BASIC TRAINING-THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE GOOD FOR US
Dear friends in Christ,
In 1991 Justice Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court. He has big ties to the state of Georgia. He is Afro-American. He was not the first Afro-American to serve on the Supreme Court, but he was the first conservative Afro-American to serve on the Supreme Court. His confirmation hearings were brutal. People on the political left really went after him. They brought to the hearings someone who said she was sexually harassed by him. I remember his defense. He was angry. He was forceful. He was eventually confirmed.
Thomas was also criticized for defending the term “natural law.” Thomas is a Christian. As Christians we know that the Bible speaks of natural law. Many people who have liberal views don’t want anything to do with the Bible. In Romans two the apostle Paul wrote about Gentiles who were not given the Ten Commandments like the people of Israel. Moses and the Children of Israel were at Sinai. Yet Paul says, “(Gentiles) show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” God gives people the knowledge of right and wrong. While not perfect, it is there. He gives all a conscience that accuses when someone does wrong but defends when people do right.
Non-religious people said that Thomas who believes the law was given by God and would show a bias based on the Ten Commandments and not on the laws of our land. Non-religious people were afraid that those darn Christians would be establishing and interpreting law. We just can’t have that. There would be a bias.
Today we conclude our Basic Training Series with the Ten Commandments. “The Ten Commandments Are Good for Us.”
The laws of every country and civilization, even though they might not be Christian, are based on the Ten Commandments. That is just a fact. People know that it is wrong to kill and steal. People know there have to be authority figures. People can’t just go and slander and speak lies about others. Nations have punishments when those laws are violated.
Yet natural law is not perfect. It hasn’t been since the fall of Adam and Eve. Ever since then God’s perfect will is not understood perfectly as Adam and Eve knew it before their sin. We have knowledge of God’s Law but it is not 20/20.
But God took care of that a long time ago in the wilderness at Sinai. He wrote it down on two tablets of stone. God made sure we understand it as he placed it in the Scriptures. No one has an excuse to say, “But Lord, how was I supposed to know what you wanted from me?” The apostle Paul himself made this admission, “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Coveting is having sinful desires. People often say what goes on in my mind doesn’t hurt anyone so don’t call it sin. Yet the Lord steps in with the Ten Commandments and says that evil desires are sinful. They dirty up the temple of God – your body and mind. He knows what goes on in the mind. Evil desires offend him. Coveting is sin. The Ten Commandments are good for us because the Commandments clarify the Will of God. We don’t need to wonder if something is a sin or not.
While there are Ten Commandments, the Lord says they can be summed up with one word. You know what that word is, don’t you? Love! Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; love your neighbor as yourself. If we would and could do put that word into action 100% of the time, what a different world our world would be; what a different nation our nation would be; what a different family our families would be. Loving God and our neighbor is good for us, isn’t it?
The commandments are good for us because they show us a way to show that love. Understand them the way they are without twisting or bending or grinding or cutting corners. When God gave the Ten Commandments, do you remember how they began? “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” If they questioned why they had to keep the commandments all they had to do is remember all the love God showed them in bringing them from the slavery in Egypt. The plagues, going before them in the cloud and fire, the opening of the Red Sea, giving them miraculous food! I am the LORD your God he said who created you and preserves you and saves you. Then what comes next? The first commandment - “You shall have no other gods.” Why would anyone even think otherwise?
He is the God who creates and preserves you. Why would anyone want to turn to anything or anyone else?
Yet so many, and from time to time we do the same we get thinking what he tells us what is right and wrong sucks all the fun out of life. God is a bully. I heard a man once say, I don’t want to worship that (expletive deleted) because he demands all this worship. There is a story about a man who complained to a rabbi about his life in Europe in the 1800’s. He went to a rabbi and complained, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?" The rabbi answered, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man was incredulous, but the rabbi insisted, "Do as I say, and come back in a week." A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy." The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out, and come back in a week." A man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat – there are only the nine of us."
The commandments are good for us and give us a way to be thankful to God for his mercies and grace.
The commandments are good for us because they work. The commandments come under fire because They show us the will of God. We rebel because we get accustomed to and even love to sin but then have to live with its consequences. “You shall not commit adultery” certainly comes under fire these days. It demands abstention and purity before marriage; in marriage the gift of sex is to be enjoyed you’re your spouse only.
Practicing the sixth commandment God’s way is so rare these days. A promiscuous man in his early years finally finds a woman whom he falls in love with. But because he had been so promiscuous his wife begins to wonder if he is really content with her alone. A couple gets married after each broke up their previous marriage hurting all kinds of people. Then one day one of them thinks if their spouse cheated with me, what keeps him/her from cheating on me? If only what God said about marriage had been followed from the start!
Regard for life is pitiful. People are more compassionate for serial killers than a defenseless baby in the womb. The pro-abortion crowd doesn’t tell the stories about the unbearable depression that sets in on an annual basis with the woman who knows when the birthday of a baby should have taken place but the life was ended in the abortion clinic. It would have been a lot easier if the commandments had been obeyed the way God says
I grew up in an area where my Dad as part of his business also ran a retail store. We never locked doors at night. He left money in the cash register overnight with the doors unlocked. Call him foolish but that was life. No more! We lock the doors of our cars when we get fast food. The security business makes billions and billions and billions of dollars. Won’t it be nice in heaven? No keys, no locks, no alarms! We could live that way on this earth if we took the commandments seriously. When they are put into practice they work.
Sin keeps us from following the directions. The psalmist says, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Someone from Tech Support was giving a computer-challenged client some instruction. He said: "I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop." The customer said: "Ok." Tech support asked, "Did you get a pop-up menu?" The customer replied: "No." Tech Support repeated: "Ok. Right click on the open desktop. Do you see a pop-up menu?" Customer: "No." Tech Support said: "Ok, sir. Can you tell me what you have done up until this point?" Customer said: "Sure, you told me to write 'click' so I wrote click' and it is here on a piece of paper on my desktop." The commandments aren’t that difficult to understand but to put them into practice is difficult. But God promises that they make wise the simple. Putting them into practice – obeying them - is wisdom.
The psalmist says, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Many say that the commandments are confining. The psalmist says they are liberating. You never have to have a guilty conscience when you do what God says is right. You don’t have to look over your shoulder to wonder if the person you love is going to harm you. The commandments work.
God’s law has basically three purposes. It deters sin. It slows it down. With the law there is a threat of punishment. When the children of Israel saw God as a consuming fire, don’t you think that affected their behavior? My dad had strap that always hung behind the refrigerator. I don’t remember that he ever used it, but the mere thought that it was there was the reason he didn’t. Lutherans refer to this use of the law as a curb to slow sin down or keep it from happening.
Remember what happened in Ferguson, Missouri when police were ordered to stand back and let people blow off steam. So foolish! Look what happened when there was no threat of punishment. How many businesses were looted and burned and destroyed? The law curbs bad behavior.
The law acts like a mirror and shows us as we are - sinners. Paul explained this point so well in Romans. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” The Law works all right. It works like a mirror and reveals us as we are.
Why do women wear makeup? Surveys reveal that wearing makeup empowers them by two to one. One woman said, “Would you treat someone with a good complexion more seriously? I would, as opposed to someone who looks like a meth addict. Anyone who says that women use makeup to impress men is being ignorant; we wear makeup on girl’s night out, to women bars, and on shopping trips. The need to look good is innate in every human being, and yes, attracting positive attention from the opposite sex does increase our confidence, and this applies to males as well.” I didn’t know it was so complicated. I thought it was done mostly to cover up blemishes and emphasize positive features. Men like it. I once heard a man say so eloquently, “Even a barn needs paint now and then.” Yet there is a time when the makeup comes off. If someone walks away from a relationship because the makeup came off, that was no relationship.
God’s Law exposes our faults. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. He knows our worst. The Law reveals to what we are like. With the mirror a dentist detects cavities. But he doesn't fix our teeth with the mirror. He doesn’t drill with the mirror.
The solution to our sin is not found in the device that uncovered our problems. The solution is found elsewhere. It is found in the Gospel of Jesus. The Law makes see the need. The tax collector in the temple knew what the solution was, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Without the honesty derived from God’s Law we would never see a need for Jesus. The Law is a mirror. The only way we can be saved is apart from the Law - to be declared righteous and perfect through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That leads us to the third reason God has given us the Ten Commandments. It can be understood only by the Christian who knows what it means and believes that we are declared righteous and holy in Christ. The Law becomes the guide that shows us how we can thank God. The Law is what Jesus was talking about when he said, If you love me, then keep my commands.” The Law answers the question, “How can I show my thanks for what Jesus has done for me?” Love God and love your neighbor. That is the essence of God’s commandments that are so good for us.