The Gospel Project – Sermon Outline
Sermons in this series
Title: God Speaks and Makes Known His Design
Scriptures: Exodus 20:1-17
Connection to Unit Theme: God has spoken through His law to demonstrate His holiness and our sinfulness. Though the law cannot save us, it points us to the One who fulfilled it and through Whom we can have life.
When did God's law come into effect? We might be inclined to answer by saying, "At Sinai." In reality, however, God's law has always been in effect. God's law has always been in effect because God has always existed. His law is based on His divine character and nature and is simply a codified description of what life looks like when lived as God designed it to be. Between Eden and Heaven – the bookends of redemption history – God has graciously given His law to serve as a "schoolmaster" (Gal. 3), teaching us how He commands us to live, and showing us how far we fall short of His holy standard.
God initially gave His law to Moses as the Ten Commandments (literally, the "Ten Words"). Jesus boiled these Ten Commandments down into two overarching ones – love God exclusively with all that you are, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). That is a picture of God's divine design – man living in unhindered fellowship with God, which results in man living in unhindered fellowship with others. Because God is the God over all creation, His law is everywhere applicable. It is for those who live in America and Australia, Europe and South America, and everywhere in between. Everywhere God reigns, His law applies. Let's see how God's law both shows God's design for His world and how we fail to live according to it.
I – God's design is for man to be rightly related to Him (vv. 1-11)
God's law is often viewed as a list of things we should not do. If we look beyond the negative format of "Thou shalt not," however, we see the positive principle that demonstrates God's design for His world as He created it. "Thou shalt have no other gods," becomes "Worship God alone." "Thou shalt not take God's name in vain" becomes "Revere God's name as holy." To live our lives as God designed, God must have first place. If we get this wrong, nothing else in our lives will be rightly ordered.
God's law reminds us that He is not only holy, but also jealous, and rightly so. God's jealousy for His glory and preeminence is not like our selfish jealousy. His jealousy for His glory results in our good. There is nothing worthy of taking God's place as King in our lives. Anything, or anyone, else that we allow into that place is a lesser thing. And so, for His glory and our good, God commands first place - the place He, and only He, rightly deserves.
Application: Are you an idolater? That sounds like a harsh question. The reality is, we are all prone to idolatry. Though you may not make hand-carved idols or swear using God's name, we easily allow things in our lives to become ultimate for us. A good test is to look at your checkbook and your calendar. In many cases, the ways you spend your time and money will tell what is ultimate in your life. If you are allowing anything but God to have first place, everything else will be out of order as well. Ask God, by His grace, to help you live with Him in first place.
II – God's design is for man to be rightly related to others (vv.12-17)
When God has first place in our lives and we walk in complete surrender and obedience to Him as our King, our relationships with others flourish as well. This is not because of our personal effort to be a nice person to others. This is because God works in us to make us more like Him. Rather than having to be told, "Thou shalt not kill," we simply walk according to God's character and nature – "Show respect for innocent human life." Rather than having to be told not to commit adultery, we simply walk according to God's design, "Be faithful in all your relationships."
It is important to note again that these laws are not simply outdated cultural mores. These laws apply to all people in all places at all times. Since these laws reflect the character and nature of the eternal God who does not change, they are timeless and unchanging. Since God has created man in His image and reigns as sovereign King over all the earth, His law is everywhere applicable. You do not have to tell the man in an unreached tribe in the South American bush that it is wrong to kill or steal or lie. He knows this. Why? Because the almighty God who made him has written it upon his heart.
Application: Are you struggling in your relationships with others? If so, it is not ultimately an interpersonal problem but a spiritual problem. In order for us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must first love God with all that we are. My inclination to be jealous, angry, bitter, or unforgiving to my brother is an indication that God does not have first place in my life. Ask God to help you keep Him in first place, enabling you to love others as yourself.
God's law is a good gift from a good God. It stands as a strong reminder that none of us measure up to God's standard of holiness and righteousness (Ro. 3:10, 23). James reminds us, when compared to a standard of holiness, to be guilty at one point is the same as being guilty of all (Jas. 2:10). No amount of law-keeping can erase our points of failure. Therefore, what we need is for someone to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
That is precisely what Christ has done. Far from abolishing the law, Christ fulfilled it (Matt. 5:17). He then, as a lamb without spot and blemish, laid down His life for us and rose again so that in Him we might have forgiveness and life. In so doing, Christ, by His grace, empowers us to live life by God's design so that we reflect God's character and nature, bringing Him glory, the purpose for which He created us. For the believer, the Law is not an external standard we attempt to keep in our own power. It is a reminder of the character and nature of God, who, by His Spirit, is making us more and more like His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus.