Jani: Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund where you can find encouragement for your busy life through God’s renewing mercies.
Heidi: Welcome everyone. Heidi Howerton is here with Jani Ortlund and I’m excited today because we are starting a new series on studying the 10 Commandments. Jani, can you tell us more about that?
Jani: I’m really excited about it, Heidi. I want us to get these verses deep down in our own hearts and be able to communicate them in meaningful ways to the children in our lives. I think they’re really important and so we’re going to take several weeks. We’re calling this series “Living and Giving The 10 Commandments.” In other words, how do we live them out and how do we give them to other people in our lives, especially the little people in our lives?
Jani: What I’d like to do during this series is convince our listeners why this topic is especially important today, and I’d like to set a theological foundation for the law. I’d like our listeners to understand what it is, its’ purpose, and, in a sense, to show us God’s purpose through the law. I’d like to describe the law’s purpose and I’d like to show how God uses his law to love us. And then Heidi and I want to illustrate how to teach this to our kids. Heidi is going to be doing it with her children.
Heidi: Yes, I’m excited.
Jani: So it’s going to be a fun series. I know oftentimes, Jani, I love to do devotions with my kids in the morning. So one thing I’m looking forward to is to walk through this with you in the podcast and then pull this into our devotions and almost have me studying it right alongside the kids.
Jani: That’s wonderful, Heidi. Well, let’s start today by talking about why? Why should we even study the 10 Commandments? Why is this topic so important? Well, the law is there to bring us blessing. If you believe the word of God, then you believe the law is there to bless us. Heidi, will you read Psalm 112:1-2?
Heidi: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Oh, what a promise. We could just camp on that but look at that, “Blessed is the man who greatly delights in his commandments…” Not only will the man be blessed, but …”his offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” We want to raise these coming generations to be mighty soldiers for Christ. The Psalmist here is telling us that one of the keys to raising godly, strong, respected, courageous, faith-filled children who are surrounded with God’s blessing comes, from what? Fearing the Lord and taking great delight in God’s commandments. Well, how do we do that? That’s what we want to talk about over the next several weeks. Why should we care about the 10 Ccommandments anymore? After all, aren’t they Old Covenant? Aren’t we under the New Covenant? Aren’t we under grace now? As I’ve studied this, I’ve found other writers who’ve been really helpful and clear in how they talk about this. Kevin DeYoung is a pastor who often writes for the Gospel Coalition. He wrote a post entitled, “The Hole in Our Holiness” expressing his own concern for the relative neglect of personal holiness in our day. Heidi, will you read a part of that that we’ve noted here?
Heidi: “Among conservative Christians, there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly gospel-centered, we won’t talk about rules or imperatives or exhort Christians to moral exertion. We’ve been afraid of words like diligence, effort and obedience.” He fears that as we rightly celebrate and, in some quarters, rediscover all that Christ has saved us from, we will give little thought and make little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.
Jani: Yes, in our own Bible study and meditation and all that flows through our words in lives into the hearts of the children around us, let’s not become indifferent to or even afraid of verses like these: “You shall be holy for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16).
Heidi: “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of the body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion and the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Jani: “Look carefully then how you walk…” (Ephesians 5:15).
Heidi: “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”(Philippians 2:12) I love that Jani, how it means not work for your salvation, but work out your salvation.
Speaker 1: Yes, let’s not mix that up, Heidi, good point. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says this, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” You see, grace does undermine the law. Grace is the larger wrap-around truth explaining why the law deserves a wholehearted “YES” from every one of us. What is God’s purpose in the law? What does it mean to us today? What change does it undergo in the New Testament? Well, let’s think about that for a minute before we begin studying the 10 Commandments. Under the Old Covenant, the people of Israel were in an if-then relationship with God. If they obeyed him, then there would be blessing, but they failed. They couldn’t do it on their own. In the New Covenant, God promises to write his law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). The New Covenant doesn’t do away with the law, it internalizes it. Romans 8 teaches us that. God has done what the law could never do. In the Old Covenant, God tells me to be good, “You shall not steal.” In the New Covenant, he enables me to be good. He knows I can’t, so he gives me a generous heart through Christ. Under the Old Covenant, I believe somehow God will love me more if I’m good. The Old Covenant says, I obey, therefore I am accepted, but the new covenant says, I’m accepted, therefore I long to obey. God cannot possibly love me any more than he already does through Christ. I’m totally depraved and just as totally loved. The Old Covenant says friendship with God means perfection. The New Covenant tells us that friendship with God means brokenness. The Old Covenant law keeper says, I did it. The New Covenant law keeper says, Christ did it. So you see some of those comparisons between the Old and the New. Dear parent who is listening, dear teacher or grandmother, anyone who’s listening to this, in passing on this wonderful legacy of God’s loving law, we should deploy the Old Covenant. Let me give you an example, “Honey, you must honor me by making your bed.” That’s one of our family rules. But we also want to teach the New Covenant while we do that, and so you could think of it in this way, “Honey, you must honor me by making your bed.” That’s old covenant. That’s the law. The New Covenant says, “…and I know you’re running late this morning, so let me come help you make it.” God is not speaking out of a void in Exodus 20. When he gives us his law, he was and is and always will be intimately connected with his people. Think of the prologue to the law.
Heidi: Exodus 20:1-2 says, “‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Jani: Oh my goodness. Think of all that God had graciously done to redeem them out of slavery and freedom. The preceding 19 chapters in Exodus tell the story of God’s grace as the bedrock of his relationship with us because grace always comes first. First grace, then law. Think of it with me, in just three short months, the Israelites had experienced the plagues and then the Passover. They had been led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the red sea had opened for them and swallowed up their enemies. They drank the sweet water at Moriah and they rested at the Oasis of Elim. They experienced the water springing freely from the rock at Meribah and then they saw Joshua and these newly freed slaves defeat the army of the Amalekites. The Bible says that he led them with cords of kindness and bands of love (Hosea 11:4) and he redeemed them in love and pity (Isaiah 63:9). God is the God who leads his children, that’s you and me, out of slavery and into freedom with him. Again, dear listener, hear us as we study the 10 Commandments, grace never undermines the law. Grace is the larger wrap-around truth explaining why the law deserves a wholehearted “Yes Lord !” from every one of us. When he says in Exodus 20:2, that Heidi read for us, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” he’s describing each believer’s salvation. Our Exodus is his power, bringing us out of our Egypt, out of our captivity to sin and guilt so that we could live for him. He’s our freedom fighter. You see, Christ obeyed the law perfectly in our place. He died a guilty death in our place, and when God, through the sacrifice of his beloved son, sets his lavish grace on you and on me, he claims our loyalty. His loving law shows us how to live out that loyalty. It’s so kind of him to show us how to live. In the preface to the 10 Commandments, God lays claim to you and to me. That’s the point. He is the Lord your God who brought you out of your own Egypt. He’s the Lord my God who brought me out of the slavery of my own Egypt. If you know Jesus Christ, your conversion was your Exodus, out of your personal slavery and into covenant with him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, and now he’s writing his law on your hearts. As you teach your child, you must be aware of the nature of the human heart, the 10 Commandments feel to our rebellious hearts, like a list of things to do to keep on God’s good side. Now, the law does tell us what to do. It tells us: don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, etc. But more importantly, it shows us who we are way down deep in our hearts. The law deals with both the external and the internal. It’s like a mirror showing us our need for cleansing, but unable in itself to clean us. Donald Grey Barnhouse was a great pastor. He pastored 10th Presbyterian church in Philadelphia for 33 years until his death in 1960 and he talks about the law being a mirror in this way,
Heidi: “The law of God is like a mirror. Now the purpose of a mirror is to reveal to you that your face is dirty, but the purpose of a mirror is not to wash your face. When you look in a mirror and find that your face is dirty, you do not then reach to take the mirror off the wall and attempt to rub it on your face as a cleansing agent. The purpose of the mirror is to drive you to water.”
Jani: So remember that. The law is a mirror of who we are and it’s to drive us to God. The law tells us to do good and then proves to us that we can’t. Righteousness is never humanly manageable because Christianity is not a behavior modification system. When God gave us the 10 Commandments, he knew that our inability to keep them would lead us to Christ because as we come to God’s law, we all are faced with one of two responses. Number one, we’ll feel that God is too hard a master and we will withdraw into a moral universe of our own making where we write our own laws. We see that in Judges 2. The second response is we’ll turn to God where he offers us Christ as the perfect savior of sinners and when we turn to God our guilt over that image in the mirror of his law will turn to true sorrow and repentance and God will begin doing a work deep in each heart that is turned to him. God will put his very spirit within you and his spirit will get to work breaking the reign of sin’s power in your life. He will transform you into a law loving servant of God. Heidi, will you read for us, Ezekiel 36:26-27?
Heidi: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
Jani: Oh, I love that. He’ll put his very spirit within us and he will transform us into law loving servants of God who make much of Christ’s transforming power and little of our obedience. That’s what God will do. Oh, thank you Lord. Now I want to close this podcast by just speaking for a minute about teaching the 10 Commandments to your children. We’ll review this in future podcasts as we give you more ideas, but I just want to start stimulating your mind and your hearts toward teaching your kids. First of all, keep it simple and short, simple and short. They say that a child’s attention span is about as long as each year of life he’s lived. That’s why your 13 year old really can’t listen to you for more than a few minutes. But keep it short and sweet. Don’t make it drudgery and keep it as simple as you can. Secondly, do keep it sweet. Heidi, you have family devotions in the morning.
Heidi: We do them in the evening too when Mike gets home. Sometimes we do devotions in the morning and then we also like to revisit different things with dad at the end of the day. So when you say keep it sweet, I think I know what you’re getting to…
Jani: …you know, because I have such a sweet tooth! We would often do it over dessert. I wanted our kids to taste and see that the Lord is good as they were taking in God’s word. I wanted them to have happy memories of ice cream or a cookie or something sweet. So keep it simple and short. Keep it sweet and seek to both inform and inflame your child. Now let me tell you what I mean by that. Inform your child with knowledge. The what and the why. This means you’re going to have to know what God’s word says and why it’s important. You need to be able to inform your child with knowledge about what we’re talking about, and secondly, inflame your child, fan into flame any little flicker of Jesus you see in there with your own wonder and delight at the joy of following Jesus, at the joy of being able to read what he’d like us to do. He’s told us how life works best. We get to read it and understand it and live it out. This means that you will have to love his law and live it before your kids. We must let our children both see and feel our love for Jesus and his law. Let’s make it our goal to both inform and inflame our children with our own delight in Christ. Psalm 1:1-2 says this, “…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Let me close by just reminding you about an Old Testament story in 2 Kings 11. Wicked Queen Athaliah, who in her pursuit of power, ordered all her own children and grandchildren to be killed. Can you imagine? Only one year old Jehoash escapes. In six short but very formative years, young Jehoash emerges as one of Judah’s brightest reformers. Someone was influencing this little boy toward God in those early years. 2 Kings 12:2 tells us, “And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days because Jehoiada the high priest instructed him.” Jehoiada gave himself to the training of a young child and all Judah benefited. Don’t think that you’re working with your little ones is to end. Not only will it bless their lives, it will bless your church’s life, your community’s life, their school, their nation and their future homes. What legacy are we leaving for the coming generations? When our houses are sold and our possessions are divided between our family and Goodwill, what will we have left the children in our lives? Psalm 78 puts it this way, “…and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” What are you leaving your children? What will they remember you with? What will they remember you for? Let’s ask God to bring us deeper into his loving law in this series on the 10 Commandments so that we can leave a lasting legacy.