Let me make it very clear at the beginning of this article: the Ten Commandments were not given to provide man with righteousness, happiness, holiness, or blessedness (salvation). A righteous standing before God has always been by faith, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ without the works of the Law.
God makes a declarative statement at the onset of the Ten Commandments when He says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3). Please consider with me the importance of this first commandment.
The Demands of God
The very first page of the Bible says: “In the beginning, God.” He is the One who created us, put us here on earth, and gave us our minds, ears, legs, voice, toes, and reasoning power. He is the One who enables us to enjoy life to its fullest and to have purpose in life. He is the One who created the whole world for us to oversee and enjoy. Everything you see in what is often called “nature” is the result of His creativity and handiwork.
Once I realize what God has done for me, I want to give my love and loyalty to Him. He is a jealous God and wants our praise, glory, and obedience.
“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.”—Deuteronomy 4:39
“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God”—Isaiah 44:6
God demands from each of us love (and
this is shown by our obedience to His commands), fear (Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God—Deuteronomy 6:13), and service.
We should make it our desire to find out all we can about this wonderful, holy, and all powerful God.
The Deviations from God
Just how do we deviate from this command to have “no other gods before” Him? After all, I don’t see any little idols being carried around and worshipped. Most of you reading this probably have no little idols sitting on your T V or elsewhere in your house. After all, we are not pagans! To trust in anything at all more than God, is to make it a god. To exalt anything above God is to dethrone Him and lift up an idol in your heart. However, there are two main idols that are carried by Christians every day:
This idol is bowed down to at an early age and followed all the way into adulthood. Which would you rather have on your running shoes, a plus mark, a question mark, or a checkmark? There are people who would kill if necessary to have name-brand shoes.
Your idol may be worshipped in the form of a car, house, an educational degree, clothing, hockey sticks (notice I didn’t say anything about golf clubs so I wouldn’t offend anyone!), furniture, computers and a million other possessions that can win over our hearts (Luke 12:15).
It has been said that if you want to find out what is really important to you, all you have to do is simply look at your checkbook. What would you see? Realizing Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” my wife and I decided years ago, to make sure that our treasure would be to the Lord each month. Think of what could be done for missions if everyone gave a tithe to church planting worldwide, as they do to the general fund.
For many, living is getting away where “we can really enjoy life.” That is okay every now and then, but when that becomes your consuming desire or regular habit, it’s terrible. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be gone from church a lot, knowing I am not causing any inconvenience to anyone. My greatest joy as a pastor was always preaching in my own pulpit. Every church member needs to be so involved in the ministry that on those rare occasions when you are gone over a weekend, a hole would be left (if you did not get a substitute which I know you would!).
Many people live for the beach, mountains, sports, recreation, and entertainment. While none of these things are wrong when taken in moderation, they can all become a god when they are more important than our service to God through our church.
Leslie Flynn wrote, “Some people live solely for a good time, pursuing an endless round of fun. Self-gratification is their deity. The god of pleasure thrives when material prosperity rises and moral standards decay. Sensuality and self-indulgence run rampant in our day.” The Bible even points out that if we overeat and overindulge with our appetite, we make a god out of our belly, “…whose god is their belly…” (Philippians 3:19).
In the words of William Cowper:
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Now will I tear it from its throne,
And worship only Thee.
The first commandment leaves no doubt concerning the position God wants in our lives. He demands our first allegiance. He will not play second fiddle. He commands, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Let us give Him His rightful place in our lives!