July 30, 2006

Worth Quoting

Whether God come to his children with a rod or a crown, if he come himself with it, it is well.

Samuel Rutherford (emphasis added)
Letters of Samuel Rutherford
Puritan Paperbacks Series
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July 29, 2006

Elders, Deacons, and the Church

Beginning August 6, we will be studying together the Bible's teachings concerning church governance and leadership. To get a closer look, check out the website once the series begins.

Perfect 10!

When I was in school, I used to hate pop-quizzes. They seemed to get me every time. And I resented the teachers who seemed to get such sinister enjoyment out of reminding me that I did not know that E=MC2 (and what does that mean, anyway?). But now I realize what they were doing. At the very least, they were helping us see that we didn’t know as much as we thought, or as much as we ought. And I think us adults could benefit from a pop quiz here and there.

So here’s one for you: List the Ten Commandments, in order. I’m serious. Just pause for a moment and give it your best before reading on.

How’d you do? Perhaps about as well as I did remembering in what year the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. At least, that is what I would surmise based on a few informal pop-quizzes I have thrown at different folks lately. Do we think that the Commandments were just kids play to be learned in Sunday School and then stuffed away in the same place we stuffed our remembrance of Algebra II?

Think again. I’d bet you know a little more, by experience, about the sin of lust than you did when in middle school. I’d also bet you’re a lot better liar now than you were when you were eight, trying to convince your teacher that the dog really ate your science project! The older we get, the more accomplished we become at sinning—and at hiding our sin. And thus, the older we get, the more we need to hear God’s standard again and again.

So, for the next 12 weeks, let’s think through God’s Perfect 10, starting with this question: What are the Ten Commandments for? In other words, what are the benefits of us actually learning what they are and taking them seriously? Let me give you four reasons to learn them and put them into practice:

1. The Commandments are the basic standard for civilized government. This is one reason why God gave them to the Israelites—to govern the way they operated as a society. When the commandments are taken seriously and enforced by law, society is safe, peaceful, and free. That is why the vast majority of the countries in the western world set up their constitutions, bills of rights, etc. based on these ten simple principles. That includes the USA. And where the enforcement of these laws fade, so does freedom and safety. Just look around and see.

2. The Commandments are a mirror in which we see our own sin. This is much more important than #1. When we consider the Commandments, we see just how far short we fall of God’s standard. But until we consider them, we tend to just assume we are pretty good. We don’t think about how often we covet until we spend a few minutes thinking about the tenth commandment. So Alistair Begg has said, poetically: “The Ten Commandments are not a ladder up which we climb to acceptance with God—but a mirror in which we see our sin.” Obedience to the Ten Commandments can never save us! But comparing ourselves with God’s standard can help us see how badly we need a Savior!

3. The Commandments are God’s guidelines for how to live as a Christian. Now listen carefully: Obedience to the Ten Commandments does not make you a Christian! We are saved by faith in Jesus alone! But once your life has been changed by Jesus, He says you’ll want to love the Lord your God with all your heart. How do you do it? By obedience to the first four Commandments. Then He says that a genuinely saved person will want to love his neighbor as himself. How do we do it? By obedience to the last six Commandments. The Law of the Christ is love. And love for God and neighbor is explained in Exodus 20.

4. The Commandments help us understand the character of God. One of the best ways to learn what God is like is to know what He requires of His people. For instance, the 3rd Commandment gives a glimpse of God’s holiness; the 9th His truthfulness; and the 10th His sufficiency. In God’s Law, we see God’s face!

So, start to think about the Ten Commandments. Watch these pages for more thoughts on what they mean. And pay attention…I just may give you a pop-quiz!