This past Sunday at Living Shepherd we took a closer look at the 10 commandments (Exodus 20). The goal was to get a better understanding of what it would have been like for the people of Israel who heard the voice of God as he spoke these laws to them from Mount Sinai.
Long story short, the people who heard God’s voice at the base of that mountain, also saw him inflict the land of Egypt with 10 nature and physics defying plagues. Right after that—they experienced the same nature and physics defying power in a very personal way as they walked along the sea floor and stared up at walls made of water on their right and on their left.
The God who brought them out of Egypt in miraculous fashion—who saved them from a life of slavery in a land not their own—this same God was now communicating his expectations to them. And the 10 commandments were only the beginning.
As you continue to read through the book of Exodus and then on in to the book of Leviticus you’ll feel as though the laws don’t end. It’s just one proper way to do things after another. And if it’s not a proper way to do things, then it’s an improper method to avoid. Might make you wonder, “Why?” Why all the laws? What’s the point?
Holiness is the point. Over and over again the word “holy” pops up in the chapters and books to follow. Eventually you start to get the point. “God wants us to be holy.” By the time you get to chapter 20 of the book that follows Exodus, you hear God just come out and say it. “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” (Leviticus 20:7-8)
Be holy. Be perfect. Don’t make one mistake. But then, in the very next breath, “I am the Lord, who MAKES you holy.”
Did you catch what happened there? God demands that we be “holy.” But then in the very next verse says, “I make you holy.” That can only mean one thing. We’re NOT holy. We CAN’T do what God commands. We CAN’T be what he expects us to be.
And that’s unique.
Here’s why. While every religion on the face of the earth does appear to be very different, with the exception of Christianity, the religions of the world have one glaring similarity. Every religion arrives at its unique end-game in the same way. Every religion—with the exception of Christianity tells you to “do.” Do this, and you’ll escape suffering. Do this, and you’ll escape the endless cycle of reincarnation. Do this, and you’ll make God happy. Do this, and you’ll earn heaven. Throw in a few “Don’t do’s” and a few words that emphasize a positive or negative quality of those deeds and you have the religions of the world—all but Christianity.
On the surface, the 10 commandments sound no different than the laws, demands, paths and pillars of other religions. Until you dig a little deeper. You begin to see the purpose of the 10 commandments in Christianity is not to give us “10 surefire ways to earn a ticket to heaven.” Instead, these commandments are “10 surefire ways to prove that we CANNOT get into heaven.” Not on our own. It’s not possible—not for us. Because God doesn’t say, “do your best” or “give it your best shot.” He says, “Be holy.”
The purpose of the 10 commandments—and every law God gives for that matter—is to condemn. The law was given to show us what we really deserve—eternal separation from holiness. God calls it hell. Because it’s only when we see the verdict of hell before our eyes that we become able to understand what he means when our God says, “I am the Lord, who MAKES you holy.”
Christianity is the only religion in the world where the commands to “do” are there to show us that we “can’t.” And when we see that we “can’t,” then we begin to appreciate the one who not only “could” but “did.”
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
God’s blessings on your weekend!