“The Desert We Call Life”—Exodus 15:22-27

INTRODUCTION

 

One hundred miles north of El Paso is White Sands National Park. Everywhere you look, there are dunes of powdery white sand. When we climbed them, we left deep footprints like when you walk through deep snow—except that it was blazing hot! People bring sleds and slide down the dunes.

 

Imagine walking away from the tourist center without a bottle of water. White Sands isn’t that big, but one could easily get lost in the hilly stretches of blinding white sand. 

 

Just imagine: You wander around for hours before nightfall comes. The next day, you wander around again. You have no water. Your throat is parched. Your hair and skin feel like sandpaper. 

 

You are going to die if you don’t get water soon. You’ve been praying this whole time. Why isn’t God answering your cries for help? Can you trust Him to take care of you in the desert?

 

Life is hard. Sometimes it feels like we’re in the desert, without water, and God isn’t listening. How do we usually respond in those situations?

 

Turn to Exodus 15, as we look at a time that the Israelites were in a desert without water.

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The Tenth Commandment—Exodus 20.17

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Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Ten Commandments are commandments that any society needs to have in place in order to be a stable and successful nation. Even an unbeliever could agree with the last six—honor parents to promote respect for authority and strong families; don’t commit adultery to maintain stable marriages that raise healthy, well-adjusted children; don’t murder; don’t steal; don’t bear false witness. All of these promote good relationships between people that help a nation stay strong. 

 

We’ve noted with regret how our society is moving away from these things—abortion, divorce, broken families, euthanasia, and more, all rip away at the fabric of these foundational principles. 

 

In addition to those, materialism and the demand for individual rights, tear at the tenth commandment, which forbids coveting. Each year, more and more luxury items become essential needs to people. 

 

Consider the cell phone, for example. Only thirty years ago we would drive any distance in any weather without one and never thought anything of it. Now, we can’t imagine going anywhere without it. Many people don’t even put the thing away—it’s always in their hand, waiting for the next text. 

 

Fifteen years ago, no one dreamed that their children would need a cellphone until they were adults. Now? I watch out my office window as the children go home from school, and many have the cellphone out—texting, playing games, and somehow, walking. Parents say how great it is to always been in contact with their children, how it makes them safer.

 

How did these wants and luxuries turn into needs and necessities? Because the companies who make them know how to appeal to our base nature—humans naturally, sinfully, covet things. 

 

We start small—just watch toddlers at play—and continue on all our lives. Gradually, what was a luxury and a privilege to have becomes a necessity and a right to have—and a TV commercial or two helps speed things along. In other words, we as a society are constantly being bombarded with messages to give in to the desire to covet.

 

Fifteen years ago, pastor Mark Buchanan described this desire to covet and this materialistic society as a cult—

 

I belong to the Cult of the Next Thing. It’s dangerously easy to get enlisted. It happens by default—not by choosing the cult, but by failing to resist it. The Cult of the Next Thing is consumerism cast in religious terms. It has its own litany of sacred words: more, you deserve it, new, faster, cleaner, brighter. It has its own deep-rooted liturgy: charge it, instant credit, no down-payment, deferred payment, no interest for three months. It has its own preachers, evangelists…: ad men, pitchmen, celebrity sponsors. It has, of course, its own shrines, chapels, temples, meccas: malls, superstores, club warehouses. It has its own sacraments: credit and debit cards. It has its own [spiritual mountain-top] experiences: the spending spree. The Cult of the Next Thing’s central message proclaims, “Crave and spend, for the Kingdom of Stuff is here.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1999/september6/9ta062.html)

 

It’s no wonder that God devoted a whole commandment to the sin of coveting.

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The Ninth Commandment–Exodus 20:16

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Levi Durfey

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

I read a story about a man who didn’t want the kids in his neighborhood stealing from his watermelon patch. So he posted a sign in the patch that read, “One of these watermelons is poisoned.” Of course, this was a complete lie, none were poisoned. He hoped that, because the kids couldn’t know which one was supposedly poisoned, that they would leave them all alone. 

 

The next day, when the watermelon scrooge went out to his patch, he found someone had changed the sign to read, “Two of these watermelons is poisoned.” Not able to know if they were lying, like he was, or, if they weren’t, which watermelon they poisoned, the man had to destroy his entire watermelon patch. The moral of the story is that lies have a way of coming back to you.

 

In the ninth commandment, we come to the issue of false testimony or lying.  Continue reading

The Eighth Commandment – Exodus 20:15

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Levi Durfey

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

We have said that the Ten Commandments, and in particular, the last six, are important to obey if a nation or society expects to survive. These are just commonsense rules for building lasting relationships. We’ve also seen that our nation is rapidly moving away from obeying these commandments. We kill our young by the millions with abortions and euthanasia is preparing to take our older folks. Adultery does not hold the same shame that it used to have.

 

And, of course, the eighth commandment also is widely broken by government and individuals alike.

 

Exodus 20:15 Thou shalt not steal.

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The Sixth Commandment—Exodus 20:14

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Levi Durfey

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:1-17)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

It was February 12, 1998. I entered into the chapel and sat down with a couple of my friends. It was our daily habit in seminary, a half-hour chapel service at midmorning. I wasn’t paying as much attention as my friends, who noticed that something was wrong. The dean of the seminary was present on stage, along with a few other of the administrative big-shots. We whispered back and forth for a moment, and then hushed when Dr. Grier stepped to the pulpit. 

 

There he announced that one of the professors, actually my own academic advisor, had resigned because of adultery. We were stunned as Grier explained that this had gone on for a long time. One of my friends had just recently submitted a paper to him on adultery in the Bible—it was handed back with comments like, “Good job, well put,” and so forth. We couldn’t help but wonder if that paper was one of the cattle prods that God used to convict his heart and confess his sin.

 

The adultery occurred when he started counseling a woman in the church that he pastored. One thing led to another, and pretty soon they were in a relationship. Dr. Grier, who had counseled in dozens of these sort of adultery situations, explained that, in counseling situations when this happens, it’s mainly the man’s fault. He pushes a little and the woman eventually complies. It was a stern warning to us men.

 

In our look at the Ten Commandments, we now turn to the one that my professor violated:

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The Fifth Commandment—Exodus 20:12

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Levi Durfey

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

We are in the midst of a national family crisis, are we not? We could spend all day listing elements of the crisis—the overturning of traditional marriage, no-fault divorce, babies born out of wedlock, and so on. 

 

The fifth commandment tips us to another cause—the lack of respect for authority. For the last 50 years or so, we’ve seen a diminishing respect for authority in our nation. Continue reading

The Fourth Commandment—Exodus 20:8-11

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Levi Durfey

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Sabbath. It’s a topic that can instantly set Christians on edge. Should Christians observe the Sabbath or not? Aren’t we free from following the law? Can’t we do whatever we want on Sunday? Didn’t Christ give us a permanent rest in him (Hebrews 3:7-4:11)?

 

Some Christians have treated the Sabbath much like the Pharisees did in Bible times. If you read the “Farmer Boy” book from the Little House series, you will find that Almanzo Wilder’s family sat in their living room all Sunday Afternoon doing nothing.

 

Half-way between these extremes you will find the truth of the Sabbath, and once you find it, you’ll discover that it is gone forever in America. Continue reading

The Third Commandment—Exodus 20:7

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Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

 

I. The Crime

 

Some of us should be very glad about the family that we were born into and the family name that we inherited. One very unfortunate young man was born into the “Stink” family. When he grew into an adult, Charlie Stink was constantly being advised by his friends and co- workers that he should have his name changed. Finally he agreed, and went to court to have the process completed. The next day back at work, his associates inquired, “What did you have your name changed to?” He answered, “for the life of me I can’t see what difference it’s going to make! I changed it to George Stink.”[1]

 

The third commandment has to do with God’s name…

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The Second Commandment—Exodus 20:4-6

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Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 

 

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 

 

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 

 

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 

 

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 

13 Thou shalt not kill. 

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

15 Thou shalt not steal. 

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 

 

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. 

 

I. IDOLATRY IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

 

Before we can dig into the second commandment, we need to understand a little about idolatry in the ancient world. 

 

Simply put, idolatry, or the worship of gods, was the ancient man’s way of making sense of and trying to control his world. 

 

Particularly important was agricultural issues—why did it rain? How can we make it rain? A bad year was not simply a year to collect on insurance or maybe file bankruptcy—a bad year could mean death.

 

An image of a god was taken to be a communication conduit to the god that it represented. These gods could act on behalf of man, but they needed to be fed by the means of sacrifices. 

 

These sacrifices “bought” the god’s service (quite different from Biblical sacrifices covering sin). As long as you made your sacrifices, your gods would work on your behalf, and you could live your life anyway you pleased (again, different from the true God, who is concerned about how you live your life and wants your obedience). 

 

There were specialist gods for every facet of life—gods of rain and sun and fertility were very common because of the great dependence ancient man had on crops and animals. 

 

Temple prostitution was common because it was believed that a sexual act with a prostitute in the temple would cause a reciprocal reaction between two gods—say Baal (a male god) and Asherah (a female, mother goddess)—thus causing things to be born on earth.

 

This was the world that God called the Israelites out of to be a different people who worshipped one God. But it was difficult for the Israelites to break off from worshipping other gods, in part because, as one scholar explains…

 

Ancient people also believed in three categories of gods, all of which any individual was likely to differentiate by his or her own beliefs and worship: the personal god, the family god, and the national god. 

 

For most Israelites at most times, and for all other people who knew anything about Israel’s God, Yahweh [Jehovah] was merely a national god. 

 

Ancient Israelites might have, say, Dagon (Judg 16:23; 1 Sam 5; 1 Chr 10:10) as their personal god and perhaps Baal (e.g., Judg 2:13; 6:25, 28, 30–32; 1 Kgs 16:31–32) as their family god, but they would always have Yahweh as his national God. 

 

No Israelite, no matter how totally immersed in idolatry, would ever answer no to the question, “Do you believe in Yahweh?” (Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, The New American Commentary, [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006], 2:452)

 

Doesn’t that sound familiar to what many “cultural Christians” do today? They will gladly say that Jesus is their God, even while in their lives they follow the gods of money, personal success, fame, or whatever.

 

The fact that the Israelites were so immersed in a culture of other gods, and worshipping images of those gods, necessitated that God be very clear about what they could and could not worship. 

 

Would the mighty Jehovah mind if I had a small wooden idol to help me with my crops? It wouldn’t hurt anything, honest! Continue reading

The First Commandment—Exodus 20:1-3

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Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

One mistake that people sometimes make with the Ten Commandments is assuming that it constitutes the totality of what God’s law is—of what he requires from us. 

 

It is far from it, as Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount:

 

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery [the seventh commandment]: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27–28)

 

And in the very next chapter of Exodus, we see that God immediately expands on the Ten Commandments with more commandments, “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them” (Exodus 21:1).

 

The Ten Commandments are not God’s complete law to Israel or to us; they are more like a constitution laying out basic principles for worshiping God and living together as his people. 

 

In fact, Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments (and the rest of the law) exactly that way—

 

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30–31)

 

Now Jesus didn’t mean that that’s all we need to obey (“Hey, I can love my neighbor by committing adultery with her!”). He meant it as a summary of all what God wants us to do.

 

What I hope to do as we go through each of the Ten Commandments is to show how it’s really just a jumping off point of more detailed commands found in both the Old and New Testaments. 

 

For example, not committing adultery unpacks into commands about lusting, loving your wife, submitting to your husband, and so on.

 

In doing so, I want us to see the relevance (and the proper application) of the Ten Commandments for us as Christians.

 

Ultimately, what we’ll discover is that we can’t keep the Ten Commandments through our own strength.

 

It’s by faith in God that we are to obey. It’s because God has given us new hearts that desire to obey him, even if we still fail him from time to time (Jeremiah 31:33).

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