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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Ten Commandments

By David W. Argue
Oct. 10, 2010

Many in our society, even a number of Christians, come to the Ten Commandments with a sense that they are “old stuff,” passed away, not in force now, not contemporary or relevant.

Nonbelievers may write them off wholesale, although even nonbelievers will take umbrage should someone lie to them, steal from them, try to murder them or commit adultery with their spouse. Christians who are tempted to downplay the commandments do so with a nod to the New Testament and an emphasis on Christ’s redemptive mission and the grace of God over the laws of God.

As a follower of Christ, I must admit that I tended toward that New Testament focus.

Then I tried a personal experiment. I imagined being given the opportunity to consider the Ten Commandments in a new light, saying yes to the commandments that I would like my neighbor to keep, as it might affect how he would live and how he would treat my family and me. If I decided any commandments truly were not relevant, I would also have to admit, “It’s OK if he ignores that one.”

I discovered I really wanted my neighbor to follow all of them. I marvel a bit at how much I want the commandments to apply to him! And I remember our Lord’s words: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NIV).

So, take a moment and consider these Ten Commandments. Read them slowly — perhaps even out loud. Listen for what the Lord might say to you even now through them. (See Exodus 20:1-17, NIV.)

The heart of the matter
Yes, there is much in Scripture about grace, forgiveness, personal sanctification, etc., that can become confusing in relation to God’s laws. The Fourth Commandment, in particular, is revealed in the New Testament to be a lifelong reality — spiritual rest in Christ — as opposed to a rigid observance on a specific day of the week. So let’s do a little review.

We are redeemed, if we are followers of Jesus. This is a matter of faith in what Jesus has done for us through His death and resurrection. It is not a matter of our performance.

We are redeemed from the curse of the Law, from being repeatedly condemned for our sins in its revealing light, and from having to figure out one more shade of its meaning. We are not legalists.

The Law, when I understand it and try to follow it, does not provide salvation. But it does serve a purpose. It brings conviction, the conviction that I really need Jesus if I am to live a holy life for God.

When Jesus came, He spoke much about the importance and continued value of the Law. Jesus drove many of the commandments into motive and heart issues — much deeper than their basic Old Testament level — in order to show people the nature of their hearts and what God was looking for in relationship with them.

With Jesus, it is not just the act of adultery that is wrong (Seventh Commandment) but looking at a person lustfully, imagining an illicit relationship (Matthew 5:27,28). It is not just “murder” (Sixth Commandment) but merely wishing someone were dead and speaking words that poison and kill (Matthew 5:21,22). Jesus affirmed the Law and drove it deeper into the conscience. He never set it aside.

When I break God’s Law, it is called sin, and I am headed for judgment and the consequences of my behavior. This occurs both in the present time but especially at the end of time, when we will all stand before God to give an account for how we have lived our lives (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13).

Before the Day of Judgment, however, I can come to God now when I am sensing my guilt and ask Him to forgive me out of His mercy. And He has promised to do so. The Law serves to show me where I need God’s forgiveness. God’s lavish grace and Jesus’ sufficient payment for the penalty of sin through His death make possible that forgiveness. I can be clean inside, learn from my failure, and seek a greater release of God’s strength and character in my life. I can win in the battle against sin, and the Law is a tool in that battle.

Summary for godly living
The Ten Commandments represent the most condensed and proven form of moral and ethical guidance ever given.

They were given to an entire nation. In other words, they are for men and women, youth and children — everyone. And they were given with such exclamation marks from heaven as thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, a trumpet blast, quaking ground and God’s voice spoken with force and clarity (Exodus 19:16-19). Written down on stone and copied over, their very delivery through the ages says, “This is really important. Take note. There is a key here to life, and God is extraordinarily invested in this wisdom.”

The Holy Spirit has used this brief code for centuries to guide human behaviors and relationships as well as the relationship humans can have with God. The Spirit convicts us of sin, not out of the thin air of our own consciences, but most reliably on the basis of what we know to be the moral standards in His written Word.

After a preliminary focus on making sure our relationship is right with Him (First through Fourth commandments), the remaining commandments help us deal appropriately with one another. Sixty percent of this word to us is to help us get along with one another. And we do need lots of that kind of help.

The Ten Commandments form part of the core truth in the Word of God. The Ten Commandments, if we have taken time to lodge them within our spirits, can become like a referee within us whenever a situation raises a red flag. They can signal us forward when obedience leads to blessing. They can shape and nurture our communion with God and with each other.

The name says it all
They are the Ten Commandments … not an endless tome of detailed instructions. This short, limited list of boundary lines — just 10 — is readily understandable and easily brought to mind. This is the most critical short list for us to consider when wondering, How am I doing? Am I getting what it means to live for God and live with others? Is my walk based on behavior that God says is the kind He is looking for?

They are the Ten Commandments — not just a few good ideas or suggestions. They form a divine mandate clearly giving direction to otherwise haphazard and destructive human behavior. Without the commandments, the damage is unavoidable. The Book of Judges offers chilling scenarios of human depravity and connects that spiritual anarchy to a rejection of God’s Law: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, NKJV).

Attached, in fact, to several of the commandments are promises made to those who will follow them — promises of steadfast love, blessing, an extension of life itself. Conversely, the consequences for those who disregard the commandments can negatively impact their children and grandchildren.

Jesus cited the commandments in whole or in part with frequency. He had them memorized. He used them to teach people and to expose their deep moral need within. He never declared the commandments could be disregarded. In fact, He stated they would be in place until the end of time itself (Matthew 5:17-20). But He also showed us that the only way we can live out the Ten Commandments is to live in relationship with Him.

So, as I consider the commandments from a renewed and Christ-centered perspective, I find myself taken by exciting insights. I am moved by a fresh realization of how gracious and kind God is. I am dazzled by how wise these ancient words actually still are for all of us.

DAVID W. ARGUE is a former Assemblies of God executive presbyter and an author, ministry coach and pastor-at-large living in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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