Sermon: The CROSS and the COMMANDMENTS

In meeting with a group of church members in 2012, I asked which sermons they remembered.  This sermon was on the top of the list.

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“The Cross and the Commandments”

Thomas B. Cundiff

March 14, 2010

 

Exodus 20: 1-7

Romans 13: 8-10

Matthew 22: 36-40

 

 

Exodus 20: 1-17

 

1Then God spoke all these words:   2I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  3you shall have no other gods before me.  4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.   5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the  thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.   7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.  8Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.  12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  13You shall not murder.  14You shall not commit adultery.   15You shall not steal.   16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.   17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

 

 

Romans 13: 8-10

 

8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

 

Matthew 22: 36-40

 

36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

 


 

  1. INTRODUCTION

 

Once a year during Lent, the Old Testament scripture takes us to the powerful and timeless TEN COMMANDMENTS.  These commandments were given to Israel right after they entered the wilderness.  These commandments then and now are road maps that help us move forward in living our lives in relationship with God.

 

There was a pastor who used to give members of the church an orientation to the TEN COMMANDMENTS by drawing on a piece of newsprint a stair case — complete with ten steps……each step represented one of the ten commandments.    At the top of these steps was the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.  The implication was clear: One would need to travel through life, faithfully following ALL the commandments, in order to get to KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.  This pastor would often try to “stump” the members of the church by asking the question:

 

HOW MANY OF YOU FOLLOW ALL

TEN COMMANDMENTS?

 

One or two people would usually raise their hand.   Of course this is a trick!  Who is perfect?  Don’t we all, from time to time, fall short in keeping God’s commands?

 

The truth:  following the commandments as steps to get into heaven is  BAD THEOLOGY.  It is much better to look at the TEN COMMANDMENTS as ethical guidelines on the road map of life leading toward the Kingdom of Heaven – that a series of specific steps.

 

The bottom line:  The TEN COMMANDENTS are important ethical and moral guides to help is in living our lives.  It isn’t until God gave us his only Son, Jesus, that we come to fully understand what these commandments mean.

 

 

There is another preacher[1]  who asks:

 

WHY DO WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?  ISN’T THAT OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE?  AFTER ALL, WE ARE NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANS!

 

Three short points in addressing this question:[2]

 

  1. First…. the Ten Commandments are to be interpreted through Christ, who teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God and one’s neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-39)

 

  1. Second….Paul teaches in Romans 13: 8-10 that the person who truly loves the neighbor fulfills all that God commands in regard to other persons.  His words in Romans 13 are that the commandments, ‘do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,’ and Paul adds, ‘be it any commandment whatsoever,’ they are all comprehended in this commandment, ‘you should love your neighbor as yourself.’

 

  1. Third….‘love does no evil to the neighbor, and so is love the fulfillment of the law.’ — These are words we always need to remember when we think about the Ten Commandments.   We find the Ten Commandments, the essence of all ten, scattered throughout the New Testament.

 

Thesis:  To put this as simply as possible:  we must look at the Ten Commandments as relational: how we relate to neighbor and how we relate to God. 

 

The anchor for us in the Christian community is the fact that God always loves us and through the cross of Jesus offers us forgiveness.   This is not to say that the Ten commandments aren’t helpful when we need to find ‘hooks’ or ways in which to hang our shortcomings as we travel on various journeys throughout life – including this journey through Lent.  We don’t want to (nor can we) throw out the Ten Commandments.  They contain valuable lessons for life that are worth thinking about.

 

But it is the summary of the law that bring us to the cross of Jesus and his suffering and dying – the ultimate gesture of God’s love for us!

 

 

The best way to describe the blending of the Ten Commandments with Jesus summary of these commandments”

 

THE TEN BECOME TWO

 

The first four commandments focus on “REVERANCE FOR GOD – LOVE FOR GOD”.

 

          1.      YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME

          2.      DO NOT WORSHIP IDOLS

          3.      DO NOT TAKE THE NAME OF GOD IN VAIN

          4.      REMEMBER THE SABBATH.

 

The last six commandments, no less demanding, focus on what Jesus teaches is LOVE OF NEIGHBOR..

 

          5.      HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER

          6.      DO NOT KILL

          7.      DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY

          8.      DO NOT STEAL

          9.      DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS

          10.    DO NOT COVET.

 

One of the neat things in blending the TEN COMMANDMENTS with Jesus summary of the law:   THEY FIT PERFECTLY IN OUR UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF THE CROSS OF JESUS!

 

  1. The Cross of Love

 

There is a wonderful connection between God’s covenant with Moses, the Ten Commandments, and Jesus’ giving us a great NEW COMMANDMENT.  The commandment of love can be easily visualized in looking at the Cross of Jesus.

 

THE VERTICAL PLANE OF THE CROSS:

YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.

 

THE HORIZONTAL PLANE OF THE CROSS:

YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.  — THE HORIZONTAL PLANE OF THE CROSS.

 

ON THESE TWO COMMANDMENTS REST ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS.  (MATT. 22: 36-40)

 

  1. Conclusion

 

Throughout this season of Lent we have been thinking about the cross of Jesus.  Next week you will hear from each other YOUR reflections on the meaning of the cross.   In the coming weeks we will sing hymns like:

 

THE OLD RUGGED CROSS

WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD

WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS

BENEATH THE CROSS OF JESUS

 

In all of our worship we invite you to gaze upon the cross remembering the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Great Commandment.

 

We invite you to think about your relationship with God as you gaze upon the cross – God reaching down to embrace each of us and love us as we reach up to God in worship and praise.[3]

 

We invite you to think about your relationship with friends and family as you gaze upon the cross – the arms of Jesus reaching out to embrace all of our neighbors.[4]

 

Finally, we hope these biblical directives, the Ten Commandments and Jesus summary of the law, the law of LOVE, will remind us each and every day of the redeeming power of God known to us through the living Christ….Christ alive with us and in us.

 

We stand beneath the Cross of Jesus, knowing that God will always embrace us and love us love.

 

May God continue to bless us all.

 

AMEN

 

 

[1]  Sermon preached at the Westminister Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Jnuary 29, 2006.

[2]   Ibid

 

[3]   From the Mission Statement  REACHING UP TO GOD IN WORSHIP AND PRAISE

[4]   Also from our Mission Statement:  REACHING OUT TO OTHERS…..

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