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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
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.
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 ten 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 Dragon. 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 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 be coveting 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, makes 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. 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 with His glory. Glory be to thee, O God, most high.”
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 to us. 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 are 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, 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 learn God’s boundaries, not for restricted living, but for abundant living.