Ten Commandments still relevant for believers, Mohler says to begin sermon series

Communications Staff — September 21, 2006

The Ten Commandments are still relevant for Christians today, but many evangelicals who fervently argue that they should be posted in public places do not know them, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Aug. 31 in a chapel service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In the first sermon of a 10-part series on the Law of God as given to Moses, Mohler said the Ten Commandments are often despised by contemporary culture because the modern age is one that rejects binding authority.

“Who, after all, can tell us what we must and must not do?” Mohler said. “Who can tell us how we are to live? Who can tell us whom we are to serve? And then, you turn on the television or look at the newspaper or listen to the Supreme Court and hear controversies over the Ten Commandments. Should they or should they not be posted in public places?

“I will defend the constitutionality of posting the Ten Commandments in a public place. But I find it rather perplexing that many of those who seem most ardently committed to the posting of the Ten Commandments can neither recite them nor faithfully say that they have taught them to their own children. In our day, they seem to serve something of a symbolic role. We know how many there are, we’re just not sure what they are.”

Preaching from Exodus 20, Mohler unpacked the first commandment, “You will have no other Gods before me.” The Law of God is unambiguous in its insistence that the God of Scripture demands absolute and undivided allegiance, Mohler said.

While it is easy to spot false gods within the culture, Mohler argued that “other gods” such as “the god of the American dream,” are present in places where Christian theology is supposedly taught and believed. But the one true God has made clear in Scripture His character and attributes, as well as His demand for exclusive worship, Mohler said.

“[There is] the well-intended deity of American popular culture—the lighter-than-air dehydrated just-add-water god,” he said. “And, as one author says, there is the ‘break glass in case of emergency’ deity.

“Over against the infinite perfection of the God who reveals Himself in the Bible, we have the finite god of modern theology, finite in so many ways. He’s not omnipotent, he’s just more powerful than we are. He’s not omniscient, he just knows everything that presently can be known. The infinite God of the Bible is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, self-existent, self-revealing, self-defining, sovereign and holy, and the list truly is itself infinite.”

While many see the Ten Commandments merely as a list of “dos and don’ts,” there is grace in the God’s Law, Mohler pointed out. The fact that God has revealed His commandments to people is grace, he said.

The Law also restrains evil because it is written on the heart of every person and this is grace, Mohler said. The commandments also drive sinners to Christ where saving grace is found, he said.

“The law kills us, indicts us,” he said. “As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7, ‘I would not have known that I was coveting if the law had not said, Thou shalt not covet. But now I know.’ And knowing this, I must be saved, and who can do this but Jesus Christ? The law hurts, but the law points to Christ.

“There is grace in the law, even in the keeping of it. As the Lord God told His people in Deuteronomy 30, “This is not far off from you, it is brought near,” and as is written into the warp and the woof of the Old Testament, keeping this law leads to prosperity, to longevity, and to happiness.”

On Sept. 7, Mohler addressed the second commandment which forbids the making and worshiping of idols. Mohler said that while the first commandment tells us whom we should worship, the second commandment tells us how to worship.

“The first commandment speaks clearly to the identity of God and the exclusivity of His identity as God,” he said. “The second commandment tells us how to worship God. In our worship we must give a right testimony to God by worshipping in the right way. If we worship in the wrong way we present a false picture of God. The wrong worship implies the wrong God.”

Mohler identified seven characteristics idols imply that detract from worship of the true God of the Bible.

First, he said idols imply finitude and limitedness, while God is infinite and unlimited.

“Idols are a creation and all creation is finite, while God is infinite,” he said. “An idol is a thing, present in one place and not another. God is omnipresent. God has given no likeness of Himself, but He has spoken and His words point to the infinitude of His perfection. He is not only just, He is infinitely just, He is not only merciful, He is infinitely merciful, He is not only knowing, He is all knowing.”

Mohler’s second and third points were that idols imply fabrication and human control. While human hands make idols, God is self-existent and uncreated, Mohler noted. God made humans in His image and told them not to make an image of Him, and when men make idols they are violating the command, he said. Such idol creation implies human control because people can make, move and control idols, while they cannot control God, Mohler said.

“The god we can control, conjure, create and construct is no god at all,” he said. “The one who fabricates is in control, and we are not the fabricator. We are the fabricated. We are not the Creator, Maker or Controller. We are the created and the made, and our worship must reflect this reality.”

Fourth, idols imply need, demanding service and care. In contrast, Mohler said God needs nothing, but does demand worship from His people, worship that brings Him the glory He deserves.

Finally, Mohler said idols imply procreation, physicality and a visual element. Idols are seen and not heard, while God is heard and not seen, he said.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen,” he said. “God commands that we heed His voice. Over and over, Scripture prioritizes the verbal over the visual. This ties into the authority of Scripture and the centrality of preaching. We have heard God and continue to hear Him; we do not see God.”

All idolatry boils down to a worship of self, Mohler said, which God will ultimately judge.

“All worship comes down to worship of God or worship of self,” he said. “In the end, every idol comes down to a love of self. We fashion it, we create it and we control it. We admire it, for in the end it is us. God’s judgment will fall on those who practice idolatry. Theology has consequences.”

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