Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9

menatworkWarnings and rules are often created because someone did something which others need to learn from. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.

Like coffee shops now having “Caution: Contents are hot” on their take out coffee cups. Why? Because someone once went through a drive through and spilled their hot coffee in their lap. Since there wasn’t a warning, this person sued the company. So now we need to be told coffee is hot.

People do silly things all the time. We have signs along cliffs saying “stay back” because people have fallen off cliffs.

We also have legitimate rules, don’t speed. Why? Because you could lose control of your vehicle and die. Don’t drink and drive. People are killed far too often by drunk drivers.

It’s kind of silly when you think about it, that we need rules and safety labels to keep us from killing ourselves. I like being alive and generally try not to put myself in situations where I might die. It’s a little principle I like to follow called self-preservation.

Now sure, accidents can happen. I also can’t control what other people do around me. But if there’s a safe way to do something, I generally try and do it that way.

Rules and warnings are often for the benefit of extending our lives, and we often get these rules because someone didn’t think before acting.

Warnings such as “Do not use a match to check gas tank level.”

Today we heard Moses share the 10 Commandments with the Israelites. Now these rules aren’t to extend their lives necessarily, but they are to help them improve their lives.

God has given the world some rules to live by. These rules aren’t meant to make life less fun, nor are they to limit ourselves. These rules are meant to enhance our lives, and to help us grow into a fuller, deeper relationship with God.

What’s the first commandment?
“I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me.”

How can someone build a deeper relationship with our Father in heaven if we decide we like other gods better?

Wouldn’t that be like saying, “Mom, you make the best pumpkin pie ever! It’s almost as good as the one I bought in the store the other day.”

If we want to be closer to God, and if we want to receive the blessings He wants for us, then shouldn’t God be first and foremost in our lives? That means he comes before everything else. God comes before TV, before shopping, before our possessions; everything else in our life is secondary to our relationship with God.

The next commandment is that we shall not make any idols. The temptation of idols is to worship them, so don’t do it. Don’t make something else to be like God. Again, this can be many things. Think of when Moses was up on the mountain getting the commandments, what did the people do? They took all their gold, melted it down and made a golden calf, which they then worshipped like a god.

Again, if we claim to be people of God, then we must make God first and foremost in our lives. There is no other way. If we claim something, then to do otherwise is to lie to ourselves and to those around us.

Imagine saying, “I’m a Christian, but church isn’t for me.”

If you are a Christian, then you are claiming to know something about Jesus Christ. And in being a follower of Jesus Christ, you should be going to church to learn more about him and be part of the community who also call themselves Christians.

The next commandment is to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Don’t swear in the name of God. This makes plenty of sense too. If we claim to be people of God, then why would we even think to use His name in vain?

If God is holy, loving, merciful, then why would we use His name in any other way? To swear is to demean God; to lessen the power of His name.

How would your relationship improve with someone if they treated your name in this way?

Imagine your friend stubbed their toe on a table leg…
“OWWWW! That stupid table… NICK PHILLIPS that hurt. I’m going to smash that Nick forsaken table to pieces! Ooooh PHILLIPS my toe hurts!”

I’d start to question just how much my friend thinks of me if he were to use my name in vain that way. And I’d imagine other people would start to wonder what sort of person I am if someone uses my name in such a way.

If we use God’s name in vain, then what sort of message are we sending?

If we believe God is truly a loving, merciful God, then shouldn’t His name be used in that way?

So those are the first three commandments. Those three are about our relationship with God. We make God first and foremost in our life. We remove the idols we worship so we can focus more clearly on Him. And we use His name in such a way that builds that relationship.

The rest of the commandments are about our relationship with the world around us. If we are able to build in our relationship with God, then the others are reflections of it.

Jesus summed up all the commandments in two parts. The first part we heard when we read from Deuteronomy chapter 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Jesus then summed up all the rest by saying, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

If we truly embrace our relationship with God, then the effect is seen in how we treat the world around us. We honour our parents, we don’t kill, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet our neighbour’s things.

We live to honour God and share His love and mercy with others.

Here’s a problem we’re facing today. People don’t go to church any more, for a variety of reasons. Many of these people have given up their faith, or have never had faith in God to begin with.

As a result, we are seeing moral issues impact our communities in a very bad way. People are stealing, they are lying, they are killing each other.

You can go anywhere and hear people taking the Lord’s name in vain. Stores, sidewalks, playgrounds, I’ve heard it everywhere. I’ve even heard it in churches.

We’ve lost our ability to be loving and merciful as a society. Sure there are plenty of good people out there, but who are the ones making the news each and every day?

When I worked in high-tech, it seemed like every week a new story was emerging about a company which was in trouble because it’s leadership was lying about their financial statements so people would still invest and they could still make lots of money. Because of their greed, many people lost their jobs.

In Deuteronomy 6, we heard these words,
“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

As a society we have forgotten these words. We don’t teach them to our children any more. We don’t focus on them each and every day. We tell them to be “good people” but we don’t give them a strong foundation on which to build their “goodness.”

There’s only one place where we teach this any more, and it’s in our churches. Our children don’t learn about the power of a relationship with God in school, or at playgrounds, or even in their homes. And when life throws them temptation, an opportunity to allow sin in their lives, they grab it.

It’s not too late.

God made a promise that He would be with us. He promised to never forget nor forsake us.

He is here.

We are His representatives in the world.

The stronger we are in our relationship with our loving and merciful Father in heaven, the greater impact we can have in society.

If people see that we are committed to living in a loving relationship with God and with our neighbours, then they will see God in us.

The Ten Commandments are not a checklist to test how we are doing in life. The Commandments are a way of life. See how God invited the people to teach them to their children and be reminded of them day and night.

The Commandments are about relationships. Good, healthy relationships, beginning with our relationship to God.

How is your’s?

That’s where it all begins… knowing God for ourselves. Knowing that God’s love has been shown to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ.

God is with you. Jesus Christ invites you to love Him. And in loving Him you are made new.

You can know the depth of God’s love, the reason for His willingness to sacrifice His Son for you.

Do you love God with all our heart, soul and strength?

He loves you.

He wants you to know this, and He wants you know Him.

Simple rules to grow in relationship with Him.

Love Him first and foremost, all else will fall into place.