Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
A woman bought a parrot in a pet store. She wanted companionship, someone to talk with. The next day she brought the parrot back and said, “He won’t talk.”
The store manager asked, “Does he have a mirror in his cage? Parrots love mirrors.” She bought a mirror and left. The next day she came back and said, “The bird is still not talking.”
“How about a ladder? Parrots love ladders. When he is happy he will talk.” She bought a ladder and left. The next day she was back complaining that even with the mirror and ladder the bird was not talking. The manager said, “I know what you need, the bird wants a swing. He’ll be happy when he has a swing and he’ll talk. She reluctantly bought a swing and left.
Sure enough, the next day she was back. She had a sad face. “The parrot died,” she said. “I’m sorry,” the manager said, “please tell me did he ever say anything before he died?” The woman replied, “Yes, in a weak voice he asked me, ‘Don’t they sell any food at that pet store?”
Sometimes we forget the main thing. Someone once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” A lot of people complicate the Bible and in so doing they don’t think they have to follow what it says.
Mark Twain said this about the Bible, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
The 10 Commandments I believe are rather easy to understand – it is following of them that is difficult.
Exodus 20:1-6 (NLT)
1 Then God gave the people all these instructions: 2 “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. 3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
I. The Ten Commandments are rooted in relationships. These commandments are based upon a covenant – a sacred promise between two parties – between God and us. You can have a contract without a relationship but not a covenant. Listen to these words that come right before the 10 Commandments.
Exodus 19:3-6 (NIV) 3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
A. God created a covenant with Israel promising His love, power, and presence. The other part of the covenant was that God expected Israel’s loyalty to Himself and their love and compassion to others. That is spelled out in both the Old and New Testaments.
1. We need to be careful that we don’t minimize the commands to God said that is why we have to obey Him.
2. Covenants are about relationships – God initiated the relationship but He waits upon our response to His covenant.
B. Granted there are times when God calls for our obedience and He does it from a place of authority; there are numerous commands that are commanded because He said so. But as you look at the commandments most of them are based on having a relationship with Him even those that come from a place of authority – because He said so.
1. Here is a simple illustration of what I mean – my parents were in authority when I was growing up; they were really in charge. When I was a kid I always thought my parents were bossy – you know what they were. But the older I got the more I realized the rules were set because they loved me.
a. They had invested their lives in me and what I thought were unfair rules were for my benefit.
b. God has invested in us to the point of sacrificing His own Son so that we might have a relationship with Him and He has set down the rules.
2. There was a difference between my mom and dad – my mom would tell you to do something and if you argued with her she would say – “I am your Mother and that is the rule.” My dad on the other hand gently explained the rule and told you why we had to follow. Now if we went on with our arguments he would come from the place of power. At that point it was in your best interest to quit arguing.
C. The power of the 10 Commandments lies not in the fact that they are laws, but in that they are descriptions of how people lived in relationship with God and others.
D. The 10 Commandments outline our response to the grace of God. He saved Israel from slavery in Egypt and He saves us from the slavery of sin – that is grace. Before He commands us He reminds us of our salvation. Then He moves us from remembering His grace to specific behavior that demonstrates His grace.
II. The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God, the last six deal with our relationship to each other. Let’s take a look at the first commandment - Exodus 20:3 (NIV) "YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.
A. How do we know if we have other gods in our lives? Here are some questions that might help us determine whether God is the only god and whether God is first:
1. On what do you set your affections? In other words, when your mind takes a break from the complexities of daily living, where does it come to rest? Like a compass needle, which though spun around, will always come to rest pointing north, where does your mind point when it comes to rest?
2. What is really important to you?
3. What do you think about and long for?
- Is it your job? Maybe a promotion?
- Perhaps your home? Your car?
- Maybe another person?
- Or money?
- Material things?
5. What are we living for? In other words, what are our goals? What are our objectives? Does it all center around us?
a. If we were to list our goals on a sheet of paper, would the spiritual goals be at the top?
b. Would there be goals that relate to our walk with God, and our service to Him?
c. Or would your goals simply be centered on personal achievement, job, home, family, money and the like?
B. So what does it mean that we are to have no other gods before God? Anything we put before God breaks this command and the next. It is so very easy for us to put other things or people first in our lives and when we do God is reduced to second place, third place and often totally removed from our lives.
1. Many things, people are not bad things actually many are good and honorable like: family, our work, the church, education, service …
2. But when we give them a higher priority than we give God-we become violators of God’s law.
C. When we lose sight of the first commandment, we lose sight of God. When we lose sight of God we are inclined to break the other rules and especially the next command.
Exodus 20:4-6 (NLT) 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
III. We need to understand that we cannot worship two gods, we will love one and hate the other. We think because this 2nd rule speaks of making an image that means we don’t have to worry about breaking this command. Have you made any golden calves recently? I guess we feel that we are off the hook. Wrong – just because we haven’t been to Carl’s pottery shop doesn’t mean we haven’t created any idols / false images. Here is the line that gets us - I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.
A. David Seamands writes in his book on the Ten Commandments “Don’t worship anything that is meant to be used. Don’t turn anything however noble or good or lovely or wonderful, that God has given to you as a means to an end, into an end in itself.”
B. Don’t worship anything that is meant to be used speaks to the first command of having no other gods before God. We shouldn’t worship anything before God but people do. Let me name a few things that God created that our society has placed before Him:
1. Family – Know anybody that has told you that they are too busy with family things that God just doesn’t fit into the schedule.
2. Sex – Everywhere you turn there is the degrading of our sexuality which God made for good. Sports web-sites they have enticing pictures of women. Commercials are laden with sexual images and messages and they aren’t subtle anymore.
2. Work – God created work but we have made work and making money important than God.
C. The second command tells us about idols. Any of you have idols now be careful that you don’t dismiss this command. Idols are things we have created. What is the image of God that you have? You are creating an idol if you are not careful. We have painted an image of the god we want not the God that is. What idols do we have?
D. I’m sure that we can name things we have or point to others that have things like fancy cars, boats, etc. But let’s push the envelope a little and look at it from the perspective that something that might be created to help us worship becomes what we worship.
1. The Cross / the Crucifix – was created to help Christians remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. But that simple (sometimes very intricate) element begins to be worshipped. People bow down to it.
2. A Church Building was built for worship but somehow it takes on the meaning of what we worship.
3. What about a specific denomination – The reformers were reforming the church because the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England had become the only means of grace. People who think that their denomination is the only way to heaven now have put their church ahead of God. It’s God’s formula not the church’s way.
4. You get the idea – let’s be careful that nothing created comes before the Creator.
We have a choice God is number one in our lives or not. Mark 10:17-22The Message (MSG)
To Enter God’s Kingdom
17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”
18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.”
20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
When we hear this request of God we have two options we can change and inherit the kingdom of God or we can go away like the rich young ruler.
We must evaluate where we are with God as Number one and then ask Him to help us to make the changes to be all that we can be, all that He intends for us to be. It will not be done without Him and yet it won’t be done entirely by Him, we must make lifestyle changes to join Him in what He wants to do in our lives.
The commandments call for a lifestyle that is dominated by our relationship to God, who we are in Christ. Our relationship to the one true God dominates every aspect of our lives, what we do, what we say what we think and how we respond to others.
There can be no area of our lives in which anything comes before God, if it does we have violated the first 2 commandments and we can go no further.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.