We traditionally focus on the first list found in the book of Exodus chapter 20.
Among the many reasons to focus on the ten commandments is that they are a simplified manual for how to live your life. This manual is written with the inspiration of someone who knows what is best for us because He created us in the first place. If you want to study society and figure out what might be wrong and how we can fix it, a really great place to start is with the ten commandments. Please understand that you cannot know Jesus Christ as anything more than a theory if you do not obey the commandments. That is why He tells us “If you love me, obey my commandments.” This brings us to #1, the first commandment.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
This is the most important commandment of them all. Because there are so many distractions and diversions in the world that are looking to take our attention and capture our hearts, this commandment is both the most difficult and the most rewarding. When God spoke to Moses He began with this commandment in order to set a standard of conduct with Moses and the Israelites. God is telling Moses and He is telling us that He wants to have a relationship with us as His people. In fact He tells Moses that He is a jealous God. Only His jealousy isn’t self serving like a humans might be. Instead it is the holy jealousy of a God who has bought us and redeemed us with a price. A God who loves us and wants what is best for us.
Above everything else we should be clear that “you shall have no other gods before Me” means that we do not leave Jesus Christ or the Christian faith in order to dabble in other religions such as Zen Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism or atheism. “You shall have no other gods before Me” also means “you shall have no other gods equal to Me.” In our society there is a tendency to say “well we have Jesus but others have this god or that prophet.” You can’t be a Christian unless you believe that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and that means that whatever else you might think of other religions, you may not consider their gods to be equal or comparable to our God. That is why the pagan Romans did not simply accept Jesus Christ along with the gods they had already worshiped for centuries. Instead we find them destroying the old temples and old beliefs because the truth had been made known to them through the teachings of Jesus Christ who says “I am the way, the truth and the life…no man comes to the Father except through ME.” Write those words on your heart.
One of the most practical ways to judge your commitment to God is to check your schedule and your budget. These two things give great indications on where our heart is inclined. They tell us what we really value in life. God is not interested in simply having us follow Him, but in having a relationship that is based in love. He proves that to us by sending His Son to live a human life and even to die as a common criminal. This isn’t a commandment in the abstract, it is a commandment that is confirmed when we follow Jesus Christ and make His teachings and His life the central focus of our lives.
“You shall have no other gods before me”, means that we will not be dictated or led to make any decisions without first asking if this decision is clearly honoring and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. If you don’t have that firm conviction then it is not wise to go forward with that plan of yours. If you make any decision without going through this thought process there is a chance that you are serving false gods, idols that you may have in your heart and your mind. So it is important to test your thoughts and your motivations. This is true for individuals as well as families and parish councils and churches. When our motivations are pure and oriented towards God we find that the decisions we choose will bless us and have a positive impact on everyone around us over the course of time. When we have false gods before us and live according to their expectations for our lives we find that things can quickly unravel.
False gods come in many forms and each of them is as destructive as the next.
They are not simply other religions but even certain ideologies and philosophies that we take to heart. They are demonic because they cannot give life or salvation, they only appear to offer these hopes and dreams. As Professor Paul Meyendorff would say “demonic is anything that claims to offer salvation and cannot deliver.” In the early Christian tradition and throughout the New Testament we see that Christians are encouraged not to love the world. They are encouraged to remember that these things are temporary but our true treasure is spiritual and heavenly. John the Apostle writes “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16).
The pleasures of the world; the riches, the power, the wealth, the career and the comfort are not meant to be sources of inspiration for us. They are meant to be tools, not goals in our lives. They are not meant to be the motivation for getting up and going to work. They are not meant to give our life meaning and purpose. If they do, we’re in trouble and we’ve lost our way. We are to recognize that each and every one of these worldly treasures can cause us to stumble and to love things that are temporary and offer no life. To put your trust in things that cannot save you is not only foolish, it is a grave sin in the eyes of the Almighty. This includes putting too much stock in yourself.
Plenty of people today worship themselves as gods.
I might think about what’s going to make me happy or what I think I should do without ever saying a prayer or looking to the words of scripture for guidance on a subject. I need to force myself to get into the habit of making decisions by asking “how does this decision honor God and make Him first?” This is at the heart of living a Christian life; making decisions that are sometimes inconvenient but worthy of Christ. If you get into the habit of living in this way you’ll notice that it becomes a way to freedom from attachments and false hopes and expectations. The habit of trusting your life to God frees you to grow and flourish and become the man or woman that God desires. Putting God first means that you can begin cultivating a relationship with Him because you are acknowledging Him with every breath. He will stop being a theory and will instead become a life.
May God help us to turn from the worship of false gods to the worship of the true and living God with His only begotten Son, Now and Forever, AMEN.
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