The Ten Commandments:
Commandment One, Week 2
TURN TO Isaiah 53.
Last week: God comes to us in this first commandment and says: “I must be in control in your life. I must be your king. I must be your god. I must have your exclusive loyalty.”
This one command is the greatest command: have no other gods, but instead love God with all that you are. This is sweet when we remember that our God is the great I AM – we need no other gods, because He is more than enough for us. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
If that is the first and greatest commandment, then one word describes each one of us: guilty. From the very beginning, mankind has lived in open rebellion to the first and greatest commandment: “No God, you are not king. You are not in control. I am in charge here and I’ll do what I please.” Eve was first, then Adam, then eventually you and I.
READ Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. That is the greatest “other god” in existence – the god of our own way. Adam and Eve worshipped the god of their own way; so did Cain, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Joseph’s brothers, Moses, David, Solomon, Ahab, Manasseh, Judas, Peter, Herod, Saul, and Demas. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. We are guilty.
This is not a misdemeanor. I Cor. 6:9-10 Do not be deceived – idolaters will not enter the kingdom of God. Revelation 21:8 says that for idolaters their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Turning over a new leaf won’t change things; appearing before the judge and saying you’re really really sorry won’t change things. There is a fixed penalty for having other gods – the penalty is the second death, eternal separation from God. We have to have a Savior.
So the first commandment leads us to Jesus, who lived and died to save us from our rebellion against the first and greatest commandment. Jesus lived in perfect obedience to the first commandment. Today if you are saved, you are righteous in God’s sight because Jesus’ obedience to the first commandment has been credited to your account.
TURN TO Luke 22. What did it look like for Jesus to live in obedience to the first commandment?
We would consider his temptations from Satan, and see how he resisted several other gods in that situation. We could consider the night in the garden and his crucifixion, and ponder the other gods Jesus would have turned to in that greatest of all crises. But if Isaiah 53:6 summarizes our disobedience in one phrase, I think Luke 22:42 summarizes Jesus’ obedience in one phrase: Isaiah 53:6 says each of us has turned to his own way; in Luke 22:42 READ Jesus says to the Father, not my will but yours be done. That is obedience to the first commandment.
John 4:34 My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
John 5:30 I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
John 6:38 I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
This then is what Christlike growth will look like in our own lives: our lives will be driven more and more by what God wants and less and less by what we want. More about that in a minute.
So Jesus came as a man and lived a life of perfect obedience to the first and greatest commandment, because we did not. He came to be our Savior. He lived in joyful submission to God’s will. And He died in our place, bearing the wrath of God which should have been poured out on us, experiencing the hell we deserved for our rebellion.
Now, being saved by Him and brought into His family, being named as a child of God and transferred into the kingdom of God, it is obvious that our desire should be to live in obedience to the first and greatest commandment.
As we said last week, God must have our adoration: we worship Him alone. God must have our dependence. God must have our trust: recognizing that He can do whatever He wants with our lives. God must have our thanksgiving. God must have our ear: He demands that we listen to Him. God must have our heart. He must have our strength. God demands that your lives be dominated by him, just as Jesus said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him.
Simply put, a life of obedience to the first commandment is a life focused on God. What is your life focused upon?
The first commandment alerts us to the possibility that our lives might be focused upon other gods: you shall have no other gods before me.
Do you have other gods in your life? The answer is yes, you do. I do.
You probably know what some of them are, because you battle them all the time; and then there are others that you have not yet thought about or recognized. How would you find those other gods in your heart?
First of all, realize that there are two categories of other gods – there are things that are always other gods; and things that can be other gods. Anything that the Bible declares to be sinful is always another god. Adultery; gossip; abuse; greed; theft. Those things are inherently sinful, inherently idolatrous.
But then there is a second category of other gods – things that can be other gods, though they are not inherently sinful: career; family; success; a house; comfort; good grades; peace; money; hobbies; sexuality; friends; a car; politics; sleep; sports; fashion. None of those things are inherently sinful – all of those things can be “other gods.”
As we talked about two weeks ago, this is where it gets tricky because it is so easy to rationalize. God may start to convict your heart about one of those things, and you can immediately say “Hey, you can’t prove that’s wrong. Show me a Bible verse that says it’s wrong to have a car; or enjoy sports; or wear nice clothes!” It is easy to rationalize in this category, and so we must pray for a tender heart.
So there are two categories of other gods, now how could we discover this second kind of “other god” in our hearts?
First, I think a well-worded definition is helpful. I don’t often quote others in my sermons, but I want to quote some helpful wording from a couple of other people here:
This quote is from Peter Masters, who is the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, the church that Charles Spurgeon pastored more than a century ago. Dr. Masters has a good little book on the Ten Commandments. He writes this:
- “God has given us a great capacity to love, appreciate, and enjoy…. However it is our responsibility to ensure that our interest in these things never challenges our obedience and commitment to the Lord.”
So you can ask yourself: “Are there things in my life that are challenging my obedience and commitment to the Lord?”
D. James Kennedy has a succinct definition that is helpful: “Anything that crowds God out of His rightful place in your life is a false god.”
Consider four categories that may be helpful:
- Things that become a hindrance
Sometimes things that are not inherently wrong can start to hinder our service of God or others. For example, you could stay up late on Saturday night enjoying some activity that is wholesome and appropriate. But then on Sunday morning you can’t get up in time to make it for Sunday School, when you do get to church, you can’t get your mind in gear for the singing, you can’t keep your eyes open during the preaching. What you stayed up to do on Saturday night was wholesome and appropriate, yet it ended up becoming a hindrance to the worship of God.
- Things that become an alternative
Martin Luther said: “Whatever thy heart clings to and relies upon, that is properly thy God.” Where do you turn in times of trouble? Some people turn to ice cream – it makes them feel better. Some people turn to vacations – just get away. Some people turn to shopping. Some people turn to sleep.
If we will honor God, He must be the first place we turn and He must be the answer we seek when life is hard. Maybe you do need a vacation; maybe you do need some more sleep; maybe you should have a bowl of ice cream. But beware lest those things start to become an alternative to God, so that you turn to those things instead of God in times of trouble. I Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all of our anxiety on Him.
- Things that become a distraction
Again we’re speaking of things that are not inherently wrong, yet they become a distraction away from the service of God and others. We’ve all heard and used the phrase “I just wasn’t thinking.” “It didn’t even cross my mind.” Now if I send my daughter to go up to her room and make her bed, and on the way up the stairs she sees a lego creation that she has previously begun but not finished. And she stops and sits down on the stairs and finishes her lego creation. And then Kristalyn calls us to dinner. Her bed is not made. She doesn’t even remember that I asked her to make her bed. Now is it wrong for my daughter to play with legos? No. But the legos were a distraction that kept her from doing what I asked her to do.
Spiritually, I believe this is a huge problem. If we were to interview American Christians about the things they know they should do, but usually don’t, I think the number one phrase we would hear is this: “I’m just so busy.” “It’s so hard to find time.” Our lives are busy, so busy with things that are not wrong, yet they leave us without time for God. The most common reason why people don’t read their Bibles is probably because they don’t have enough time. The most common reason why people don’t pray is probably because they don’t have enough time. The most common reason why we don’t evangelize – how can we fit time into our busy schedule to be around unsaved people?
If we don’t have time to read our Bibles, time to pray, time to serve others, time to evangelize – we’d better consider carefully whether our lives are centered on God’s way or our own way. So there can be things that become other gods because they distract us.
- Things that become a priority
I Cor. 6:12 says All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. There are things that are not wrong in themselves, they are lawful, yet they start to rule in our lives. They become the priority. Suppose I have some area of my life where I am trying to discern whether or not I have another god in this area: I could ask questions like this:
“If I had to choose between this and going to church on GOnight, what would I be likely to choose?”
“If I had to choose between doing this and praying, which would I be likely to choose ?”
“If I had to choose between this and helping someone in the church move, which would I be likely to choose?”
“If I had to choose between buying this or giving the money to a family in our church who was out of work, how would I be likely to spend the money?”
“If I had to choose between this and reading my Bible, what would I usually choose?”
Those questions could help discern if something is a god that has become a priority above God.
We can also turn those questions around and use them to help find our other gods:
“When I get bad news and try to cope without turning to God, what do I turn to?”
“When I choose to stay home instead of going to church when I could, why do I usually stay home?”
“When I know I should spend some time in prayer, but instead I choose to do something else, what do I usually do instead?”
If we have tender hearts, honestly answering those questions will really help us.
This is not rocket science: “Anything that crowds God out of His rightful place in your life is a false god.” There are things that become a hindrance; things that become an alternative; things that become a distraction; things that become a priority. None of us want to admit that we have other gods in our lives, yet if will honestly answer those questions we will probably find several.
Once God has uncovered another god in your life, what needs to happen next?
TURN TO I Thes. 1. I’m going to give you two references that are not in your handout, you’ll want to write these down. READ I Thes. 1:9 When you turn away from idols, you have to turn to God. It will not do to repeatedly say “I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to do that.”
We must turn from idols to God. So you can add I Thes. 1:9 to your notes, and then also note Deut. 6:5. Last week we said that Exodus 20:3 and Deut 6:5 are really two parts of the same commandment: you shall have no other gods before me; You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
You don’t just turn away from other gods; you turn in love toward the true God.
But where do you find the motivation to do that? After all, other gods are appealing. That’s the whole reason why we turn to them! And so in our flesh we don’t want to turn away from them. So where do you find the motivation to turn from your gods:
Meditate on the grace God has shown us in the gospel of Christ
- In Scripture our response to God is based upon what God has already done for us. This is the pattern in Exodus 20:2-3 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me. This is the same thing in Rom. 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, Paul finishes his magnificent teaching on the glory of salvation in Ephesians 1-3 and in Eph. 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
- When you stand facing another god, who is making sweet promises to you, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and go meditate on the gospel of your salvation.
Meditate on the example God has given us in the life of Christ
- In Galatians 4:19 Paul says “I am in labor until Christ is formed in you.” That’s what we need: Christ’s God-centered life formed in us, we need to be changed into the image of Christ who perfectly obeyed the first commandment. That happens as we meditate on the example God has given us in Christ. We study Christ’s life and Christ’s submission to the Father and Christ’s victory over other gods, and as II Cor. 3:18 says as we behold his glory we are changed into the same image.
- When you stand facing another god, who is making sweet promises to you, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and go meditate on the example God has given you in the life of Christ.
Meditate on the promises God has given us in the word of Christ
- This brings us full circle, back to last Sunday where we began. Remember that in early in last week’s sermon we asked the question “How can you serve a god that is not real?” Why does God even talk about other gods when there is no such thing? And we learned that while the gods weren’t real, but they represented real things. And the idea of the gods was the idea of promise – come to this “god” and you’ll find whatever that will make you happy… Though the gods weren’t real, those promises held a very real spiritual power over the people. The people really did give their time, their money, even their children to serve those made up gods, because of what they promised.
- When we are tempted by other gods, we too are tempted by what they can promise – their promises sound so good that we allow them to push God out of his rightful place in our lives. How do you combat that?
- When you stand facing another god, who is making sweet promises to you, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and go meditate on the precious and magnificent promises that God gives His children in His Word. II Pet. 1:4 He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
If you are one of God’s children with a tender heart this morning, I am going to assume that God is doing something in your heart. Maybe gently, maybe strongly, God is showing you other gods in your heart.
How are you responding? You can respond with rationalizations, and talk your way out of it. At least to your own satisfaction. You can respond by leaving this morning and forgetting about it.
Don’t. Repent. Turn from your sin this morning, and turn to God. Take up the sword of the Spirit, and use it to go smash those idols. You shall have no other gods before me; You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.