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No Gods But God

From the series God's Boundaries for Abundant Living

Would you like some help setting boundaries that will restore your joy, your dignity, and your priorities? Chip begins a journey to discover the ten boundaries God has established for you to enjoy life at its best, beginning with Commandment #1.

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Message Transcript

Have you ever had a parent or a child or a boss or a close friend ask you to do something and you knew you didn’t want to do it. It wasn’t a moral issue. You didn’t have to do it.

You knew in your heart it wasn’t the right thing for you but they kept pushing and pushing and talking and talking and made you feel guilty enough until you said yes. And then afterwards, while you were doing it, you’re going, boy, I hate this. This makes me…

Anyone ever had that?

There was a violation of boundaries. Each one of us has boundaries or space and that boundaries or space is what we need in order to have healthy, growing relationships.

And your space on the volleyball court. We all have personal space and boundaries. You have your side of the road and they have their side of the road.

And when they cross into your side of the road, and whether it’s the relational road or the physical road, when someone violates your boundaries, it produces anything from a mild irritation to discomfort to anger to fear to a breaking off of relationship.

A boundary, quite simply put, is this. It’s where one person stops and another person starts. It’s where one thing stops and another thing starts. And where the one stops, and the other starts, is called a boundary.

And boundaries are often given by markers or, verbally, boundaries are created by the word “no.”

No, you can’t stand that close to me. No, you can’t hit the ball in my space. No, you can’t drive your car on my side of the road. And, no, you can’t make me do your agenda if it’s not God’s will for my life, no matter how guilty you try to make me feel.

Boundaries are essential for all of us. Boundaries are essential for health. Boundaries are essential for relationships. Boundaries are essential for you to do life in a way that honors God.

And are you ready for this? God has boundaries.

You know, there’s a book, I had a chance about eight or ten years ago to be at a conference with about ten pastors of large churches and we all had similar pressures and we all got away in a little cabin for about three days.

And Henry Cloud came, who wrote the book on boundaries. And had a good time just talking about how hard it is as a senior pastor to keep boundaries, to protect your family and your personal life. And boundaries where you work out and keep your health. Because there are so many pulls and so many demands.

As I talked with Henry Cloud, I was amazed. I said, “Where did you get all this stuff?” And he had some theological training. He said, “You know where I got it?” He said, “I did about a three year internship and I did it in a mental health ward. And I just watched people after people after people after people try and live their life to please everyone and all the psychological damage that it did. And as I kept reading through, it was a time in my life, a real struggling time. And he said, often I would go away for five, six hours a day and do nothing but read the Bible, read the Bible, read the Bible, read the Bible.

And I saw how clearly God outlined boundaries.”

And one of the most important times God lays out boundaries is in the Old Testament when He wants to take a people and make them distinct and help them understand.

Help them understand who He is, where he stops, and how they need to stop in relationship with one another and where you give room for other people to start.

And the title of the series is called God’s Boundaries. It’s a fresh look at the Ten Commandments.

If you’ll go ahead and pull out your little study guide, teaching handout, I want to dig in with you and take a fresh look at the Ten Commandments but look at them through the perspective of boundaries.

When boundaries are broken, relationships falter.

Ruben Shelly, in a book called Written in Stone - Ethics for the Heart, writes this. When looking back at the sixties experiment and then the seventies and the eighties. And at the heart of all that he’s going to say, is that boundaries were destroyed.

He says, the theme of the sixties was anti-establishment. In the protests against government, family, church, people who assumed that God was dead sank into self-destructive era of drugs, uninhibited sex, and moral anarchy.

Next, we moved into the self-absorbed decade of the seventies. Tom Wolfe dubbed it, “The Decade of Me.” And its best-sellers were, “Looking out for Number One” and “Winning Through Intimidation.”

We endured, then, the golden age of greed. The decade of the eighties. Athletes gambled on sporting events. Wall Street kingpins were jailed for insider trading. Officials in government were caught in sex, drug, and influence peddling scandals.

Now, and later, the nineties and the early 21st Century were faced with a crisis of ethics. Once, what we took for granted, as common decency, is now uncommon. The utterly outrageous has become ordinary.

Boy, you believe that, don’t you? If I see one more reality TV program, the latest one, Trading Spouses. The obscene is commonplace. Our code of ethics has eroded in such a massive scale that we’ve become cynical about morality and we sense that something is terribly, terribly wrong with the spiritual fabric of our world.

Since 1960, listen carefully, violent crime in America has increased more than five hundred percent.

A Justice Department study in 1987, predicted that eight out of ten Americans will be a victim of a violent crime in their lifetime.

Crime is so prevalent in America that Americans have altered their lifestyles out of fear. Whole sections of major cities are considered unsafe.

I’ve been where policemen have said, don’t drive in that area of town. We can’t guarantee any protection.

One fourth of the population have put in home security systems. Shoppers worry about where to park at shopping malls. Women carrying mace in their glove compartments and purses.

More and more people are carrying guns and newspapers and talk shows document the fact that crime is the most important subject on people’s hearts. He wrote that before terrorism began to occur.

What I want to suggest is that we did an experiment in the sixties where we cast off restraint or boundaries and the overwhelming consensus in our day is, we need a moral compass. We need a North Star. We need a roadmap. We need a foundation for truth.

As someone wisely said, we did our own thing and now our own thing is doing it to us. But the problem in our world, our current, dilemma is, which boundaries?

You may have heard William Bennett, a few years ago, wrote a book on virtues. And it’s very politically correct to talk about ethics. Ethics courses popped up in the mid to late nineties in all kind of business schools.

The problem is, when you get specific. No one can agree on what is right and what is wrong. As Francis Schaffer said, when you remove absolutes and there is no right and there is no wrong, then people will begin to erode all kind of boundaries.

We’ve eroded boundaries about marriage. We’ve eroded boundaries about right and wrong. We’ve eroded boundaries about what is life and what is death.

And things that were unthinkable thirty or forty years ago, now we have live babies in the eighth or eighth and a half month that are perfectly healthy being aborted because the boundaries’ been shifted and we say, that’s not a real person until they come out of the womb.

Now, we say, if people aren’t useful to society, we kill them prematurely and we give it a fancy name because the boundary between what is life and what’s of value has been changed.

And here’s the deal. Unless we get clear on the boundaries that God has set, we’re in trouble. In fact, I know we’re in trouble when, instead of Billy Graham or a Christian leader telling the world that we need to have boundaries, it becomes Ted Koppel.

You know, Ted Koppel? Mr. Nightline himself? This is a quote out of his address to the University of Duke at their graduation. Ted Koppel, of Nightline says:

“Our society finds truth too strong a medicine to digest. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder, it’s a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They were the Ten Commandments.”

Notice he says “they are” not “were.”

“The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time.”

Now, that’s not a preacher. That is a man at Duke University who has a nighttime talk show looking at our world and saying something’s gotta change.

He closes that speech at that commencement by saying, “There is a harmony and inner peace to be found in following a moral compass that points in the same direction regardless of fashion or trend.”

As you turn the page, what I’d like to do with you is look at God’s boundaries for abundant living.

So often, when we think of the Ten Commandments, we’ve been informed far more by Charlton Heston and a movie that we are Scripture. And we have a picture of a very angry God with lightning bolts coming out of a mountain, steaming down on people, and putting something on some stone tablets in order to make people do what they’re supposed to do.

And what I want to tell you is that is an unbiblical position of what the Scripture has to teach. Is that just as there’s a double yellow line on a curved road that is at a boundary that says, “Do not pass, so that you can be protected,” God gave the Ten Commandments.

Just as there is a boundary that says that when people get so close you need enough space for your own protection let alone the germs, God set out boundaries like guardrails that go around a winding road to protect and provide grace and direction and help.

And what I want to do in the next ten sessions together is, I want to look at God’s boundaries, whose purpose is for abundant living. Who’s rooted in grace.

Who longs for you to have the best in relationships. Who longs for you to know Him. Who longs for you, not only to have a vertical relationship with Him, but a horizontal relationship with one another that is deeper and better than you could ever dream.

And so, on one tablet, he put boundaries or commands about your relationship with Him and on another tablet, he put boundaries about your relationship with other people.

And so, let’s look at boundary number, or literally, it’s called the ten words. It’s referred to as the Ten Commandments and in other places it talks about the Law. But, literally, it’s the ten words.

And as we dig in together, you’ll notice on the inside of your notes, there are three things you need to understand to understand what’s going on in the Ten Commandments.

First is, who gave us the Ten Commandments? Second, when and to whom did He give them? And third, why did He give them?

So, let’s start with the who. We’ve got Exodus chapter 20 verses 1 and 2 and I’ve put them on your notes.

And God spoke all these words and He said, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. Out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Notice they didn’t come from a summit or a seminar of worldwide leaders. They came from God. Notice, secondly, the who that gave them is the capital L-O-R-D. That is Yahweh. Or Jehovah.

The theologians call it a “tetragrammanon.” It is four letters with no vowels in Hebrew. It was too holy or too sacred. And the best that the theologians can come up with, it’s the core Hebrew word of the verb “to be.” I AM THAT I AM. The Everlasting One.

So, first, what we learn is who gave them. There is an Eternal One. And second, you’ll notice, I, the Lord God, gave you. Personal pronouns. God is eternal. He’s outside of time.

But He’s also personal and intimate. He says, I, Yahweh, the Lord your God. And third, notice, it’s in the context of grace.

The Ten Commandments didn’t come out of some blank slate where God said, “I am God do this.” It came after He had delivered Israel. The Israelites lived in a world of Egypt for four hundred years. There were over fifteen hundred gods.

Their kids grew up with fifteen hundred competing gods saying, “This is true.” And at the top of all the gods was Pharaoh. If you study carefully, you’ll learn that those ten plagues, each, those were the ten top gods in Egypt.

And when Moses was given power by God to defeat each one of those plagues and finally, Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s son, it was a way where God was letting His people know, I am superior to all the gods in all the world.

I am the Lord your God who delivered you. They’d seen the Red Sea part. They’d seen the enemies and the hardship. They’d seen the Red Sea close back over. They are talking about a God who said, “I love you, I care for you, I delivered you, I’m for you. Now, I want to give you some boundaries. I want to show you how to live in such a way where you can enjoy the deepest, best relationship with me possible and the deepest, best relationship with one another.”

And see, here’s the problem with the Ten Commandments. I mean, we think about them being on walls. These are the most revolutionary ten words in the history of mankind. They have shaped law. They have shaped relationships. How we think, how the world thinks is rooted in.

But you know what? Before they came, they weren’t around. They weren’t around. God is giving His truth to His people out of his love and out of His mercy so they could experience Him and experience in relationally people not going left of center.

And God didn’t want the discomfort and the irritation and the fear and the anger and the pain when boundaries are violated with Him or with one another.

So, the first thing to understand is who gave them. They come from an eternal God who is personal, who is loving. And then notice the last line. Who is all powerful. He says, “I brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery.”

And then the command. The command is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” So, when did it occur and to whom?

Open your Bibles, if you will, to chapter 19 of Exodus. And in the first six verses, we get a little background on who, when were they given and to whom?

It’s in the third month after the Israelites left Egypt. So, they’ve been through all this preparation and let my people go and the ten plagues and all the chaos and all the pain. And then finally, they’re set free and then they think they’re going to die and then they get to the water’s edge and God opens the Red Sea.

And so they’ve been, about three months, they’re just literally starting to get a little sense of a daily rhythm. You know? The fire and the cloud and it’s leading them. And so, they’ve been three months to the very day they came to the Desert of Sinai.

And after they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

Then Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you’re to tell the people of Israel. You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt [God of power] And how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. A God of compassion.”

See, in their day, that “eagles wings” would, very quickly was a word picture. They, they in their day would have been out in nature and seen how a mother eagle would take those eaglets and fly and then tilt the wings and drop them and they would flap and flap and then just at the last second, swoop under and take care of them.

He’s giving them a picture of, I’m the God of the most awesome power you have ever dreamed of. But I’m a God who cares for you as a people the way a eagle cares for its eaglets.

“…You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt. How I carried you on these eagle wings. Brought you to [notice the goal] Myself.”

“Now, if you obey me fully and keep my commandments, then out of the nations, you’ll be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words to speak to the Israelites.”

When? Three months after the deliverance. Who? To a people in bondage for four hundred years. To Israel. And notice, His treasured possession.

These are words of life and grace and encouragement. These are words, you’re going to be a kingdom of priests. These are words are saying to a group of people, all the earth is Mine. I created it. But a part of My plan, you are special.

And I’m going to bring you to Myself for Me. This isn’t about me giving you a straight jacket of rules and you’ve got to keep these rules.

I’m going to give you these boundaries in order that you can share with me at an intimate level what no person has ever experienced and then we’ll learn from later in Scripture, that I want to take this nation and I want to take it like a piece of coal and take it through a process where you become a diamond in the rough and when I give you My Law and My presence and My power, all the world will see, through this diamond, the glory and the glitter and the beauty of the God eternal on this planet. And that was His goal.

And so, he’s going to give them words of life. He’s going to give them the ten words, the ten boundaries. So they could have a relationship with Him and a relationship with one another.

Why did He give them? Notice in chapter 20. Skip down to verse 20. Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid…” Remember the mountain has shaken now. The smoke has gone up. Lightning bolts. Basically, by this time they’re saying, hey, Moses? If God wants to talk again, you talk to Him. I think we got the message. He’s scaring us to death.

Moses says to them, “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you,” [Why?] “…so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Verse 21. “The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”

God gave these ten words to reveal Himself. How do you know God’s character of purity? The ten words. The Ten Commandments. How do you know what God wants for relationships? The ten words, the Ten Commandments.

God gave these to reveal Himself and he gave them to protect the people and to protect us from sinning. When you miss the mark, that’s what sin is. When you miss the mark in relationships. When you miss the mark with God, what is always the result?

Doesn’t it bring pain? Doesn’t it bring fallout? Doesn’t it bring chaos? It’s not just a matter of, don’t have sex before marriage. Do you think God knew about herpes? Do you think God knew about HIV positive? Do you think God knew about AIDS when He gave that command?

Do you think God knew about all the psychological studies we’ve done that when we find that people live together before they get married that the sexual satisfaction in the marriage is much less than those who don’t?

That the divorce rate is fifty percent higher? That the chances of being a one man or one woman mate really goes down when people live together? Why do you think God gave these rules?

Because out of His mercy and His love and His grace, he knew what would protect us. Sin always brings death. Death is separation and pain and chaos. These are not ten laws that are a straight jacket that you’ve got to do them because there’s a big God and He’s so big, he can make everyone do what He says.

These are the ten words of an ultimate, all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal Father who is absolutely holy and pure and knows you and loves you and your children and loves you in your marriage and in your singleness and in your teen years and in your sunset years.

And has given words of life that if you obey them, it will keep you from sin. It will allow you to know Him. And it will allow you to meet God in ways beyond what you ever dreamed. And so, that’s why He gave them.

Later, in Romans chapter 7, they were given to help us see our need. Romans 7 tells us what? It says, no one can keep the Law. I mean, the Law was never designed, ever, to fulfill the Law, keep all the Law, and you’ll get right with God.

The Ten Commandments were never given that, if you can keep them all, then you’re going to be saved. That somehow you’re going to get to heaven. Then you’re going to get big gold stars on your refrigerator in heaven.

The Law was given to show every man, every woman, every child of every age that this reveals the character of God. This is the bar, this is the standard, and no one can keep them. No one can keep them.

And so, they drive you to ask God for mercy. They drive you to the cross. They drive you to say, even if you can be like an Apostle Paul and do the external things fairly well, then you get to command number ten. The issues of the heart. Thou shall not, what? Covet. Covet.

God has then things that He says and when He gets to the end, he takes all of them and like an exponential, to the tenth, He says, all these have to happen. But they have to happen, not just in your external behavior or speech. They have to happen as an issue of the heart.

And if you open the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5, 6, 7. What did Jesus say? “You have heard it said, but I say to you….” You’ve heard it said, but I say to you. You have heard it said, but I say to you. And he says, it is written. And every time, what did Jesus say? He took the issues to the heart. And said, if you don’t obey from the heart, you haven’t obeyed at all.

So, as we look at the first command here, what I want you to know is that we’re to honor God as God. Boundary number one is no gods but God. So, how do you honor God as God? What exactly does it mean?

It means, very simply, that God wants, desires, and demands to have the same place in your heart that He has in the universe. He is the CEO of the universe. He is the Master of the universe. He is the Lord of the universe. He is the central, focal, infinite reference point of all that is and all that will ever be. And at the same time, He is the circumference.

He wants to be in you and in me and in your life and in your relationships and in your work and in all that you do, He wants to be at the center. He wants to be the priority. That’s what it means to honor God as God.

And He will have zero competitors. Notice what it says. What does it mean to have no other gods? Notice the phrase, “before us.” You got your pen? Pull out a pen, if you have it. And if you don’t have one, bring it for next time. We’ll do a little Bible study each time.

Circle the word “before.” The Hebrew word here, have no other god before Me. The word “before” means “in opposition to or in addition to.” Nothing is to be placed before God.

No person, no thing, no ideology, no purpose. God wants to be the center and the circumference of your life. He wants to be the number one priority. The number one relationship.

In, kind of, layman’s terms, if we were listening to this and you were Israelites and I got to be, like, Moses for a moment. And someone raised their hand and said, “Yo, Moses!” Like, what’s this really mean to us?

Moses would have said, it means you don’t worship Baal or Chemosh or Ashtoreth, or Dagon. Those were the gods of the Canaanites. He would say, it means you don’t worship the sun, the moon, or the stars.

In our day, it means, you don’t worship Mao, Stalin, Lenin, or Marx. Or even Elvis. It means you don’t worship pleasure or success. Money or prominence. It means you don’t worship sex, power, family, spouse, or church or ministry.

It means you don’t worship your body, your mind, technology, or your work. And for heaven’s sake, it means don’t worship yourself. No gods but God.

And that kind of raises a question. I mean, since, you know, my background in undergraduate and graduate was in psychology and so what I learned early on is that, you know something? We are masters at denial, aren’t we, as human beings?
I mean, we are just, like, unbelievably good at convincing ourselves we’re doing really, really well when we’re not really doing very well at all.

Can I give you some diagnostic questions? You don’t need to write them down. Just listen. This is a little test for you to find out who’s at the center and the circumference of your life. This will let you know who you worship.

First question would be, who do you rely on? Who do you rely on under pressure? When there’s trouble. Who do you rely on? You? Someone else? Your job? Money? Your position? Power? Or God?

Second question. Where does your time, energy, and money go? I mean, if we just played a little game and of course, we won’t do it. And we could take, you know, your portfolio and your PDA or Star Diary and your checkbook and we said, “Okay, everyone pass it to the right.” And the person at the end would go around and put on the other end and we wouldn’t have to even know each other, would we?

And I could look at where all your money goes and I could look at where all your time goes and look at some of your journal entries and probably I could take a staggering, wild guess about what and who is most important in your life and you could know pretty quickly what and who is most important in mine, right?

See, it’s not how you feel when we sing the songs. It’s not if you have a ooey, gooey feeling during one of the worship times.

It’s not, you know, how often you’re reading the Bible. Jesus said, wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. Wherever your time goes.

Third question is, who are you trying to impress? I mean, we all do, right? Who are you really trying to impress? Who is it that you’re looking that, boy, they’re going to give you the stroke and the big pat on the back.

Is it your family? Is it the people at work? Is it the people at school and how you look and how you dress and are you in and are you cool?

See, if He, no other gods but God means, your primary goal is that you want to live for an audience of One. That you do the same thing alone in front of your computer as you would do if the whole family was with your computer.

You would spend money the same way if no one ever found out about or if everyone found out about it. Because you live for an audience of One.

The fourth question is, what is the center of your life? Or who? I mean, what is it that makes everything else connect? And by the way, in our circles, sometimes, you know, a very good thing can get in the center but God says, no gods but Me.

Your spouse is not a good center. One of your kids is not a good center. Supplying for the needs of your family is not a good center. Are you ready for this? Church and ministry are not a good center.

Only God, and God alone, is worthy to be the center and the focus of your life.

Or, here’s a test that rattles me a little bit is, what do you dream about or what do you hope for when you don’t have to think about anything?

You’re just driving in the car or you have some time away or, for some of us guys, maybe gals, I don’t know. When you’re cutting the lawn. And you know how you can just have time to think?

What do you dream about? Do you dream about the next deal? What just comes to your mind when you think about the preferable future? Does it have to do with your life and your relationship with the One that created you? With the God that died for you? With your intimacy with Him and longing.

And then, finally, under ultimate pressure, what holds you up inside? See, at the end of the day, that tells you who your god is. What could we take out of your life that, if we removed that, your life would fall apart?

But, could you be as happy if tomorrow, your financial picture changed? Could you be as stable if we removed a person out of your life? Would your life still work if we said, you know, work gets omitted?

What is it that holds you up inside? Now, am I saying, in any way, that those things are bad? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

I’m saying, according to God, none of those things have the power to hold you up. And, therefore, if you put your faith and your hope and your trust in anything or anyone, you are destined to a heartbreak in your life.

And God is not receiving what is due Him. Because He’s the only eternal one. He’s the only all-powerful one. He’s the one who gave the ten words. To do what? Set a boundary about who He is and what He does. And a relationship with you.

Why does God command exclusive worship of Himself? Two reasons. One is His character demands it. He can’t help it. God is the only person in the universe that is, we would think, you know, He just seems to be kind of, wanting to make Himself the center of the world. Well, He is!

He wants to be the center of attention. He is! He’s the Creator. He’s the Redeemer. He’s the Sustainer. Colossians 1. Christ is doing what? He holds all things together by the word of His power. What is worship? Worship is understanding and seeing God for who He is and then admiring, adoring, and enhancing His reputation in light of that reality.

By all that I say and all that I do and how I live. That’s what it means to be a worshipper. Worship isn’t something I do now. Worship is being a living sacrifice. 24/7. 365. And what does God want? He wants me to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

God’s character demands there is only one non-caused being. There is only one Creator. There is only one God. His character demands it. Secondly, our welfare demands it. It’s not just egocentric. Our personal welfare demands that we put no one or no thing in the place of God.

Jot in your notes, Psalm 115. And about verses 3 to 8. The Psalmist says, “Our God is in heaven. He does whatever He pleases. But the idols are of silver and gold made by the hands of men.”

And then notice what he says about idols. “They have mouths but they can’t speak, eyes but they cannot see, they have ears but they cannot hear, and noses but they cannot smell. They have hands but they cannot feel. Feet but they cannot walk. They cannot utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them. And so will all who trust in them.”

And then, “Hear the plea. O house of Israel, trust in the Lord. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord. He is your help and your shield. You who fear and trust in the Lord, he is their help and shield. The Lord remembers us and will bless us. He will bless the house of Aaron. He’ll bless the house of Israel. He will bless those who fear the Lord, small and great alike.”

What’s he saying about idols? They can’t come through. You see, the day’s going to come, if you put your trust, unconsciously or consciously, in your job, your mate, one of your kids, your money, your portfolio, your success, your body, how you look, your popularity, who you impress, and that you’ve really got it together.

I will guarantee, the day will come in your life when that idol cannot have the power to come through and deliver for you. And when that happens, you are going to be one hurting unit.

And so, God gives a boundary. He says, there’s one person who gets to be at the center of the universe. It’s Me. There’s one person that is to be worshipped above everything else. It’s Me. Why?

One, I deserve it. And two, you can’t afford not to do it. It’s a boundary. It’s no different than God saying, don’t have sex before marriage. It’s no different than He gives the boundary about telling the truth and lying.

It’s no different than don’t covet other people’s stuff. They’re all provided for relationships to work in a way that are better and deeper and more winsome and grace-filled than you could ever, ever imagine.

So, final question is this. How can we honor God as God? I mean, practically. What’s this look like? Let me give you three, I almost said suggestions but they’re really not suggestions. From God’s perspective, they’re non-negotiables.

Number one is recognize God for who He is. God is not your self-help genie. God is not a cosmic slot machine that, if you push the right buttons that, you’ll have a great marriage, kids would turn out right, they’ll be upwardly mobile. You probably won’t get as sick as other people and life will be wonderful for you.

God is not Santa Claus who, you know, just throws little gifts here and there to help your life when you need Him. God is not a cosmic psychiatrist who, you know, keep Him on the shelf and then, when you get really down and really hurting, there’s someone you can go to.
And God is not some sort of a, you know, eternal insurance agent that, basically, make sure you, you know, write on the dotted line because, you know, you need some fire insurance someday, someway in case all this might be true.

He’s the Creator and Maker of the universe. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, filled with compassion, slow to anger. He is eternal.

And He loves you. And He wants, in your heart and in your life, the same place that He holds in the universe.

And at this very moment, there are beings that I do not know how to describe and prophets of old and the prophets of new have a hard time getting their arms around as they, we sung of them, of seraphim and cherubim.

But they are with wings covering their eyes and covering their feet and flying before the throne of God. And they’re crying out at this moment, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are filled of His glory. Glory be to thee, O God, most high.”

And when the prophets of old ever saw God for who he really was, it was Isaiah who would say, “Woe is me.” It would be John who would fall flat on his face. It would be Daniel who would fall down and be as though dead.

First, recognize who God is. God is not some portion or some angle or slice of pie in your life to make your life go better. God is the core and the object and the Creator. And He wants you and your heart and your life and your relationships and your time and your treasure and your money and all that you are to come under submission to the King of the universe.

And it’s not a boundary that is restrictive. As 1 John said, “His commandments aren’t grievous. Because God is a sun and a shield. He’s a God who gives grace and glory. He’s a God who does not want to withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly.”

But it begins with recognize God for who He is. Second, recognize yourself for who you are. You are not a nice, moral, religious person who gets graded on the curve and you can find a group of people that are doing a little bit worse than you so you think, I must be pretty right with God because I’m not as bad as all those other people.

That’s human nature. What you are is a person like me, born in Adam, and on your very best days, your motives stink or are mixed or you have presumptuous sin that you know not of.

And He is the Creator and you are the creature. And that means, are you ready? Old time word. You’re a sinner. All that means is, you fall short. It means, you’re not like God. It means, you have fallen. You have failed. You have missed. You’re not loving all the time.

You’re not the husband you want to be or the wife you ought to be. You’re not the child you need to be. You don’t do the right thing for the right reason all the time. You have fallen short. You are a creature in need of grace.

He’s the Creator. You are a creature. He is holy. You have sinned. Recognize God for who He is. Recognize yourself for who you are. And yet, though being a missing of the mark sinner, you’re made in the image of God.

And you have dignity and value and beauty and you’re the object of His affection. And then your response is, first and foremost, to accept the free gift that this standard and bar, these ten words that God has laid out that no one can keep, and understanding who He is, who you are.

And then realize God has made a way, first and foremost, through Jesus on the cross to pay for your sin, to close the gap between Creator and creature.

And that is the beginning of a new relationship called a new birth and the new birth is followed by a new life. And the rest of these commands are going to talk about how to worship this God in the right way in the new life.

And the rest of these words are going to talk about how to live with one another in this new relationship and this new life.

And He’s going to give you boundaries that are going to be more valuable than what side of the road you stay on. They’re going to be more valuable than how to keep, you know, psychological distance with people.

They’re going to be more valuable than anything you can imagine and they will impact your relationships and your money and your worship and your family and as we look at each boundary then we’ll turn them over and hear the very words of Christ.

So, we not only get the Law as given to the nation, but the spirit of the Law as given by the Savior. And we’re going to go on a journey together and we’re going to learn God’s boundaries, not for restricted living, but for abundant living.

And we’re going to have a ball together. And God’s going to speak and the first step, for you, is to ask and answer this question: Does God hold the same place as evidenced by your time, heart, dreams, attention, money, priorities? The same place in your heart that He holds in the universe?

And if not, it would be good to just get honest and bow your head and say, “Lord, I’m not sure how I could really answer that honestly. I’d like to have a little talk with you right now, okay?”

Let’s start a journey where if you can say, with all your heart, no gods but God, He’s on the throne of my heart and my life.

 
Romans 7 tells us what? It says, no one can keep the Law. I mean, the Law was never designed, ever, to fulfill the Law, keep all the Law, and you’ll get right with God.

The Ten Commandments were never given that, if you can keep them all, then you’re going to be saved. That somehow you’re going to get to heaven. Then you’re going to get big gold stars on your refrigerator in heaven.

The Law was given to show every man, every woman, every child of every age that this reveals the character of God. This is the bar, this is the standard, and no one can keep them. No one can keep them.

And so, they drive you to ask God for mercy. They drive you to the cross. They drive you to say, even if you can be like an Apostle Paul and do the external things fairly well, then you get to command number ten. The issues of the heart. Thou shall not, what? Covet. Covet.

God has then things that He says and when He gets to the end, he takes all of them and like an exponential, to the tenth, He says, all these have to happen. But they have to happen, not just in your external behavior or speech. They have to happen as an issue of the heart.

And if you open the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5, 6, 7. What did Jesus say? “You have heard it said, but I say to you….” You’ve heard it said, but I say to you. You have heard it said, but I say to you. And he says, it is written. And every time, what did Jesus say? He took the issues to the heart. And said, if you don’t obey from the heart, you haven’t obeyed at all.

So, as we look at the first command here, what I want you to know is that we’re to honor God as God. Boundary number one is no gods but God. So, how do you honor God as God? What exactly does it mean?

It means, very simply, that God wants, desires, and demands to have the same place in your heart that He has in the universe. He is the CEO of the universe. He is the Master of the universe. He is the Lord of the universe. He is the central, focal, infinite reference point of all that is and all that will ever be. And at the same time, He is the circumference.

He wants to be in you and in me and in your life and in your relationships and in your work and in all that you do, He wants to be at the center. He wants to be the priority. That’s what it means to honor God as God.

And He will have zero competitors. Notice what it says. What does it mean to have no other gods? Notice the phrase, “before us.” You got your pen? Pull out a pen, if you have it. And if you don’t have one, bring it for next time. We’ll do a little Bible study each time.

Circle the word “before.” The Hebrew word here, have no other god before Me. The word “before” means “in opposition to or in addition to.” Nothing is to be placed before God.

No person, no thing, no ideology, no purpose. God wants to be the center and the circumference of your life. He wants to be the number one priority. The number one relationship.

In, kind of, layman’s terms, if we were listening to this and you were Israelites and I got to be, like, Moses for a moment. And someone raised their hand and said, “Yo, Moses!” Like, what’s this really mean to us?

Moses would have said, it means you don’t worship Baal or Chemosh or Ashtoreth, or Dagon. Those were the gods of the Canaanites. He would say, it means you don’t worship the sun, the moon, or the stars.

In our day, it means, you don’t worship Mao, Stalin, Lenin, or Marx. Or even Elvis. It means you don’t worship pleasure or success. Money or prominence. It means you don’t worship sex, power, family, spouse, or church or ministry.

It means you don’t worship your body, your mind, technology, or your work. And for heaven’s sake, it means don’t worship yourself. No gods but God.

And that kind of raises a question. I mean, since, you know, my background in undergraduate and graduate was in psychology and so what I learned early on is that, you know something? We are masters at denial, aren’t we, as human beings?
I mean, we are just, like, unbelievably good at convincing ourselves we’re doing really, really well when we’re not really doing very well at all.

Can I give you some diagnostic questions? You don’t need to write them down. Just listen. This is a little test for you to find out who’s at the center and the circumference of your life. This will let you know who you worship.

First question would be, who do you rely on? Who do you rely on under pressure? When there’s trouble. Who do you rely on? You? Someone else? Your job? Money? Your position? Power? Or God?

Second question. Where does your time, energy, and money go? I mean, if we just played a little game and of course, we won’t do it. And we could take, you know, your portfolio and your PDA or Star Diary and your checkbook and we said, “Okay, everyone pass it to the right.” And the person at the end would go around and put on the other end and we wouldn’t have to even know each other, would we?

And I could look at where all your money goes and I could look at where all your time goes and look at some of your journal entries and probably I could take a staggering, wild guess about what and who is most important in your life and you could know pretty quickly what and who is most important in mine, right?

See, it’s not how you feel when we sing the songs. It’s not if you have a ooey, gooey feeling during one of the worship times.

It’s not, you know, how often you’re reading the Bible. Jesus said, wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. Wherever your time goes.

Third question is, who are you trying to impress? I mean, we all do, right? Who are you really trying to impress? Who is it that you’re looking that, boy, they’re going to give you the stroke and the big pat on the back.

Is it your family? Is it the people at work? Is it the people at school and how you look and how you dress and are you in and are you cool?

See, if He, no other gods but God means, your primary goal is that you want to live for an audience of One. That you do the same thing alone in front of your computer as you would do if the whole family was with your computer.

You would spend money the same way if no one ever found out about or if everyone found out about it. Because you live for an audience of One.

The fourth question is, what is the center of your life? Or who? I mean, what is it that makes everything else connect? And by the way, in our circles, sometimes, you know, a very good thing can get in the center but God says, no gods but Me.

Your spouse is not a good center. One of your kids is not a good center. Supplying for the needs of your family is not a good center. Are you ready for this? Church and ministry are not a good center.

Only God, and God alone, is worthy to be the center and the focus of your life.

Or, here’s a test that rattles me a little bit is, what do you dream about or what do you hope for when you don’t have to think about anything?

You’re just driving in the car or you have some time away or, for some of us guys, maybe gals, I don’t know. When you’re cutting the lawn. And you know how you can just have time to think?

What do you dream about? Do you dream about the next deal? What just comes to your mind when you think about the preferable future? Does it have to do with your life and your relationship with the One that created you? With the God that died for you? With your intimacy with Him and longing.

And then, finally, under ultimate pressure, what holds you up inside? See, at the end of the day, that tells you who your god is. What could we take out of your life that, if we removed that, your life would fall apart?

But, could you be as happy if tomorrow, your financial picture changed? Could you be as stable if we removed a person out of your life? Would your life still work if we said, you know, work gets omitted?

What is it that holds you up inside? Now, am I saying, in any way, that those things are bad? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

I’m saying, according to God, none of those things have the power to hold you up. And, therefore, if you put your faith and your hope and your trust in anything or anyone, you are destined to a heartbreak in your life.

And God is not receiving what is due Him. Because He’s the only eternal one. He’s the only all-powerful one. He’s the one who gave the ten words. To do what? Set a boundary about who He is and what He does. And a relationship with you.

Why does God command exclusive worship of Himself? Two reasons. One is His character demands it. He can’t help it. God is the only person in the universe that is, we would think, you know, He just seems to be kind of, wanting to make Himself the center of the world. Well, He is!

He wants to be the center of attention. He is! He’s the Creator. He’s the Redeemer. He’s the Sustainer. Colossians 1. Christ is doing what? He holds all things together by the word of His power. What is worship? Worship is understanding and seeing God for who He is and then admiring, adoring, and enhancing His reputation in light of that reality.

By all that I say and all that I do and how I live. That’s what it means to be a worshipper. Worship isn’t something I do now. Worship is being a living sacrifice. 24/7. 365. And what does God want? He wants me to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

God’s character demands there is only one non-caused being. There is only one Creator. There is only one God. His character demands it. Secondly, our welfare demands it. It’s not just egocentric. Our personal welfare demands that we put no one or no thing in the place of God.

Jot in your notes, Psalm 115. And about verses 3 to 8. The Psalmist says, “Our God is in heaven. He does whatever He pleases. But the idols are of silver and gold made by the hands of men.”

And then notice what he says about idols. “They have mouths but they can’t speak, eyes but they cannot see, they have ears but they cannot hear, and noses but they cannot smell. They have hands but they cannot feel. Feet but they cannot walk. They cannot utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them. And so will all who trust in them.”

And then, “Hear the plea. O house of Israel, trust in the Lord. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord. He is your help and your shield. You who fear and trust in the Lord, he is their help and shield. The Lord remembers us and will bless us. He will bless the house of Aaron. He’ll bless the house of Israel. He will bless those who fear the Lord, small and great alike.”

What’s he saying about idols? They can’t come through. You see, the day’s going to come, if you put your trust, unconsciously or consciously, in your job, your mate, one of your kids, your money, your portfolio, your success, your body, how you look, your popularity, who you impress, and that you’ve really got it together.

I will guarantee, the day will come in your life when that idol cannot have the power to come through and deliver for you. And when that happens, you are going to be one hurting unit.

And so, God gives a boundary. He says, there’s one person who gets to be at the center of the universe. It’s Me. There’s one person that is to be worshipped above everything else. It’s Me. Why?

One, I deserve it. And two, you can’t afford not to do it. It’s a boundary. It’s no different than God saying, don’t have sex before marriage. It’s no different than He gives the boundary about telling the truth and lying.

It’s no different than don’t covet other people’s stuff. They’re all provided for relationships to work in a way that are better and deeper and more winsome and grace-filled than you could ever, ever imagine.

So, final question is this. How can we honor God as God? I mean, practically. What’s this look like? Let me give you three, I almost said suggestions but they’re really not suggestions. From God’s perspective, they’re non-negotiables.

Number one is recognize God for who He is. God is not your self-help genie. God is not a cosmic slot machine that, if you push the right buttons that, you’ll have a great marriage, kids would turn out right, they’ll be upwardly mobile. You probably won’t get as sick as other people and life will be wonderful for you.

God is not Santa Claus who, you know, just throws little gifts here and there to help your life when you need Him. God is not a cosmic psychiatrist who, you know, keep Him on the shelf and then, when you get really down and really hurting, there’s someone you can go to.
And God is not some sort of a, you know, eternal insurance agent that, basically, make sure you, you know, write on the dotted line because, you know, you need some fire insurance someday, someway in case all this might be true.

He’s the Creator and Maker of the universe. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, filled with compassion, slow to anger. He is eternal.

And He loves you. And He wants, in your heart and in your life, the same place that He holds in the universe.

And at this very moment, there are beings that I do not know how to describe and prophets of old and the prophets of new have a hard time getting their arms around as they, we sung of them, of seraphim and cherubim.

But they are with wings covering their eyes and covering their feet and flying before the throne of God. And they’re crying out at this moment, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Heaven and earth are filled of His glory. Glory be to thee, O God, most high.”

And when the prophets of old ever saw God for who he really was, it was Isaiah who would say, “Woe is me.” It would be John who would fall flat on his face. It would be Daniel who would fall down and be as though dead.

First, recognize who God is. God is not some portion or some angle or slice of pie in your life to make your life go better. God is the core and the object and the Creator. And He wants you and your heart and your life and your relationships and your time and your treasure and your money and all that you are to come under submission to the King of the universe.

And it’s not a boundary that is restrictive. As 1 John said, “His commandments aren’t grievous. Because God is a sun and a shield. He’s a God who gives grace and glory. He’s a God who does not want to withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly.”

But it begins with recognize God for who He is. Second, recognize yourself for who you are. You are not a nice, moral, religious person who gets graded on the curve and you can find a group of people that are doing a little bit worse than you so you think, I must be pretty right with God because I’m not as bad as all those other people.

That’s human nature. What you are is a person like me, born in Adam, and on your very best days, your motives stink or are mixed or you have presumptuous sin that you know not of.

And He is the Creator and you are the creature. And that means, are you ready? Old time word. You’re a sinner. All that means is, you fall short. It means, you’re not like God. It means, you have fallen. You have failed. You have missed. You’re not loving all the time.

You’re not the husband you want to be or the wife you ought to be. You’re not the child you need to be. You don’t do the right thing for the right reason all the time. You have fallen short. You are a creature in need of grace.

He’s the Creator. You are a creature. He is holy. You have sinned. Recognize God for who He is. Recognize yourself for who you are. And yet, though being a missing of the mark sinner, you’re made in the image of God.

And you have dignity and value and beauty and you’re the object of His affection. And then your response is, first and foremost, to accept the free gift that this standard and bar, these ten words that God has laid out that no one can keep, and understanding who He is, who you are.

And then realize God has made a way, first and foremost, through Jesus on the cross to pay for your sin, to close the gap between Creator and creature.

And that is the beginning of a new relationship called a new birth and the new birth is followed by a new life. And the rest of these commands are going to talk about how to worship this God in the right way in the new life.

And the rest of these words are going to talk about how to live with one another in this new relationship and this new life.

And He’s going to give you boundaries that are going to be more valuable than what side of the road you stay on. They’re going to be more valuable than how to keep, you know, psychological distance with people.

They’re going to be more valuable than anything you can imagine and they will impact your relationships and your money and your worship and your family and as we look at each boundary then we’ll turn them over and hear the very words of Christ.

So, we not only get the Law as given to the nation, but the spirit of the Law as given by the Savior. And we’re going to go on a journey together and we’re going to learn God’s boundaries, not for restricted living, but for abundant living.

And we’re going to have a ball together. And God’s going to speak and the first step, for you, is to ask and answer this question: Does God hold the same place as evidenced by your time, heart, dreams, attention, money, priorities? The same place in your heart that He holds in the universe?

And if not, it would be good to just get honest and bow your head and say, “Lord, I’m not sure how I could really answer that honestly. I’d like to have a little talk with you right now, okay?”

Let’s start a journey where if you can say, with all your heart, no gods but God, He’s on the throne of my heart and my life.