Born to Win Podcast - with Ronald L. Dart
Summary: Born to Win's Daily Radio Broadcast and Weekly Sermon. A production of Christian Educational Ministries.
It is a quirk of human nature that we don’t like to do as we are told. I have heard it said that you can surround a kid with toys, but tell him there is one toy he must not touch. Leave the room, they say, and he will go straight to that toy. I do know that Adam and Eve were just fine with a hundred trees in the Garden of Eden, but there was one tree there they were to leave strictly alone. If I read the story right, they went straight to that tree and ate, when they could have eaten of the Tree of Life and lived forever. We are still paying for that mistake. It might be helpful to remember this when reading the Bible. Because it won’t be long before you encounter the Law of God. And there is a funny thing about the Law. For the most part, compliance is entirely voluntary. Sure, there are some exceptions when you enter society. For example, the law prohibiting murder is not voluntary, and the civil authority could take the murderer’s life. But laws like you shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn were purely voluntary. There was no one tasked with enforcing these laws or writing out tickets. The law of tithing is another instance. It was the Law of God—but compliance was voluntary. I don’t see anything like the Internal Revenue Service in the Law. So you can actually look at the Law of God and decide to do it or not to do it. Why, then, would you obey it?
When the last words of the Ten Commandments had rolled down Mount Sinai, and the last echoes had faded away amid the hills and valleys, the people standing at the foot of the mountain were a total wreck. They were shattered. The earth had moved beneath their feet, the mountain had smoked, the air had been split by lightning and peals of thunder, and the words—preceded by an ear-splitting trumpet blast—were strong enough to move your chest. And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they moved, and stood far off. And they said unto Moses, Speak you with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. Exodus 20:18–19 KJ2000 You and I probably think that we would really like God to speak to us. I would like him to tell me, Ron, here’s what I want you to do. But, you know, I’m just not sure that I would survive the experience.
Of all the Ten Commandments, there’s one that can be called the “Peace of Mind Commandment”, or if you prefer, the “Mental Health Commandment”. It is the Tenth Commandment, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbors” (Exodus 20:17). At the bottom of the scale, “We are not to covet our neighbor’s ass.” That says it all, doesn’t it? What is there to want or covet about a donkey? Would you covet the pretty ones? You know, if you see one jackass then you have seen them all. So why covet those things? You know covetousness, all by itself, would seem to be a harmless fault. It wouldn't seem like a very big deal, merely to sit and wish you had something that you don't have, it doesn’t seem to amount to much. But in another way, it’s a sickness, and perhaps from this sickness much of the violation of the other nine Commandments arises. To begin, there are a couple of really important concepts regarding covetousness that we can learn from from a aphorism of Solomon found in Proverbs 21:25.
The very foundation of our legal system is truth. If people can come into court, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and then lie through their teeth, justice flies right out the window. No one can get judgment. No one can get justice. It's over! The Old Testament system was a little different from ours, but it was based on the same principle. Actually, I think in some ways it was a better system than we have. Leviticus 5 verse 1 says this: If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify, regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible. Now, in our court system, we have to go out and find the witnesses. We have to bring them into court. We have to swear them in and question them. And they have all sorts of ways, it seems like, to avoid getting into court and being held there, to have to answer these questions. It is at that moment of swearing, in court, you get them there, you make them stand up, raise their right-hand, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it is at that moment that creates the crime of perjury if they lie. Once you cross that line, you swear and then you lie, you go to jail. Now, in the Biblical system, when the public charge to testify is proclaimed, you are guilty if you know something, and fail to speak up, saying, Well, the prosecutor didn't ask me that. That will not work in the Biblical system, nor with the careful parsing of words and phrases to avoid telling the truth, it wouldn't work in the Biblical system. There is an interesting illustration of this in the New Testament. Jesus had been arrested, He had been brought before the high priest, and His accusers were there, trying to find witnesses to get Jesus put to death. You will find this in Matthew 26 beginning in verse 59.
What did the first Christians believe and practice about Christmas? I know in a way that is a loaded question, because the word Christmas is found nowhere in the New Testament, nor is any noticeable celebration of Christmas as we know it. Among many Jews, birthday observance is eschewed as originating in Egypt, and that could have influenced many among the first Christians, most of whom were Jews. Whatever the case, there is nothing in the New Testament that so much as hints at celebrating Jesus’ birth. It could be argued that this fact does not weigh against modern celebration, but that is not what interests me at this point. My question is what the first Christians believed and practiced relative to Jesus’ nativity. To get a better understanding of this, let’s first look at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke and the story of another birth—that of John the Baptist.
If you’re planning on celebrating the birth of Christ in the near future…well, I hate to be the one to tell you this but you’re about three months late. Yeah, really. What’s funny about it is that the whole story is right there in the biblical account of the birth of Jesus, right in your Bible, but nobody pays much mind to it. You can read it, for example, in Luke 1: And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:26–27 KJ2000 And what follows is the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, and you’ve probably heard it in a hundred little Christmas plays—that is, if you’ve lived long enough. But did you notice the expression in there—the sixth month? Did you ever wonder about that? It was in the sixth month that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced the birth of Jesus. Well, sixth month of what? Well if it’s the sixth month on your calendar, that would put the conception of Jesus in June and his birth in, well, nine months later, March. On the other hand, if it’s the Hebrew calendar, well the sixth month in the Hebrew calendar would be September and that would place Jesus being born in June. So, what’s with this December 25th business? How on earth did we get the birth of Jesus in December? Well as it happens, it isn’t the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar. It isn’t the sixth month of our calendar. It’s the sixth month of something entirely different. Let’s find out more beginning in Luke, chapter 1.
The last six of the Ten Commandments are said to be summarized by the statement You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And that’s well enough, but I want to take another look at them from the community standpoint. Now we come to Commandment number eight. And as I was preparing for this program, for some reason, it really struck me how important these laws are to society. The Fifth Commandment is the one that establishes and maintains family ties. It is a fundamental need of any society that families take care of their own. It’s the fragmentation of the family that leaves people sleeping on grates in the wintertime in the cities. The Sixth Commandment establishes a right to life. Thou shalt not kill, says God, and that includes manslaughter and any other unlawful or immoral destruction of human life. Any society that diminishes the right to life has set itself on the road to the trash heap of history. The Seventh Commandment establishes the sanctity of marriage and who has the rights to somebody else’s love, time and attention. It is to tie the family together for the sake of the children and, of course, the children in turn are to tie themselves to the parents—taking care of them if they have to be taken care of. Then there is the Eighth Commandment, Thou shalt not steal. This fundamental building block acknowledges the right to private property. We need to know the difference between what is ours and what is not ours. And it’s in this fundamental principle that one of the building blocks of a stable society is established. One of the biggest problems that exists in many nations around this world is that they do not properly acknowledge the right to private property and they do not protect the right to private property. They don’t protect the rights to your intellectual property: the things that you have created out of your mind and your creativity. They don’t protect your rights to the land that you live on and care for—and so on it goes. This is a fundamental building block of society. For some important groundwork on this, let’s begin in the 50th Psalm.
Did God create sexually-transmitted diseases as a trap for man? Is it a kind of punishment to man for having too much fun? Is that the whole idea—that God created man, and then in a mischievous moment, He said, Let’s put some venereal diseases in the population so that if men sin, we can get them? I don’t think so. That doesn’t sound like the God you read about in the Bible. I think STDs are an example of what can happen when viral and bacteriological strains are given an indefinite life in which to mutate and change. I’m not an expert in this area at all, but your body is teaming with bacteria, right now. Try not to panic, most of them are harmless and some of them are even good for you. When we have sex with another person, we trade some bacteria with our partner every time and bacteria mutate in the lifetime of a man or a woman and they may change a bit, but the strains we exchange between one man and one woman won’t survive us. We will never hurt another human being because they won’t go beyond our family, and the chances are that if we started off clean, in the end, there still will not be a problem because the bacteria will not have had time to change beyond certain limits. However, if we add additional people to the mix and we give those strains of bacteria indefinite life, immortal life as it were, they can go on and on for 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 years or longer. If we allow the bacteria that kind of time to change and to mutate, all bets are off. Now I can’t tell you that’s how STDs originated, just take it as an analogy to what might have happened, in a realization that God didn’t create these things. Man, by his sins, created these things. Think about this, if we could somehow manage worldwide monogamy for a generation or two, we could wipe out all STDs, including AIDS. They would be gone, over, finished, disappeared. Now does that give us a message or not? So why blame God for it? It’s our problem. We created it. God told us how to avoid it. So why did God say, then, Thou shall not commit adultery?
The defendant is 20 years old, but he looks more like 16. He is wearing blue jeans and a sweater and his hair is neatly cut. He looks for all the world like he should have books under his arm and be headed to class, but the district attorney says, He’s a cold-blooded killer. It seems he held up a convenience store late one night. The clerk offered no resistance, gave him all the money in the cash register, and had his hands up. But as he scooped up the money and stuffed it into his pockets, this thief calmly raised his pistol and shot the clerk squarely between the eyes—just to leave no witnesses. Now, the district attorney wants you, the jury, to find him guilty and sentence him to death. How do you feel about that? Mind you now, he’s guilty. There’s no doubt whatsoever, much less a reasonable doubt. We have pictures of him on a security camera. Clearly he’s the guy who shot the clerk. We even have more evidence than that. Some of you would sentenced him to death in a heartbeat. Others would say, Well, wait a minute. If we kill him, we’re no better than he is. Of course, if you didn’t believe in the death penalty, you wouldn’t even be on this hypothetical jury, but the underlying question still remains, the Sixth Commandment is, Thou shalt not kill. Shall we, or shall we not, kill this boy for his crime? Where do we look for guidance on the question of the right and the wrong of killing someone? Can you appeal to social norms? Well, our society says that what the young man did was wrong and that he should die for it. The will of society is expressed in the law of the land. The problem with that is that the law of the land—the social norms in some nations—calls for the death of innocent people because of their race or their religion. Now, are we really prepared to say that society is the authority on this issue? Can we let society call this issue without guidance from someplace? You do understand, don’t you, that letting society call the shots is a prescription for genocide. I’ve heard people appeal to the fact that human life is sacred. But tell me, how can a high-school teacher explain that to kids saying that human life is sacred, when sacredness is a religious concept; it has to do with something that is holy?
You may have heard of the Ten Commandments. The first four Commandments have to do with man’s relationship with God. The last six Commandments have to do with man’s relationship with man, and the first commandment in that series (and it should be the first commandment in that series) is this: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord has given you. Honor your father and your mother. Now this is a concept that is not that well understood. Honor your father and your mother is not really a prescription for living a long life. It’s a prescription for an enduring society. Let me read this to you again and think carefully about what it is saying: Honor your father and your mother. This is spoken from Mount Sinai, with the sound rolling down the mountainside for the whole nation of Israel to hear. God says to all of them, Honor your father and your mother, that your days, as a people, may be long in the land which the Lord your God is going to give you. I want to digress for just a moment because I want to establish and clarify this phrase, That your days may be long upon the land. The law of God is a long list of prescriptions of different things that these people were supposed to do. They are not arbitrary—based on or determined by individual preference. They are not just things that God dreamed up because man needed a set of laws to live by. They were laws to enable a society to function, to prosper, and to endure. A society that fails to establish the rights of parents, and the rights of children, the rights of the family, is not going to continue. It will not be long upon the land, and that is what the Fifth Commandment is all about. Take, for example, this warning in Deuteronomy, chapter 4.
When the framers of our American constitution first gathered, they faced a fundamental question. The question was not merely, Can we create a free republic? The question was, Can we create a free republic that will remain free? Those men knew their history, and they knew that history was against them. The first step in gaining freedom was past—it was the American Revolution. They had step two before them—writing a constitution. But the biggest challenge lay beyond their horizon—sustaining freedom. And law is not enough to sustain it. We believe in the rule of law in this country. It is carefully drawn as a distinction from the rule of a king. What we haven’t really considered is that the law can become just as tyrannical as a king. How does it happen? Well, just look at how the courts are interpreting the law nowadays. We are no longer being governed by all the people, but by the law as interpreted by a few judges. And what is guiding the judges—the constitution, or the customs of the time? According to Os Guinness: [The framers] knew their history in a way many modern political leaders to their shame don’t. If you have a corruption of customs […] the Constitution itself will be subverted. People will follow the same laws, but with a different rationale, and you’ll see a steady decline. What was the Framers’ solution to this? Many people think it’s the Constitution and law. It isn’t. That’s only half the answer. The other half is quite clear and incredibly overlooked today, even among scholars. It’s what I call the Little Triangle of Assumptions. Os Guiness - Speech at the Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC
If you were to take a survey among Christian people you would find that most of them believe in the Ten Commandments. After all, the Ten Commandments are the basis of all morality and the basis for the worship of God. Why is it, then, that the vast majority of Christian people outright ignore one of those Commandments? No I don’t mean Thou shalt not commit adultery. Christian people sin, but they know adultery is wrong. It is not so much that they’re ignoring the commandment, they are simply breaking it, and in many cases they will repent later of breaking it. I am talking about a commandment that is ignored altogether—that is violated without even a sense of guilt. Now, which commandment might that be? You’ll find the Ten Commandments in the 20th chapter of Exodus and you’ll find this commandment beginning in verse eight: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day, wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8–11 Now I don’t know what could be clearer than this. Work six days and rest one. The odd thing is, there was a time when many, if not most, Christian people honored the Sabbath day on Sunday. Sunday was a Christian Sabbath and Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, but never mind that difference for the moment. Just consider the thing in principle. Why did the Christian church forsake even nominal observance of the Sabbath Day? Because they did. You can see the progression clearly in modern history—it’s inescapable.
When you were a kid, did anyone ever make fun of your name? Chances are pretty good they did. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it hurt. Of course, it hurts to be made fun of if your nose is too big, your ears look like someone left the doors open on a Chevy pickup. But there is something about your name that makes it a special target. Your name is who you are. And after you have lived on this earth for a while, your name is you. When someone uses your name, you and you alone are the sum total what they are talking about. You are the meaning of your name. So when God says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Perhaps we should take it seriously. God’s name is not a playground joke. I hadn’t noticed until Dr. Laura Schlesinger pointed it out in her book on the Ten Commandments, but of all the Ten Commandments, giving God a bad name is the only one with a threat of immediate punishment. I expect to the poor trembling Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the words of the third commandment went deep: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” But what does that mean?