Faith as God Describes It

Faith as God Describes It

by Bob Burridge ©2011
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 85-86 Part 1)
(watch the video)

Not Just Any Kind of Faith

Sales representatives are one of the foundations of our economy. They deliver products and services to their customers, and secure the customer’s money for the producers and providers.

Sadly, some have earned bad reputations for themselves. We can all picture some sleazy sales person fast talking a naive customer into paying a lot to get very little in return. Sometimes they misrepresent their products. They sell things that will never do what they promised they would do. Television and movie writers have often made a caricature of that kind of person. We see him putting his arm around a customer, giving him an exaggerated wink, and saying, “Just trust me.”

We hear the same from those politicians who have made government more a contest for getting votes, than a means for getting fair laws passed to preserve our liberties and core principles.

Today we are surrounded by advertising agencies pushing gimmicks promoted by slick infomercials, authors and publishers offering books that promise life changing secrets, the lawyers who promise to make you rich if you just help them sue those who seems vulnerable, preachers who primarily want to promote their books or CDs promising all sorts of things God never promised. These are the ones who discourage us from thinking things through, or checking them out first. They come up with the same line, “Just trust me.” They often throw in those words that sound so noble; “You just have to have faith.”

Rumors have always been a problem too. It’s hard to know which ones to trust, and which ones are lies. Theories of conspiracies abound in our world where people who know little, suppose a lot, and are quick to spread rumors to make them appear to be smart and others to seem stupid.

It’s not uncommon for people to tell us that we should just trust them. It’s hard enough to decide about choosing cars and soap. When it comes to what we should believe about God, about our eternal hope, and about how we ought to live day by day, these are too important to depend upon the opinions of others.

Our faith needs to be the kind God promises to bless. It needs to rest upon things more sure than just what people tell us, or what we think we know by our own experience and limited information.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism in questions 85-87 introduces us to both faith and repentance as the Bible presents them. Question 85 asks, “What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?” It’s answer is, “To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.”

In this study, we take up the matter of faith. Question 86 asks, “What is faith in Jesus Christ?” The answer summarizes what the Bible says about it, “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

Faith, as it is seen in God’s Word

Real biblical faith does not mean just accepting things blindly without evidence. That would be nothing other than being irrational. Trust never stands alone. It must be placed in something we believe to be true and reliable. It is not something that operates aside from content. Notice how Paul put content into that in which believers hope. In Ephesians 1:17-18 he said, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…”

It is God who enables our fallen minds to see clearly again when regenerated by grace through the work of our Redeemer. Our restored sight puts reliable content into our trust. Our Heavenly Father gives us the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding we need, so that we can know the hope of that to which he calls us. It makes us appreciate the riches of the promised blessings. This confidence we have in God’s promises is the core of the biblical concept of faith.

The world in general doesn’t use the word “faith” in that same way. People debate about having faith in the economy, or in what people tell them. There is that foolish kind of faith that ignores dangers and presses on anyway hoping things will just happen to work out in the end. Some people think of faith as a totally irrational, believing in things the way children believe in fantasies — not really caring if they’re true. Our minds have the ability to consider things and come to conclusions about them. This concluding mechanism decides what to safely act upon or believe is true. In a broad sense, people call this trust, “faith”.

The Old Testament Hebrew word for “faith” is emun (אמון). The New Testament Greek word for “faith” is pistis (πιστις). Both words are like our English words, “faith” or “trust”. “To have faith” means to trust something to be true. When used as a noun, “faith” is the trust or confidence we have in something to be true and reliable. The Adjective “faithful” describes something or someone that is reliable and can be trusted.

In daily life we come to trust things for various reasons. We trust in, or rely upon things primarily because they gain our confidence through our experience with them. We know that certain chairs look safe to sit upon because of the reliability of ones we have used before. There are certain products we believe are reliable because we have tried them in the past. Sometimes we trust the experience of others about what is reliable and what is not.

Some trusted in Jesus as a miracle worker because they saw him do things they could not explain naturally. Their past experience with him convinced them that he had supernatural powers. They might not have believed he was their Savior, but they trusted him to be able to do what they saw him do before.

The Bible describes a special kind of trust we call a Saving Faith. This is a confidence implanted supernaturally directly into human hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our trust is not based upon research, experience, debates, proofs, or arguments. It does not come from our senses, our experiences, or from the testimony of others. It is one of the results of regeneration.

The saving work of Jesus Christ is applied to certain fallen human hearts removing their guilt forever. Their sins were paid for in his death, and his righteousness is credited to them. With the guilt barrier removed each redeemed individual is joined back into fellowship with God. The separation of spiritual death is ended. In its place there is new spiritual life. This is why we say say a redeemed person is “born again”.

This saving faith receives as true and reliable all that it learns that God has actually revealed. It confidently rests in the atonement of Christ for salvation. The guilt of sin that once condemned, is forgiven.

This restored ability enables the redeemed to see the soundness of God’s truth. It opens their understanding to the authority behind Scripture and the truth of the cross. By this faith the redeemed trust in all they know God has said. They learn to evaluate everything else learned by comparing it with what God tells us in his written word.

John Calvin summarized these ideas in his definition of saving faith in his Institutes (Inst 3:II:7 end). There he said that faith is “… a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Not all people have saving faith.

In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul was concerned about persecutions if God’s people. He begins the chapter with these words in verses 1-2, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.”

This same idea of faith as a special gift is expressed in Philippians 1:29. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”

Faith then is clearly a gift from God. It is undeserved and unearned. The fallen soul is unable to perceive as true what God has made known. He refuses to accept what God says about his fallen condition, and he will not trust in the provision Jesus Christ made for salvation.

False and unbiblical religions must deny these limits upon human faith. They cannot accept our inability to determine our own salvation. They deny that saving faith is a supernatural gift. They see faith as either a rational choice based upon information we can prove scientifically, or as an irrational leap in the dark. They say that it doesn’t matter if what we believe is true or not, but it helps us emotionally if we believe that something bigger than us is true.

In the Bible saving faith is neither a belief based upon observed facts, nor a blind leap to embrace the irrational.
It is a supernatural gift of God’s grace whereby we are convinced of the reliability of God’s word, and the certainty of his promises in Christ.

Those who have it should most humbly thank God for it, and confirm that it is genuine by acting confidently upon all that God instructs us in his word. Those who lack this faith should be the objects of our neighborly kindness and evangelism.

People of true faith are neither gullible nor cynical. The Holy Spirit guides them in comparing what they hear and think with the written word. They should prayerfully test all they hear to see if it fits what God says is true. This doesn’t make God’s children just doubt everything either as a bunch of cynical skeptics. Once they know what God said in his word, they know they must trust it to be reliable and true, and act upon it with confidence.

Those who say they believe God but are hesitant to live by what he says is right and true, show that they really do not trust him as much as they say they do.

Part Two of this lesson will take up the practical and positive side of the faith God works in our hearts as believers.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Sin’s Extensive Damage

Sin’s Extensive Damage

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 82-84)
(watch the video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

The Extent of Sin’s Damage

Sin is not a minor breaking of a rule. As would be expected, the fallen world minimizes the idea of sin making it an acceptable or even desirable stepping over unimportant boundaries for a few moments of innocent pleasure. To attract those hungry for an escape from the ordinary, we hear advertizing to attract people to “Sin City”, to be a little “naughty” now and then, to try a “sinfully delicious” dessert, or to take in a little “adult” entertainment.

The truth is that sin is not just a little infraction of a rule. It is the violation of the moral principles revealed by our Creator. It is open rebellion against God’s authority and glory. The guilt of even one sin erects an uncrossable barrier that separates every fallen human from fellowship with his Maker.

In question 14 of the Shorter Catechism, sin is defined as the Bible describes it. It says, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”

No one is able to keep
the commandments of God perfectly.

The answer to question 82 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that no one naturally descended from Adam can keep the commandments of God when they are rightly understood. He breaks them every day in his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Humans were created in a condition of moral goodness. In Eden there was no inclination to do evil. Adam and Eve were holy and free. To be “free” does not mean that God had no idea what they would do, or that humans could change the plan of God. Eden was not a cosmic moral experiment. God is Sovereign and unchangably knows all things. By “free” we mean that man had no built in pull toward evil, and no blindness about what is true and moral. He had the ability either to do true good for God’s glory, or to sin. The outcome was known by God eternally.

Humans became corrupted in the fall. Adam’s rebellion against God brought death and the bondage of his desires to the mastery of sin. Since Adam represented us all, this depravity entered the human race and our moral freedom was lost. Ecclesiastes 7:29says, “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.” Romans 6:23 explains the consequences very clearly, “the wages of sin is death.”

Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus 2:1-3 explaining the death from which Christ delivers them, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

Romans 5:12 explains this representative relationship we had with Adam, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned —”

Fallen humans are cut off from their Creator, the only source of life. Sin alienates them from the Holy God. Their guilt deserves eternal judgment. This spiritual bondage corrupts everyone to the very core of his soul. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

The Bible is filled with verses detailing the depth of fallen man’s resulting inability to do anything that pleases his Creator.

Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.”

Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.”

No one can change his basic nature. To do that, he would have to decide contrary to his own corrupted desires.

Humans bear eternal guilt for their corruption and alienation. Though God restrains sin so that no one becomes as evil as he could be, yet we say his depravity is “total” because it extends to every part of the person’s soul. The lost have no ability to understand God’s revealed truth, to believe God’s promises, to sincerely repent of his offensiveness to his Creator, or to do good with a humble and thankful heart. In John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

We stand condemned. Psalm 130:3 explains the horrible situation in which we find ourselves, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”

God’s word clearly reveals our depravity. No man can keep the moral commandments purely. What God has revealed should drive us to repentance begging for grace, but in our corrupted estate it doesn’t. Man’s corruption is so complete that he refuses to see things as God presents them.

Fallen humans hate what the Bible says about God’s grace. He demands to be in control and that God is there for his benefit. The truth in Scripture will either be used by the Holy Spirit to bring him repentantly to Christ for forgiveness and restoration, or it will offend him and stir him to vicious rebellion. He does not want his corruption to be exposed for what it is.

Fallen man is arrogant, proud, and foolish. He finds the idea of a Sovereign God repulsive. W. E. Henley wrote the well known poem “Invictus” saying, “In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.” and, “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”

Fallen man makes excuses for himself. He refuses to admit the great danger he is in. He speaks of sin as if it was a little matter. He says, “We all have our faults,” as if we should just accept and excuse this rebellion. Experience shows that even sins dismissed as “minor” bring horrible consequences. They break up homes, instigate mistrust, drug abuse, crime, depression, and despair. They are but symptoms of a deeper problem, our depraved condition. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In verse 10 it says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Fallen man dresses up his depravity. He brags about his education, culture, and what he sees as his own accomplishments. Some say, “Change the external circumstances (housing, medicine, education …) and you will see men at their best” But if you educate a criminal, all you have is an educated criminal. It is his heart that needs to change, not his score on standardized tests. Culture can be like a narcotic that makes the symptoms seem to go away, but it just puts a cover over them. It masks their warning. It is like those pain killer medicines which often keep you from feeling the pain, while the cause remains untreated.

Jesus said, “the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). Hanging peaches on your palm tree, will not make it a peach tree. Putting culture over a corrupt heart will not make it good. It is what comes out of a man that reveals his true condition.

Some sins are more damaging than others.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 83 asks, “Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?” The answer it gives is, “Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.”

Under the Levitical order God set up for the guidance of Israel at Mount Sinai, not all civil crimes had the same punishment. Some sins cascade into the lives of many others created in God’s image. Though selfish hatred is an evil rebellion against God, murder strikes down a human life, deprives children of parents, loved ones of spouses, and the community of its citizens. Coveting what God has given to others shows dissatisfaction with God’s provisions, but theft harms the rightful owner and destabilizes neighborhoods. These aggravations of certain sins multiply their damage, and therefore offend God in many more ways than mere evil intentions.

Some sins more obscure the revelation of God’s nature than others. For example, unfaithfulness in marriage damages the institution set up to reveal God’s faithful love for his covenant people. This is why adultery was punished so harshly in the Levitical justice system.

This is not to say that some sins are not as evil as others. Every sin is at its root rebellion against God and the order he has embedded in his Creation. This is taken up in the next question of the Catechism.

Every sin demands God’s harsh judgment.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 84 asks, “What doth every sin deserve?” The answer it gives is, “Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and that which is to come.”

The verses quoted in the earlier part of this study make it undeniably clear that even one sin alienates the creature from his Creator forever (Romans 3:23). God cannot accept any immorality. It is all an offense to him and places an uncrossable, impenetrable barrier between fallen humans and their Maker. Habakkuk 1:13 says to God, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness…”

Man’s Total Depravity is answered only by the Doctrines of Grace. Only as Jesus the Messiah satisfied the penalty with his death, can sins be forgiven. The cross sufficiently provides healing and restoration for the totally depraved soul who comes to him in true repentance and trust in the Savior’s work of redemption.

When there is a humble sense of need, a dread of God’s deserved wrath, and a craving for the work of grace, there is clear evidence of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon that lost heart. When this conviction drives the lost to the cross, there is reason to rejoice and worship, for a lost sheep has been found and reclaimed by the Good Shepherd.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Wrong Desires

Wrong Desires

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 79-81)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

In Question 79, the Westminster Shorter Catechism introduces the 10th Commandment by quoting Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The Catechism explains the commandment in questions 80-81.

Question 80. What is required in the tenth commandment?
Answer. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.

Question 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
Answer. The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions or affections to any thing that is his.

If you look carefully, you can see that this commandment does not forbid coveting. It tells us not to covet things God has given to someone else. The original Hebrew word translated “covet” here is khamad (חמד). This is a common word that means “to desire, or to take pleasure in something.” That can be a good thing.

The Bible itself often uses this same word in a good way. Psalm 19:10 tells us to covet God’s judgments and righteous. In those places it uses this same word, khamad (חמד). Psalm 68:16 uses this same word to describe God’s own desire toward his dwelling place. These desires are obviously a good things. If we are commanded to covet good things, and God covets his dwelling place, the 10th Commandment cannot be forbidding us to have a strong desire for things.

In the New Testament the Greek word that translates this commandment is epithumeo (επιθυμεω). It is also used in a very positive way at times. In Luke 17:22 we are told to covet or to long for the return of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 3:1 men are told that desiring the church office of Elder is a good thing. 1 Peter 1:2 says that the angels covet or desire to see the work of the gospel in God’s people.

We have to be careful if we simply shorten this commandment to say, “Thou shalt not covet … .” It is never wrong to have a strong desire for good things, or to strive hard to advance ourselves in ways pleasing to God.

God’s people are passionate about doing all they can for God’s glory. They want to be managers and enjoyers of all they rightly get and own. There is no excuse here for laziness, apathy, or indifference about the things God calls them to be doing.

This commandment warns us not to covet things
God has assigned to the care of others.

Exodus 20:17 lists some of the common causes of discontent in the time of Moses. It says that it is wrong to covet someone else’s spouse. The 7th Commandment makes it clear that it is immoral to be unfaithful to the person you marry. It is important to desire a good husband or wife while you are single. Once you are married, you need to be content with the one with whom you are joined.

To look for physical gratification outside of marriage is a tragic offense against God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28 that even the desire for a different partner is in itself sin, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The commandment forbids coveting someone else’s servants, both male and female. In our culture most of us do not have the same kinds of servants they had then. In our economic system, this principle still applies as it applies to coveting another person’s hired helpers. Jealousy over someone else’s business deals or staff is morally evil.

It says that it is wrong to covet another person’s ox or donkey. I have never owned an ox or donkey. Few of us have today. Few of us want them. They were the tools for transportation, for clearing land, for construction, or for growing crops. Today you violate this moral principle when you covet your neighbors car, truck, lawnmower, cellphone, or computer. You should appreciate what they have, even work to be able to get one like it, but not to where you become upset that God gave it to them and not to you. You should be satisfied for the moment with what God gave you to use, and rejoice with your neighbor over his good blessings and without jealousy.

Then, to show how general this principle is, God adds that you should not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. Each person’s only concern is what God entrusts to his own care. What God gives to someone else should not be jealously coveted.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained
the moral principles behind God’s Commandments.

It is nothing less than rebellion to want things to be other than the way God wisely decrees them to be. Wrong desires are immoral.

The 10 Commandments are not ten separate laws made up at Sinai. They are summaries of larger moral principles God built into Creation. Taken together they show how the created world was designed to be so that it honors it’s Creator. It is how God’s eternal nature shows itself in the world he made.

Those who covet a different God, one who can be seen by our eyes, or treated more casually, violate the first 3 Commandments. They are discontent with what God truly is.

Those who covet the time God sets aside for the Sabbath break the 4th Commandment. When creation was completed the Creator set aside one day in seven to remember his making of all that is. This was given before sin entered the world, before nations arose out of the seed of Adam. He represented us all when God consecrated that 24 hour period out of every week. Though many temporary Sabbaths were later set up for Israel to teach about redemption from sin’s bondage, this Creation Sabbath is the Lord’s Day. He is Lord of the Sabbath. To make that day your own day, or to neglect honoring him on that day, is coveting and theft of time that is not yours.

Children who covet their parent’s authority, or adults who rebel against rightful authority, want things their own way. If we rebel against the order God established for our homes, our work, our church, or state, we violate the 5th commandment. It begins with wrong desires.

Violence and murder begins with discontent with someone else. Coveting their death or harm in ways contrary to God’s law violates the 6th Commandment.

We have already shown that the 7th Commandment is violated by any lusting outside of marriage.

The 8th Commandment against stealing begins with the desire to take what is not yours. It is wrong to covet things or money which God has given to someone else.

Even the 9th Commandment which forbids bearing false testimony begins in the heart with coveting. It starts with wanting things to be true which are not, and replacing them with a lie.

Coveting things contrary to God’s word and providence shows discontent with God himself. Coveting also shows a lack of love and appreciation for other people’s blessings.

Coveting rejects God’s order of things, shows a low respect for God’s blessing on others, and foolishly imagines that its own way would be better than God’s ways. It is wrong to covet against God’s provisions and moral principles. James 3:16, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”

Since discontent is such a common weakness
we need to know how to deal with it.

There will be wrong desires that well up inside us. We need to know how God tells us to overcome them. There are three character traits connected with overcoming the sin of the 10th Commandment. God enables these traits in us by his gracious provision in Christ.

The first of these traits is honesty. Part of that is honestly admitting our guilt. That is what the word confession means as it is used in the Bible. Whenever you realize you are not satisfied with God’s blessings, admit it immediately. Admit it to yourself with no excuses. Admit it to God in sincere and humble prayer.

You can pray the prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

When a person is prone to be discontent with the way things are in God’s plan, when he makes excuses for his coveting, or wants to stay blissfully blind about it, if he isn’t concerned to repent sincerely of it, and come to the Savior to have his wrong desires forgiven and removed, then there is little confidence that he has been transformed by God’s grace.

Some say that desires alone are innocent, as long as you don’t act on them. God’s word tells us otherwise. Jesus corrected that excuse used by the Pharisees in his Sermon on the mount. The Pharisees allowed hatred in the heart, as long as it did not result in actual murder (Matthew 5:21). They allowed lust for another person’s wife, as long as it did not result in actual adultery (Matthew 5:27). In both cases, Jesus condemned the heart sin as being just as evil.

The heart and hand work together. We are whole persons not disconnected pieces. The hand is moved by the desires of the heart. The heart craves for a hand to do its bidding. This 10th Commandment condemns the wrong desire itself as being morally wrong.

Virtual sins, ones that are only in our minds, are still sins. This includes private fantasies, the use of pornography, computer or game simulations where sinful things are done by a person’s avatar, evil imaginations, unspoken jealousies, envy, and greed.

Those who truly love Christ should honestly admit how offensive discontent is toward God. Repentance is not simply regretting the consequences of your sins. It is about recognizing the depth of inward rebellion against God’s will.

Some excuse wrong secret inward desires because they do not do any real harm to anybody. However, harming someone is not what makes something a sin. God is offended. That is always morally unhealthy, and causes great harm to the offender, even if no other human ever finds out about it.

If you look to sinful thoughts for mental entertainment, then according to God’s word you’ve broken this 10th Commandment.

The Bible lists coveting among the most offensive sins against God. This is how it is treated in 1 Corinthians 6:10, Ephesians 5:5 and in other places.

Realizing the seriousness of inward discontent is God’s wake up call to the drowsy soul. In Romans 7:7 Paul said, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ”

It was coveting that helped convince the Apostle Paul that he was a sinner in need of forgiveness.

Repentance is that deep sorrow and grief that comes when we know we have offended God. It is when we sincerely determine to stop doing what’s wrong.

The next character trait for overcoming discontent is trust. Faith is that faculty of trust implanted by God into his children when he regenerates them. The redeemed person comes to Jesus Christ humbly by sincere faith. He understands that Jesus Christ paid for even the most wicked of sins for his people.

When you covet, you should come to the Savior trusting in his forgiveness. Rely upon God’s promise that by faith in the work of the Savior who died in your place, you will be restored and transformed so that you can overcome your coveting.

When restored to fellowship with God by the mercies of Christ, you have the power to get so busy counting the blessings, that you stop being taken in by thoughts of greed, envy, and jealousy.

That brings us to the third character trait in overcoming our discontent: gratitude. You should appreciate what God gives you, rather than being jealous about what he gives to others.

Some have abused this commandment to justify apathy, laziness, and irresponsibility. No one should be so content that they do nothing to both use and improve what God entrusts to his care. Complacency is not the same as practicing contentment with God’s blessings. Contentment with what God gives does not mean you can be apathetic about improving your situation.

While Paul was held in Roman custody he wrote in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

The apostle did not covet the blessing of being free from prison. He did not complain that God was unfair in making him suffer while the wicked sat in palaces. He did not envy those living in their own comfortable homes back in Tarsus.

However, he did not just sit around apathetically accepting his imprisonment as an excuse to do nothing. He wrote elegant letters of inner peace and joy to encourage the churches. He knew that he should not be coveting the things God at the moment was withholding from him. His situation would not be improved by being envious and jealous of others. Instead, he made diligent use of the circumstances and blessings God had given him. He diligently prayed, he wrote letters, he testified to those in Rome about Christ.

There is a moral balance between contentment, and a desire to improve what God gives you. Some are so ambitiously driven that they hurt others to get what they want. We need to have contentment without laziness, and ambition without greed.

Overcoming covetousness includes active thankfulness for all of God’s blessings. It is important to remember that God is the source of all the good things we and others have. Never complain to him that you do not have all you want. Instead thank him for his promised comfort and presence even in times of want. Be glad for your brothers and sisters in the Lord, when your Father blesses them, even when they have things you do not have.

Thankfulness helps you develop throughout the day a more conscious awareness of God’s presence, goodness, and power.

It’s such a waste of life, when people are eaten up by covetousness. They spend their precious time regretting what they lack, being jealous, and envious of what others have. They miss out on making good use of what they do have.

Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Discontent is a dangerous and unhappy rebellion. The discontented person finds little joy in seeing others advance above himself, in their having things he cannot afford, or in the talents, popularity, and skills he lacks.

Never be jealous of someone else’s great hair, healthy constitution, clear complexion, or that they were born into a different economic level, a better family, or in a different era. The best satisfaction comes from knowing that God wisely orders things in his world. He blesses all with what he wants them to have, even though no one really deserves any good thing.

God’s word gives us a simple exercise to build up this spiritual virtue. He tells us to center our minds on the good things of God. In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote these words from his imprisonment in Rome, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

The mind busy with appreciating the things of God while being thankful for every blessing, and making the best of what God has given, will have little room for wishes that things were different than what God has decreed to take place.

The steps to overcome covetousness are not complicated.

1. Be honest with yourself about your guilt. Confess it. Admit it openly to God. Be honest about how offensive discontentment is to God. Sincerely repent of it.

2. Trust the wisdom and love of God your Heavenly Father in how he gives things. Have faith in his perfect wisdom that cares deeply for you as his redeemed child. Be confident in his promises that the guilt of every believer is fully paid for in Jesus Christ.

3. Be humbly thankful for all God entrusts to your care. Be grateful for your part in the advance of his Kingdom, and for how he uses others differently, entrusting them with different responsibilities, opportunities, and possessions.

Find ways to use what you have, rather than being jealous for what you do not have. Be actively thankful for all that God gives you, and for what he gives to others. Fill your mind with thoughts about the good things that please God.

Coveting looks in the wrong place for inner peace and contentment.

Satisfaction in life does not come from what car you own, or what clothes you have in your closet. It is not found in how much people envy you, or in how much entertainment you can afford. It is found in the blessing of God upon lives lived humbly trusting in his love and grace.

Psalm 23 begins with those familiar words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When you put what you have to use in the best way you can to please God, you will be coveting only the good things our Lord promises and gives you.

God is the source of every good thing. He has determined what is best for his glory, and for you as his child. There is no rational justification for greed, discontent, envy, or jealousy. Coveting what God has given others is a deceptive infection that hurts and never helps.

Instead of vainly trying to push out greed, or to promise away jealousy by your own efforts, turn your eyes to Jesus Christ, and to the work of grace that redeemed you from your guilt. Look so hard at God’s mercy and blessings, both in yourself and in others around you, that greed and its companion sins will die from lack of attention.

This good focus for your thoughts will crowd out the wrong desires and jealousies. It leaves those discontented attitudes no soil in which to take root. It plants a fertile garden of God honoring attitudes that make for a healthier and happier family of God.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Truth About Truth

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Truth About Truth

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:76-78)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

One of the marks of our era is the lack of
confidence that there really is a thing called truth.

Many go so far as to treat concern about the truth as an annoying distraction. Of course what they refuse to admit to themselves is that all the while they deny truth, they are assuming certain things to be true. Current trends even in the churches avoid saying that anything is always true for everybody all the time.

Our period of history is often called the age of Post-Modernism. Modernism in the early 20th century attempted to explain away anything supernatural. It assumed that everything perceived as spiritual had either a natural scientific explanation, or was just the result of our psychological needs. To the Modernist, the Bible was a good book, but just a good book of myths and morality lessons. They said it was spliced together by deluded men and religious manipulators.

Modernism fails to fit the way we really are. It continues in many of the “main-line” denominations. However, as creatures of God we know by instinct that there is a real supernatural dimension to our lives.

In the latter part of the 20th Century and today in the 21st Century, unbelief favors another way to attack God’s truth. Truth is no longer considered to be important. The Post-modernist is more concerned about our feelings and doing what it assumes to be good. We don’t mean to imply that those are bad things. The real problem that what is thought of as good in the eyes of one group of people might be horribly rude, insensitive, and oppressive to another group. Without knowing what is true, our own feelings become the test for what is correct, and what should be believed about what God’s word says concerning morality, attitudes, and behavior. Propositional truth becomes at best a mere secondary curiosity.

In this Post-Modern era, truth is seen as whatever seems best for each situation. Post-Moderns reject the idea that lies and truth are black or white issues. They see truth as coming in many shades of gray.

The result is a world without absolute moral standards. What the Bible forbids as immoral might be recommended as the best thing in certain situations. Law becomes flexible, and should be always changing. It becomes based upon currently popular trends, rather than upon principles built into the world by its Creator. Feeling personally comfortable inwardly, and what we personally thinks should make others feel comfortable, become the tests of what should be done and believed. This is the main-stream belief expressed in popular music, movies, TV shows, and novels.

This movement is effecting the churches today too. It separates practice from belief. It does what feels right without concern for what God says is really good and right. They talk about living in love, but hate it when someone picks up a Bible and tries to define what God says love really is. They would rather have a dialog about things, than admit that somethings are not true. They want to re-think worship, not wanting to be tied down to patterns that emerge from the Bible They prefer patterns that emerge from our culture, rather then those that emerge from the study of Scripture. The idea that God calls some of his children to study and to teach the Bible authoritatively is being replaced by a denial of the ordained Eldership as described in Scripture.

This “emerging church” idea, emerges from a faulty concept of truth. Those embracing this paradigm truly believe that they are becoming more relevant by just being caring about others. They tend to bristle with contempt if someone questions whether God sees what they are doing as really caring for the people’s actual spiritual needs.

Satan’s false kingdom hates God’s message. It sees it as the enemy. Today, the only real heresy, the one thing the post-modernists cannot tolerate, is the belief that there is actual truth that should be accepted and honored always.

The fact is, there are things that are true,
and other things that are not.

In Question 76 the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Which is the ninth commandment?” It answers by quoting Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The next two questions help explain what this Commandment covers.

Question 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
Answer. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.
Question 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
Answer. The ninth commandment. forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.

This commandment is based upon a fundamental respect for truth. Truth is precious because it is the way things really are in the mind of God. What our Creator knows as true is what really is true, regardless of who else knows it or believes it. He defines what is true.

This is what makes lies so wrong, and truth so sacred and important. Dr. Charles Hodge once said: “Truth is at all times sacred, because it is one of the essential attributes of God. Truth is … the very substratum of Deity.” Titus 1:2 so simply tells us, “God … cannot lie”. Lies are contrary to his nature.

When you tell a lie, give false testimony, or promote things that are false, even little things, you obscure the way things are as God knows them, and you fail in your created duty to show the Creator’s nature at work in your heart.

The problem is that in our fallen estate we have lost our ability to love truth. It is only through Jesus Christ that our spiritual blindness can be taken away. He changes the hearts of his people, and enables them to see and to appreciate what God says. We should hunger to learn and to promote the truth of the way things are, even when it is not comfortable for us.

As we mature in Christ we should promote truth all the more. We want to be honest about things in our lives, and to be careful not to spread untruths about others.

Lies defy what God knows to be true.

There is a cosmic battle that has been going on since the moment of the first rebellion. Satan is the enemy of truth. In John 8:44 Jesus said, “… he is a liar, and the father of lies.” Evil wants to obscure God’s truth in every way possible. It attracts and enlists its followers with false promises, false testimony about God — lies. Those who stand against God are characterized by their love for lies.

When you lie, you align yourself with the enemy of your Creator. God is offended, and you fail to point your life toward the God of Truth. People’s lives and reputations are also damaged very seriously by lies and rumors.

    Bending the truth, just a little can seem to be a convenient way to excuse doing what God forbids:

  • People lie to avoid commitments or phone calls
  • Children might lie to their parents about what they’ve done, or where they’ve been
  • Workers sometimes lie to their bosses, or bosses to their workers
  • Businessmen lie to their clients. Advertisers lie to sell their products
  • Students sometimes lie about their homework
  • Some teachers bend the truth to shape the views and attitudes of their students
  • Some lie to avoid paying their taxes

It is very easy to make up stories that blame others, rather than to shoulder our own responsibilities. Often people rush to judgment about others rather than to take the time to find out what really happened and why.

There is no lie or dismissal of truth so minor that it does not offend our Heavenly Father. To misrepresent the truth is to rebel against God. Truth is important, and lies are morally wrong because God says so. God’s truth is the bedrock of morality and of all civility. Jesus Christ calls all of his children to be promoters of truth.

Specifically this commandment forbids bearing false witness against your neighbor. If you do, you sin grievously. That happens anytime you say something untrue about someone, or make a false promise.

One of the obvious ways this commandment is broken is in a court of law. False testimony and lies can get an innocent person convicted of a crime he did not commit, or it may set a guilty person free from paying for his crimes. It obstructs justice and defies the way God tells us to deal with criminals. God’s law for Israel was very harsh toward a perjurer who would give false testimony in court. We can see from this, just how offensive deception must be to God.

The larger principle summarized in the 9th commandment is that truth must always be upheld. Zechariah 8:16-17 says, “These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, Says the LORD.”

When writing to the Ephesian church Paul used that verse from Zechariah. In Ephesians 4:25 he wrote, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”

Bearing false witness is not just something done in a court of law. Sometimes false witness comes in the form of gossip. When people say things against others without evidence or in the form of gossip they take part in a vicious, inhumane sin. It attacks this 9th commandment and the God whose morality it represents. Many lives, families, churches, and communities have been painfully destroyed by a few words spoken by idle busybodies or prideful fools.

We should never listen to or spread rumors and innuendos about someone. In the eyes of God, a person’s reputation is important. Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” When you steal sliver or gold from someone it is obviously wrong. When you gossip, you steal his good name. The Bible says this is even more grievous.

Gossip shows a reckless disregard for the other person’s reputation. It can do a lot of damage to someone’s life. Proverbs 16:27 says, “An ungodly man digs up evil, And it is on his lips like a burning fire.” Rumors can destroy a person, his family, his church, or business.

Misunderstandings, assumptions, and outright lies can spread like wildfire. James 3:5 warns, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”

Dangerous gossip might not be about someone you know personally. Celebrities and well known political figures are often the target for gossip. Tabloids, opinion columns, blogs, and interview shows should be more responsible. Just because something is in print, on TV, radio, or the internet does not make it reliable.

Confirm that things are true before you repeat them. Never forward those juicy e-mails without doing some checking. Go to or other similar fact-checking websites to research what is said in those e-mail reports. Usually you can find an analysis of the stories currently being circulated.

Gossip, true or untrue, is a symptom of a heart that is not right with God. It can be used to blackmail or to intimidate opponents. Sadly it is used commonly in political campaigns, in personal relationships, and in business.

The best cure for gossip is silence. Never speak of, or become audience to, private and unsubstantiated matters. When the loose tongue is controlled, the gossip dies. Proverbs 26:20, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

You also break this commandment when you make a vow you do not intend to keep. Before you vow faithfulness in marriage, church membership, take on some office of trust, or sign a business deal, be sure you really mean all you vow to be and to do. Do not repeat creeds in church if you do not believe they are true.

By living with a low view of truth, by telling even little convenient lies, you show disregard for its sacredness before God, and you contribute to the darkness of the world. In such a world neighbors are not trusted, courts become bodies of misjudgment, leaders become those who are the most skilled in manipulation and deceit.

Thankfully God restrains sin to a degree even in the unsaved, otherwise there would be no trust or hope in our world at all. He tells us he does this for the sake of his people, and for the honor or his own name.

Our responsibility is to know and to show God’s truth.

In God’s eternal plan, Jesus Christ came into our world as its only Savior. He paid the penalty for the sins that separate his people from him. He re-enables his people to know and to love what is true. As those redeemed and taught by his word, we have an awesome responsibility. We are obligated to champion all that God reveals as true. We do it for his glory.

Jesus said the truth shall set you free. The truth of God’s redemptive promises show how we are set free from the deceptions of our fallen hearts through the work of the Savior. By telling the truth of the gospel to those you know and meet, you promote that freedom. By respecting truth and avoiding unseemly gossip, you can preserve reputations. By living obediently to the true ways God reveals in his word, you help people, maybe yourself, get back on the right track in life

Failing to tell the truth has its consequences. Lies promise things they can never deliver. By bending the truth now and then, people imagine they can get moments of peace, security, and satisfaction. This deception is tragic when what they are told does not take place. They become discouraged by distortions of what God has actually told us in his word. In contrast, the consequences of truth carry the promise of blessing from our unfailing God.

In a world where truth is seen as relative and uncertain we have a great message. When gossip covers our newspapers, fills our TV and radio programs, saturates the internet, fuels conversations over coffee or meals, spreads like wildfire through gullibly passed on stories, and drives a dirty and distasteful form of politics, believers will stand out if they handle truth responsibly.

One of the great attributes of the God who made and saves us is promoted when we are champions of truth. God promises rich blessings to those who love his word of truth, and who show the evidence of hearts changed by grace through our Savior Jesus Christ.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

God’s Economic Solutions

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

God’s Economic Solutions

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 73-75)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

God made everything to work a certain way in his world.

When the basic principles set up at creation are not followed the consequences effect our lives. Each of the Ten Commandments illustrates a primary moral principle. The 8th Commandment is about the proper ownership and management of our possessions. The Westminster Shorter Catechism introduces this Commandment in question 73.

It asks, “Which is the eighth commandment?”
The answer is a quotation of Exodus 20:15 which says, “You shall not steal.”

The Catechism expands upon that Commandment in questions 74-75.

Question 74. What is required in the eighth commandment?
Answer. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Question 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.

In the most simple terms economics comes down to the fact that God is the Lord over all things. We are responsible to properly manage what he gives us, and to respect what he gives to others to manage.

Today’s economic problems are very complex. What our Creator says about how we should manage our things is not being followed. Solutions that ignore God’s moral principles make the problems worse.

The first principle of Biblical Economics is
that everything belongs first and foremost to God.

God owns all things because he made everything that exists, including all of us. Psalm 89:11 is just one of the passages that makes this very clear. It says, “The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all its fullness, You have founded them.”

In the New Testament, Colossians 1:16 repeats this important first principle. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

God is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is. He made everything for his own special purpose.

The second principle is that we humans were
created to be managers of God’s things.

Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that we were created to rule over his world and to have dominion over it. We are held responsible for how we manage it all for God’s glory. We are to use what he gives us to provide for our daily needs, to advance God’s Kingdom, and to show his compassion by how we care for others who have legitimate needs.

This transforms all our work into Kingdom Work. If you raise crops, pour sidewalks, sell furniture, teach children, or repair diseased hearts, it is all to be done to fulfill this mandate we were given in Eden.

We are here primarily to live for, and to work for God’s honor and glory. Any comforts we have beyond our basic needs are pure undeserved blessings. Coveting beyond what God is pleased to give us is the driving force behind the sin referred to in this commandment.

If God owns all things, then our ownership, though very real, is a secondary ownership. What we have are things we were given to mange for our King in Heaven.

Things become ours to manage primarily by earning them. By our labor, God assigns us as secondary owners of some of the things that are his. Genesis 1:26 tells us to subdue all things in God’s creation by our labor. What we make or earn becomes ours to use wisely for his glory.

This is what makes stealing so wicked. It violates God’s assignment of things to individuals. It is open rebellion against God himself.

There are right ways for ownership to be
transferred from one person to another.

What we grow, make, or do can be traded, sold, inherited, or given to other people. Payment for products or services changes the ownership of things. 1 Timothy 5:18 says that “the laborer is worthy of his wages.”

What you earn can be used to buy other things you need or want. At that point they become yours to manage responsibly. What you sell is not your responsibility any more. It becomes the property of the buyer to use for himself, but the obligation remains that all property is always to be used for God’s glory.

At death, your ownership can be transferred to your loved ones or friends as an inheritance. The ones chosen by the owner when he is alive become the legitimate and responsible managers of these entrustments from God.

You can also transfer ownership by giving things as gifts. What you give is not yours any more. It belongs to the one to whom you give it.

Sometimes you get compensations for your things if someone steals or damages them. The restitutions they pay become yours in the eyes of God.

When you bring your tithes and offerings to the church, they belong to God’s Kingdom. From the beginning, even indicated in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, this basic economic principle was evident, even though few details were recorded of daily life in that period of history. 10% of all you earn by your labor belongs to God. That part of your earnings is to support the preservation of God’s word and ways, to provide for corporate worship, and to offer counsel, help, and comfort for God’s people.

If you keep back your tithe, to use it for your own use or investments, it is stealing from God. In Malachi 3:8 God uses exactly that language. There he says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.”

That was one of the big sins in the time of Haggai.

It was an important issue in the New Testament to provide for the survival of the church, and for the early spread of the gospel. While the additional tithes connected with the Levitical system no longer bind us, the basic creation principle was never abrogated in God’s word.

The Reformers, and all those who let the Bible set their priorities, have always recognized the biblical mandate of tithing for Christ’s church in our era.

Taxes are another way we legitimately transfer to others what God gives us. Romans 13 reminds us that God raises up legitimate governments. Their duty as ministers of God is to provide for national defense, and civil justice. When Jesus taught that what is Caesar’s belongs to Caesar, he was referring to taxes.

There can be wrong uses for taxes and unbiblical ways to tax people. However, what you are asked to give to your government becomes theirs to manage for God’s glory. If the government does not use it that way, they are held responsible, not you. Certainly neither Paul nor Jesus were approving of all the tactics and budgets in use by the Roman Empire of their day.

We need to be responsible citizens to make sure we elect fiscally responsible leaders who use our taxes for biblical reasons, and who will tax us fairly and rightly. Many things are wrongly taxed in our modern society. The fact remains however, that what is given to a government becomes their responsibility before God.

Stealing is when someone violates these legitimate transfers of ownership.

The most obvious violations of this moral principle are robbery and theft. What is taken this way does not rightly transfer ownership. It is a crime that deserves punishment. The Bible requires that what is taken because of theft must be paid back. The offender is obligated by moral law to make full restitution for the damage he causes.

Not all theft is done by armed criminals. Not long ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that employee dishonesty costs American businesses over $50 billion every year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that 75% of all employees steal at least once. Half of those steal repeatedly. It reported that one out of every three businesses fail directly because of employee theft. It is a violation of God’s 8th Commandment.

Deceit is another form of theft. False advertising, keeping the money when you get back too much change from the store, or hiding flaws in what you sell, are all forms of financial deceit. It is stealing.

Lazy workers are stealing by avoiding what they are supposed to do for their wages. A lazy person tries to get paid for not working, or for not doing his share. He is happy to let others do the work, then collect the benefits for himself. This is a direct abdication of the creation mandate from God to labor for your provisions.

Some in the early church in Thessalonica were content to let others support them. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul said that violated the traditions taught by the Apostles. In verse 10 the Apostle said, “… we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” In the next verse he said these were leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, and acting like busybodies.

Compassion should make us want to help the truly needy, and those out of work. However, if we support laziness and dependency, we encourage ungodliness. It is not love to help an individual avoid responsibility. The poor should be helped to find legitimate work. It is wrong just to give able people money, housing, and health benefits while others do all the work.

Sloth, and Laziness are repeatedly condemned in the Book of Proverbs. Laziness also violates the 4th commandment. It says there that six days out of every seven are to be spent in labor to provide for our basic needs.

One sure way to destroy our country, church, or family is to let some able people just sit around expecting others to support them as if they are entitled to not have to work.

Withholding what you owe others is also a form of theft. Once you owe something, part of what you earn belongs to the person to whom you owe payment. To avoid paying off debts or obligations violates this 8th Commandment.

Socialism violates this commandment because it confuses God’s law of ownership. What you earn is yours to manage. It does not belong first to the state. When governments try to re-distribute wealth they sin grievously against God.

The responsibilities God gives to businesses, homes, and churches should not be taken over by governments. The abuse of taxes and undue regulations weaken a society, destroy incentive, wreck hopes of a sound economy, and forfeit God’s material blessing.

Gambling can also be a form of violating this commandment. In the eyes of God, the only legitimate transfer of ownership of money and the things it buys is by commerce, inheritance, gifts, restitutions, tithes, and taxes.

Games you play at a fair, or with friends are not gambling if you are paying to play the game. The money spent is a form of commerce or recreation. It is not to get wealth without earning it. The motive and amount spent is very important. Prayerful and honest judgment of you intentions should be guided by the principles of biblical economics, not by greed, coveteousness, or laziness.

This does not forbid taking legitimate risks in making business or financial investments. The Bible sees investments as part of commerce. It is a way of providing for labor and the launch of new products and services. It is legitimate to invest capitol in businesses hoping to make a fair profit.

When gambling becomes an irresponsible risk of what God has entrusted to you, or is done with hopes of getting wealth without work, it is neither wise nor morally good. It is wrong.

In the year 539 BC Israel’s horrible years of
captivity in the heathen empire of Babylon ended.

Some were still alive then to remember the devastating invasion about 47 years earlier. Many of their friends and loved ones were brutally killed. The rest were rounded up and taken away as slaves. All they had worked for, all their memories were left behind or stolen by soldiers. As they left the city of Jerusalem, all they built, owned, and their place of worship, were totally destroyed.

The children born to the Jews in Babylon were told about the past when when their nation was still free. They grew up in a pagan culture, spoke another language, and served cruel masters.

After 47 years, God answered their prayers and moved the heart of King Cyrus to set them free. They came back to a city in ruins. In gratitude to God they started rebuilding the Temple to restore obedient worship in their lives.

After a few years, with only the foundation of the Temple completed, the people became distracted by their own comforts and prosperity. They turned their attention to fixing up their homes with fine paneling and decorations. They had stopped bringing the whole tithe to the Elders for the work of God. The center of worship was neglected, and their duty to God became a remote interest.

In about 520 BC the Lord told the prophet Haggai to warn the people. In Haggai 1:4-5 he said, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways!’ ”

In verse 6 the Prophet described the futility of their foolish greed. He said, “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

They were not satisfied with all the nice material things they were laboring so hard to get. They kept wanting more, so they kept God’s portion for themselves. That just made it worse. They had plenty to eat and drink, but they wanted more. They were busy earning money, but it was not enough to buy happiness, it was as if their money bags had holes in them. They were violating the principles of economics built into God’s world.

It is God who blesses, not the things in themselves. When people believe they can have more by ignoring God’s ways, true blessings are often withheld from them.

Economics is a study of the principles that guide us in how to manage material things. God’s economics is very different than what develops in a society not centered in Christ. In the time of Haggai, God’s economics was turned up-side-down.

When you understand and obey this commandment,
there should be a true joy in your labors.

This biblical work ethic, and God’s principles of ownership, ensure economic stability. The moral principle again comes down to our place as creatures made in God’s image. We are here to show that our Creator owns all things, therfore all we have is first of all his. God does not deserve just what we do not need or can live comfortably without. All we have should be managed responsibly for his glory.

We need to respect the ownership God gives to others of all they have. We should never take what is not rightly ours. We should be responsible in paying what we owe and in doing the work expected of us.

We need to appreciate our responsibility in using all God provides for us. We should never buy things frivolously or to provide for improper activities. We should not let his kingdom go silent by keeping his tithe for ourselves.

A while ago I received some of those mass e-mailings that get circulated around the web. One was about how imbalanced our economic priorities are as individuals. It challenged us to consider what we budget monthly for entertainment, eating out, and hobbies, then compare it with how much we regularly commit to the work of our church. Such an inventory of our budgets can be an eye-opening and sobering exercise.

God gives you all you have. The tithe of it is his. With it you show the ownership of your King.

The gospel hope we have in Christ is
the way to restore God’s economics in your life.

Jesus came to rebuild your relationship with God. Sin and guilt separate you from your Creator, and produce materialistic attitudes. That is what makes people want to get things in wrong ways. That is what keeps them from being satisfied with their possessions and labor. Jesus suffered and died in your place to remove the barrier of sin and the burden of its guilt.

We need to appreciate the blessing of being a part of displaying God’s dominion in this world. The empty drudgery of our daily work is transformed into rewarding service for the King. The things God lets us own and earn become more valuable and satisfying to us.

Many today think that the happiest person is the one who has a lot, but does not have to work. That is the opposite of the teaching of God’s word. When you are restored through Christ to being able to see the Sovereign God at work in all things, your work becomes a daily engagement in the grand scheme of all creation.

We were made to enjoy the work God gives us to do, and to responsibly manage all he gives us to own. That is how God created us to live.

What ever God gives you to do today is a joy when you do it as service to your King. All that you earn, make, grow, and produce is truly satisfying only when you display the restored image of God in your life by managing it all well for his glory.

It is an awesome blessing to be able to show our love for our Sovereign and Loving Savior by how we acknowledge him as Lord of all we have and of all he gives to others.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

The Sanctity of Marriage

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Sanctity of Marriage

(Westminster Shorter Catechism: Questions 70-72)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

It’s fun to look back through pictures of weddings. After a number of years go by it’s fun to see who all was there, and how everybody has changed. It’s good to remember that special moment when two became one and started a new family. Sometimes those carefully planned moments have embarrassingly unexpected turns of events. We laugh about it every time we look at the old photographs, or tell the stories to new friends.

But a marriage is a much more than just a romantic moment or even the start of a new family. God instituted marriage when he first created us and put is in Eden. In Genesis 2:24 God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

From the beginning, marriage is that precious union of a man and a woman in the eyes of God. They are to be faithful to one another in all things, for the rest of their lives. Marriage is where we are to produce children, and raise them up to live godly lives.

God had special reasons why he designed marriage to be the way it is. He did not explain all the details of his reasons right away. As time went on, God told more about why he set up marriage the way he did.

In our marriages to one another, we are to show
the faithful union of God with his people.

When Marriage and Family are redefined into something other than what God meant for it, society crumbles away, lives become a confused mess, and God’s purpose is distorted. That is why marriage has always been a target of evil.

Today we see a growing distortion of what marriage is about.

To many, getting married is just a major step in a growing romance. It has been romanticized into just a beautiful ceremony where we expression our feelings of love. The words, “will you marry me” are simply meant to show the deep commitment of the moment. They are the next logical step in a traditional progression up through levels in a relationship. God tells us that marriage is more important and meaningful than that.

To some marriage is just a helpful legal contract. It means a willingness to share resources, time, and abilities so the partners can reach certain goals more easily. They see it as a legal arrangement for tax advantages, social benefits, and the more convenient and respected way to conceive and raise children. As with any legal contract, there is a legal way out. Divorce has become a simple, though emotionally painful, ending of the contract. Resources and children are divided up, and the former partners start over in the romantic cycle.

To others, marriage is just an antiquated tradition that no longer fits our contemporary culture. They see sex and having children as no longer limited to the marriage bond. There are some who want marriage to include unions between same sex partners.

In our promiscuous and sex oriented society the 7th Commandment is under attack. In a general romantic or legal sense most still say we should keep it as a basic tradition, but it has become so redefined and twisted around, that its real meaning has been lost.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains God’s plan for marriage in questions 70-72.

Question 70. Which is the seventh commandment?
Answer. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.

God set up marriage to explain the amazing union
he has with us as his redeemed people.

Revelation 19:7-9 tells about the wedding feast of the Lamb. It says, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’ ”

The context of this passage shows that Jesus is the Lamb, the one sacrificed to redeem us. The bride of the Lamb is his church, those redeemed by the death of the Lamb. They come to him, not arrayed in their own good deeds, but clothed in his perfect obedience.

The union of God’s people with God the Creator is an eternal fact. Ephesians 1:4-6 tells us that this relationship was sealed irrevocably and eternally before creation. It says, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” In that sense, our union with Christ does not really begin when we become aware of it. It has been a reality forever.

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and all our ancient spiritual ancestors looked by faith to the fulfillment of God’s promise to pay for our sins by a perfect substitute. That Redeemer would take us to himself as his dearly beloved. Long before the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the fact of his atonement on the cross has been the only foundation for all fallen humans who are restored to union with God.

As the promise comes to each of us individually, we are joined with our Creator as his bride. There will come a day after the final resurrection, when our union will be perfected. We should not limit the message of this passage in Revelation 19 to just a future event. It is also our present reality as we await its completion in the resurrection.

Marriage was constituted to represent that irrevocable union of God with his redeemed people. That is why marriage is sacred and needs to be conserved as God instituted it. Our marriages are to show the eternal union we have with our Creator, who is also our Redeemer.

The 7th Commandment deals with this moral principle

Exodus 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.”

To show our redeemer’s perfect faithfulness to us as his bride, and our faithful devotion to our One True God forever, we are joined to our one partner in marriage where we are to find the full physical satisfaction of all our intimate needs.

In the Old Testament the prophets spoke of Israel as the Bride of the Lord. References in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea are among the familiar passages where marriage is used to show the love of God toward his often unfaithful people. Idolatry and apostasy are often called spiritual adultery in God’s word.

In the New Testament this same comparison is made with the church as the bride of Christ. Many of the parables of Jesus use marriage to explain the nature of God’s Kingdom. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the bridegroom in John 3:28. The Apostle Paul used marriage to illustrate God’s headship over and union with the church. Romans 7 and Ephesians 5 make detailed comparisons between the church and marriage. Revelation 19:7 speaks of the eternal uniting of the Church with Christ as the marriage feast of the Lamb. Bible scholar Charles Hodge called the family, “the most perfect analogue of the love of God.”

A good marriage should work toward improving its representation of our union with our Redeemer. Like our Savior’s love for his bride which is the church, married partners should be faithful and self-sacrificing. The words in the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” by Samuel J. Stone say it well, “From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride; With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.”

Jesus purified his bride by paying the infinitely horrible penalty of sin in her place. He prays for his bride, enables her spiritually by infusing spiritual life into her, and sets a perfect example of godliness for her toward which she should strive. Marriage unites a man and woman together to represent that self-sacrificing faithfulness of God.

Christ’s love for his church is also tender and caring. Ephesians 5 tells us that Jesus nourishes and cherishes his church as someone would his own body. Our marriages are designed by God to show this kind of care for one another. Even though we are married to imperfect people as Christ is to us, there is no excuse for self-serving attitudes or unfaithfulness in marriage. That is why breaking this commandment is a very serious matter. It obscures that important lesson of our God’s care and faithfulness to us.

Since we are imperfect, sins of infidelity will at times happen. When the pain and guilt of this sin eat at our hearts and tear at our relationships, we need on the one hand to treasure the immensity of the forgiveness we have in Christ, and on the other hand to appreciate the precious value of our God’s perfect faithfulness to us.

Like all the commandments, the moral principle
summarized here goes beyond just adultery.

Jesus made this very clear in his Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:27-28 he said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus was saying that even the inner sins of the heart and our lustful thoughts violate the moral principle summed up in this commandment. The outward sins that destroy marriages, homes, and society begin with the inward corruption that grows hidden deep inside the mind. Whenever a person covets things beyond what God provides he has already begun the destructive process of sin.

Jesus warned against letting lust destroy us and our loved ones. No one should engage in sexual intimacy, physical or mental, outside the bond of marriage. God ordained sexual intimacy for husbands and wives only. His word makes it very clear that any other intimacy is a serious moral crime. In the Bible sexual intimacy is always tied to family and procreation. It represents the church.

Our Westminster Shorter Catechism explains in the answers to questions 71 and 72,

The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

The Bible is surprisingly open about our need for physical intimacy with the other gender.

1 Corinthians 7:2 “… because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

1 Corinthians 7:9 “… if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22 saying, “Flee also youthful lusts”. That means, Run from the temptations that might entrap you! Run away from impure movies, photographs, music, TV shows, magazines, and websites. Run from any inner thoughts and imaginations that violate this commandment. Singles, flee from dating situations that might become physically intimate.

Flee to Christ prayerfully. Ask him to give you strength and encouragement. Flee to other believers who will help you stay faithful to your spouse and maintain personal purity. If you abandon God’s ways, you also abandon his blessings. Intimacy outside of marriage cannot really be lastingly satisfying. It starts a tangled mess that grows out of control.

Today we see the consequences as our culture
moves more and more away from God’s ways.

There is an alarming rise in pornography, incest, rape, violence, child molestation, homosexuality and other things I’d rather not even mention.

Marriage is a vital part of the way God made the human race to live. We are all effected by the consequences of immorality in the lives of those around us.

God’s creation principles need to govern and guide our lives. Morality should not be dictated by the comments and beliefs of people we might envy for their material success. Do not let successful or controlling unbelievers shape your moral standards and attitudes.

The 2nd President of the United States, John Adams wisely said, “It is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. Religion and virtue are the only foundations … of all free governments.” “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. … Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our nation’s founders never intended for us to be publicly free from religion and biblical morals. Those who say otherwise are either poorly educated or intentionally ignoring the facts of history. The founders understood that aside from God’s blessing, no nation can survive for long.

There is only one hope for the future of the family and of our nation. We must reshape it, reform it, back to the form God gives us in his word. It must rest upon the foundation it was designed to rise upon — God’s word.

Marriages need to be restored to what they were meant to represent here on earth: God’s perfect and irrevocable union with us as his beloved bride.

The main point of this 7th Commandment
is remaining faithful to one another.

God is always faithful to his promises and commitments. As those created in his image, that is what we are here to show in our lives. We need to be true to our word and promises, even when it becomes hard for us. Our commitments to our spouses, children, church, employers, and country should show the strong bond of our Savior with us as his eternal bride. People need to see in us this wonderful attribute of our Creator. It should specially be seen in our marriages and family relationships.

The gospel of Christ brings forgiveness
and restoration to broken lives.

Since we are imperfect, we need to know how to deal with our failures. When we sin by any kind of unfaithfulness or sexual impurity we need to come repentantly to our Savior. There we find the certainty of forgiveness in the full power of the Cross of Calvary. Every sin of his people was paid for in full by the death of the one who loved each of those known by him before the world was made (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29). This is God’s promise to all who come with sincere repentance to the Savior. He is always faithful to his word.

The sincerity of our repentance and trust is shown in our desire to reform our ways. We need to be reshaping our lives to fit the model God gives us in his word. We should prayerfully do all we can to remove and to avoid temptations and opportunities to sin.

God’s people should be known for their faithfulness to their faithful God in all things. The specially shows in their marriages which were designed as a representation of that special union with our Redeemer. Faithful and godly marriages can restore our communities and rescue our children. Good homes remind us everyday about God’s love for his church, and of the work of Christ. In love he gives us the model, and the power we need for rebuilding our families.

We have good news for families and marriages. There is a gospel which shows us how to restore our homes. It assures us of God’s blessing when we become committed to his ways. It is our duty not only to experience this wonderful forgiveness and restoration, but also to present it to the world around us by our word and example. Help the world you live in come to know our Faithful and Loving Lord.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Valuing Humans

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Valuing Humans

by Bob Burridge ©2011
watch the video
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:67-69)

Human life is a very special part of God’s creation.

Many inhabitants of our world have what we call physical life. They have a unique DNA structure, process foods for energy, respond to things around them, and reproduce their own kind. In that sense grass, bacteria, armadillos, and mold are all alive. It is only us humans who are here to display God’s moral nature. We have an immortal soul.

We were created in God’s image as it tells us in Genesis 1:26-27. We were put here to represent our Creator in his world, and to oversee his creation while doing his work. We need to respect that special purpose for which every one of us was made.

To those who dare to live in God’s world as if it did not belong to him, we are all just animals advanced by evolution, competing to survive, and working to get all we can for ourselves. They are horribly wrong. God did create us, and he made us in his image, even those forever separated from him and hating him. Therefore, every human life is to be respected and highly valued.

When people dislike something their hatred is often taken out on things that represent it. When people hate a nation they burn its flag. When they hate a leader they desecrate an effigy of him. Since evil sets out to disgrace God, an attack on human life made in his image is exactly what we should expect. Violence, hatred, bigotry, and cruelty have stained all of human history. We each need to be sure that we rid ourselves of the sin of disrespect for the life of others who though fallen are created in our Creator’s image.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches about the Sixth Commandment in questions 66-69.

Question 67. Which is the sixth commandment?
Answer. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Question 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
Answer. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Question 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
Answer. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

The 6th Commandment is found in Exodus 20:13

“You shall not murder.”

The old King James Version has caused some confusion and misuse of this Commandment. By translating it as forbidding killing, the verse has been used by those against things ranging from war and capitol punishment, to eating meat.

There are nine Hebrew words commonly used in the Old Testament for killing. Four of those words are mainly used for the killing of animals for food or as a sacrifice. They are like our words “to hunt”, “to slaughter “or “to butcher”. Those words are not used in this commandment.

God has never forbidden hunting, or killing animals for food and clothing. In fact the Bible actually commands these things. God made clothing out of the skins of animals for Adam and Eve. The diet God mandated for the Jews specifically included beef, and lamb. Jesus sent his disciples out to get a lamb for the Passover meal and sacrifice. Those who use this commandment to teach moral vegetarianism, or to oppose hunting, contribute to the modern confusion about the value of human life.

There are also four very general Hebrew words for killing. They’re like our words “to kill, put to death, execute, and massacre.” These words have a very broad meaning. Their use in the Bible ranges from killing in war, to the destroying of crops.

None of these words are used in the 6th commandment. God does not forbid executing criminals, or killing when necessary in defense of family or country, or killing a roach in our house, or a troublesome weed in our garden if they are bringing in disease or destroying our crops. People who picket executions, meat markets, or clothing manufacturers with signs saying, “Thou shalt not kill” horribly distort the meaning of this word of God.

The Hebrew word God used in this commandment is ratsakh (רצח). Unlike the other 8 words, it has a very specialized and limited meaning. It always means the unjust killing of another human being.

It is used 43 times in the Old Testament. A look at each of the 43 uses shows that it is always used narrowly. It it is very much like our English word “murder”.

The most accurate translation of this Commandment is, “You shall not murder.”

The moral foundation for this commandment
is rooted in the way God made us.

This goes back to creation itself. We were made to represent God in his world. We are to be a display of his communicable attributes, and to show his dominion over creation by managing it for our Lord. We were made in his image to carry out the duties assigned at creation on behalf of the Creator.

This creation principle is why such a high value is placed upon human life. This is the reason the Bible gives for imposing the death penalty for murderers in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

Since all are made in God’s image, human life is never to be treated with disrespect. To take a life unjustly so horribly violates this basic ethic, that execution for certain crimes is mandated. However, even in the execution of convicted murderers by the state, or in war defending our families and neighbors against enemies, the taking of a human life should be done with dignity, respecting the tragedy of the life that needs to be terminated.

Some look at this very superficially. They assume that as long as they don’t commit premeditated homicide they have obeyed all God commands us concerning our attitude toward human life. They forget that God’s moral principles are not limited to the statements of the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are summaries of Creation Principles that apply always to all people in all ages.

This commandment forbids more than
just intentional unjustified homicide.

It is not only addressing those who illegally murder someone. Jesus explained that the moral principle includes hatred and disrespect for human life. In his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:P21-22 Jesus showed that this commandment implies more than just avoiding murder.

First, He pointed them back to this summary of God’s moral principle in the 6th Commandment. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Jesus was correcting abuses in this section of his sermon. He wasn’t taking issue with the 6th Commandment. This creation principle is as old as man being made in God’s image. His concern was the spin the Rabbis added to the law of God.

The legalists perverted the law into a way of salvation. To make it possible for the elite to claim they were righteous, they added to the law of God. They added noble sounding technicalities. By applying the law very narrowly they ruled out the moral principle behind it. The law was reduced to just a set of punishments for certain outward acts.

They allowed disrespect for the image of God in man as long as no one was actually murdered. They were arrogant, rude, bigoted, and judgmental. Jesus was correcting their wrong use of God’s law to justify personal vengeance and hatred. He explained that the principle here goes beyond their narrow use of the Commandment. This is why in verse 22 he said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Without going into the details, there are distinctions made here correcting the rabbinical errors. The Rabbis allowed their own anger, vengeance and hatred to go unjudged. They missed the central issue of God’s creation law.

It is not only actual murderers that offend God. Even personal anger deserves judgment. Calling someone “raca” (which means “empty head”) deserves condemnation by the Sanhedrin. Calling someone a “fool” makes a person guilty of sin and worthy of hell fire. What offends the Creator is the sin of the heart against the image of God in man, not just actual homicide.

In his first epistle the Apostle John gives this same interpretation of the law. 1 John 3:15 says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, … ”

God’s word points to the sins of the heart, not just the things that show outwardly. 1 Samuel 16:7 “… the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God’s law is not just a set of penalties for certain limited actions. God looks at the state of the soul. It is wrong to hate, or to be cruel and disrespectful toward people. They are creatures that bear the Creator’s image.

When we come to know Christ truly, to love him for the unearned grace by which he loved us, the virtues that honor God will grow in us, and he will bless our lives.

To battle hatred, our first weapon is the gospel that changes hearts. Once we come to Christ, the law of God shows us how to express our gratitude to him, and how to please him in both worship, and in the way we treat our neighbors.

On the practical side, we should apply the
commandment in many areas of life.

While God permits taking a human life in self-defense, and in the execution of a convicted murderer by the state, it does not allow killing for convenience or out of personal vengeance. Without debate, there should be no murder. The unjust taking of a life intentionally is obviously evil and ca not be excused.

By definition, this crime would also include the sin of abortion. From the moment of human conception, life is precious and should be protected. Even in the case of medical threats, every attempt should be made to save the life of both mother and child. Abortion for convenience, for quality of life, or for the mental rest of the mother are all clearly forbidden, not by church rules or policies, but by God’s own law.

Equally tragic is the sin of suicide, either by the person himself, or by those assisting him. There is no justification morally for ending a life to stop physical or mental anguish. As tragic as these sufferings are, there are better ways to deal with them than killing.

As Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount, hatred and personal vengeance are the heart sins this commandment addresses. These are the moral principles behind it. They show a disrespect for the image of God in all humans. All the violations of this commandment elevate the feelings of a created human over the moral principles revealed to us by our Creator.

Far from leaving us with just negatives,
God’s word points us to what is right and good.

God has always commanded us to appreciate life and to love others. Jesus quoted from the law of Moses in Leviticus 19:18 when he said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

In other words, our love is not just to be shown to those who appreciate us and who are kind to us. It is to be shown toward even those we might want to be vengeful toward, and people who might provoke us to hold a grudge against them. Instead of personal vengeance or bearing grudges, God’s people need to learn to love such people.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This is the high standard God has always expected of his people. It’s not the distortion of the law some corrupted Pharisees promoted, that we should love only our clearly defined neighbors, those who are like us. They allowed and defended hating those who are different, those who are against us. That is not what Moses said. It is not what Jesus said. This attempt to justify personal hatred and prejudice is morally wrong.

We are called upon to respect the image of God stamped upon all humans, good and troublesome. It does not mean we should excuse violators of God’s laws for society. Loving them does not excuse their sins, or free them from punishments if they commit crimes.

Our duty is to show the love of Christ in how we leave penalties to those authorized to give it. Let God deal with eternal debts for those not redeemed by Christ, and let the civil authorities deal with civil crimes here on earth.

Do not let the evil of others become an excuse for abandoning what God says is right. Do not let their sin poison your own life with attitudes God forbids. Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I will recompense evil’; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.”

Your attitudes and actions should show the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

God tells us what should be in our hearts to crowd out the sinful attitudes. We are required to love our neighbors, even to show love toward those who oppose us.

This is the moral foundation
upon which your life should be built.

You confuse and abuse this 6th Commandment if you fail to appreciate the value of human life, and of God’s moral nature revealed in the creation of humans. It is not just about committing actual homicide. You break this moral principle and offend God by your attitude toward others. It is not a light thing to show hatred, vengeance and anger.

From God’s first words to us in the earliest pages of Scripture, to the words of Jesus himself, such things offend the heart of God, the one who loves you, and has redeemed you. God calls you to love others. This means you should be patient, kind and gentle with self-control.

The promise to believers is that our Savior is there for us as we call upon him in faith. The trust he puts in our hearts is there to be used.

This is serious. It is important. Not one day more should go by where anger or hatred creeps into your heart. When it is discovered there, we are called upon to repent of it immediately,and to count upon the strength God promises us to enable us to overcome our hatreds

No one who trust in the Savior should doubt the power of the Living Christ in him to battle these sins. The Bible says in 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Those who know God as his redeemed children have the full potential in them to love. That is what makes God’s children different.

Pray that this love will show its presence in your heart, even in situations where the fallen world cannot imagine you being able to love. We need to show respect for all human life. Not based upon how a person lives his life, nor for the value that life has for us or for society. We are to treat all humans as special because they of the image of God in which they was created. We must respect the image because of the value its Creator.

Your life has this value too. Not for how talented you are, or how rich you are, or how good looking you are. You are made in God’s image and put here to display his wonder, grace, and glory. Make that your primary focus in all you do, and God will bless your life, even when the hard struggles come along.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Follow the Leaders

Follow the Leaders

by Bob Burridge ©2011
(watch our video)
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q 63-66:)

When we were kids we played the game, “follow the leader”. When you had your turn to be the leader, everybody had to follow you, and do what you do. The idea was to do things the others would have a hard time doing. If someone couldn’t do it, or wouldn’t do it, they were out of the game for that round.

The way we played it was not so much to get anybody to lose. It was to have fun leading the group in doing fun things like climbing trees, balancing as we walked across an old branch over a muddy puddle, or crawling through a tangle of bushes in an overgrown field.

If the leader wanted to do something dangerous the group would usually talk him out of it because nobody wanted any of his friends to get hurt, or to abuse his turn as leader.

The best reward was when we were all following, having a good time keeping up with each challenge, and laughing as we struggled along. Then, when the game was over, we would let the leader know he had done a good job. The only real losers were the moms who had to clean our clothes when laundry day came along.

In that little game we learned a lot about being a good leader, and about being good followers.

Leadership is something God built into his world. It teaches us that God is the Lord over everything. He is our leader in how we should live. To teach us about his loving oversight, and about his ways of doing things, our Creator determined to put people in charge, and to hold them responsible when they were leading others.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches about the Fifth Commandment in Questions 63-66.

Question 63. Which is the fifth commandment?
Answer. The fifth commandment is, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

Question 64. What is required in the fifth commandment?
Answer. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor of, and performing the duties belonging to, every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

Question 65. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?
Answer. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of; or doing any thing against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.

Question 66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
Answer. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.

At first glance, the 5th Commandment
seems to apply only to children.

Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

However, like the other 9 Commandments, it is a summary of a principle taught all through the Bible. God created his world to display his truth, grace, and glory. He organizes us under leaders who are to be good models of particular truths about God.

God set up the home to show his special relationship with his people. Parents are to be honored and obeyed because God gives them authority over their children. When the family structure does not fit the way God made it to be it, fails to fulfill its place in declaring God’s truth and glory.

God gives authority to leaders in three other areas of life too. In the church God teaches us about being his spiritual family. He authorizes Elders to represent him as shepherds and teachers of his people. In the workplace, business owners and managers have authority over those who work for them. They show how God is our master as we work in his world to produce our provisions. In the state, the leaders are given authority to govern nations and local communities. The state is there to represent God as our protector.

Each has authority directly from God to do a particular job in the way that honors the Creator. No one has to earn that authority. It is conferred upon them by God. When they abuse that authority, they answer directly to God for their rebellion.

There is more here than just children doing what parents say. The 5th Commandment is a summary that teaches two of life’s basic principles:
1. We should honor those God rightfully places in authority over us.
2. God promises to bless those who live according to his ways.

The first principle summarized in this commandment
is the need to honor those God puts in charge.

To teach us about his dominion as Lord over everything, God appointed humans to represent his authority here in his world. The principle of submission to human authority represents the ultimate authority of God. Since God distributes that authority to different areas of leadership, there are implied limits to each. No one in charge has authority beyond what God gives him.

To summarize this moral principle, the 5th commandment uses a relationship common to us all, the family.

We should respect the order God sets up for our homes.

Our first schooling about respect for rightful authority takes place when we as children learn to honor our parents. Long before we get involved in the work place, in civil politics, or in a church as active members we need to learn the principle of respect for authority in the home.

Ephesians 6:1-4 expands upon these duties of parents and children, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Parents are to take responsible control of their homes as God’s representatives. God calls them to lead as good examples of how our Lord loves and cares for his people.

Their leadership needs to be taken seriously. They are not given this authority for their own peace, comfort, and glory. They represent God’s authority in the home as long as they are guided by Scripture. They need to lead with a love confidently anchored in what God says is right and important.

Parents should make God’s word the obvious standard in the home. They should make it an integral part of conversations and daily activities for the family. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

If the Bible, Prayer, Church attendance, and Godly Encouragement are missing from a home, the children are being deprived of the most important nutritions for their souls.

By the words and example of their parents, children learn either apathy about God’s ways, or a love for truth, kindness, and responsible living.

Respect for God and for others is not accomplished by yelling at them, or by forcing them to do things that are not explained to them. In Colossians 3:21 the Bible warns parents about how to treat their children. It says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” That is how we should teach this important lesson of authority to our children.

As loving leaders, parents need to listen to their children, teach them to understand biblical values, and guide them to become responsible adults. Where sinful or harmful issues are involved, parents need be very clear and consistent.

These lessons are best taught patiently by personal example, and by helping the children understand God’s principles behind the rules in their home.

Children need to know how to be guided by God’s word in every part of their lives. They should be learning to read the Bible daily, to study it, and to talk about it. They should be regularly engaged in confident prayer, both privately and together as a family. Children should see parents care about others in their friendships and social lives. They need to learn compassion, and to have a self-giving attitude. They need to learn wisdom in choosing those who will influence them as friends. We all tend to become like those we spend our time with. Children need to learn to apply christian moral principles in choosing their entertainment. Some movies, games, tv-shows, websites, and literature are not appropriate for God’s people.

Parents need to responsibly monitor all their children’s choices. They ought to teach them to consider how each option measures up against God’s moral standards. If our children are not trained well in the home, they will pay a horrible price as they get older. Society will also pay when the next generation has leaders who never learned to lead in a godly way.

The commandment is mainly directed to us as followers of our leaders. Children should honor and obey those who are their patents. That is how we learn to respect all the offices God set up for leadership. We honor and respect our bosses at work, our church leaders, and elected officials.

We do not respect them as leaders because we agree with all their ideas, policies, or personal lives. We honor the authority God gives them, even though some handle their responsibility poorly. It is the divinely appointed office that deserves respect.

Unless those in charge command you to disobey God, or if they exceed their authority, you should obey, and show respect as those God put in charge. If those in rightful authority tell you to disobey God, you should respectfully disobey them, but only in that one area.

As a child you may not like your bed time, your chores around the house, or other home rules. But you need to show respect when you talk about these things with your parents. It is OK to explain politely why you disagree. As long as it does not go against what God says, you need to respectfully obey, without any anger inside.

The children’s place in the home is in itself an important lesson about God’s truth. They shows us all how our Creator should be honored. His word might tell us to do things we do not understand. However, as obedient children we need to respect and love doing all our Lord tells us to do.

We should show respect for all rightful authority by how we speak about and treat those in charge at work, in church, and in the government.

To keep order in his church God calls
and appoints Elders and Deacons.

Christ is the head of the church, but his leadership is represented by ordained officers. It is their job to oversee the spiritual lives of the flock as shepherds and ministers. They are to carefully and comprehensively teach God’s word, and apply it in the care and operation of the local congregation.

The Elders should oversee the worship and administer the Sacraments. They pray, and exercise spiritual discipline to preserve the purity of the church. They give counsel and biblical advice to those in the congregation who come to them for help. As good stewards of God’s material blessings, the Deacons are given authority to manage the tithes and offerings in support of Christ’s Kingdom

The abuse of these responsibilities has caused many to have an unhealthy view of the church. The church is limited in its authority too. It may advise but not interfere with parenting, businesses, or the state.

It is the duty of every believer to respect the authority God grants to his church. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

This is what Church Membership means. Members come under the shepherding care of specific officers, therefore they should honor the office to which God has called those who lead.

In the work place God gives authority
to those who are the masters over the workers.

The managers, owners, and bosses are responsible for providing products or services so they can exchange them for the means to provide for themselves and for their families. Those who work for them need to respect that responsibility and do their work faithfully.

Ephesians 6:5-7 tells us to, “… be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,”

Then in verse 9 God’s word warns those in charge of the work place “… do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven …”

The boss’s authority ends in the work place. Earthly managers also have a Master, the God who defines their authority. So they have no right to ask employees to violate the Sabbath, or to be deceitful in business. They have no right to dictate how we vote, where we worship, spend our money, or what goes on in our own homes and private lives.

To keep civil order God raises some up
to govern communities and nations.

In Romans 13:1-4 Paul summarizes the principle of civil authority.

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Civil leaders are to work on behalf of God who is alone the Supreme Lord over all men. Their job is to enforce civil justice and protect our national security. They should ensure that civil crimes like theft, fraud, violence, and murder are punished.

However, they need to stick to the duties God gave them. They can never require citizens to go against God’s law. They are not permitted to intrude into the work God gives to his church. Government has no authority to unduly restrict commerce, other than enforcing laws against fraud and exploitation. They aren’t to interfere with the parent’s work in raising and educating their children, as long as parents do not violate civil law by actually harming their children.

It is important to remember that Paul wrote Romans 13 when pagan Rome ruled the civilized world. Honor and obedience to Rome’s laws and leaders was required by God as long as it was within the boundaries of God’s own laws.

Peter wrote about that same corrupt Roman Empire in 1 Peter 2:13-14 when he said, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”

God obligates us all to respect and to be in subjection to the governing authorities. The Bible says they represent the Creator as ministers for good. We might not respect the immoral lives or policies of some who hold office. Criminals in public office answer to the same laws as the rest of us. Regardless of abuses by individual office holders, the office and its God-given authority should always be shown respect.

The second principle in this commandment
is that God promises to bless obedience.

“… that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

God made his world to operate in such a way that obedience lengthens life. We are the safest, when things are done the way God says is best.

When there are good loving parents and respectful children in a home, there will be greater security from sin and fewer dangerous practices. Children will learn not to glorify or admire violence, drugs, sex and rebellion. They will not be as likely to develop angry self-serving attitudes and ungodly immoderation. They will become interested in safer, more healthy, and God-honoring things.

Those who obey the laws of the state will generally live longer. When traffic laws are obeyed, there are fewer dangerous accidents. When safety regulations are respected, lives will be preserved. When they don’t steal, or hurt others violently, they will be much more likely to avoid vengeful people and the force needed by the state to catch them as lawbreakers. Those who ridicule the police, elected leaders, teachers or their bosses at work are generally the ones who break the rules, get in trouble, harm their bodies, hurt their loved ones, lose their jobs, spend time in jail, or come to an early and tragic death. Those who become capital criminals are sometimes executed which definitely shortens life.

Generally keepers of the Commandments outlive those who do not keep them. It is always healthiest and safest to live within God’s moral boundaries. Part of that is respecting the authority God gives to those rightfully in charge.

God did not just promise a long life. He promised prolonged days in the land he would give. When this commandment was given, God had promised Israel the land of Canaan. It represented the blessing that comes from God’s deliverance. It symbolized God’s Kingdom in which his covenant people would one day live as followers of Christ.

Today we live in the gospel fulfillment of that promise. In Matthew 5:5 Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” He was quoting from a familiar passage in Psalm 37. It contrasts the humble man with the evil man who tries to get things by force and greed. In contrast, those who respect others by being kind, humble, and patient will be the inheritors of the land. He obviously had far more in mind that a mere Jewish territory. He quoted the Psalm to show that what God gives as his blessing will not be given to corrupt opportunists and oppressive leaders. It will be the inheritance of humble believers, who live trusting in God and in his ways, who show evidence of a redeemed soul.

It takes a breed of courageous people
to show respect where mockery is expected in return.

We live in an age that thinks it is cool to ridicule and make fun of authority figures. It is easy to go along with the sarcastic crowd, but it is neither right nor smart. Those who refuse to give in to that way of the fallen soul will be blessed by God. Meanwhile the rebels of this world are unable to figure out why they cannot find real inner happiness.

To repair the moral problem of disrespect and disorder in our world we need to begin at home. We need to diligently learn the principles of responsible and loving leadership. We should be examples of godly respect for authority and leadership at every level of society. Our duty is to trust these principles, and to put them into practice. Pray seriously for God’s help in this crucial obedience.

When the order God set up is followed responsibly, and leaders lead responsibly, we have the best setting for living in peace and contentment in our homes and in God’s world. It is the best hope for turning things around for our homes, church, work, and nation. When proper authority is abused or refused, our lives become confused.

Disrespect leads to confusion and chaos which usually lets the powerful become even more oppressive. Order, respect, and clear direction in our society cannot be restored until the Biblical model for the home, the church, the work-place, and the state are re-established by the gospel as it changes fallen hearts. Respect for proper authority shows your respect for God as the Sovereign Lord over all things.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Today’s Sabbath

Today’s Sabbath

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 57-62)
(watch the videos: Part 1, Part 2)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

We each have 168 hours every week. We have to budget them for time to sleep, work, eat, buy things, and fix what breaks. We never seem to have enough hours to do all we want. As we develop our time budget, we need to remember that 24 of those hours are not ours to spend. They belong to God. He calls us to devote one seventh of our lives to him in a special way.

Exodus 20:8-11 explains this moral principle which God built into his world at creation. The 4th of the Ten Commandments says,

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

God commands one whole day out of every seven to be dedicated to him, and he carefully prescribes how that day is to be kept.

Like the first three Commandments, this principle is part of how God is to be honored in the world he made. Unlike the whole system of laws about sacrifices, feast days, diets, and ceremonies, the Sabbath was not set up to teach about our redemption through the work of Christ. It was mandated even before sin came into the history of the human race. It is a demonstration of God’s continuing Lordship over all as the Creator of everything.

Since it is that important, it understandably becomes a prime target of Satan. He takes advantage of the weaknesses and greed of us fallen people. Every one of the Commandments is twisted around by making up excuses to disobey them. The Sabbath is openly challenged by many churches which reject its place as a guide for godly living in our present world.

Some theorize that the Sabbath was only for Israel, that it was never intended for the church. Those who divide up God’s plan like that, attack his unchangeable decree for the ages. They assume that his purposes changed depending upon human decisions and rebellion.

Some misunderstand how it was that Jesus fulfilled all of God’s law. He fulfilled the law’s demands by paying the price demanded in our place when he died on the Cross. He also fulfilled the perfection of the law by obeying it perfectly. He fulfilled all that is needed for his people to be declared innocent based upon his death, and declared to be righteous because of his holy life as their representative. Nowhere are we told that Jesus came to eliminate the moral principles laid down at Creation. Jesus himself made this very clear in Matthew 5:17-20. Those who dismiss this 4th Commandment based upon the fulfillment argument are usually quite defensive about the other nine.

Part of the problem is the distorted way
this commandment is understood.

The word Sabbath is the Hebrew word shabat (שבת). It means to cease doing something.

It does not mean “seventh” as some seem to think. The word for seventh is shevi’im (שביעים). That word has a very different spelling and origin.

The word Shabbat does not mean the kind of rest where you recuperate or get your needed sleep. As a day of rest it does not mean that you should take it easy, sleep late, or get a good nap. The English word “rest” had a different meaning when the early translations were made.

One of the original meanings of the English word “rest” is the same as this Hebrew word. It means to cease. We still use the word rest that way in music notation. A rest symbol in a musical score does not mean the musician takes a nap or goes for a break. It means that the sound he was making stops for a specific count.

Certainly God was not tired out after his work of creation. He did not need to rest in that sense. In Genesis 2:3 it says that God “rested from all his work.” Today it is more literally translated that God “ceased from all his work.” The work he had been doing was that of creating things. When he finished he stopped creating. He rested, ceased from creating things. He did not take a vacation to get his strength back.

The expression Sabbath Day literally means “a day of ceasing”.

The 4th Commandment tells us what we
are to cease from doing on the Sabbath Day.

Exodus 20:9-10, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.”

The word for labor here is ‘avod (עבד). It is the normal word for the work we do to earn our provisions. In verse ten it means we are to stop doing what we were just commanded to do on the other six days in verse nine.

Labor is not a penalty of sin. It is what God directed us to do while we were still an unfallen race. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam to subdue the earth and to rule over it. This subduing and ruling means to make responsible use of it: to provide for our daily needs, and to act as God’s managers of the world to promote his glory.

Some try to excuse themselves from keeping Sabbath by saying that every day is the Lord’s Day. That sounds very pious, but it is not consistent with what God says. Certainly every moment belongs to him and must be used for his glory. It was God himself who set aside the Sabbath Day to be special from our other days of work.

God did not call us to become idle on the Sabbath Day.

The work you are to stop doing is that by which you earn your daily provisions. Your other moral duties continue on the Sabbath. There are three kinds of activities God specified to be done on the Sabbath. They are works of worship, works of necessity, and works of mercy.

We are to be busy with worship on the Sabbath.
The whole point of the Sabbath Principle is the honoring of our Creator in a special way. Worship involves many things that need to be done on the Sabbath. God commanded those who lead as Elders to be very busy on that day. However, their work was never considered labor in Patriarchal times, in God’s law, or in the New Testament church. They serve God’s Kingdom, and are supported from the tithes of those under their care. (That is a point taken up in our study of the 8th Commandment.)

The same is true for the worshipers. It is not labor to do all that is needed to go to church. God commands the gathering of his people under the Elders for worship on the Sabbath Day. It is a direct violation of this Sabbath Principle to use rest and recuperation as excuses to sleep in on Sundays, or to go fishing so that you neglect coming to church.

Works of necessity should continue on the Sabbath.
These are the things needed to preserve life. God’s word shows that it is expected of us on the Lord’s Day to feed and care for our families, house-guests, and animals. We are to defend against lawbreakers, and save those in danger. The things we think we need to make life more enjoyable or relaxing are not necessities of life.

Jesus illustrated these provisions of the Sabbath Principle in Matthew 12:1-8. The corrupted religious leaders accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the Sabbath when they picked grain to eat while walking through a field. Jesus explained that eating and preparing food was never forbidden by God. It is wrong to buy food, or to sell meals or foods on the Sabbath, but it’s not wrong to prepare meals for yourself, and for the guests in your home.

It is also our obligation to keep the peace by protecting against crime and aggression. We are not to close police stations, or to give our armed forces a day off.

We do not cease from our kitchen work, let criminals run loose, or leave crashed cars dangerously scattered on roads until Monday. To avoid buying on the Sabbath, you can prepare before Sabbath comes. Be sure your car is gassed up, and your refrigerator and cupboards are supplied adequately. Peacekeeping agencies should avoid doing routine office work on the Sabbath, while they continue to protect the population against illegal activity. Even churches should do their regular office work on the other six days and restrict Sabbath activity to what is necessary to carry out proper worship.

The Sabbath should be a day for doing works of mercy.
These are activities that show our compassion and love for the truly needy. This includes helping or comforting the lonely, sick and infirm, or rescuing those in danger. Hospitals and nursing care centers do not close down all day on Sundays, and hope those under their care survive until Monday.

In Matthew 12:10-14 Jesus used an example to show that mercy was never forbidden in God’s Sabbath law. No one was expected to leave sheep that fall into a pit to suffer and die on the Sabbath. In Luke 13:12-17 he said that we do not stop caring for our ox or donkey because it is the Sabbath. In both passages Jesus was being criticized for healing someone on the Sabbath Day. There are emergencies that come up which ought to be taken care of.

These activities stand in contrast with our regular labor by which we earn our living. It’s that work that is forbidden on the Sabbath Day. To do it is open rebellion, and disregards one of God’s most basic commands.

The employer, not the worker, bears the greater responsibility for Sabbath. In Egypt, Israel was held as a nation of slaves. They were not permitted to keep the Sabbath holy. God held their captors and taskmasters guilty. For that they paid a heavy price. Workers should do their best not to work on the Sabbath. If they are required to do so by threats, the employer faces God’s judgment for this sin.

The Commandment holds you responsible if you cause others to break the Sabbath. Verse 10 of the commandment in Exodus 20 says, “… In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.”

It is your duty to see that all those you care for, host, or pay to serve you, keep the Sabbath Day holy to the best of your ability. This applies to your children, your servants (all those you hire to work for you, those you pay to serve you), even the animals you might use to get your work done, and any guest who is staying with you.

We should not support Sabbath labor that is performed for our own pleasure, rest, or personal gain. This was always the practice of God’s people until very recent times. The Reformers suffered greatly for opposing businesses being open on the Lord’s Day.

The rise of radically dispensationalized theologies have denied God’s continuing moral principles. They encourage people to violate this Sabbath Principle by paying others to work for them, or to serve them with pay on Sundays.

As much as it goes against our modern culture and the accepted practices in some churches, paying others to work for you when you go to restaurants, professional sports games, commercial tourist attractions, or stores to shop on the Lord’s Day is wrong, even if it is to take advantage of special sales or promotions. If all believers in Christ stopped paying others to serve them or to sell to them on Sundays, many businesses would find it more profitable to be closed on the Lord’s Day.

The reason for the Sabbath is to honor God as our Creator.

The Creation Sabbath is often confused with the Levitical Sabbaths.
The Levitical Sabbaths were set up under Moses as temporary holy days for Israel. They were about God’s plan to redeem us from sin and its devastating effects. The ceasing they promised was from the dominion and corruption of sin.

The Creation Sabbath is very different in God’s word. It was set up even before sin entered the human race. It was to be a ceasing from our labors to remember God as Creator for one day each week. It was not given to just one nation. There were no nations then. It was mandated to Adam as the representative of the whole human race.

Right after God created all things, he declared the Sabbath principle in Genesis 2:1-3, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

In those first moments after creation was completed, God set our calendar in motion with a seven day cycle which was to last all through history. The seven day week is the basic time structure God gave us. It should govern all schedules. For one whole day, after every 6 days of work, we are to stop to honor our Creator.

What day of the week did God set aside? Saturday? Sunday?
The problem with that question is that there was no calendar with named week days back then. That came much later in human history. Even in today’s Hebrew language the days of the week are numbered, not named. The week begins with the Day One, and after that Day Two, and so on. After Day Six, the next day is not called Day Seven, but Shabbat, the day of ceasing.

There is no way of knowing which day of our present week the original Sabbath Day first fell upon. It was not until the time of the Roman Calendar, shortly before the Birth of Jesus, that the Jews fixed the Sabbath to what we call Saturday. Before the time of Moses, for thousands of years, people worked for 6 days, then stopped for one day to honor God. There was no other God-given calendar.

After the Exodus, God added Ceremonial Sabbaths along with the Creation Sabbath.
These Ritual Sabbaths taught about the rest God’s people would one day have in Christ, the ceasing of sin’s dominion. They represented the liberty believers will have by being set free from guilt at the Cross.

In that ritual system, according to Leviticus 23, there was a double Sabbath once each year. After two days of not working, the 7-Day Cycle would start up again. They would expect to work 6 days before they again stopped on the 7th. This means that if the Sabbath was on what we today would call Saturday one year, it would shift to Sunday for a year. Then when the double Sabbath came it would shift to Monday for the following year, and so on. If it did not shift, they would have only worked 5 days between Sabbaths that week. That would have directly violated God’s law that required 6 work days between Sabbaths.

The Rabbis actually were rejecting the calendar of Moses when they fixed the Jewish Sabbath to the Roman Saturday long after the Old Testament had been completed. God only allowed that corruption to last for a short time.

Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the Roman week.
For the first time in history God assigned the Sabbath to one specific calendar day, Sunday.

The 4th Commandment is not about those redemptive Levitical Sabbaths. At Mt. Sinai there was no call to do something new, but to “remember” the Sabbath, to “keep” it holy. Obviously he was talking about a day the people already knew and were honoring prior to the later giving of the Levitical laws and calendar. God made it holy from the beginning in Eden. He set that day aside as special. It was clearly based upon Creation, not upon the need for redemption which became the focus after the fall of humanity.

The Commandment as recorded in Exodus 20:11 makes this purpose very clear. It says, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

When Jesus fulfilled everything the Ritual Sabbaths of the Levitical Period illustrated, their purpose was completed and they were no longer binding upon anyone. However, the purpose of the Creation Sabbath continues as long as creation exists.

This is what Paul was referring to in Colossians 2:16-17 where he said, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” This comment was about the end of the Levitical Ritual Sabbaths. They were the Sabbaths that were a shadow of what Christ would do. The weekly Creation Sabbath was to remember Creation, not the coming of the Messiah.

Once that redemption was accomplished at the cross, the church started gathering for weekly Sabbath worship on Sundays. The change was to remember the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. That marked a new start for the 7-day cycle. It did not end that cycle.

The Apostles appointed by Jesus directed the New Testament Church to meet on the first day of the week for Sabbath worship. We see this practice in effect in several passages in the New Testament.

Early records from the first centuries of the church confirm that this apostolic practice continued.

Ignatius of Antioch (who personally knew the Apostles) said, Christians were, “no longer observing the seventh day, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day,…”

Justin Martyr said, “the day called Sunday is an assembly of all who live either in cities or in rural districts … because Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead upon it.”

It is not a minor thing to make excuses to break this 4th Commandment.

When people abandon the Sabbath, or just celebrate it for a few hours on Sunday mornings, they miss the blessings God promises that go along with honoring him in his way.

When you reclaim God’s ways and honor the Sabbath for one whole seventh of your life, you will find greater peace and happiness than the world can ever understand, greater satisfaction than if you took God’s time and spent it on yourself.

Honor your Creator, your Redeemer — even in the management of your time. Love him without limits. It is always best to enjoy his promises in the way he prescribes. When you do, God is honored, and his promised covenant blessings are advanced in your life.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

A Most Special Name

A Most Special Name

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 53-56)
(watch the video for an expanded commentary)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

It has always been one of Satan’s tactics to make wrong things seem acceptable. In our imperfect condition we are often very willing to go along with the deception. We tend to pay more attention to our own comforts and pleasures, than to why we are here as those God created for a special purpose in his Creation.

Since we are all heirs of Adam’s corrupt nature, we tend to think of God in terms of what we selfishly want him to be, instead of what he is and reveals about himself in his word. Other interests become the real gods of our lives. We also tend to look for satisfaction of our wants in things we can see, instead of trusting in the invisible but very real God who is behind it all. Images and objects we make can distort the way God himself teaches us to worship him. These principles are summed up in the first two commandments.

The Third Commandment is about how seriously we should take all our mentions of God. Question 53 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism quotes from Deuteronomy 20:7, the wording of the Third Commandment.

Deuteronomy 20:7, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

Sadly, this commandment, like all the others, is often misunderstood.

First, we need to understand what it means
by the “name of the LORD our God”.

There are two words used here; LORD and God.

1. The word LORD translates the Hebrew name “Jehovah”, YHVH (יהוה). It’s often referred to as the “Tetragrammaton” which means “four letters”.
Instead of using the word “Jehovah” many translators used the all upper case word “LORD”. There is a very ancient tradition behind this. In ancient times, the Israelites did not want the sacred name of God to be read carelessly. When readers came across the four sacred consonants (the Tetragrammaton) they would say the Hebrew word Adonai (אדוני), which means “Lord”. At a later time when vowels were added to the written language, the vowel markers for Adonai were adjusted to fit into the letters “YHVH” giving us the word “Yehovah”. When the Bible was later translated into the Germanic languages the sound “Y” was represented by the letter “J”. This is how the common English word “Jehovah” was born. A closer pronunciation to the original name of God would be “Yahveh”.

When Israel was set up as a modern nation after World War 2, a lot of research went into restoring the ancient Hebrew pronunciation. More accurate research in the field of Orthoepy shows that the ancient Hebrew pronunciation was probably “yăh-VĔH”. (See: “Ben-Yehuda’s English-Hebrew Hebrew-English Dictionary” first printed in 1961 based upon the pronunciation guide in the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary” of 1947, 1951 – “Conversation Manual: Hebrew” a Living Language Course text book first printed in 1958, and “Hebrew in 10 Minutes a Day” by Sunset Series printed in 1992. Article at “Hebrew for Christians” about pronouncing this name of God. Watch the video on the pronunciation of “vav” as opposed to “wow” by Nehemia Gordon.)

In the New Testament the Holy Spirit led the writers to use the Greek word for “Lord” when the Tetragrammaton appeared in the Old Testament texts they were quoting. The Greek word “Lord” is “kurios” (κύριος). For example, Jesus in Matthew3:3 said “Lord” (kurios) when quoting Isaiah 40:3 where the Tetragrammaton appears. The same word was used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:29 when quoting Isaiah 1:9. In each case where this covenant name in verses from the Old Testament are quoted in the New Testament the Holy Spirit led the writers to use this Greek word for “Lord”. This is how the God-Inspired writers taught us to handle the Tetragrammaton.

This name is combined in the Bible with others words that describe God. They were used as if they were descriptive titles. He’s called:
YHVH Yir’eh [Jireh] (יהוה יראה) “The LORD will provide” Genesis 22:14
YHVH Nissi (יהוה נסי) “The LORD my banner” Exodus 17:15
YHVH Shalom (יהוה שׁלום) “The LORD is peace” Judges 6:24
YHVH Shammah (יהוה שׁמה) “The LORD is there” Ezekiel 48:35
YHVH Tsid-kenu (יהוה צדקנו) “The LORD our righteousness” Jeremiah 23:6, 33:16
YHVH Tse-va’ot (יהוה צבאות) “The LORD of hosts” 1 Samuel 1:11

2. The word God translates the Hebrew word El (אל).
The plural of that word is Elohim (אלוהים). This form is often called the “Majestic Plural” because it was used to show things of grandeur and wonder. The word for “heaven” and other such words are usually found written in this same Majestic Plural form.

He is called El Shaddai, which means “God Almighty”. In Isaiah 9:6 he is called, “… Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Sometimes God is called Lord in the Old Testament, using the Hebrew word, Adon (אדן), or Adonai (אדוני).

In the New Testament the common word for “God” is Theos (Θεος). He is also called “Lord” using the Greek word Kurios (κυριος). Our Savior was given name Jesus Iaesous (Ιησους). In his own language of Aramaic his name was Yeshuah (ישוע). It would be brought into English by using the name Joshua.

The title of “Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos (Χριστος), which means “the Anointed one”, like the Hebrew Old Testament word Messiah.

It would be wrong to limit this Third Commandment to only these words. God himself expanded on what his name is in Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

Martin Luther called this verse in Exodus, “God’s own commentary on his name.” The name of God includes all the perfections and judgments that identify him. The commandment is not just about particular titles or proper nouns. It applies to all our references to him, and to whatever words we use to represent him as we speak.

God’s name must not be use in vain.

Before we can understand the teaching of this commandment, we also need to understand what it means to take up something in “vain”.

The most obvious offense to this moral principle is when people speak of God with open anger or disrespect. Blasphemy is when people show anger toward God, ridicule him, or degrade him in some way. Some angrily blame God for the wrongs they see in our world. However, that is not all this commandment forbids. The original Hebrew word translated “vain” is shav’ (שוא). It means to use something carelessly, without meaning, or thoughtlessly.

Today it has become very acceptable and common to use God’s name this way. His name is disrespected if it is use as an expletive. That is when people use his name to express their emotions. They use his name when they are surprised, frustrated, or hurt themselves. They might say things like, “Oh my God!” or “My Lord!” Or they blurt out the name of “Jesus”, or the word “Christ” when they are shocked about something.

In situations like this they are not really addressing God or Jesus. Most times it is just a habit, something people pick up because they hear it so much. They say, “Oh, I’m not being disrespectful. I don’t mean anything by it.” That is exactly what this commandment is forbidding.

God’s name, all the words that identify him or describe him, are not to be used carelessly or without thought or meaning. It degrades and offends him. It violates this Third Commandment.

There are many ways this commandment is broken every day.

One way this moral principle is violated is in profanity. The word “profane” means to treat something sacred as if it was common, or not important. It is when holy things relating to God and his work are degraded as if they were not special.

God alone is holy and all glory should go to him. People speak of “holy cows,” but they do not really mean that the cows are actually sanctified or set aside as special to God. They exclaim “Heavens!” or “for heaven’s sake”, but certainly they are not thinking about God’s place of glory. When they use those words without thinking of their awe, holiness, and glory, they are being used vainly. These are not to be treated as common things. They are things that should humble us before our Maker.

People might laugh at such an idea, objecting, “what could possibly be wrong with such innocent expressions?” They say, “Nobody really means anything by them.”

That’s exactly the point. God wants us to speak of him with thought and respect. His name and the words that describe what he is and does are holy. They should never be used in vain, carelessly, or without meaning.

The commandment also forbids vulgarity. Every language and culture has acceptable ways to describe normal things. They also develop crude, distasteful words for the same things. Every believer needs to avoid words that are offensive and in bad taste. These words degrade things God made for honorable purposes.

Vulgarity includes those words that are obscene. That means they offend with excessive immodesty or sexual indecency. God created us male and female to have children, and to love each other for life. That is the model God uses to show our relationship to Jesus Christ as his bride. Therefore it is wrong to use crude words about our sexual relationships.

Today, society is confused about the proper way to satisfy normal and good desires, so it perverts them into degrading offenses against God’s law and human respectability. Foul terms and descriptions fill music, movies, books, radio, video games, and TV programs. They even get into a child’s or teen’s vocabulary. They show disrespect for what God designed to be good and honoring to him.

This commandment forbids cursing. Cursing is when a person dares to call down God’s judgment upon someone or something. Damnation is a prerogative unique to God. Words like “hell” and “damn” are serious biblical words about the horrible consequences of sin. Only God has the right to pronounce eternal judgments and condemnations.

When people use words like that in anger, to impress others, or they just stick them in sentences meaninglessly, they degrade this fearsome penalty of sin, and trivializes God’s judgments.

People say, “It’s just a habit, I don’t mean anything by it.” That is exactly what this commandment forbids. Cursing, is when someone speaks about God’s wrath and judgment in a vain, thoughtless way.

Another area we need to be careful about is humor. Everyone appreciates a good joke. There is a lot to laugh about in God’s world. However, we need to show good judgment in not letting ourselves laugh at God or at what is holy.

Jokes about hell should not be thought of as funny if we appreciate the horror and reality of it. People would not think of making jokes about those who died in the 9/11 attacks, or the victims of a serial killer, or a child molester. It is considered bad taste to make light of things like that in jokes. But there is no greater horror than what people will face in the final judgment. To laugh at heaven, hell, Satan and eternal judgment is crude and blasphemous.

The world makes it popular to ridicule or satirize God and holy things. That sense of humor should not be acceptable to God’s people.

Of course they say, “Come on, where’s your sense of humor. We don’t mean anything by it.” Again, that is exactly what this commandment forbids. We should never make meaningless references to God and his glory. When people profane God’s name and glory, they become Satan’s unwitting accomplices.

Most surprisingly, sometimes God’s name is used in vain in worship. It is so easy to let our minds wander while our mouths keep on speaking or singing. People sing of the glories of Jesus and of God’s power, or recite creeds, while they think about their schedules, the temperature of the room, how their hair looks, or what somebody else is thinking or doing during worship.

No one should say God’s name as an empty, vain repetition. Yet, it happens in the gathering of the churches every Sunday during their times of worship. Do not be busy in your mind with your schedule, plans, or some little project while you speak or sing about God’s glory.

Our children also need to be taught to pay attention to God’s honor during worship. They should not be just entertained or kept distracted in church while worship is going on. They need to learn how to sing the hymns at a very young age. Encourage them to pay attention to the words and to listen to the sermon. Teach them to join in praying for the needs of the church, and to see themselves as a part of the family of God gathered together for this special purpose.

One idea is to have them try to draw something the pastor mentions or teaches. Use the drawings later to talk about the sermon topic. This will encourage them to broaden their attention span. Later they can graduate to writing down the main points of a sermon, or the ways it can apply to things they see or struggle with in their own lives.

We all need to be careful not to use God’s name in vain while in worship. We need to pay attention to everything said and sung.

The Commandment shows us how serious this matter is to our God.

It says, “the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain”

Did you notice the effects this has upon our children when this principle is mentioned in Exodus 34? When God explained his name to Moses, he said he is “by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

What the little ones hear around home and from adults will shape their own way of speaking. This is why it says this sin stays with offending families from generation to generation.

To please the God who made us, and who loves us in Christ, we should never take up his name in an empty, vain, or meaningless way. we should never degrade holy things or speak lightly of what God uses to display his truth and glory. The names of God represent what he makes known to us about himself. So to disgrace his name is to disgrace him.

On the positive side, we ought to honor God’s name.

Psalm 19:14 teaches us to speak of God very carefully. It says, “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (KJV)

As a believer, you bear God’s name in all you say and do. You were baptized into the name of the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is your duty to bear God’s name well. We are called “Christians”, the “People of God”, “Christ’s Church”. What the world sees in you, should be evidence of the power and wonder of Christianity.

You bring dishonor to his name if you speak frivolously, using God’s name in a vain way, or if you contradict what God’s name stands for by your attitudes, words, and actions. Along with offending God, you bring spiritual and moral disaster to yourself and to those you say you love.

It is sad if those who have the power of the living Christ in their lives, live as if he was not there. They are convinced by those around them that to appear to be assertive, confident, and grown-up they should use crude language. By trading in their moral convictions to get the world’s acceptance they show themselves to be weak and very immature. To use words about God, or about his works and glory in an empty way, is a criminal act against our Creator and Redeemer.

We are put here in this world, and given life, resources, and health to represent God as his ambassadors. When we live honorably, reflecting the words and work of Christ, our humble gratitude toward our God and Savior honors his name.

We are the light of the world. We need to make sure that our conversation does not dim that light. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus said, “Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (KJV)

In Matthew 6:9, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught you to pray, “hallowed be thy name.” “To hallow” means to set something aside as special, to mark it out as holy. Pray that God’s name is not taken up in vain: neither in profanity, nor in the careless use of it. Pray that God’s people will display the honor of his name by using it respectfully and often. Pray that the glory of all that his name represents will be proclaimed faithfully by you and others to your neighbors, friends and daily contacts.

When you appreciate all that God’s name includes,
it stirs you to love and to honor him more.

Right after God proclaimed his name to Moses In Exodus 34:6-7, the next verse describes how Moses responded. It says in Exodus 34:8, “So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.”

The 23rd Psalm says that God leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. This is why he gives us life and calls us to love him. Our obedience honors his name because we represent him to the world.

When you live obediently, God is served well, you promote his glory, and you grow spiritually. God promises great benefit for using his name honorably. You will reap the great blessings that God attaches to spiritual obedience.

It is an awesome privilege to be able to take up God’s name in ways that honor him. When you do, his grace is at work in you. You grow in Christ, and enjoy his blessings. Use God’s name as often as you can, but use it with meaning and respect. Be a beacon of light in this dark world.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)