The Ten Commandments are receiving quite a bit of press these days in the United States. There have been multiple confrontations related to their display in a variety of places from courthouses to schoolhouses. The controversy has yielded heated debate between supporters and detractors. It is interesting to observe the way many people in our contemporary culture bristle at the idea of divine directives given to guide the way we live our lives. People are asking questions about the law of God, and what, if any, impact it has on them. Not much has changed….
Jesus was questioned about these same issues. When facing a group of His detractors, He also was grilled about the law of God.
“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.’” Matthew 22:35-37 (NKJV)
Jesus cuts right through the “testing” and gets to the heart of the matter. The way that I relate properly to the law of God is to first love the God of the law with all of my heart, with all of my soul, and with all of my mind. He is to be the singular focus of my worship. If I can get that right, by His grace I can live my life right. I can live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. That is worship.
This challenge to put my affection for God and my devotion to God at the center of my life is critical. Worship is to be for God and God alone. He alone is worthy of worship.
God has communicated this to us from the beginning. Even in the giving of the same Ten Commandments that are at issue today, He said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” Exodus 20:2, 3 (NKJV).
To further clarify this point, the Bible records several things that are identified as wrong objects of worship.
- Other gods – Exodus 34:14
- Hosts of heaven – Deuteronomy 17:2, 3
- Demons – Deuteronomy 32:16, 17
- Images – Daniel 3:14-18
- Man – Acts 10:25, 26
- Creatures – Romans 1:24, 25
- Satan and the Antichrist – Revelation 13:4, 8
For those of us involved in church and ministry, these may appear to be obvious wrong objects of worship. But that does not mean that we are incapable of having “other gods” even in our own lives. Affection for money, fame, power, relationships, sports, media, music, and even ministry are among the myriad of things that can crowd out worship for God and God alone.
If I can get that right, by His grace I can live my life right. I can live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. That is worship.
I once visited a Hindu temple in the city of Jaipur (North India). I recall walking into this beautiful structure with marble floors and intricate carvings of some of the millions of gods worshiped in India. As I stood in the back with my Indian friend, Trevor, I watched as the Hindu worshipers entered the temple. They came in reverently and began to bow as they approached the idol in the front of the temple.
It was heart-breaking to see them kneel before the idol and say their prayers. They would leave a few rupees in the offering plate in front of the idol and reverently make their way back out of the temple.
I asked Trevor, “Do these people believe that this idol is really a god, or just the representation of a god?” Trevor said, “No, they believe that the idol is actually their god. And sometimes when they pray and their prayers are not answered, they will beat their foreheads against the base of the idol trying to get the god’s attention.” How tragic to see these people crying out to a god that cannot even hear them.
That is why the words of Jesus to the lawyer (and to us) in Matthew 22 are not simply expressions of the essence of law. They are expressions of the essence of life. Our only hope of life abundant is found when the singular focus of our worship is God and God alone. To love the Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind must be the priority of our worship.
So, the next time you see a newspaper article or a television report concerning the Ten Commandments, let it be a reminder of what Jesus calls “the first and great commandment.” Our lives are to be lived out in worship for God and God alone.
This article is part of Discipleship Ministries' 2021 emphasis on Worship.
What's coming up next?
Tuesday, February 16th, at 6:00 CST, Bishop Tommy McGhee is hosting a webinar with Trés Ward and Dr. Wes Tuttle to talk more about the emphasis. The webinar will release on Facebook at this link.
Dr. Wes Tuttle is an accomplished worship leader, musician, and songwriter. Dr. Tuttle’s songs have been recorded by influential worship leaders like Don Moen, Paul Wilbur, Bob Fitts, John Chisum, Aline Barros, Robin Mark, Juanita Bynum and Judy Jacobs. Wes is an ordained minister and holds an A.A. in Music and a B.A. in Religion from Emmanuel College. He holds an M.A. in Counseling from Liberty University and a M.A.R. with a concentration in Cross-cultural studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Liberty Theological Seminary.