A few years ago on a Friday night, when I was serving as the high school pastor at Hebron Church, I stopped by the home of one of the families in our church. A group of about ten high school boys were staying at that house all weekend for DiscipleNow.
The parents of the home and another couple from our church were leading Bible studies with the guys, challenging them to be courageous warriors for Christ, to live a life of holiness and godliness in every way.
As I walked into the house, the adult who was leading the Bible study (a friend of mine named Scott) asked me, “So Derek, what is commandment #3?” Immediately I recognized that he was asking me about the ten commandments, but I had never memorized them by number. I shrugged my shoulders to say, “I’m not sure.”
Then he turned to one of the boys in the group: “What’s commandment #3?” The answer came back immediately: “Do not use the Lord’s name in vain.” Wow. That was right. He asked the group: “What’s #6?” A hand went up to answer: “Do not murder.” These boys know the Bible. How do they know the commandments so well?
My friend Scott Smith had taught them a simple strategy for knowing the ten commandments: draw a picture that reminds you of that commandment. The reason is clear: to obey God’s Word you must first know God’s Word. On that night, I was taught how to remember the ten commandments and those pictures have never left my mind.
The Ten Commandments Instruct Us
God’s Words instructs us. Throughout the Bible we learn about God and about people. We learn what to believe and what not to believe, what to do and what not to do. The ten commandments are one of those lists in the Bible that give us clear instructions for living. You can read them in Exodus 20. Here they are in simplified terms:
- Put God first.
- Do not have any idols.
- Do not use the Lord’s name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.
- Honor your mother and father.
- Do not murder.
- Do not commit adultery.
- Do not steal.
- Do not lie.
- Do not covet.
God’s Word gives us instruction for living. A person who orders his life in line with God’s Word will be living a life that honors God. A city and a nation that aligns its laws in line with God’s Word will be blessed by the Lord. God’s Word is the right way even when it’s not the easy way or the popular way. No matter what a city or nation may do, individual Christ-followers must be committed to living their lives in accordance with God’s Word.
The Ten Commandments Convict Us
When we consider God’s Word, we will realize that we have not kept the ten commandments perfectly. We have dishonored our parents at times. We have used the Lord’s name in ways that are less than holy. We have allowed things to become idols in our lives. We have coveted other people’s stuff. We have lied. We have put other things before us and God, making those things (or even us) the gods of our lives. Jesus reminds us in the Gospels that hatred and lust are sins of murder and adultery in the heart.
And the truth of the matter is that if we had only committed one sin, we would have been guilty as a law-breaker.
10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.
We have messed up. God’s Word convicts us that we are sinners. We need forgiveness. We need salvation. We need Jesus.
The Ten Commandments Point Us To Our Need For Christ
Jesus perfectly kept God’s laws. He obeyed God 100% of the time. He obeyed in word, in thought and in deed. When He was asked what was the greatest commandment, He summarized all of the commandments of the Bible into two: love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:34-40).
1 Peter 3:18
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
24 The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. 25 But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Jesus forgives you of being a law-breaker. He sets you right with God. He empowers you for holy, godly living, in accordance with His Word. He gives you the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
1 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, 2 because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The solution to keeping the ten commandments is not in trying harder. The way to keep God’s Word is by trusting in Christ. Trusting in Him first for salvation, and then trusting in Him daily for guidance in daily life.
If you will keep Jesus’ words from Matthew 22 in mind — love God with everything you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself — you will fulfill the whole law. Trust in Christ. Follow Him daily.
And use the pictures to remind you of the ten commandments.