How Do You Measure Up?
3rd Sunday in Lent
How Do You Measure Up?
Text: Exodus 20:1-17
Pop Quiz! The Ten Commandments. Ready? Go . . . 1. You shall have no other gods. 2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. 3. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 4. Honor your father and your mother. 5. You shall not murder. 6. You shall not commit adultery. 7. You shall not steal. 8. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. 10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, workers, animals, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
How’d you do? Around 75% of you have been through that introductory instructional Bible course with me. You will remember that in the first lesson I always do a pop quiz on the 10 Commandments. Over all my years in ministry and all the people I’ve ever taught, it is my experience that probably 95% (or more) of all Christians do not know all 10 Commandments. And don’t even ask about getting them in the right order. Here are God’s 10 “Words” as it says in verse 1, his 10 Commandments, reflecting his general will for all people of all time—and most of God’s people don’t even know or remember them all.
But memories fade and fail, right? So maybe it’s not what you remember, but how you live, right? If I do a cursory scan of the 10 Commandments I feel OK about myself:
You shall have no other gods? No problem. I don’t worship Buddha or Allah or any of the two million gods of Hinduism. Check.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God? I’m pretty careful with what I say. I slip here and there. But not like some people. Check.
Remember the Sabbath Day? A+ on that one. I’m a pastor. I can’t miss church. I think you might notice. I even made it on Daylight Savings Day. Check.
Honor your father and mother? I like my mom and dad. I respect them. That’s good. Check.
You shall not murder? I’ve never killed anything more than a spider or a snake—and certainly not a person. (Does that make you feel better about your pastor?) Check.
You shall not commit adultery? Well I’m still with Mrs. Becky. Check.
You shall not steal? Becky and I haven’t gone Bonnie and Clyde on Bank of America yet. I don’t have sticky fingers either. Check.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor? I don’t tell lies about anyone and I’ve never lied in court, let alone been in court to give a testimony. Check.
And you shall not covet? I’m very happy with what I have so I’m good there, too. Check!
There. I’m a good Christian and I can feel good about myself. Don’t you? Maybe we all don’t know the 10 Commandments by heart, but at least we’re pretty good people that do a pretty good job of living up to God’s standard, right?
It’s easy to convince yourself of that, isn’t it? No one wants to look in the mirror and see something ugly. No one wants to think of themselves as a bad person. And it feels good to feel like a Pharisee, like you’re a holy person—maybe not perfect, but better than most. That should count for something, shouldn’t it?
But I think we should look in the mirror a little more closely. This is not prom night we’re preparing for. We’re talking about our relationship with God and eternity in heaven or hell on the line. We ought to look more closely in that mirror to see how we measure up.
You shall have no other gods? Well I may not bow down to Shiva or Vishnu, but technically anything I put in front of God in my heart is an idol. If I give more time, more love, more of my heart to my family, or to my work, or to money, or to possessions, or to entertainment—that’s all idolatry. Anything that I devote more attention to or love to over God—that breaks this commandment. Erase the checkmark on that one.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God? I’m fairly careful, but God and his name are holy. That means it should never, ever be used carelessly or out of context. Not even once. Moreover, as a Christian I bear Christ’s name. That means any time I don’t act like Christ, I’m misusing and misrepresenting his name. Erase the checkmark there too.
Remember the Sabbath Day? It’s easy to say that if you don’t go to church you aren’t keeping that commandment. But the word Sabbath means rest. This commandment is all about spiritual rest. So if I’m not praying, if I’m not reading my Bible. If I’m not making use of God’s Word regularly, I’m breaking it. Erase the check again.
Honor your father and mother? Well I might like my parents just fine. But if I was anything like my kids when I was young, I’ve shattered that commandment. And, the 4th commandment is about anyone in authority. So if I disrespect and dishonor the Mayor, the Governor, the President, I’m breaking this commandment. I don’t have to agree with them, but if I dishonor or post on Facebook disparaging comments or speak out of turn when I don’t really know what goes on in those offices, then I break this commandment. Erase the checkmark.
You shall not murder? God takes care of any pride very quickly on this commandment. God tells us, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Hatred, anger, rage, spite, vengefulness—whether you think someone deserves it or not—that’s considered full blown murder in God’s book. Erase the check again.
You shall not commit adultery? Just as hatred is murder in the mind, lust is adultery in the mind. With very indicting words for our culture Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman (or a man) lustfully has already committed adultery in the heart.” Well who can keep that commandment today? Open your internet browser, there it is. Watch any TV show, there it is in the show or all over the commercials. Watch a football game even, you still have the commercials and the cheerleaders. Go the beach with your family, you’re bound to see someone attractive. Magazines, books, billboards, movies, music, internet. Lust practically smacks you in the face everywhere you turn. That’s just lust. Then there are the actual actions. Living with someone who is not my spouse. Sleeping with someone who is not my spouse. Sowing your wild oats in high school or college. All of it breaks the 6th commandment. In a lust-driven society, quickly we erase the check on this one.
You shall not steal? I’ve perhaps never knocked off a gas station before, but have I changed a few numbers on my taxes? Lied on eBay or Craigslist about the condition of the thing I’m selling? Exaggerated property values? Stolen overtime hours or commission dollars from my work? If hatred is the thought behind murder, and lust the thought behind adultery, then greed breaks the 7th commandment. Erase the check.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor? This isn’t just about lies. Gossiping. Spreading rumors. Talking behind backs. Slandering. Ruining someone’s reputation. Sharing privileged and private information. Posting things about others on Facebook. Texting information. Talking over the fence or over a cup of coffee. Yep, we break this one all the time too. Erase the check.
The 9th and 10th commandments can go together. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, workers, or anything that belongs to your neighbor? To covet means to want something you shouldn’t have. It has to do with being happy and content with what you do have. So if I’ve ever driven by some beachside or golf course home and wished it was mine, if I’ve ever seen someone else’s spouse and wished he or she was mine, if I’ve ever wanted anything that someone has that I shouldn’t have or not been happy with what I do have, I’ve broken these to. Erase the check.
Go ahead. Take a good look in the mirror. What do you see? This is not a day to be trite or funny or dishonest. Look in God’s mirror. Look at his law, his Ten Commandments. What do you see? How Do You Measure Up?
It’s ugly, isn’t it? Downright disgusting. There’s a reason that when God was giving these laws to Moses on Mt. Sinai and the mountain was shaking and quaking and God was flashing and thundering—there’s a reason the Israelites were terrified. When you look at the holy laws of a holy God it is terrifying because if you’ve broken even one, you deserve death and separation from God. When I take a look in the mirror and see how ugly my sin—my sin—has become, it’s shameful and frightening. This is why we continually cry out—Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I think we’ve looked in the mirror enough. It’s time to look at Jesus. He certainly never worshiped another god. He always put his heavenly Father first. He never took his Father’s name (or his own name) in vain. We heard today about Jesus’ zeal for his Father’s house and the Sabbath day. We see in Scripture his love for his mother but also all who were in authority—even when he stood trial and was falsely accused. He never hated but always loved. He was always pure, chaste, and decent. He never stole but always gave. He spoke sharply about sin but never ruined someone’s reputation or spread rumors and gossip. He was content with what he had and didn’t desire more.
We can go right down the line and inspect every nook and cranny of Jesus’ life and we will not see one blemish, spot, or stain. Not one sin. Not once. Not ever.
So what was our perfect God doing here? What business did Jesus have mingling and mixing with sinners? Why would a holy God come to be with unholy people?
It’s because he loves us. It’s because he has compassion on us. It’s because he saw that all of us—everyone single one of us—was lost. It’s because he does not desire the death of sinners, but wants us to live. It’s because he wants us to live with him in full peace and joy and harmony. This is why Jesus came here.
Oh, and there was one other reason. If we wanted to have all of those things—forgiveness and life and salvation and peace and joy and harmony with God—if we wanted all of that, then someone would have to pay for our sin.
So Jesus did. He offered himself, a sinless spotless life in place of your sin-filled and stained life. This is what the season of Lent is all about. For 40 days our worship and lives are meditative and mournful. During Lent the gravity of our guilt weighs heavily and our repentance flows free and fast. The culmination then is Good Friday when we see just what our sins have deserved and have done. As we see Jesus writhing in pain and agony with the curse of the cross, our hearts melt knowing that our sin put him there.
But this is what makes Christianity different than any other religion in the world. This is what makes the Bible different than any book or even holy book in the world. What is so unique about our religion and the one true God is this: What Jesus did is not something I have to earn. I don’t need to pay him back. I don’t have to work my way toward receiving it. He simply gives it. For free.
There is no religion like this in the world. There is no god like this in the world. Every other religion of every kind is human-centered and works based. You have to do something or live a certain way or work your way toward your salvation. But our God, the one true God, is the one and only that loves you so much that he did all the work and paid the price himself—and then gives you all the rewards of his work for free.
Thank God that Mt. Sinai is not the center of our faith. We could never earn heaven by obeying the commandments because we keep failing. Thank God it’s not Mt. Sinai and Moses that I look to. It’s Mt. Calvary and Jesus. There I see in Jesus the commandments fulfilled. There I see the payment for sin made. There I see my gift of salvation.
So take a good look in the mirror again. Look closely because your eternity in heaven or hell is on the line. Look in the mirror. What do you see? Isn’t it wonderful? You see Jesus. You look at yourself baptized and clothed in Christ and you see his righteousness. You see his life. You see his death. You see his resurrection. Jesus covers all your sin and he makes you look so good.
It certainly gives us a fresh take on these 10 Commandments. Now I don’t look at those commandments with fear because I’ve failed. I’m forgiven. There’s no fear. Now I look at those commandments as opportunity—an opportunity to show thanks and love.
I love Jesus. I love Jesus so I’m going to put him first in my heart. I’m going to honor his name. I’m going to remember the Sabbath day and find spiritual rest in him any time I can. I’m going to honor the parents and authorities he gave me. I’m going to show love, not hate. I’m going have pure thoughts and words and avoid sexual temptation. I’m going to be happy with what I have. I’m going to protect the good names of other. I’m going to be content.
Will I still fail along the way? Yes. But Christ’s blood continues to forgive me, and his righteousness continues to clothe me—and that makes me meet and measure up to God’s standard every time.
Look to Mt. Sinai and see your sin. Then look to Mt. Calvary to see your Savior. Then look at both and see you how can praise your Savior with a thankful life. God give you strength to do so.
Posted on March 9, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged 10 Commandments, 10th Commandment, 1st Commandment, 2nd Commandment, 3rd Commandment, 4th Commandment, 5th Commandment, 6th Commandment, 7th Commandment, 8th Commandment, 9th Commandment, Adultery, Church, Exodus, Exodus 20, Jesus, Moses, Mt. Calvary, Mt. Sinai, Murder, Sermons, Ten Commandments. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.