Eighth Commandment

“You shall not steal.” This is the eighth commandment. In the New Testament, Paul gives his advice for the man guilty of stealing. In his letter the Ephesians, he says, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need,” (Eph. 4:28). And in Romans, he gives this summary of all the ten commandments, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law,” (Rom. 13:8).

Think about the change in demeanor that it would require in order to move you from a temptation to steal so that you might provide for yourself, to a desire to give away so that you might bless others. And ask yourself if you are walking with this old, sinful demeanor. Are your eyes on yourself, are you twisting every situation to make sure that you have your own needs taken care of? Are you sneaking things past and excusing the evil in what you have done because the sin feels justified purely because it is what had to be done in order for you to get what you want? Continue reading

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Seventh Commandment

“You shall not commit adultery.” This is the seventh commandment. And Jesus let us know that this command extends far beyond just the physical act of violating your marriage vows. It includes even the lustful glance that betrays a heart full of adultery. Jesus was not introducing a new standard when he taught this. Throughout the Old Testament, it is clear that a lustful glance was the beginning of sin. Job was righteous because he had made a covenant with his eyes to not allow this to happen. And David’s sin with Bathsheba is told in such a way that we see his adultery beginning with his glance at Bathsheba bathing.

         Why is a glance like this a sin? To begin with, it’s a sin because God told us it was. We need nothing more than this. But it is not hard to see other reasons why it is forbidden. It is a sin because it is faithless and Paul told us that “whatever is not of faith is sin.” Why is sexual lust a lack of faith? It is failing to trust God that he has good things intended for you. It is longing, even if only internally and for a moment, for something that God has not given to you. It is failing to trust that God has a feast prepared for you, a feast of good things, of lasting pleasures. It is disbelieving in the goodness of God.

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Sixth Commandment

From the Christ Church call to worship January, 2015

“You shall not murder.” This is the sixth commandment. It seems to be the big E on the eye chart. If you talk to a non-Christian about their need for a Savior to deliver them from the guilt of their sin, then this is the commandment that most of them would like to dwell on. “Look, I’m a basically good person. I haven’t murdered anyone.” It seems like the one place that we can stand in the ten commandments and be safer ground.

But Jesus doesn’t let us off that easily. First, he tells us that if a man is angry at his brother without a cause then he is in danger of judgment. And then John tells us that, “whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Continue reading

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Fifth Commandment

From the Christ Church call to worship January 4, 2015

“Honor your Father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” This is the fifth commandment and, as Paul points out in Ephesians 6, this is the first commandment with a promise, the promise that when we give honor to our parents, God blesses our own heritage. We give honor upstream and God blesses our downstream.

But, when you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that the reason that this promised blessing is attached to this command is because we, in our flesh, are likely to expect the opposite. We fear that honor and deference to father and mother are likely to hold us back rather than bless us. So God reminds us that, in the end, those who have honored their parents will find themselves firmly planted in blessing. While those who dishonor their parents will find themselves emptied out and spent. Continue reading

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Rest

From the Christ Church call to worship December 7, 2014

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” This is the fourth commandment. The word Sabbath, simply means a resting, a ceasing from action. God wants us to rest. He commands us to rest. Isn’t that a strange thing? Why do we need to be commanded to rest? Isn’t that what we would all naturally want to have?

It’s like finding out that there was a divine command to go shopping, or a day at the spa, a direct order from God to take the next week at the lake cabin. Why does God have to command us to rest? It seems a bit like throwing a rock into the air and then commanding it to drop. Of course it’s going to fall, that’s what it naturally does. So why tell us to rest, when that is what we would all say that we would like to do?

Because despite what we say, resting does not come easy to us. Throughout the Old Testament one of the charges that God brought against Israel was that they would not keep the Sabbath, they would not rest. And the same charge could easily be brought against us. Continue reading

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Third Commandment

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This is the third commandment. Most specifically, there are two parts to breaking this commandment. First, you must invoke God’s name in a vow – that is what taking his name means. Second, the one who makes this vow, then treats that vow lightly, as if it was an empty thing. For instance, to swear in court by God’s name, when you intend to tell a lie, would be a direct violation of the third commandment. We could add to this, the terrible custom of using the name of “God” or “Jesus” as if it were a swear word. These are mock vows that act as if the name of God were a triviality.

But we should remember that at the Great Commission, Jesus commanded the disciples to go out and make disciples of the whole earth by baptizing them into the name of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” God’s name, revealed as Yahweh in the Old Testament, has been revealed to us once more as the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that name is taken up by each of us at our baptism. Continue reading

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Second Commandment

From the Christ Church first service Call to Worship on Nov. 9, 2014

In the second commandment we are prohibited from making a carved image or likeness of any sort to be used in the worship of God. The church has always had a hard time being faithful to this command. What is it about the human heart that is inexplicably pulled towards wanting to draw God? Or, considered from the other side, why is it so important to ensure that we not draw God?

I believe that the problem is that the use of images in worship is a way of trying to tame God, it’s a way of making him serve our own proclivities by portraying God, not so much as he is, but rather as we want him to behave. When we use images in worship, our vices are indulged and set up as a picture of the god that we want to worship. Syrupy-sweet sentimentality, machismo run amok, ethnic chauvinism – we paint those things that we see in ourselves, that we want to indulge. Continue reading

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Envy and Despair

In Psalm 73, Asaph describes an overwhelming temptation to despair that comes on you when you look around and see the way that prosperity and godliness don’t always come together. The wicked are often given power, wealth, the means to live at ease, and with their luxury the means to mock God. They are untroubled and seem to carry no guilt for their sin. Asaph, seeing this, says, “surely I have cleansed my heart in vain.” What was the point of walking faithfully?

Have you ever wondered this? What is the point of faithfulness, when it doesn’t seem like it changes your situation in this life? What is the point of making choices with your family, with your money, with your friends, with your career, with all of your life, when you sacrifice to live a certain way, and it seems like the reward goes to the wicked?

Asaph names this sin. He says it is the sin of being envious of the boastful, and coveting the prosperity of the wicked. This is what happens when your eyes start wandering away from the provision that God has given you and you begin lusting for the things that God has not given you. You start wishing you had the life of someone else. You see the easy pleasure of others and it makes you sick in your own heart. Continue reading

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Masculinity Is As Masculinity Does

A recent NSA Disputatio got me thinking again about the need to instill biblical masculinity in Christian men. You run into a bit of conundrum when you try to do this because there are two misguided tendencies that always immediately surface and play off of one another.

The first tendency notices a general limp-wristed effeminacy within the evangelical church and attempts to rectify it by embracing a raw physical toughness. Athletic accomplishment begins to carry immense significance, with lots of references to Paul’s allusions to physical training. Fist fights and past service in the military become badges of honor. And you have to eat a lot of bacon.

The second tendency is just the obvious reaction to this first. All you have to do is look at this and say – “give me a break.” This kind of supposedly masculine ministry is practically it’s own refutation. It’s shallow and tacky. But the reaction against this first misguided masculinity can be so powerful that it pushes men into extremes in the other direction. Guys start embracing a deliberate effeminacy, dressing and acting foppishly, purely out of rebellion against lame cultural expectations of what it takes to earn your man-badge. And of course, the foppishly dressed hipster then becomes the proof to the bacon-eaters that we need more masculinity in the church. Repeat ad nauseam.

But when I interact with either position very long, I generally start to get the impression that I’m dealing less with a principled position, drawn from serious reflection on the biblical text, and more that I am hearing about someone’s personal proclivities. Former jocks love being told that their high school football careers, be they ever so brief and far-gone in the rear view mirror, actually prove that they are superior churchmen. And the bookish men, who bruise easily, like to discover that their delicate but beautiful little souls are the ones that most embodied what Jesus was like. Continue reading

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