The Encourager

The Encourager

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Hidden Reefs by Daniel & Jennifer Simpkins

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Jude wrote to his brethren to warn them of false teachers who had crept into the church. He called them “hidden reefs” (verse 12). Like corral reefs in the ocean, barely submerged beneath the waves, these men were very dangerous and could shipwreck the saints’ faith. They were dangerous not just because of the false doctrine they taught, but also because they were “grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires” (verse 16). Even if we are not going about teaching error, we too can be hidden reefs, threatening to wreck our brothers and sisters with discouragement. As Jude noted, we can destroy our brethren’s motivation and even their faith by constantly complaining. Too easily we can become like the children of Israel, complaining about what we see as hardship and failing to see how blessed we truly are. God takes this very seriously and says it is the equivalent of testing Him (I Corinthians 10:9-10). Neither should we grumble against one another. Nothing will destroy a church faster than gossip and talking about one another behind our brethren’s backs. “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged” (James 5:9). Instead of continually bemoaning our situation, we should be focusing on our blessings and praising God for them. Paul admonished the Christians at Colossae to be always “abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7). Over and over again, we read of Paul giving thanks for his brothers and sisters in Christ. Even when he was writing to correct sinful practices, Paul made it a point to express his thankfulness for his brethren (I Corinthians 1:4). The church is full of different personalities and sometimes we clash. Despite this, we should be focused on encouraging one another. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up” (I Thessalonians 5:11). When we do that, we will not be dragging our brethren down, but lifting up one another. Another way we can be a discouragement to our brothers and sisters is by being impatient, judgmental, and unwilling to listen to one another. The Bible clearly teaches that we are to judge one another’s deeds by the Scripture. If we see a brother living in a way contrary to God’s Word, we should go to them in gentleness and love for their soul. That is not being judgmental. However, when we are critical of another’s motives or actions simply with the intent of finding fault with them – that is being judgmental. Even when we go to someone we believe to be in error, we need to approach them with meekness and a willingness to listen. Perhaps we misunderstood them or we do not have the entire story. In all things, we need to extend to one another the same love and patience that God gives us. As James counseled, “You also be patient. … Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door . … [Y]ou have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful “(James 5:8-9, 11). God does not write us off even after we have made mistake after mistake. “As a father shows compassion to His children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). When we remember that we often unintentionally give offense and that we constantly fall into sin, then we will have the humility to show patience. Instead of being harsh with one another and refusing to hear their side of things, we need to work on having “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these things put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14). Only then will peace and unity reign within the church. If we do not practice love, we will be hidden reefs, threatening to tear the church apart. There are some within the church who may not be complainers or contentious members, but who are apathetic or complacent. Are we simply attending worship to “check the box?” Are we only trying to appease someone in our family? Do we simply come in to warm the pew? If we are not participating in the worship service, our brothers and sisters notice. If we are not helping with the work of the church, our brethren notice. It can be a huge source of discouragement and can dim the spiritual fire within those around us. The Hebrew writer reminds us that one of the purposes of assembling is to encourage one another: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another …” (Hebrews 10:24-25). This goes beyond the worship assemblies. We need to always be finding ways to stoke the flame within our brethren. That may mean helping out at a work day, sending cards to the sick or sorrowful, taking time to ask someone how they are doing and really listening, getting together for a Bible study THE EASTSIDE ENCOURAGER A publication of the Eastside church of Christ Shelbyville, TN 1803 Madison St. Shelbyville, TN 37160 www.churchateastside.com Nov, 26, 2017 …There are so many ways we can build one another up and help each other in doing good deeds. Yet, it requires that we be active and we take time out of our busy schedules to make it a priority. It is another part of showing true love to one another – and in the process, we will find ourselves growing. One of the worst ways we can become hidden reefs for our brothers and sisters is by being hypocritical. If we come on Sunday and act like Christians, but then go out and live our lives like the world, we can deal some heavy damage to others’ faith. We may cause some to stumble, especially the spiritually weak who may justify some sin by saying to themselves, “Well, So-and-So did that. I can do this and it’ll be OK.” For others, it may be a discouragement to see that our faith is not genuine, especially if we have a close personal relationship with them. As Paul admonished, “Let love be genuine” (Romans 12:9). He then went on to explain what genuine love looks like. “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. … Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. … Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. … Live in harmony with one another. … Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (verses 9-21). Our words and actions everyday should show that we are a new creation in Christ. Instead of dressing like, talking like, and acting like everyone around us, we need to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). As Christians, we should have two ultimate goals: to get to heaven and to take as many people along with us as we can. Thus, we need to be watchful so that we do not inadvertently become stumbling blocks or hidden reefs for those around us. Instead of complaining and grumbling about our brethren, let us give thanks and praise. Instead of being severe, unyielding, and unsympathetic, let us be gentle, patient, and ready to listen. Instead of being complacent, let us be zealous to do God’s work and encourage others to be hard workers as well. Instead of being hypocritical and worldly, let us be holy and set a good example. Let us allow love to guide us in all we say and do. “Love is patient and kind. … It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. … Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:4-7). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Look at the Ten Commandments by Jennifer & Daniel Simpkins

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Look at the Ten Commandments

By Daniel & Jennifer Simpkins

Part I

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The first two commandments given are the foundation of all the others: “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Exodus 20:3-4). The people of Israel were surrounded by idolatrous nations and God was adamant about them keeping themselves from such influences. Thus, the Lord instructed them not to intermarry with the Gentiles and to keep themselves separate. God made a covenant with His people and He expected them to be faithful (Deut. 4:23-24). He warned them that He is a jealous God. Just as a husband is rightfully jealous of his wife’s love and attention, the Lord demanded His people devote themselves only to Him. Thus, the first commandment is the foundation of the others: if His people were truly faithful to God, the remainder of the Ten Commandments (and the entire Law) would fall into place.

However, this verse has implications that go beyond the time of Israel and the practice of idolatry. Even though there are few of us who will bow before a man-made image, we still battle the sin of idolatry today. Anything that replaces God or the truth in our lives becomes an idol. In Ephesians 5:5, Paul calls greed idolatry. Especially as Americans, this one can be particularly difficult. The American culture is built upon “looking out for Number One” and working hard to gain material comforts and conveniences. It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of materialism and greed without even realizing it! When accumulating things or living a comfortable life becomes our goal instead of serving God, it becomes our idol.

As God warned the people of Israel, He is a jealous God. Anything that provokes God to jealousy would be considered an idol. Thus, even false teaching could become an idol of sorts. If we hold to a doctrine or belief that is not in line with what God teaches in His Word, then we are putting that doctrine or belief above God. It has replaced God’s truth in our hearts, becoming an idol. We must be diligent to guard against this type of idolatry. False teaching is often hard to identify because false teachers can appear as servants of righteousness, as Paul says in II Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15. To make sure we do not fall into this trap, we must examine our hearts continually and study God’s word like the people of Berea, who searched the scriptures carefully every day to see if what Paul was teaching was true (Acts 17:11).

Just as God expected total commitment from the people of Israel, He expects the same level of commitment from His children today. Jesus taught that the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:28-34). When we use everything in us to love and serve God, there will be no room for anything else in our lives. We will not be drawn away to serve any idol, even perhaps the most dangerous one – ourselves. We will put our desires and our will aside to seek the Lord’s desires and will. As Jesus said was necessary for His disciples, we will deny ourselves (Luke 14:25-33).

He used the illustration of carrying a cross to make His point. During that time, when a person saw someone carrying a cross, they instantly knew this person’s life was no longer their own. They were condemned by Rome and about to die. In the same way, we must realize our life is not our own. We must give it to God, die to ourselves, and learn to be devoted solely to Him. It is the very basis of everything God expected from His children then and what He expects from His children now.


 

Part II


 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The second command is one that we perhaps don’t give much thought today – “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). The idea is that God’s people are not to use His name lightly, jokingly, commonly, or to take a false oath. His name is holy (set apart) and to be spoken only with the upmost respect and reverence. God demands He be honored (Leviticus 10:3) and that includes His name.  Throughout the Old Testament, we see that God was adamant that His name not be profaned (Leviticus 20:3 and 22:32), especially when it came to His priests (Leviticus 21:6).

The Psalmists express the kind of attitude the Lord’s people were to have toward His name. Take a few minutes to read Psalm 99. There are only 9 verses and they portray the reverence we are to give God and His name. Verse 3 says, “Let them praise your great and awesome name! He is holy!” The entire psalm breathes the kind of awe and fear the Israelites were to feel toward God and His name. It was treated with respect, used only in praise and petition, and never used as a curse or a common exclamation.

Perhaps what is lost on us today is the fact that the Jewish culture placed more significance upon names than we do today. A name was more than just a pretty-sounding combination of sounds. A name represented the very nature of its subject. The person’s history and character were described and encapsulated in their name. Thus, to profane or bring shame upon someone’s name was much more of a grave insult than we really understand today. The Jews held God’s name in such high honor that they would not speak or write His name, instead abbreviating it or using substitute names such as Adonai.

As God’s people today, we do not necessarily need to go to such extreme lengths to show our reverence for the Lord, but we do need to hold His name in high honor. If it crosses our lips merely as a thoughtless exclamation or in a flippant manner, we are taking it in vain. In I Peter 2:4-5, 9, Peter describes Christians as priests. Though we are no longer under the Old Law, I would argue that God holds us to the same standards as the Old Testament priests. He expected them to treat His name as holy and so too should we. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul exhorted the brethren, “Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting – all of which are out of character – but rather thanksgiving.” Again, in Colossians 4:6, Paul wrote, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt …” What Paul is describing is a manner of speaking that brings glory to God, not reproach. I believe this includes how we use His name.

We need to also be aware that we can profane God’s name by our actions as well as by our words. In Ezekiel 43:8, God said, “ … they profaned my holy name by the abominable deeds they committed. So I consumed them in my anger.” God demanded

respect from the Israelites and He expects the same from His people today. Are we living lives that glorify His name?

 

Part III

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The third command given was to remember the Sabbath day to set it apart as holy

(Exodus 20:8-11). There were several Sabbaths under the Old Law. The seventh day was a Sabbath day, but there was also a Sabbath proclaimed for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32), during the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-38), and a Sabbath for the land every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7), just to name a few. On these days, the people were not to work at all. They were not to gather food or wood (Exodus 16:23-29, Numbers 15:32-36) or build a fire in their homes (Exodus 35:3). God wanted there to be complete rest from their labor, including for their servants and their animals (Exodus 35:2).

Every law ever given by the Lord has been for man’s own good, including the command to stop and focus on spiritual matters. The people were to work for six days, but were to keep the seventh day set apart as “a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:10). The wording implies that the day was not just a day of rest for the people, but it was a day devoted to God. It was a day to remember the covenant that He had made with Israel (Exodus 31:16) and the need to keep themselves pure and separate from the world (Exodus 31:13). The Sabbath was also a chance for the people to humble themselves (Leviticus 16:31), gather for worship (Leviticus 23:3), and recall how the Lord had delivered them from slavery (Deut. 5:15). God took this command very seriously. “So you must keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. Everyone who defiles it must surely be put to death; indeed, if anyone does any work on it, then that person will be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:14). We might be tempted to think, “That seems a bit extreme. Where is the harm in doing a little work on the Sabbath?” However, what we must keep in mind is Who God is and His rightful demand for reverence. He is the Creator and Savior. If He issues a command, He expects His people to obey fully and willingly. “You must observe the Sabbath rather than doing anything you please on my holy day. You must look forward to the Sabbath and treat the Lord’s holy day with respect. You must treat it with respect by refraining from your selfish pursuits and from making business deals” (Isaiah 58:13 – emphasis mine).

The next question we might ask is, “So how do we keep the Sabbath today?” The short answer is, “We don’t have to.” There is a reason we call the law kept by Israel the Old Law – because we have a New Law under which we live. When Jesus died upon the cross, the Old Law with its sacrifices and Sabbaths was fulfilled and a New Covenant was established. As the Hebrew writer explained, “But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that He mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). Paul said the Old Law was meant only as a guardian until Christ came to redeem those under the Law of Moses and to make us all sons of God (Galatians 4:1-7). In fact, Paul warned that trying to go back and keep the Old Law will alienate us

from Christ and cause us to fall from grace (Galatians 5:1-5). In Colossians 2:16-17, he explained that Sabbath days and feast days under the Old Law were simply the shadow of things to come.

That being said, we know that God does not change (James 1:17). The fundamentals of what He wants from His people are still the same under His New Law. We see in the Scriptures that the Christians came together on the first day of the week to worship and to remember Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 11:17-26, I Corinthians 16:2). In Hebrews 10:24-25, the writer instructs Christians to be sure to assemble for the purpose of edification. Remember, the Sabbath day was a shadow of what was to come. Just as God expected Israel to set aside a day for worship and remembrance, He expects the same from His people today. We used to call it the Lord’s Day for a reason – it was a day devoted to focusing on spiritual things, to remembering our covenant with the Lord and how He has delivered us from the slavery of sin. We used to consider it a day set apart to humble ourselves and to take a break from our own selfish pursuits in order to center our minds on the Lord. Unfortunately, Christians as a whole seem to be moving away from this mentality. While we are not commanded to rest from all work, we do need to remember the respect God expects from His people and the reverence we need to show Him. God in His wisdom knew that Israel needed consistent time to refocus their hearts and lives upon Him. He has provided and commanded the same for His followers today. As God wanted the Israelites to look forward to and respect His Sabbath days, we too should look forward to the Lord’s Day and treat it with the same honor.


 

Part IV

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The fourth command is, “Honor your father and your mother, that you may live a long time in the land the Lord your God is giving to you” (verse 12). The concept of honoring someone includes respect, esteem, and obedience. It encompasses our attitude, our words, and our actions. If a child obeys his parents, but has a disrespectful attitude, he is not giving true honor. On the other hand, if he speaks respectfully and yet does not obey, he is still not honoring his father and mother.

It is interesting that God follows His commandment with a promise: “… that you may live a long time in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.” I believe He is laying out the seriousness of this part of His law and His demand that His people have respect for those in authority. If the people would not respect their parents, then they were showing disrespect for the Lord as well and breaking their covenant with Him. Thus, He would not bless them. However, I think bound up in this promise is also the implication that our parents are wiser and have more experience than we have. As a general rule, if we heed their instruction and their advice, we will live longer, happier lives.

Under the Old Law, a child who cursed (i.e. disrespected) his parents was to be put to death (Leviticus 20:9). Other texts indicate that this was not a punishment for small children or for the occasional outbursts that children tend to display. In Deuteronomy 21:18-21, we see that the death sentence was for a “stubborn, rebellious” child whom the parents “disciplined to no avail.” The parents in these verses describe the child as “a glutton and a drunkard.” Thus, we can conclude that he was of some age (a small child would not be a glutton and drunkard) and that his rebellion was a consistent pattern of behavior that he refused to correct.

Though under the New Law parents are not instructed to put to death rebellious youngsters, the same standard of respect and honor is set forth for children in the New Testament. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). God doesn’t say, “Obey your parents if you agree with them or if you feel like doing what they say.” God says to obey in everything. And the Lord takes disrespect for parental authority just as seriously as He did under the Old Law. In Romans 1:28-32, Paul lists those who are disobedient to parents along with those who are haters of God, murderers, and covenant-breakers. He says, “… those who practice such things deserve to die” (verse 32).

It is worth noting that part of honoring our parents is caring for them later in life. Paul instructed Timothy that a widow’s children and grandchildren have the duty of providing for her needs (I Timothy 5:4). He says that by taking care of their household the children “repay their parents what is owed them” and that “this is what pleases God.” When we are grown we are no longer under our parents’ authority, but we still owe them

honor and respect. This is not an option; it is a command from God.

Growing up can be hard and navigating childhood can be confusing. This world seems to be increasingly complicated and children face a lot of turmoil from within and without. Children often use rebellion as an outlet for this sense of upheaval and confusion. Unfortunately, many parents simply accept the disrespectful behavior with a “kids will be kids” attitude. However, consider Jesus’ example. In Luke 2:51-52, we see that Jesus was obedient to His parents and increased in favor with people as He grew. We can conclude that He was never a rebellious child and He did not give His parents trouble as He grew to adulthood. He was fully man and faced the same kinds of stresses and temptations our kids face today (Hebrews 4:15). If He could refrain from disrespect and give honor to His parents, so can we today.


 

Part V

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The fifth command is, “You shall not murder” (verse 13). This seems pretty straightforward until you start getting into the question of what exactly constitutes murder. Some people want to argue that all killing is forbidden by God. I’ve had conversations with people who want to say it’s all or nothing, that God said, “Don’t kill,” and that’s the end of it. However, the Lord gave very detailed stipulations about what was involved in murder. In Numbers 35:9-32, God set forth instructions for the Israelites to establish cities of refuge so that one who killed accidentally could go there and escape the avenger of blood. He was entitled to a trial and was not necessarily convicted of murder. However, one who intentionally struck another with an iron tool, a rock, a wooden weapon, or any other method with hatred and enmity – God said this person was a murderer and must be put to death. Yet, a murderer could not be convicted by the testimony of just one witness; there had to be at least two witnesses. If he was convicted, a murderer could not be redeemed, but had to be put to death.

By the time Jesus came to the earth, the Jews had made the Old Law into a sort of “check the box system.” As long as they followed the commands, made the required sacrifices, kept the feasts and holy days – and even the traditions not included in the Law – as long as they could “check the boxes,” they felt they were pleasing to God. However, Jesus taught against this mentality, instead emphasizing the heart. As Jesus warned, “For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person” (Matthew 15:19-20). “Woe to you Pharisees!” Jesus exclaimed in Luke 11:42. “You give a tenth of your mint, rue, and every herb, yet you neglect justice and love for God! But you should have done these things without neglecting the others.” Jesus wanted His people to realize that God did not look only at their actions and judge them solely based upon those. While following His commands is important to God, our hearts must also be right.

What God looks at are our motives and our thoughts. We can’t say to ourselves, “OK, God says, ‘You shall not murder.’ Yep, I can put a check beside that one. I haven’t killed anyone.” There are in fact other ways to be a murderer in God’s eyes than by simply taking a person’s life. “Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (I John 3:15). As humans, we tend to see sin in degrees. Hate, callousness, and neglect to us are not quite as bad as killing someone. However, God sees one sin as just as bad as another. He tells us that if we hate our brother, we are equivalent to a murderer. He continues the thought in verses 16-17: “We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down His life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians. But whoever has the world’s possessions and  

sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?” Love is to guide all we do; otherwise, we become murderers in God’s eyes. Not aiding those in need is linked to hating our brother, which is essentially murder.

Jesus gave us the ultimate example: He died for us, even for those who hate Him. He had every right to retribution and justice, but He humbled Himself. While pride and selfishness drove His enemies to murder Him, humility and selflessness brought Jesus to this earth and to the cross. We are called to exhibit that same humility and love, to look beyond ourselves and not allow our pride to spring up into hate. As Paul admonished in Romans 13:8-10, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,’ (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”


 

Part VI

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The seventh command is, “You shall not commit adultery” (verse 14). Adultery is a sexual relationship with anyone other than your spouse. Fornication is a sexual relationship before marriage. Both God abhors. The marriage bond is a very strong and sacred one before God. It is described as a merging, a uniting so intimate and complete that God sees the two people as one (Genesis 2:24). Just as we would not think about cutting off an arm or leg unless it was absolutely necessary, so God does not want a husband and wife to separate or damage that special bond. To commit adultery is to injure the marriage bond, to break the vows made before God.

Unfortunately, society – and even some Christians – does not take marriage seriously. Some seem to view it like trying on an outfit: if it fits, great. If not, then just try on a new one. This comes from viewing marriage as a man-made “institution” or “tradition.” What we have to remember is that God created marriage and He is the one who joins a man and his wife. Marriage is so sacred to Him that He used the relationship to describe the bond between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-32).

Under the Old Law, adultery was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). Yet, it wasn’t just the act of adultery that God spoke against. The Israelites were not to even desire anyone other than their spouse. In Deuteronomy 5:21, God warns, “You must not desire another man’s wife …” Solomon warned of the destruction that adultery brings in Proverbs 6:27-29, 32-35. He describes adultery as playing with fire or walking on hot coals – the one who does so will get burned. He lacks wisdom and will suffer the consequences of his foolishness. The grass may seem greener on the other side, but the costs will often follow you for the rest of your life.

Under the New Law, God expects us to honor the marriage bond and He instructs that “the marriage bed [be] kept undefiled, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers” (Hebrews 13:4). He also warns that to divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality will lead to adultery (Matthew 5:31-32). Marrying one who has been divorced also leads to adultery. Jesus reiterated the sacredness of the marriage bond and said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:3-9).

Jesus also warned that even thinking about someone other than your spouse in a sexual context is the same as committing adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). Even if no sexual relationship takes place, it is still possible to be unfaithful to our husband or wife. Adultery can take place in the heart and affections. Thus, we must be careful to guard our hearts and our thoughts (Mark 7:21-23). If we don’t, we could lose our soul.

In I Corinthians 7:2-6, Paul gives some very good advice about how to avoid adultery. He tells husbands and wives to consider each other’s physical needs and to remember that our bodies are not our own. He tells us not to deprive each other so that we

are not tempted to stray. We should never use sex as a weapon against one another, denying each other when we are angry! Otherwise, we are liable to be tempted to look for satisfaction elsewhere.

We must also be careful of spiritual adultery. Israel committed adultery against God by forsaking the covenant they had made with Him (Hosea 4:12). When His people turned to idolatry, the Lord said they broke their vows and their bond in the same way a man and woman do when they are unfaithful in their marriage. Today, if we follow after false teaching, we commit spiritual adultery (II Peter 2:14-22). Like the people of Israel, we too can be led astray by idolatry (greed, selfishness, misplaced priorities). Let us remember the vows we’ve made to the Lord – both in our marriages and in our relationship with God.

 

Part VII

 

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

In verse 15, God gives His eighth command: “You shall not steal.” Under the Old Law, many of the crimes addressed were punishable by death. Though stealing was dealt with strictly, it did not warrant capital punishment. However, a thief had to make restitution two, four, sometimes even five times over what he had taken (Exodus 22:1-4, 7-9). A thief killed to defend the owner’s property was not avenged. If a thief was caught and could not repay his victim, he was sold as a slave. The punishment was severe enough to heavily discourage robbery among the Israelites.

The prohibition against stealing of course carries over under the New Law (Ephesians 4:28). Paul does more than simply condemn it as sin – he also gives us the remedy: work. Christians are to work so that we can provide for ourselves, but also so we can have something to share with those in need. We often forget that to work is actually a commandment from the Lord. In Thessalonians 4:9-12, Paul instructs the saints “to work with your hands, as we commanded you.” Not only does this prevent God’s people from being in need (thus lessening the temptation to steal), but it also ensures that we have a good reputation among nonbelievers (thus not harming the cause of Christ). We all understand that there are circumstances that prevent some people from working, but everyone else is required by God to work to provide for themselves and their families. Beyond making sure we have what we need, we have a responsibility to help the needy as well. This is bound up within the directive to work and it is often overlooked as a command.

As noted in previous articles, the New Law emphasizes the heart and having the same love for one another that God has for us. God blesses both the righteous and the unrighteous in this world (Matthew 5:45), giving us all both physical and spiritual gifts in abundance. Christ was willing to give up His exalted place in heaven, to come to this world, endure hardships and want so that He could serve His own creation. In the same way, we should be humble, looking beyond ourselves and seeing to the needs of others. If we have the same love for others that the Lord has for us, we will do nothing that harms another (Romans 13:8-10). Instead of trying to take from others, we will be looking for ways to give – to needy brethren, but also to those outside of Christ and to our enemies (Romans 12:11-21). The entire law is summed up in one word – love – and true love is not just spoken, it is shown (I John 3:16-18). True love gives instead of taking. As Paul so eloquently said, “So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap,

if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 6:9-10, emphasis mine).

 

 

Part VIII

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The ninth commandment is “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (verse 16). This is in essence a law against lying, but especially in a court and especially in order to falsely incriminate someone. The penalty for this under the Old Law was very severe: “… you must do to him what he had intended to do to the accused. … [T]he principle will be a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot” (Deuteronomy 9:15-21). Many people have taken this concept out of context; what is taught here is that the penalty that would have come to the falsely accused was to fall upon the false witness. If the accused would have been put to death, the one who gave false testimony was to be put to death. Mercy was not to be shown so that this sort of thing would not become a problem among the children of Israel. God hates “a false witness who pours out lies” and dealt with it accordingly (Proverbs 6:16-19).

God has not changed – lying is still an abomination before Him. As Christians, we are commanded to put off slander and to not lie to one another (Colossians 3:8-10). Neither are we to speak against one another (James 4:11). Paul warns that those who are liars and perjurers are living contrary to sound teaching (I Timothy 1:10). James cautions against using the tongue for harm: “So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6). Lying is one way we can use the tongue for wrongdoing and think of how much destruction it can yield! With a few words, lives can be destroyed, souls can be lost.

Instead, God’s people are to be peaceful, impartial, and righteous (James 3:13-18). Just as love is the foundation and summation of God’s law, love should be the underlying motive and the ultimate goal of all we say and do. “Love is patient, love is kind … It is not self-serving … It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth” (I Corinthians 13:4-6). The cure for lying is love. If we love God, we will love truth and we will love others. Instead of seeking to use deceit and lies against another, we will seek to do good and to live peaceably. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments … are summed up in this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).


 

Part IX

 

In Exodus 20:2-17, God lays out what we call today the Ten Commandments. These ten “rules” are the foundation of the Old Law. At first glance, they seem fairly basic. However, a more in-depth study of these reveal a lot about God’s nature and our responsibility toward Him, even today.

The last commandment in this list is “You shall not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbor” (verse 17). To covet is to want something that belongs to someone else so much that you are willing to do anything to make it yours. Covetousness, jealousy, and envy go hand-in-hand. All are rooted in selfishness and greed. In the end, it destroys relationships and consumes the individual himself (Proverbs 14:30). It is usually some form of covetousness that leads to idolatry, stealing, adultery, and sometimes even murder. It is interesting that the first commandment (“You shall have no other gods before Me”) and the last are like bookends. They are the ones upon which the other commandments rest. If we keep God as Sovereign in our lives and we keep ourselves from coveting what others have, we will not have much trouble with the other commandments.

Covetousness and envy are perhaps the largest problems with which we struggle. Our hearts tend to be bound up in selfishness. God, of course, knows this and thus emphasizes the need for a pure heart in His law. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus explained that it is from within the heart that evil comes, including greed and envy.  These “defile a person.” Paul warned that those who give way to jealousy and envy will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

So how do we battle covetousness? The key is learning humility and selflessness. In Matthew 18:2-4, Jesus instructed us to become like little children. Have you ever noticed how much delight and satisfaction a child gets from sharing and giving? Whether it is a dandelion picked in the yard, a cherished toy, or a portion of their snack, children give with great generosity and unselfishness. It may not seem like much to us, but what we often miss is that the children are looking to share in whatever ways they can. Somewhere along the way, most of us lose that giving spirit, that joy in sharing. We replace it with selfishness or at least self-absorption. If we are going to root out the envy and covetousness in our hearts, we need to return to that childlike generosity and humility.

Looking beyond ourselves is what the Christian life is all about. No one exemplified this better than Jesus. Paul put it best when he wrote: “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had …” (Philippians 2:3-5). Humility leaves no room for us to focus on what we do or do not have. If we put others before ourselves, we will not want  what is theirs and we would certainly not cheat or harm them. We are called to serve each other, as Christ came to serve us. “Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Love is the cure for all sin!


 

 


 

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