Keep God First

I recently had some fun with our congregation as we began our new sermon series, “Back to the Table, 10 Discussions Every Family Needs to Have.”  So here is what happened.  I asked, “How many of you have heard of the 10 Commandments?”  As I’m sure you can guess since it was asked in church, most every hand went up. You may be feeling the urge to raise your hand right now! Then I asked, “How many of you feel that you have a pretty good grasp of the 10 Commandments?”  I was pleasantly surprised that a good number of hands stayed lifted.  Then I asked, “How many of you can quote the 10 Commandments in order?”  You know what happened don’t you?  Almost every hand went down. Then the final question, “How many of you have broken at least one of the Commandments?”  Can you guess their response?  Every hand went waving in the air, including mine!

I’m grateful that Jesus designed His Church to be a place for people who DON”T have it all together.  Jesus has only ever had sinners to work with.  Every person Jesus calls to come to Him is a sinner in need of grace and transformation.  That is why He calls us to come follow Him so that He can forgive our sin and then teach us His way.  

Unfortunately, when it comes to the 10 Commandments, many have rejected them believing that since they were the framework of the Old Testament Law that they now hold no purpose for a Christ-follower in the new covenant. It is true that we no longer live under the law, but we must remember that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  I believe studying the Old Testament Scriptures holds great value in shaping our knowledge and understanding in the ways of God.  Galatians 3: 23-24 states, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (emphasis mine).

For example, when we study the 10 Commandments we see:

  • The 10 Commandments reveal to us God’s Glory and Honor.
  • The 10 Commandments reveal to us our Sinfulness. 

 Paul said, “without the law, I wouldn’t know my sin” (Romans 7:7).

  • The 10 Commandments teach us the principles that were the standard for the Israelites to live by and prosper in the Land.
  • The 10 Commandments point us to Christ and teach us the principles we are to live by.

John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

I have often heard the argument that the 10 Commandments are just a bunch of rules telling us what to do or what not to do. It’s important for us to understand that whenever God says “To Do” or “You Shall” – God is saying, “This will bless you” or “This is good for you.” Whenever God says, “Don’t Do” or “You Shall Not” – God is saying, “That will hurt you.”  “That will cause you more problems and pain than you bargain for.”  “That is not what is best for you.”

Believe it or not, God wants the best for you.  In fact, Jesus said, 

 “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 31-32).

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

So let’s take a look at the first commandment.

Exodus 20: 1-3,Then God spoke all these words:  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 3 Do not have other gods besides me.

What is the teaching here?

  1. We are to Build our Life Upon this Foundation: KEEP GOD FIRST.

Notice the personal nature in God’s words to the Hebrews.  He alone is the LORD who brought them out of their bondage.  To put anything before Him is an insult to God.  

In the book of Deuteronomy, you read Moses’ sermon to the Hebrews on how to apply the commandments in daily life.   

Notice in Deuteronomy 6: 2-3, Moses explains when they kept God first that there is a promise connected to follow.

Do this so that you may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life by keeping all his statutes and commands I am giving you, your son, and your grandson, and so that you may have a long life. 3 Listen, Israel, and be careful to follow them, so that you may prosper and multiply greatly, because the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you a land flowing with milk and honey.”

To fear the LORD is pictured as one who lays prostrate upon the ground before Him.  It is to hold God with the highest form of reverence, respect and awe.   Out of reverence, respect and love we are called to obey the teachings of God.  When you truly love and respect someone, you want to do those things that please them, not because you have to, but because you want to. 

Notice the promise, if the Hebrews feared the LORD and kept His Word, God would prosper them in the land.  This is a principle we can grasp.  Get this…

  1. Principles come with a  PROMISE.
  2. Principles are TIMELESS.

Let’s examine how this principle applies to us.  To do that, we must first look at the teaching in its context to the original audience, then see how the principle applies to all believers. 

In Exodus 19: 4-6, God gives a very specific message to the Israelites just before He gives the Commandments to Moses. 

God says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.”

Again we see the personal nature of God as He reminds the Hebrews that it was He who led them out of the bondage of Egypt.  He has watched over them and guided them in His love.  The promise is that if they will keep Him first, they would become His own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

He was speaking literally to the Jewish people going into the land and becoming a nation. Yet, there a principle in this for all who trust in Christ and strive to keep God first whether they are Jews or non-Jews? 

As with studying any passage of Scripture, we need to compare Scripture with Scripture. When you go to 1 Peter 2:9-10 in the New Testament.  You find the Apostle Peter writing to Christians, both Jews and Gentiles.  Notice the specific terminology that he uses to describe the promise given to those who receive Jesus Christ as LORD.

But you are a chosen race,  a royal priesthood,  a holy nation,  a people for his possession,  so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Now in Christ, Jews or Gentiles, the promise stands the same.  If we put God first in our lives by listening to Him and obeying His Word and follow Him with all our heart, we are His Priests on the earth, a holy people called to glorify Him and point others to Him – from darkness to light!

What a great position the LORD has called you to.  

As the Hebrews were about to enter the land of promise God spoke to them through Joshua and said,

Joshua 1: 7, “Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”

Many wonder what the secret sauce of success is.  The Bible gives us the answer.  The secret to success is to Keep God First in our lives and let Him guide our steps to fulfill the plan He has for us!

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