Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] What are the Ten Commandments? Are they just a list of rules, or are they something more? Jesus spoke with people who knew the Ten Commandments backwards and forwards, but when Jesus started talking about them, they were shocked. Why? Do you really know what they're all about?
In Jerusalem, during the time when Jesus walked the earth, it was a common practice to whitewash tombs. There was actually a religious reason for doing this. It was based on a belief that walking over a tomb made a person ceremonially unclean. Whitewashing the tomb was a clear sign to stay away from this area. It also added a sense of attractiveness to a bleak-looking stone grave. And this makes Jesus' statements to some very religious people shocking and actually very insulting when He said to them, "You are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."
What a gruesome image! Through this use of imagery, Jesus was making a point about what is commonly called the inner person, the thoughts, the motivations of our real self, not the person that we sort of act out, show to everyone else. Authentic Christianity is more than religious ceremonies or trying to look good. It is about God shaping and guiding our thoughts and emotions.
Today we're going to look at how the Ten Commandments can help us in the Christian development of the inner person. Most Christians believe you should keep the Ten Commandments. At the same time, the Ten Commandments can seem like a cold list of human bad behaviors. "Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie, do not commit adultery." But when we look at the teachings of Jesus Christ, we find that He was very concerned with the reasons why people steal, why people lie, why people commit adultery. His teachings not only deal with actions, but with the inner person, what we're going to be talking about today.
Now if you desire the power of God in your life, a power that goes beyond simply going to church, a power that changes how you see everything, your purpose, your relationships, so that your relationship with God is not just an empty, whitewashed tomb, then what we're talking about today is for you. We're going to look at three of the Ten Commandments, not just from this sort of obvious description of bad behavior, but from the idea of the corresponding positive Christian virtue.
Virtue, there's one of those words that can be very ambiguous. I mean what does that mean? It's a religious-sounding word, but what does it really mean? Virtue means having a high standard of moral goodness. And when we look at the teachings of Jesus, which we're going to in a few minutes, about the Ten Commandments you find that His standards are a whole lot more than just not murdering your obnoxious loudmouth neighbor or not robbing a convenience store. It's about why we do what we do.
Okay, it's confession time, 'cause we're all going to have to admit this if we're honest. All of us have had the experience of knowing what was right, but struggling deep in the inner self because we want to do the wrong. We've all seen the child who's told not to go into the pool, so lays beside the pool and puts her hand in the water. And when she's told, "Hey, you weren't supposed to go into the pool," she responds with, "I'm not in the water. Just my hand is in the water." This is a normal, human way of trying to be right on the outside, but wanting to do wrong on the inside. Christian virtue is more than just not doing wrong. It's about being right in the inner person. Christian obedience to the Ten Commandments creates a lifestyle of avoiding the bad behaviors. This obedience is what Jesus Christ wants in all his followers. But Jesus is concerned with more than just avoiding bad behavior. He wants our motivations, our thoughts, our conduct, everything we do to reflect God's positive ways.
So how do the Ten Commandments with all of these "thou shalt nots" lead to Christians to be able to have positive virtue in the inner person? Well, let's graphically look at what we're talking about, okay? God gives a commandment. These commandments define basic wrong actions, what the Bible calls sin. Sin, that's just actions that are harmful to yourself and to others, and this is the first step in learning Christian virtue. It's what's called the letter of the law. Secondly, then, we have a second step, which is our response, our response to the command. And our response is based on understanding God's love and His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection for our sins. And now, we now endeavor to avoid the bad behavior. But as we begin to do that, we have to begin to deal with the inner desires to live by the bad behavior. And this leads us to a third step. The third step is a lifestyle that not only avoids bad behavior but actually thrives on doing good. And the reason for that is it's a change not only in our actions but a change in our thoughts, our emotions, our motivations, that lead to a positive action.
So we start with a negative action, the command, but there's a positive action, that's the virtue. Now this may seem complicated, but stay with me here because Jesus explains this process exactly in the Sermon on the Mount. Here's what He says. We're going to go to the Sermon on the Mount here. This is in Matthew chapter 5 and He says, "You have heard that it was said of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment." Jesus is referring here to the sixth of the Ten Commandments. And He's talking to a Jewish audience that had learned these commandments since they were children. They understood that murder was a sin. There was a command against it. Then He says, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Now what Jesus is teaching here, just to sum it up, is that the action of murder begins in the inner person. Uncontrolled anger, hatred, seeing other people as worthless and meaningless, these are the root causes that drive someone to take the life of another person. I mean you may have never murdered, but if your inner life is filled with anger and hatred and prejudice, a burning desire for violent revenge, then according to Jesus this is the spirit of murder. So graphically, we can see what Jesus is teaching here looking similar to what we just talked about. The command is not to murder, right? Do not commit murder. This teaches us that human life was created by God and all human beings are made in the image of God. Every human being has value to God. Now our response to the command then, is that not only do we not murder, but according to Jesus, we have to deal with the root causes. And that means we have to deal with our inner rage, our hatred, our need for revenge.
But there is a step of virtue. What's that step? The positive Christian virtue is not just to not hate or not murder. It is to actively love others. So, we start with a negative command that starts with the most terrible of all actions. And then we move forward to, okay, we have to deal with the inner things, the inner reasons. And then we have to turn it into something positive. We must actively love others. Now let me show you what I mean, because Jesus continues with the same thought here in Matthew chapter 5 when He says, "But I say to you." Same chapter, same discussion. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven, for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Let's look at this again. Don't murder. Don't hate or denigrate others. But now we must actively love. This is the Christian virtue. I mean, it's one thing not to kill somebody who treats you badly. It's another thing not to harbor hatred towards that person. But it's far beyond normal human experience to do good for someone who hates you. God made every human being with the potential to become His child, and Christian virtue is to see that potential in others, even the unborn, who are made in the image of God. Obeying the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder," is just the beginning of Christian virtue. Virtue is understanding Jesus' teaching by living this commandment, yes, by avoiding the actual sin of murder and violence. But it involves dealing with your anger and rage and replacing anger and hatred with actively loving others. We have to move outward from that.
When you submit to God recreating the inner person, you will begin to experience what God actually wants in your life. It's what the Apostle Paul called the fruits of the spirit. He listed them. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And you know, that's what we all really want. Those are the things we want in the inner person.
Now before we look at another of the Ten Commandments as a first step in developing Christian virtue, let me tell you about today's free study guide. If you want to learn more about Christian virtue in the inner person, order your free copy of "The Ten Commandments." This remarkable study guide will help you discover how the Ten Commandments, instead of being just some outdated legal code for an ancient people, are actually the first steps in learning how to be a disciple in Jesus Christ. There's a chapter about the first commandment, and it asks, what is your greatest priority? Now, you're probably saying, "Well, God's my greatest priority." But have you ever studied the Ten Commandments to understand how God describes the way we are to make Him our greatest priority? It's actually in there. How about the second commandment? It tells us something about what God is really like and then why He says to avoid making images in our worship. Call the number on your screen and order your free copy of "The Ten Commandments" or you can go to beyondtoday.tv to download a copy right into your computer.
We've been exploring how Jesus teaches us to understand the Ten Commandments as the beginning steps for developing Christian virtue. He doesn't want His followers to be like whitewashed tombs, that gruesome image He gave, looking good on the outside, but filled with decay, spiritual decay on the inside. We looked at the sixth commandment, "You shalt not kill," and saw how Jesus said that His followers must not harbor hatred, the spirit that leads to murder. In the same sermon, he taught how we must now love our enemies. Now we've come outward in our love. So, let's look at another thing He said here in the Sermon on the Mount. Just a little later in this discourse He gave, He says, "But you have heard it was said of old, ‘Do not commit adultery.’" This is the seventh of the Ten Commandments. In this commandment, God protects the sanctity of marriage as ordained between a man and a woman. To commit adultery is to disrupt God's design for humanity. So, here's what He says. He says, "But I tell you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." How in the world do you commit adultery in your heart? Well, think about it. Just because a person isn't sleeping around on their wife or husband doesn't mean that they are being faithful to their spouse in the inner person. We're back to Jesus teaching that actions are produced and are a product of our thoughts and emotions and motivations. I mean, have you ever seen a guy out with his wife in a public place, and it becomes obvious that he's eyeing every attractive woman that walks by? Jesus said that this is a problem in the inner person even if this person says, "I'm a Christian." And what husband wants to find out that his wife is having fantasies about other men, or what woman wants to find out that her husband is looking at pornography instead of loving her?
Not committing adultery, not lusting after another person, that's the commandment. But what about the positive Christian virtue? Is Christian marriage more than just being sexually loyal? Is it more than that? Well, it's interesting. Here's what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus. He said, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her." And there's also commands in the New Testament for wives to love your husbands. You see, it's not enough just to be sexually loyal. That's just the beginning of the process. At some point, the commandment becomes outward expression of life. So, not commanding adultery, that's just the beginning. The commandment is not to have sexual relationship with anyone outside your marriage. Yes, but according to Jesus, the Christian response is to remain pure, right? We've talked about this. We're going back and looking now. Command, response. Don't look at pornography. Don't lust after other people. But what is the virtue? What is what we actively do that's good? Christianity isn't just about bad things. It's not just about, "Do not, do not." There's a lot of things we are to do. And what we're to do is we faithfully love your husband or wife, because the love between a husband and wife is one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given humanity. It is. It's one, and after well over 40 years of marriage, I can just tell you that's true. It's one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments is to love God and love your neighbor.
Now, notice how we've given two examples here of the Ten Commandments, and they arrive at what? A virtue to love your neighbor. They're all tied into those two great commandments. The virtue of loving others means to be actively involved in doing good for them. It means you serve them. It means you strive to understand that person and to care for that person. Christian marriage must involve sexual loyalty. Christian virtue involves actively loving each other. The last six of the Ten Commandments contains instructions on how to love others and not participate in self-destructive behavior. But the first four of the commandments deal with how to love God. So, the next commandment we're going to explore has to do with our virtue of loving God.
But on today's program, I want to remind you of the free study guide, "The Ten Commandments." Have you ever noticed that some people use the name of God or just the word God as an exclamation point for anything? Now, what does that tell us about our inner respect for God? The third commandment is not to take God's name in vain. Now, that has to do with how we talk, yes, but have you ever thought of this? When we claim to be a Christian, but our bad conduct brings ridicule on Jesus Christ, are we not taking His name in vain? When people say, "Ah, you're a Christian? Well, if that's what Christ is all about, I don't want to be a Christian." You see, there are deep meanings in the Ten Commandments that teach us about Christian virtue, and that's why you need to get this study guide. Call the number on your screen and order your free copy of the Ten Commandments. Or you can go to beyondtoday.tv to download your free study guide.
Well, so far we've looked at two of the Ten Commandments. We've seen how obeying the commandments lead Jesus's followers to a lifestyle, yes, of avoiding destructive behavior. But Jesus also taught that His followers must be concerned with changing the inner person so that they desire to have God develop in them Christian virtue of actively loving others. So, now let's look at one more of the Ten Commandments as Christian virtue. And let's begin with something that Jesus said, okay? This is something that is recorded in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also the Lord of the Sabbath." The Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20 there's instructions, and they're very clear. On the seventh day of the week, what we commonly call Saturday, God wants people to rest and worship him. The seventh day as the biblical Sabbath is not discounted by Christians. It's not discounted by Jews or even Muslims. Everybody agrees, that's the seventh day and that's the Sabbath. The message from God about the seventh day Sabbath doesn't start here, though, with the commandments. In the Genesis account of creation, God created the seventh day as a special day, and the Sabbath is part of God's creation. And I've heard many Christians claim that Jesus somehow taught that His followers don't have to observe the seventh day Sabbath. They claim that the Sabbath command was for ancient Israel and not for the church. And I've even heard people go as far to say that if you try to observe or keep a seventh day Sabbath, then you're trying to be legalistic.
I want to read something else that Paul wrote here and to the church in Colossae. What he's doing here is he's describing who Jesus Christ is and he's starting with a premise that we know from the Gospel of John, that Jesus was God and was with God. He was called the Word, and He existed with God before creation, before there was anything. For eternity, there was who we call the Father and who we call Jesus, who was known as the Word. And he's describing Jesus Christ, and here's what he says. "He," speaking of Jesus, "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him, Jesus, all things were created that are in heaven, that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things. In Him, all things consist. They all continue to exist. And He is the head of the body, the church."
In this passage, Paul outlines why Jesus Christ just isn't another human being. He is the one through whom God the Father created all things. Now, think about that. God the Father created the angels, the heavens, the earth, the animals, the birds, the sea creatures through Jesus Christ. God the Father created the first human beings through Jesus Christ. And at creation, God the Father created the Sabbath day through Jesus Christ. And He's also the head of the church. And this puts what Jesus said in Mark in a little different light, okay? So, let's reread now what he said. Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath." Jesus is the Son of Man. You see, Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. He's also the creator of the seventh day Sabbath. God the Father created the Sabbath through him. It's an integral part of creation. It is a time that God has created for us to rest in our relationship with Him.
So, let's now look at the fourth commandment as virtue. The seventh day Sabbath was set aside by God as a day of worship and rest. That's the command. According to Jesus we are to acknowledge Him as the Lord on this Sabbath, and you know what this leads to? This leads to His disciples, also called the church or the assembly, meeting with other disciples on the Sabbath day to worship and praise God. The virtue is that through this, we learn to love God with all of our heart and mind and soul. We experience God's presence during this special time. Far from being a meaningless commandment, observing the seventh day commandment will help you in your relationship with God and throughout also your relationship with God throughout the rest of the week.
So, let me remind you, did you know what the last of the Ten Commandments has to do with? It has to do with your heart. We've been seeing that's exactly what Jesus taught in the Ten Commandments. It's not just the "Thou shalt nots." This study guide can help you understand the importance of the Ten Commandments in your daily walk with God. I mean the fifth commandment, as it says in here, is the key to success in life. The last commandment is about how we need to be thankful for what we have instead of always trying to fill our lives with more stuff. Call the number on your screen and order your free copy of the Ten Commandments, or you can go to beyondtoday.tv and download your copy.
So, the Ten Commandments is more than just an ancient list of dos and don'ts. It's an expression of God's design for human behavior and relationships. So, let's just quickly summarize what we've covered today. God gives us commandments. They define sin. They define the most basic wrong actions that are harmful to ourselves and others. Then we understand that there's another step involved in this. We have to avoid the practice of bad behavior by learning what causes it. Jesus talked about that. And then the third step is we have to create, have God create in us a lifestyle that actually changes our thoughts and emotions, our motivations, so that our actions are now loving God and loving neighbor. We have Christian virtue and this involves a massive change. Jesus gave a stern warning that surface religion can be what? Like a whitewashed tomb, sort of pretty on the outside, but filled with rottenness and decay.
God wants to change your inner person, and I really want to stress that. He wants to change your inner person. It's not like, "Oh, I keep the Ten Commandments perfectly." That's not enough. We have to deal with what's in here, and then we have to actively begin to do this outward life that God wants us to have. And that involves actually, in the inner person, experiencing love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control so we can literally become the children of God.
I want to leave you with something here today, and it's from something that's said here at the very end of this study guide that really puts this in focus to decisions we have to make. We can say, "Oh, this sounds really good. Yeah, I would like to be changed in the inner person." Know there's decisions that have to be made in this process. And here's what it says, “Each person must choose whether to obey the living God who gave us the Ten Commandments. His standards can be the guidelines for our thoughts, the yardstick for our behavior. They can shape our hearts and minds, or we can ignore them and choose another way.” We've been talking about how God wants to shape your heart and mind. But this is where you start. You start with these simple things and move towards the complex, which is loving, really loving, God and really loving others. And you can't love your neighbor if you kill him, so you never go back and start disobeying the commandments. "Oh good, I don't have to keep the Sabbath cause I love God." Understand, the very concept does away with Christian virtue that comes out of the commandments. And then in your study guide, it says this. "In making our decision, we should remember Jesus Christ's words, ‘If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’” Don't miss this opportunity to choose having God develop Christian virtue in your inner heart and mind. Ask God to lead you to a much deeper understanding of the Ten Commandments, and call right now to get your free copy of our study guide, The Ten Commandments.
[Narrator] Please call for the booklet offered on today's program, "The Ten Commandments." This free study aid will show you how God's law can transform your life. This booklet outlines each of the Ten Commandments in an easy to understand style that reveals the deep truths that God wants you to know so that you can live an authentic, fulfilling life that benefits and inspires others. Order now. Call toll-free, 1-888-886-8632, or write to the address shown on your screen. Don't wait any longer. Start aligning your life with God's plan for you by requesting your free copy of The Ten Commandments. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, The Ten Commandments and your free one-year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. 1-888-886-8632, or go online to beyondtoday.tv.