Yesterday, quoting Psalm 119:11, we suggested that making sure that God’s words are hidden in our hearts was a good way to guard our minds. A way to prevent us from being tempted and deceived by the devil into reacting and living from the ‘old me’ and not the new creation that I now am. It is part of putting on the helmet of Salvation and using the sword of the Spirit. We were encouraging the practice of meditating on the ‘fruit of the spirit’, Galatians 5:22, as a plumb line for our thoughts and behaviours. Another famous part of scripture that will help us is the ‘Ten Commandments.
One of the things that some say these days about the ten commandments is that they seem negative, that they seem to be full of things that we must not do, that they seem to spoil the fun and pleasure and freedom of life, and that they could seem to paint a negative picture of religion and God. This can perhaps be particularly prevalent among non Christians and people who feel church is old fashioned and no longer relevant to modern life with its emphasis on ’love’, tolerance, freedom and ‘being yourself’. However these thoughts can also perhaps be in the background in the minds of many christians. ‘That’s the Old Testament’ we may say and we point people quickly to the New Testament and the gospels.
But is this right? Are the ten commandments all negative? And should we down play them and be embarrassed to own them to others? There is a key pivot point in our thinking that we need to address which may change the way we see things. It is the fact that every ‘yes’ carries a ‘no’ with it, and even more important, every ‘no’ carries a ‘yes’ with it.
So back to the ten commandments and let’s look at them afresh!
- ‘Have no other Gods’. ‘No’ here means a ‘yes’ to: – love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and strength, Mark 12.30. Like Jesus said, you can’t serve two masters, Matthew 6:24, even though as humans we try to! Your ‘no’ to other gods is ‘yes’ to being wildly in love with the Lord – kind of positive!
- Do not make idols or images. I think this builds on number 1. If I start loving money too much in my heart, I can get on the slippery slope of “what shall I use my money for next”? – Sparkly new car, house, kitchen etc and, as it did for the rich young ruler, it can start to hamper or even block my ability to walk freely with Jesus and follow Him. This one says say ‘Yes’ to nothing coming between me and Jesus, following and walking closely together with Him. It says ‘Yes’ to my relationship with Jesus increasingly coming first. NB we are on a journey – I’m not fully mature yet – ‘increasingly’. Philippians 3:12-14.
- Do not take God’s name in vain. This No is a ‘Yes’ to every time you mention Jesus and His name mean it, drink it in, be blessed by thinking about Him, and use the authority of His name as He taught us ( see recent blogs). Again it sounds a very positive commandment!
- Do not work on the Sabbath day. That is a ‘Yes’ to spiritually entering your rest as a fully redeemed by grace through faith, not by the works of self effort and self righteousness, person. (Read Hebrews 4 again). And practically to moderate our busy, full daily lives by saying ‘Yes’ to God’s better idea of having a day of rest (not of frenetic church activity) once a week. Our spiritual, emotional and physical health will benefit. ‘Dr God’ knows best. We need to listen. It’s a very positive commandment.
- Honour your mum and dad. Sounds like a recipe to say ‘Yes to better family relationships and expressed love, kindness, appreciation and honour in a world full of dysfunctional relationships.
- Do not murder (including hate and anger for example – Jesus in Matthew 5:21on) Say ‘yes’ to love, kindness and building others up, and ‘no’ to hate, resentment, gossip and backstabbing.
- No adultery. That means ‘Yes’ to being entranced with, and focused on, real love and committed to living faithfully. And ‘Yes’ to investment for growth. Marriage tends to be a bit like an investment, the more you invest in loving (in a whole variety of ways) your partner, the better the returns, because, unlike the adverts for investments in the newspaper, the bank of God (He invented love and marriage) gives positive returns.
- Do not steal. Say ‘yes’ to honesty, giving and generosity instead, Ephesians 4:28. Say ‘yes’ to believing that God knows what I need and will provide it, Matthew 6:8.
- Do not bear false witness (or lie). That means say ‘yes’ to telling the truth, being honest, building trust. I think we can all say, in our current society, what a brilliant and much needed ‘Yes’ commandment that is from the Lord. We long to be safe and in a place of trust in our homes, relationships, churches, and jobs, indeed in all areas of our lives.
- No coveting. A tough one maybe in our world where it’s so easy to see what others have; and as consumers we are daily incited to have and get more and more. Godliness with contentment is great gain, 1Timothy 6:6, and this one is God’s ‘yes’ command saying ‘Yes it really is great gain’.
So there we go, the ten commandments are so positive, they are all about saying ‘yes’ to a life lived in the way that our supremely loving heavenly Father knows is the absolute best for us. Now our human nature is such that we often can miss that, and like children say “why can’t I do that?” when Dad and Mum know it’s not a good idea. And that’s where our friend ‘thanksgiving’ can kick in so helpfully. When I start thanking God for one of His commandments, whether it’s these ten or one from the New Testament, it dawns on me afresh that they are all flowing from a very wise Father who loves me to bits and knows what’s best for me. Although I haven’t arrived, rather than condemnation, these ‘Yeses’, especially when combined with thanksgiving, draw me forward with hope, into all the best that the Lord has for me. In thanksgiving for His love and care for me, His wisdom and desire for my best, I will then increasingly recognise the huge ‘Yes’ flowing from His heart towards me. And that is good, and gets better and better the more grateful and thankful I become.