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The Ten: American Idols?

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)

The first two commandments tell us a lot about the ancient world and about God. During that era, it was normal for families, towns, and nations to pledge allegiance to a whole playlist of gods. In return for your worship (ceremonies, sacrifices, rituals), the hope was that those gods would pay you back with good crops, military victories, and lots of babies – and keep bad things from happening to you.

theten_350God’s commands told the Israelites that he wanted to be their one and only. He wanted them to turn to just one source for supernatural protection and blessing: Him. Period. That’s it. No other gods. No man-made idols. He wanted all their hopes and fears focused on him.

Too easy? No “house gods” in your joint? Wait: Paul later described something else as idol worship – greed. (See Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5.) Greed could be defined as “making a goal out of getting more than you need.” These commands just got a lot harder.

Think: Do we really believe God is the only source of everything we need and want? Do we put more effort into worshipping him or serving jobs and relationships we think will “pay off” in more predictable ways?

Pray: Ask God to help you to notice if you’ve made an idol out of anything in your life. Ask him to help you not to be greedy and to turn to him for help with everything you need, want, and fear.

Do: Make a quick list: What, specifically, are the contestants and fans of reality shows like “American Idol” in danger of worshipping if they don’t set all of their hopes on God?

The Ten: Why These Commands Matter

“And God spoke all these words: ‘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.” (Exodus 20:1-3)

Why are the Ten Commandments so important to Christians? After all, they are the first part of the Law of Moses, and Jesus fulfilled that Law. Believers in Jesus are saved by grace, not by keeping the “ten words” of God to the Israelites.

theten_350But wait! Think about this for a minute. Is the New Testament “Christian” God different from the God of Israel? Not at all. God is God, and he does not change. More: Nine of the big ten in Exodus 20 are completely restated and reinforced by the inspired writers of the New Testament.

Maybe most importantly: God came before his chosen people and gave them these ten commands as the introduction to everything else he would tell them to do. These ten rules for living tells us an enormous amount about what our God is like, what he values, what he wants from us.

Number 1: He wants to be your only god. (More tomorrow.)

Think: What value do you place on the Ten Commandments? Can you put too much emphasis on them? Can you put too little?

Pray: Thank God for giving these ten words to his people Israel and for revealing them to you. Ask him to help you to never put any kind of god – or anything else – in his place in your life.

Do: Read through Exodus 20:1-21 to get ready to think about the Ten Commandments this week.

Why We Sin: We Skip the Chicken Exit

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Have you seen this? One of the amusement parks I used to go to had this enormous roller coaster. It was so popular, you could stand in line for an hour or more just waiting to get on the thing. And if you were nervous about the ride and the screaming and the upside-downness and the throwing up, you spent that whole time in line just getting more and more scared.

down_350At the very end of the line, though, just before you got on the ride, they had a little gate called a “chicken exit.” It was the way to get out if you just couldn’t do. You had to swallow your pride – and I never did it – but it was there.

Today’s verse is a powerful promise that God always provides a “chicken exit” when we’re tempted to sin. Except it would be better to call it a “courage exit.” It’s a way out of the line leading toward the sin you’ve been contemplating before you actually get on the ride. It’s a gate, an escape, provided by the Creator of all things as a one-last-chance gift to avoid the painful consequences of sin.

Next time, man up and take the chicken exit. The ride isn’t worth what it costs.

Think: Have you ever experienced an unexpected “way out” of a sin that you were prepared to go through with? What does it mean to you that God promises not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear?

Pray: Thank God that you will never face a temptation that is stronger than you are in his power. Ask him for the courage and faith to take his “way out” of temptation when you see it.

Do: This verse can be fascinating to talk about with a group of close Christian friends. Next time you’re hanging out, bring up this promise from God that he provides a way out of temptation and ask if anyone has ever seen this happen. You might be surprised.

Why We Sin: We Forget Shame

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8)

“We’re naked!” That’s the response of the first couple after committing the first human sin. They took the bite expecting to find wisdom, knowledge, something God had been keeping from them. Instead, they found shame. They hoped for freedom and power and instead found themselves running in fear.

down_350The sting of the serpent’s tempting lies was hidden in the truthful part of what he’d said. Their eyes were opened. They did learn about good and evil – by doing evil. But they did not become like God. Instead, they became much less than they had been: innocent, closely connected to their creator, shameless.

I think everyone reading these words has felt the shame of being caught in sin – or even of thinking about being caught in sin. It’s a sick, sinking feeling. It’s a trapped feeling. You want to hide, get away, escape, just like Eve and Adam tried to do. You want to be away from God instead of close to the one who made you, the source of your life, healing, and hope.

The point of remembering that feeling isn’t to keep feeling guilty for sin God has already forgiven. The point of remembering is to a) want really badly not to feel it again and b) be really glad that God has forgiven you because of Jesus.

Think: Do you think shame can sometimes be an appropriate thing to feel? Why do you think some people want to tell us that feeling ashamed is always a bad thing? How do you avoid wallowing in false guilt for sins that God has already forgiven?

Pray: Thank God for forgiving all of your sin through your faith in Jesus, including the sins you felt most ashamed of. Ask Him to help you to keep from wanting to go back to the sins that made you feel that way in the first place.

Do: Read what Paul wrote about sin, sorrow, repentance, and regret in 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Why We Sin: Because She Did

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)

We’ve been tracking with Eve’s temptation all week, but why did Adam sin? Why did he eat from the one tree out of all those others in the paradise garden of Eden that God put on the “no” list? And if he was there with Eve the whole time listening in on her conversation with the serpent, why didn’t he say anything?

down_350Much has been made of The Silence of Adam in this tragic moment, and there are warnings here for men about our role as husbands and spiritual leaders. But there’s a wider warning for all of us followers about why we sin. We sin because someone else did.

It’s a human tendency. We designate certain people in our lives to do our thinking and feeling for us. We refuse to take responsibility for our own choices. If she does it, then I’m doing it, too. If he says “no,” I’m out. Honestly, it’s much easier to delegate all of our spiritual decisions to other people, which is probably why so many lazy Christians live that way.

But we don’t get any credit with God for farming out our conscience; we still face the consequences for our sinful choices.

Think: How much more likely are you to make a sinful choice if your closest friend makes that choice first? What can you do to make sure that you’re not mindlessly following anyone else’s choices to disobey God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to follow him more closely than you follow anyone else, especially when it comes to choices about obeying him.

Do: Read Jesus’ harsh words for those who use their influence to lead children into sin in Matthew 18:5-6.

Why We Sin: It Looks Good!

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)

Even when you know it’s coming, this verse still hurts. Up until this moment, Eve and then Adam could have turned back, could have decided to trust God instead of the lie forming in their own hearts.

down_350Did you noticed the two motives we’re given for Eve’s choice to disobey God?

One, the fruit looked good. I like this quote from David Paul Tripp: “Sin lives in a costume; that’s why it’s so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party.”

Second, she believed there was a good for her that didn’t come from God. She decided that forbidden fruit held some benefit (wisdom!) that could not be found on the path of God, in obedience to him. But no such good exists. The only truly good things in life come from him – or don’t come, at all.

Think: How often have you chosen sin because the package it was wrapped in looked so good? How often have you believed that some good thing was waiting for you outside of the will of God? How can we avoid falling into these traps again?

Pray: Ask God to help you to see through the costume beauty of sin to the ugliness underneath. Ask also that he will help you to be convinced that no good thing exists for you outside of his will.

Do: Read James’ take on the birth of sin and God’s gifts of goodness in James 1:13-18.

Why We Sin: The “God Can’t Be Trusted” Lie

” ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ ” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Once he has lured Eve into a conversation about God’s command, the serpent becomes more bold, directly challenging the truthfulness of God’s words. God said to Adam, “You WILL surely die.” The serpent said, “You will NOT surely die.”

down_350The choice to give into temptation and sin often involves doubts about God’s character. Does he really love me? Is he really powerful? Is it possible he’s just wrong? If you or a friend or the Liar can talk you into questioning God’s goodness, love, or power, you’re much more likely to take the next step into testing God by disobeying him.

With the germ of doubt about God’s rightness planted in Eve’s mind, the serpent challenged God’s motives: “He knows this experience will liberate you and make you like him. He wants to keep that power – knowing good and evil – for himself.” Translation: God is selfish, and he doesn’t love you.

Satan and his followers have been telling the same lie ever since.

Think: Have you ever justified sin by questioning God’s goodness, love, or power? Have you ever used painful circumstances in your life to convince yourself God didn’t deserve your obedience if he would allow that bad thing to happen to you? What’s wrong with that thinking?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be absolutely convinced of his integrity, his power, and his love for you proven in the sacrifice of Jesus for your sin and the promise of eternity with him.

Do: People challenge God’s goodness, power, and love all the time these days. Listen for those challenges in your world this week.