Dateline: 5 April 2015
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Do you know the 9th Commandment?
Were you to ask the average evangelical Christian that question, he would be hard-pressed to come up with the answer. And he surely would not be able to recite all ten of the Commandments. I say this with some certainty because, from my teen years on, I’ve attended evangelical churches, and the Ten Commandments were not much of a focus.
I recall once when the church I attended was putting some effort into having everyone (kids and adults together) learn all 66 books of the Bible in order. That was a good thing to learn. And then they put a similar effort into having everyone learn the 10 plagues of Egypt (from the book of Exodus). But, oddly, there was no learning of the 10 Commandments (also found in Exodus).
I realize now that some churches (like the Reformed Presbyterians) have a catechism that they use to teach the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and the 10 Commandments are certainly part of the catechism. But the Baptist and Pentecostal fellowships I’ve been familiar with do not have anything to do with catechisms. I think that is a real mistake on their part.
Anyway, I was around 45 years old when I started feeling very strongly that, instead of having a vague recollection of the 10 Commandments, I needed to know them, and know them with certainty.
More importantly, I was feeling like I had really dropped the ball when it came to teaching my three sons about the Bible. I should have done more. Time was running out…. they were growing up. Children get to an age when they don’t listen to you (their parent) like they once did. My oldest son had gotten to that age. So I wanted to teach my sons the 10 Commandments too.
When opportunities to teach your young children the fundamentals of your Christian faith have passed you by, and you realize that you have not fully embraced the opportunities you once had, you have regrets. Don’t let this happen to you.
My hope, personally, is that my own failures in this regard will be somewhat offset by the fact that I am not a fake Christian, which is to say, I don’t put on a Christian act in church on Sunday and then live differently at home. Kids can see right through hypocrisy, especially of their own parents, and I’m of the mind that such hypocrisy can be an enormous stumbling block when it comes to children following their parents in the faith.
I do not say that (last paragraph) to insinuate that I’m super pious because, God knows, I’m not. But I do have a sincere desire to grow in my faith and be a godly man. And, the fact is, I speak to God daily.
That said, I feel I should acknowledge that many non-Christians are under the impression that those who follow Jesus Christ think they are morally superior to those who reject Jesus Christ. That’s an unfortunate impression that is fostered, I’m sure, by some so-called Christians who actually do think that.
But no true follower of Jesus Christ should ever think themselves morally superior to non-believers. On the contrary, true Christians realize full well that they are morally bankrupt sinners in need of a savior, and they have come to Christ, knowing He is their only hope.
So the difference between Christians and non-Christians is not one of moral superiority, it is one of moral reality, and one of seeing Jesus Christ for who He is.
It is unfortunate that most non-believers judge Christianity by the actions of some people who claim to be Christians. It is unfortunate because, as we all know, so many who claim the name of Christ do not live Christlike lives. So it is true that some Christians give Christianity a bad name, and the non-believing world likes to make hay with this reality (while totally ignoring the good that so many Christians have done because of their faith). But it is also true that (please read this carefully…) coming to conclusions about the truth of Christianity by looking at anything other than the claims and actions of Jesus Christ is a serious mistake.
The 10 Commandments, also known as God’s law, are integral to Christianity because the Bible clearly teaches that there are only two ways for anyone to know God, have a relationship with Him, and avoid an eternity separated from Him. The fundamental problem being, our sin separates us from God.
The first way to know God is to follow His law perfectly. If you could do that, you would be holy, as God is. Personally, I’m not capable of that standard of perfection, and I don’t know anyone who is. The only other option (as explained in the Bible) for being acceptable in God’s eyes, and having a relationship with him, is through Jesus Christ. Jesus, himself said (in John 14:6) that no man comes to the Father except through him (Jesus).
This first essay in what I expect will be a short series on learning the 10 Commandments is being posted on Easter day. How appropriate. This is the day that so many celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was, you will recall, brutally killed three days days prior to his resurrection. Why was he killed? Well, it was part of the plan God developed to deal with sin and bring mankind back into proper relationship to Himself.
Jesus, God incarnate, would come to earth as a lowly man, live a perfect life, and be killed to atone for the sins of all who would believe on Him. So those who believe on Christ, and repent (turn away from) their sins, are reconnected to God the father in an amazing act of divine mercy. Those who come to God the Father, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have been redeemed; They have been bought back by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Their sin no longer separates them from God. They are forgiven. They are, as the Bible says, “in Christ.” When this happens, everything changes, everything is new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17)
Did Jesus have to do this? No. The Bible says he did it out of love and out of obedience to his Father. It’s a remarkable story. It’s a life-changing reality. This is why those who follow Jesus Christ see God as a loving Father. The non-Christian world questions and judges God for the bad things all around us: “How could God allow those things to happen?”
What the unbelievers fail to see, or understand, or accept, is that God’s love has been manifested towards them in a profound way through the life and death of Jesus.
Luke 13 has a pretty interesting verse wherein Jesus answers questions about some people who had been killed (by a tower falling on them, in one instance). He didn’t offer explanations or justifications for why these things happened. He simply said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Jesus spoke with the authority of God. He never justified himself. God is under no obligation to justify himself to his created beings. And, like the potter over the clay, all of creation is His to do with as He pleases, for His own good reasons and purposes. That is the reality of the human situation. But, in the midst of this reality, God offers something to his rebellious created beings. He offers His love, in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. And for those who see and accept this love, he tells us, through Paul the apostle…
“I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In other words, no matter what life “throws at us,” God is with those who know Him (through Christ) as their Lord. He promises never to leave or forsake His people through the temporary troubles of this life. Then there is eternity, and it is a blessed eternity that awaits those who have “called upon the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13).
What I have just written is the fundamental essence of Christianity. It is what I believe. I’ve come to realize more and more lately that this belief, which is so simple, and true, and life-changing to me, is something strange and alien to so many others around me.
God made us in His image, and he made us to have fellowship with Him. We are as much spiritual creatures as we are physical. There is, within the human heart, a deep yearning for spiritual re-connection to God. It is this re-connection that gives meaning and purpose to our being; that answers the universal question: “Why am I here?”
Now, to bring this full circle and sum up my meandering thoughts, the 10 Commandments show us what God expects of us, and they show us that we can never measure up to God’s expectations. But Jesus Christ made all the difference. God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation (from the wages of sin, as explained in Romans 6:23) came together in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He did not stay in the grave. He is alive. And that is what Easter is supposed to be about.
My next essay in this series will focus on a unique (and fun) method I used to teach myself (and my children) how to remember the Ten Commandments, starting with the 9th Commandment. This technique involves the “nine tree” pictured at the top of this page. Stay tuned…