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Showing posts with label 10 Commandments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 10 Commandments. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Greatest Commandment

Matthew 22:34-40

Introduction
The Ten Commandments are the overarching, guiding principles God gave us to live a godly life and live in peace and harmony with others.  They also show us how we fall short and desperately need God’s grace and forgiveness.  In addition to the ten general commandments, there were 613 laws in the Old Testament that Jews were to follow.  (If you’re interested, you can read a list of them at  http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm.  How would you like to try and memorize 613 laws instead of just ten commandments?)
As you can imagine, people wanted to know what the most important commandment was.  You might want to know too.  Well, someone asked Jesus about the greatest commandment and he gave a simple answer.  Let’s look at his answer. 

Matthew 22:34-40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” 
In addition to the 613 laws of the Old Testament, were the admonishments of all the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of countless rabbis.  Jesus said all the laws and the prophets are based on these two simple commandments—“Love God and love you neighbor.”  And really, if you follow these rules, you will fulfill every law and commandment listed in the Bible.  
St. Augustine, one of the early leaders of the church, once said: “Love, and do what you will.”[i]  The point is that if you love, you will do only good—to God and to others.  If you truly love God, you would not do anything to disrespect God, injure God, or harm your relationship with Him.  If you love people, again you will do only good for them.  Augustine said a bad person can do all sorts of things we associate with good—they can prophecy, they can go to church, they can take communion, they can even be called “Christians”—but, he says: “…to have love and be a bad person is impossible. Love is the unique gift, the fountain that is yours alone. The Spirit of God exhorts you to drink from it, and in so doing to drink from himself.” [i]

Love God with All…
Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…”  In other words:  Love God with all everything you’ve got.  Most of us want to pick and choose what we devote to the Lord.  “I will come to church on Sunday—I will give God my time—but don’t ask me to do a service project in the community.”  Can you imagine what good could be done in our communities if Christians would rise up and truly Love God with all their community service?
Or we say, “I will pray for the church and for people, but don’t ask me to give 10% of my income to the church.”  Do you realize how much good goes undone throughout our nation because churches are in a financial stranglehold?  The tithe is not brought into the house of God and all our anemic churches can do is weakly limp around making the best of too little funding. I look at our own church and dream of the amazing things we could do in this community if every member of our church truly gave a tithe.  But instead, I look at the financial reports and realize that 9 out of 10 people sitting in this congregation each Sunday is cheating the church by not giving a proper tithe.
Or we say, “I will give God my money, but don’t ask me to witness—I don’t feel comfortable telling others what Jesus has done in my life.” 
Jesus didn’t say, love the Lord your God with one thing and not the other.  No, he said love the Lord your God with ALL—with everything in all areas of your life.  I’m so glad Jesus didn’t love us the way we love him.  Jesus gave us everything.  It was his complete, unconditional, sacrificial love that redeemed us on the cross.  And it calls for our complete, unconditional, sacrificial love for God in return.
            There are two more points I want to make this morning and then we will celebrate Holy Communion.  First of all… 

You can’t love God without loving your neighbor…
            1 John 4:20 says, “If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?”  God did not send Jesus to the world for just a few select people.  God love the whole world and sent Jesus to save the whole world—everyone.  And if God loves everyone, we—for the sake of our love for God—ought to love whomever He loves.  Do you love God?  Good.  This is how you show love for God:  by loving your neighbor.  (And your neighbor is not just the people who live in your neighborhood.  Your neighbor is every human being on the planet, because God love them all—including people who don’t speak your language, people who do bad things, people who live on the other side of the planet, people who practice a different religion.)  If you love God, then love your neighbor.  You can’t love God without loving your neighbor, and… 

You Can’t Love your neighbor without loving God…
            Have you ever tried loving people?  It’s exhausting!  People are rude.  They’re ungrateful.  They take advantage of you.  They disappoint you.  They’ll attack you.  They’ll “love” you when you have something they want and forget about you when you don’t.  And even the kindest, most patient, generous people in the world will soon burn themselves completely out trying to love people unconditionally the way God loves us.  And here’s why:  You can’t do it.  You only have a finite amount of love in you.  You’re cup only has so much love in it and once you pour it all out, you won’t have any more to give.
            That’s why you can’t love your neighbor without loving God.  You see, you need an eternal source of love.  When you Love God, you are plugged in to the well of Living Water that never runs dry.  It’s a love that can die on the cross on Friday and rise from the grave on Sunday.  Any human who wants to love people unconditionally has to be plugged into the God who is the eternal source of unconditional love.  You have to be filled with God’s love before you can love others properly.  And you’ve got to keep filling up or you won’t have any love worth sharing with your neighbors. 

Be Filled With His Love

            So today, I invite you to come to the well.  Jesus is here.  He wants to fill you with his love so you can go pour yourself out.  He wants you to love God with all that you have and all that you are so you can go love the world the way He does—the way He loves you.  And if you will live this great commandment—to love God and love your neighbor—you will fulfill everything written in the Scriptures.  But you can’t do it without God’s help.  So let us pray for God to fill us with His love as we share this Blessed Sacrament.

"Father, God in Heaven, come fill us with Your love this day.  Forgive us for the ways we have been selfish and even the ways we have tried to love others with our own inadequate means.  Help us instead to love You with all that we have and all that we are so that we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  I ask this in the name of Your precious son, Jesus.  Amen."
 


[i] Augustine’s Love Sermon - https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/augustine/

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Tenth Commandment - Do not covet

Exodus 20:17

Introduction
            As I was leaving the worship service at my church last week, I told someone, “Man, my toes hurt!  It’s hard to preach the Ten Commandments!”  Every week during this series at my church, I’ve felt like I’m stepping on my own toes.  These commandments are challenging.  They tell us how to live a godly life together, but they also step on our toes as they draw our attention to the many ways we fall short.  They point out how desperately we need God’s grace and forgiveness.  So even as we recognize our sin, we enjoy God’s unconditional love more fully when we humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.
            We have one more commandment to study.  But before we dive into this last one, let’s look at all ten together.  By now, I hope you’ve completed the challenge to memorize them.  If not, then keep working on it.  The Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17.             

The Ten Commandments:
1.     Do not worship any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not make idols of any kind.
3.     Do not misuse the name of the Lord.
4.     Remember to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your father and mother.
6.     Do not murder.
7.     Do not commit adultery
8.     Do not steal.
9.     Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
10.  Do not covet.

Today we will look at the Tenth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:17
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” 
 
Farm Truck
            For years, Kelly and I have talked about one day getting an old truck.  (Everyone needs a truck now and then, right?)  We have especially needed one since we moved here to Dalton.  We don't have garbage service where I live.  Who wants to load up garbage cans into the back of a minivan to haul to the recycle center?  But that’s what I used to have to do—along with lumber for projects back at the house and even goats for Mullis Farm!  What we needed was an old truck.
            Well, we got that farm truck in an unexpected way about 2 years ago.  My girls and I were in an accident on the interstate coming home from a movie.  Thank the Lord, no one was hurt—that was a miracle considering our minivan was completely totaled.  We were blessed to have good car insurance and ended up coming out of the whole thing pretty well.  Thanks to folks down at North Georgia Toyota, we were able to buy a slightly newer, nicer Toyota Sienna than we had before—one that hadn’t been used to haul goats and garbage.  And, we had enough money left over—along with some tax return money—to buy an old farm truck so we wouldn’t have to put goats and garbage in the new van.
Our farm truck is a 1992 Chevy Silverado and it fits the bill for what we need.  It’s nothing fancy and the AC doesn’t work anymore, but it’s reliable and works great for hauling trash, lumber, goats, pigs, hay, and whatever else needs hauling.  Plus, it has enough seating inside that we can fit the whole family in it (even if they fuss a little about it).  It’s old enough that I don’t care if it gets scratched or dented or dirty.  But there’s one thing the truck doesn’t have that I wish it did—four-wheel-drive.  It get's stuck in the mud and snow real easy.  And even though the Lord blessed me with this truck, the Devil sometimes uses it as a tool to make me sin.
It started that first winter after we bought the truck.  We had several snow storms and Kelly is a nurse. She doesn’t get the day off when it snows.  She has to go in.  They even require nurses to sleep at the hospital when they get off shift if there’s any question of being able to get back for their next shift.  Now, we have plenty of friends who have 4-wheel-drives who have offered to pick Kelly up and take her to work when the snow is on the ground.  But, I still found myself wishing I had bought a truck with 4-wheel-drive.
So now, I find myself struggling with this Tenth Commandment.  One minute I will be driving down the road in "old blue," feeling thankful that the Lord: 1) protected me and my girls during that accident, 2) gave me a great truck that despite being so old, runs great.  Then, the next minute, the Devil draws my attention to another old truck driving on the road or parked on a curb for sale.  I start looking.  “Is it four-wheel-drive?  Man, I wish this truck was four-wheel-drive like that one.”

You Must Not Covet
            To covet:  to yearn to possess or have (something).  The sin of coveting is a particular struggle in America, because it is so engrained in our culture.  To a large degree, our economy relies on people who covet.  Right?  We are motivated to get ahead because we see things we want and we work hard to earn the money to get them.  In Dalton, we live in the "carpet capital of the world" because people all over the world covet nice houses with elegant flooring.  Their desires require someone to make elegant flooring.  So factories in our community manufacture elegant flooring—which provides jobs for thousands of people who also covet things like houses, cars, clothes, entertainment, etc.  And the cycle continues.
            However, coveting is a symptom of deeper spiritual problems.  First off, it is evidence that we are not thankful for what we have.  Most of us are already blessed with so much.  Almost half the world lives on less than $730/year while here in America we earn about $50,000/year.  And yet, how much time do we spend truly being thankful for what we already have?  Not nearly as much time as we spend longing for even more.
            Coveting may be a sign of an idolatrous heart.  Idolatry is when we look for fulfillment from created things in ways that only God can fulfill us.  We think “If I could just have that new house, that new job, that new relationship, that new body, that new phone, that four-wheel-drive truck…”  But these things are never enough.  We always want more.  That greed, that selfishness, that covetousness, is not good.  It turns us away from God.  It breaks our relationship with the source of True Fulfillment and seeks to replace Him with things that cannot satisfy.
 
Conclusion
            The Devil loves it when we covet, because he can use it against us.  He takes the desire in us and tricks us into thinking it must be satisfied.  And often, we are willing to commit other sins to achieve our desires.  Coveting gives birth to lies, stealing, cheating, extramarital affairs, murder, corruption, pain and hurt.  Ultimately, it is a sin that turns our hearts away from God.
Colossians 3:5 says, “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”
Brothers and sisters, pray to the Lord to help you put to death a covetous heart.  Stop dreaming about the things you don't have.  Be thankful for what the Lord has graciously given you already.  Be filled with His goodness.  Be lost in His love.  Be overwhelmed by your blessings.

Invitation
            We all fall short.  We covet.  We steal.  We lie.  We break the 10 Commandments and they point out that we are sinners.  But the Good News is, through Christ, we can be forgiven and make a fresh start.  Jesus did not come to condemn you, but to save you.  Wouldn’t you like to be saved?  Wouldn’t you like to be forgiven and make a fresh start today?  Then humble yourself.  Bow your head and pray to the one who can save you from your sin and set you on the right path.

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Ninth Commandment

Exodus 20:16

Introduction
            We only have two more commandments to look at in this series on the Ten Commandments.  I want to start today by giving you a little background on the list I challenged you to memorize.  The list of the Ten Commandments I've used in this blog for the past 9 weeks is a paraphrase I developed back in 2003 as part of a Christian martial arts program I taught.  At the beginning of each class, students would bow in, have a moment for silent prayer, and we would recite the Ten Commandments.  Each student was required to memorize the commandments as part of our curriculum.  Usually, my martial arts students would have the commandments memorized within a month.  In this way, I have probably helped hundreds of students memorize the Ten Commandments—even if they didn’t stick with the Karate class for more than a couple months.
            The list I used is a paraphrase of the 10 Commandments found in Exodus 20:1-17.  I wanted my list to use simple language that was easy to understand and got straight to the point.  I struggled a bit with the Ninth Commandment and I didn’t really know why until this week when I studied it to prepare for this message. 
            Before we look at the 9th commandment, let’s recite the whole list together.  There are some blanks to fill in.  Let’s see how you are coming on memorizing the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments:
1.     Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3.     Do not ______ the ____of the Lord.
4.     Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your ______ and _______.
6.     Do not ______.
7.     Do not commit ________
8.     Do not _____.
9.     Do not _______ _______against your neighbor.
10.  Do not _____.

Good!  Keep working on it until you have all 10 memorized.

Today we will look at the Ninth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:16
16 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.

As I said before, I struggled with how to word the ninth commandment in my list.  Here’s why.  I wanted to simplify the wording and just say, “You must not lie.”  But as I prayed about it, I felt the Lord was leading me to keep the words “testify falsely” instead of “lie.”  That phrasing is a little more awkward and complicated, but something told me it was there for a reason.
I know now why after studying for this message.  You see, the Ninth Commandment wasn’t originally concerned with ordinary, everyday types of lies.  The Ninth Commandment deals with the justice system of the community.  It’s about the court system.  That’s why it uses the term “testify.”  When a judge hears a legal case, he will call witnesses to testify.  Suppose someone has been accused of stealing.  The judge will ask if anyone saw the accused person steal or has any other information that will determine if the accused did or did not steal.  The integrity of the justice system depends on the honesty of the witnesses.  God wants His people to live in a just society.  For that to happen, the court system must be reliable.  For that to happen, witnesses must be honest. 
Justice is sometimes personified and depicted as a person holding a set of scales and wearing a blindfold.  The scales represent weighing the evidence.  The blindfold represents objectivity; i.e. it doesn’t matter if the person is a friend or an enemy, rich or poor, a citizen or a foreigner; justice is blind so everyone is treated fairly and impartially.  Therefore, witnesses must not twist the truth to sway justice one way or another.  

Institutional Lies
The language of the Ninth Commandment identifies it with the court system, but it applies to broader settings than that.  Remember, the Ten Commandments were written for the newly formed Israelite community after they left slavery in Egypt to teach them to live together as civilized people.  A civilized people must be able to trust their leaders to tell them the truth.
We have seen many instances throughout history where governments have lied to their people and led them astray.  Nazi Germany comes to mind as a particularly heinous example.  First, the government used propaganda to turn public opinion against the Jews--even convincing them that Jews were less than human and deserved whatever persecution and mistreatment the Germans dished out.  Near the end of WWII, as the Allies were closing in on Berlin, Hitler and his henchmen were still sending out propaganda saying they were winning the war even as their capital was crumbling around them.  They’re lies had turned into madness and a complete distortion of reality.
When leaders bear false witness, it erodes the bedrock on which society is founded.  We see the effects of this in our own nation.  Back in the 50s and 60s, most people trusted the government.  According to the Pew Research Center[1], public trust in the government was 74% under Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  But over the years as numerous scandals, lies, and coverups have come to light about leaders in various segments, the faith of the American people in their government has eroded.  In February of 2014, it was just 24%.  This is the effect falsehood has on society.
The Church is no exception either.  The year I was born, 1974, between 66-68% of Americans said they had great confidence in the Church.  Over the years, that number has gradually dropped to a low of 42% in 2015.[2]  As a 13 or 14 year old kid, I used to sometimes watch Jimmy Swaggart on the TV in the morning as I got ready for school.  Now this was unusual for me.  I wasn’t a very devoted Christian at that age, but something about Jimmy Swaggart grabbed my attention and I would watch.  I remember very vividly the footage of him crying and admitting he had “sinned against You, my Lord.”  It soon came out that he had been with a prostitute.  Such scandals make it hard for the public to trust the Church is telling the Truth.
But it’s not just the scandals of televangelists or catholic priests that damage the influence of the church.  Every Christian is an ambassador for Christ.  You are an ambassador for Christ.  The reality is, there are people who look up to you as an example of what it means to be a Christian that will never look at me.  I may be a pastor, but you are the person they know and value.  Does your life and your actions tell the truth about Christ or bear a false witness?
We can bare false witness in two ways as ordinary Christians.  First off, we could act in ungodly ways that do not set a good example for others.  But perhaps there is an even more sinister way we bear false witness with our actions.  It is when we pretend to be better than we are.  You see, no man is perfect.  We all have many, many flaws.  Just because we follow Jesus does not mean we do not make mistakes or have bad habits.  And yet, sometimes there is tremendous pressure within Christian social circles hide our flaws and weaknesses.  Looking around the church, one might think everyone is happy all the time.  All you see is smiling faces and most people keep their struggles and failings hidden.  We present ourselves as perfect (or nearly perfect).  But the reality is, the church is full of broken, fallen people.  We don’t have to be perfect; God accepts us as we are and just wants us to be honest about the good the bad and the ugly of our lives.  Anything less is to bear false witness and it erodes faith in the Church and hinders our own healing. 

Jesus and Lying
Ephesians 4:25 says, “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”  We need to tell the truth--in both big and small things, and in our actions.  Christians should be known as the most honest people on the planet.
The people who lived in Jesus’ day struggled to know who they could trust.  The custom arose of using vows to guarantee a person was telling the truth.  So a person might say, “I swear upon my mother’s grave,” as a way of proving they spoke the truth.  In Matthew 5:34 and 37, Jesus said, “But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne...”  “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
In his blog called “9 Sins the Church is OK With,” Frank Powell writes, “Here’s what Jesus is saying. You should live with such high integrity that your word doesn’t need attachments to make it legitimate... So, typical phrases like, “I promise,” “I swear,” and “I put it on my mom’s grave” shouldn’t be necessary.”[3]   

Conclusion
Christians should be the most honest people on the planet.  And yet the honest truth is, we have all been a false witness at some point in word or deed.  James 2:10 says, “10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”  And one day, we will all stand before the Great Judge who will determine our fate.  The Ten Commandments testify against us that we have broken God's Law in many ways.
 Romans 6:23 says “The consequences of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Although we deserve death for our sin, God offers a pardon to all who trust in Christ’s death and resurrection.  For his death paid the penalty for our sin and his resurrection won the victory over death.  Like him, we too can be raised to new life--one free of sin and death--where we live at peace with God.
Would you like to take hold of this new life Jesus offers?  Then, pray to Jesus today and ask for forgiveness, ask him to save you, and decide to follow him from now on.


[1] http://www.people-press.org/2014/11/13/public-trust-in-government/
[2] http://www.gallup.com/poll/183674/confidence-religion-new-low-not-among-catholics.aspx
[3] http://www.faithit.com/9-sins-the-church-is-okay-with/

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Eighth Commandment

Exodus 20:15

Introduction
            I like to plan ahead.  Whether it is with my wife and kids, or with my extended family, or with the staff of our church or other church leaders, we will often look at our calendars together and plan ahead.  Collaborating and syncing calendars and schedules has become a lot easier with the use of computers and smart phones, but back in the day, we would sit down with an actual calendar and write in our plans.  If something was still tentative, you would write it with a pencil in case something changed and you needed to go back and erase it.  But once something was firm, you would write it in pen—signifying it would not change. 
            God has His plans for us too.  And of all His plans, the Ten Commandments must surely be permanent.  The Ten Commandments were written—not with pencil or pen, but—by the very finger of God on stone tablets as a permanent record of God’s instructions.  The Commandments were placed inside the most sacred object in ancient Israel, the famous Ark of the Covenant.  They were given to the Israelites and handed down through the generations to us today to teach us how to live a good life, pleasing to God in a healthy community of faith.
            There has been much debate about the 10 commandments in recent years.  Christians and secularist argue whether the Commandments should be displayed in public places like schools or courthouses.  Lost in all this controversy is the sad fact that most people in our country—including the Christians who are most zealously in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments—don’t even know the commandments.
            All summer, I have been challenging you to memorize the Ten Commandments.  Do you know them yet?  Let’s see how you do.  Can you fill in the blanks in the list below?  Let’s try.
 
The Ten Commandments: 
1.     Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3.     Do not ______ the ____ of the Lord.
4.     Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your ______ and ______.
6.     Do not ______.
7.     Do not commit ________.
8.     Do not _____.
9.     Do not _______ _______ against your neighbor.
10.  Do not _____.
 
Good!  Keep working on it.  You still have a few more weeks to complete the challenge.

Today we will look at the Eighth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:15
15 “You must not steal.”

A Straight Forward Comamndment
            This commandment is so straight forward it’s hard to imagine anyone can’t understand it.  According to Dictinary.com, to steal is – to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force.  For instance, “A pickpocket stole his watch.”  It could also be to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment.  So plagiarism is a form of stealing..  I heard that Conan O’Brien was recently accused of stealing jokes he read on twitter and using them in his show.  Don't steal.  It's wrong.
 
Reputations
            What about stealing someone’s reputation?  Well, that’s a great question.  Proverbs 22:1 – "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
            A person’s reputation is—their good name—is very valuable.  The Bible says it’s more valuable than silver or gold.  Now, unless you are a thief, you probably wouldn’t think of stealing someone’s silver or gold.  However, if you talk bad about someone behind their back you are damaging their reputation.  If you gossip, you are damaging their reputation.   By damaging their reputation, you are stealing one of their most valuable assets.  It’s like you have broken into the home and cracked open their safe and stolen some of the gold or silver jewelry.
            How many have ever gossiped or talked about someone behind their back?  You probable didn’t think of it as stealing, but in a sense that’s what you were doing.  What does that make you?  What do you call someone who steals?  A thief.
            If that seems a little harsh, consider Romans 1:29, where it describes how wicked people are.  It says, “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.”  Notice it lists gossip in the same company as greed, hate, and murder.  If you gossip or slander or talk badly about people behind their back, you are a thief who steals the most precious asset a person has and you are breaking the Eighth Commandment.  Stop!
 
Stealing from God
Here’s another great question--do we ever steal from God?  Yes.  Sometimes we do.  We steal from God when we money when we do not give a proper offering to God at the church.  Listen to what Malachi 3:8 says, “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!  “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’  “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
            John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said it this way:  “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” 
            We must always remember that the money we have is not really ours to do with as we please.  It belongs to God, along with everything we have and even our lives.  The basic financial principle about giving throughout Scripture is that you should give 10% of your income to God through the church.  This is the same principle Jesus taught his disciples to follow.  Really, if we are Christians and have given our lives to God, we have already chosen to give up everything for him.  So we are not giving just 10%, but 100%.  Fortunately, God allows us to keep 90% for ourselves and place 10% in our offerings at the church.
            However, according to research in 2012 by the Barna Group[i], only 12% of born again Christians in America qualify as tithers.  (That is, the total amount they give to the church divided by their household income was 10% or more).  That means out of every 100 Christians, only 12 are actually tithers.  The rest are stealing from God.
            And what is the result of this?  Churches all over America are anemic, weak, underfunded, under maintained, and do not have the resources they need to do all the ministries God wants us to do. 
            And we really have no excuse.  We live in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.  According to UN reports[ii], nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day.  The median US household income is around $138 per day (or $50,500 per year) and yet we still think we cannot afford to give a proper tithe as God asks.
 
Conclusion
            Now, I command you, in the name of the Lord, to stop stealing!  Ephesians 4:28 says, “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”  James 2:10 says, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”
           When we think we are righteous or better than others, the Ten Commandments point out that we are all guilty of breaking God’s law.  In our hearts, we are murderers, adulterous, thieves.  We are sinners.  And Romans 6:23 says, “The consequences of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
            So let me end by inviting you to stop, turn away from your sin, and ask Jesus to forgive and save you.  Take hold of the power of the Holy Spirit that you might live a new life according to God’s will.


[i] https://www.barna.org/component/content/article/36-homepage-main-promo/606-barna-update-02-19-2013#.VczbIflViko
[ii] www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/.../vitalstats.shtml

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Seventh Commandment - Adultery

Exodus 20:14

Introduction
            The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets by the very finger of God.  They were the general rules God gave the Israelites about how to be civilized as the newly formed community of God’s people.  Today, they continue to instruct us on how to live godly lives as a community of faith, enjoying the blessings of God’s people.  They also show us how we fall short and need God’s grace and forgiveness.  Do you know the Ten Commandments?  Can you fill in the blanks in the list below?            

The Ten Commandments:
1.     Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3.     Do not ______ the ____ of the Lord.
4.     Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your ______ and ______.
6.     Do not ______.
7.     Do not commit ________.
8.     Do not _____.
9.     Do not _______ _______ against your neighbor.
10.  Do not _____.

How did you do?  Keep working on it until you have the Ten Commandments memorized. 

Today we will look at the Seventh Commandment as found in Exodus 20:14
14 “You must not commit adultery.”
 
It was about nine o’clock at night. A man dashed into the doctor’s office full of anxiety.  He explained to the doctor that he’d been a nervous wreck all day. The doctor, in his best professional manner, asked if anything had happened to upset him. "Well," the man answered, "there is this letter I received this morning." He showed the doctor a letter, which stated in part, "If you don’t stop running around with my wife, I’m going to blow your head off." The doctor answered, "Well, that’s a fairly simple matter. Why don’t you just stop running around with the man’s wife?”  "But, Doctor, the fool forgot to sign his name!"[i]
            Google defines adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.  Sex is a wonderful and powerful gift God gave His creation.  For humanity, it is meant to be enjoyed between a husband and wife within the safe bonds of a committed marriage relationship.  Sex within marriage is very good.  Besides the practical purpose of creating children, sexual union can be a deeply pleasurable experience that cements the bonds of intimacy between a husband and a wife.  In both the Old and New testaments, the Bible indicates sex is a way for two persons to become one.[ii] 
            Genesis 2:1 talks about the marriage union between a husband and wife.  It says, “…a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  It is a beautiful mystery how God can take a man and a woman and knit them together as one.  Often when I perform a wedding ceremony, couples will light a unity candle to symbolize this sacred union.  The flames of two separate candles are used to light one single flame, symbolizing the uniting of two people into one.  Once the flames of the two candles unite, they cannot be separated.  The light of the candles is combined; the chemical reactions of the flame are comingled.  It would be impossible to divide up the flames once united.  Even if you parted the flames into two separate candles again, each separate flame would contain elements of the other flame.  That is why divorce is so difficult and why Jesus cautioned against it.  You can never truly separate fully from your spouse—parts of them will always be comingled with you.  And sex is an important tool God gave a husband and wife to impart this beautiful and mysterious union.
            But like a river that leaves its banks and brings a devastating flood, sex becomes highly destructive when it leaves the safe boundaries of marriage.  When a spouse commits adultery, they unite themselves with another person besides their spouse.  Now dangerously outside the will of God, they have polluted their body and their marriage.  They have comingled with another outside of God’s plan.  Even if one spouse does not know that the other has cheated, there are now destructive forces loose in the marriage that will cause all kinds of damage to the unity of husband and wife.  Even in Old Testament times—when polygamous marriages with multiple wives and mistresses were common—it was the cause for great trouble and strife.  Why?  Because this is not God’s plan.  You don’t believe me?  Read in your Bible about some of those dysfunctional marriages.  Read about Abraham’s screwed up marriage to Sara and his mistress Hagar.  Read about Jacob and his two jealous wives Rachel and Leah.  Read about the downfall of wisest king in all history—Solomon—who was brought down and strayed from God because of his many wives and concubines.  Adultery will tear you apart, not to mention the destruction it will wreak on your spouse, your children, your family and friends, and even the person with whom you commit adultery.

More Than Just Sex
Somehow, I think everyone knows we should not commit adultery.  And yet surveys show that about 22% of married men and 14% of married women confidentially admit that they have strayed at least once in their marriage.  But…
Adultery is more than just sex.  Obviously, if you look at the statistics, you will notice men are more likely to cheat than women.  This may be because studies show men, in general, find the appeal of a physical, sexual affair more appealing than women.  On the other hand, women are generally more attracted by emotional stimuli.  When a woman cheats, it tends to be more about an emotional bond with another person.  Women tend to go for emotional affairs while men go more for a physical affair.
Whether you are a man or a woman, I must warn you that you can be involved in an emotional affair without ever having “sex.”  An emotional affair is when you bond emotionally with another person other than your spouse—especially a person of the opposite sex—in a way that should be reserved only for your spouse.  WebMD offers 7 signs you may have crossed the line into an emotional affair:[iii]
1.     You spend a lot of emotional energy on the person. “You end up sharing stuff that you don’t even share with your [spouse]--hopes and dreams, things that would actually connect you to your partner.”
2.     You dress up for that person.
3.     You make a point to find ways to spend time together, and that time becomes very important to you.
4.     You’d feel guilty if your [spouse] saw you together; you are doing things and saying things that you would never do or say in front of your spouse.
5.     You share your feelings of marital dissatisfaction.
6.     You’re keeping secret the amount of time you’re spending with the person (including emailing, calling, texting).
7.     You start to feel dependent on the emotional high that comes with the relationship.

You see, you can “commit adultery” without ever having sex.  Emotional adultery may be just dangerous as a sexual fling because it is driven by emotional bonds that are reserved only for one’s spouse.  Whether you are involved in a sexual affair or an emotional affair, I urge you in the name of the Lord to stop now!  Come talk with me about it so we can pray together and ask God to help you and begin the process of healing and accountability. 

Jesus’ Teaching about the Seventh Commandment
            But perhaps the most dangerous form of adultery today is adultery of the eyes.  Sex appeal is a powerful force that can be wielded to manipulate.  Our culture uses sex to sell everything from music to prescription drugs to hamburgers.  It is impossible to live in America without being inundated with sexualized images.
            In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus said, 27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
You cannot live in our country without seeing sexual images.  But as I think I heard Sara Brooker say once, “You can stop a bird from landing on your head, but you don’t have to let it make a nest there.”  We can’t help but see tempting sexual images, sexy women, or attractive men, but we don’t have to look twice or fantasize about them.  And yet that’s what most of us do.
The porn industry in the United States generates $13 billion every year.  Since the beginning of 2015, there have been over 1.3 billion internet searches for pornography.  64% of Christian Men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once per month.  It is no wonder that our ideas about sexuality, marriage, and homosexuality are so off track in America today.)  If you are looking at porn or lusting after women (or men), I urge you in the name of the Lord to stop now!  Come talk with me about it so we can pray together to ask God to help you and begin the process of healing and accountability. 

Invitation
            Clearly, we are an adulterous people according to Christ who said, “…anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  So none of us can boast we are without sin.  Nor should we lie to ourselves and others that we are not as bad as some.  “For,” as James 2:10 says, “the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”  The Commandments and Jesus’ words prove that we are and adulterous people who desperately need God’s grace and forgiveness.
Sometimes in the church, we like to point the finger at others and say, “They are what’s wrong with the world.”  It feels so much better to point the finger at someone else.  Then we don’t have to look uncomfortably at our own failings.  The Truth is, we are what’s wrong with the world.  We are full of sin.  We need God’s grace and forgiveness.  We are in desperate need of God’s healing.  And lest we ever forget it, the Lord and His Commandments remind us.
That is the Bad News.  But the Good News is that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us.  Jesus came to save us.  For 1 John 1:9 says, "...if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."  Isn't it Good News to know Jesus will forgive us and wash us clean if we ask?
Won’t you come to the Lord today and ask His forgiveness.  Won’t you beg Him to wash you clean.  Won’t you let Him begin to heal your heart today.  Won’t you turn away from your sin and turn to the one who can fulfill your every need and desire.  Come to Jesus today.  He is your only hope.


[i] http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/no-adultery-joe-bedy-sermon-on-commandments-adultery-51518.asp
[ii] Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 6:15
[iii] http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/emotional-cheating-guilty