Happy 4th of July weekend! We are blessed to live in a country that was founded on God’s Word. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are based on the principles found in the Bible. Let’s watch a video about the beliefs of our founding fathers called “Cornerstone of Freedom.”
Today, we enjoy the freedoms that our country was founded upon. We have freedom of religion, freedom to worship as we please, as long as it doesn’t infringe on other’s freedom. We have freedom to follow God’s ways in all of life. Why do we have those freedoms in America? Because God used men of faith to found this country on Christian principles.
Psalm 33:12 (ESV) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
In context, the nation in this verse is Israel. However, any nation will be blessed that acknowledge God as the ruler of that nation. On the flip side, nations that do not acknowledge God and His Word will not be blessed.
Proverbs 14:34 (ESV) Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
What is righteousness? Righteousness is right behavior, following God’s instructions in life. The more a nation follows God’s directions, that nation will be blessed. The more a nation disobeys God’s directions, that nation will decline. Biblically speaking, no person can be righteous enough to have a relationship with God. That’s why each of us must put our faith in Jesus Christ in order to be forgiven. Once we are in a relationship with God, God helps us keep His commands. The more believers there are in a nation who are following God’s instructions, the more that nation will be blessed. Even unbelievers can follow God’s commands to an extent and receive God’s blessing in their lives.
Deuteronomy 4:8 (ESV) And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
Nations that follow the principles of God’s Word will be great and blessed by God. Some say that you can’t expect unbelievers to follow God’s Word. Of course we can and should. All good laws are based either directly or on the principles of the Bible. The 6th commandment is “You shall not murder.” We have laws that forbid murder and we expect everyone, regardless of religious belief to obey that command. We can and should work to see our nation follow the principles of God’s Word.
Today, our message is entitled “God’s Directions.” God is our creator and He gave us the owner’s manual for life in the Bible, God’s Word. In our message series from the book of Exodus, we’ve seen God set Israel free from slavery in Egypt. The Lord saved them from the Egyptian army and brought them through the Red Sea. Now, at Mount Sinai, God gave Israel His directions for their lives.
Exodus 20:1-2 (ESV) And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
God redeemed and set Israel free. Now He was going to give them His directions so that they could keep the freedom that they had just won. In today’s message, we’re going to learn how obedience to God’s directions leads to blessing in our nation and blessing in our individual lives.
We’re going to be looking today at the instructions or commands that God wrote down for Moses and the people of Israel on stone tablets. These ten commandments laid the basis for the rest of the laws that God gave to govern the nation of Israel. There are three types of laws in the Old Testament: moral, civil and ceremonial. The ten commandments are the foundation for the moral law. The New Testament clearly teaches that God’s moral law applies today. The first four of the ten commandments have to do with our relationship with God. Jesus summed up these commands by saying that we must love God with our whole being.
Exodus 20:3 (ESV) “You shall have no other gods before me.
In other words, the Lord God must have the preeminent place in our lives. He is the only one that we should acknowledge as God. In the Israelites day, the surrounding peoples worshipped many gods. The temptation for the Israelites was to worship both the Lord and the gods of the nearby nations. Today, we may not call the things we have before God as gods, but we have them as well. Anything that causes us to sin and disobey the Lord God is a god before Him. The second commandment or instruction is another aspect.
Exodus 20:4-5a (ESV) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, …
In this direction, God prohibits the worship of any idols, we are to worship the Lord alone. The essence of this command is that we are not to worship any created thing. Everything in nature, anything we as humans might construct or any other supernatural being is forbidden for us to worship. To worship is to acknowledge that some created thing has power and you submit to that power in order to get something you want. Most people in America worship idols, but they don’t even realize it. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Honor God’s name
Exodus 20:7 (ESV) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
Other translations say that you should not misuse the name of the Lord. If the one true God is your only God, you worship Him alone, that you would naturally be careful to honor His name. Just a you do not speak negatively or carelessly about a person you love, you should honor the name of the Lord above it. This commandment prohibits profanity using God’s name, as well as angry, joking or careless usage as well.
Take a Sabbath rest
Exodus 20:8-10a (ESV) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, 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 …
This command instructs us to take a day a week to rest and honor God. The reason, given in the next verses is that God worked in creation for six days and rested on the seventh. When we rest on the seventh day and take time to worship God, it demonstrates not only obedience, but our trust that God will take care of us. God knows that we need regular time to worship and regular time to rest. In the New Testament, the normal Sabbath rest day was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection. We show our love for God by following these four commands or directions.
Let’s talk some more about how these directions apply to our lives today, as we seek to love God. Although, most Americans don’t have idol images that they worship, most Americans do have idols that are before the Lord God. Idols are anything that we give priority and serve above the Lord. Good things can be idols when they are prioritized and worshipped. Common idols in America are money, prestige, career, family, sports, pleasure, hobbies, addictive drugs and the list could go and on. Many of the things I’ve just mentioned are good, when they are submitted to the Lord God, such as money, career, family etc. But when they get in the way of your worship and service of the Lord, then they have become an idol. We must learn to love God with everything we have.
The next six commands have to do with loving other people, who are created in the image of God. The fifth command is to …
Exodus 20:12 (ESV) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
The family unit is the foundation of a godly nation. Children are to honor their parents, not just when they are at home, but throughout life. Parents are to honored by obedience at home, listening to counsel throughout life and providing for in old age. This is a command with a promise of long life for those who obey.
Exodus 20:13 (ESV) “You shall not murder.
This command prohibits the intentional killing of an innocent human being, made in the image of God. This command does not prohibit capital punishment or the taking of life in a just war. Jesus taught us that we violate this command is we hate another person in our hearts.
Exodus 20:14 (ESV) “You shall not commit adultery.
In the rest of the Old Testament law, we see that this command prohibits having sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Jesus taught us that we violate this command if we lust after another person in our hearts.
Exodus 20:15 (ESV) “You shall not steal.
To steal is to take something from another person that does not belong to us. Stealing involves taking physical possessions or not being careful with another’s possessions leading to their loss. Stealing also can encompass taking intangible things from others, such as stealing someone’s reputation, someone’s job or promotion.
Exodus 20:16 (ESV) “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
We ought always to tell the truth when speaking about others or ourselves. To lie about someone else or yourself is to misrepresent something about another person created in God’s image. Lying generally leads to many other problems and broken relationships.
Do not covet
Exodus 20:17 (ESV) “You shall not covet … anything that is your neighbor’s.”
This is the only direction that solely refers to a sin of the heart. However, coveting usually leads to other more visible sins. Coveting someone else’s property could lead to stealing. Coveting another person could lead to adultery. Coveting what other people have can lead to the creation and worship of idols, such as money, career and possessions. All of these six commands have to do with loving other people made in God’s image.
Loving God and loving other people are directly correlated. If you have difficulty in your love of God, you will have difficulty in loving others. This general principle applies both to individuals and nations. As our nation has continued to turn away from honoring and loving God, we see increased violations of God’s commands regarding loving people. Everyone worships something, so when people don’t worship God, they worship idols. When someone worships an idol, they give that idol priority in their lives and they sacrifice to that idol in one way or another.
Let’s take the issue of abortion, for example. Why do people have abortions? Because there is something else in their life that is more important than that baby made in God’s image. The idol might be money, as they don’t think they can afford a baby. The idol might be a career or a relationship, which the baby would get in the way of. The baby may have been conceived by an idol of sexual relations outside of marriage. When a baby is aborted, a human being made in God’s image is murdered. Doesn’t matter how the baby was conceived or how old it was. Just as murder is murder whether a person is one year old or a hundred years old. The sacrifice of children to idols, which is what abortion is, brings God’s judgement on nations that allow it. We must continue to seek to help mothers with unwanted pregnancies and to eliminate abortion from our nation. God commands us to love others as ourselves.
God gave these ten commands to the nation of Israel as they were coming out of Egypt, headed toward the Promised Land. These were the directions they were to follow in order to be blessed. They needed to …
Exodus 24:7 (ESV) Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
The people of Israel made a choice to do and obey everything that God had commanded. That was the right decision. However, if you keep on reading in the Old Testament, were they able to keep their promise? The answer is No, they failed to keep God’s directions, over and over again. What happens when you disobey one of God’s commands? The Bible calls disobedience sin and there were serious punishments for sin. The Israelites need to …
Accept God’s forgiveness
Exodus 24:8 (ESV) And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
God had made a provision in the Old Testament for the people’s sins to be forgiven, through the sacrifice of animals. When the sacrifices were made, God overlooked their sin. The Old Testament sacrifices had to be repeated over and over again. They pointed forward to the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our disobedient sins.
You see, none of us can ever perfectly keep God’s laws. We all fail on a pretty regular basis, especially in sins of the heart. So, we need to put our faith in Jesus Christ and receive His forgiveness for our sins. I’ll give you an opportunity to do that in a few minutes.
We are saved and enter into a relationship with God, not through keeping the law, but by putting our faith in Jesus. What then is the purpose of God’s directions, His commands for believers? God’s commands are our guidelines for living a life pleasing to God, a life blessed by God. As believers, the Bible says, that God has written His commands on our hearts. The Holy Spirit tells us when we are keeping His commands or breaking the. When we break God’s commands, not only are we not blessed, but we experience the negative consequences of our sin. When we repent, we are forgiven, but we still reap what we have sown by our sin. God’s commands are our roadmap for living a blessed life, pleasing to God.
They are also guidelines for our city, state and nation. God’s commands should be the basis of the laws of our government. As American citizens, we should vote for and support candidates and polices that are in accordance with God’s directions and commands. As we do that, we are God’s light and salt in our nation. We help prepare the way for God’s kingdom to expand and more people to be saved in America.