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Who Takes First Place? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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August 1, 2022 4:00 am

Who Takes First Place? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 1, 2022 4:00 am

By nature, we’re opposed to rules and restrictions. But the Ten Commandments aren’t a list of dos and don’ts given to deprive us of fun and freedom. Discover how God’s laws are actually our pathway to freedom. Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Welcome to Truth for Life.

Today we're beginning our 2022 series. These are listener favorites from the past year or so, and our first message is titled, Who Takes First Place? It's from a series on the Ten Commandments. By nature, we are opposed to having rules and restrictions on our lives, but we need to rethink the Ten Commandments. It's not a list of do's and don'ts given to deprive us of our fun and freedom. Alistair Begg explains today how God's laws are actually a pathway to freedom.

Well, I invite you to take your Bibles and we'll turn to the book of Exodus and to chapter 20, as we both seek to consider the first of these Ten Commandments and also to give something of an introduction to the commandments in general. There's an interesting change, it would seem to me, taking place in many parts of our world—not least of all here in the context of the United States of America. Perhaps this is your experience also, but I find that people have no problem whatsoever about being prepared to listen or to read or to talk about spiritual things. Indeed, there seems to be a widespread interest in religion. So much so that people are prepared to listen to just about anyone or anything.

That is the bad side of it. The rise of Islam, the inroads of all kinds of mystical elements that attach themselves to the New Age movement are indicative of this very thing. And at the same time, large segments of Christendom—that which represents, if you like, historic Christianity—appears, happy simply to set up their booths, as it were, on the corridors of time alongside all these other little displays of the various religious options. And so we live in this kind of syncretistic, pluralistic culture where men and women are increasingly interested in religion and at the same time decreasingly interested in doing anything that makes demands upon them. I believe a door of opportunity is opening for us—an opportunity for us to share with people that there is something that they need, albeit not something that they want. Indeed, that what they want is actually a mirage, and that what they need is something very real. Time magazine, in the work of the previous editor-in-chief, a man by the name of Grunwald, who was also ambassador to Austria, wrote an article titled, The Year 2000, Is it the End or Just the Beginning? And in it he writes, We are beset by a whole range of discontents and confusions.

For a great many, the dunghill has become a natural habitat. Observers of depravity would be stunned by the chaos of manners and speech. This is a secular man, he says, if someone observing us from a different vantage point were to see the chaos in manners and in speech, they would be absolutely flabbergasted.

At the same time, he says, they would be equally shocked by the hellish ubiquity of crime, the almost democratic availability of drugs, by the new varieties of decadence, rock songs about rape and suicide. Pornography at the corner newsstand says the man we are witnessing the end, or at least the decline, of an age of unbelief and beginning what may be a new age of faith. Now before we jump up and go, this is terrific, you got to understand what this means. What he's saying is that the materialistic mechanistic worldview, which has pervaded man in a quest, a kind of rationalistic scientific quest for utopia, has fizzled out. They fired the rocket up, it ended, it has now begun to come on a parabola down.

It's going to hit the ground. And so, having decided that there's nothing there, now we're going to get into faith. The fact of the matter is, though, this is faith in faith. This is not faith that has to do with the object of faith, whereby the ground of what we trust in gives credibility to our faith, but rather is just faith in faith. So people are happy to talk about faith.

Oh, I wish I had your faith, and isn't it good to have faith, and I'm glad I have faith. Nobody knows what they're talking about, but they just use this word. And they read it in Time magazine or in Newsweek, and they say, that's it, that's what we're into now.

Well, says the writer, we will need a new sense of drive and less emphasis on our rights and more on our responsibilities. This is not the Bible. This is just a secular commentator.

This is just a man looking over the panorama of the human scene. And he says, we have given wide rein to living on the basis of rights, now we better think responsibilities. That's why I say it's timely for us to consider the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, because here God expresses the responsibilities which he chooses to lay on men and women. Secularism has not blossomed into the beauty that was offered us. And if you're a believer this morning, you understand this. You ought to read your newspaper, you ought to read your Bible, you ought to think these things out, and be prepared to go out on a Monday and challenge the thought forms of our generation. Grunewald says, we have gradually dissolved. We have deconstructed the human being into a bundle of reflexes, impulses, neuroses, and nerve endings.

It's true. Man is just a cosmic monkey. Man is now a turbocharged ape. And men and women are confused. They're really confused. And I believe men are really interested in cutting through a lot of the Christian claptrap, all the little slogans we've made, and they're prepared to think the issues out.

Now, whenever we encounter somebody like that, we've got a great opportunity. Mainstream Christianity has tried to diminish its bits and pieces that folks won't like, so it said, well, if that's a problem for somebody, we won't believe in that. And if Mr. X won't like that, then we can get rid of that. And if the teenagers don't like this, then we won't worry about that.

And so what it does is it just renders itself irrelevant. The opportunity opens to us to stand up authoritatively in our day to take our Bibles and to say, This is what God says, and we're unashamed about it. Now, that's why we're studying the Ten Commandments, so that we might get to grips with these issues. In coming to them, it's vitally important that we understand a number of things, because great confusion surrounds the Ten Commandments.

Some of us were brought up learning them off by heart. Although ninety-six percent of America says it believes in God, very, very few could get the Ten Commandments in order. In fact, very few could even get the Ten Commandments.

And some of us this morning would be hard-pressed, with a white sheet of paper in front of us, to write down more than two or three. So before we start applauding ourselves, we'd better just understand the context. First of all, we need to say this, that what we have in the Ten Commandments is not a formal list of do's and don'ts that have been given to us by God to restrict our personal freedoms. People think that's what it is to say, Oh, the Ten Commandments, I hate that stuff.

It's a bunch of things that you can't do, and it just makes life miserable. I don't know who came up with that. Well, the answer is, the Ten Commandments are not that. Rather, they are a blueprint for life. Here's the way to live in freedom, says God. They are the kind of instructions that a parent would give, a good parent would give, to their child.

Say, Honey, this is how I want you to live, and this is how you will be protected, and this is how you will grow to be the kind of person that God intends for you to be. That's the framework in which the Ten Commandments are given. Second thing to notice is this, that these commandments expound the instruction of Jesus given to us in Matthew chapter 22. You remember one occasion the Pharisees, who were really into rules and regulations, came up to Jesus and asked him, Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law? That's Matthew chapter 22 verse 36. And Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.

Now, I wonder if you have thought this or met anyone who thought it. This is what you find. You talk to people, and they say, Oh, yes, I know the Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament, but we don't bother with the Old Testament. We're the New Testament people. And in the New Testament, what we have is just Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.

Well, first of all, that is not true. Jesus said these two principal statements are the very hinges upon which all of the law and the prophets hang. In other words, he says, if you get these two things and understand what they mean, then you're set. But if you don't, you're in difficulty. So I ask you this morning—you read this—it says, I'm supposed to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and all my strength. Good.

Well, how would you do that? What are you supposed to do? Are you just walking around going, I would love the Lord your God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength? Are you kind of like a mantra? What does it mean? It kind of means something.

How do we find out what it means? What it means is answered in the first four commandments. They tell us what it means to love God with all our heart.

See? First thing is, you don't have any other gods. You don't worship anyone other than the living God.

Secondly, you don't worship the living God any other way than the way in which he said, and so on. And we love our neighbor as ourself. What does that mean?

The last six commandments answer that question. If I'm going to love my neighbor as myself, it's going to mean something practical. It means something very practical. It means you don't sleep with a lady next door unless she happens to be your wife and move next door.

All right? It means you don't rip your boss off and steal stuff out of the office. It means you don't fiddle your income tax. It means you don't drive around your neighborhood resenting the fact that your car is the smallest car in the neighborhood, and everyone else has a bigger house and put an extension on the back, and you didn't get one. It means something really practical. You see, to love your neighbor as yourself doesn't just mean having a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach. That may only have to do with pizza.

That's not necessarily loving. Okay? So, I want you to understand, any of you who have come with a notion, and many will have, that in the Old Testament we have the Ten Commandments, but somehow or another those got blown out, and now we just have two new ones.

No. What Jesus was saying is expounded in the Ten Commandments. Okay? Third thing to say, in general, is that the Ten Commandments are not a ladder up which we climb to acceptance with God. If you went in the street and said to somebody, How do you think you can ever get to heaven? One of the classic responses will be, Obey the Ten Commandments. Okay?

Try your best. Do the things that God said. Where are they said? Well, they're said in the Ten Commandments. But in point of fact, what we discover is that the Ten Commandments are not a ladder up which we climb to acceptance with God, but they're rather a mirror in which we see ourselves. Because when we read these commandments, we realize we've got a problem. For example, commandment number one that we're about to deal with now. We're supposed to have no other gods before God.

That's tough. You put your girlfriend before God any time this past seven days, guys? Put your boss before God?

Put your marriage before God? When I read the Ten Commandments, it's like a mirror. I go, Whoa, I didn't know that was on my face. Isn't that embarrassing when you've got something on your face and you don't know? And even your best friends won't tell you? I remember in Scotland, I was visiting some old ladies, and I was taking them flowers.

They seemed old at the time, they were probably only forty. And I was visiting, and somehow or another, I got the pollen on my fingers, and I was driving my car, I rubbed my face. I walked in, proud as punch, gave her the flowers, sat down, had a cup of tea, read the Bible, prayed with her, and everything else. Largest life. I came out, and as I looked in my rearview mirror to drive away, I said, Holy smoke, I didn't really have that all over my face.

Why would she never tell me? Once you see in the mirror, you find out what's going on. And see, here in these Ten Commandments, we look in the mirror.

That's why a lot of people don't want to deal with them. And the mirror shows us we're dirty. And you can't wash your face in the mirror. So it sends us to the solution to the problem we've encountered.

So, don't anybody go out of here this morning saying, I've got it clear. There are Ten Commandments, you try and do them. If you do them, God likes you. If you don't do them, God hates you. And the way to really make God like you is obey the Ten Commandments.

No. What the Ten Commandments do is say, Hey, I got a problem. And they don't answer the problem. Therefore, I must go look for an answer.

And you don't have to look far as you'll find out. The fourth thing to say is this, that the impact of the Ten Commandments on the unbeliever is to bring restraint in the civil realm. In other words, in the realm of politics and in democracy. Both Britain and America share this insofar as the Ten Commandments have largely framed the basis of their laws. And the Ten Commandments are there to restrain evil. If you think about it, there is no way to restrain evil unless a society embraces a moral consensus. As soon as the society decides that it doesn't matter if you kill people, then it's the Wild West.

As soon as the society decides that it doesn't matter if you steal, then it's all shot. And the Ten Commandments have framed in Western culture the basis largely of the civil jurisdiction of our day. Fifthly, the Ten Commandments exist to bring about conviction in the theological realm.

I've largely said that in terms of referring to them as a mirror. In other words, it is there that we find out that we're not all that we thought we were. And the sixthly, for the believer, for those who are trusting in Christ, the Ten Commandments are there not in order to enable us to meet requirements for God—because Jesus is the only one that can meet those requirements—but in order to enable us to walk in the fullness and freedom that our Heavenly Father intends.

This is how it is. All of humanity has God's eternal law written in its conscience. Every man or woman, boy or girl, is made as a moral being. They know things are right, and they know things are wrong.

It is not simply environmental. They know instinctively. God has written it into conscience. But the law of God is only written on the hearts of those who trust in Christ. And until I come to trust in Christ, the law of God only convicts me and only condemns me. So if you keep coming here, and you are living outside of a personal relationship with God in Christ, this series in the Ten Commandments is either gonna drive you far away from this building, or it is, God willing, gonna drive you to the wonderful discovery of faith in Christ. Because the law of God is written in your conscience, but it's not written in your heart. As sinners, we break the law of God. We don't delight in the law of God. It is only when he writes it in our hearts that we say, I delight to do your will, O Lord. I delight to obey you. Your paths are the paths of righteousness, and all your ways are peace. More to be desired than gold are your laws and your statutes. They rejoice my hearts.

That is a radical transformation. And for the believer, that's what the Ten Commandments are. The law of God shows me I'm a sinner, sends me to Christ for salvation. Christ returns me to the law in order to frame my way of life.

The Spirit of God works within my heart, says, Come on now, you want to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and your mind, your strength. How do I do it? The first four commandments. And your neighbor is yourself.

How do I do it? The last six commandments. Now, having said all of that, let me say a couple of things about God with a large G, gods with a wee G, and then a point or two of application.

Okay? Number one, God with a large G. I am, he says, the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods. The preamble, you see, is vital to understanding the laws, in the same way that the preamble of the Constitution is a very important preamble, because it sets up what is about to follow. We, the people of the United States of America, believing that this and this and this and this and this, do hereby do this.

See? And so what happens with the Ten Commandments is people unearth them from the context. Only here is the you shall divorced from the I am.

And it is the I am that gives foundation to the you shall. I remember 1972, I was standing on a wall in Trafalgar Square. There was a huge mass of people there. It was a Festival of Light rally.

Thousands of people from all over Great Britain had come to stand around the statue there of Nelson in Trafalgar Square. And I was standing up on a wall as a vantage point. I heard a voice behind me saying, Get down from the wall. I spun around, I said, Who says? That wasn't smart.

The man was dressed in blue, and he had a helmet that went up like this. It wasn't one of my buddies that said, Get down. It was the law. And this is what he said, I am the policeman. You shall get down. Okay?

Now, God, you see, is the one who says, I am God, and because I am, you shall. Now, the problem for us in our arrogant little tyrannies in which most of us live is that we don't like anybody telling us what to do. Anybody. We don't want our moms and dads to do it. We don't want our bosses to do it. We don't want our teachers to do it. We don't want policemen to do it. We don't want anyone to do it. And the reason that we're such a rebellious group of people is because we haven't settled it at the level of commandment number one. The reason for the incipient rebelliousness that pervades our culture is because we've missed it here, back here.

We get this right, then other things fall into place. You see, I am your mom, you shall clean your room. Answer? I don't care. Because all authority is derived from the authority of Almighty God, who says, I am God, therefore you shall. Now, let's say these couple of things about God. Why should we put God first? Answer? Because of who he is.

Because of who he is. What we have here in Scripture is the statement that God has revealed himself, that he is the creator. The heavens declare the glory of God on the firmament, show us his handiwork. You look up at the ceiling, and it's fantastic, right? You look up at this, and you say, I can't believe they managed to get all those lights in, in symmetry, and they come on, and they go off, and you say, there's somebody really smart did this.

And rightly so. You stand out on a starlit night and look up into the vastness. And in your heart, because God has set eternity in your hearts, you're saying to yourself, somebody bigger than me did this. The psalmist says, Psalm 100 verse 3, Know ye that the LORD he is God? It is he who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

That is why, you see, since the tail end of the nineteenth century, with the shakiness of German theology that fed its way into Britain and into the United States, and at the same time the accompanying influence of Darwin, we have had for basically this whole century a declining commitment, an exponentially declining commitment, to the truth of the creative handiwork of God. So that while men and women are prepared to talk about God, they are not talking about a God who made them. And that is the only God about which the Bible speaks. Know ye that the LORD he is God?

It is he who has made us. We may need to adjust our thinking when it comes to the Ten Commandments. They're not intended as a ladder to climb, to gain God's acceptance. The Ten Commandments are more like a mirror that reflects our need for a Savior.

You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Reading the Bible can be challenging for many reasons. First, it was written thousands of years ago. And second, the cultures it references are vastly different from our own. And third, the original text was penned in languages that are unfamiliar to most of us. So how can we fully understand what the Bible teaches?

Well, the book Read This First, written by Alistair's friend and fellow pastor Gary Millar, explains how to prevent these obstacles from getting in our way as we read God's Word. Request your copy of the book Read This First when you give a donation to Truth for Life. Go to slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O.

Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Join us again tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message when we'll find out why even good things and good people can interfere with or compromise our relationship with God. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-18 01:12:36 / 2023-03-18 01:21:57 / 9

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