Sunday, June 29, 2008

"But I'm a Good Person"

True. I have no doubt that is true. Most people are good people, worthy of love, worthy of respect, decent, honest, hard-working people.
We're all guilty of various sins, but we're good people.

I suppose I've been thinking about this recently because of someone I know whose father is a non-believer but thinks he'll go to heaven anyway. This father claims to follow the Ten Commandments and says that's all you need.

Personally, I believe we need the Grace and Mercy and Sacrifice of the Savior who bore the punishment for our sins on the Cross. And I'll be keeping that Get Out of Hell FREE Card, thank you.

But just for argument's sake I'd like to take a closer look at the Ten Commandments.
I'd like to challenge myself, and each of my readers, to examine our lives.
IF just keeping the Ten Commandments could get you into heaven.... Can any of us say we are going to heaven?

Also found in Deuteronomy chapter 5, the Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20, I'm going to use the Amplified Bible here -- I like the clarity of that translation:

Let's take a look:
3You shall have no other gods before or besides Me.

On the surface that sounds easy enough, but hold on because it goes deeper. Anytime we put something else in front of God, make something else a priority in our lives we are creating an idol for ourselves. Maybe that extra sleep seems more important than reading your morning devotional -- sleep becomes a god. Maybe getting ready for that football game was more important than prayer -- then that day, football came before God. See the chapter goes on to explain that God is jealous of other, false gods coming first in our lives.

4You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
5You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me,
6But showing mercy and steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

God wants us to love Him more than we love other things or other people, because He loves each of us that much. He wants to be first in our lives because we are that important to Him, and He wants to bless and reward us.

Okay, What's next?

7You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

How many of us have goofed up on this one? Raise your hands (It's not like I can see you, and God already knows). My hand was up. I have fallen short of perfect on this one goodness only knows how many times. Something happens and I say "Oh my G --!" and I have heard worse said in my presence but, to my shame, I kept silent while others used Christ's name as a curse word.

8[Earnestly] remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (withdrawn from common employment and dedicated to God).
9Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your domestic animals, or the sojourner within your gates.
11For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it [set it apart for His purposes].

Open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, our society would view a return to the blue laws as an archaic step backwards. In various passages of Scripture we can learn that food was not to be prepared on the Sabbath, and travel was not to be undertaken. Burdens were not to be borne on the Sabbath -- to the extent that women were not even supposed to weigh themselves down with jewelry on the Sabbath day, let alone work the afternoon shift at work right after church.

12Regard (treat with honor, due obedience, and courtesy) your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land the Lord your God gives you.

Anyone who is or was a toddler or teenager will have messed this one up. So that's all of us.

13You shall not commit murder.

Finally, one I've always kept! But wait, didn't Christ say that if we are angry without cause, it is the same thing? Matthew 5:21-22 ... and keep reading in Matthew 5, because verses 27-28 tell us that to look with lust is that same as committing adultery.... and No Adultery is the next commandment.

14You shall not commit adultery.
15You shall not steal.

Now, at first glance that one's not a problem. I'm not a kleptomaniac, I've never embezzled, or carjacked, or shoplifted anything, I don't even cheat on my taxes. But you know something, this verse doesn't say you shall not steal money or property. It says steal. Period.

So those summers we worked our way through college, by flirting with the boys working their way through college, instead of doing everything we were supposed to do for the employer... and that time in my life when I didn't tithe (see Malachi 3:8)... and that time someone else did the work but we took the credit..... It's not looking too good, is it.

16You shall not witness falsely against your neighbor.

One word, Gossip.

17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.

What does your neighbor have that you want? Doesn't it really seem unfair that they should have the better flatscreen tv and the latest most stylish clothing and the promotion at work; did you see that new convertible or suv; why aren't our kids getting scholarships like their kids are?

The attitude expressed in the word covet, is an attitude of greed. It is wanting, desiring to posses for oneself. The person who covets resents the fact that something they want belongs to someone else. Holman's Bible Dictionary offers the following insights into covetousness:

  • [It is] The inordinate desire to possess what belongs to another, usually tangible things.
  • While the Hebrew word for “covet” can also be translated “to desire,” in the Tenth Commandment it means an ungoverned and selfish desire that threatens the basic rights of others. ...
  • ... So, the greedy person—one who covets—denies his faith in God and scorns His values.
Even if you boil the Ten Commandments down to their simplest form, as Paul did in his Epistle to the Romans (13:9)...
For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." How many of us can do that?

Did you fail the test? Raise your hand. Mine's up, and God already knows anyway.

But I'm a good person, and you're a good person.
Let's admit, though, we are neither one of us perfect people.
Christ is the only one who has even been sinless, the only one ever able to actually Keep those Ten Commandments perfectly. He is the only one who can get us into heaven.
Fortunately, if we just ask Him, He's willing to arrange that.

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