angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” And so in a way, Jesus is connecting the judgment that someone experiences when they murder to this judgment that is cast upon us when we’re simply angry with another brother or sister within the church.
You see, the people, and the Pharisees, and the Scribes, they understood this idea of do not murder in the narrowest sense. And they believe, and I think we all believe, look, “If I just don’t kill somebody, I’m good.” Like, “If I don’t murder somebody, shed innocent blood, everything’s okay.” But Jesus actually takes this commandment a little bit deeper from the idea of physical murder, and he actually extends it to emotional murder, resentment and anger against somebody. Which he starts to say, and we can’t get into, we don’t have time to get into, almost like a violation of everyone is created in the image of God. You see, human courts and earthly judges, they weigh our actions externally. They look at evidence externally to see whether or not we’re guilty.
But Jesus says, actually, it’s not the external ways in which that you act that caused you to have judgment cast on you, it’s even your internal thoughts and what’s rooted inside of you that is able to cast judgment. And he reminds them that the standards of God go beyond external morality and they go straight to the heart. So Jesus almost elevates this reality of anger, and it’s something that we should absolutely take a look at. Because if anger is connected to this thing called murder, then what happens when we find ourselves pretty angry? And we’re gonna find that anger isn’t just an emotion that we feel towards someone, it has a potential actually to cast judgment upon ourselves. And because of the severity of this, we’ve got to take a look at it.
So today’s message, we’ve titled it, “How to Keep Your Cool: Dealing with Anger.” And I don’t know about you, maybe you guys are like, “Man, I don’t need this.” Like, “I’m not an angry person. That’s just for all those other people.” But I’ll say this, man, I grew up in Southern California, and I grew up and I think it was, like, originated here. I’m not sure, it probably was. But growing up in Southern California learning to drive, I learned to experience this thing called road rage. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced road rage. Like, I know me, like, I spent about a quarter of my life on I-25 going up and down from Fort Collins down to the South Denver area. Like, I get road rage just getting on the freeway. Like, it could be no cars on the freeway, I’m just mad at I-25 because of all the construction and all that.
I looked up the definition of road rage. I don’t know if you can relate to any of this. “Aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by a driver. Behaviors include rude and offensive gestures,” you can use your imagination, “verbal insults, physical threats, or dangerous driving methods targeted towards another driver or a pedestrian in an effort to intimidate or release frustration.” And like, we do this to strangers. Like, we do this for people we don’t even know. I would guess that a percentage of us have experienced road rage, either being a victim or the perpetrator of it. But I would guess that almost all of us have experienced some level of rage or anger, and it’s either internal or it’s external. But just to, like, protect ourselves, we don’t call it rage and we don’t call it anger. You know what we call it? Frustration.
I remember I was talking to somebody and we were having a conversation. And I was talking about some things in my life that were kind of annoying me. And I was talking about how frustrated I was. And this somebody, who was actually my counselor…and I’ve been in counseling for like six years, my wife and I, we really believe in it. And I just thought, “Man, if Tom Brady, the best quarterback ever needs a quarterback coach, then I can handle a counselor.” Like, it’s okay. And so, as I was talking to my counselor and she was actually saying, “Hey, actually, I think you’re angry.” I was like, “No, I’m not. I’m not angry. I’m just frustrated.” And she says, “Well, can you explain the difference between the two?” And I said, “Ouch, I can’t.”
You know, there’s a reason that Jesus connects anger and murder on the Sermon on the Mount. And it’s because there’s this key principle in the teaching ministry of Jesus that he emphasized over and over that he tried to impart to his people. He says it’s the stuff that actually comes out of us that has the potential to ruin us, what’s in our hearts. The things that come out of us are actually already in us. Listen to how Jesus says this in Matthew chapter 15, verse, 18. Jesus says, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart,” listen to this, “out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual morality, theft, false testimony, and slander.” So, when our emotions override our control, that’s when things get out of control. And what Jesus is saying, it’s actually rooted in our hearts. It’s rooted on the inside. That anger isn’t rooted outside, it’s actually rooted inside of us.
And here’s what I know. I have a hunch that people do not wake up in the morning and the first thing they think about is, “Man, it’s a beautiful day to get angry at someone.” Like, this is a really good day to, like, yell at someone when they’re driving. Like, no one wakes up in the morning and nobody wants to lose their cool and lash out in anger. Nobody wants to do that. The people closest to you definitely don’t want you to do that. We’ve been on the other side of it and we’ve seen it. And in a lot of ways, there is anger. There is anger that we’re talking about that’s rooted, that actually leads to bad stuff. There is a reality of righteous anger. And it’s good for us to look at what this righteous anger is rooted in because it’ll give us an idea of what our other type of rage and anger is rooted in.
You see, righteous anger is actually stuff when you look at the world and you say, “Hey, that’s not how it’s supposed to be for them.” Like, “This isn’t right. That’s just not right for that person.” See, righteous anger is what’s kind of propelled the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage, child labor laws, human trafficking, organizations that are looking to stop it. Like, there is a sense of righteous anger and righteous anger is always rooted in what others aren’t getting what they deserve. That it’s almost like looking at things and saying, “There is things happening and things should not be going that way.”
And yet I also wanna pause, and I know that many of us, and we’ll dive in this in a moment, many of us have some things that have happened to us in our past that should probably elicit some pretty strong emotions. Somebody has wronged us. Somebody has abused us. Somebody has taken advantage of us. There is a lot of things. And so there are areas in which that we look at things, say, “That’s not the way it is supposed to be.” But righteous anger is others aren’t getting what they deserve. That’s not what we’re talking about. Our anger when we lash out in rage, and I think we all know what I mean when I say that, is rooted in something completely different. And it actually has the ability to impact how you follow and view Jesus and has an ability to make a statement on whether or not Jesus is your Lord and not just your Savior.
You see, a lot of us love the idea of Jesus being our Savior. But when we actually say he is our Lord, then that means that there are some ways in which we are to live that aren’t honoring to him as our Lord. You see, the kind of anger that Jesus has talked about is anger that is rooted not in other people not getting what they deserve, but what I’m not getting what I think, and not just I think, I’m sure I deserve. And that’s where the root of a lot of our anger is found. You see, in my personal counseling journey and a lot of issues and stuff that I’m processing and been processing over the last six years, here’s what I’ve found. That there is a lot of stuff that every instance where I express rage and anger or frustration towards something or somebody, or a certain circumstance or situation in my path, it’s always rooted within something in my story. It’s always a pain that is being triggered from my past.
I have a great friend who says this. He says, “Everybody has three things. Everyone has a past, everyone has pain, and everyone has potential.” That everyone has those three things. And here’s the reality. The pain in our past, actually, it’s almost like this powder keg of ammunition ready to explode at any moment when it gets triggered. And we hear that phrase trigger a lot. I want you to think about in our lives, we’ve got things that have happened, pain that we have that when it’s unprocessed and unattended to, then it holds incredible power. And when something happens, when somebody says something or somebody does something and we’re triggered, then that trigger…the triggers in themselves don’t have power. The trigger of a gun does not have power. What the trigger does is it ignites something that then ignites that ammunition and that power comes out. You see, many times, the anger and rage that we lash out with is because we’ve got pain in our past that is unattended to.
Let’s look and see what James, the brother of Jesus…like, talk about pressure. Like, that’s your brother, like, “Hey, why can’t you do it like your brother?” Like, James in James chapter 3, this is what he says, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” Because wise people have insights. So he’s saying, which one of you all is wise? You understand life. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done and humility that comes from wisdom.” If you’re wise, don’t just talk about it, but actually show it by the way that you live, by the deeds that you do, the deeds done in humility. Wise people are always humble because wise people realize that arrogance and a life that’s all about me is not a life worth living. Verse 14, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts,” if you let that stuff live inside their unaddressed, it’s gonna be a problem, “do not boast about it or deny the truth.” James is saying don’t get stuck and satisfied. Don’t pretend to be fine. That God has a better way of life than just letting the past pain root in our hearts.
And then he says in verse 16, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition,” where it’s internal and rooted, “there you’re gonna find disorder and every evil practice.” You see, when arrogance gets lodged in our hearts when life becomes all about me, it leads to disorder and every evil practice. And what’s on the inside starts to come out after others in our lives and after us. And in chapter 4, verse, 1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” Where does this hostility and conflict come from? “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” And I look at that and I’m like, “No, they don’t come from my desires. They come because that person is wrong. Because that person didn’t give me what I thought I wanted. My anger doesn’t come from me. No, it’s always somebody else’s fault. The reason I struggle is because they’re unwilling, because they’re unable. My way is the right way.” And what James is getting at, and he’s saying as long as you think the source of your anger is out there, you’ll never deal with it. If we believe the source of our anger is always our spouse, or always our kids, or always our boss, we’re never gonna get to the root of it.
And this has become almost, like, life-changing insight for my wife and I, when we have our discussions, when we have our frustrating discussions, that we simply have this conversation and we think that, like, I’m a part of this problem every single time. The reason that we fight, and we argue, and we quarrel is because we’re not getting something we want or we desire or we feel like we deserve. And we say things like, “But I earned it.” Yeah, you probably earned it, but you’re still not getting what you want. “But they promised.” Yeah, they probably did promise and they fell short, they may have fell short, and you aren’t getting what you want. “But what they did wasn’t fair.” You wanted to be treated fair and you just weren’t. And that’s oftentimes true, but still, you’re lashing out because you don’t get what you want. And when you can pause in the moment when anger starts to rise up and simply identify, there’s something I’m not getting in this conversation, it has the ability to disarm and liberate us from living under this thing called anger.
In verse 2, James chapter 4,verse 2, says, “You desire but you don’t have, so you kill. You covet but you can’t get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” The source of the anger isn’t out there. The source of our anger is in here. Things aren’t going my way and I’m not getting what I want. You see, there is this idea if you just simply look at the word sin, if you understand and just take a look at the word sin, what’s in the middle of the word sin? I. Just like pick a sin, like, think any sin you can think of, it’s always about me getting what I want, taking what I want, when I want, how I want, no matter who gets hurt. That sin is always with I in the center. And here’s what I’ve learned about anger. That it’s not necessarily that I’m angry, but it’s that I’m actually really afraid. That I lash out in anger…You guys probably think I’m, like, some really angry person, I promise I’m really not, but it’s that I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’m not gonna get what I want. I’m afraid that I’m not gonna be respected. I’m afraid that my expectations aren’t gonna get met. I’m afraid that I’m not gonna be able to provide. I’m afraid that things are gonna get outta control.
And it’s that fear of losing control that oftentimes leads me to anxiousness, but the root of it is actually this anger. So sometimes when I tell myself, or we tell ourselves, or you tell yourself, “I gotta work on my temper. I gotta work on my temper.” It’s not necessarily, “I gotta work on my temper,” it’s actually, “I gotta work on my trust.” And I gotta trust that what God has for me is good. And I’ve gotta trust that even though I don’t see how this is gonna work out for the good, I’m gonna trust that God is holding my life in the palm of his hands. I gonna trust the words of the Psalmist that says I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, that he knows my inward thoughts. I’m gonna trust the words of Ephesians that before the foundation of this world that we were created, that God actually had ideas for our life. That you are his masterpiece created in Christ Jesus to do good work that he set aside for us so that we might walk in them. You see, I’m gonna trust in those things.
And the truth is we all have things that have happened in our lives. We all have this pain that has caused us to question that trust. But one of the things I’ve been walking through and learning for myself as I look back at Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 of how God created, and he created Eden, he created this perfect paradise for us to live in, and this perfect paradise that was intended for you and for me was that we were gonna experience the goodness of God all of the time. And then in Genesis 3, evil walks into the picture. And so there is this original story that God created us, that he is good, that we’re in relation with him, and he loves us and we can fully trust him without ever being distracted. And then evil comes in Genesis 3 and tries to write another story on our lives that’s marred with brokenness and pain. But you know what’s been really helpful for me to remember? That Genesis 1 and 2 predates Genesis 3 by a millennia. That the original story of God being good and us being in a relationship with him that is our original story. And the pain and the stuff that we experience in this life, that’s a false narrative that evil is trying to put upon our hearts in our lives.
And so I think a lot of times it’s not necessarily I need to work on my temper, it’s I’ve gotta understand, am I trusting? Do I trust that his divine power has given me everything I need for a godly life? Can I trust that he is ultimately good? It really comes down to the reality of how I view myself before God. This is why Jesus brought this up. And so as we start to close and talk about this commandment, you shall not kill, which many of us wanted to check out because we thought we were good, and now we’re talking about anger, realizing, “Whoops, maybe I’m not.” The question I want to ask is what’s your relationship with anger? Do you let it take control? Do you lose control? Do you lose your cool? Do you let it impact your mood or even your mouth? You see, here’s the good news. If the answer to that is yes, there is good news. There is a solution and the solution is rooted in one thing. And I believe this is what Jesus was getting at in the Sermon on the Mount. That really the only way for us to deal with this is we need a heart transplant. That we need God to root out our old heart and to give us a brand new heart.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.” The old is gone. The new has come. That God removes a heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh in us. And the beautiful thing about needing a heart transplant is God specializes in them. And it’s available through us, through the invitation that he’s given us in relationship with him. And here’s an even better idea that if you call yourself a Jesus follower, there is actually a model that has gone before us that actually lived this out as well. That Jesus himself, he didn’t always get what he wanted. That there was things that happened to him that were unfair, ways in which he could have said no to what he wanted, but he didn’t so that we would get what we needed. Nowhere is that more evident than the Garden of Gethsemane, the night he was betrayed and went to the cross. Yet he denied what was fair and what his desires were.
Listen to how Paul illustrates this, “In your relationships with one another,” with your father, mother, kids, boss, sister, Facebook friends, roommate, “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage.” If Jesus didn’t act this way, then maybe we don’t neither. Listen to this, “Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” You see, one of the greatest ways that Jesus impacts our life, he doesn’t just make our life better. Like, Jesus didn’t come to be our life coach and to show us how to live, Jesus led us deeper into the ways of God to understand what it means to be transformed by the renewing of our mind so that we would reflect the Kingdom of Heaven here on this earth.
And so, as we consider these words, we have an opportunity to say, we’re gonna respond in a certain way, and you have an opportunity to respond. Let me read this last passage and I’ll pray for us. This is a paraphrase of Eugene Peterson in the message of Matthew chapter 5, verse 48. It says, “In a word, here’s what I’m saying, grow up. Don’t live childish anymore. You’re kingdom subjects. Mission Hills, you are kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously towards others, the way God lives towards you.”
Let us pray. Father, thank you for this time. Thank you that as we consider your Words, Jesus, that we understand that the issues that we see on the outside actually go much deeper inside. So, Father, there are some of us here today that simply need to wrestle with the reality that we’ve got incredible pain in our past, and it keeps getting ignited and it lashes out. I pray, God, that in some way, somehow through relationship with others, you would help us process that. Or I also know there’s people in this room that would say, “I need that heart transplant. I’ve never surrendered my life to Jesus.” I pray, God, that you would meet us wherever we’re at in this journey of life. That Lord, messages like this are not to just put a finger on us and put more pressure on us to act better, but it’s a way in which we can respond and change and allow your Word to wash us and to lead us to live a new life, to experience new wine, new joy, a new way of experiencing one another, a new way of experiencing ourselves. We trust you to lead us in those ways, Jesus. Amen.
Your marriage matters to God because you matter. You get married to reach the finish line of loving and being with our spouse for the rest of your life. Not committing adultery is not a high standard, but it is a beginning step in lots of sequential steps that can take you exactly where you do not want to end up; or you can shun adultery and take alternative steps to get you right where God wants you and your marriage.
Craig: Well, hey, thank you for joining us today. If you’re not already aware, we’re in the middle of a series on the Ten Commandments. And if you’re just joining us, two things you really need to know about the Ten Commandments. We’ve been talking about these throughout the series, but they form the right and the necessary framework for understanding the Ten Commandments, and not turning into something they were or never intended to be. So, two things to know about it. Number one, rules don’t create relationships, they regulate them. So, following the rules isn’t how you get a relationship with God. We get a relationship with God, not by following the rules, but by faith in Jesus, and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. But when we have that relationship, the rules regulate the relationship. They keep it moving in the right direction, and they keep us centered, where we can experience all the good things that God created us to experience. And so they don’t create relationships, they regulate them.
Second thing you need to know to make sure you don’t turn the Ten Commandments into something they were never intended to be is this, is that each commandment is a first step, it’s not the finish line. Each commandment is a first step. It gets us moving in the right direction, but it’s not the finish line, it’s not everything that God calls us to. And that’s really clear when it comes to the seventh commandment that we’re going to be looking at today. If you want to join me, we’re going to be an Exodus chapter 20, verse 14, the seventh commandment says very simply this, it says, “You shall not commit adultery,” which is pretty straightforward, right? Like, if you’re married, don’t be sleeping with people you’re not married to. Done, right? I mean, it’s pretty straightforward. But if you think about it, it’s a pretty low standard, isn’t it? It’s a pretty low bar. I mean, every now and then somebody will tell me, “Oh, I have a great marriage,” and I’m always looking for tips, so I’ll go, “Oh, you know, why do you say your marriage is great?” And I’ve never had anybody say, “Oh, because we’ve never had an affair.” That’s never anybody’s answer to how it is, I know we have a great marriage. That’s way, way too low a bar, right? It’s a first step, it’s not the finish line.
Jesus actually gave us another step. Jesus said this, he said, “You’ve heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That’s another step, and that’s a much higher standard, right? It’s a much higher standard. And I’ve had people ask me, “Hey, what exactly constitutes a lustful look?” And I’m like, I go, “Well, first off, that’s the wrong question.” Like, if you don’t want to cross a line, if you don’t want to keep them crossing a line, don’t ask how close can I get to the line, and how far over the line can I lean without putting my foot down on the ground the other side of it, don’t ask that. If you want to keep from crossing a line, stay away from the stupid line, okay? Stay away from the line. So, it’s the wrong question. But sometimes I’ll give an answer, and you know what the answer is? You know what constitutes a lustful look, the second look. That’s where it starts. It’s the second look, it’s the…you know, you’re walking in… Oh, nowadays it’s, mmm. Hey, and it’s a small step, but here’s the reality, small steps in the same direction, take us to places we wouldn’t have thought possible. And then that works both positively and negatively, okay? Small steps in the wrong direction, little steps, one after another, take us places we would never have dreamed we would ever be, and we can’t believe that that’s where we are. But it also works positively. Small steps in the right direction can take us to places that we would not have ever thought we could get to. They’re so great.
And what Jesus is saying is it’s those small steps towards entertaining attractions to somebody. That’s really what he’s talking about. It’s about entertaining attraction to somebody other than your spouse. Because here’s the thing, listen, we can’t always avoid experiencing attraction, but we can avoid entertaining it. You can’t always avoid experiencing having that moment, well, “Oh, I’m attracted to him. I’m attracted to her.” We can’t avoid experiencing it, but we can avoid entertaining it. We can avoid inviting it in and letting it have a seat at the table where it really begins to influence us. That’s the small step that leads to things that we would never have thought possible. And so Jesus says, here’s the next step. But the crazy thing is even that isn’t the final step, it’s not the finish line. The finish line is not just not committing adultery, it’s not even not entertaining attraction to somebody other than your spouse. The finish line is something way higher than that.
Couple months ago I got a letter from somebody, it was an actual letter, I didn’t even know they did those anymore, right? It had a stamp, and it had pieces of paper inside, they’d been handwritten. And it was from a woman in another state. She’d been watching Mission Hills for a while, and she was very complimentary. She said, “You know, I’ve really been blessed by the worship services, I’ve learned a lot from your teaching, but…” and I knew there was a but, she said, “but,” and then she kind of went on to express something she was really upset with me about, something that I’d said a couple different times, and it really bothered her. And what she was really upset about was a couple different times I had said that I think that my wife is really hot. She was really bothered by that. And she said, “Pastor, the Bible never says that men are supposed to think that their wives are hot.” And she’s right, the Bible does not say that. What the Bible says is way worse than that. What the Bible says is way more explicit than that. In fact, it’s so explicit, I don’t even feel comfortable, like, reading it, without censoring it in an audience that I know has some smaller kids in it. Okay? So, let me give you the censored version of what the book of Proverbs, The Book of Wisdom says, it says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth, a loving doe, a graceful dear, may her… Hmm, satisfy you always. May you ever be intoxicated with her love?” Like, I feel like saying, “I think my wife’s hot,” is dialing it down quite a bit, don’t you? Like, that’s the finish line. That’s the finish line. The finish line is actually being satisfied and intoxicated with your spouse’s love.
And listen, if you are satisfied and intoxicated with your spouse’s love, adultery is not going to be a problem. It’s not going to happen. Like, a couple years ago I had dinner at a buffet, it was called the Bacchanal Buffet. And I should have known it was gonna be a good buffet, if it’s got the name Bacchanal because it’s named after the Greek god of excess. Okay? And let me tell you what, it did not disappoint. Five minutes into this buffet, I was satisfied. Twenty minutes in, I was intoxicated, not with booze, with meat. I was high on meat at that point. And listen, in the midst of that, when I was satisfied and intoxicated with that buffet, if some guy with a hotdog cart had come along and stopped at the window and tried to get me to come out and buy a hotdog, I’d have been like, “Dude, you’re wasting your time. I just had filet mignon wrapped, bacon-wrapped sirloin. Get your hotdog cart out of here.” Right, that’s a finish line, that we will be satisfied and intoxicated with our spouse’s love to the point that adultery is just not even…it’s not even an option. It’s not even a possibility. That’s the finish line. Okay? So, how do we get there?
And I want to tell you something, no matter what state your marriage is in right now, it’s possible to get there. With God’s help, it’s possible to become satisfied and intoxicated with your spouse’s love. How do we do it? We don’t obviously have time to spend, you know, unpacking all of what Scripture has to say about getting to that point, but we do have time to do two really important things. And the first one is this, we’re going to see why it is that God is obsessed with great marriages. We’re going to see why God is so focused on having great marriages among His people. The second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna discover five key steps to a great marriage, five small steps in the right direction that will take you to places you might have never thought possible in your marriage. And by the way, let me just say this, I know that some of you listening to this are not married, and some of you that’s a hard thing. And I know that sometimes being single can be lonely, and sometimes in the church, it can feel even lonelier. I know that. But I want you to know that, listen, you are not a second-class citizen or a second-class member of the kingdom or this church because you’re single. And I want to encourage you to stick with us through this message because, even if you’re single, there’s a couple of reasons why you need to hear what’s going to be said today, from God’s Word.
The first one is just this, you might be married, at some point in the future, and it may be coming sooner than you think. God often surprises us. So, even if you feel like, you know, it’s not happening, or it’s not going to happen, I want to encourage you to listen to this because it might happen, and God needs you to know this. But the second reason is this, you have people in your life who have marriages that they need your support for. You have married friends and they need you. I love what my friend Ted Cunningham said, he was with us this past Thursday night for the Marriage Comedy Night. How many of us were at the Marriage Comedy Night? Ted did a great job. Yeah, he did an awesome job. And Ted said something a while back that I remember, and he said it this Thursday night as well. He said, “Marriage is a duet in need of some great backup singers.” It’s a great way to think about it. Like, you may not be married, but you have some friends who are and they need you to be great backup singers to make their duet marriage everything that it can be. So, even if you’re single, I want to encourage you to stick with us.
Let’s start by talking about why it is that God is obsessed with great marriages. And he is. He’s obsessed with great marriages. Jesus’s first miracle, at a wedding that should tell you something, it should tell you something about the priority that God places on marriage and weddings. But the whole Bible is kind of evidence of God’s obsession with great marriages. From the first to the last book of the Bible, marriage is a central theme. It happens over and over and over again that the Bible talks about marriage. It talks about marriages, and weddings, and husbands, and wives, and how we interact with each other. In fact, the Bible talks about marriage almost as much as it talks about money. It talks about marriage 800 and some odd times, which is just slightly behind the amount of time that it talks about money. And the reason it talks about money so much is because money is powerful. And God knows that how we think about and how we interact with money has either the ability to unleash us to the life God intended us for, or it has the ability to chain us to a cheap imitation of life. It’s why the Bible talks so much about money, and just right behind money, talks almost the same amount of time about marriage for the same reason, which is that marriage is powerful. Marriage is powerful and it has the ability either unleash you to the life that God has always meant for you to experience, or to change you to a cheap and a painful imitation of it.
That’s why it’s so important that how we live out and how we seek out, if we’re not married yet, and we’re thinking about getting married, and we’re looking for that person, how we live out and how we seek out our marriage is so important, because it is so powerful. And here’s really the bottom line, you need to understand this. Your marriage matters to God because you matter to God. Your marriage matters to God because you matter to God. He’s not obsessed with marriage; he’s obsessed with you. He loves you so deeply, and he knows that marriage is powerful, and it can either set you free or it become a chain that holds you back from being everything that he wants for you. That’s the bottom line, is that your marriage matters to God because you matter to God.
Let me take you to the invention of marriage, we can see that. If you want to go back and look with me, we’re going to be in Genesis chapter 2 starting in verse 18. And while you’re turning there, let me just say this, an important thing to know about Genesis chapter 2, is that Genesis chapter 2 comes right after Genesis chapter 1. And I know you’re like I had no idea we’re gonna be getting so deep, so fast here. But here’s the thing, Genesis chapter 1 has a very clear rhythm. It’s a rhythm that happens over and over and over again. And basically, it’s the God creates, and then he celebrates. He creates and he celebrates. He creates light, and land, and the sea, and then living creatures. And every time he creates, and he looks at it, and he celebrates. And he celebrates it by saying,” It’s good.” So, he creates and he celebrates, he creates and he says, it’s good, and he celebrates. That’s the rhythm we see it over and over again.
And then Genesis chapter 2, we get kind of a deep dive into the creation of human beings, which happened in two parts, God made Adam first, he created the first human being, Adam. And this is what God said about his creation, “The Lord God said, it is not good for the man to be alone.” It’s the first time the rhythm gets broken. It’s the first time God looks at something and he says it’s not good, it’s not there yet. The Lord God said it is not good for the man to be alone. And I know there’s a bunch of women out there, going, I did not need the Bible to tell me that my man should not be left unsupervised, right? A couple of years ago, there was a guy who made a boatload of money, he just printed up some shirts that said, “In my defense, I was left unsupervised.” And he made them in men’s shirts, and women’s shirts, and kids shirts, but 99% of the money he made came from women buying them for their man because women know men should not be left unsupervised. But really what God’s talking about here isn’t just men, he is talking about human beings. He’s talking about the fact that God created us with a need for community. He creates with a need for connection. He created us with a need for companionship. We’re not supposed to do life alone. We need companions. And really, the reason that God then proceeded to make the woman and invent the institution of marriage is because God created marriage to meet our need for companionship. God created marriage to meet our need for companionship, a need that he created in us.
Now, two things real quick because these are important. The first one is just this, understand, marriage isn’t the only way to meet our need for companionship. And so if you’re single, understand that you can still have your need for companionship met with other people, with the right kinds of friends in your life. And God will certainly meet that need as well to a certain extent, but he created other people to meet partly that need. And so marriage is not the only way to meet that need. And it’s important, not only for single people to know, but it’s important for married people to know too, because sometimes what happens is married people look at their spouse and they go, “You’re it. You’re supposed to meet all my needs.” And that is way too much pressure for those poor people. I had a guy a couple of years ago, tell me, “I think I found the one, Craig.” I said, “That’s great. How do you know she’s the one?” He said, “Because she keeps telling me over and over again, she says you were all I want and all I need.” I was like, “Oh, run. Run fast, run far.” Because you can’t live like that. Your spouse cannot be anything and everything to meet all those needs. Your spouse is an important part of meeting that need for companionship, but you need friends in your life. You’ve got a duet going, but you need some backup singers. And if you don’t have them, what’s gonna happen is going to put so much pressure on your spouse that the relationship is going to start to crack. Marriage is not the only way to meet our needs for companionship.
Second thing I want you to understand is this, a lot of people misunderstand what companionship is, especially when it comes to marriage. And some people seem to…what they’re really settling for is just not being alone, and they think it’s the same thing. As long as there’s somebody, then I have companionship. And that’s just not the case at all. In fact, I’ve known a lot of people who have gone into marriage because they just didn’t want to be alone, they found somebody to not be alone with, and then, a little while into the marriage, they found themselves feeling more lonely than they had before they got married. And the reason is because they didn’t really find a true companion. So, here’s companionship. True companionship is a relationship with someone who knows everything about you and loves you anyway. That’s true companionship. It’s a relationship with someone who knows everything about you and loves you anyway. That’s not an easy thing to find. Let me tell you something if you are looking for that person, stop looking for fixer-uppers. Stop shopping fixer-uppers. Because so many people go into a relationship with somebody, and they’re like, “Okay, yeah, I don’t like that. I don’t like that. I’m not sure I can live with that, but once we get married, he’ll change. Once we get married, I’ll fix her.” You’ve got to stop looking for fixer-uppers. Because that one wall in the house that you just hate, you just can’t stand it, it might turn out to be a load-bearing wall, and it ain’t going nowhere.
Listen, if you can’t live with everything that you know about your spouse, and you don’t know pretty much everything there is to know, you shouldn’t be getting married to him. Don’t move into a house that you can’t live with as is. It doesn’t mean there can’t be improvements, it doesn’t mean there can’t be growth together, there’s absolutely going to be all that, but if you can’t live with them as they are, you shouldn’t be marrying them. Companionship is someone who knows everything about you, and they’re okay with it. They’re okay with it as is. Marriage is a powerful tool for meeting this deep need for companionship that God created in us, but it’s not just about companionship, it’s also about mission. It’s also about our mission. “The Lord God said it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” And I’ll be honest with you, I’m not crazy about that translation. I get it, all the English translations do something very similar. And the reason is, there’s not any good English words that communicate the intent of the original Hebrew there. So, we’re kind of left without the vocabulary for it, but it’s more important to understand, two things.
First off, He says a helper, and in English helper is just kind of an innocuous word. It’s kind of a low-level word, right? I mean, like, you know, you got little kids and they’re like, “Oh, she’s Daddy’s little helper.” And we really mean it with quotation marks around it, because she’s not helping. She’s making this so much harder, right? It’s just a low-level word. And the Hebrew word is a much deeper word, it’s a very profound word. In fact, God uses the Hebrew word there to talk about himself. He describes himself as our helper, and God is not our little helper. He’s our helper and our shield in times of trouble. He’s the foundation on which we stand. And yes, that’s helpful, but He’s not our helper, and neither is your spouse. They’re not your helper, they’re something more profound. But again, there’s no good English word for it. It is a deep and profound sense of partnership, which also, we see in that other word that I’m not crazy about. He says, you know, I will make a helper suitable for him. Most English translations say something like that. But the Hebrew word literally means a helper, alongside him, to helper side by side him. The image is people who stand shoulder to shoulder in advance on the world together. It’s a powerful word, it’s a word about partnership. And really, what we’re being told is that marriage is a partnership in pursuit of our purpose. Marriage is a partnership in pursuit of our purpose.
See, God created us with the purpose. He made us in his image. He made us to represent God. He made us to extend his influence into every corner of creation. And so we have to stand side by side and advance on creation to accomplish our purpose. And that’s partly what marriage is, it’s a partnership in pursuit of our purpose. It’s a powerful thing. And this helps us to understand why it is that God is so obsessed with great marriages. Not only do great marriages meet this need that God created in us, but they also allow us to accomplish our mission. They accomplish the ability to become more like Jesus and to join him on mission. It’s what we talked about here, our marriages are central to that. So, God is obsessed with our marriages because he’s obsessed with us. Unfortunately, as you continue on through the Bible, what you’re going to find page after page is all of the things that get in the way of our marriages being everything that God intended them to be. Everything that gets in the way of our marriages being everything that we always wanted in a marriage, right? I mean, the world throws a lot of things at us to get in the way of us having the marriages we’ve always wanted, right? I mean, some of it’s innocuous, and some of it’s pretty insidious. Some of it’s really innocuous, we almost don’t even see the damage that it’s doing. We get so busy, right? We’re so busy doing stuff that we forget that we need to be investing in that marriage relationship, and that causes damage over time, but we don’t really even see it happening.
And then there’s insidious things. I mean, the world throws things like pornography at us, that create dissatisfaction, and unrealistic expectations, and standards that no human being can meet. And it’s not just pornography, so there’s other things that do that. There’s other things that create unrealistic expectations, Hallmark Channel. Look, I’m sorry, the Hallmark Channel is creating a lot of dissatisfaction. Every now and then, I’ll wander through and my wife will be watching some Hallmark special, and I’ll hear the guy speak to the girl. And I’m like, “Oh, no. Man, I can’t live up to that.” And there’s women out there going to their men, going, “Hey, why don’t you say to me the kinds of things that he says to her?” And the answer is, “Because they’ve got a team of scriptwriters, and they’re probably mostly women.” We can’t live up to that. But you have all these things out there that are creating dissatisfaction. Here’s an important question. What is the world throwing at me that’s hurting my marriage? I encourage you to ask yourself that question. What’s the world throwing at me that’s hurting my marriage? What am I allowing in and allowing to influence me that’s hurting my marriage? Because the world is throwing a lot at us.
And then there’s the people, right? They’re a little subset of the world. There’s people that are trying to undermine our marriage, there’s people that are actually out there looking, they’re preying on married men and married women because there’s something twisted in them that loves seeing if they can peel them away from the spouse that they said, “Until death do us part.” But then there’s other people that are doing similar kinds of damage, and we’re not necessarily on guard against them. There’s mother-in-laws, there’s moms, there’s dads, there’s brothers, and sisters who are cutting down the person that you’re committed to and creating a sense of dissatisfaction and undermining your marriage. I’m sorry, but here’s the number one category of people that are undermining your marriage, is your kids. And I don’t mean, yeah, right. I mean, it’s not that they’re like coming after you, it’s that what so often happens is, we get married and, like, that’s the foundation of our family, right? And then we bring these small people into it, and they become the center of everything, and we forget about each other, for 18, 20 years, 27 years these days, 30 years. And then when they’re gone, we look at each other, and we’re like, “Well, who are you again?”
Listen, I honestly believe that one of the biggest dangers to our marriages is a kid-centered home. I’m not saying we neglect our kids, of course not, but our kids need to see that our marriage is the center of our home, not them. Because they’re gonna go out from that home at some point and they’re gonna find that the rest of the world does not think that they’re the center of the universe. And that can be a rude awakening because they came out of a home where they were, and they shouldn’t, they shouldn’t have that experience. They need to know that it’s you and your wife first. They need to know it’s you and your husband first and everything else comes from that. It’s so important. I was reminded recently, my oldest daughter, she has her own condo, she’s got a career. She’s adulting. It’s awesome. But she was at the church for something, and I was somewhere else and she had to go to my office. And then she came in, she found me, and she kind of pulled me aside, and she was clearly struggling with something. She was heavy. There was something weighty, and she goes, “Are you and mom doing okay?” And I said, “Yeah, we’re doing great, honey. What…? We’re doing great.” And you could actually see her, “Oh, okay.” I said, “What are you so worried about?” She said, “Well, I was in your office, and I didn’t mean to snoop, but I saw some books on your desk, and one of them was called, What To Do When You Feel like Walking Away From Your Marriage.” I was like, “Oh, I was prepping for a marriage message.” And you could just see she’s like, “Oh, okay.” And I realize, even as an adult, she needed to know that her mom and her dad were in lockstep. Her mum and dad were okay. Like, so much of her world dependent on knowing that that foundation was solid.
Our kids can undermine our marriage. Here’s an important question for you. Who’s undermining my marriage? Who’s undermining? And then I love you, and because I love you, I gotta tell you a hard truth. The number one obstacle to your marriage isn’t something that’s going on out there, it’s you. The biggest obstacle in your marriage might be you. Because I know the biggest obstacle in my marriage is me because I’m selfish. Because your selfish, we’re all sinful. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But sin is rooted in selfishness, it’s inherently selfish. And selfishness is the biggest obstacle in our marriage. And I know there’s a bunch people going, “You’re absolutely right. He’s so selfish. She’s so selfish.” But you know the only reason we’re so frustrated by their selfishness is because their selfishness is getting in the way of my selfishness. You might be the biggest obstacle to your marriage. So, what do we do about it? How do we move past that to the marriages that God has intended for us? How do we get past the marriages that you and I’ve always wanted? Five key steps.
Number one, stop being okay with your marriage not being great. That’s the first key. We get so comfortable with things that we should be uncomfortable about. We get so comfortable even with brokenness or mediocrity, and we settle in. And we’ve got to stop being okay with our marriages not being great. Quick little quiz. How many of these apply to you? We’re more roommates than we are lovers, or we’re communicating, but we’re not connecting. Maybe we’re texting more than we’re talking, right? Our longest conversations are about logistics, who’s going away and doing what for who? Right? We lack emotional intimacy, we lack physical intimacy, we’re bumping fists, instead of locking lips? Right? How about this one, my husband or my wife gets what’s left of me, not what’s best of me. Huge problem in marriages. If you can check any of those, or maybe some other ones that the Holy Spirit right now has suggested to you, then the reality is your marriage is not everything it could be and we got to stop being okay with our marriages not being great. That’s the first and most important step.
Second step is to recognize…well, it’s really part of the first step, it’s recognizing that we’ve got to fight. It’s amazing to me, people will say, “Well, we did. We fought, we fought for our marriage. We read a book. We listened to podcasts, we went to a seminar.” I love what the Bible says, Hebrews 12:4, “In your struggle against sin,” and you could easily insert against mediocrity in my marriage, against brokenness in my marriage, “in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” So, as you think you fought, you haven’t even begun to fight. Until you’ve shed blood, and by the way, not their blood, right? Your blood. Until you shed your blood in fighting for your marriage, you have not even begun to fight. We’ve got to stop being okay with our marriages not been great.
Second step is we need to focus on ourselves. You need to focus on yourself, not your spouse. Twenty-eight years of vocation ministry, I’ve done a lot of marriage counseling, I have never had a couple came in for counseling, and at the end of that first session, I was like, “It is all him,” or “It’s all her.” It’s never happened. And I’ve seen some horrible husbands. Okay? I’ve seen some horrible wives. But no matter how horrible they might be, at the end of that first session, I can always go, “Hey, there’s two people who are part of the problem here.” You’re part of the problem. I’m not saying your spouse isn’t also part of the problem, but I’m saying that’s not where you start. You’ve got to focus on yourself, not your spouse. We’ve got to stop looking across the table, we’ve got to start looking in the mirror first.
Jesus said it so famously, he said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye,” in your husband’s eye, in your wife’s eye, “and pay no attention to the plank you have in your own eye?” How can you say to your brother, or your husband, or your wife, let me take the speck out of your eye, I can fix that for you when all the time there’s a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite. First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother, or your husband, or your wife’s eye. That’s the second step. Focus on yourself, not your spouse.
Third step is admit your failures to God and accept his forgiveness. Admit your failures to God. Acknowledge God, “I realized this is what I’ve done wrong. This is what I’m doing wrong. This is how I am making things harder. This is how I’m making things worse.” Admit those to God, and then accept his forgiveness because he promises forgiveness. 1 John 1:9, it says, “If we confess our sins, if we admit our sins, and we repent, we turn away from them. If we confess our sins, he is faithful, and just. and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That when we admit our failures to God, and we ask for his forgiveness, it’s given, we accept them and we go, “I’ve got a clean slate, I’m starting everything fresh today.” And then we do that again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. That’s the third step.
Fourth step, and this is a little bit harder. Admit your failures to your spouse and ask for his or her forgiveness. Those things you admitted to God, you need to admit them to your spouse too. And I know that was harder because there’s something in our culture that has lied to us, that has said to us, when you admit you’re part of the problem, when you admit that you are the problem, or even just a part of it, you’ve given up power, you’ve given up leverage. And it’s a lie from the pit. Here’s the reality. Listen, I wish we had time to fully unpack this, we don’t, we’re going to actually do a message at the end of this series one day, where we’re going to really unpack this. But listen, let me just give you a sneak peek. The most powerful marriage tool that you have is just three words, “I was wrong.” That’s the most powerful marriage tool. It’s better than any book. It’s better than any podcast, it’s better than any seminar, it’s better than any counselor. You grab hold of those three words, and you use them every time that they’re true, and it will change your marriage in ways you cannot even imagine, “I was wrong.” And listen, I cannot promise you that they’re going to give you the same forgiveness that God always will, but I can promise you if you never ask for it, you’re never going to get it. And I can promise you that even if you don’t get it from them, just asking for it sets you free in a way that you haven’t been up to this point. That’s your fourth step. Admit your failures to your spouse and ask for their forgiveness.
And then the fifth step, ask for, ask for it, and then act on God’s power to take a next step. Remember what we said, small steps in the right direction will take you to places you never thought possible. So, we just asked for God’s power, and I promise you, he’s going to give it. So, this is a prayer that God always answers in the affirmative, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks, receives, the one who seeks, finds, and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” God will give you a positive answer to that prayer. You asked for his strength to take a next step, and then you act in faith on that next step, and you will see that it will be transformative in a way it’s hard for you to even imagine right now. So, that’s the fifth step. Okay, so what are the next steps? What could you do? Let me give you a few that we’re working with, a lot of people around the Mission Hills congregation with right now.
The first one is Date Night Challenge because so many people got married and they stopped dating, and that’s a problem. So, we’re trying to reignite dating in your marriage. Some of us were here at the Date Night, or the Comedy Date Night this past Thursday. And so a lot of you signed up, actually, we had almost 500 couples sign up for this already. It’s awesome. But I want to encourage you to do it if you haven’t done it yet. Here’s what you do, you’re just going to text the word date to 80875. Once a month, you’re going to get a text back, and it’s going to give you your mission parameters. You got to do this kind of thing for the date, and here’s some questions you’re gonna talk about. Coletta and I did the first one this past weekend, and it was great questions, very creative, it was awesome. And then just to incentivize you, if you’ll take a picture of yourselves on the date, then you can submit it to a link that will give you, and you can be entered to win some great prizes, I mean, hotel nights with your spouse, I assume that’s understood, great dinners out, all those kinds of things. So, that’s one thing you can do. Take the Date Night Challenge, I really encourage you to do that.
Another thing you can do is what we call our Intentional Marriage curriculum. Pastor Jeff Baxter in our next-gen department has put together a great four-week curriculum on being more intentional about our marriage. You could do it with a Life Group, you can do it with your spouse together, very, very powerful. I really encourage you to think about checking out the Intentional Marriage four-session resource, you can find that at mssionhills.org/… What was it? It’s gone already… Intentional-marriage, right? Pretty easy to find.
Third thing you might think about doing is Re Engage, powerful ministry at Mission Hills that has transformed a lot of marriages, from marriages that everybody thought was good, but now that they’re great, and other marriages that they thought were done, and now they’re also moving towards great. In fact, let me ask you to just check out one story from Re Engage.
Katie: Aaron and I met back in 2014, we were attending young adults group at Mission Hills and kind of just started off as friends, and then I guess as we got to know each other better, turned into dating and we hit things off from there.
Aaron: We dated for about…what is it?
Katie: Two years.
Aaron: Two years and were engaged for a year, and then got married in 2017.
Katie: All throughout our dating relationship, I guess, we kind of stumbled our way through discussions of vulnerability. We both had built up walls around our heart, just to protect ourselves from some shame and pain that we had experienced previously. And so then, when we got into marriage, it was kind of hard for us to connect on a deeper level, and it really struggled with our intimacy.
Aaron: In 2020, Katie was deployed to Kosovo with the Army National Guard. From when Katie returned, it was just very hard to develop that connection again while she was in her own world, and I was in my own world. And so when she returned, we looked into Re Engage. And at first, for myself, I thought it was more of marriage counseling and for broken marriages, and only for broken marriages. But from attending the class, you learn that every individual is broken in a marriage, so whether that’s Katie or myself, we both are failing each other in some sort of way.
Katie: Re Engage really helped us identify just areas where we both were kind of falling short and helped us recognize some of our own communication errors that we have with each other that was kind of hindering our ability to grow intimate with one another. And so, Re Engage has really helped us just get back on the same page and learn that we’re not in this alone. There’s other marriages that struggle through it too, but together, and with the help of Christ, we can redeem our marriage. And so it’s been a true blessing for us.
Aaron: I think the key takeaway from Re Engage is that God provided me a wife and that she is a gift from him, and I am the same to her…
Katie: Most of the time.
Aaron: …most of the time.
Craig: Powerful ministry, yeah. Really, you owe it to yourself to check out Re Engage, whether you feel like your marriage is good, but you want to take it to great, or maybe you feel like it’s bad, and you’d be happy with good, but God actually wants to take you right past that towards a great. You should check out Re Engage. But whatever the next step is, ask God for the strength, accept his strength, and move forward in that next step. Some of you, as you’re listening to this, your next step, honestly, it may simply be taking that first step of saying yes to a relationship with Jesus. Because although we’re talking about God’s power to give you a marriage that you’ve always intended, all that power is available to you, it comes through relationship with him. And that relationship with him starts from faith. And so if you’ve never said yes to faith in Jesus, that might be your step today. Can I ask all of you just to pray with me?
“God, for those of us who have that relationship with you, we ask now for the power to figure out and to take our next step in making our marriages everything we’ve always wanted them to be, and everything that we see from your Word that you’ve always wanted them to be. Lord, for those who are listening to this message that don’t have that relationship with you that’s so foundational, I pray you’d speak to their hearts even right now. Let them know how deeply you love them.” And please understand God does love you so much that he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price for all your failures, your wrongdoing, your sin. But three days later, Jesus rose from the dead and he offered salvation by faith, he offered salvation simply by putting our trust in what he did. That’s where the relationship begins.
And if you’ve never begun that relationship, you can do it right here right now. You’re just going to have a conversation with God, say something like this in your heart to him. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong, I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I’m ready to accept your forgiveness and a relationship with you that starts now and goes on forever. So, Jesus, I’m saying yes to you. I’m going to follow you from here on out. Amen.”
Can we celebrate those who made that decision today? I love that. If you made that decision, we want to celebrate with you, get some resources into your hands, so would you let me know, you can click the button right below me if you’re watching online, or if you’re on a campus, you can text the word Jesus to 80875, or if you’re on one of our campuses, you can stop by the Welcome Center on your way out and tell them you said yes to Jesus, they’ll give you the resources right there, but we’re gonna help you begin to experience this relationship. Hey, would you just stand up with us? Let’s finish our time together by worshiping a God who is for you and he has all of his power for you.
CRAIG SMITH | read his bio
Today we come to the commandment that’s most easily understood and most commonly broken. The eighth commandment gets broken so often that our lives are filled with things designed to make it harder to break the eighth commandment. We work hard to keep other people from taking our stuff – but what might the eighth commandment be trying to tell us about what kind of people to be?
I’m not married to my wife, Coletta, of 28 years because I don’t date other women, I’m not married to her because I don’t entertain attraction to other women, even in my own mind. I’m married to her because we made a commitment to each other. We basically took a step of faith, we said, “I choose to trust you and trust life with you.” That’s where the relationship comes from.
The rules don’t create the relationship, they regulate it. They keep it moving in the right direction and they keep it centered where all the good things can be found in that relationship. And that’s the case with God and the Ten Commandments as well. They don’t create a relationship with God, but they do regulate it. They keep it moving in the right direction, and they keep us centered where we can experience all the good things in the relationship that God really wants to pour into our lives.
Now, today, we’re going to be digging into the eighth commandment. And the eighth commandment is probably the one commandment that we are most familiar with on a day-to-day basis because the reality is our lives are filled with things that are a constant reminder of the need for the eighth commandment. How many of us have any of these? They’re keys, right? But you know what they really are? They’re things designed to keep other people from taking our stuff and making it their stuff without our permission. That’s what they are, right?
And that’s old-fashioned, so let’s talk a little bit more modern. Any of us have any passwords in our lives? Any of us have so many passwords that you had to create a password-protected document to contain all of your passwords? Anybody ever forgotten the password to your password document? We got pin numbers, right? We have thumbprint scanners, we have facial recognition on our phones. And all that exist for the same purpose. It all exists to make it harder for other people to take our stuff and make it their stuff without our permission.
Some people go to extremes. I found out recently that there are people who line their wallets with aluminum foil to keep people from stealing their credit cards with a scanner. I’m not sure that’s a thing. It feels, I could be wrong, but it feels just like one step removed from wearing a tinfoil hat to keep the lizard people from reading your mind. But I could be wrong. I mean about the wallet part not the lizard people part. Although I could be wrong about that too. It’s been a weird couple of years. I don’t know.
The point is we go to extremes because the reality is we have to work hard to keep people from taking our stuff, don’t we? We have to work hard to keep people taking our stuff. That’s really what the eighth commandment is about. Only instead of taking aim at other people, it takes aim at us, and so it’s says, don’t be the kind of person that other people have to worry about. If you want to look at it with me, the eighth commandment is found in Exodus chapter 20, verse 15. Very straightforward commandment. One of the shortest of the commandments. It says, “You shall not steal.” You shall not steal.
And nobody goes, “What now?” We understand what that means. There’s no complex theology behind it, there’s no deep word study. I don’t have to go to the original Hebrew or anything like that to unpack what this means. We get it. It’s basically don’t take other people’s stuff. Don’t take their stuff and make it your stuff without their permission. Just don’t do it. In the original Hebrew, actually, it’s so simple that it’s only two words, no stealing. Don’t do it.
But in spite of how easy it is to understand, it’s apparently pretty hard to follow because stealing is a huge issue. It always has been. And it’s no less an issue in the modern world than it was in the ancient world. How about this, identity theft cost U.S. citizens $56 billion in 2020, $56 billion. That’s basically $188 from every person in the United States. It’s huge. And that’s modern. Let’s talk about old-fashioned. Let’s talk about actually taking stuff, right? Theft, good old-fashioned theft cost U.S. citizens, cost U.S. companies $62 billion in 2019. It was less last year because the stores were all closed.
But the year before that, it cost $62 billion. That’s like taking $8 from every man, woman, and child on the planet. And a lot of that, honestly, is shoplifting, and a lot of that is fraud. But here’s an interesting statistic, employees steal 5.5 times the average shoplifter. I know that’s true because I used to work for an electronics retailer. We were constantly having to do inventory to find out what stuff had gone missing. But the vast majority of the stuff that went missing went missing from the stock room, not the sales floor. Massive problem.
How about this one, the IRS estimates that cheating on taxes cost the U.S. more than a trillion dollars each year. A trillion dollars. To put that in perspective, pre-COVID, because COVID messed everything up. Pre-COVID, the U.S. deficit, the difference between what we spent and what we brought in as a nation was less than a trillion dollars, which means that if everybody just paid what they owe on taxes, we wouldn’t have a national deficit. We wouldn’t have to have complex controversial debates in Washington about whether or not to raise the debt limit on our country because there wouldn’t be a debt. People cheating on tax, it’s a huge issue.
Now, I know, I should say this, I know that cheating on taxes, there are some people going, “I don’t know if that’s really theft.” And there’s a couple of reasons. One of them is because we’re like, “Well, I just didn’t give them something. It’s not like I went into the Federal Reserve and took a bunch of cash and made off with it, right? I didn’t take anything.” And then the other reason is because it’s the federal government, right? We’re like, “Do you know what those guys do with the money we give them? I’m actually being virtuous by not giving them more money to do bad things with, right?”
So it doesn’t feel like theft, but unfortunately, the Apostle Paul had kind of a disturbing thing to say to the Christians living in Rome, which by the way, a bad government by every imagination by every way you think about it. He said this, he said, “Give to everyone what you owe them. If you owe taxes, pay taxes. If revenue, then revenue, if respect, then respect, if honor, then honor. ” Kind of an uncomfortable couple of ideas there. The first one is this idea I think that he raises here that stealing isn’t just going and taking other people’s things. Stealing is also not giving something that we owe. And we have to think about it a little bit more holistically. Stealing is taking what others own or withholding what we owe. You hear me, church? Biblically, we find both of those concepts to be exactly the same. Stealing is taking what others own or withholding what we owe. The Bible treats both of those as theft. The Bible actually says we even do it to God.
In the Book of Malachi, God is speaking to his people, says this. He says, “Will a mere mortal rob God? And yet, you rob me.” But you ask, “How are we robbing you?” I mean, they’re asking the question, they’re like, “It’s not like we’re going to the temple and taking gold things out of the temple and selling them at the pawnshop. It’s not like we’re knocking over the priests and taking the offerings they were taking back.” And they said, “We’re not doing… How are we robbing you?” And he says this, “In tithes and offerings.” Meaning, by withholding them. “By not giving tithes and offerings, you are robbing me.” So, clearly, the Bible considers stealing to be both taking what others own but also withholding what we owe.
And so there’s a pretty important question I think we need to ask ourselves, and it’s this, who am I stealing from by withholding what I owe? Who am I stealing from by withholding what I owe? There are people that are withholding child support, there are people that are withholding back taxes, there are people that are withholding employee pay for a variety of reasons.
We have an interesting thing in our culture, and this might be a little bit controversial, but I think it needs to be addressed a little bit. In our culture, we have bankruptcy laws. And what happens is you can amass a certain amount of debt. You can go into bankruptcy, and that means you don’t have to pay back what you owe. And that’s a legal issue. I acknowledge it’s a legal issue, but there’s an ethical issue, there’s a biblical issue we still have to wrestle with, which is, if I owed that, is it really right? Is it righteous not to ever pay it back just because the court said I didn’t have to?
I heard recently about a man who did something kind of way above and beyond. I’ve never heard of this being done, but I can’t help but think that God applauds this. He was running a company, he ran into some really hard times. He started to have to withhold employee pay, he wasn’t able to make payroll, he went into debt trying to keep things going. But eventually, it all came crashing down, he was accruing massive interest on the debt. And so he declared bankruptcy so that he wasn’t constantly mounting up more and more interest on that debt. And then he spent the next 15 years paying off everything. Even though he didn’t have to according to the government, he spent 15 years making sure his employees got everything that was owed, making sure all these creditors got everything he was owed. And I think God must applaud that kind of a thing.
So we need to answer this question for ourselves. What am I stealing from someone by withholding something that I owe? And by the way, too, the other interesting thing about this passage here in Romans, the other uncomfortable idea is that, apparently, we can steal more than just stuff, right? We can steal more than just stuff. Because he starts off with money, he starts off with with taxes, he starts off with revenue, but then he moves to honor and respect. He says you can steal from somebody by withholding honor and respect that’s due to them because of the position they’re in. That’s a little uncomfortable, isn’t it? And let’s just dig into that for a second. Who am I withholding or stealing honor from? Who am I withholding or stealing respect from? I worry about that as a pastor and as a Christian leader in this country because I see the political division, I understand the political division. I totally get the political division. What really concerns me is the way that we treat people on the other side. We don’t give honor, we don’t give…the way we talk about people.
Do a Facebook audit of your own stuff. Look back on the way you’ve talked about some of these issues or in other kinds of social media, or just think back on conversations you’ve had with people about government leaders, especially ones that are on the other side of the aisle, and ask yourself, “Have I given them honor, and have I given them respect in the way that I’ve talked about them?” And understand, this is important to understand. Honor and respect are not the same thing as agreement or affection. You don’t have to agree with them, and you don’t have to have affection for them. But we can disagree with somebody and still honor them as human beings. We can disagree with somebody, strongly disagree, completely disagree and still respect them in the way that we communicate about them. As Christians, we’ve got to lead the way in raising the bar on the level of public discourse, how we talk about people we disagree with. Because when we don’t, honestly, according to Scripture, we’re breaking the eighth commandment.
So these are important questions, who am I withholding or stealing honor from? Who am I withholding or stealing respect from? But actually, we have to go a little bit beyond that if we’re gonna talk about the idea that if in fact we can steal more than just stuff. We have to go a little bit beyond even that stuff that’s mentioned there in Romans as well. So here at Mission Hills, whenever we talk about being generous with our stuff, we always talk about three things, three things of value that we have that we’re called to be generous with. Our time, our talent, and our treasure. So, let’s just ask that question when it comes to the eighth commandment too, starting off with whose time have I stolen? Whose time have I stolen?
It’s one of the most valuable things we have, right? You can work a little harder and make a little bit extra money, but you cannot get more time. It’s one of those valuable things we have and yet we steal time from people all the, well, time. Anybody ever cut in line? No, not you guys. Well, no. I mean, I knew the person, they invited me in. Yeah. But do you remember the last time you were in line and that happened to somebody in front of you? Like, “What are you doing?” And they’re like, “It’s okay. I know them.” “Could not care less. Your relationship is irrelevant to me.”
The reason we get upset about it when it happens is because they’re taking our time. They just made us be in line longer. They’ve stolen time for us. Or we take parking spaces that we know somebody else is waiting for, but we got there a little faster than they did. They’re just not as good a driver as we are, that’s the real problem. But we’re taking time, we’re making them circle it. I’ve realized recently, to be perfectly honest with you, that I’ve stolen my wife’s time because I am messy. I am. And I want you to be really clear on this. I do not expect my wife to clean up my mess. I do not. But she often does it because her timetable is different than mine. I was totally gonna do that, and I really was. But she wants it cleaner faster and so she ends up doing it. But what I’m doing is I’m wasting her time by leaving that mess. I’m stealing her time.
Employees are doing it a lot right now. We’re in the midst of what we call the big resignation. Massive number of people are either they have quit their jobs or they’re thinking about quitting their jobs. And what happens is their heart’s not in it, they’re not really doing a lot of the work. But they’re not giving their employer their notice, which means the employer can’t be looking for somebody else to fill that spot. So when they do leave, now the employer is left with that lag as they’re trying to find a person who, and honestly, if it’s been known for a long time they’re gonna be leaving by not announcing that, they were stealing that employer’s time.
Employers do it too, though. Employers know that certain people aren’t gonna work out, they’re not gonna be in that position for long, but they don’t say it, they start looking first. We’re gonna find the person, then we’ll replace them, which means that that poor employee cannot begin looking for another job. That’s time theft. Whose time have I stolen? We also need to ask the question, whose talent have I stolen? How do you steal somebody’s talent? Easy. You take their ideas and you make them your own. Happens all the time.
One of the reasons, interestingly enough, one of the reasons it often comes up in the list when people ask why is the great resignation happening? Why are so many people thinking about leaving? One of the things that’s high on the list is people go, “Because my boss keeps taking my ideas and taking credit for them. If it’s a good idea, my boss will take credit for the idea. If it’s a bad idea that he had, he’ll blame me for it.” But that taking credit for good ideas, that’s stealing talent. It’s absolutely stealing talent.
I used to teach in a seminary. And the last couple years at the seminary, we had this new system where when you submitted a paper, you had to submit it electronically. And the reason they wanted to submit it electronically was because there was a service that they used, every paper got run through this thing to find out if they were plagiarizing from some other source out there. Stealing other people’s ideas is rampant in academic settings. By the way, one time, I got a paper that came back with a 72% content had been stolen from somewhere else. I was like, “I gotta check this out.” And I checked out. They stole it from me. They were citing a paper.
Now, in their defense, they had given me credit. They had said, “The imminent Dr. Craig Smith says this.” I’m like, “That’s not gonna get you a better grade.” Well, a little bit of a better one, but not a lot of one. But like 70% of this paper was quotations of something I had written, but a lot of times were not even giving the citations. We’re just taking people’s ideas in school and making them our own. It’s happening at work. It happens in ministry. It’s the craziest thing. You think it would never happen in church, but I know pastors who’ve been let go because they’re preaching other pastors’ sermons without giving them any credit for it. I actually…one time I spoke at a big youth event, it was called Teen Serve. And I opened up the session that I had with them. I was there for a week.
I opened it up with this talk that I would do to start with a story of the time that my dad came into my room one morning on a Saturday and took me to Kings Island, it’s an amusement park in Ohio, to ride my first adult roller coaster. It’s just a kind of a significant event in my life, and so I had this talk where I would tell that story. And it was kind of wild and crazy and it was a lot of fun. And then at the end of it, I would transition into the adventure of following Jesus.
And I did that at this Teen Serve thing to open it up and they filmed it and they asked, “Hey, can we put a clip of that on YouTube?” I said, “Yeah. That’s fine.” And then I didn’t speak with them for several more years, but a few years later, I came back and I did a week with them. And one of the leaders came up to me the first day and he said, “Hey, you remember a few years ago you were with us and you told that story about riding the beast?” I was like, “Yeah.” He goes, “Last year the speaker we hired started off the session with that story.” I was like, “He had a story about a roller coaster?” He’s like, “No, he had a story about that roller coaster.” He had that story. He told it almost word for word. He totally ripped it off. And I’m like, “That guy is an idiot.” Because not only did he rip it off, but he ripped it off from a YouTube video posted by the very conference that he was speaking at. He didn’t even do his homework. But it happens, we steal other people’s talents. We need to ask that question, whose talent am I stealing?
And then let’s just talk about the one that we’re probably most familiar with when we think about the third commandment. Let’s ask whose treasurer am I stealing? Whose treasure have I stolen?
Now, this is really old-fashioned, but back in the day, we used to listen to music on something called tapes. Now, a tape, for those of you who had no idea, a tape was this little thing you actually had tape in and sometimes the tape would get loose, you’d have to stick a pencil in there and you’d twist it to tighten it up. And a lot of you are like, “You’re lying.” No, totally true, right? Can I get an amen from people who know? Amen. You had to do this, right? But the thing about these tapes, they were super easy to copy. Super easy to copy. And then we moved to CDs. Now, CD was this little disc with… It’s old-fashioned now. I got to explain it. With a silver coating, had little micro things and lasers would read it, but they were also pretty easy to copy. Danny Oertli , our weekend executive pastor here, he remembers doing concerts and sitting at his CD table having kids come up and go, “Okay. You buy it and then I’ll copy it.” He’s like, “I’m right here.” We didn’t even see it for what it was worth, they didn’t see it for what it was. Nowadays, we don’t do it that way. Nowadays, what we do is we share passwords. We share passwords to Netflix, and Hulu, and Amazon, right? People who are not part of the family and the way those passwords are supposed to be, they’re people way outside the family. That’s how we do it now, but we’re stealing treasure.
How about this one, the average employee today wastes between 1.5 and three hours a day on personal business on work time, a day. It adds up to about $1.5 trillion a year actually. And what I mean by this is these are people who are scrolling Facebook, posting on Instagram, they’re making travel plans. They’re just browsing the internet, personal shopping on Amazon, or, this is the big right now, a huge number of those people are actually looking for other jobs on company time on a company computer using company paid-for internet. That’s theft, there’s no other way to talk about it. It’s theft.
And the reality is that God speaks about theft in pretty serious terms. Obviously, it made the Big Ten, so that means it’s pretty high on the list. But God actually speaks about theft in consistently hard terms or big terms that, honestly, I think a lot of people are surprised by. Check this out. This is from the Book of Hosea. He says, “Hear the word of the Lord you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you.” So, he’s speaking to his own people, to God’s people.
“Against you who live in the land, there is no faithfulness, there’s no love. There is no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying, and murder.” And at this point, we’re all like, yeah, that’s all serious stuff, right? You understand why God is upset. You understand why there’s a charge. That’s all serious stuff. Cursing, lying, murder. And then he says stealing and adultery. You see, he’s saying stealing right in there between murder and adultery. And we go, “Yeah. Murder and adultery, those are clearly a big deal. But stealing? Come on. Is it that big a deal?” Apparently, to God, it is. He says they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
God consistently talks about stealing as though it’s far more serious than we naturally think that it is. And so the question is why? Why does God consider stealing to be such an issue? And I think the answer is this, it’s because stealing hurts everyone that God loves. Stealing hurts everyone that God loves. And when I say everyone, because we can understand how stealing hurts the one who’s being stolen from. But the reality is that stealing also hurts those who do it. Stealing also hurts us. We don’t always understand that.
In fact, sometimes the reality is, because of our sin nature, there’s a little thrill that comes from stealing. There’s a little thrill that comes from getting something that we didn’t pay for. Bible acknowledges that Proverbs 20:17 says, “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet.” That’s that thrill, “but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” It didn’t stay that way for long. It starts off with a little thrill, but it ends up in pain. Proverbs 1:19 says, “Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain, it takes away the life of those who get it.” It takes away the life of those who are stealing. Why is that? Why does stealing take away the life of those who are doing it? And the answer is this is because stealing undermines what it means to be human. Stealing undermines what it means to be human.
By the way, that word undermines is such an interesting word in English. It literally means to mine under. It literally refers to back when they started originally mining things out of the ground and a lot of what happened is they’d find something outside of a village and they would start mining and they’d dig into the ground and then they’d continue to follow a vein. And eventually, the mine would end up being underneath the houses and buildings of the village. And nobody really thought much about it until all of a sudden one day the village would just fall into this giant hole.
Because when you mine underneath the foundations, what you’re really doing is you’re undermining the foundations on which everything sits. And so I say stealing undermines what it means to be human in the same way. It actually erodes the foundations of the very essence of what it means to be human. And what I mean by that, well, if you go back to Genesis chapter two, a lot of people know the story. God made Adam and Eve and he put them in the Garden of Eden. And I don’t know what you think of when you think about the Garden of Eden, I think a lot of people think of a luxury spa. They were just hanging out, kangaroos giving them massages and things like that, I guess. But that’s not the picture the Bible paints, actually, the Bible says this. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” To work it and take care of it. God made human beings to work. From the very beginning, that was what we did. It’s part of what it means to be human.
All the way back in Genesis one, it says, they created us in his image to rule and subdue, and those are hard work words. God created us to work hard. And a lot of people don’t get that. They’re like, “Well, wait a minute, I thought hard work was the curse that came from the fall. I thought when Adam and Eve sinned, then God said, ‘Okay, now you’re gonna have to work hard.'” But that’s not what the Bible teaches at all. The Bible says hard work was there from the beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned, what entered in was futile work, useless work. He said, “Because you’ve sinned, now you’re gonna work hard, but you’re gonna have very little to show for it. You’re gonna plow and you’re gonna plant but you’re gonna get thorns and thistles. Stuff you do is going to not last, the stuff you do is going to fall apart. And at the end of the day, you’re gonna work hard, but you’re not gonna have all that much to show for it.” That was the curse, futility, not hard work. Hard work was there from the very beginning. And because that was our original part of our created intent, we actually find deep satisfaction in working hard. Working hard is powerful.
And in fact, this is important to understand, doing good work is good for us. Do you hear me church? Doing good work is good for us. It actually feeds our souls in ways that we often forget about. Doing good work is good for us. It’s probably why the Book of Ecclesiastes says this about hard work. It says, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.” And the Hebrew word translated there as toil means hard work. He says there’s nothing better for a human being than actually to find satisfaction in their hard work, because it’s deeply satisfying. It feeds the soul.
I remember back when Coletta and I were first married, we bought a house in Cincinnati, Ohio. We scraped it to get all the money together to put the down payment on this very, very small little house. And it was small. The kitchen, you could fit one person in the kitchen. Anybody else have a house like that when you first got married? It was awesome. We were close, by necessity. And it had a dining room, although, honestly, you could not put a table in this thing. I don’t know how they got away with calling it a dining room, I think it was back before everybody could check this kind of stuff. It would be labeled fraud now. You could maybe put this table in the dining room, we could stand around. If we didn’t… Yeah, that’s it. But we could afford it and we were thrilled with it.
And then we hadn’t been there very long and it became clear that God was probably gonna be moving us. And now the housing market in Cincinnati, Ohio was not appreciating in the way that Denver housing markets have been appreciating. So we hadn’t been in the house very long and we knew if we had to sell that house, we were gonna take a bath on it. We absolutely couldn’t afford that, and so we kinda looked at the house and we went, you know what, it’s got this weird garage. It’s a two-car garage, but it was super narrow, you actually had to park cars end-to-end. It’s not a two-car garage, because it just creates all kinds of marital conflict, trying to figure out who’s gonna be getting out first in the morning, and then you were wrong about that, and then you got to, you know, somebody’s gotta pull out and then you’re moving.
So we were like, “This doesn’t work, so let’s just do this, let’s make it a one-car garage. We’ll put a wall in it, we’ll raise the floor to the level of the rest of the house. We’ll knock out the wall between the dining room and this garage area, we’ll put in some windows, we’ll have a real dining room, and then we can expand the kitchen a little bit.” And so we leaned into that for several months, and we couldn’t afford to pay anybody, we did it ourselves. We put in what we call sweat equity.
And not long after we had done all that, God moved us. We had to sell the house and we had to move to Colorado, which the housing market in Colorado was a massive shock. But because of our sweat equity in that other house, we were able to sell it at enough of a profit to put a small down payment on a house here. One of the best financial things we’ve ever done. It was the first step, honestly, in moving us to a place where we were able to begin to be more and more generous because we were doing okay financially. But it all went back to that sweat equity.
Let me tell you something, there’s very few things in my life that I’m prouder of than the work that we did on that house, on Rose Lane in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sweat equity is… It’s good for us. It’s powerful. It’s deeply, deeply satisfying. But when we steal what happens is we’re actually undermining our ability to begin to do the very kind of work that we find fulfilling, that we find energizing, that we find satisfying. We’re robbing ourselves of joy by theft.
And there’s one other issue with theft. One other reason I think why God deals with it so strongly and warns against it so heavily. And it’s because God knows that stealing keeps us from crossing the finish line of the eighth commandment. When we steal, it keeps us from crossing the finish line of the eighth commandment. Now, if you’ve been with us throughout this series, then you probably remember that we’ve said consistently throughout this series that each of the commandments is a first step, it’s not a finish line. Each of the commandments gets us moving in the right direction, but it’s not the highest standard that God is calling us to. It’s just a first step.
And so the question becomes, well, what is the finish line of the eighth commandment? If it’s not just to not take other people’s stuff and make it our own, if it’s not just to not take what others own or withhold what we owe, what is the finish line? Where is God ultimately trying to get us to be able to go? And this is what Paul says to the church in the City of Ephesus. He says, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer.” That’s eighth commandment right there. Just follow the eighth commandment. “But they must work. Doing something useful with their own hands.” In the original Greek there it’s literally doing something good with their own because he’s saying when they do work, it’s good, it’s good for them. He’s acknowledging that sense in which doing good work is good for us. But that’s not the finish line.
And so, he gives us the finishing, he says, “So that they may have something to share with those in need.” Isn’t that interesting? He says they need to stop stealing, they need to do good things, it’s good for them. But the ultimate goal is so that they can have something to share with those in need. And I know when we start talking about something like this, when we start talking about generosity, sometimes people get a little confused. They’re like, well, wait a minute, though. I would think it’d be easier to be generous with something you didn’t work hard for, right? Things we work hard for, aren’t we gonna hold on to them tighter? Isn’t that the whole Robin Hood story? He didn’t have to work all that hard for it, so, he was happy to give it away. But honestly, that’s fiction. The reality is, there aren’t very many generous thieves out there.
Something interesting that when people steal things, when they reach out and grab a hold of what somebody else owns, they have a really hard time letting it go. And my guess, because I’ve had this experience, and my guess is you’ve had the same experience in your life. Probably the most generous people in your life are also the hardest working, weren’t they?
We see that time and time and time again, the people who are most generous are the people who work the hardest for what they have. And yet, they don’t seem all that concerned with hanging on to it. They’re happy to give it to those who have need. Maybe, I don’t know, but maybe it’s because when they’re busy with their hands doing, working, their hands aren’t so busy being clinched on what they’ve already had, what they’ve already earned. I don’t know. I just know that the most generous people I know are also the hardest working. And that’s the ultimate finish line.
We work hard so that we have something so we can share it with others, we can care for others. Which means, follow me on this, church, this is so interesting. The prohibition against theft is actually an invitation to love. The prohibition against theft is ultimately an invitation to love, to take care of others who truly have need. So, a couple of questions to wrestle with, number one, we’ve already touched on this, but I wanna encourage you to spend some time this week wrestling with it. How am I stealing time, talent, or treasure? Or honor, or respect? How am I stealing it from the individuals in my life? From God? How am I taking what’s others’, or withholding, what I owe to others?
Second question is this, what do I need to do to make it right? The bible gives us two concepts there that are important, the first is repentance. When we realize we’re doing this, the first thing we need to do is we need to repent. That means to basically stop doing it. Turn away from it. Acknowledge what we’ve done is wrong, and I’m not gonna continue in that direction. It’s a commitment to move in the direction of righteousness. So, we start with repentance. But the Bible also talks about restitution, talks about making it right, it talks about returning what we’ve stolen.
The Bible uses a number of different standards for that. And so I don’t think there’s one that you have to consider, but the Bible says, at the very least you got to give back what’s been taken. But also the Bible says you might need to go a little beyond that. The Bible uses standards from a fifth more to four or five times more. Some of us may remember the famous story in the Gospels with a man named Zacchaeus. You might remember Zacchaeus, the wee little man. A little Sunday school joke for those of us who grew up in Sunday school.
Zacchaeus was a thief, he was a tax collector. But that was common parlance for a thief in those days. And Jesus invited him into a relationship before he cleaned up his act. His relationship doesn’t start with the rules, it starts with an invitation and accepting an invitation. So it’s trust, faith. Jesus said, “I wanna have dinner at your house. We’re gonna be friends.” And in response to that invitation, in response to that relationship, Zacchaeus said, “If I’ve stolen anything from anybody, I’ll pay it back four times.” It’s an Old Testament principle. That’s restitution.
And here’s what’s powerful. See, when we make restitution, what we’re actually doing is we’re filling back in the mine that we’ve dug underneath the foundations of who we are as people made in the image of God. We’re filling it back in, and maybe it’s because every time you dig a hole and you try to put the dirt back in, the hole never gets fully filled, right? Maybe that’s what the restitution part is there, to make sure we’re fully filling it back in. I don’t know. But what do I need to do to make it right? Then third question is just this, because this is the finish line. What can I do to share my time, talent, and treasure with those in need? Because that’s the finish line. So, what can I do to share what I have of value with those who are truly in need? Would you pray with me?
God, we thank you for your word. It’s a simple word today, but it’s a challenging one. I think we all recognize that when we consider it biblically there are things we have taken that others own, and there are things that we have withheld that we owe. There’s probably none of us who walk away from this feeling like, “Yeah. I’m good with that eighth commandment. Got that one down part.” I know I’m not. And so we come to you and we ask for forgiveness for the ways that your spirit is revealing to us that we’ve broken that eighth commandment. We turn away from it, we ask for forgiveness and we’re grateful to know that we have that forgiveness because you are generous.
You have crossed that finish line, Lord. You’ve given what you didn’t owe in the gift of your Son who died on the cross to pay the price of our sin in all the ways that we fall short. It’s because of your generosity, Lord, we can trust that we’re forgiven. But we ask for strength through your Holy Spirit to figure out where we might need to make restitution, to repair damage that’s been done, and to set the stage for moving towards the finish line of being generous. And, Lord, we ask for your Spirit to stir in us and show us what it looks like, for each of us individually, practically, to take a next step this week towards being generous, to sharing our time, talent, and treasure, our honor, our respect, all those things with those who are in need.
Lord, as your people, we pray for those who are listening to this message who don’t have a relationship with you. Maybe those who are listening to this and maybe it’s you that you’ve always thought of a relationship with God as being based on the rules. And maybe for the first time you’ve heard that it actually, it starts with faith. God is inviting you into a relationship with him. And because of his generosity, he sent his own Son to die to pay the price for all the wrong that you’ve done that would separate you from him. Jesus died to pay it all off. Three days later he rose from the dead. And now he offers each of us forgiveness, a relationship with God, and eternal life. And it all comes from that moment of choosing to say yes to Jesus.
If you’ve never done that, I wanna encourage you to do it right now. I’ll tell you what to say. You don’t have to say it out loud, you can say it loud, you can say it in your heart. It doesn’t matter. God hears you, but you’re gonna have a conversation, something like this. Just say this to God. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong, I’ve sinned. I admit it and I’m sorry. Thank you for your generosity. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I do believe that you rose from the dead. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with God, and eternal life. So I’m ready to say yes to Jesus. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
And can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision to trust Jesus today? It’s awesome. And if you made that decision for the first time today, would you do this for me? Would you let us know so we can celebrate with you? You can do that a couple of ways. If you’re watching online, you can click the button below me. If you’re on campus, you can text the word Jesus to 80875. If you’re at Littleton, you can also, on your way out, stop by the Welcome Center and tell them, “Hey, I said yes to Jesus today.” Either way you do it, we just wanna send you some resources that help you begin living out this new relationship with God.
HOW TO TELL THE TRUTH WITHOUT BEING A JERK
CRAIG SMITH | read his bio
Speaking truth in love is how we grow to maturity in the likeness of Christ. God calls us to lighten the load by speaking truthfully to others. Don’t weigh anyone down with the burden of telling them untruths.
It’s one of a set of three, most people can’t name all Ten Commandments, but almost everybody can name three of them. And here’s how we go, we go, “Yeah, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal.” And don’t steal is actually a pretty good summary of what God says in the 8th commandment, we looked at it last week. Don’t cheat pretty good summary of the 7th commandment we looked at a couple of weeks ago. But don’t lie is probably an oversimplification of the ninth commandment. God’s actually giving us some information there that we need to keep in mind as we think about what this commandment really is all about. He says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Now, what I wanna do is I wanna kind of unpack that to make sure we’re getting out of it everything that God put in there, starting with the word order. In the English that I’m reading, you know, almost every translation does the same thing, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not bear false testimony, something like that, against your neighbor. But in the original Hebrew, the word order’s a little bit different and you can’t really translate it into English and keep the same word order it just doesn’t work. The original word order will be something like, “Do not give against your neighbor false testimony.” And it doesn’t work really well in English so we always play around with it.
But the reason that I point that out is because in the original Hebrew word ordering there’s a little bit of a different emphasis. In the English, it sounds like the emphasis is on the false testimony, the lies. But actually, in the original Hebrew, the emphasis is on how false testimony impacts others. Because neighbor comes earlier, the emphasis is really on what damage false testimony does to our neighbor. It’s really it’s an emphasis on how false testimony impacts others. That’s the primary concern, which really shouldn’t be a surprise. If you’ve been with us long all along, you may remember that we’ve said that the Ten Commandments break into two sections, the first five are all about how we love…anybody? God. Is how we love God. The second set is all about how we love others. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there is an emphasis here on how lying, how false testimony impacts others. But that emphasis is also reflected in the original wording.
I’m reading the New International Version. The New International Version says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” But some of the older translations say it a little differently. Some of you may remember the King James, anybody remember the King James? Old King James says it this way, it says, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” And so instead of give, they say bear and that might sound a little bit strange because when we say the word bear, we’re usually talking about carrying something heavy, right? We’re bearing something that’s got some weight to it, but actually, that is reflected in the original Hebrew, it does have a sense of something having weight.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word here when it was used positively, they could translate it as to give an answer. Because the problem was, you’re giving them something that has weight, you’re giving them something that has substance to it, it’s the truth. But negatively, you could also use the same Hebrew word to talk about putting weight on somebody. And you would often use it that way to really talk about oppressing or afflicting somebody, coming against them, almost an attack.
In fact, earlier in the Book of Exodus, back in Exodus chapter 1, we have an interesting description of life for the Hebrews when they’re enslaved in Egypt. And here’s what it says that the Egyptian masters did to them. Exodus 1:11. “And so they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor.” And if you wanna underline the word oppressed, the word there oppressed is actually the same Hebrew root word that’s used in the commandment to say don’t give or don’t bear false witness.
And so really, the sense is, basically they’re saying, hey, when you lie, what you’re really doing is you’re oppressing somebody, you’re putting weight on them that they shouldn’t have to carry. So really, kind of the idea is don’t weigh down your neighbor with false testimony. Does that make sense? That’s the idea. Don’t weigh down your neighbor. Don’t make them carry a weight they shouldn’t have to carry. Don’t weigh down your neighbor with false testimony.
And you may know that the word neighbor doesn’t just mean the person living right next door to you. The Bible uses neighbor to talk about a whole lot of people. Jesus really expanded it in one of his most famous teachings called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, how many of us have heard the story of the good Samaritan? Interesting story in the ancient world in Israel, the idea of a good Samaritan wouldn’t have made any sense because the Samaritans were the enemies. So the idea that one of your enemies would do something good was kind of hard for people to understand. But as Jesus told the story, one of their enemies did something kind for one of them.
And then the point of that whole parable really was to say, “Hey, God expects us to treat even our enemies as our neighbors.” God expects us to treat even our enemies as our neighbors. And so this idea of, you know, don’t weigh down your neighbor with false testimony it’s a pretty broad thing. It’s kind of, don’t weigh anybody down with this stuff.
And by the way, the word false testimony, that sounds really legal. It sounds very formal, but really, the root Hebrew word just means to repeat. So a witness was somebody who repeated in a court of law, but what they’re doing is they’re just repeating something and in the process of doing that, they’re claiming that it’s fact. So false witness really is basically just don’t repeat what’s not true. Don’t speak an untruth. So you got to put all this together, what the Ten Commandments…or the ninth commandment is pointing us to is this idea it’s don’t weigh anyone down with untruth. That’s the idea. Don’t weigh anyone down with untruth. Because here’s the thing, lies weigh us down and truth sets us free, right? Lies weigh us down but truth lightens the load.
Jesus very famously said something very similar. He said, John 8:32. He says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you…” what is it, church? Free. He says then you’re gonna know the truth and the truth will set you free. The truth will lighten your load. It will get you out from under the weight of untruth.
Now, Jesus was talking about a very specific truth there. He was talking about the truth of who he is, the Son of God. He’s talking the truth of what he was gonna do for us, he was gonna die on the cross to pay the price of our sins in his blood. And then he’s gonna rise from the dead and he was gonna offer us salvation by putting our trust in the truth. And when we put our faith in Jesus and what he’s done for us, we’re set free, our load’s light, and we’re set free from sin, we’re set free from death, we’re set free from darkness. So truth lightens the load. Jesus is talking about something very specific there. But the principle is true of all truth. All truth lightens the load, the principle is also true conversely, that all lies that all untruth actually adds weight. That’s true of all lies, regardless of why we lie.
By the way, can we just ask this, anybody here ever in their entire life not told a single lie? I don’t see any hands going up. All right. I won’t ask you like, within the last week or anything like that because that just that’s way too much meddling. Okay. Well, we’ve all done it. Okay. And here’s the interesting thing, we’ve all done it, and reality is we all do it. Studies actually say that the average person lies seven times a day. And that’s self-reported. So I’m guessing it’s at least 14, actually, right? Lying is pretty common. I think there are three areas that we lie in. And the reality is that it doesn’t matter why we lie, why we’re tempted to lie, in every area or for every reason we lie, the reality is that our lies add weight to people. Okay.
One of the reasons I think we lie is we like to help others, don’t we? We lie to help others. These are what we call the little white lies, right? These are the lies designed, you know, to not hurt somebody’s feelings or to make them feel better, right? Like guys, if your wife has ever started a sentence with, “Hey, does this dress make me look…” and you’re like, “Stop, stop, stop. No, whatever, you’re gonna say, no, it does not,” right. Or ladies, if you’ve ever said anything like this to your man, like, “Honey, you’re such an incredible carpenter. I can’t believe you built that whole deck by yourself, it’s incredible. I had no idea you had that skill.” Okay, kids don’t go on the deck. I don’t want you to die, right. That these are lies we tell to help others.
Now, the Bible has a word for this kind of lie and the word is flattery. Now, unfortunately, what the Bible has to say about flattery is not all that flattering. This is what the Bible says about flattery. Proverbs 29:5, “Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.” Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet. Now, the imagery there is like when you have a net if you walk over a net, your toe gets caught and things and pretty soon your face down, okay. It trips you up, it weighs you down. It’s something you have to deal with you shouldn’t otherwise have to deal with. And it’s interesting he says that those who flatter their neighbors spread nets for their feet, and it’s not entirely clear who their feet is referring to. Is that the feet of your neighbors or is it the feet of the one who spreads the net for the neighbors? And I think the answer is it’s probably both of those because flattery puts weight on everybody.
Years ago, we hadn’t been married very long and my in-laws, Coletta’s folks, they brought me a brick of cheese for Christmas. It was this massive, it was about that big, it was just like it was a brick, I don’t know how to describe it. And it was like some kind of smoked cheese and I didn’t know ’em very well and I really wanted a good relationship with them. So, you know, I opened it up for Christmas, I took a little slice, I ate it, and then I like, man, I lied. I liked it. It was okay, but that’s not what I told them. I told them it was the best cheese I’d ever had, like, I like, well, I went to town. This is so great. I love this cheese. It’s amazing, where did you get this and they told me, I like this. So thank you very much, I love this cheese so much.
The problem was they brought me a brick of cheese every time they came to see me for like the next 15 years. And I never finished the first brick of cheese so they just kept building up in the freezer. Now I was weighing them down with my flattery because they kept spending money on cheese. It wasn’t getting eaten. But I was also weighing myself down because every time they came I was terrified they’d go in the freezer and find the wall of cheese. I became the best husband ever every time my wife needed anything in the freezer I was like, “No, no, no, I’ll go get it. Don’t send your mother, I will go get it, you sit down, Linda, I will go get it.” I didn’t want her to see the wall of cheese.
There’s a weight that comes from flattery, it comes back to haunt us because here’s the reality, even though we might do it from good motives, anything built on false foundations eventually falls. Okay, it’s always gonna come true. Anything built on false foundations eventually falls, it comes down. And so even when we’re lying to help others, we actually find ourselves putting weight on them and weight on ourselves.
Now, there’s another reason I think we lie, probably a little bit more common even. And that is we lie to help ourselves, right? We lie to help ourselves. It starts really early on, right? We lie to get out of trouble, right? Parents you’re gonna have the same experience tonight that I had years ago with my kids. Halloween night’s over, we let them have a certain amount of candy. But then, you know, we say you can’t have any candy in your room. No, it’s you know, it’s a cut-off, right? You brushed your teeth, you’re done. Then you come in, in the morning and you’re like, huh, there’s candy wrappers. And you look at your kids and you go, “Hey, did you eat candy last night?” “No.” Because they don’t see the big picture of how to like, really do it right. You know, “That’s no, that’s weird, how did you think that get there?” “I think the dog did that.” Honey, the dog doesn’t have thumbs, this candy has been unwrapped. Maybe they did it with their tongue I don’t know.
But sometimes it works. Let’s be real. Okay, sometimes we did do something we shouldn’t have done and somebody asked us about it and we lied and we got away with it. And we learn that pretty young. And so we continue to do it. Who messed this thing up at work? Wasn’t me, right? We lie to get out of trouble. We lie to get things that we want, right? We lie on resumes. We claim that we have skills and experience that we never had. And there’s weight that comes from that, there’s weight on our employers, there’s weight on the people, right. There’s also weight on us, right? Because we’re living in fear that somebody is gonna come to us, a manager is gonna come to us and be, “Hey, would you do this thing that you said on your resume you got all kinds of experience with.” And you’re like, “Oh, like, like, like now? You mean to do that now?
There’s a dread that comes from that because here’s the reality. Sometimes we lie to get things that we want, but we just don’t get to keep them for very long. Proverbs 12:19 says, “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” It gives us a temporary reprieve but eventually, it comes falling down. And we live with the weight of the fear of knowing it’s gonna happen and it could happen at any moment. It’s a weight that God says we don’t need to carry, you shouldn’t be carrying.
Then there’s a third category of why we lie. And it’s this, it’s that we lie to hurt others. This is really the one that the ninth commandment is primarily focused on, is lying to hurt somebody. It’s lying to hurt their reputation, it’s lying to get ahead of them, or it’s lying to slow them down so that we can get ahead of them. It’s lying to undermine them or their reputation or in some way to do damage to them. We lie to hurt them.
It’s interesting to me, I think anything that comes out of our mouth, there’s two questions that we should be asking about it. And the first question is this. Is it true? And then the second question is, is it kind? Those are two pretty good questions. If we ask those questions before anything came out of our mouths, we would all be doing a whole lot better in life. Is it true and is it kind?
But it’s interesting you can categorize the kinds of things that come out of our mouths entirely based on the answer to those two questions. In fact, you can kind of think about it as a grid. We’re gonna put it up here. Top we got true or untrue on the left we got is it kind or unkind. Almost everything we say fits pretty neatly into one of those categories, right. So see if it’s untrue, but it’s kind, it’s flattery. If it’s untrue, but it’s kind, it’s flatter. We’ve already talked about the fact that that’s not a good thing either, it has a weight to it. It’s there’s a net that’s a snare to people, they fall down because of it.
Well, what about if it’s true but unkind? Well, if it’s true, but it’s unkind, it’s called gossip. If it’s true but unkind, it’s called gossip. And some people go, “No, I thought gossip was false stuff. I thought gossip was false rumors.” It’s not actually. According to the Bible, gossip is actually rooted in truth. It’s just a truth that shouldn’t have been shared.
Proverbs 20:19, says, “A gossip betrays a confidence. And so avoid anyone who talks too much.” You see that? Gossip betrays the confidence in other words they heard it from you and it’s true, it’s a true statement, but it wasn’t theirs to share. And so they’ve broken your confidence by sharing it. They’re speaking a truth but they’re speaking it almost always for an unkind reason. Like anything that comes after, “Hey, did you hear?” isn’t usually because I’m just about to build somebody up like you’ve never heard. No, did you hear is almost always followed by tearing down, there’s an unkind motivation to it. So if it’s untrue, or if it’s true and it’s unkind it’s gossip.
But what about if it’s untrue and unkind? If it’s untrue and unkind, the Bible calls that slander. That’s the biblical word for it. If it’s untrue and unkind, it’s called slander. It’s really what the ninth commandment is talking about. Slander is always deliberate. And it always comes from a heart that really desires to hurt. Proverbs 10:18 says, “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips that’s what slander is. It’s untrue and it’s unkind. It’s designed to hurt. And it’s always deliberate. It’s not always clear that it’s deliberate. People will count it in all kinds of other things to make it look like something else. But in reality, it’s always driven by a desire to hurt, there’s something deep and dark in us, we’re hurt, or we’re angry or we’re bitter or we’re something. And out of that, we wanna hurt somebody else and we’re willing to embrace untruth to do the damage. That’s slander.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty common. Especially I mean, especially when you think about politics, right? Like, I don’t know about you, but you know, a few years ago, when President Trump was the president, I was so frustrated by some of my Democrat friends who would send me posts or they’d share things they saw. Or they’d email me articles that said, you know, President Trump did this crazy thing. He said this ridiculous thing or he’s doing this outrageous thing. And sometimes I would look at it and be like, “Well, that is outrageous.” Like, that’s so outrageous, I’m having a hard time believing that. And then, you know, one of the worst things about the internet is all that stuff, you know, propagates out there.
But one of the best things is you can actually do some research. And so I see these ridiculous things and then I do a little bit of research, and I’d find that it just wasn’t true. It was something taken ridiculously out of context or something that’s just dramatically exaggerated. I was so frustrated, by the way, that the liberals were doing that to President Trump. Does anybody else feel like that a few years ago? Yeah. Don’t get comfortable because now we’ve just flipped-flopped it. And it’s so frustrating now when my Republican friends send me articles about, you know, what President Biden did or said, and sometimes I look at ’em like, man, that is outrageous. But 30 seconds of research, yeah, but it’s just not true. It’s way exaggerated. It’s something ridiculously out of context. But it’s being propagated.
And so here’s the interesting thing. We tend to think of slander as something when we know we’re lying, and when we share it to hurt somebody. But the reality is, we can also commit slander, even when we don’t know that it’s not true, but we propagate it, we send it out there, we share it as though it were true and we just didn’t bother to do the research. It’s kind of sickening stuff honestly. I used to live in Cincinnati. And I remember a few years ago, there was a town council election in Cincinnati and there was a guy running for town council, he’s re-upping for town council. And his opponents put out an ad I saw…I heard it probably like, 100 times. And basically this guy, they say, “He voted to taser seven-year-olds.” And you’re like, “What a jerk,” right? And like the way the ad that is like, you know, he was like, “Okay, police officers, gather up, here’s what I want you to do, get your taser out, now go find them.” That was kind of the way they are.
But really what happened when you did the research was, “Hey, you know what, the police had already approved the use of tasers to subdue violent seven to 70-year-olds. And there was a movement, maybe we should make the cut-off 10.” And he didn’t vote for it. And the reason he didn’t vote for it was because he said, “The problem is sometimes seven-year-olds are violent, they need to be subdued and if they can’t use tasers, then the police are gonna use guns or they’re gonna use their batons and beat them. And that’s no good.” But it took a little bit of research to find that but these things get…and people share that with me like, “We can’t vote for this guy, he’s after seven-year-olds.”
Man, and I know for a fact that a couple of my friends I shared the background of that and they were like, “Oh, all right. Well, that’s not so bad.” And I’m like, “Are you gonna stop sharing that article or that ad?” Hmm. There’s no hmm. Sometimes we do it deliberately and sometimes we do it unknowingly but we got to stop doing it. Here’s an important rule actually, investigate before you propagate. How about that? Can we just agree to do that? Investigate before you propagate.
Listen, I don’t care if you’re a Republican, I don’t care if you’re a Democrat. I don’t care if you’re some kind of Republicant or some combination. I don’t care. If you’re a follower of Jesus, that’s got to come first. And as followers of Jesus, we got to be careful what comes out of our mouth or out of our fingers. That our thumbs push out into the world. We got to be careful that what’s coming out is not unkind and untrue. We got to be careful about it.
Okay, so if it’s untrue, but kind it’s flattery. If it’s true, but it’s unkind it’s gossip. If it’s untrue and unkind, it’s slander. What about if it’s true and kind? What do we call that? The Bible calls that love. If it’s true and kind, it’s love. And what I think we need to understand is that’s the ultimate goal of the ninth commandment. If you’ve been with us throughout this series, you remember we said each of the commandments is a first step, it’s not the finish line. Each of the commandments points us in the right direction. It gets us moving towards where God really wants us to be as his people. But it’s not the ultimate standard, it’s just the first step in that direction. Okay, so the first step is hey, don’t speak things that are unkind and untrue, or kind and untrue or unkind and untrue or unkind and true, right? But none of those are the goal. The ultimate goal is that what comes out of our mouths is both true and kind.
The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Ephesus says this and it’s such an interesting thing. He says instead, and he’s referring to the fact that people have been doing all kinds of lying, all kinds of untrue and unkind things have been coming out of their mouths. He says this, he says, “Instead of that, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” That’s such an interesting statement. Instead of the way the world does it, he says we’re gonna speak the truth in love. We’re gonna speak only what is kind and true. And what he says is by doing that, he says, we become we grow and become in every respect in every aspect of who we are the mature body of him who was the head that is Christ. In other words, he says we become a mature church, we become mature followers of Jesus.
And this is so interesting to me. Because you know, here at Mission Hills, our mission is to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission. That’s mature faith, that’s mature following Jesus, we’re becoming like Jesus in our character. We’re also joining Jesus on mission to the world, we’re speaking truth into the world, the truth of the Gospel that people desperately need to hear. And Paul gives an interesting roadmap here for getting to that maturity. I don’t know about you, but when I think about becoming like Jesus growing in maturity in my faith, you know, I think, well, you know, you need to read the Bible. You need to pray, you need to go to worship and worship God together. You know, we need to serve and all that stuff’s true, and all that stuff’s good. But Paul says here, you wanna get some maturity, here’s how you do it, by speaking the truth in love. So interesting.
Jesus made it very clear that love is the clearest sign of our maturity. He said about this everyone will know that you’re my followers that you love one another. Love is a clear sign of our maturity. But Paul says here, it’s also the source of it. It’s not just a result of our growth, it’s also the roadmap of growth, speaking the truth in love moves us forward in becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission.
And so, the finish line, the ninth commandment just isn’t just to you know, not speak untruth, it’s not to just not weigh others down with what’s untrue, it’s actually to lighten their load with truth, right? I mean, really, God calls us, this is the bottom line, God calls us to lighten the load by speaking only truth, only in love. He calls us to lighten the load of ourselves, he calls us to lighten a load of our friends and our family, and our co-workers. Really he calls us to lighten the load of the world by speaking only truth only in love. Which, of course, is easier said than done, right?
So, how do we do that? How do we speak only truth only in love? Because reality, sometimes people grab ahold of the idea, I’m gonna speak only truth and then truth becomes a weapon they use to wound, right? There’s a lot of jerks out there speaking a lot of truth. That’s why we called this message how to speak the truth without being a jerk. Because that’s not what Jesus is calling it he says only truth only in love. How do we do that? Four steps, four practical steps.
Number one, you wanna speak the truth in love? Be slower to speak. That’s step one, be slow to speak. I don’t know about you but I look back on my life I don’t think I’ve ever accidentally or quickly spoken truth in love. I’ve accidentally spoken truth in anger. I’ve quickly spoken untruth in love, I flattered people. But I don’t think I’ve ever accidentally spoken only truth only in love, that takes some deliberation, that takes some time. And so one of our first steps, if we wanna speak only the truth only in love, is to make sure that we’re slow to speak.
James, the brother of Jesus says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this, pay attention. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
And the words that we speak in anger, even if they’re true, rarely produced the righteousness that God desires and the righteousness that we long to see. Jesus said it this way. He says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” And empty word there sometimes its translated as every careless word. Because the point is, these are words that don’t have substance because they came out too quickly, we didn’t think through them. And that’s kind of an intimidating statement, right?
He says, basically, “Hey, guys, you’re gonna have an awkward conversation with God one day. Based on all the conversations you’ve had with people that came out too quickly, you weren’t careful of that what you’re saying.” He says we’re gonna be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for all those careless words we are speaking. Okay, so what’s the first step in making sure that we speak only the truth only in love? Be slow to speak. Here’s a reality. God talks a lot more, he says a lot more about holding our tongue than speaking our mind. He says a lot more about holding our tongue than speaking our mind. That’s our first step.
Step number two, pretty simple actually. Check your facts. Check your facts. Before you share it, before you speak it, before you email it, before you whatever with it, check your facts, ask the question, is it true? Again, that’s one of the great things about the internet, a lot of these things that circulate, we actually have the ability to look in. There’s things like snopes.com and, and political fact-checkers that allow you to check and make sure that it’s actually true and that, you know, it’s not being exaggerated or taken out of context before we share it. Sometimes it’s not possible. I think a lot of times you can get to clarity on that, but sometimes it’s not. So what happens if something’s come out and you’re like, “Hey that is exactly what I would expect that person to do.” It sounds true, but you can’t confirm whether or not it is, what do you do when you’re not entirely sure if it’s true? See rule number one. Be slow to speak. If you’re not sure it’s true, don’t share it. Don’t propagate it.
Step number three, check your motives. Check your motives ask the question is it kind? Ask why do I wanna say this? Why do I wanna share this? Is this to do damage, is this to undermine somebody’s reputation? Sometimes, you know, we dress it up a little bit, “Well, no, I just want people to know the truth.” No, we don’t. We want people to know the truth about how bad that person is. That we know and everybody else is still they are sheep, right? They don’t see it. We need to be really careful about anything that’s being driven by that kind of a motivation. We ask the question, what’s my motivation? We check our motivation is it kind?
Jesus said a pretty uncomfortable thing. He said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I don’t like that one. He says the words that come out of our mouths are actually a pretty good indication of what’s going on in our hearts, we can’t always see it. Sometimes in the dark places in our heart stuff brews, we’re not always aware of it, but our words actually give us pretty good insight into what is happening in there. You know, they say the eyes are a window to the soul. I think our words are actually a much clearer window. He says the words that come out, they actually reveal what’s going on inside. And so we need to before the words go out, we look at the words that want to come out and we go, “What is that telling me about what’s going on inside of me?” And honestly, if you’re not sure, because sometimes you’re not, is this is a good motivation, is it bad, is it kind, is it unkind? I’m not sure what it is. What do you do if you’re not sure? See rule number one. Slow your roll, be slow to speak.
Step number four, if you wanna speak only truth only in love, check your messaging, check your messaging, check the way that it’s being said. Unfortunately, in the world that we live in right now, most of our communication is done in a way that it’s difficult sometimes to really get across what we’re trying to say. Because we’re doing so much of it just on text. Anybody ever been misunderstood in a text? Yeah. In an email, on Twitter, on a social post? Because there’s not enough context, you can’t hear tone, there are so many different things. So we got to be extra careful today, to make sure that the message that comes across is what we’re actually trying to communicate.
I love what Proverbs says. Says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, they’re sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” I love that. Gracious words, words filled with grace. He says words filled with grace they can actually make a difference. When our messaging is full of grace, it actually has the potential to accomplish change in the direction that it actually needs to be accomplished. And, please hear me on this. I am not in any way saying that we need to hold back on speaking truth. Grace always involves truth, you know that? In fact, grace usually involves pretty hard truth. In this thing that we call the Gospel of Grace, it’s built on a hard truth, isn’t it?
The Gospel of Grace says that God loves us so much, that he sent his own Son Jesus to die for our sins. In other words, the Gospel of Grace starts with the understanding that you and I are sinful. That you and I are rebellious. You and I are selfish. That’s hard truth. But you see the grace in it, too. He speaks the hard truth. But then he says, “But he loves us anyway,” so much so that he sent his own Son to die for us. And having raised him from the dead three days later, he offers us forgiveness for all of that sin that separates us from God. He offers us that simply by faith by putting our trust in the truth, the truth that lightens our load more than anything else. Gracious words speak truth, sometimes even hard truth, but they speak it in a way that it can be heard.
So those are our four key steps. Number one, we be slow to speak. Number two, we check the facts. Is it true? Number three, we check our motives, is it kind and number four, we check our messaging, is it gracious? Is it filled with grace? So that hard truth can become a foundation for lightening someone’s load in a significant way. That’s what God calls us to do. He calls us to lighten the load by speaking only truth only in love.
So a couple of questions for you. Number one, where have I weighed down others with untruth? Maybe for you, it’s the tendency to flatter. Speak untruth, but do it kindly. Maybe it’s the tendency to try to help yourself, right. It’s the tendency to speak untruth so that we can get something we think is good for us. Maybe that’s your big temptation place. Or maybe it’s the temptation to hurt others with untruth. There’s an anger or bitterness that’s willing to embrace untruth to do the damage that you want to see done. Where do you find that temptation strongest for you? Where are you weighing others down with untruth?
And the second question is just this. What step do I need to focus on to speak the truth in love? Which step do you need to lean into? Being slower to speak? By the way, if you’re wondering if that’s the step? Yes. That’s probably the step for all of us. Okay. But maybe beyond that it also you need to focus on asking that question, is it true, the check your facts. Or maybe it’s the check your motives, is it kind or maybe it’s the check your messaging, be more careful about how we speak so that grace fills our words. And even when we speak hard truth, we can bring them to healthy places.
Could you pray with me? God, we thank you for your Word. Not an easy Word, but we’re grateful for it. And as your people, as your Holy Spirit moves in us right now, we take a moment to confess our sin of untruth, the different ways that we’ve broken this ninth commandment. We’ve spoken things that weren’t true for a variety of motives, but we acknowledge that we have not attained to that higher standard of speaking only truth only in love and so we confess our sin. We admit we’ve done wrong. And we’re so grateful that as we do that, we have forgiveness. And promises that when we confess our sin when we admit our sin, you are faithful and just and you’ll forgive us our sin and cleanse us from this unrighteousness.
So, Lord, we confess it to you and we receive your forgiveness and we thank you for lightening the load. We ask that you transform us from the inside out so that we would be people who speak only truth only in love. Hard truth, yes, but always in love. And Lord, we pray right now for those who are listening to this message that have never embraced the truth of your love for them. If you’re listening to this message, maybe for the first time today you heard that God loves you in spite of your sin. And the God who wants to lighten your load, he wants to forgive your sin. He’s done everything required to make that happen, he sent his own Son to die for you. He rose from the dead three days later. That is a fact of history. I’ve checked my facts on that. I’m a follower of Jesus because I believe the evidence is so strong that that actually happened.
And Jesus offers us forgiveness from our sin, adoption to the family of God, and eternal life simply by putting your trust in what he’s done for us. If you’ve never had your load lightened by putting your trust in Jesus, I wanna encourage you to do that right here right now. You just have a conversation with God you can say it out loud, you can say in your heart, it doesn’t matter. He hears you either way but speaks this truth right now. Say, “God, I’ve sinned, I’ve done wrong. I’m so sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, that’s the truth. And I’m ready to put my trust in that truth. Jesus, would you lighten my load, forgive my sin, give me a relationship with God. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.”
Can we celebrate those who’ve made that decision for the first time today? We love that. And if you did make that decision for the first time today, your load’s lightened, your sins forgiven, you have a relation with God that’s going on forever. And we would love to celebrate that with you and give you some resources to figure out what it looks like to experience that relationship. So here’s what you can do if you made that decision would you just do this? If you’re watching online, click the button right below me. If you’re in a campus text the word Jesus to 80875. If you’re at Littleton Campus, you can stop by the Welcome Center on your way out and tell them I said yes to Jesus today. Either way, you’re gonna let us know so we can celebrate with you and we’re gonna send you some free resources to begin living out this new relationship with the God who lightens our load with truth.
HOW TO BE CONTENT
CRAIG SMITH | read his bio
God wants contentment for us because it is the soil in which joy grows. Out of that growth comes meaning, significance and peace maintained by our nearness to God. Then we can be free from a passion to possess what we don’t have.
(video playing showing the distractions of the world with noise and pictures, drowning out Craig.)
So that’s really all we need to know. Maybe we need to know just a little bit more than that, right? Hey, why don’t we take a look at the tenth commandment together? You’ll find it in Exodus chapter 20, verse 17. So the tenth commandment says this. It says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male or female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So don’t covet is basically the tenth commandment. Now, covet’s not a word that we use very often. So let me just make sure we know what we’re talking about when we talk about coveting. Covet actually comes from the Latin word cupid. You may remember cupid, right? And we’re not talking about the creepy baby with the wings. In old Rome, the cupid was actually the god of passion and that was what really gave rise to this word. Really, if you think about it, coveting, it’s a passion to possess what we don’t. Okay? Covet is a passion to possess what we don’t. It’s different than looking at something or someone and going, “That’s nice or he’s nice or she’s nice.” It’s what moves into the like, “I want that, or I want him, I want her.” It’s a passion to possess what we don’t. That’s what the tenth commandment is dealing with.
Now, there’s a couple of interesting things about the tenth commandment I wanna make sure that we don’t miss. The first one is just this. I don’t know if you noticed it, but it’s repetitive. Did you notice that? I mean, he could very easily have said, “Hey, don’t covet anything.” Right, or he could have said, “Don’t covet your neighbor’s house or anything in the house.” Right? But he really leans in. He says, you know, “Don’t covet your neighbor’s house. Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife. Don’t covet your neighbor’s male servant. Don’t covet your neighbor’s female servant. Don’t covet your neighbor’s ox. Don’t covet his donkey or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” I mean, he really kind of goes deep, right? And that’s kind of an interesting thing. And here’s what I think’s happening.
Repetition signals importance, right? We tend to repeat what we wanna reinforce. It’s a way of kind of clueing in on what’s really significant. And what that means is, and this is a little interesting, what it means is the tenth commandment might be a little bit more important than we sometimes think that it is. It might even be more important than some of the other commandments, which it doesn’t feel like it ought to be because it feels like, you know, how can coveting really be a bigger deal than, like, murdering, right? How can coveting being a bigger deal than cheating on your spouse or making false idols, those kinds of things? But really the fact that God repeats over and over and really leans into this is just, it’s actually more important than we might be tempted to think. So he’s kind of saying, “Hey, don’t skim over this. It matters more.” And we’ll just put a pin in that for a second. We’ll come back to it in a moment.
But the second thing that I wanna point out that’s kind of interesting about this commandment is that it prohibits an attitude, not an action. It’s about what’s going on inside of us. It’s about our thought life, not what actually happens in the world, but almost all the rest of them are about things actually happen in the world. They’re about actions, but this one’s about an attitude. The only other commandment in the Big Ten that is about an attitude is actually the first commandment. It’s the commandment to make God your priority. So it’s kind of interesting. You have kind of an interesting sandwich thing going on here. On the outside ends, the first and the last commandments are about attitudes, and then in the middle, you got the meat, and the meat’s all about actions. And that’s kind of intriguing. And I think what’s happening here is that what we’re basically saying is the first and the last commandment, they deal with the attitudes necessary for keeping all the other commandments. Does that make sense? The first and the last commandments, they deal with the attitudes necessary for keeping all the other commandments or because, as we’ve said over and over again throughout this series, the ultimate goal of these commandments is to give us a life of joy.
We don’t get a relationship with God by following the rules. We get it by faith in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross and his resurrection. When we say yes to following Jesus, we get a relationship with God by faith. But in that relationship, what the rules do is they regulate the relationship. They keep it moving in the right direction. They keep it centered where we get to experience everything that God wants us to experience, including joy. That’s why we’ve called the series Ancient Rules for Modern Joy. You can also think of it this way. The first and the last commandments deal with the attitudes necessary for experiencing joy. They deal with the thought life that’s necessary for keeping the commandments and ultimately experiencing all the joy that God wants us to have. Now, it’s kind of interesting. If you think about it, the first commandment, making God our priority, making God our priority, it’s the first step towards keeping all the other commandments. We said that all the way back to the beginning of this series, that if you get this right, if God’s your priority, following the other commandments actually becomes fairly easy. It falls into play. So making God a priority, that’s the first step towards keeping all the other commandments. The tenth commandment against coveting is because see, coveting is the first step towards breaking all the other commandments.
Coveting is actually the first step towards breaking all the other commandments. I mean, think about it for a second. We might lie to get what we covet. We might steal to get what we covet. We might murder to get what we covet. We might commit adultery to get who we covet. We might make false idols trying to manipulate the gods into giving us what we covet. All of those things that we could do that the tenth commandments say don’t do, they actually are things that we do because of something that we have a passion to possess that we don’t. If you think about it even, really, I mean, what is coveting except it’s having a passion for something other than God as your priority? Even the first commandment gets broken by this coveting business.
And here’s the reality I’ve come to understand. All sin starts with coveting. All sin starts with coveting. In fact, the brother of Jesus, James, said this. He said, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition.” Now, envy, a very close cousin of coveting. Coveting is the general kind of category. It’s the umbrella term. It’s the passion to possess what we don’t. Envy is what you feel towards somebody else who has what you have a passion to possess but don’t. They’re very closely related. It says, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, what happens?” He says, “There you find disorder and every evil practice.” He says, “All sin, really, it comes from allowing coveting to take root in our hearts.” A little bit later on in his letter, he writes this, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but you don’t have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want and so you quarrel and fight.”
But what he’s saying is that every sin really starts with coveting, which, by the way, is also true about the very first sin. Let me take you back to Genesis chapter 3, verse 6 if you wanna follow along. I wanna show you something really powerful there. When God created Adam and Eve, he just gave him one rule, right? Put him in the Garden of Eden and they had everything they needed. And there was only one thing that they had to pay attention to, only one rule they had to follow, and that was don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, I believe that was a literal tree, but I also believe it had symbolic significance. And the reason I say that is because that phrase, the knowledge of good and evil, that was a phrase that was used in the ancient world to talk about the ability to decide for yourself.
They would use it of children at a certain point. They would say, “That child’s grown up. He’s able to know good from evil,” which basically meant he gets to decide for himself. He’s responsible for his own decisions, okay? So the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was kind of the tree of deciding for yourself. It was the tree of choosing for yourself what was right or wrong or good or bad for you based on your understanding. And God says, “Hey, don’t eat from that tree because I’m God. You’re not. You don’t understand what’s really good. You don’t understand what’s really valuable. And so what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna trust me to let me call those shots for you and your life is gonna be so, so good.” But Satan came along and he planted a seed. And the seed that he planted was basically, yeah, but wouldn’t it be nice to be like God that way? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call the shots for yourself? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to make your own decisions? He planted that seed and here’s what happened. “Now, when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for getting wisdom, she took some and she ate it and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.”
There’s a progression in this passage I wanna make sure we don’t miss because it’s really powerful. The progression is basically what I would call the three stages of coveting. How did it start? It says that she saw that the fruit was good for food. She looked at the fruit and she saw it’s a good thing. It’s like when we look at something or someone we go, “That’s nice. That’s good. She’s nice. He’s good.” This is stage one. It’s a positive evaluation. Now, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing to be able to look at something, whether you own it or not, and be able to go, “That’s a good thing.” But that’s where it starts. So it starts with the positive evaluation. And then what happened next? It says that she saw that it was pleasing to the eye. Literally, it’s that it gave pleasure to her eye. In other words, it was kind of fun to look at there. There’s a sense of pleasure that came from looking at it, so what do you do when that happens? You keep looking. You keep looking, you keep thinking, you keep dwelling on it, and that’s stage two, and that stage is preoccupation. And the problem with preoccupation is this. Preoccupation leads to passion. It’s just the way that we’re built. Negatively, if we are preoccupied with something we don’t possess, we become passionate to possess it.
Fortunately, it works the other way around too. And that is that if we’re preoccupied with what we do possess, we become more passionate about that and less passionate about the things that we don’t. So that can actually be used to our advantage. We’ll talk about that here in a moment. But she didn’t possess it. It was God’s but she was preoccupied with it. And that led ultimately to the third stage, that is, it says that she saw that it was desirable for gaining wisdom. And that word desirable’s interesting because, in the original Hebrew, the root word for that verb is the same root word that we find used in Exodus 20:17 to say, “Don’t covet.” The same Hebrew word. So what did she do? She began to covet. She began to have a passion to possess what she didn’t. That’s stage three, passion to possess.
It’s a very powerful truth about the way this whole thing takes root in our lives and grows up to bear some pretty bitter fruit, right, because what happened after all this? Adam and Eve sinned. They committed the first sin. They rebelled against God and it led to darkness. It led to pain. It led to death. It led to suffering and all of the stuff that we deal with on a regular basis. It all started with this progression, which started with, hey, positive evaluation and then preoccupation, and then a passion to possess, which led to all this other nastiness that we deal with day in and day out. It’s why I say to you, all sin starts with coveting. It all starts with coveting, which means… Follow me on this. It means that the tenth commandment, it’s hard to measure but it’s critical to master. It’s hard to measure but it’s critical to master. I say it’s hard to measure because it’s inside us, right? The other stuff, the stuff that it causes us to do, that’s out there. It’s pretty easy to measure. You killed that guy. You stole that thing. You made that out. You did all those things. We can measure those, but the stuff in the heart is just so much harder to measure. It’s harder to tell when we’ve crossed the line from preoccupation into a passion. It’s hard to measure, but it’s so, so critical to master because it is the foundation for every nasty stuff, every nasty thing we get ourselves involved with.
How do we do that? How do we keep that train from getting to that station? How do we derail it before it gets there? I’m gonna give you two biblical tools for stopping the train. I’m gonna give you two biblical tools for keeping positive evaluation from turning into preoccupation, from turning into a passion to possess, and all the stuff that comes after that. The first tool is just this, is that we need to identify and redirect our preoccupation. That’s the first tool. Identify and redirect preoccupation because… Let’s go back to Eve. Where did it go wrong? It wasn’t the positive evaluation. It was that preoccupation. That’s the warning sign. That’s the red flag. Hey, this train has started to head somewhere. It’s picking up speed and it’s going somewhere that you cannot afford to let it take you.
So, really, preoccupation is the warning sign for coveting. So what we need to do is we just need to ask ourselves a simple but really important question, which is, “What am I preoccupied with?” What are you preoccupied with? What are you thinking about more and more? What do you find yourself dwelling on in your mind continually coming back to that thing? In fact, I actually wanna take a moment right now. I’m gonna pray for us. I just want you to pray this prayer with me. And then we’re just gonna take a moment to listen and let the Holy Spirit speak in this moment about something that maybe you’ve become preoccupied with that you haven’t noticed. Would you join me? Holy Spirit, we just invite you right now to draw our attention to what has too much of our attention. Show us those things right now that we’ve become preoccupied with without necessarily noticing.
And that may be the Holy Spirit brought something immediately to mind. It may be that you have a little bit of an idea of what might be preoccupation in your life or maybe you need to continue to wrestle with that. But after we identify it, the next question is, what do we do with it? We identify something we’re preoccupied with, what comes next? And the answer is we redirect it. And I say redirect because you and I are not really capable of just ceasing to be preoccupied. We can’t just stop thinking about stuff, right? Somebody tells you to stop thinking about something, that’s all you do is think about that thing, right? Like if I tell you, “Stop thinking about purple elephants,” right, you’re like, “I’ve never thought of purple elephants, but now it’s like I’ve got purple elephants on the brain.” You can’t just stop thinking about that. But if I tell you, “You can think about pink unicorns, you’re like, “Well, okay, the elephants are gone.” Because what happens is here’s the thing, like, we’re not good multitaskers. We can’t really focus on multiple things at the same time. I know some of you think you’re good multitaskers. You’re not. Okay? We’re not built that way. We can go back and forth quickly, but we can’t focus on more than one thing. It’s just not possible at the same time.
And so what happens is what we can do is we can redirect our thoughts. We can put our thoughts on something else that’s gonna lead us in the right direction. Here’s the thing. Craig Groeschel at Life.Church said something recently that I thought was really powerful. He said, “Our lives are always moving in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” He’s absolutely right. Our lives are always moving the direction of our strongest thoughts. If our strongest thoughts are on a thing that we don’t possess that we’ve become preoccupied with, where we’re headed towards is we’re headed towards a passion to possess that thing and all of the nasty things we might do to do it. But if we replace that, if we redirect our thoughts to something positive, then our lives will move in that direction.
It’s probably the reason the Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Philippi said this. He said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” He says, “Redirect your thoughts to these things rather than those things that you know are gonna take you into a place you shouldn’t go.” So he says, “Redirect your thoughts.” So that’s our first tool for derailing the train of covetousness. We need to identify and we need to redirect our preoccupation.
But that’s kind of a defensive measure. That’s something we would kind of do when we realize, “I’m heading in the wrong direction.” And that’s kind of exhausting, honestly. It takes a lot of energy to constantly redirect thoughts once we’re kind of getting some momentum going in the wrong direction. So wouldn’t it be nice if there was a more offensive technique, if there’s something we could do to keep us from getting on the coveting train in the first place before it starts to pick up momentum? And fortunately, there is. The Bible gives us the key to defeating covetousness before it even starts. And you know what that key is? It’s called contentment. Here’s the thing. Developing contentment is the key to defeating covetousness. Developing contentment is the key to defeating covetousness even before it starts.
Before Jesus began his public ministry, there was a man named John the Baptist who kinda got people ready for him and he was calling people to repentance and to turn away from their sin. And there was a group of Roman soldiers that came to him. And Roman soldiers were renowned, they were famous for basically extorting money from people, accusing them falsely so that they had to pay fines that then the Roman soldiers would pocket. And it’s interesting, these people actually came to John the Baptist too, and we’re told that some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” And he replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely. Be content with your pay.” And what you need to understand is that he wasn’t giving them three things to do. He wasn’t saying, “Don’t extort, and don’t falsely accuse, and be content.” He was actually giving them two commands. Don’t extort, don’t falsely accuse them. And then he gave them the key to being able to stop doing those other things. And what was the key? It was contentment. He said, “Be content and you won’t be driven to do these other things.” Contentment’s the key to defeating covetousness. The Apostle Paul writing to his protégé, Timothy, said this, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” He says, “It’s huge.” It’s bigger than you can imagine. “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content.” That’s a declaration of intent to be content. He says, “We will be content with that.”
Why? Because those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. He says, “That’s the end result of allowing coveting to take root in our hearts.” So he says, “Before we even get on the train, before it even begins to pick up any momentum towards all that nastiness, what do we do? We choose to be content. We develop contentment.”
Because how do we do that? Well, the Bible teaches us that the recipe for contentment has two ingredients, gratitude and generosity. It’s the only two ingredients, gratitude and generosity. And if we can get those ingredients into our lives, we will develop a contentment that will push covetousness out long before we get to the place where it’s leading us into darkness, and pain, and suffering, and stuff that we would never have imagined we would’ve ever done to get that thing that we allowed passion to possess grow in us.
Contentment’s the key and the key to contentment’s gratitude and generosity. So let’s talk about gratitude for a second. Here’s the thing about gratitude. Gratitude is a passion for what we already possess, right? It’s almost the exact opposite of coveting. Coveting is a passion to possess what we don’t. Gratitude is a passion about what we already possess. And the power of gratitude is that the more passionate we are about what we already possess, the less passionate we are about what we don’t. So we wanna build passion for what we already possess. That’s what gratitude’s all about. Okay? So how do we do that? Let me give you some practical hints on growing in gratitude. Okay?
The first thing if you wanna grow in gratitude is prayer. Pray for greater gratitude. I believe that gratitude is actually a fruit of the spirit. It’s a result of the Spirit’s work in our lives as followers of Jesus. And it’s one of those prayers that I believe God always answers positively. He always jumps and goes, “Yes, absolutely. We’re gonna do that.” Okay? So praying for greater gratitude is the first and most important place to start. And then beyond that, I’m gonna suggest this. Keep a gratitude journal. And I know there’s a bunch of guys out there going, “Journal? I ain’t no sissy. What are you talking about?” Right? Like, I don’t care what you call it. Call it a masculine notebook, whatever. A macho notebook. You figure it out I don’t care. My point is keep a list. Keep a list of things you’re grateful for. I started doing this several years ago and it’s so powerful. I try every day…when I sit down to pray in the morning, I try to come up with at least two things that I was grateful for from the day before and I write them down. And I found that I can find two or three or more things. No matter how bad the previous day was, there’s always a couple of things I can be grateful for and I write those down. And it changes my orientation during the day when I’m thinking about what I already have, what God’s already done for me. And when things are hard to be able to look back on that list, all those signs of God’s faithfulness up to that point, it’s transformative. It’s so powerful. Start keeping a list of the things you’re grateful for every day.
The third thing you can do is you can just take small steps. And this is so important because sometimes we look at other people, and maybe you have some people in your life that are really grateful. They have that characteristic and you look at how grateful they are and how focused they are on what they have rather than what they’re not and you’re like, “I don’t know that I can ever get there.” What I wanna tell you today is you can get there. It might not feel like it because it seems like there’s a big gap between them and you, but you don’t have to close that gap with one giant leap. You just have to take one small step after another in the same direction. Here’s the thing. Small steps in the same direction will take you to places you never thought possible. You don’t have to do a big leap. Just small steps in the right direction. So small steps are just start voicing gratitude in small ways. I’ll give you one. This would mean the world to me as your pastor. If you’re on the highway, a lot of my spiritual stuff involves the highway. I’m not sure why that is, but if you’re on the highway and I’m on the highway and you need to get into traffic and I leave a little space for you get into traffic, you know what you can do for me to make my heart sore? Just give me a little wave because when I do that… I’m a nice guy. So I’m always like, “Yeah. You wanna get in there.” And they get in there. And then when they don’t wave, like, I go to a dark place.
I’m gonna be honest with you. Like, my immediate thought is like, “Do you really think you got into that because you’re an above-average driver?” No. You are not a good driver. I did that for you.” But I feel like when I started driving, like, that’s what people did. Oh, you helped me out a little wave. Just a simple little thing, right? I feel like it doesn’t happen nearly as much anymore. So maybe just bring it back, right? If somebody gives you space, just give them a little… Voicing gratitude in small ways. If they open the door for you, say, “Thank you,” even if they open the door for you way too early, right? And made it awkward. You’ve ever had that experience, right? You’re gonna walk into the door, but you’re a long way away. And then like they’re, “I will hold the door for you.” And you’re like, “You just made it weird because now I got to hurry. I guess I got to run.” Like even if they’ve made it awkward for you, say, “Thank you.” Just voice gratitude in small ways and we begin to move towards a destination we can’t even imagine ourselves arriving at now, but you can if you’ll just take enough small steps in the same direction.
The fourth thing I wanna suggest to you is this. You need to avoid comparison. If you wanna grow in gratitude, you got to avoid comparison because comparison is the enemy of contentment, right? And one of the reasons I think that we struggle with gratitude in the modern world is because we have this thing called social media. And I’m not all down on social media. I’m on social media. But my concern with social media is it gives us a glimpse into what we think are the lives of other people and it invites a comparison that creates a lack of contentment. And the reason I say we think of the lives of other people because it’s not really their lives. Have you ever been in a house that has been, you know, what’s the word for you’re trying? Staged. That’s the word. The house has been staged for sale and you’re like, “Wow. These people have perfect taste. And they’re immaculate.” And it’s like, yeah, that’s not that people, right? That’s been staged. It’s fake. The problem is social media is the same kind of thing. It’s our lives staged. And so we see their posts and we’re like, “Their family looks beautiful and the kids are all smiling and they’re not trying to hurt each other.” And their husband is happy to be with the whole family in this picture.
And they don’t show you the 37 takes before that. They don’t show somebody threatening their kids within an inch of their lives if they didn’t smile for this the next day. They don’t show you that. It’s staged. It’s not real. But we look at it and here’s what happens. What we do is we compare what we know about us and our family against what we don’t know about theirs and it makes us discontent. So if you wanna grow in gratitude, one of the key things is you got to start avoiding comparison. That might mean you need to do a fast from social media for a while. Maybe you need to sign out of social media entirely or maybe you just need to unfollow some people that engender in you that comparison trap. But these are some ways to grow in gratitude. It’s one of the key ingredients to contentment.
The second key ingredient is generosity. So let’s talk about generosity for a second. Generosity is the passion to provide what others need. It’s kind of the opposite of coveting too. Coveting is the passion to possess maybe what someone else has, but generosity is the passion to provide what somebody doesn’t have that they need and we do have that we can supply to their need. And the thing about generosity is the more passionate we are about providing, the less passionate we are about possessing. It pushes coveting out.
Because how do we grow in generosity? Well, step number one is probably to remember that it’s all God’s. We forget that, right? We tend to go, “It’s my house. It’s my wife. It’s my husband. It’s my kids. It’s my clothes. It’s my car. It’s my possessions. It’s my job. It’s all mine.” But the Bible’s pretty clear that, no, it’s actually just on loan to you. It’s all God’s. Everything belongs to God, but he loans it out to us. And so a really powerful exercise is actually to get a piece of paper, get an Evernote notebook, or keep it on your phone somewhere, but just start typing. And here’s what you’re gonna type. You’re gonna type, “God, thank you for loaning me,” fill in the blank. “God, thank you for loaning me my house. God, thank you for loaning me my car. God, thank you for loaning me my kids. Thank you for loaning me my spot.”
Just start listing all the things but start always with, “God, thank you for loaning me.” We need to change that out to because here’s the thing. When we realize that it’s all on loan from God, the next question that comes is, “Well, God, why have you loaned it to me? Like, why have you given it to me? Why have you entrusted it to me?” And then we’re on the right track because the Bible’s very clear that God loans us things for blessing, both our blessing. He loans things to us so that we’re blessed, maybe more importantly, so that we can be a blessing to others. We’re blessed so that we can be a blessing. And when we are remembering that it’s on loan to us, we’re also remembering why it’s been given and we start looking to use it in the way we’re supposed to be, and that’s generosity. So that’s the first key.
And another thing you can do is, again, small steps. Small steps in the same direction will take you places you never thought possible. You may have some people in your life that are really generous or people you know about from afar that are incredibly generous and you go, “I don’t think I could ever be that generous.” And I wanna tell you, you can. You absolutely can, but you don’t have to close the gap with a giant leap. You just have to take enough small steps in the same direction and you’re gonna get there, just small steps. One of the things where you can do is you can just do a little extra of what you’re already doing. If you’re making a pot of chili, make a little bit extra. Take it to a neighbor. Take it to somebody who’s sick. Take it to somebody that you were just thinking of and letting them know you were thinking about them and wanted to be a blessing to them. A very small thing. You’re already doing it, just do a tiny bit extra and then use that extra to bless somebody. Lots of different ways we can do that, but they’re powerful steps towards becoming a more generous person.
Another thing you can do is you can join a team that is focused on giving. Join a team of people that are focused on kind of standing shoulder to shoulder and being a blessing to other people, giving to other people, serving other people. Here at Mission Hills, that’s the reason that we’re so passionate about having people serve in the church and as the church because it cultivates this heart of generosity. And so, listen, we don’t ask people to serve just because we need people to do it so we can get the programs done. No, we ask people to serve because we know that it’s one of the most important ways that we really become like Jesus and join him on mission. It cultivates the heart of generosity. So serving with our kids’ team, or our student ministry team, or the guest services team, or the life center team, or maybe being a part of the North Littleton campus that’ll be launching this Christmas, those are always of serving people and learning to be generous. So if you’re looking for a place to serve, encourage you to go to missionhills.org/servefinder.
We got a tool where you can actually sort through all kinds of different things and find a great team that you can join forces with to grow in generosity as you serve. You also might think about joining a short-term trip that’s gonna be a powerful kind of shots in the arm for becoming a more generous person when we go, especially overseas and we serve people, we often see that they have so much less than we have. And sometimes, honestly, they’re more content. They’re more joyful than we are. That’s a powerful thing. And so you can go to missionhills.org/stt for short-term trip. But again, that’s part about joining a team to help us become more generous.
The fourth thing I suggest that you do is take the next step of generosity. We talk about this a lot at Mission Hills. I had somebody talk to me not long ago and they said, “Hey, it’s interesting. I’ve never really heard Mission Hills talk about tithing. You know, you don’t talk about tithing, or you mention it occasionally maybe, but like a lot of churches talk about it a lot. Why don’t you talk about tithing?” And our answer is because tithing, which means 10%, that feels like a big leap for a lot of people. And, honestly, it’s more significant that you take a small step towards generosity than you try to take a leap that feels impossible that you’ll never actually end up taking. So what we talk about is just taking the next step. So we say things like, “Hey, if you’re not giving anything, start giving something.” Just something. And if you’re already giving something, then start giving something regular. Maybe sign up for recurring giving or doing it every week as kind of a discipline, whatever that amount is. If you’re already giving something regular, then that step might be to tithe, to start giving 10% to your local church. By the way, I know a lot of people are listening to this that are not part of Mission Hills. We’re not encouraging you to give to Mission Hills. Give to your local church, or to give to some other organization because it’s good for you to practice that next step. So if you’re already giving something regular, start, giving tithe, 10%. And as I always say, if you’re already giving a tithe, then you’re pretty much done.
Yeah. Not really because there’s always a next step. And so what we say is, if you’re already giving a tithe, start practicing spirit-led generosity. And what we mean by that is you give 10% to your local church, wherever that is. And then above and beyond that, you pray for the Lord to show you opportunities to do good for other people by giving to kingdom work and gospel-advancing work. Give 10% to your church and go beyond that as God gives you these insights about where you can be generous with time, talent, and treasure, but take the next step. That’s how we begin to grow in generosity. And why are we interested in growing in generosity? Why are we interested in growing in gratitude? Because it creates contentment. And what’s the value of contentment? Why does God want us to be content? See, God wants us to be content because contentment is the soil in which joy grows. How many of us would like to be a little bit more full of joy?
Yeah. The good news is that we can be, and contentment is the soil in which joy grows. Remember, if you’ve been with us through this series, you’ve heard us say over and over again, “Each of the commandments is a first step. It’s not the finish line.” The finish line of the tenth commandment is contentment, but really the finish line of all of the commandments is the life that God’s always intended for us, which is a life that’s filled with joy, and meaning, and significance, and peace, none of which are possible outside of a relationship with God. And even if we have a relationship with God but we’re still doing life the way the world does it, we can never experience that. And so, really, all of the commandments are designed to help us stay close to God and moving forward with him towards what he’s always intended, what he created us to experience, which is, in fact, joy.
God wants us to be content. He wants us to be holy. He wants us to be free from the shackles and the chains of sin so that we can have joy. Here in the tenth commandment, God wants us to be content because contentment is the soil in which joy grows.
I’ll just address with a couple of questions. We’ve already mentioned them. The first one’s just this, what am I preoccupied with? Lean in on that. What has Holy Spirit already showed you today or what will he show you if you continue to ask him to reveal where you’ve got too much attention on what shouldn’t be getting your attention? What are you preoccupied with? And then, just as importantly, what will you do to redirect that preoccupation? Second, what will I start today to grow in gratitude? What will you start today? Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, not the first of the year, because that’ll never happen. Today, what will you start today? What will you start doing today to begin growing in gratitude? What small step in the right direction will you take today? And then what will you start today to grow in generosity? What small step in the right direction will you start today?
Would you pray with me? God, thank you for this call to joy. Thank you that we can be confident that what you really want for us is a life of joy. But we confess that one of the reasons that we have not experienced the joy that you created us for is because we’re too busy coveting. We have way too much passion to possess things that we don’t. And it may be that many of us right now, even in this moment, we think back on our lives and there may be something in particular that we’re pretty ashamed of. If we’re really honest with ourselves, that thing that we can’t believe we did it. It was actually rooted in coveting. It was rooted in a passion to possess something that we didn’t and it led us to do things that we struggle to get over, we struggle to forgive ourselves for. But, Lord, we’re so grateful that you don’t struggle to forgive us. That we don’t need to covet your forgiveness because it is freely available to us.
You sent your Son, Jesus, to pay the price for all the nasty stuff we’ve done because we covet, to give us freedom from guilt, and shame, and ultimately from coveting itself. So we thank you for the forgiveness that we have. We grab ahold of it right now. Holy Spirit, we invite you to have your way with us. Help us to develop contentment, to identify preoccupation before it becomes that passion to possess that we can’t afford to let it become. So identify those things, and give us the strength to take whatever step we need through your power to stop that train and to get off it. We get on the train to contentment. Although we ask, we beg that you would grow joy in us and that through us, we would demonstrate joy to the whole world, a joy that’s only possible in a relationship with you and we’re drawing closer and closer. Lord, we pray for those who are listening to this message right now that they don’t have that relationship. And if that’s you, if I can just speak to you for a moment, if you tuned into this or you’ve joined us on the campus for reasons you’re not even maybe entirely sure why, I wanna tell you why you’re here, and why you’re listening to this. It’s because God loves you. It’s because God’s inviting you into a relationship with him.
As we’ve said, he loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. That’s real love, right? That’s how generous God is. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for all of our sin, our rebellion, all the nasty stuff that comes because we’re passionate to possess something we didn’t and we’re desperate to. All the stuff we’ve done because of that, he died on the cross to forgive. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he offers us salvation by faith. He offers us freedom from all of that. Some people are putting our trust in what he’s done for us. And if you’ve never done that before, I wanna encourage you to do it right now. You don’t need to covet God’s forgiveness because you can have it right here right now. All you have to do is tell him you need it. I encourage you to say this to God. You can say it out loud. You can say it in your heart wherever you are, but say something like this to God. “Hey, God, I’ve sinned. I’ve done some things I’m ashamed of because of something I wanted to get hold of. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay the price for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with God, and ultimately, joy. I want all that, Lord. So I’m putting my trust in you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
Hey, can we celebrate those who made that decision today? You now have what your heart has desperately longed for. You have forgiveness and freedom. If you made that decision for the first time today, we would so love to celebrate that with you and get you some resources to help you begin living out this new relationship with God. So would you let us know you made the decision? If you’re watching online, you can click the button below me that says, “I committed my life to Jesus.” If you’re on our campus, you can text the word Jesus to 80875 or stop by the Welcome Center. Tell us you said yes to Jesus, but either way, just let us know you made it. We’re gonna celebrate with you. We’re gonna get you some resources to help you begin living out this relationship with a God who longs to give us everything that we need. And then even beyond that, things that we don’t even know that we need but they’re good and he cannot wait to pour them into our lives. Okay. Before we head out in the world, would you stand with us? Let’s spend some time worshiping a God who has everything that we need, everything that we should be desiring.