The Ten Commandments, or any similar set of rules, by any other name, are necessary to maintain order in society.
In today's subjective Christian environment, any mention of the Ten Commandments raises the hackles of most churchgoers. "Legalist!" "Jew!" "Trying to work your way to salvation!" And a number of responses which deny that God expects people to follow His word instead of what they are being taught in the new Emergent Church spiritual philosophy.
"The Spirit didn't tell me it was wrong, so..."
They feel that we can depend on our "inner spirit" to guide us through the pitfalls of life. Evidently, they feel that if you claim to know Christ, the Holy Spirit will prompt you when you are doing something wrong, even if you don't know you what it is that you are doing that is wrong.
While this may be true only in a very minor sense, many forget that the "job" of the Holy Spirit is to prompt us when we are doing something God said not to do, or when we are not doing what He said to do. The only problem with the popular idea is that you must know what He has said in order to be "prompted" or reminded. According to this new "movement", you need no knowledge. If you receive no prompting, you must be doing the right thing. Well, yes and no.
Remember Matthew 22:29
29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
If you know the rules in the first place, then He can prompt you. Otherwise He would be like a parent following a two-year-old, saying "No, no. Don't touch that. No, no, no, not that, either. No, that will burn you. No, that's sharp. No, you'll break that. Don't eat that, you'll get sick. Honeeeyyy! Will you come in here and help me with this brat? He's not listening to a word I say!"
In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of the "Christian" world today refuses to recognize any of God's written rules, so there is nothing for the Holy Spirit to use as a reference. For example, how do you prompt someone to keep the Sabbath day holy if everyone thinks it is now Sunday that is holy. And this after a very clear Biblical description of THE seventh day being the only day blessed that way? Or worse, if they are told by their pastor that it can be any day or days or part of a day that they choose? More on that below.
A book by Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, published in 1998, expresses a wonderful thought that we should all keep in mind when we think of God's Law. Mr. Mehl was the Senior Pastor of Foursquare Church in Beaverton, Oregon. In the first chapter he asked an intriguing question:
Have you ever heard the Ten Commandments described as a love letter...a tender, heartfelt message from the very hand of God? Perhaps not. Yet I've become convinced it is one of the most powerful expressions of God's love in all of Scripture. And you don't need to read between the lines! It's all there. He doesn't leave anything out. These ten statements are all-encompassing, touching virtually every part of our lives. They are the parameters to live by - the truths He knows are going to provide blessing and strength, a future and a hope.
This is a very different approach to the true love of God, and, on the surface, is the way to look at God's law. He even points out that it is easy to get the real meaning without "having to read between the lines".
However wise the statement above seems on the surface, when you read the book, you begin to realize that this pastor does the same thing as all the other pastors who change God's law to align with their own desires. He gets the right idea, but then modifies it to fit the "human" need to be in control. Remember, the Ten Commandments are God's Law, not His suggestions for us to modify or even ignore at our whims.
"What? We don't do that..."
OK. Take them one at a time. First commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods..." Oh, what we think is important in our lives we don't call "gods", but they are often more important to us than the actual word of our God. Do you ever do something that you know is "outside the lines" instead of doing what you know you should? Some would not call this "another god", but what would you call letting something, anything, get between you and God? Put another way, doing what you want even if it conflicts with what God said to do? As Paul said in Colossians 3:5
5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
that there is a whole list of things that cause idolatry, and not one of them is something you can pick up with your hand. Anything can come between you and God, if you let it.
"Graven images? "
The second one. Well, we usually don't carve images for us to worship, but we do buy things that are so important to us that we protect them and often spend more time with them than we do with God. Cars, homes, sports teams, fishing, golf... You know what I mean. That is called idolatry. Remember Paul's statement in the paragraph above? Just because we can't pick them up in our hands doesn't mean that they are not idols.
"Misuse of His name? "
Number three, two for the Catholics. No, I don't mean just the swearing, but the act of dishonoring God when you use his name to belittle others or express anger. In his book, author Mehl puts it this way:
Does God think it matters?
I'll tell you how much it matters - He made it one of the Ten Commandments. Why would He include it? Because He knows that every time those terms are used, incredible destruction comes into my life and the lives of those I love. When you don't put God first, when you don't honor His name, I'm going to tell you, life just doesn't work. It does matter when we use God's name in vain.
Now, when someone swears or uses profanity with the Lord's name included, he or she may not even realize that they are having an impact on their lives as well as those at whom they are shouting. Like the author said, "He made it one of the Ten Commandments." Now, when Mehl says that, he is stressing that when God says something, He means it. So, why does he follow that example with one where he doesn't take the Lord at His word?
"I get the message...but...let me change it a little"
What do I mean? Well, in chapter 5, Ron Mehl wakes up in the hospital with a friend chastising him for working seven days a week - a practice that likely caused his present condition. His friend reminds him that God created the Sabbath day to prevent that very sort of thing. Pastor Mehl takes the advice of his friend and begins to consider keeping the Sabbath. However, he does not even start by thinking of it as "the Sabbath day" as the holy day is described in the fourth commandment, and which is the subject of this chapter in his book. No, he starts by describing his problem as violating "one of God's life principles" on page 102:
"I knew that I violated one of God's life principles, and that I was paying the price."
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't remember them as being called God's "Ten Life Principles", taking the bite out of the harshness of the phrase "God's Law" or "The Ten Commandments". He then goes on to wonder about why God made "remember the Sabbath day" number four in the commandments (page 102). On page 104 he even goes so far as to supposedly realize what God was telling him:
He was telling me, "I love you, son, but this is not an option. These are not the Ten Suggestions."
"OK, the Sabbath is important, but no Jewish stuff..."
After some more discussion on how important this must be to God, on page 106 he makes this giant leap to a conclusion that ignores the message he had evidently just received from God:
And the Sabbath? Maybe the Lord wants us to use this interval of rest (whether it's a day, two days, or half a day) to accomplish several things. (parenthetical in original)
Whoa, Nellie! After opening the chapter on page 99 with a quote of the fourth commandment from Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work...EXODUS 20:8-11
For in six days the Lord made heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
How many days do you see referenced here? The quote did not say, "Pick a day or two in seven." or "select a period of time for your rest." This clearly says that the Sabbath is the seventh day. For those who think this is any day of the week we choose, or even Sunday, why not learn how the Israelites found out which day it is? It's called the Old Testament. Also, since they were not to have anyone work for them on that day, it was for everyone. Not just those who chose that particular day - everyone. But, that is not the way that today's pastor's read the word of God. They know which day it is, they just prefer to stick with their human traditions. Jesus
8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions."
9And he continued, "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Mark 7:8-9)
said something about that, and it wasn't very flattering.
Mr. Mehl should know better than ignoring the part of God's word that he doesn't like. But, this is no different than what nearly every pastor in today's "Christian" world does every week. They change or selectively follow whatever portion of God's word they want, and evidently do it without any qualms or concern that it constitutes clear and willful disobedience. God described, in no uncertain or vague terms, His Sabbath day and how we are to use it, and this pastor decides to change it before he even tries it? And, since he is a pastor, why was he ignoring it to begin with? Perhaps someone told him it didn't matter.
Bring it closer to home
Think of it like this. If you told your son that you would like to set him up with a regular allowance so he can learn some responsibility and earn some spending money. All he has to do to earn it is to make sure he mows the front and back lawns once every week on Monday (this is for you Sunday "keepers" out there, but Sunday is the first day of the week, and God says it is OK for us to use it for work) during the summer. He eagerly agrees.
But then, on a different day each week, he only mows half of each the front and back lawns, doing only the second half of each the next week, also on different days. Or, maybe he chose to mow both lawns four times in one day (Sunday), but did that only once a month. This way it averages to mowing once a week. Or, maybe he gets paid by the neighbor to mow his yard as well. So, he mows your yard twice in the same day (a different day every time), but only once every two weeks, again averaging once a week. You get the idea.
He has clearly modified your instructions to him. His excuse? "Hey dad, the lawns are getting mowed, just like you said!" How would you respond? Maybe something like, "But, that's not how I told you to do it!" He might answer, "I took your suggestion and I'm following the principle of what you said - the lawn is getting mowed." Is he following your instructions? Would you still pay his allowance?
"Let's use just the part I want..."
Look at the Bible "quote" in the box above. He should have listed it as Exodus 20:8-9, half of 10,11. See the ellipsis (...)? He left out the portion of Exodus 20:10 that refers to who should not work:
In it you shall not do any work...(the rest of verse 10 is missing)
", you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates." (parenthetical mine)
Why would you write a book about the Ten Commandments and mislead people about what they say? And then continue to "explain" what they mean, but only after leaving out a very important part. But, like most pastors today, they tell people what they learned in seminary, not what the Bible actually says. Not very accurate quoting if you leave out all the others who should be keeping the same Sabbath that you are to keep.
"Where is Bob...and Mary? We have a meeting..."
Let's say you have a business and each person sets up whatever "sabbath day" he or she wants to keep, which may change from week to week since it depends on individual "needs". How's that going to work for you? Suppose one or more people want to take two days for "their sabbath", and those days are Friday and Monday - each week. Good luck planning a project. If the members of your family have different "sabbaths", how will that work for going on a family vacation? This is not just a personal choice for each individual, but obedience to a commandment that is part of the "love letter" idea with which pastor Mehl opens his book.
"These are not the Ten Suggestions...", but treat them as if they are?
It seems a little odd that this pastor has already changed the Commandment (by his own words it is not the Suggestion) to keep "the Sabbath day" into a suggestion that people modify into an unspecified period of any day, part of a day, or series of days they want to use, evidently according to their personal needs. On page 120, he continues with this gem:
On this day - whatever day or portion of a day you designate as "Sabbath" - you make an honest attempt to keep God constantly in your thoughts. (emphasis mine)
"Your idea is OK, God, but I like this better..."
Just wingin' it here, but if God set aside a specific day, made it holy, and did it in the beginning of the world before there were any "Israelites", should we be designating another unholy day or duration in its place? Just how is that keeping "God constantly in your thoughts"?
Since there was only one day that God made holy, and God said to keep that holy day holy, how can that be so unclear or confusing to a man who supposedly dedicated his life to God? While pastor Mehl is no longer with us (he died of leukemia in 2003 at the age of 59), his book is still out there leading people down the wrong path - at least with regard to the fourth commandment.
"God said...but don't bother with that silliness..."
And the most disturbing part of this whole approach is, after all his own words about how important God's holy day is to Him, Mr. Mehl doesn't even bother to find out what day it actually is. Nope. It is the seventh day of the week - what we call Saturday, re-named by man in the pagan way after the Roman God Saturn (Wikipedia). God called it the Sabbath, but we just can't handle that - too Jewish. And, it's not even Saturday, but the period from Friday night at sundown to Saturday night sundown.
If we had to call it the Sabbath and not Saturday, as God did when He made it holy, it would be much harder for us to ignore it and choose our own version instead of His. While most churches today change their "day of rest" to the unholy day of Sunday and ignore God's designated Sabbath, pastor Mehl let each person change it to "his own special day or days". Since everyone's needs are different, this is probably a different one every week depending on personal wants or needs. I'm not sure which is worse, but both are disobedient to the word of God.
You notice anything about the commanments?
The further we go, the more one thing becomes apparent. God wants people to act in a certain way toward Him and their neighbors. Every time there is an infraction of one of His rules, it is an action that says, "I want to do it my way." In Matthew 5:21-22
21"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
, Jesus said that this sixth commandment means far more than it's literal interpretation. If you are even angry with your brother, you are in danger of going to hell.
The same is true of all of them. Adultery starts in the mind and heart, as does stealing, lying, and coveting. If you don't think of doing them, you won't. As soon as you think about doing any of them, you have already committed the infraction in your heart. No one disagrees with this "principle", and agree that Godly people should follow all ten of the rules - so why don't they?.
Who are they for...?
So, now answer this question for yourself. If everyone with whom you discuss this subject agrees with the "principle" of the commandments, why does nearly every "Christian" react by saying something like, "Those are only for the Jews!", or "The law doesn't apply to Gentiles.", or even, "We have the Holy Spirit, we don't need the Law."?
That very attitude is why people continue to break the commandments, most if not all of them, and usually don't even realize that they are doing so. Even if they recognize that the rules still matter, people change the meaning of the commandment to the point that whatever they are doing, by their "interpretation", it is not breaking any of the commandments.
God did what?
For those who think God did away with the 10 commandments, any of them, take a look at 100 Questions on the Ten Commandments. This is a site by another believer with a series of questions designed to get you to think of why some would think the ten commandments were discarded, who might have discarded them, and when.
Think of society as a project, requiring planners, financial support, and builders to make it happen. Now, imagine the shape of society if each person involved in the construction used a different form of money, drawing techniques, and his own type of measuring devices for his portion of the project. God gave us the Ten Commandments as a guide to the way to construct a uniform society and lead our lives with the least amount of problems.
"That was fine for their time, but we are smarter."
Without a set of established rules to guide us, we each decide on what we think is best for us and those around us. This leads to relative morality. Today's view that truth is relative allows anyone to do anything he or she pleases. Some say that this includes the restriction "as long as it doesn't hurt someone or affect the rights of another person".
What a joke. Every day, society plunges deeper into an abyss of moral decay that affects everyone. Just pick a topic; abortion, gay marriages, gay pastors, tolerance, church, religion, who Jesus is, even defining what is called true faith. We have lost our ability to judge a situation. Either we are told that we have no valid foundation for judging, or because we are afraid we might hurt someone's feelings if we tell the truth. The Ten Commandments were given to us to provide a moral compass. Most people use a compass to get to where they are trying to go. Too bad many think that morality is some sort of infringement on their right to do what they want.
Never judge? Paul did...
For those of you who are thinking "I thought the Bible said not to judge!", it says to be aware that you will be judged in the same way you judge (Matthew 7:1-3
1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
). When you judge someone, they will judge you back in self-defense. When you judge others, God will use the same measure to judge you. I have no problem judging a situation by God's standards. Those are the same standards by which we will all be judged in the end, anyway. Without judging whether a situation is right or wrong, you cannot pursue the right course of action. That requires knowledge of what God has told us to do. (Matthew 22:29
Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
I cannot judge about the final result of someone's actions, but I can apply what God said to do and see if an action is wrong to take. For those of you who think this is a bad approach, check out 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. (NIV)
. And a little later in the same chapter, Paul
12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:12)
tells us that it is our job to judge those in the church who claim to be followers of Christ but do not act like it. In these passages, that pesky Paul says that he had heard of a church member doing something wrong, and even though he was not there, he had "passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus" on the one who did it. How can he do somehting in the name of the Lord if he supposedly wasn't even supposed to do it at all? It was something that was not even listed in the Ten Commandments, but was from Leviticus 18:8
8Do not have sexual relations with your father's wife; that would dishonor your father.
We must judge in some cases
If you see someone murdering another person on the street, would you think it is OK? Of course not. You have just judged. Now, if you see a person wrapped in explosives walk into a crowd and detonate the explosives, would you think it is OK? Some cultures with a different perspective than yours do judge that this action is OK - even admirable. Do you want this type of activity happening in your neighborhood, city, state, country? How do you stop it once it is started?
You must judge based on something, stand on an established set of rules, and enforce the rules. When I judge based on God's rules, I welcome the same judgment on myself. I may not pass, but it will be fair. Now, where do you think is the best place to get a set of rules?
He called them the nine suggestio...no, wait, He gave us the Ten Commandments.
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