Tag Archives: Ten Commandments

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 4)

In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men to do so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

We see that the Commandments were not abolished, but fulfilled by Jesus to perfection. We are called to be “conformed to His image” (Romans 8:29) — to be little imitators of Christ, which means we love and do the same things He would do. In addition, Jesus says in this passage to actively teach His commandments.

Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment of all. He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

If we can help our children understand that the whole basis for following the Ten Commandments is because we love God wholeheartedly, we won’t have to worry too much about them becoming legalists. We must bring home to them that disobedience to what God has clearly said hurts our heavenly Father’s heart. We don’t want to hurt Him. And one of the things which hurts His heart the most is when we don’t love other people like He loves them. We demonstrate love for the Lord by loving people.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed out in great detail that the Commandments are about heart attitude first. (See Matthew 5:21-48 in particular.) This is also what Paul was talking about when he said, “… The letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

While the Ten Commandments give details of how to walk out the two great commandments Jesus spoke of in Matthew 22:37-40, they are still only a bare outline of what God intends. In teaching the Commandments to our children, we can flesh them out by giving concrete examples of how they should be lived (and loved) out.

For instance, “You shall have no other gods before me” doesn’t mean that as long as God is at the head of the line, it’s OK to have secondary gods pulling at our heartstrings. God does not want to be first among many: He wants to be our all. Anything which distracts us from Him is an offense to Him. Obviously, we can’t even begin to live Commandment #1 in our own strength. It requires continual dependence on Him.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” is more than avoiding using His name as a loose exclamation. It is about living reverently toward Him in every way possible, realizing that His name is holy and precious. Using His name is invoking His aid, His authority, His power, and His nature. I personally believe that ritualistic prayer, done without thought or sincerity of heart, could be a violation of this commandment, as could tacking on “in Jesus’ name” at the end as a mere formality.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is, again, about an attitude of reverence. Do we attend church out of duty, or because we can’t wait to worship the Lord, learn from His Word, and live out Christ-love together with other believers?

“Honor your father and mother” is more than avoiding overt disrespect or disobedience. It involves heart-felt reverence for parents. They are representatives of the heavenly Father to their children. Honoring one’s parents does not end when we reach adulthood. Even if we do not agree with some of the ways we were raised, or if our elderly parents become physically or mentally weak, we are to continue to honor them.

Jesus addresses “You shall not kill” and “You shall not commit adultery” thoroughly in Matthew 5:21-32, so I won’t do that here.

Besides its obvious meaning, “You shall not steal” includes any defrauding or taking advantage of others. Jesus said that the thief (the devil) comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but that He has come to bring abundant life (John 10:10). We can encourage our children to bring life to others, rather than being like the devil, who is a thief. Philippians 2:3, 4 (NLT) gives us practical ways to bring abundant life and avoid “thieving” from others: “… thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” speaks of lies such as perjury, slander, and libel, but also includes any attempt to cast a bad light on someone’s character. Gossip, with its malicious delight in exposing someone’s failings, falls under this category. Telling partial truths to make ourselves look good and others look bad does as well. The devil is “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). We shouldn’t be.

“You shall not covet” addresses the selfish desire to have what belongs to someone else. It is closely tied to bitter envy — secretly wishing that what we cannot have, our neighbor would not have either. Coveting can lead to stealing material goods or relationships. We must teach our children to be happy for others when they receive blessings. There is more than enough to go around in God’s kingdom, so He will give them special gifts too, at the right time. While we can assure them that God desires to bless each of them abundantly, we should also continually shift their gaze from the “stuff” of earth to the higher things of God. (Memorizing verses such as James 1:17 and 1 John 2:15-17 helps reinforce these ideas.)

In summary, memorize the Commandments, but study them from the perspective of desiring to bless others and to make our Father’s heart happy. Encourage your children to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in living them out as Jesus would. Being led by the Spirit in the ways of God is our goal, and the Ten Commandments are a tool to aid us.

Previous: Part 3 (The Ten Commandments)

 

Character Building for Families

A Well-Grounded Faith (Part 3)

The Ten Commandments have become rather unpopular among Christians in recent years. Somewhere along the line, we seem to have developed a phobia for any kind of Thou shalts or Thou shalt nots. We hear reasoning such as:

“We’ve got to be culturally relevant — and the Commandments, um, aren’t.”

“The Bible doesn’t really mean those things. Because, I was born with these issues, you know? And God wants me to be free to be me, just the way I am.”

“I’m under grace, not the law, so the Commandments aren’t necessary anymore.”

“The Ten Commandments? You’ve got to be kidding me! You must be one of those religious-spirit legalists!”

“If we talk about do’s and don’ts, they won’t come back to our church, and then they won’t ever slip into being Christians.” (Never mind that they never will anyway.)

I am not advocating legalism. That’s a mess unto itself. The apostle Paul, who is often called “the apostle of grace,” said we are to minister Christ to others “not of the letter [of the law], but of the Spirit: for the letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Yet, this same apostle of grace reiterated the Commandments frequently throughout his epistles to the New Testament believers. He exhorted them to live holy lives worthy of Christ, citing the Commandments as examples of how to do that. So did the other apostles.

Clearly, there must be a right way and a wrong way for New Testament believers to approach the Ten Commandments, and we’ve got to find the balance. It doesn’t do to ignore them. We must simply learn to use them wisely, so that our children grow up walking out godly, pure lives by the power of the Spirit, rather than being morally upright, yet unconverted in their hearts.

We don’t want them to become like the Pharisees Jesus denounced in Matthew 23:25, 26: cups which are clean on the outside, but inwardly full of filth. Equally, we don’t want them looking down their noses at people who don’t adhere to the same standards. (You may think neither of these problems could ever happen in your family. However, both have happened to many homeschooling families. A superior attitude over our “goodness” is an ever-present temptation.)

What good are the Commandments? What can they do for us?

They show us how far we fall short in our natural ability to please God. We know that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Natural conscience witnesses to the truth of this statement, but, should any of us have a dull sensitivity to conscience, God’s Word (summarized in the Ten Commandments) leaves us without doubt or excuse.

Paul tells us in Galatians 3:21, … If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” The Israelites tried and failed miserably. That’s the point God wanted to make: we need our God-Savior to do it for us, because we are incapable by our own efforts. Paul explained it, “Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

So far, so good. We can use the Commandments to help our children see that they cannot please God on their own, so they need Jesus to do it for them. But, if the kids have already prayed the sinner’s prayer, do we still need to teach them the Commandments? Yes, because they keep us in a place of remembering that we must continually depend on Jesus.

Putting them into our children’s hearts and minds stores them up for later use by the Holy Spirit to convict and correct as needed. The more Bible we get into ourselves, the more the Spirit has to work with, to “bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I [Jesus] have said to you” (John 14:26). The Ten Commandments are, in a nutshell, what God says about holy living. By planting them securely in our children’s memory, we provide the raw material for the Holy Spirit to remind them what to do when they are faced with choices.

They give our children concrete, practical guidelines for how to follow Jesus as His disciples. Frankly, the modern-day church as a whole has neglected the concept of discipleship. We’ve talked a lot about Jesus being our Savior and Friend, but not much about being His disciples.

A disciple is one who learns at the feet of his master and then puts into practice what he has been taught. Disciples follow their teacher’s example. They imitate what he does. And when the master gives an instruction, they don’t debate with him; they do what he says.

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31). But, isn’t relating to Jesus as Savior and Friend enough? Jesus addressed the friend issue, too: “You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). If you want to be His friend, you have to be willing to be His disciple, doing whatever He commands, as well.

In our next post, we’ll talk about how to teach the Ten Commandments to our children without being legalistic.

Previous: Part 2 (Core Christian Beliefs)
Next: Part 4 (10 Commandments continued)

 

Character Building for Families