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Laying Down the Law

Intro. to the Ten Commandments

Exodus 20



In The Gospel and the American Dream, historian Bruce Shelley writes, “In one hand Lady Liberty holds the torch of freedom and in the other the tablet of law. The torch challenges the forces of darkness and tyranny. The tablet of law re-minds us that liberty, degenerating into license, is but another form of slavery.”

That is the message of the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses, a truly great Israelite. God brought an oppressed group of people out of bondage. They would not experience true liberty however, by merely trading one form of bondage for another. Deliverance from Egypt’s tyranny could easily be replaced by servitude to self and sin.

The purpose of God’s law is actually to set us free…deliverance, not domination. The Ten Commandments are God’s “statutes of liberty.”


Imagine with me this year’s Super Bowl.  We go attend and are excited to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers face whoever the NFC sends as a sacrificial lamb. To our surprise, we discover that the field is not set up with the traditional football lines. Some players wear helmets and toss footballs, while others wear shorts and kick a soccer ball. Some swing baseball bats as others dribble basketballs. The whistle blows to signal the beginning of the game and each player plays the game of his own choice. We are in for a real mess!


Games without rules are unthinkable. Even worse is a society without laws. Try driving anywhere if there are no traffic guidelines. Submit to surgery at the hands of a physician who never earned a standard degree.


There are some “don’ts” which set us free. Our children’s lives are filled with “no’s” and “don’ts” and negatives because they are so loved. The no’s and don’ts that teach them to not pick up a pretty flaming coal, or play with an electrical outlet, or to run in the parking lot, are statutes of liberty to preserve and protect their best interests. The Ten Commandments are statutes of liberty to guard our good.


The first 4 commandments have to do w/ our relationship to God.  The last 6 have to do w/ our relationship with others.  And when Jesus was asked which commandments were the greatest, He said to love the Lord with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  These sum up both the God ward and man ward commandments.


You see, if you love God with all your heart then it’s only logical that you will put Him first, put away idols, not take His name in vain, and honor His day.  And if you love your neighbor as yourself it’s only logical you won’t steal from him, kill him, lie to him, fornicate with him, or be covetous of him, but rather to honor him.


Why preach on the 10 Commandments?

  • Because 97% of Americans say they are important while only 5% can name 3 of them.
  • Because they are moral principles which form the best hope for our America’s future.
  • Because God spoke them to us in His Word.
  • Because they can bring us to Christ.

        No, they aren’t a system of salvation, and no one gets saved by keeping them.  How many here have ever broken one of them?  And those who didn’t raise their hand just lied and broke one in the process!  God’s law requires perfection, but the NT says that God’s law brings us to Christ, not by getting us saved, but by getting us lost…because you can’t be saved until you realize you are lost, and once you are lost, then Christ can find you and bring you into the fold.


The 10 Commandments are principles that will change us, and can change the world, and we ought to squeeze every drop of truth out of them that we can in this study.


There’s more truth and more hope found in them than in all of Washington D.C.  Washington’s answer to all of our moral problems is ‘just spend more on give aways and education.’  But educating a sinner’s mind w/out changing their heart only leads to a smarter sinner.  Educate a thief’s mind w/out changing his heart all you do is promote him from robbing liquor stores at gunpoint to embezzling from his company.  I’m tired of the pork barrel programs of the government...we need to get back to “Thus saith the Lord!”


If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.
--Ronald Reagan


-When schools can assist kids with abortions and gender transitioning and hand out prophylactics to pre-pubescents but won’t allow the 10 commandments to be posted or prayers to be prayed, it’s time we go back to the drawing board.

-When the Boy Scouts are forced to allow a homosexual to be a troop leader, it’s time we get back to the basics.

-When the spotted owl enjoys more protection than a little baby, it’s time to get back to ‘thou shalt not kill.’

-When politicians who lead our land cannot keep the vows they make to their own spouses, should we be surprised when they trample on their vows of office?  It’s time we get back to ‘thou shalt not commit adultery.’

-When kids can’t dress up as an Indian for Halloween but they can come in drag all year long, it’s time to get back to ‘thou shalt have no other gods before me!”


Now, imagine with me what would happen if all Americans today decided to try to live by the 10 Commandments.  What would our country be like?  I’m not saying that they get saved, just that they try to live moral lives.  What would happen?

        For starters, most of our national problems would be a thing of the past.  The crime rate would plummet, violence and abortion would cease.  Government corruption would be over.  Prisons would soon be empty.  Teen pregnancy, divorce, hate, racism, terrorism would all be obliterated.  You could walk down any street w/out fear, and never lock your doors at night.  If politicians no longer lied and stole, they would actually be able to do the job of serving their constituents!


But America has kicked God out of school and government, and it’s no wonder so many homes no longer have any place for Him either.  God has been kicked out, and in His place came secular humanism which has led to a huge moral slide in the last 6 decades.  Church attendance has dropped dramatically, while ratings skyrocket for the shows that parade perverts across the screen.  In America today, 1/3rd of the population are like Jerry Springer’s guests, 1/3rd are like his audience who enjoy watching them, and 1/3rd of us just remain silent, taking down our 10 commandments displays, being silenced, huddling into a corner praying for the Lord to come back!


In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful to post the 10 commandments on the wall of a school, and you’ve got to hear the wording of their decision:

“If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the School children to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey the Commandments.”

Let me translate.  You cannot display the commandment to honor your parents because you might go home and do just that.  Don’t discourage adultery or sexual sin or some of these kids might wind up a virgin on their wedding night.  How do you expect kids to get the answers off their neighbor’s test paper if you say it’s wrong to steal?  If you post ‘thou shalt not kill’ somebody might obey it and not shoot up the school.


Getting back to the 10 commandments is the best hope for the church today.  Even Bible believing churches today are becoming increasingly powerless, ineffective, and irrelevant. 


What would happen if God’s people would get back to living by the 10 commandments?  There would be a mighty revival.  Holiness and purity would abound, and as a result, so would the power of God.  Churches would again be lighthouses set on hillsides, showing the way for all in their area.


What if every Christian decided to obey the command to honor father and mother?  Rebellion would no longer be as prevalent in the church as it is in the world.


What if every Christian decided to obey the command to honor the Lord’s Day, and every Sunday spend all day in God’s house, studying God’s Word with God’s people.  Our churches would have to launch building programs immediately.


What if every Christian decided to obey the command to not steal?  It would have to begin by not stealing from God.

Malachi 3:8-11
8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes...

If God’s people just obeyed this one aspect of ‘thou shalt not steal’ the church would never have a need and could do unlimited ministry around the world...and further, the people would be so much more blessed and their finances no longer cursed.


What if Christians decided to obey the command to have no idols, and no other gods before the Lord...deciding to put God first in every area of life?  Well, we’d happier, healthier, wealthier, and more importantly, we’d live different, look different, and act different...and would be powerful living testimonies that lost people would see and aspire to become like!


The commandments are a blueprint for a beautiful life.  But people today resist rules and regulations.  People today have no tolerance for ‘thou shalt nots’.  We are rebels to the core.  But I’m here to remind you today that the commandments are a blueprint for a beautiful life - the law and love always go together.  True love shows restraint when needed.


Ill.—we have a little 10 lb. dog at home, and we all love him.  He thinks he’s so macho as he stands in our bay window, looking out at the street.  A big German Shepherd walks his owner down our sidewalk every day, and our little Teddy goes nuts trying to get thru that window and take him on.  He barks fiercely like there’s no tomorrow, and I have translated what he’s saying:  “Come on, you want a piece of me, you lookin’ at me, you think you’re tough?”  At that moment our little Teddy is despising this window which won’t let him charge the other dog...and there’s nothing he’d like more than to break thru that window.  But let me ask you, what’s the only thing saving his life?  That window!  Because the big dog calmly trots by that window and as he glances at Teddy he’s thinking, “I had 2 like you for lunch today!”

        We don’t keep our dog separate from that other dog because we hate him or are trying to spoil all his fun, but because we love him and love and law go together.


All of us humans need to realize that God is not a cosmic killjoy trying to spoil our fun.  When God says ‘thou shalt not’ it’s only because He knows that particular behavior is destructive and will bring misery into our lives.


The commandments are gifts from God, like:


A Compass for Direction

They give us our bearings. Without them we are drifting.


Ill.—During World War II American planes flew from British airbases to missions over Germany. Finding their way home to base was often difficult because of horrible weather conditions. Churches with tall, stately spires dotted the English landscape. On overcast days the American pilots used the churches to guide them home. As planes descended through a gray sky the churches told the pilots if they were on the right course.

Our world is in a moral fog. The spiritual weather is horrible. The Ten Commandments are God’s signposts to show us the way home.

A Thermometer of Love

Jesus stated this clearly when He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:15, 23). Those who truly love the Lord know that He commands because He cares.

A Mirror of Reality

The Ten Commandments are a mirror of reality to give us a true look at ourselves.  We all fall short. That is why the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was necessary.

ill.—The late J. Vernon McGee said:
You have a mirror in your bathroom, which is a picture of the law, and there is a basin underneath the mirror. You do not wash yourself with the mirror; it only reveals the dirt. Just so, the law is the mirror that reveals our sin. And beneath that mirror there is a wash basin.


“There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood.
Lose all their guilty stains.”



We’re all sinners, we’ve all broken God’s laws, and try as we might, we’ll never keep them perfectly, so our sins have to be paid for.  And Jesus did that.  Will you let the law bring you to the love of Christ today?

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