If Not (Church Basement)

You’re probably familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. These three Hebrew men are brought before the king of Babylon and commanded to worship a giant, golden idol. “Bow down and worship,” they are told, “or you will be thrown into the fiery furnace.” The men courageously respond, “Even if God does not deliver us, we still won’t bow down to the idol.”

It’s a great example of someone not knowing whether God would deliver them, and still fearlessly accepting the possibility of death. Except… that’s not actually what happened. Let’s take another look at the text.

The scripture in question is from Daniel 3. The king orders the three men to worship the golden image or be thrown in the fire. And in verse 16, we read that, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’”

So the question is, what does “if not” refer to?

Well, grammatically, it would be the “if” statement the men made in the previous sentence. They’re saying, “If that is the case, God will deliver us; but if that is NOT the case, we will not bow down.” So, what is “the case”?

We have to go back another verse, to Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. It turns out, the king had made an if/if-not statement of his own. In verse 15, he told them, “If you fall down and worship the golden image, we’re good. But if not, you’ll be cast into the fire.” Then the three men respond by saying, “If that is the case—if you throw us in the fire—God is able and willing to deliver us. But if not—if you don’t throw us in—we still won’t worship.”

These men weren’t expressing uncertainty to God’s willingness to deliver them. No, they were expressing indifference to the king’s threat. If he threw them in, God would deliver. If he didn’t throw them in, they still wouldn’t worship the idol. The king didn’t have any power over them—which is exactly what we read in verse 27: “The king’s counselors saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power.” There was nothing that the king could do to turn these men, because they were under the protection of God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would deliver them from danger.

And if you think about it, it doesn’t even make sense to read this as uncertainty about God’s willingness to save. For one, the three Hebrew men had just declared that God was both willing and able to save them in the previous verse: “Our God is able to deliver us… and He will deliver us from your hand.” They literally just said that God WOULD deliver them. It doesn’t make sense for them to immediately backtrack and say, “But actually, maybe He won’t.” No, they knew He would deliver, which is why they “had no need to answer you in this matter.” It was a done deal for them. God was both able and willing to save.

And that’s what we’re talking about, right? God’s ability to save vs. God’s willingness to save. I’d imagine that every Christian watching this video knows that God is able to save. The question is, Is He willing? That was Nebuchadnezzar’s question, too. He tells them, “If you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who WILL deliver you from my hands?” The king is asking the same question: Is God willing?

So with that in mind, it doesn’t make any sense for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego to then say, “Well… our God is able to save us, but who knows if He’s willing?” No, they confidently declare, “Who is the God who WILL deliver? The God we serve is the God who WILL deliver.”

This is the God who promised in Psalm 50, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I WILL deliver you,” the God who declared in Psalm 91, “I will be with him in trouble, and I WILL deliver him and honor him,” the God who delivered David from Goliath, the God who delivered Hezekiah from Sennacherib, the God who would very soon deliver Daniel from King Darius.

Deliverance is what He does, victory is in His DNA, Salvation is His name. Literally. Jesus in Hebrew is the word Yeshua, which literally means “salvation.” Of course God is willing to save those who call upon His name. Of course He showed up in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Of course the fire and the smoke and the heat and the threats had no power over them. They knew who their God was, and they put their faith entirely in Him.

And that’s exactly what we read in the only New Testament recounting of this story. Hebrews 11 is sometimes called “The Hall of Faith.” It’s all about people who received from God because they placed their faith in Him, because they had unwavering confidence in Him. We read that Noah was saved from the flood by faith, that Moses and the Israelites were saved from Egypt by faith, that Joshua took the Promised Land by faith. We’re told that Gideon and Samson and David were all delivered by faith. The list of men and women who were supernaturally delivered by faith goes on and on and on. Then the list ends with those who “stopped the mouths of lions and quenched the violence of fire.”

Who’s that talking about? Daniel, and his three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. They were supernaturally delivered from lions and furnaces and kings and death. Why? Because of their faith. Because they were confident in the things not seen. Because they knew who their God was, and knew without a doubt that He was both able and willing to deliver them from whatever threat would come their way.

And we, too, serve that same God, so we should have the same confidence in His ability and willingness to save. Those same promises of deliverance belong to you. So don’t question His willingness to deliver. Don’t doubt it, even for a second. Stand firm in your faith, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did. The devil has no power over you.

Have a great week, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.

God Does NOT Have a Plan for your Life (Church Basement)

Jeremiah 29:11. Any youth pastor worth his salt has this verse tattooed in at least three places on his body. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans of peace and not of evil, to give you a hope and a future.”

From this, we can deduce that God has some grand plan for your life way off in the future, and you are singlehandedly responsible for figuring out what that is and making sure it comes to pass.

Except… that’s not what it means.

To figure out what Jeremiah meant and what that means for you and God’s great plan for your life, we first need to look at the context of Jeremiah 29:11. This was written in 597 BC, right after Babylon had invaded the southern kingdom of Judah for the second time and taken thousands of Judeans back to Babylon in chains. While in captivity, these Jews believed that God would very soon deliver them from bondage. They were God’s people, after all, so in spite of the fact that the nation had all but turned its back on God, they were confident that God would rescue them.

Enter Jeremiah. He writes a letter from Jerusalem to the captives in Babylon and says, “Yes, God will bring you home… in seventy years.” In the meantime, he tells them, you should build houses in Babylon and plant gardens there. You should get married, have a whole bunch of kids, raise those kids, and let them get married, because you’re gonna be in Babylon for a long time. He tells them to seek the peace of the city and pray for it, “for in its peace you shall have peace.”

In other words, he tells them to become godly citizens in the middle of the ungodly world they have found themselves in. This, God says, is the plan of peace I have for you, the plan that will give you a future and a hope.

Now with all that context in mind, let’s see what else the Bible has to say about God’s will for your life. Luckily for us, Peter and Paul tell us exactly what God’s will is.

Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “This is the will of God: your sanctification” (1 Thess.  4:3). Then he adds, “that you should abstain from sexual immorality,” and all the teenagers in Thessalonica groaned. You were hoping God’s will was for you to get a new car, and instead it’s no premarital sex or looking at porn.

That’s a part of it, and yet it’s so much more. God calls us to live a sanctified—or holy—life. This is the same word used to describe the holiness of God, the same word used when God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 20:7). In other words, our lives are supposed to reflect the holiness of Jesus.

Paul then tells us to increase the Church by our love (1 Thess. 4:9-10), that we may “lead a quiet life” (1 Thess. 4:11) and “walk properly towards those who are outside” (1 Thess. 4:12). A chapter later, Paul adds that we should “always pursue what is good,” not only for ourselves, but “for all,” and that we should constantly be rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:12-18).

In other words, the exact same thing Jeremiah told the Babylonian captives. Be a godly citizen in the middle of an ungodly world, praying for your city and seeking the good.

Peter addresses his first epistle to the Christian exiles living in an ungodly world (1 Peter 1:1, 2:11), and—just as Paul did—tells them to abstain from fleshly lusts. Apparently, sexual immorality was a big issue in the first century. Thank God we’re not still struggling with this, right?

He then tells these Christians to have “your conduct honorable among the nations,” that they may “glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12). He tells them to honor all people, to walk in love, to fear God, and to submit to the king—or the government. Why? “For this is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:15).

Again, this is exactly what Jeremiah and Paul said. Live a sanctified and honorable life among the nations, for God’s will is that you would be a godly citizen in the middle of an ungodly world. They are all saying the same thing.

But… why? Why is this God’s will? Why does He want us to live sanctified and godly lives? Well, there’s a reference we mentioned before that you may have picked up on. Paul told the Thessalonians that when they walked in love toward others, they’d be able to “lead a quiet life” (1 Thess. 4:11). That’s the same phrase Paul wrote to Timothy, where he also addressed the subject of God’s will.

He told Timothy to pray and give thanks for all men—just like he wrote to the Thessalonians—and specifically to pray for kings and the governing officials—just like Jeremiah and Peter said—that we may lead quiet, peaceful, and godly lives. And then he tells us why: because God wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

Everything we’ve talked about is ultimately about one thing: bringing people into God’s family and teaching them the truth of God’s Word. That’s God’s will. That’s God’s plan for your life. To increase His Kingdom and His glory. Peter said our godly lives would cause the nations to glorify God. Paul said our love would cause the Church to abound more and more. Jeremiah said God’s plan was for His people to be increased.

And that Hebrew word for “increase” is the same word that God used in His commands all the way back in Genesis, the same word He used when talking to Jacob, to Isaac, to Abraham, to Noah, and to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful, and MULTIPLY.”

God’s will has always been the same, from the very first words He ever spoke to mankind: multiply God’s Kingdom. Increase God’s Church. Expand God’s family. That is God’s plan for your life.

When you live honorably in the midst of an immoral society, you’re fulfilling God’s plan for your life. When you don’t look at porn or have sex outside of marriage, you’re fulfilling God’s plan for your life. When you pray for your president and for your governor and for your mayor and for your neighbors, you’re fulfilling God’s plan for your life. Because when God’s people live godly lives in the middle of an ungodly world, it will ultimately draw people into God’s family.

Now I can hear you asking, “But does God have a specific plan for my life, like to be an astronaut or a dentist?” Yes He does, but honestly, if you’re not living a sanctified life, it doesn’t really matter if you go to dental school or walk on the moon, because God isn’t getting the glory. No matter how successful you become, it won’t be God’s will because God’s kingdom won’t be increased.

So instead of focusing your attention on what God may want you to do in twenty years, focus on what God wants you to do today. Because really, God doesn’t have one plan for your life; He has hundreds of plans for your every day. Focus on what God wants you to do right now. Live a sanctified life right now. Obey God’s Word right now. Be led by the Spirit right now. And keep doing that all day long.

Do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that. Keep following God. Keep living right. Every day, every week, every month, every year. And if you walk in God’s plans every day, in twenty years you’ll be in dental school, or on the moon. You’ll be exactly where you’re supposed to be. You’ll be expanding His kingdom and increasing His glory. You’ll be living out God’s plan for your life.

Have a great week, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.

The Great Commission (Church Basement)

Welcome to the Church Basement. My name is Garrett, and today I want to talk about “The Great Commission.”

The Great Commission. You know, that thing your youth pastor is always going on and on about. To refresh your memory, the Great Commission is the last instruction Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection and before ascending into heaven. Recorded in Matthew chapter 28, Jesus said:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the age. Amen.”

Now here’s an easy question: What was the first thing Jesus commanded His disciples to do in the Great Commission?

That’s right, GO… is the wrong answer. I know I know, it says “go” right there at the beginning of the verse. But this wasn’t written in English. It was written in Greek, and if you read it in the original Greek, the word “go” is actually in the passive tense. In fact, if you read this in Young’s Literal Translation (which, as the name suggests, is a literal translation), it actually reads, “Having gone, then, make disciples.” Today we might translate it, “As you go, make disciples.”

You see, Jesus wasn’t telling His disciples to go anywhere… because He already knew they would go to plenty of different places. Jesus probably gave the Great Commission on a mountain (I mean, He did loved preaching on mountains). He didn’t think His disciples were going to live on that mountain forever. No, they would eventually go home.

Same with you. You’re probably watching this video at your house. In your bedroom, in your kitchen, hopefully not in your bathroom. And when this video is over, you’re going to go to school, or go to work, or go to the gym, or go to church. And Jesus tells us that as we go, we are to make disciples.

The problem is that we’ve put so much focus on going that we’ve forgotten to do what Jesus actually told us to do, which is make disciples. We think we have to go somewhere special to fulfill the Great Commission. We need to go to Mexico or Haiti or Africa. We need to go witnessing at the food court or the pier. So we delegate the command to “make disciples” to those special times in those special places, instead of making disciples in our own communities every day.

Jesus wasn’t telling us to go somewhere special and then make disciples. He was telling us to make disciples wherever we go. At school, at work, at home, at church. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are all saving up for mission trips.

Now don’t get me wrong. Going on mission trips and going witnessing is awesome. But if you’re only making disciples one week a year in a foreign country or every other Tuesday at the food court between 6 and 8pm, then you’re not really making disciples. You’re trying to make converts. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not the Great Commission.

Look at Jesus. He had twelve disciples. He didn’t spend a week with them in Egypt and call it discipleship. No, these guys lived in His community, and He saw them on a daily basis for over three years. He prayed with them, ate with them, did Bible studies with them, answered all of their stupid questions. He taught them how to live a Christian life. And after three years, He told them to go make disciples of their own.

So Jesus started with just twelve. Well, eleven, because Judas kind of sucked. And then those eleven went and made disciples. And then those disciples went and made disciples. And then those disciples went and made disciples. They followed this simple pattern that Jesus laid out. They started in their own community first, and then eventually started to branch out.

And after a few generations, half the civilized world had become disciples of Jesus. Who woulda thunk?!? They did what Jesus said, and they transformed the entire world.

But somewhere along the road, we lost sight of what Jesus told us to do. Instead of all of us making disciples wherever we go, we decided that a small number of us should make converts every now and then. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it’s not really working.

Now again, there’s nothing wrong with street witnessing or mission trips or anything like that. But when you’re not doing those things, I want to challenge you to give the Great Commission a try.

Make just one disciple this year. Pray for him, pray with him, spend time with him, answer his questions, read the Bible together. Show him what a godly life looks like. Teach him everything you know. Teach him how to make disciples of his own. Make this a daily practice. And after a year, send him out to make a disciple of his own.

That’s the Great Commission. So go. And wherever you go, make disciples.

And remember, you’re greater than you realize.

Have a great day.

Welcome to the Church Basement

Welcome to the Church Basement. I’m Garrett, and I want to welcome you to my new channel.

I don’t know about you, but I go to church. I’ve been going since I was 17. I’ve taught in kids ministry, youth ministry, young adults ministry, and even in “big church.” I’ve led international missions trips and even taught classes at the local bible college. I’ve been heavily involved in my church for a long time, and I don’t know about your church, but if you dig a bit beneath the surface, you’ll end up in the Church Basement.

And that’s exactly what I want to do here. I want to dig beneath the surface of our faith, dig beneath the surface of the Bible, and see if we can uncover anything important that we may have overlooked or forgotten, anything that we didn’t realize was there.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a church basement, but there is tons of cool stuff down there. I mean, you have no idea. And the Bible’s the exact same way. 1,189 chapters of cool stuff you probably didn’t even know was there. And hopefully, together we’ll find some important stuff God’s been saying that we just never noticed before.

So if you’re interested in digging deeper into God’s Word, of rifling through all the cool stuff hidden beneath the surface of our faith, I want to ask you to do three things:

Number one: Subscribe to this channel and click the notification bell. All you need to do is click the “subscribe” button beneath this video and the notification bell right next to it, and you’ll be notified every time we post a new video. That way, you won’t miss any of the new content that we’re posting here on the channel.

Number two: Share the videos you like with your friends. If you learned something important from one of our videos, chances are you know someone who will benefit from watching it as well. So feel free to share our videos on facebook and twitter, or even just text them to your friends. We’d really appreciate it.

And number three: Ask questions. If you have some question you’d like us to address, like say, “What is a Pharisee” or “Does God really heal,” ask us in the comments, and maybe we’ll make a video about it. After all, you’re the reason we’re making these videos, so we want to know what you want to know.

Thanks for watching, thanks for subscribing, and thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to everything we’re going to learn.

Have a great day, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.

Reflections on 1-2 Chronicles, Good Kings, and Parenting

josiah

I’m reading through 1 and 2 Chronicles right now, and something stuck out to me that I never noticed before. Most of the names in the lists of kings don’t really stick out, but there are a few that you’ll remember from Sunday School or your children’s bible: Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. The “good kings.”

Jehoshaphat sought after God, and his heart took delight in the Lord. Hezekiah did what was good and right and true before the Lord, and cleansed the temple. Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and found, read, and reinstituted the Law of God.

They were great guys. Really.

And all three of them lived long, prosperous lives, passed on to the next life, and left their kingdoms to their sons. Their terrible sons. Their obstinate and rebellious and downright evil sons.

And their sons set up altars to false idols. They murdered their subjects and sacrificed their own children to pagan gods. They led their people to rebel against God’s perfect and good and holy commandments. In a word, they undid all the good their fathers had done. And the kingdom never recovered.

Today, many of us men are working hard to build our kingdom. And maybe we’re even doing it biblically. We’re striving to follow God, reading our bibles and saying our prayers and serving in our churches. And while all of that is noble and admirable and good, we must make sure we don’t forget our first ministry: our home.

Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that you’re on the church board if your kids aren’t in the pews. It doesn’t matter how many summer camps you’ve been at if your kids don’t want to be there. It doesn’t matter how much you tithe or how many sermons you’ve preached or how many chapters of Proverbs you’ve read this month if your kids aren’t in love with God.

So men: Rise to the occasion. Teach God’s words diligently to your children (Deut. 6:6-7). Don’t build kingdoms that will crumble in a generation. Build a legacy that lasts. Be a good king who raises up good kings.

As for you, my son, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

Reflections on Nehemiah

Rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3-4), published in 1886

There is a cool passage from a cool story in a cool book of the bible that probably 95% of Christians have never read.

Here’s the setting: In the 5th century BC, God’s people have been in exile and slavery for over two generations, but finally are permitted to return to their homeland. They return to a destitute Jerusalem and, despite political opposition and threats of violence, rebuild the city and experience revival.

And how did that revival happen?

Nehemiah chapter 8, verse 8: “[The priests] read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.”

Families put their lives and businesses on hold to do in-depth bible studies with their religious leaders. They spent entire days reading, praying, and worshipping (9:3). If they came across a commandment that they weren’t actively living, they immediately implemented it, like, right then and there (8:14-16). Husbands and fathers in particular spent extra time actively learning the same content the priests and Levites were studying (8:13).

And the result? A revival that changed a nation.

Many Christians say they want our nation to turn back to God. They want lives changed, they want people delivered. They want revival. But things like that don’t happen just by wanting them or tweeting them or complaining about them. They come about when people like you and I dedicate ourselves to God and His Word. They come about when we learn what God says, when we care about what God says, and then we do what God says, like, right then and there. They happen when fathers decide to lead their families in worship, instead of being passively present when our wives are reluctantly forced to lead.

Want the world to change? Maybe take a break from binging Netflix tonight, and study Nehemiah with your wife.

God’s Power in You (Reflections of Ephesians 1)

In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that the Church would know and understand the power of God available to us. He then spends five or so verses describing this power.

First, Paul calls God’s power “exceedingly great,” using the phrase “hyperballo megethos.” This basically means “mega-hyperbole.” In other words, it’s entirely impossible to exaggerate or overemphasize God’s power.

We then read that this power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. You know, that resurrection thing. Basically the single greatest event in the history of the universe.

In that moment, God brought a Man who was both physically and spiritually dead, suffering in hell for the sins of the world, back to life.

And the resurrection didn’t just bring Jesus back from the grave. It brought the human race back from the grave. Billions and billions of people stretched out over thousands and thousands of years, from the beginning of time to the end of time.

Suddenly, where there was despair, now there was hope. Where there was death, now there was life and peace. Humanity was brought back, and given eternal life. It was kind of like that final snap of the Infinity Gauntlet, but infinitely greater.

And that power of God didn’t just raise Christ from the dead; it seated him far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.

Let’s break that down.

First, notice it didn’t say He “sat” down. He was “seated.” This is a legal term. Jesus didn’t just plop down on the couch; He was appointed over His kingdom, where He reigns as King of the Universe.

Think Aragorn’s coronation at the end of Lord of the Rings. The battle is won. The enemy is defeated. And now He is officially and unequivocally seated on His throne. And where is He seated?

“Far above.”

Ever been in a plane as it’s taking off? As the plane lifts off the ground, you can still see those guys with the orange flashlights. Then they shrink down to the size of ants. Then they’re gone.

But you can still see cars whizzing by. Then they disappear. Then the houses go. Then it’s all gone. Just you in the clouds, far above everything else.

And Jesus, by that exceedingly great power of God, is seated far above all principality and power and might and dominion. We often see those words grouped together, but because we don’t know exactly what they mean, we just figure they mean “powerful stuff” and then move on to the next verse. But what do they actually mean?

The first word (principality) is “arche” in the Greek. It’s where we get the suffix “-archy,” used in words like “monarchy” or “anarchy.” It refers to entire forms of government. And Jesus is far above all those monarchies or anarchies or whatever other –archies may crop up.

Next is “power,” or “exousia.” It means delegated authority, and refers to the legal rights and powers a ruler or official might have. Picture a police officer, or an ambassador. When they act, they aren’t simply acting on their own power; they have the full force of their government backing them up.

And Jesus is higher.

“Dynamis” is the word “might.” It’s where we get the word dynamite. It’s power that really packs a punch. It was used historically to refer to the power and might of giant armies.

For instance, it appears on a burial epigram from the Battle of Marathon, commemorating the Greek army’s decisive victory over the (more numerous) Persian army. Nations hold off invading armies when they have greater dynamis.

And yet Jesus is greater.

Finally, we have dominion, or “kyriotes,” meaning complete ownership or lordship. It’s almost never used outside of Christian texts, and typically refers to God’s lordship over the universe. Any dominion, power, or rule falls under kyriotes.

And still, kyriotes falls under Jesus.

Next, we read that this exceedingly great power of God has set Jesus far above every name that is named. Think about that for a second. We just got through defining arche, exousia, dynamis, and kyriotes.

And just in case anything slipped through the cracks, any other named thing is also far beneath Jesus’ feet.

There are 171,476 words in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are over 470,000 English words in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. All of them: far beneath Jesus.

There are 6,909 distinct languages in the world. Many of them have 100,000 to over 500,000 words. Every last one of those named things: far below Jesus.

And that’s just the names that have already been named. Jesus was seated far above things that HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN NAMED YET.

Who’s going to be the richest or smartest person 10,000 years from now? Doesn’t matter. Jesus is far above. What nation will be the most powerful to ever exist? Doesn’t matter. Jesus is far above. Any future plague, any tyrant, any thing pales in comparison to the power of God.

And Paul’s prayer was that you would know and understand that incredible power of God, because that power WORKS IN YOU.

The exceedingly great, impossible-to-overemphasize power of God? It’s in you.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead, and set Him far above all authority and explosive power and world governments and mighty armies and everything else you could possibly imagine? In you.

Do you know that? No really, do you KNOW that the unstoppable, undeniable, unchallengeable power of God courses through your veins? Then act like it.

Stop quibbling about the nonsense the exists in the realms far below, and start doing the work of God.

Heal the sick.

Raise the dead.

Free the captives.

Preach the gospel.

And change the world.

 

 

Ten Reasons the Ten Commandments are Important (TEN COMMANDMENTS)

ten-commandments-meta-opt

Every few years, the Ten Commandments find themselves embroiled in controversy when some progressive pastor suggests that God doesn’t really like them all that much (a silly supposition, since God never changes and Jesus told us these laws would never fade away). And while I’d’ve hoped that Christians could agree on such basic universal truths as “We should only serve one God” and “Murder is bad,” it’s apparently not so obvious.

So here are ten facts about the Ten Commandments that you may or may not know:

ONE: They were literally written by God.

I know, I know. The whole bible was written by God. But technically, it was ghostwritten by God (or Holy Ghost-written by God, amirite?): God communicated His words through prophets and apostles, but God didn’t actually put pen to paper. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his psalms; Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his gospel; Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote his epistles. That’s why the scriptures are called God-breathed, not God-written.

However, the Ten Commandments are different. We are told several times that God literally carved them into stone with His finger.

“…[God] gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)

“Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God…” (Deuteronomy 9:10)

In this way, the Ten Commandments stand apart from the rest of the scriptures, not being transcribed but literally carved by God.

TWO: God spoke them out loud to over two million people.

Many times throughout the Bible, you’ll read phrases like “Thus saith the Lord” or “Command these people, saying…” What that means is God spoke these words to some spiritual leader, who then repeated these words to God’s people.

But again, the Ten Commandments stand apart in that they were spoken directly by God to His people.

“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice…” (Deuteronomy 5:22)

It is estimated that there were somewhere between two and seven million Israelites at the time. And Moses gathered those millions of desert wanderers around Mount Sinai, and God spoke these commandments out loud to them all. There was no denying that these divine laws came from God.

THREE: They are listed not once but twice in the Law.

The first five books of the Bible contain 613 laws (if you think that’s a lot, keep in mind that the United States has over 20,000 laws about guns alone). And in that limited space, God doesn’t repeat many of His commands. For instance, the “greatest commandment”—to love your neighbor as yourself—is only listed once. And yet God presents all Ten Commandments not once but twice (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5).

FOUR: When God created a nation, they were His Bill of Rights.

After over four hundred years in slavery, God fantastically delivered His people from the greatest superpower on earth and led them to form a nation of their own. And the central tenets of this new nation was these Ten Commandments. Of all 613 laws He had given them (or the millions of laws that have been written by countless nations since), God felt these ten were foundational to a successful and free society.

FIVE: They explain Jesus’ commandments to love God and love others.

In one famous exchange, a lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded that the right answer was:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and [to love] your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

However, it might not always be clear how to love God or love your neighbor. That’s where the Ten Commandments come in handy. The first four provide instruction related to loving God, while the latter six command us how to love others.

SIX: Jesus said the Ten Commandments were the key to eternal life.

In another famous exchange, a rich young ruler asked Jesus for the key to eternal life. Jesus responded,

“If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

The ruler pressed further, asking which ones He should keep. Jesus answered by listing half of the commandments and the command to love your neighbor (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 18).

According to Jesus, anyone who wants to enter into life should keep the Ten Commandments.

SEVEN: The Ten Commandments apparently gave the rich young ruler riches and influence.

As mentioned previously, a certain ruler (Luke 18:18) who was rich (Mark 10:22) asked Jesus for the secret to eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17), specifically citing five of the Ten Commandments. The rich young ruler responded, “All these things I have kept from my youth” (Matthew 19:20).

Taking the whole Bible into consideration, it is likely that this young man found financial success and influence because of his obedience to God’s commandments. After all, God told Joshua that if he kept the Book of the Law,

“You will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

Promises of economic success and influence are found throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and Proverbs 3:1-4, to name a few). It’s no wonder that this young man, who made keeping God’s laws a priority, found both success and influence.

It’s worth noting that, while this man kept many of the Ten Commandments, he doesn’t claim to have kept all of them. Loving God and not coveting are famously absent from the list, and Jesus asks the young man to give to the poor, trust God fully, and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). Jesus later tells His disciples that if the man had obeyed Him—and kept all Ten Commandments—he would have increased his possessions and influence and found eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

EIGHT: Paul quotes them too.

In Romans 13, Paul writes to the Christians of Rome about how to live as members of society. He lays out the role of government and instructs these believers to pay their taxes. Then he tells the Christians to “love one another” (Romans 13:8). To make sure they understand what this looks like practically, He elaborates further, listing the latter six commandments (the love your neighbor commandments).

Paul’s letter reaffirms that the Ten Commandments are central to a biblical understanding of love and that they are integral to loving successfully in society.

NINE: They establish moral absolutes.

In today’s world, most people either have one God or no gods. But that’s not always how it was. For most of human history, people worshiped many gods. There was a god of agriculture, a god of money, a god of weather. These gods didn’t always get along, and usually had competing views of morality.

As a result, it was hard to know what was right and what was wrong. After all, the god of the river might command one thing, but the god of war would command another. And humans were free to pick whatever god or system of morality suited them at any particular moment.

But the Ten Commandments changed all that. God started off these commandments by declaring that He was the absolute and only God, and that these commandments were His perfect standard of living. There could be no debate whether murder was right or wrong, or whether it was sometimes okay to steal. God, the one and only God, the true God, had declared that these were wrong, whether you or the king or the entire nation agreed. Right and wrong existed because they were established by God, and no matter who you were or where you lived, these commandments applied to you.

TEN: There are only ten of them.

Let’s be real. The “Ten Commandments” has a nice ring to it, and they easily fit on two tablets of stone. It’d be much harder to memorize the “Six Hundred and Thirteen Commandments,” let alone to fit them on a poster.

Conclusion:

The Ten Commandments are important. They are clearly important to God, they were important to Israel, and they should be important to us as well.

We’ll look more into lessons we can learn from God’s Ten Commandments in the coming months.

What is Love?

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Dictionary.com defines love as “a passionate affection for another person.” But then again, Dictionary.com also believes that boys can turn into girls, so they’re probably not the best source for getting an accurate (let alone biblical) definition of love.

And it’s incredibly important for us to understand what love is. After all, we are repeatedly commanded by Jesus to love:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 25:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27)

Jesus reiterates this commandment in His final discourse:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Heck, God goes as far as to say that He is love:

“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

So, what is love? Is it a feeling? Is it being nice? Is it an open door, or a battlefield, or a drug?

According to the bible, love is obedience to God’s commandments:

“If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2-3)

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in them.” (2 John 6)

In any given situation, the most loving thing you can do is the thing God has told you to do. No wonder God gave us these wonderful commandments. It wasn’t just to keep us in line; it was to keep us in love, and as long as we obey His laws, we can be certain that we will be walking in love*.


Notes:

* Some readers might deny this biblical definition of love, citing the Pharisees as a counter-example. After all, the Pharisees supposedly kept the law, and yet would not be considered very loving by Jesus’ standards. In actuality, the Pharisees didn’t keep the law—at least they didn’t keep the whole law. Sure, they kept some of it, but they also rejected a whole lot of it (Matthew 23:23, Mark 7:8-13). Obeying a few commandments while intentionally ignoring the rest isn’t true obedience, and thus isn’t love.

Tell Someone that God is the Healer

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Mark 5 recounts the tale of the “Woman with the Issue of Blood.” We are told that she had some unspecified medical condition, described “a flow of blood for twelve years” (Mark 5:25). She had spent all the money she had to visit the best doctors money could buy, but only grew worse.

Finally, when she heard about Jesus, she declared in faith, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (Mark 5:28). Sure enough, she gets exactly what she said: As she reaches out to touch the men of his garment, she was immediately healed, and Jesus commends her for her faith, saying “Your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34).

Much could be said about this story: her faith, her words, her salvation (the same word used to describe our salvation is used by Jesus to describe her healing). But there is one verse in this story that is oft overlooked.

When she heard about Jesus…” (Mark 5:27)

This woman was ritualistically unclean. She had a rather unpleasant ailment, and would have been an outcast of society, rarely leaving the comfort of her home. And yet, she somehow inexplicably heard about Jesus.

How?

Someone left his comfort zone to tell this diseased and destitute woman about the long-awaited Messiah.

We know nothing of this mysterious someone. He (or she) isn’t even mentioned directly in this passage. But this someone is the hero of the tale. For if someone hadn’t delivered the message, this woman wouldn’t have been healed, this chapter wouldn’t have been written, and countless believers wouldn’t have been blessed by this story of faith and salvation.

We need more someone’s in the church today. We need men and women who are willing to visit people like this woman, people who aren’t welcome in society, people who aren’t visited, people who frankly smell bad or look unseemly or aren’t a joy to be around.

We need believers like the four friends of the paralytic, who, refusing to take “no” for an answer, stormed Jesus’ house with their crippled friend in tow, going so far as to bust a hole in the roof of a stranger to get their friend to Jesus (Mark 2:1-4).

Too many sick people are more like the 38-year paralyzed man in John 5:

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.” (John 5:7)

It might be unpleasant. It will be inconvenient. But it’s necessary. And it’s our call as followers of Christ:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)

So next time you see someone with a runny nose, or a broken leg or an incurable blood disease, tell them about our Healer. Tell them about our Great Physician. Tell them about the God who does all things well. How else will they be saved?