Dear Church Family,

This coming Sunday morning we come back to the Ten Commandments series that we began in January. The last commandment we examined was the 6th commandment: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:14). However, this was 18 weeks ago and so it will be helpful to just have a reminder of what the purpose of the Ten Commandments are and how we apply them in our world today.

Each sermon has been looking at the Ten Commandments in the following way to help us understand them. There are four words that the Ten Commandments show us, which are foundational as we look at each of them:

  • Freedom - What God wants for you
  • Failure - What we have failed to do
  • Fulfilment  - What Jesus has done for you
  • Future - What God will do in you

Freedom

It is really important to understand the context of The Ten Commandments. They were given after the Exodus from Egypt. Israel had been in slavery to an oppressive enemy and through Moses, God delivered them and was bringing them into the land of promise. (If this sounds familiar, it is because we have been seeing it in the book of Judges - oppressive enemies that God delivers us from). It is interesting to note in the Exodus story why God freed Israel. Notice the following two verses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and say to him, This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me (Exodus 8:1 also cf. Exodus 9:1)

They were set free to worship God. This means that worshipping God is true freedom, the Israelites were set free to live free and what does freedom look like? The Ten Commandments. They free us because they are given by a loving creator and Father who is showing His children what they were made for. This chimes with what we have been hearing in Ephesians 4:17 onwards - how we are no longer in the kingdom of darkness but are free now “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” - a new set of clothes that is made to measure. So the Ten Commandments are not arbitrary rules from a distant God that restrict us, but are loving instructions from our Father on how to flourish in His world.

This is why the Psalmist can write: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” Psalm 119:97 - It is loved because we flourish under the freedom of the law of God.

However, the problem we all face is that rather than live in that freedom we have all failed...

Failure

One common mistake is that we can look at the Ten Commandments as a check list that we can tick of and think that God is pleased with us. But we can’t tick them off because we have failed in all of them. As we go through the Bible we find that the commandments are far deeper than we think - for example we may think we have never murdered until we see in the New Testament Jesus telling us that anger in our heart is murder. 

As we have gone through the first six commandments we should have recognised our failure in this. We fail because of idolatry - we worship other gods. Underneath all of the commandments we see idols that we worship - for example we have seen that we dishonour parents because we worship the idol of independence and we murder when we worship the idol of “my rights”.

This failure before a Holy God drives us to Jesus, the one who is the fulfilment of all the Commandments.

Fulfilment

Jesus said these words in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Matthew 5:17)

Jesus obeyed the law completely and perfectly. He lived out God’s standard in a way that you never can because you are born with a sin nature.

Jesus took our punishment for failing the law when he died on the cross. He could do this as a substitute because he had obeyed it. So salvation means that Jesus takes our failure and the punishment of it upon himself AND it means that all the blessings that he deserves for obeying - relationship with God and eternal life - are given to us.

That is the gospel - Jesus fulfils the law for us because we never can. But the gospel goes further than that…

Jesus saves us from sin, which is slavery, so that we can be free. And he frees us by enabling us to live out the commands which the free person lives. And that leads us onto our final word that shows us what the law does:

Future

Even as Christians, although we know that these commands free us to live for God, we still have battles to keep them. We still fight against sin in our lives and hear the voice of the evil one telling us that these commands steal our joy. 

In the Old Testament God promised his people that the law would be written on the hearts of his people (Jeremiah 31:33). That is a heart that will be changed so much that what will flow from a person naturally will be God’s standards, and this process is ongoing. As Christians God the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us and gives us the power to live God’s way. So we are set free and enabled by God’s power to live free. Over our lives the Christian is growing into the image of Christ and once we reach glory these commands will be perfectly fulfilled in us because we will no longer sin. 

A different way we can also look at the commandments are as promises from God that we can claim. Because God is working in us to make us more like Jesus we can claim this:

  • “You shall have no other gods before me” - there will be a time when this will no longer be a problem for you.
  • “You shall not murder” 
  • “You shall not commit adultery”
  • “You shall not covet”

And so on… all of this will be no longer a problem for us because God is at work in us and will complete that work. And that gives us great hope to keep obeying, because we know we are on the way to fulfilling them perfectly.

As we prepare for the next few Sunday’s let us pray for hearts that can say with the Psalmist: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long”

With love,

Steve


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