6/8/2000 10.45 a.m. Rules for being at peace : peace with God

Exodus 20:1-7, Mark 12:28-34

Exodus 20 1And God spoke all these words: 2"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3"You shall have no other gods before me. 4"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.


Last Sunday ITV started a new series entitled 'Who's afraid of the Ten Commandments ? ' Today we start a new sermon series on the Ten Commandments entitled 'Rules for being at peace'. Today's is called 'peace with God'.

The idea of being told what to do, or what not to do is something that we may want to rebel against. However, this rebellion may be moderated by a knowledge of the person or body who is giving the orders, and the motivation behind the rules.

For example, road signs are given by the government to make travel safer. Signs with a red circle around them are normally prohibitive. This would include a 'no entry' sign. Few people would even think about going against such a sign because it may bring them into a one-way street and a head on collision.

God gave his commands to his people for their own good. Not because he is a power-crazed ruler wanting to dominate people. Yet the Jewish and Christian faiths are criticised by some for being negative.

The fact that the commandments are for the good of people means that, if people reject them, they, and their descendants, will suffer the consequences. This is what verse 5 is about. The other side of the coin is that those who follow God, and their descendants will know the blessing of his steadfast, covenant love, cf. verse 6.

The Ten Commandments begin by concentrating upon God and his people's relationship with him. What we think of God's rules will be affected by our picture of Him. We need to begin to understand his great love and mercy, his trustworthiness and steadfastness, his power and superiority, his perfection and holiness, his otherness. Once we just start to comprehend these things his ways no longer seem authoritarian and burdensome, but sensible and helpful Once we have the right picture of God our view of ourselves and others will fall into place. What I personally like or want will become less important as I find ways that allow myself and others to appreciate God's greatness.

201 And God spoke all these words:

These words were spoken by God. We have a God who wants to reveal himself to humankind. We are made in His image. One of the common features of God and humans is that we are moral beings. God reveals his moral character and expectations in his commands.

They carry his authority and ensure the continuing relevance of his words. The moral and legal codes of this country go back to these words that are some 3,000 years old. Yet today, some of the commandments are ignored, whilst others still endure. For example the law of this land still prohibits murder, but makes no provision for a Sabbath day of rest for the whole community.

You cannot decide which parts of God's law we would like to keep. Because these commands come from God his people are obliged to uphold all of them, not just those which fall in with the belief system of the world around.

2"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

These words are addressed to God's people. He describes himself as 'your God'.

He reveals himself as a God who is active in human history. He is concerned about people. Here he refers to the way in which he graciously delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt.

We are now into the preparations for the next General Election. We have seen this recently by the announcement of government spending in various areas including Education, Transport and Health. The government recent published it's annual review which told how they were getting on with fulfilling their election promises. In return the Labour Party want people's vote.

Although I have usually supported Labour they cannot rely upon my vote because they have failed to abolish the differentials in school funding so that schools in Staffordshire get about 1,400 per pupil yet schools in the south of the country get 2,400. Also, despite assurances that they value the family there has been little support for marriage and more for promoting homosexuality as a way of life.

3,000 years ago a newly-crowned King would address his people. He would outline what he had done for them, and what he expected from them in return.

In the Ten Commandments God reminds his people what he has done for them before outlining how he expects them to live under his rule.

3 "You shall have no other gods before me. 4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The Jews were in a polytheistic culture, one which worshipped many gods. Some of these were gods that related to certain areas, for example the fertility of crops and cattle. In contrast God is sovereign over every area. He is the creator of everything, not a created statue.

Today we live in a polytheistic culture. A country where there are many religions, and, for many, none. Whilst we are to give respect to other religions we are to retain the

exclusivity of the Christian faith. That there is one God and the only way we can be reconciled to him is through Jesus.

As well as there being other religions there are also other philosophies which may be held by people, even though they may be unaware of this.

- There is hedonism, the understanding that pleasure is the chief good. So, if it doesn't bring me pleasure I don't do it. This devalues things such as family and community.

- There is materialism. Putting security in material possessions and physical comfort at the expense of God.

- There is a consumerism which is linked to a perfectionism. If something breaks down I return it to the shop. If a relationship is difficult this gets thrown away. The result of this is that we live in an increasingly individualistic society. In 1901 only one household in twenty contained one person. In 1999 almost one in three did. the fastest growing social group are single men. By 2016 it is forecast that half of men aged 30-34 will be living alone. Only 2% of households in Britain today are traditional families with two parents an dependant children.

Yet we live in a society where communication is on the increase with mobile phones and the internet. Some people are more likely to bond with someone in America via the internet than to know anything about their next-door neighbour, or even members of their family.

So nothing should come between us and God. We should not worship any idol. The word literally means something hacked out or carved. This could be something that is created by human hands to represent a false god, such as the images used by the polytheistic cultures at the time.

This is not a real danger today, although there is a danger for Christians that things such as possessions, money, security, and status can become idols by pushing God to one place. So that we fail to love him with 'all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength'.

An idol can also be something used to represent the true God. This is because there is nothing that can be created that will do justice to representing what God is like. Just as language is limited in expressing what God is like. God in all his fullness cannot be contained in something that is limited and finite.

This does not mean that we should abandon language as a way of expressing what God is like. But it should not become the object of worship. So whilst we should respect the Bible, we should not worship it.

Bread and wine communicate something of Jesus sacrifice for us. This is something that we remember and proclaim in this service. But we should not worship these elements either.

Church tradition can help in our devotion to God. But this, too should not be worshipped and take precedence over God's ways revealed in the Bible.

The mind can help us to understand more about God as we study the Bible and the created order. But we should not put this before the revelation of God. Some people do this and believe that, because their minds cannot accept that miracles happen, then they did not. I cannot comprehend how you can call yourself a Christian and not believe in a God who goes against the normal order of things.

The Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian. He will sometimes lead us by circumstance or by a feeling. However, some Christians can become led by their feelings, even when this is contrary to God's revealed will in Scripture.

False worship will not only affect us, it will affect our families. This is what verse 5 is referring to. The sin of one generation affect the next. We see this in the racism that is endemic in some Southern areas of the United States, even today.

God is jealous. Not in an emotional sense, but in an active sense. He will not tolerate those upon whom he has lavished his love putting anything else first.

It is like a wife leaving a husband for another man. The husband has devoted his life to her, worked hard, sacrificed, nursed her when she was sick, and loved her when she was moody. How can he share her with another man ?

When God's people turn away from Him He often calls them 'adulterous'.

7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

This is prohibiting using the name of God when making a promise if that promise is not kept. If someone did not keep such a promise it is almost as if that person is denying the reality of God. This may not be directly relevant today, for the only place anything associated with God is used in this way is in court when you swear to tell the truth on a Bible.

Today people use the name of God and Jesus like a swear word, and there is no place for that in the Christian life.

There is also the issue that, as Christians, we bear the name of Jesus. We represent God. Because of this our words should be true and trustworthy.

In Toy Story 2 the green aliens with three eyes are saved by Mr Potato Head. Afterwards they follow him around, vowing to do his every wish declaring, 'You have saved us, we are eternally grateful'.

The Ten Commandments were given to a people who God had delivered from slavery because he loved them. Not because they were more loveable or more moral than other nations. The commandments followed the practical demonstration of God's love. They points to the commitment that he wants his people to make to himself and his ways.

The commandments are not a way to earning God's favour. They are a way of showing that we have received his undeserved favour. They are also a way of showing that we need a Saviour, because they show us we can never be good enough for God. In this service we celebrate and proclaim what God has done for us. In sending Jesus to die in our place and be the perfect sacrifice for our failure to live life God's way. He asks that we commit ourselves afresh to following his ways.

We should not be disheartened when we realise that we cannot love God with all of our being all of the time. But this should not stop us from trying. After all, you would not fail to try in an exam just because it was unlikely that you would get 100% would you ? We are called to try our best in the power of God's Holy Spirit. When we fail we can rely on Jesus for the forgiveness that we need to put us right with God.

We can know the peace of God by being putting him first, and relying upon Jesus for forgiveness. In verse 34 Jesus said to the man, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Perhaps there are some of us today who feel that they are in that position because they have failed to put God first. If we are honest that is probably true of every one of us. I will now lead us in a prayer asking God to forgive us, and committing ourselves afresh to following him.

Dear Lord, thank you for loving me. I'm sorry that I have broken your laws. Forgive me for keeping you at arm's length, even though I've known about you. Thank you for forgiving me through Jesus. I give myself afresh to you. Take my heart and renew it by your Spirit. Take my mind and fill it with love and desire for you and your will. Take my life, and use me in your service. Amen.