Monday, March 28, 2011

The TEN COMMANDMENTS: Good News--You've Broken Them!

Now there's a title to get a few eyebrows raised, and a few more theological-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-necks to stand up in protest.

But, please, lower your eyebrows (at least for now), and take a gentle brush to all of those neck-hairs, and do me the extreme honor of withholding judgment until it is due.

There are many things misunderstood about Christianity and the Bible. Different topics such as the Trinity, or the deity of Christ, or perhaps the purpose of baptism--all these issues can lead to serious contemplation and consternation, but I would submit that the single-most misunderstood truth in all of the Bible, is none of those.

How about the rapture, or the second coming? Nope, not those controversial topics either. Cain's wife? The temptation of Jesus? Guess again. (hint: look at the title of this blog)

Huh? The Ten Commandments? Some of you are saying (secretly):
"You're joking, right? I mean, come on, the "Big Ten"--honestly, that is the one thing that everyone knows, and everyone understands, even non-believers. The 10, the Top 10, God's Grading Scale, you know, the Ten Commandments are the only time I get to use those cool Roman numerals! Come, on!"

No, I'm not joking. I'm totally serious.

The most misunderstood topic of the Bible may be: What is the reason God gave the Ten Commandments?

Think about that. Why DID God give them? Some of you are scratching your heads a bit at this point. You are thinking: "Uh, dude, uh, isn't it obvious? I mean, really?!"

Actually, the answer is not obvious, but it is very clear. Let me explain.


Here is the question, and see if your reason (or reasons) is found in the list below.
QUESTION: Why did God give us the 10 Commandments?


(a) To give us a good rule to live by.
(b) So that we could be good people by following it.
(c) As a way to help us earn our way to Heaven.
(d) To make our lives happy by obeying them.
(e) As a test to see if we will obey Him.
(f) As a way to earn "brownie-points" with God
(g) To help prove our worthiness for His love/salvation/etc.
(h) To keep us out of trouble.

Did you find your answer in the list above, or at least very similar to one of those above? Chances are, you did. And with good reason, those are the main answers that most people give.

There's a very good axiom (rule) to live by when it comes to important spiritual questions:
It doesn't matter what I THINK or what you THINK---it only matters what God SAYS.

I think and hope that we can at least agree on that. And with that in mind, it is important to point out that
none of those answers (a through h above) are correct according to the Bible. None of them.

No way!? Really?!


Prove it.

I thought you'd never ask.

In Galatians chapter 3 in the New Testament (as well as other passages), the apostle Paul discusses the purpose or the reason why God gave the Ten Commandments. There are a few names or descriptions that the Bible uses regarding the Ten Commandments, most of the time the scripture uses the phrase "The Law" to represent the Ten Commandments. There were many other laws that God gave to Moses, but the Ten Commandments, in many ways, is a summary of them, therefore it is simply called "The Law."

Remember our agreement above (it only matters what God says)? Here is what the Lord declares through the apostle Paul in Galatians chapter 3 verse 19:

"Why, then, was The Law given...?" (Paul here is anticipating the reader's question) Paul is asking the same question we are dealing with in this blog---Why did God give the Ten Commandments? Why was The Law given?

The Lord gives us the answer, read a few verses later in Galatians chapter 3 verse 24 where Paul finally answers his own question:
"Therefore (the Ten Commandments) was our teacher to bring us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith."

Wow. The Bible plainly says that The Law (the Ten Commandments) was our teacher that would teach us something that would bring us to Christ for our salvation.

But wait...if The Law was meant to teach us something, what is it supposed to teach us?

Great question. The Lord answers that one, too. Let's turn to Romans chapter 3 and verses 19 and 20:
"(The Law was given so that) the world may become guilty before God...for our realization of sinfulness is through The Law."

Wow again. It is so clear and simple, yet most people have completely missed it. God says that the reason He gave the Ten Commandments was to make us realize that we are sinners, that we are sinful in His sight. The Law teaches us that we are lost, and then that realization leads us to Christ for salvation.

I know that it is hard to believe...I mean, we have been hearing people all of our lives talking about "obeying the Ten Commandments" and "keeping the 10 Commandments". Unfortunately (or fortunately), that is not the point. We were never meant to try and keep them. That isn't their purpose. They were given to make us realize that we are bad, they were not given to help us be good.

Listen to God's plain words again:
"(The Law was given so that) the world may become guilty before God...for our realization of sinfulness is through The Law."

God wants us to feel guilty, but for a reason-- a very good reason.

Perhaps a simple analogy would help.  Image that you are at the Doctor's office for a thorough medical check-up. The Doc performs several tests, you undergo a few scans, the works. He then gets out a clipboard and says to you:

"When do want me to do the brain surgery, tomorrow or the next day?"

No doubt you would jump off that shiny, white, paper sheet covering the cold, vinyl patient bed and say:
"Whoa Doc! Wait a cotton-pickin' minute! BRAIN SURGERY?!?! What're you talking about?"

He then furrows his brow and looks at you inquisitively. He then realizes something and smiles:

"Oh, I'm sorry, didn't I show you your MRI from earlier today?"

He pulls out a film and slaps it up on the light board. He points at a very obvious and very scary lump in the middle of your brain.

"If I don't get you to surgery soon, you'll be dead in a matter of weeks!"

All of a sudden his question about scheduling a surgery doesn't seem so strange anymore. In fact, it's the most natural and logical question a physician/surgeon could ask someone in a severe health predicament. All of a sudden, you are very eager to rush into a very long and serious surgery.

Why? Because now you understand something. You have REALIZED something that you didn't really know before, and that realization TAUGHT you that you needed an emergency procedure to SAVE your life.

That is exactly why God gave the Ten Commandments: it is a spiritual X-ray, a simple test that proves to us that we have a real problem, a deadly problem--called SIN. As we read the Ten Commandments (and as we honestly ask ourselves, point by point, if we have obeyed it or broken it), The Law reveals to us that we have failed. We are Law Breakers. Sinners. Spiritually sick. Diseased, in a sense, with rebellion.

All of us.  Me...and you. No one (except for Jesus) has kept all 10. No one. We have all broken God's Law, and because God is perfectly righteous, the penalty is hell, i.e. separation from God.

But wait---some of you are saying:

"But, look, I mean, I read the list, and I've only broken ONE of the 10 commandments, doesn't that give me at least a 90% on the test?! That's nearly an "A"!"

OK, if that's your defense, but let's see what the Lord has to say about it:
James 2:10: “Whoever keeps the whole Law and yet breaks one little point,  he has become guilty of all.”

Uh oh. That's pretty clear. God says that even if you keep all of it, except for one small part, then you have broken all of it. Wow, but why? Good question. Let's look at a simple analogy:


Imagine that you are hanging from the lower end of a chain that has 10 Big Links over a big pit of lava. Got it? Good.

Now, here's the question:
How many links would have to break for you to fall?

Only one.

It doesn't really matter how many links break, because one broken link makes for a broken chain. Now, think about your spiritual life, a person is either a sinner, or NOT a sinner. It doesn't really matter HOW MANY sins you've committed, the issue is: are you a sinner, or are you NOT a sinner?

Even if you have only sinned once (which is a ridiculous argument, but let's hypothetically consider it) then you are A SINNER. Nothing you DO can ever UNDO that fact. Adam and Eve were once perfect before God, but then, they disobeyed once, and became sinners, and were cast out of a perfect relationship with God.

How many dollars do you have to steal before you are a thief? Just ONE. How many lies do you have to tell to be a liar? Just ONE. How many times do you have to have lust in your heart before you have (probably) committed sexual sin? Just ONE.

Please think about this next statement very carefully:


Sure, anyone can feel "good" about themselves if they compare their life, to, let's say, Adolf Hitler, or Stalin, or Charles Manson, or (fill in the blank with your favorite villain/mass murderer/pervert/etc).

But God doesn't compare people, He doesn't grade on a curve. God will not say to you: "Well, you've been better than most people, so come on in to Heaven." Nope, never going to happen, in fact, that is impossible according to the Bible.

Remember what the Lord said---The Law (the Ten Commandments) was supposed to be a TEACHER that would lead us to Jesus, so that we could be saved. Here's the order:

(1) We read the 10 Commandments, and realize that we have sinned
(2) That realization then causes us to seek someone who can "surgically" remove our sin problem
(3) We discover that Jesus has died on the cross to take away our sins before God
(4) We place our repentant faith and trust in Jesus to save us from the penalty that our sins deserve.

The Law is a teacher (it shows us that we are sinners) which then leads us to find someone who can deal with our sin-problem (Jesus) and then we are justified (saved) by faith in the death of Jesus in our place on the cross.

You see, the Ten Commandments are not a ladder to Heaven, oh no, far from it, in fact, they are like a huge flashing arrow pointing straight to hell, which we deserve as sinners.

That's the bad news, but the good news is that God loves us, and has provided a way for sinners to be made right in His eyes, forgiven, cleansed, and set free from the penalty that their sins deserved--all through the death of Jesus in our place.

He paid the price for your sins, as if He was the one who committed them. He hung there and suffered in the place of every man, woman, and child who would ever live. He didn't die for the world in general, the Bible says that He died for YOU SPECIFICALLY.

The Ten Commandments are God's perfect way of saying:
"You have sinned and deserve hell."

The Cross of Jesus is God's perfect way of saying:
"But I love you, and I can forgive and save you."

Have you let the Ten Commandments perform their perfect work in you, have you realized your sin and rebellion before God by simply looking at His Law? Take a good look into it, and if you do it honestly, you'll never be the same, because it will lead you, rather, it will drive you to Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. The chain link analogy was a neat way of thinking about that. I hadn't heard that before. Great blog!


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