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Jen Wilkin: Rules, Reexamined

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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October 25, 2022 3:00 am

Jen Wilkin: Rules, Reexamined

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 25, 2022 3:00 am

Best-selling author & Bible teacher Jen Wilkin chats about the 10 Commandments. Could God's law open a window to who he really is & our eternal reality?

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So when we first started dating, I remember going into your house and seeing this picture of Jesus above your fireplace. And I had heard you mention that, even when we had talked about this picture of Jesus, because it was incredibly intimidating to you.

Why? Because it was scary to me. It was like this holy Jesus with long flowing hair.

There's sort of a halo effect. It was praying hands, Jesus, I think. I just felt like I was afraid of the living room because I felt like he's looking at me. Oh, when you were little, growing up in the 60s.

Yeah, I'd walk in there. He was a God of wrath. He was a God of holiness. He was the God of the Ten Commandments. He was- Judgment. Scary.

And I do remember when I became a teenager and I was not making good decisions like I knew I should. My mom had taught me well. I'd been dragged to church by her almost my whole life.

I literally would walk through there and feel like his eyes just followed me. It wasn't, I'm delighted in you. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. The other thing you used to think about God was you thought he was like whack-a-mole. Yeah. The game whack-a-mole that if you had anything good happen or happy, he would whack you. If you sang a song that wasn't praising him, you know, that was my view.

And some of that was tied to the law, the Ten Commandments. And so we're going to talk about that again today with Jen Wilkin. She is back with us. Thanks for being here, Jen.

Thanks for having me. And you've written a book, obviously, about the Ten Commandments. I love that it's called The Ten Words to Live By.

Yeah, I like that too. I'll ask you where that title came from. But you have a phrase in the subtitle that's exactly what we're getting at here today, delighting in and doing what God commands. I mean, when you think of the Ten Commandments, you don't think delighting in. And I know you've been a women's Bible teacher for years, married, kids, a lot of kids, got a full house.

And yet you talk about the law of God. And as I read it, I'm not kidding. I've preached on the Ten Commandments. This is one of the best books I've ever read. You have a lot of new perspectives and teaching on it. Oh, yeah.

It's very beautiful. I mean, I couldn't put it down. I was like, I wish I'd read this before I did my little series on the Ten Commandments. Then you could have copied it.

Yeah, I could have copied it. But when you think about the law, where does the word delight come from? Because again, I think a lot of us feel about the law the way I felt about that picture. God's mad. God's angry. The law sort of proves that.

And you're saying, no, it's something too delighted. Well, I actually got it from the Psalms. Psalm 43 says, I delight to do your will, O Lord. Your law is written upon my heart. And it's one of those Psalms that we would understand as a Messianic Psalm.

Those would be the words of Jesus to the Father. So then we have to ask, why is that not our attitude toward the law? Like when we read Psalm 119 and we're like, He's still talking about the law. 120 verses.

We think it's just sort of like, oh, well, thank goodness I don't have to worry about that anymore. And yet what the law is doing is inviting us into relationship with God and others. It is saying, this is the way to live God's way in God's world. And when you believe that God is infinitely good and gracious, then you would expect that His law is those things too. But we've pitted the law against grace so often.

In fact, any time that you start talking about the importance of the law, someone will say, oh, don't talk about the law because you'll have a bunch of legalists. You'll just have a bunch of Pharisees. I always like to point out that the Pharisees were not actually lawful people. They were probably the worst lawbreakers of all because they tried only external obedience with no concern for the internal realities associated with godly obedience, which is adjoining of right motive to right action.

And that's why Jesus speaks so harshly against them. The definition in the New Testament of an unbeliever, the way that the unbeliever is referred to so frequently, is as the lawless man. And so we should not expect that a believer would be characterized by an absence of law. A believer is characterized by lawfulness, being filled with the law, but being filled with a law that is operated in according to the power of the Spirit, which indwells us as children of God. So is there a sense that if I'm a follower of Christ, I delight in the law, but if I'm not, it is burdensome? I will use it one of two ways, right? I will either just break it at every turn to show that I am a law unto myself, or I will use it to self-elevate instead of to magnify the Lord.

Yeah, I have one of my brothers. You know, it's a common thing that people say, I can't go to church. It would crumble. And it's because he feels like I don't keep the law and lawkeepers go to church, lawbreakers stay away. And it really should be the opposite, right? The law can draw us.

It can, and that's one of the things I think that we have lost sight of. Historically in the church, the threefold use of the law has been taught. First, that it's a mirror that shows us our sin. Secondly, that it is a rod that prevents the spread of license. In other words, the reason that you don't speed when you're driving down the road is not just because you know you shouldn't, it's because you know it's dangerous. And so we want everyone to obey the speed limit because it keeps all of us safer. You hear that, honey? You're supposed to obey the speed limit.

I think that that's you she's talking to you. Yeah, so your speedometer, you know, it's a gauge for whether you are obedient or not. But it also shows you how to be in relationship with others by keeping others and yourself safe.

And then your speedometer is also showing you that you are walking in the right path if you are going the speed limit. And that's the way that the law functions for us. But in the life of the believer, the law shows us what is pleasing to the Lord. It shows us how to be holy. Yesterday we talked about how God gave us these Ten Commandments in order for a specific reason. And then we only hit one, you shall have no other gods before me. Let's talk about number two, even the order that you shall not make for yourselves a carved image. Yeah, you shall not make for yourselves a carved image. You get to it and you're kind of like, wait a minute, didn't we just cover this? Wasn't that what the first one was?

The first one was about. And yet making a carved image is not the same thing as worshiping another god. It is actually a way of taking an idea from creation, something that came from God, and ascribing to it God's character. And of course, this is like the most famously broken of the Ten Commandments in its immediate context. Because even while Moses is receiving the law from God, Israel's down there making a golden calf. And so the issue with making the graven image is that when Aaron sets up the golden calf, he treats it as though it is an image of Yahweh. And the funny thing about the calf, we lack so much natural curiosity in these stories sometimes. We're like, oh, yeah, yeah, I saw that on a felt board that's in the Bible. But like, why a calf?

But the original audience would have known immediately why. Because those who have just come out of Egypt know that Apis is the bull god who's worshiped in Egypt. And those who are going into Canaan would know that Baal is also represented by a bull. And so when Aaron fashions God according to his own image, what does he do? He comes up with a snuggly version of the primary deities of the surrounding areas. And he says, here, here's your bull god, but it's just a calf. It's approachable. It's this little adorable thing, and now let's hold a feast unto Yahweh, which is exactly the way that we— you know, a lot of people get to the second one. They're like, well, great, I don't whittle, so I'm safe. Like, I'm not actually a sculptor or anything like that.

What do we do, though? We pick and choose which attributes of God we like the best. You know, have you ever heard anybody say, oh, I just believe God is a god of love?

Well, yes. He is that, yeah. He is that.

And this tends to fall along, you know, two lines. You either have the god that, you know, your friend who doesn't want to come to church is thinking of, the one whose attributes have been whittled away to where he's only thundering from Mount Sinai. He's God in heaven. Or you have the god who's been whittled down to be Abba, Daddy God, whose lap I snuggle into. And we don't have a sense that he is both of these things.

He is all of these things. And the reason that we are not to make a graven image is because any physical representation of God who is unlimited can only be diminished in the way that it's presented to us. Like, you were even talking about the picture of Jesus that hung in your living room. Now, it is actually not heretical to paint a picture of Jesus because he's an image bearer. He's the perfect image bearer of God. But the reason that we would not want a picture of God the Father or someone to try to paint some version of that is because you can only ever represent him in a way that's going to communicate less than who he is. If you paint him looking slightly grumpy, that's what people believe is true about God. If you paint him with that beatific smile on his face, people will think he always looks like that.

But you don't have to paint or carve anything. We do this, and we have mental exercises around this all the time. People tend to see him as either scary or snuggly, but not necessarily any sort of nuanced version of who he is as he's shown to us throughout the Scriptures.

Yeah, it's interesting. As a pastor, I think we do that all the time. As we preach the Word, we highlight different aspects, and our church is known for this, and it's not a full-orbed, real picture of the attributes of a holy, righteous, grace-giving, personal God. I mean, all those need to be expressed, right? Or else we're sort of doing that. That's right, and the only way you begin to develop a comprehensive vocabulary for what's true about God is to expose yourself to all of Scripture, and we don't often do that.

We want someone to tell us the most interesting parts, and therefore we're operating from whatever the last story is or the most common story is that we've heard brought to our attention. Like, if I've heard one sermon on but God in the New Testament, you know, like, I was just a but God, y'all, but God. And I'm like, well, yes, but that's just one thing that's true about the Lord. You know, that's a focus on His grace and how His grace changes us. But you also have to contend with, really one of the books that I think holds the tension the most beautifully is the book of Hebrews. He's the God who thunders from Mount Sinai.

He's the God who sits enthroned on Mount Zion. We worship in reverence and awe for our God as a consuming fire. Well, it's interesting. I read the Bible through every year. And when I first started doing it, I thought, do I want to read the Old Testament? You know, it's that view of— It's weird. It's scary. Yeah, I don't even understand some of it, and God seems so mean and angry.

And now, I think I'm on year 16, when people say, I don't know if I—I said, no, no, no. Like, the more you read the Old Testament, the more—it makes me weepy thinking about it— the more you discover God's great love for us, of His wing for us, of His pursuing us. And so to read both is like the most beautiful, comprehensive picture of our God. Yeah, that's right. Well, even in the book, this chapter, you call this law undiminished worship.

Why that? Because if you worship a created thing in place of God, you know, even if it's your spouse, what you've done is you've diminished who you believe God to be by looking for who He is in something less than. The other irony of it is, is the reason we don't carve images of God to worship is because there already are images of God that are telling us what's true about Him. That's Genesis 1 26, that He forms the man and the woman after His own image, in His likeness. If you want to look at someone to see what is true about God, we look first to Christ, the firstborn among many brethren. But this is why we want to obey the law, because we also want to be visible demonstrations of what can be known about God, insofar as it's possible with us.

Everybody knows that your lost friend doesn't have any interest in reading a Bible. They're going to look at your life in testimony to see if there's anything different about you. And when we are living according to God's law, again, we're living the way Adam and Eve were created to live. We're living the way that we will live all of eternity. God's law will be perfectly obeyed again, as it was in Eden, before the serpent came. What you're doing is you're actually practicing toward what will be your eternal reality, and you're showing people who are time-bound what it looks like to be a servant of God in perpetuity.

And by the way, Mom or Dad, your kids are watching the same thing your neighbors are watching. They're getting their view of God based on how we live it out. Not that we're going to do it perfectly, but it's that big. And if you're feeling like, I can't do that, I'm failing all the time, we are failing. And yet there's something about bowing before the King of Kings, asking for His power, telling your kids, I mess up all the time, and I need Jesus tremendously. There's a beauty to that as well. If you think I mess up, just look at Mom.

That's actually true. Okay, we've got to go to number three, because again, when I do this thing, so many go down on this one that do not take the Lord's name in vain, and I think we don't really even understand what it means. You understand what it means, so help us. Well, I grew up in the house where I thought if you said a swear word, that the ceiling was going to open up and lightning was going to just strike you. So all props to you, Mom, for driving that home. Especially if you said anything that was a substitute word for God. You know, like, oh my gosh, that was not even a really, that was not really, oh yeah.

Goodness, gee whiz. I mean, if you thought it in your heart, you know. The irony of the Ten Commandment conversation is that we do actually think they're kind of easy. And this one seems kind of easy too, if I just don't swear. But the nature of what's being said is you will not bear up the Lord's name to falsehood.

That's a closer rendering of what is being said there. So, bearing up the name of the Lord. Now, we don't actually understand the significance of the name of the Lord. But the name of the Lord represents in the Bible the sum total of His character.

It's everything that is true about Him. So, like, I don't know if you guys know what your name means. Do you know what your name means? What does your name mean? Grace. Okay, that's good. Do you know what your— David's beloved. Okay, yeah. Mine as well, she means crest of the white wave.

I don't know why that's what it means. Crest of the white wave. Yeah, but if you know, Jennifer, like in the year that I was born, Jennifer was the most popular woman's name in the United States, and it proceeded to stay the most popular name for 18 years. So, like, it was called the Jennifer Epidemic.

Yeah, that's pretty impressive. I have a common name, but the name of the Lord is high and lifted up, and it is holy and it is sacred. My name might say something that's true about me, it might not. You know, names in the Bible typically do. But when we talk about the name of the Lord, we're saying all of the things, the sum total of His character comes to bear on whatever is in view. And so even in the New Testament, when we pray in Jesus' name, it's not just a little magic sprinkle dust thing that you say at the end of a prayer so that it gets God's attention. What you're saying is, in accordance with who you are, may it be so. When we pray in Jesus' name, but we do it sort of like, okay, and now He has to do what I said because I followed the formula, right? Or whatever it is where we say, no, in Jesus' name, I want this to happen, or I claim this in Jesus' name, right? What you're doing is you're saying, now, God, you operate according to my agenda.

So guess what that is? That is taking the Lord's name in vain. Lord, you said that where two or three are gathered, you know, it's like throwing back at Him something. You know, it's like, well, okay. Anytime that you're telling God what He should do, and then say it in Jesus' name, you know.

Or it could be that we misattribute things to His name. Well, God told me that I was supposed to do X, Y, or Z. Or it's always driven me crazy as someone who's always had to have a bunch of volunteers in my ministry to say, hey, could you help with being a greeter next week? And someone would say, well, I'm going to need to pray about that. And then they come back and say, well, I just feel like the Lord's telling me.

And I'm like, okay, you should have just told me no up front, right? But what are you doing? You know, we call it playing the God card. You're attributing something to God.

You're bearing up the name of God to falsehood because you've put Him on your team to establish your own agenda instead of submitting yourself to His. So should we not say in Jesus' name at the end of our prayer? Or how do we pray? You know, should we ask and say, you know, is it just asking God to do something?

Or are you kind of doing the name it and claim it? Well, I think if you believe that by saying it, you have upped your prayer and God's list of things He's going to get to do, then you are thinking about it the wrong way. If you view it as a submission statement, in other words, I submit myself to who God is in His entirety. So like if you think about in the Great Commission, we're supposed to go and make disciples baptizing them in the name, or more precisely into the name is the way that that reads. If you've been baptized into the name, it means now you are under that name's authority. But when we talk about praying in the name of Jesus or when we talk about calling on the name of the Lord, when you call on the name of the Lord, it means you're saying, Lord, in light of who you have shown yourself to be through all time and all human history, now do those things that I've seen you do before and I know you're able to do. That's different than saying, if I tack this on to the end of my prayer, then now you're obligated to me. Can we do another one?

Sure. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. When we think about the Sabbath principle in our current day and age, so often we equate Sabbath with the notion of self-care. Oh, this is big.

Yes, and so I'm not here to dog on self-care, although it needs to be dogged on a little bit, but we'll save that for another time. When it comes to thinking about a practice of Sabbath, if you look at the way the command is worded, it says that not only will you rest, but every person, animal, whatever that labors on your behalf will also rest. When I read that, I remember thinking, I have never thought of that before. Well, and think about how incredible this command is, because the gods of Egypt commanded, labor without rest, and so will the gods of Canaan, but we serve a God who commands that we sit still. And that's just unbelievable.

Think how it would have landed on the ears of people who were coming out of 400 years of slavery. What we so often can forget is that we, too, chase after the pharaohs. We, too, want labor without rest. That's what our whole culture is telling us, that time is money. You've got to keep going.

You've got to keep grinding. And that if you do rest, for many of us, our only concept of rest is a rest in which others serve us while we are resting. But Sabbath rest requires nothing of anyone else for you to enjoy.

So, Jen, how have you guys done that as a family? Because we're living in a day and age when our kids, if they're in any sports, one of the biggest days is Sunday. Is that okay to do? What does it look like to obey this commandment? Well, I do like to avoid getting mired down in whether it's a day of the week or whether it's not, because I think you should care about that, and I think you should have done your homework. Don't just let your pastor or someone else tell you what you think is the right answer to that.

Do your homework on it, and then care a lot about where you land. But what we can clearly see from the earliest pages of Scripture is that God institutes regular rhythms of rest in our lives, and we fail to acknowledge them at our peril because we are created as limited creatures. With our family, it was that. It was making sure that we were actually having time to do nothing. And you think about how important even the command in Deuteronomy 6, which I do not doubt you have talked about multiple times on your program, it assumes that there are times where we are lying down and rising up and sitting together, where there's downtime together. And anyone who has raised a family or who's been in a family, so that's all of us, knows that some of our most formational conversations and moments together have happened during times of stillness.

So we've got to have them. I love this quote. You say, Sabbath is the deliberate cessation of any activity that might reinforce my belief in my own self-sufficiency. I thought that was really good because I've never put that self-sufficiency with that thought. Well, and that's what we're doing when we say, oh, if I quit this job, this whole place is going to fall apart.

And then you're like, oh, they don't even miss me. Two weeks later and our feelings are a little hurt because our view of our own indispensability is a little higher than it probably should be. But I think the other critical piece is this deeper obedience that's being asked of us. And you look at the way that Jesus functions around the Sabbath laws in the New Testament. He heals a man on the Sabbath and he totally enrages the legalists, the key legalists of his day.

And they say, you're not allowed to do that. And he declares himself Lord of the Sabbath and points out what the Sabbath is really for because he grants rest from suffering on the Sabbath to this man. We have to move from simply thinking how can I get rested up to thinking how might I actually be an agent of securing the rest of another? Whether it's rest from a financial burden or rest from unfair labor practices.

Like even if you are thinking about whether you're going to buy the shirt that's ethically sourced or the shirt that's unethically sourced, that can be a Sabbath consideration for us that we're not merely looking for how we receive rest, but how we might make sure that others are granted rest as well. Wow, that's a whole different kind. I mean, it's a communal. It's bigger than me. That's the problem is the more you start meditating on God's law, the bigger it gets.

It doesn't get easier, it gets bigger, but there's more ways to obey, so I guess that's great. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Jen Wilkin on Family Life Today. Coming up, we'll hear Dave share a confession about his view of Sabbath rest.

See if you can relate to it or not. But first, Jen has written a book called Ten Words to Live By, Delighting In and Doing What God Commands. We don't want to live our lives in kind of begrudging submission to God's commands, but instead delight in the law of the Lord. Because when we live by God's commands, as Psalm 19 says, it rejoices our heart.

I genuinely believe that, and that's one of the reasons I love being with Family Life. We authentically believe that following God's Word and God's ways is the absolute best way to live. And when you partner with us, you're literally helping spread that message to homes everywhere. So would you consider partnering with us at Family Life to see the law of the Lord advance in this world and revive marriages and families everywhere?

When you do, we'd love to send you a copy of Jen's book. Again, it's called Ten Words to Live By. It's our way of saying thank you to you when you partner financially today with us.

You can give online at, or you could just give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again, that's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, now back to Dave with an admission about how he sometimes feels about Sabbath rest. For me, often Sabbath rest comes across like, I can't rest because I need to make this dollar. I need to keep working. In other words, I need to take care of myself. And Sabbath rest is a moment of faith to say, he's got me.

It's that self-sufficient speech. I can take this day off. Somebody else may make more money if they keep working, but God, it's like on the sixth day, he gave double manna.

That's right. You don't have to get manna tomorrow. I will provide so much today.

I'll take care of tomorrow. And it's one of those moments where we go, I'm going to trust God. I'm going to obey his law, because I have to, because I want to. It's a beautiful thing. And it is, in some ways, it does help self-care. My body does better. The land does better.

Everybody does better. But the real reason I'm doing it is to say, you know what? I'm going to trust you. You're going to still take care of me. Absolutely. Tomorrow, Jen Wilkin comes on again with Dave and Ann to talk about how to realign with God's law and turn from the sin that creeps up in our lives.

And I know it does for many of us, myself included. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-12 11:43:03 / 2022-11-12 11:55:50 / 13

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