SERIES: 10 Commandments 2023
SERMON: One God and Savior
TEXT: Exodus 20:1-3 (ESV)
Watch the sermon here.
Take notes here.
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re beginning a new series today — on the 10 Commandments. So — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Exodus chapter twenty. We’ll be looking at verses one through three this morning. And — if you’re new to the Bible — the chapter numbers are the numbers in larger print and the verse numbers are in smaller print.
And — while you’re finding Exodus chapter twenty — and since we’re starting a new series on the Ten Commandments — let me share with you an article I came across at christiannews.net. The article is titled “There is No Right Way to Live: Atheists Invent Their Own Ten Commandments.” Some years ago, two atheist authors held a contest where they asked people to send in — and I quote — “[an] alternative secular version of the Ten Commandments for the modern age.” (https://christiannews.net/2014/12/20/there-is-no-one-right-way-to-live-atheists-invent-their-own-ten-commandments/) Twenty-eight hundred submissions from eighteen countries were voted on by a panel of thirteen judges and people on the Internet. Each winner received a thousand dollars for their entry.
And the winning entries for the “ten commandments for our modern day” — according to atheists all around our world — are:
I. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
II. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
III. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
IV. Every person has the right to control over their body.
V. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
VI. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
VII. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
VIII. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
IX. There is no one right way to live.
X. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
Now — you may agree with some of their commandments and disagree with others of them. But what I find interesting is that atheists feel the need to come up with their own ten commandments — their own set of commands they believe should be followed in order for people to be better off. A list of commandments that I believe — and I think this is pretty obvious — no one’s doing a great job at obeying.
Take number nine — for instance — “There is no one right way to live" — the author titled the article after this commandment. Now this seems like a bold, gracious, and full of tolerance commandment in the way it’s worded. But the very fact that it’s on a list of 10 commandments should make you wonder why there’s even a list at all — because — another list of 10 commandments is just as valid as this one — at least according to their ninth commandment.
But let’s challenge this idea even further — this idea that “there’s no one right way to live.”
What if a person wants to work in a particular field knowing that — due to their religious convictions — there may be part of the job that they’re unwilling to do? What are they supposed to do if part of their job goes against their religious convictions? Is it OK for them to ask for or be given an option where they don’t have to go against their religious convictions?
Now our country has been pushing for a “keep religion out of your job — just do the job you’ve been hired to do” — for some time. But — if we really believe that “there’s no one right way to live” — then — for example — a Christian or Muslim or Buddihist refusing to go against their religious beliefs — as an employee — is merely obeying this secular commandment, right? They’re simply showing one of the many ways that are all a “right way” to be an employee.
Here’s the opposite way to think of this — and let’s be specific — so think of someone working for the US government. To say that a US government employee is wrong — when they refuse to violate their religious beliefs — is to say there’s only one right way for all people to live as a government employee. Which is a contradiction to this ninth secular commandment.
Or take the baker who doesn’t believe in same sex marriage. We wouldn’t want to say that the only right way for bakers in the US to live is by baking cakes for same sex marriages, now would we? Because — if we do — we demonstrate that we don’t really believe “there’s more than one right way” for a baker to live. Yet we seem to be living in a time when there’s a push towards there being only one right way — you must bake the cake.
Do you see what I’m doing? I’ve taken this belief — that some people hold to be true — and I’ve used it to demonstrate hypocrisy. To say religion must be kept private is to say there’s only one right way to be religious. To say that bakers must go against their convictions is to impose what you believe on all bakers. Same with government employees — and the examples can go on and on and on.
Here’s my point: How sad is it when we can’t even obey our own Ten Commandments? When we’re violators of the very convictions we claim to believe are most important as a society? You see it’s not just religious people who are hypocrites. I’ll be the first to admit that we Christians can be hypocrites and often fail miserably at following Jesus. But — if you’re here today and you wouldn’t consider yourself a religious person — are you willing to admit that you don’t live up to your own standards either? Can you see the hypocrisy in your own life — or is hypocrisy something you can only see in others?
So how does God’s Ten Commandments help with any of this? A great question! Well — the reason why we’re all hypocrites — Christians and non-Christians alike — is because we haven’t grasped the freedom that’s found in God’s Ten Commandments. You see, there’s a freedom offered to us in God’s list that isn’t found anywhere else — not even in lists we make up for ourselves. For God’s Ten Commandments make it possible for us to live in freedom.
So let’s look at God’s Ten Commandments — or at least the first one today — and discover the freedom found in his list. Here are the words found in Exodus chapter twenty. Beginning in verse one.
“And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:1-3 ESV)
To set up our commandment for today — and really the entire series — I need to catch us all up with where we are in history. In the book of Genesis, God establishes a special relationship with a man named Abraham. And part of this special relationship includes a promise from God to Abraham that his offspring — his future family — will become a large nation — the nation of Israel. And God’s special relationship with Abraham will be passed on to the nation of Israel. So the nation of Israel — the Jewish people — experience a unique relationship with God.
Later — near the end of the book of Genesis — a man named Joseph — who was the great-grandson of Abraham — rises to power in the nation of Egypt. He becomes second in command in all the land and eventually brings his family to come live with him, which is how the Israelites end up living in Egypt.
Now our story takes place a few hundred years after Joseph had died. And — at this point in history — the Egyptians have enslaved the Jews. God’s special people are slaves to an evil master, Pharaoh. This results in God’s people having no freedom as they’re forced to work long days doing hard labor with little hope of being set free from their cruel oppressor.
And just when all hope seems lost, God rescues his people. You may have heard of the ten plagues — ten acts of judgment that God directs at the Egyptians. The final plague being the death of every firstborn son in the nation of Egypt. The death of every firstborn except the sons of God’s special people.
This results in Pharaoh telling the Israelites to leave. And God’s people do just that. They leave Egypt and head for the Promised Land. A land promised to be their home. A land where they will be free once again.
But Pharaoh had second thoughts about letting his slaves go — leading to him and his army chasing after the Israelites. And God’s people are trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea — there’s no way of escape. Yet God rescues his people again. The sea splits open allowing God’s people to walk across on dry ground. And — as Pharaoh and his army chase the Israelites — God causes the sea to collapse on top of them — destroying Pharoah and his army.
And God did all of this — he rescued his people — setting them free from slavery — so they could live for him. And this story — of God rescuing his people — what we call the Exodus — is a theme found throughout the Bible. This idea of God rescuing his people so they can live for him — is one of the great threads we see over and over again in Scripture.
And the pinnacle of this theme — the culmination of this rescue story — is God sending his Son, Jesus, to rescue his people from their enslavement to sin. For God sent Jesus to be the Rescuer and Liberator of his people. Jesus is the One who came so God’s people would be set free from their slavery to sin and set free to live for him.
And this is what the Exodus — and ultimately the story of the Bible — shows us. The Bible shows us that God has offered us freedom so we can live for him. God has offered us — you and me — and every person on this planet — freedom — so we can live for him.
But what does it mean to live for God? What does it mean to be set free so we can live for him? In this first commandment we learn that living in freedom for God includes: 1) Believing his Word, 2) trusting his rescue, and 3) worshiping his Son.
Living for God — in having been freed from sin — including the hypocrisy of not living up to the standards we hold others too — living for God includes: 1) believing his Word, 2) trusting his rescue, and 3) worshiping his Son.
Let’s return to Exodus chapter twenty where we learn that living for God means believing his Word. Look with me in verse one.
“And God (did what? God…) spoke all these words, saying…” (Exodus 20:1 ESV)
The Ten Commandments — in the Hebrew language — means something like the Ten Words. So these commandments are the Ten Words spoken by God. And they’re part of the covenant that God made with his people. What’s a covenant? Think of a covenant like a contract that expresses God’s gracious promises to his people and what their relationship with God is to be like. So a covenant includes a promise — made by God to us — and his expectation of how we’re to respond to his promise.
And part of what it means to live for God — part of the appropriate response to the promises he’s made to us — is believing his Word. And throughout history God has spoken his words to us as revealed in the Bible. This book — the Bible — is God’s Word. And to live for God means that we must believe his Word — all of it. The parts that encourage us and the parts that challenge us. The parts that are difficult for our minds to understand and the parts that are easily understood. All of the Bible is God’s Word — and all of it is to be believed.
Obviously this means we must read God’s Word, and study it, so we can believe it. And believing God’s Word — truly believing his Word — means obeying it. For when we trust his Word to be true, and good, and accurate, and right, and more reliable than our own words — we’ll strive to grow in our obedience of his Word.
Now I understand that not all of us are ready to accept the Bible as God’s Word. Some of us believe that a relationship with God is nothing more than a personal, existential, feelings-based experience. “My relationship is between me and God and your relationship is between you and God,” says our culture. Many people believe, “There’s more than one right way to have a relationship with God” just like “there’s more than one right way to live.”
And let me say there’s definitely a personal aspect to our relationship with God. And our relationship with God does include our emotions. And there’s a certain existential aspect to our faith. But tell me something — does a relationship really work if words are never spoken between the people who are part of the relationship?
I mean — what would it be like — ladies — to never hear a word from your husband? Now don’t get excited too quickly. I mean what would it be like to never hear him say, “I love you." Or, “Let me help you with that." Or, “I’m sorry” ever again?
Imagine him never using words to communicate with you and then you confront him about it. “Why don’t you ever say I love you anymore?” And what if his response was, “You should know I love you because I have this personal, existential, feeling for you, so words aren’t necessary for me to express my love.”
Or what if — one day at work — you get a note from your boss telling you that you’ve been fired. You go to your boss to find out why. You say, “I’ve been working here for six months and you haven’t said one word to me about how I’m doing at my job. I haven’t got an email, a performance review, or a single note to let me know how I’m doing.” And what if your boss responds with, “I don’t like to use words. But I’ve had this personal existential feeling about your work habits which have made me uneasy for some time, so I’ve decided to let you go.” What kind of boss would you think they are? A terrible one, right?
So, if we know we need words to make our human relationships work, why would we think words aren’t necessary for our relationship with God? Thus part of what it means to live for God is that you believe his Word. You believe that he’s spoken. You believe there’s more to a relationship with God than some subjective personal existential feeling.
And if you’re not sure if the Bible is God’s Word, then let me encourage you to read and study it for yourself. Don’t take someone else’s word for it — do your homework with God’s Word and see what you find out for yourself.
But it’s not just God’s Word that we’re to believe…because living for God also means trusting his rescue. Living for God also means trusting his rescue. Look with me in verse two.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2 ESV)
Something interesting about Moses’s story is that this isn’t his first attempt to rescue God’s people. Earlier in the book of Exodus — around forty years earlier — Moses saw the oppression of his fellow Israelites. He saw their enslavement and knew that God’s people needed to be rescued. So he took matters into his own hands and killed an Egyptian who was being cruel to the Hebrew slaves.
But rescuing the Israelites wasn’t Moses’s job — rescuing them was God’s job. And — like us — Moses was a poor substitute for God and he failed at rescuing the Hebrew slaves and was chased out of Egypt to live in the wilderness for forty years as a shepherd. And it was during these forty years that God prepared Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt by trusting God to rescue them from the hand of Pharaoh.
And — as this verse tells us — verse two — it was God who brought his people out of slavery in Egypt. God rescues them. And — as I mentioned earlier — this theme of being rescued is found throughout the Bible.
Now — one thing you should know about this particular rescue story — is that the Israelites do something strange pretty quickly after being rescued. God rescues them from Egypt, the Egyptian army and Pharaoh are swallowed up by the Red Sea, and God’s people start to head for the Promised Land. And do you know what they do three days into their journey? The Israelites begin to distrust God — they start to question his rescue plan. The Bible even tells us that they start desiring to return back to Egypt. They begin to think that slavery in Egypt is better than the freedom found in God’s rescue plan.
And you may be thinking that’s absurd. But the Bible is brutally honest about the fickleness and hypocrisy of the human heart. So don’t be too quick to judge their fickleness until you’ve done some serious self-examination. You see — all of us — I’d guess — struggle with the idea of needing to be rescued. We don’t feel that we need to be rescued. We live in the United States which — after all — this is the land of the free. Thus we don’t see how we’re a slave to anyone or anything.
In an interesting article titled, “Technology Wants You as Its Slave: How Much Power Do You Have Over Your Tech Obsession?” https://thenextweb.com/news/technology-wants-slave-much-power-tech-obsession, author Toby Daniels writes, “We all judge them. Out at dinner, the couple not interacting with each other but have their heads down focused on their phones. Then, we turn to Twitter and post our snarky comment about how sad it is. With our friends doing the same.” He goes on to write, “Tech is a dominant part of our daily lives for both good and bad, and we have become a slave to what it wants: It’s demanding, intrusive, and, in many ways, regularly disappoints. Yet we can’t live without it.”
You see slavery comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are slaves to pornography. Others to pills or alcohol. Some of us are slaves to more polite things like wanting everyone to like us. Some are slaves to food. Others to their looks. Regardless if it’s a TV show, a sports team, or making our child’s dream come true…we are all controlled by what we’re a slave to.
And let’s face it — that’s why some of you parents have endless days of driving your kids around from activity to activity. You say things like, “I’m not available. I’m already busy. I’ve got to get my kids to…”, but the truth is you’re a slave. And so are your kids.
It’s why you can’t put your phone down. It’s in your hand at the dinner table, or during Life Group, or even at that event you had to drive your kids to. You’re a slave.
It’s why we have to have a TV or some sort of screen in every room in our house and it has to be on. It’s why we eat way too much or way too little. We’re a slave to food or a slave to the scale.
And God’s Word tells us we’re all slaves in need of being rescued. And all of these enslavements show us that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be free — not just citizens of the “land of the free” who can’t put their phones down — we’re supposed to be really free.
And the reason why things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be is because we haven’t trusted in God’s rescue. And the way we’re set free from our slavery is by trusting his rescue plan. The plan he’s accomplishing in this world as we speak. A plan he’s revealed to us in his Word — the Bible — which we’re to believe. A plan of rescue that offers us true freedom — not this false sense of freedom the world offers.
Which leads us to the last component of living for God that we have to look at to understand God’s rescue plan. Living for God means worshiping his Son. Living for God means worshiping his Son. In verse three we read…
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 ESV)
Now — God’s people have just left Egypt — which was a pluralistic, multi-religion society. The ten plagues were strategic displays of God’s power as he showed both the Egyptians and the Israelites that he alone was the true God. Each plague was an attack on an Egyptian so-called god and was meant to prove that the God who the Israelites worshiped was the only true God. And — in this first command — God tells his people not to worship anyone or anything other than him.
And — much like the Israelites — we find ourselves in a day where we have many things competing for our worship. Many lowercase “g” gods that are vying for our attention — seeking to lure us away from worshiping the One true God.
Before his suicide, novelist David Foster Wallace — who was not a Christian, by the way — spoke these words to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon college. He said, “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough…Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you…Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is…they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”
What Wallace was getting at is how we don’t have to make gods out of little wooden statues in order to worship. Our god is whatever has our attention, our desires, our emotions, our thoughts. Our god is whatever we’re a slave to. It’s that thing that’s eating you alive because it keeps demanding more and more and more from you — yet keeps failing to give you what it promises. Whether the promise is good looks, health, popularity, a successful business, not feeling alone, more information, or children who don’t wind up in prison.
Whatever we worship is what we live for — and if what we worship is anything other than the true God — we’re slaves — and we don’t even know it. We know that we’re unhappy, or disappointed with where we are in life, or are depressed, or in a miserable marriage — but what we don’t realize is that we’re a slave. A slave who’s been offered freedom — true freedom — by the only God who deserves our worship because he’s the only God who keeps his promises.
And the reason why living for God includes worshiping his Son — Jesus — is because Jesus is God’s Word. And — because Jesus is God’s Word — being set free to live for God means we believe in him.
The gospel of John begins with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1 ESV)
A few verses later we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 ESV)
Later we learn that Jesus is both the Word of God and the Son of God sent from his Father in Heaven. And when we grasp the importance of words in our relationship with God, we’re moved by the fact that God went beyond speaking his words to us — he sent his Word to us. His Word came to us as a person — the ultimate display of the extent to which God was willing to go to rescue us. He sent the Rescuer as one of us — a human — to set us free from our slavery. And God sets his people free to live for him by believing in the Word of God — who is his Son — Jesus.
And we trust God’s rescue plan because we remember that Jesus first trusted God’s rescue plan. Jesus trusted God’s rescue plan even as he faced his own death, “saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ESV)
And he trusted God’s rescue plan as he was crucified on the cross. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46 ESV)
As he faced his death — and gave up his life — Jesus trusted his Father’s rescue plan. Even as he asked for another way for God’s will to be accomplished — knowing that his death was going to be immeasurably hard and painful — Jesus trusted that his Father would rescue him — along with many people — because of the death he was about to experience. And — now — we’re to trust that Jesus’ death is our only means of rescue.
And — in all of this — we see who Jesus worshiped. Before he began his ministry, Jesus was tempted by Satan to distrust God’s words and rescue plan. Satan tried to convince Jesus to worship him instead of his Heavenly Father. And the gospel of Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship (who? Jesus says that we’re to worship the…) Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10 ESV)
And we too are to worship the One true God — the Lord our God — and him alone.
For us to be free people — people free from all that enslaves us — free from the false gods we worship — free from the idols that disappoint us even as they demand we give our lives to them — the only way we find freedom is by believing in God’s Word, by trusting in his rescue plan, and by worshiping his Son, Jesus. This is what the first commandment teaches us.
Regardless of who you are or what you believed when you woke up this morning — can you admit that you're in need of being rescued? Do you see your desperate need for God’s Savior to come and rescue you from the things you’re a slave to? For the enslavement we all must be rescued from — in order to experience the freedom we so desire — is our enslavement to sin — our slavery to rebellion against God — our being trapped by the gods we’ve turned to to satisfy our soul’s desire all while they — to quote David Foster Wallace — “Eat us alive.”
You see we’re all worshippers of something — it’s our default setting. The question is what will you worship? Will you be a worshiper of the One true God? Will you respond to the freedom he offers by believing in his Word, by trusting in his rescue plan, and by worshiping his Son, Jesus? Or will you turn back to Egypt — not realizing that what you’re turning back to is a life of slavery and eternal misery?
The first commandment of God’s Top Ten List, is a commandment about worship. It teaches us that there’s only One God and Savior who we’re to give our lives to. One God and Savior who has entered into our world to rescue us. One God and Savior who’s given us his Word, so we can live for him alone. One God and Savior who can set you free, so you can live for him. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, I pray that everyone who hears my voice will be receptive to what you’ve said to us through your Word. I pray that you’ll remind us often of the freedom you offer to us — freedom from all that enslaves us — freedom so we can live for you alone.
I pray that we, your people, would find freedom by believing this Good News: That living for you means believing your Word, trusting your rescue plan, and worshiping your Son, Jesus.
Holy Spirit, help all of us to acknowledge our own hypocrisy — for all of us fail to live up to the standards we impose on others. And help all of us recognize our need for Jesus to be our Rescuer. And — Jesus — we thank you for you delight in rescuing us. In your precious, gracious, joy-giving name we pray. Amen.
May you go living for God by believing his Word, trusting his rescue plan, and by worshiping his Son. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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