God’s Top Ten Session One Podcast Notes
The Ten Commandments. There is no more famous document in the entire world. Every major religion embraces them. Buddists, Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholics and Christians. They are a basic moral code that most people would say they follow and agree with. How many of you would say that you basically try to live your life following the ten commandments. Most of you. Okay, how many of you can name them. Gotcha. Most of you are thinking “Don’t murder anyone, something about adultery, I think he’s against it, maybe God helps those that help themselves, freedom of speech.”
Let’s start like this. What commandment do you break the most? (Kidding. We are not doing that show)
We would all agree that the ten commandments are a great moral compass that we should all follow, but somehow they have slipped off our radar screen.
Let’s talk about a few of them. We can’t talk about all of them, so let’s get to some of the more famous ones and at the end we’ll talk about the reason why God gave us these.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them”
When we think of these commandments we typically think of old world idols, golden calfs and the like.
To me, that is the dumbest thing. I totally do not get it. They made an image and bowed down to it. I’m not sure why they did. Part of it was that they had just come from Egypt and the Egyptians had lots of idols. Part of this was just wanting to be like everyone else. I guess I sorta get that. But this idea of bowing down to a statue is so beyond my realm of comprehension.
When we hear a story about a golden cow it’s easy to think, “I’m off the hook this week. No conviction here. No golden cow in my backyard. Let’s take a moment to talk about this idea of idols.
Timothy Keller, wrote a book called counterfeit gods. In that book he states that “The central principle in the bible is the rejection of idolatry.” Not a random principle. It’s the central principle.
Let me give you a working definition of what an idol is
An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel like my life has meaning. If I that then I know I’ll have value. I will feel significant and secure.” From the other angle it looks like this. “This thing in my life is so valuable that if I lose it, my life would hardly be worth living. I cannot go on if that part doesn’t go well for me.”
We wouldn’t bow down to a golden calf, but how about this one.
Now let me read our definition again. “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning and I will have value and feel significant and secure. If somehow you lose it, you would feel your life isn’t worth living.”
If I were to sit down with you at Starbucks and ask you how important money is in your life, I don’t think any of you would say, “Money is everything.” That would sound too shallow. But let’s get real. Our money can have everything to do with our security and significance. It can easily be at the center of our life.
During the economic crisis of 2008 there were a string of suicides of formerly wealthy people. The chief financial officer of Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage corporation, hanged himself. The chief executive of Sheldon Good, a real estate firm, shot himself in the head behind the wheel of his red Jaguar. When a Bear Sterns executive learned that he would not be hired by the company that bought his firm, he took a drug overdose and leapt from the 29th floor of his office building. I remember a conversation I had with a friend in Scripps Ranch back in 2008 about a friend who lost everything so he took his life.
Maybe you don’t have that strong a connection with your money, but let me ask you this question. When something breaks and you get bill that you weren’t expecting how much does it consume your thoughts? You meet with your tax guy, you’re transmission goes out, you need a new refrigerator, the stock market tanks. How much does that consume you? A month ago I had a $5,000 day. The sum total of all my bills from my car and my my pool pump and college tuition totaled $5,000. Have you had a day like that. It consumes us. We wouldn’t bow to a gold cow, but we might bow down to this god.
How about this god. Success
Success at work. If I have success then I will have value. If I rise in the company I will feel like I’m secure. If this doesn’t go well, then I will have failure feelings. My self image will take a hit. I will feel worse about myself.
How about this god. Children
Look at this picture and let me read our definition again. “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning and I will have value and feel significant and secure. If somehow you lose it, you would feel your life isn’t worth living.” How much of your happiness is tied up in that one thing. I know for a fact that there are people here who battled infertility. There was a time in your life that your whole focus was on this one thing. “If I have have a kid I will feel significant. My life will have meaning.” Maybe you didn’t battle that. But if you have kids think about this. What if you lost one of your children. What if they walked away from you, and left your life, or, God forbid, they died. What would the condition of your life be? Would you question whether or not your life is worth living. I’m guessing you’re not building a cow in your backyard, but you may have a little golden cow running around your house right now.
So how many golden calf worshippers do we have now? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is almost no end to the things in our life that we can put above God. It’s interesting to me that all of the golden calves that we have mentioned are all good things. It’s better to have money than to be broke. Working hard is a virtue. The bible tells us as much. I love my kids. What a fantastic blessing they are. None of these are bad things. But whenever they become ultimate things they push God out of the top spot and become idols. Counterfeit gods that ultimately will let us down.
Alexis de Tocqueville put it like this. “The incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.”
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11
This commandment was so important that God modeled it himself. On the fourth day he rested.
One Sunday school asked her class what God did on the seventh day. One three-year-old raised her hand and said, “I think he mowed the yard.” He did not mow the yard. He rested.
Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind… I also observed another piece of foolishness around the earth. This is the case of a man who is quite alone, without a son or a brother, yet he works hard to keep gaining more riches, and to whom will he leave it all? And why is he giving up so much now? It is all pointless and depressing. Ecclesiastes 4:45,7,8
Let me give you just one way to do that. Build margin into your life. Margin is the space between my load and my limit. Some of us have put so many things into our lives we are on overload.
Dr. Richard Swenson, an MD says this, “The conditions of modern day living devour margin. If you’re homeless we direct you to a shelter. If you’re penniless we offer you food stamps. If you’re breathless we connect you to oxygen. But if you’re marginless we give you one more thing to do. Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the hairdresser because you were ten minutes late dropping the children off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from a gas station and you forgot your purse. That’s marginless. Margin, on the other hand, is having breath at the top of the staircase, money at the end of the month and sanity left over at the end of adolescence. Marginless is the baby crying and the phone ringing at the same time. Margin is grandma taking the baby for the afternoon. Marginless is being asked to carry a load five pounds heavier than you can lift. Margin is having a friend carry half the burden. Marginless is not having time to finish the book you’re reading on stress. Margin is having the time to read it twice. Marginless is fatigue. Margin is energy. Marginless is red ink. Margin is black ink. Marginless is hurry. Margin is calm. Marginless is our culture. Margin is counter-culture, having some space in your life and schedule. Marginless is reality. Margin is remedy. Marginless is the disease of our decade and margin is the cure.”
The Sabbath is all about margin. Some of us have so much going on we have no free time. We have too many activities, too many committments. We simply don’t have time to recharge. And just because you have a day off, doesn’t mean you are recharging. It doesn’t mean putting down your to do list and picking up your honey-do list. The sabbath was intended to be a time of extended rest.
Why did God give us the ten commandments. What are their purpose? Is it just another to do list for us to follow?
The ten commandments are one of the truest proofs that God exists. If you follow them, you’re life will be better. Every time you step over the lines and break one, you’re life will be worse. It’s the way that God created the world to work
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