How The Ten Commandments Work
My family was attending a worship service punctuated by a powerful sermon on the Ten Commandments. After its conclusion, I turned to my wife Luella and said, “I’m so glad our children were here to listen to that sermon!”
It happened to me without even noticing: I placed myself outside the circle of the sermon’s diagnosis. I had concluded that whatever conviction we just heard did not apply to me, and I was glad that the people in my family who “really needed it” had been in attendance.
Has this ever happened to you?
As I was reflecting on that story as I occasionally do, I started to think about how the Ten Commandments work. There is no escaping the essential order of God’s commands. The first four commands have to do with one thing and one thing alone: the worship of God.
Why are they laid out in this way? Because only when the worship of God rules my heart will I set everything else in my life in its rightful place. Joyful, perseverant obedience only ever grows in the soil of worship.
Worship is not just something you occasionally do; it’s the foundation of who you are. Whatever has captured the worship of your heart will set the agenda for what you desire, think, say, and choose.
There’s something else that must be said. We tend to think of sin as the breaking of specific rules, like the Ten Commandments. In reality, it’s the breaking of a relationship that results in us breaking the rules. Every sin is first an assault on God’s rightful place, a betrayal of our relationship with him.
That’s why it was right for David, who had just violated the Ten Commandments of adultery and murder, to say, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4).
David was not minimizing the horrible offenses he committed against Bathsheba, Uriah, and the people of Israel. What he was doing was confessing to breaking the First Commandment first, which led to the disobedience of the rest.
There’s one last thing I observed, with the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Not only are the Ten Commandments rooted in the worship of God, but also built into these commands is a recurring, God-ordained recharge of your worship.
God knows how quickly we become worship amnesiacs. God understands that life in this fallen world is a day-to-day worship war. So he commanded one day in every seven to be reserved for rest from our labors and for personal and corporate reflection on him—a day to focus on refueling our worship, which in turn fuels our obedience.
Whenever we break one of the Ten Commandments, we reveal that we have a worship problem, more significant than our law problem. Since we are too weak to rescue ourselves, and since the law does not have the power to save us either (Romans 8:3), we need a Redeemer.
Thankfully, the Redeemer has come, and his work for you is complete. Turn to him, and you will find the grace you need to fight the worship war.
1. When was the last time you allowed Holy Spirit conviction to bypass you, allocating it for someone else instead?
2. What made you believe that the other person needed it more than you? Why is this a dangerous place to be spiritually?
3. Which of the Ten Commandments have you struggled with most recently?
4. How, at its core, is your struggle with a specific commandment a worship problem?
5. Do you need to observe more seriously the God-ordained recharge of your worship, either personally or corporately? What practical steps can you take this week?
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