The First Commandment says nothing should take God's place. At first glance, that seems like an easy law for Christians to uphold. But today on Truth for Life, we'll learn how even good things can displace God in our hearts and minds.
Here's part two of a message titled Who Takes First Place? Alistair Begg is teaching from Exodus chapter 20 and verse 3. This God, says the writer in Deuteronomy, is unique. Deuteronomy chapter 4 and verse 39. You should turn to it if you would like to see it.
This is very important when you're talking to your friends. Deuteronomy 4 39, this is what God says, But acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. I am so sick of this Mother Earth junk. I'm fed up with it. I'm fed up with these people on channel 3, 5, and 8 sitting there as if they were in charge of the weather. Or they're in touch with somebody who's in charge of the weather. Well, Mother Nature will be shining on the air show this afternoon. Oh, yeah?
It's bogus. Listen. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above.
He makes it rain, he makes it drought. And he's in charge on the earth below. There is no other. There's nobody else.
There's no one else. Now, you see, that immediately backs you into a corner, doesn't it? Because our culture says, We don't mind you having a God, providing you've just got a God. But we don't want you coming here with the the God story. See, we can have the a God story, but not the the God story. Because after all, this is the realm of competition. And as long as we have a McDonald's, we don't have a Burger King.
As long as you have a Burger King, you have the right to have an Arby's. And in the same way we talk God, everybody says something a little stall. You go to the average university, they've got all their little deities set up. And the last thing in the world you want to do is to be thought some kind of obscurantist freak who says, You know, I think Deuteronomy 4.39 has got something to say here. There is no other rather than the God who made us.
And because of that, he says in verse 40, Keep his decrees and his commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. In other words, I'm God. I thought it up. This is how you should do it. Do this, and it's really good. But if you want to bring home a tumble dryer and try and mix concrete for a new patio in the back of your house, that's not a smart idea.
There is not a tumble dryer made that will do that job the way that the concrete mixer is supposed to do it, and I don't suggest that you put your laundry in a concrete mixer. Why? Because it wasn't put together for that. This God that we worship is Creator. He is unique. As we saw in a previous study, he is plural, he's powerful, he's perfect, and he's praiseworthy.
You should write those four things down. Perfect doctrine of God. All you need to do, then, is go and find the whole Bible explaining those four words. The God that we worship, the God who reveals himself here, in Exodus chapter 2, is plural.
In other words, he is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The cults can't do anything with that. They don't have the idea of a trinity. Hinduism says there have been many avatars.
Christianity says God has revealed himself only once. Both Hinduism and Christianity cannot both be right. One is wrong. Judaism says that God is totally monotheistic.
He is Yahweh, he is Jehovah. Christianity says Jesus is God. We cannot both be right. Islam says this. Buddhism says that. Christianity says something.
We cannot both be right. The hundred-year convocation of the religions of the world got off to a flying start. Everybody said, What a wonderful time we're going to have! Here's little Johnny with his idea, and Fred, and Billy, and they're all here. Mary as well.
And one thinks that God is the Father, one thinks it's the Mother, one thinks God is monotheistic, and he's a trinity. Oh, it's going to be wonderful, says the writer at the beginning of the week, when we all get together and discover that we all believe the same thing. Did you read the articles about Thursday, Friday?
It was fantastic! The Muslims were kicking up a right shindig with the Buddhists. The Buddhists were blowing out the Hare Krishnas. The Hare Krishnas were ticked off with somebody else, and the whole thing was a major dog's breakfast. It was proving the stupidity of it all. And, says the writer, although they agree the thing is messed up, they cannot agree on the solution.
Of course they can't! Because this is God's infallible truth. Because God, as he reveals himself, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is one in essence.
They are coequal from all of eternity. He is the triune God. He is plural. He is powerful.
He speaks, and it happens. He is perfect. He is without flaw.
He is self-existent. And he is worthy of our praise. All that men would not say hasn't nature been good to us, but all that men would say, What a wonderful, almighty God who has chosen to do these things!
Now, you see, that only happens by grace. By nature, man is confused. Now, why is this important? Well, it's important for multiple reasons, despite the fact that all these people go to church.
Let me quote you. Although ninety-five percent of Americans say they believe in God, it is by no means clear that they acknowledge the God of biblical revelation. Who speaks to them from beyond himself and awakens in men and women a sense of dependency, a sense of moral unworthiness, and a sense of obligation to do his will?
See? So they say, Well, I want to get religious, and I want to come to church. Okay, come along to church.
This is Parkside Church. Well, what's it like? Well, it's like a lot of things. Yeah, but, I mean, what'll happen if I come in there? I mean, will I feel good? Well, what do you mean? I mean, will the seats feel comfortable?
The seats are comfortable. Yeah, but will I feel like I'm a good guy? No, probably not. Not unless your wife tells you you're a good guy or one of your friends or something else. If the Bible speaks that way, then you'll feel great. But if the Bible says you're a bad guy, you're gonna feel like a bad guy.
And guess what? If you don't like feeling like a bad guy, you're never coming back. Because if your view of God is that he exists to make you feel like a good guy, the only place you're ever gonna go and worship is someplace where God fits your bill. And men and women today are unwilling to admit what they have to admit to start a relationship with God at all.
Number one, I'm a sinner. Americans that I talk to use the word God with a large G to refer to a general principle of good in life. God is a cosmic principle, or God is a force, or God is whatever you want him to be. But the idea that God is self-existent and he is to be feared and he is to be loved is nowhere in the reckoning.
So we've got a paradox. And that is that while a knowledge of this God of the Bible and a knowledge of the Bible and a commitment to the core beliefs of historic Christianity, while all of those things plummet, America remains one of the most religious countries in the world. But at the expense of truth, at the expense of the God of Revelation, at the expense of the reality of Scripture, at the expense of a commitment to the core beliefs that have underpinned all that built this place on the foundation on which it now stands, we're on shaky ground. That's why I say to you, these are days of great opportunity. To talk to our friends in these lines, to engage them in conversation.
Enough of this being known as a bunch of crazy people waving things and tramping around. We meet people one at a time. Their lives are their lives. There's good, there's bad, there's problems, there's success, there's questions, there's everything. By and large, many of them are confused.
Some have a background that is understanding these things, some of them come from nowhere. Slogans are not going to do it. Trite expressions of the religious right will not transform men and women's lives. It's going to take a painstaking commitment to engage in dialogue concerning truth, concerning God, concerning the Bible. And, loved ones, I say to you this morning, you cannot do that unless you learn your Bible, unless you know the truth, and unless you're sensitive to those things. So when you say to people, you know, we had this thing on the Ten Commandments. Someone's going to say, oh, blooming Ten Commandments, isn't that a drag? Well, you can say, well, the sermon was a bit of a drag, but the Ten Commandments, they're not. No, they're okay.
Why is that? And then you can start to tell them. Tell them that we must do this because of who God is and because of what God's done. Isn't that what he says here in Exodus 20? He says, the reason I want you to do this is because I redeemed you. I redeemed you. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. And having brought them out, he gave them the law.
Why? To redeem them? No, to frame their way of life. What has happened to us? 1 Peter 1, verses 18 and 19, check them, you'll find it. He says, we haven't been redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold. We have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. We have been set free, realizing we're unable to keep God's standard, casting ourselves upon God so that Christ would give to us what we do not deserve.
Then, having been redeemed, we want to find out how to live. And number one, you shall have no other gods before me. Okay, well, let's finally talk about gods with a small g. What does it mean, you shall have no other gods before me? Or in your translation, it might read, besides me? Well, it would be like taking a second wife while your first wife is still alive and well and happy to be your wife.
It would be the breach of an exclusive relationship. And God says, I am in an exclusive relationship with you, I have pursued you, I have redeemed you, I am your wife, and therefore, you shouldn't have any other gods that take my place. Now, we need to realize—and we'll say this again and again going through these Ten Commandments—that the commandments are not restricted to outward actions, but they are also relating to the disposition of our minds and our hearts. I don't know about you, but I think I come to the first commandment, and I look at this, and I picture scenes from subcontinent of the world, with people dancing around poles or bowing down before statutes or going through elaborate incantations and rituals and mantras and so on, and I say, Oh man, I'm glad I was born where I was born, so we don't have to really worry about the first commandment!
Because we're not into any of that stuff! I mean, we've got the first commandment down! You shall have no other gods before me!
Got it! We don't have any of those dumb gods! None of those idols, none of that stuff! We're not burning all that tissue paper like on the streets of Hong Kong! We're not taking perfectly good apples and oranges and leaving them there to rot, waiting for the little deity to come by and feeling like a Granny Smith some afternoon! We're not that stupid! We don't do that stuff! We've got it down!
Hey, wait a minute before you go too quickly! You see, in paganism, the reason that they do all of those things in relation to God is because they believe that God exists for them. And so if they will do something for it, or him, or her, then he in turn will do something for them. So therefore, we come along and we do our little ceremonies. And then we seek to make God obligated to us. We say our mantras, then God fills in for us. We do our incantations, and then God does something for us. That's the view of paganism.
Did you hear what I said? That's the view of paganism! That's the view of secular America!
We don't know who it is, but we figure he's up there somewhere, and if we don't want to find out what you're supposed to do, then we can obligate him or her or it to us, and God will be well with us. So before we start congratulating ourselves that we've got TVs and we've got computers, therefore, presumably we don't have a problem with these gods with a small g. Listen, all of these things, all of the advances in technology and all of the improvements for which we're thankful cannot mask the deep foolishness and immaturity that pervades our culture. Think about the best campuses now in the American university context. Those that are on the forefront, what are they doing? They're establishing professorial chairs for earth cults, for feminine deities, and for New Age nonsense.
I mean, just get their brochures and check. Just check, and you'll find out it's true. What? The people who put the man on the moon are thinking about worshiping the earth? All these scientific rationalists who woke up one morning at the end of the nineteenth century and realized how smart they could be are talking about worshiping some kind of feminine female god deity? Yeah.
Why? Because when men and women cease to believe in the God of Revelation, they don't believe in nothing. They start to believe in everything.
And that's where we are. It's not that men and women don't believe in God. It is that they believe in gods. And any belief in we gods means that we're not believing in the God of Revelation. And so this morning, if the cap fits, let's wear it. Think of those of us even who profess faith in Jesus Christ, and we would want to go out and say, Oh yeah, we've got this one really buttoned down.
We understand this. We're not going to put any other gods in God's place. Can I ask you, do you have a comprehensive understanding of the rule of God within your life?
I'm not asking you divorce from me. I've been asking myself the question this week. Is God in charge of your Mondays? Do you have a view of God in charge of your work? Or is work another department, under the control of a different head of the department, namely, another little deity? Is God in control of your relationships, of your comings and goings, of your dating game? Or is that actually in the department of another little deity? Is God in charge of the success quotient of your life and of mine, of our aspirations and our dreams, of our apparent successes, of our amassing of things and of stuff?
Is this God of Revelation in charge, or have we delegated it to subdeities? To the degree that I allow anyone else or anything else to enable me to make my decisions, which I ought to make simply in obedience to God, I am violating the first commandment. When I put my job and the privileges of my task before God himself, I have begun to worship the privilege of preaching. When you worship your family as if you were going to have your family forever, you are no longer worshiping God. I want to go so far as to say that when you or I put our families, no matter how much we feel the right to be committed to our families in places that is God's alone, then we just violated the first commandment.
Or your wife, or your husband, or your girlfriend, or the one you're going to marry, or your job. Let me end by turning you just to two verses in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 9 and Joshua 24. God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah, and he says, I'm commanding you today, if you want to start boasting, to make sure that you don't boast about these few things. Verse 23, this is what the Lord says, Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches. But let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness and justice and righteousness on the earth.
For in these I delight, declares the Lord. Is it right to be physically fit? Definitely.
Do we really need to stand in front of those mirrors all the time, preening ourselves? Probably not. Is recreation wrong? Definitely not. Is golf good?
Depends how you play. But whenever even good things and good people take my heart, then I have ceased from obeying the first commandment. The final verse is in the book of Joshua, and in verse 24. Joshua 24.
You know the situation well? The covenant has been reviewed, Joshua has rehearsed the way that God has led his people out, he's given them a land, and he's done all these things for them, and then Joshua stands them up and he says, Now listen, verse 14, Fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.
Because the fact of the matter is, we'll serve something, or we'll serve someone. And every one of us, when we walk out these doors this morning, we go out to serve and worship. We worship at all kinds of shrines and in all kinds of ways, and the question is, are you gonna worship the living God? Are you gonna serve these other gods? Choose whether you will serve God or whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river are the gods of the Amorites in whose land you're living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Can I ask you this morning, where are you in relationship to this first commandment?
God's law has been written on all of our consciences, but only in Christ is it written on our hearts. Ask yourself in this dying moment, Who's in charge of my life? Who's on the throne of my life? Who calls the shots in my life? Who takes first place in my life? I am the LORD your God, he says.
You shall have no other gods before me. You're listening to Truth for Life, that's Alistair Begg explaining why it's so important we consider who is really in charge of our lives. Alistair will be back to close with prayer in just a minute, so please keep listening.
If you're uncertain about your answer to the vital question about who is in charge of your life, we want to invite you to visit the Learn More page on our website. There you will find a couple of short videos. There's one of Alistair explaining the gospel and why we serve Christ as Lord and Savior. The other video is an animated explanation of God's plan for salvation called The Story.
You can view them both at truthforlife.org slash learn more. The book we're recommending today is a book written by Alistair. It dives deeper into the teaching in this series on the Ten Commandments. The book is titled Pathway to Freedom, How God's Laws Guide Our Lives, and in it Alistair explains why God's commandments remain matchless and universal today.
He dedicates a chapter to each commandment so we can read a clearer understanding of what God requires and learn God's law isn't meant to constrain us in shackles but to guide us to true freedom. Pathway to Freedom will challenge you to think long and hard about the significance of God's instruction. Request your copy of the book today when you make a donation to support this daily program.
Give online at truthforlife.org slash donate. And because God's law is so foundational to our faith, all 12 messages from this series are available for you to own on a USB drive titled Pathway to Freedom. There's also a corresponding study guide designed to help you think more deeply about how to apply God's law to your life. The audio messages and study guide can be used for personal study but let me suggest to you this is a series that's great for group discussion would be a terrific benefit to young adults many of whom have never stopped to fully consider the Ten Commandments. Find the USB and the study guide at truthforlife.org slash store. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father look upon our hearts today you know as you made us we don't want to pretend before you we don't want to play at church we don't want to be simply slogan ears walking out from here we want your truth to take root in our hearts we want to hear your word in the Bible we want to understand it and we want to live it we want you to help us to get rid of little gods that we've begun to include in our thinking gods of our looks of our ego of our success of our acquisitions help us Lord not to worship there and then help us tomorrow when we feel like worshiping there again to remember that we said today that we didn't want to worship there help us to help one another in this because all of us are learners from the one who knows the answers and made a love of the Lord Jesus draw us to himself made a joy of the Lord Jesus give us strength to obey his commands and may the peace of the Lord Jesus keep our hearts and minds today and forevermore amen I'm Bob Lapine in addition to worshiping the one true God it's imperative that we worship him correctly find out how we do that and why when you join us tomorrow the Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living you
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