Second to the Bible, perhaps nothing teaches us more about human nature than history. And history has shown that when rebels rise up against a government and overthrow it, the people don’t just sit around afterward, peacefully singing kumbaya. Nor do they descend into complete anarchy. They institute their own government–which sometimes ends up being even worse than the one they got rid of.
The same goes for the unbelievers on this earth. They are not passive bystanders, neutral toward God because they’re simply ignorant of the truth. The Scriptures teach us that they are willingly part of a society–a system–a kingdom of their own, led by Satan, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). It’s called the world.
Having overthrown Christ as their King (or so they believe), the world has its own government, one that utterly opposes the government of the true God. They even have their own spiritual military and weapons they use to wage war against Christ and the Church.
We were all once a part of the world, obediently following its ways, fulfilling our evil desires (Eph. 2), but we were delivered by God from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His Son, through the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:13-14). We who were once children of wrath were made children of God!
Now, we live surrounded by the world, but not of it (John 17:16). We are strangers and pilgrims here, awaiting our final home.
As Christians who love the Lord, we know the Ten Commandments God instituted (in Exodus 20) summarize His perfect law. We strive to obey Him, not to earn salvation, but to give Him glory. His commandments always boil down to loving Him and loving our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40).
In contrast, the world, who hates God, sets up their own standards and lies that they call “truth.” They expect everyone to buy into them, hook, line, and sinker–and they set up consequences in case we don’t.
Here are some of the “ten commandments” of the world–ten unbiblical behaviors the world participates in. These “laws” are unjust, legalistic, and wicked before the Lord.
- Thou Shalt Not Judge
- Thou Shalt Follow Thy Heart
- Thou Shalt Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
- Thou Shalt Be a “Good Person”
- Thou Shalt Love Thyself
- Thou Shalt Not Speak Truth
- Thou Shalt Conform to Culture
- Thou Shalt Sacrifice Thy Children
- Thou Shalt Not Repent
- Thou Shalt Hate Christ
Let’s start with 1-5.
1. THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE
Oh, the irony! This is the only command of the ten to actually come from Scripture, but when the unbelieving world uses it, they definitely do not mean the same thing that Jesus meant in Matthew 7.
When Jesus said, “Do not judge,” (Matthew 7:1) he was talking about hypocritical judging. If we look at the context (instead of taking the verse as a stand-alone, universal law like the world does), we see what He meant. Christ was referring to hypocrites who judge others for sins while they themselves have not dealt with their own sin–“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (v. 3). Jesus isn’t against us noticing and trying to help people with the specks in their eyes–in fact, He encourages it in verse 5, but only after we deal with the sin in our own life. If we ignore our own sin but judge others for theirs, then we are disobeying Christ.
But gently and lovingly warning others about their sins and calling them to repent–after we have taken the warnings and repented ourselves–is exactly what the Scripture teaches us to do!
The world doesn’t like it, because they don’t want their sin pointed out. It’s much easier to say, “Your own holy book tells you not to judge, so stop judging me!” in an effort to push away the spotlight from your sin onto someone else, rather than humbly confessing your sins to God and others. Instead of crucifying its sin and loving Christians who are kind enough to warn about it, the world prefers to love its sin and crucify us.
2. THOU SHALT FOLLOW THY HEART
Have you ever had someone give you this advice? When you were confused or unsure what to do about a situation, the person leaned over and said with a smile, “Just follow your heart, sweetie.” Maybe someone from your church has said it–or maybe you’ve repeated the mantra yourself?
While it sounds innocuous enough, the last thing we should do is follow our hearts. The Word tells us why:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”(Jeremiah 17:9)
Our hearts mislead us because, even as believers, they are ill-informed and easily deceived at best, and sinful and self-centered at worst.
If we trust our hearts rather than trusting God and His Word, we may make decisions based on our feelings and “intuition,” and find ourselves in disobedience to the Lord. Emotions are fleeting and often wrong, but the leading of the Spirit (which comes only by the Word) is always true and lasting.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The followers of the world are content with following their hearts, because they prefer to chase their own selfish desires–even when it costs them their souls in the end.
3. THOU SHALT EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY
In Luke 12, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, who became successful and spent all of his time building bigger and bigger barns to contain all of his stuff.
He was unconcerned about honoring God with what he had received from His hand–even though it was only by the Lord’s power that he’d been able to benefit from good harvests in the first place. Unperturbed, he told himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” (v. 19). He chose a hedonistic life of pleasure rather than service. And how did it end? “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'” (v. 20)
Similarly, God condemns Jerusalem in Isaiah 22 for not taking heed to the coming judgment. He wanted them to repent, to weep and mourn for their rebellion against Him, but instead, they decided to live life to the fullest and neglect their need to fear the Lord: they cried out, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (v. 13)
By suppressing the truth of God and pretending as though they will never have to face God’s wrath, the world-followers are able to live life in self-pleasure–full of unrepentant gluttony, sexual immorality, drunkenness, and the like. They ignore the Scripture, “It is appointed for man to die once, and then the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
But the unpopular truth is that one day, we will all have to answer for our sins. For those with faith in Jesus, our sin will be covered by His sacrificial death; but for those outside of Christ, they will pay for it themselves through eternal punishment in hell.
4. THOU SHALT BE A “GOOD PERSON”
If you’ve ever watched evangelist and author Ray Comfort witness to strangers on one of his productions, you know that he uses the ten commandments to try to show unbelievers their sin.
At the beginning of an interview, he asks the person if he or she is good. “Oh yes, I believe I’m a good person!” most of them confidently reply. But once he takes them through the ten commandments–“Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen something? Have you lusted in your heart?”–they often admit afterwards that maybe they’re not so good in God’s eyes. “By your own admission,” he says, “You’re a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart. Where does that leave you on Judgment Day?” Then he gives them the gospel.
One of the reasons the world rejects Christ is because He calls out the truth–that its deeds are evil (John 7:7). The world desires to live under the delusion that “goodness” is some kind of loose, subjective standard that most “normal” people can meet. “I’m no Hitler,” in other words. As long as you don’t murder people, you’re a pretty good person.
But the problem is, we don’t decide how good we are by comparing ourselves with others. We compare ourselves with God–the Judge and Lord of righteousness–and we realize just how sinful we are. As Romans 3 says,
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” (verses 10-12)
It’s impossible to be good enough for God by our own merits. We are sinners, one and all, no matter how many “good deeds” we may do. We can’t wash away our own stains by giving money to the poor or trying to keep the law, because they can only be removed through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Our sins are so bad, that Jesus–the Son of God in flesh Himself–had to come and die to pay for them.
Yet the world goes on, satisfied with looking good in people’s eyes and uncaring about what God will say on the day of judgment. They won’t be able to speak when they come face-to-face with His righteousness; their mouths will be stopped as they stand guilty before God. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20) We can’t save ourselves; we need Christ to save us and justify us by His righteousness.
5. THOU SHALT LOVE THYSELF
It makes sense that if the Lord commands us to love Him and others, the rebellious world would focus on loving the one category not mentioned–themselves.
Jesus takes for granted that we love ourselves already. That’s why He says, “love thy neighbor as thyself.“ No one needs to be convinced to love themselves, because our sin proves that we already do. We do what pleases us. It’s much harder to love God and others because we are all absorbed with ourselves–our needs, desires, and cares.
Unsurprisingly, the world bypasses this reality and teaches the lie that our problems come down to a lack of self-esteem and a need to “love ourselves.” How many songs, movies, or TV shows are about being our own hero, or deciding that “enough is enough, I’m going to care only about Me, Myself, and I from now on”?
Don’t be deceived. If you are struggling with self-loathing, the answer isn’t self-love. It’s love of Christ, and receiving His love for us by repenting and dying to ourselves. When we lose our love for ourselves, when we see our sin and our “self-esteem” is shattered, we have the opportunity to turn our eyes to Christ and all His perfections. We wonder that such a perfect God could love such broken, sinful people, and even die to save them. And ironically, it is in this Christ-esteem, not self-esteem, that we find true fulfillment and satisfaction.
Why? Because we were never made to live for ourselves and shine our own glory. We were designed to live for and reflect the glory of God.
Next time, we’ll look at “commandments” 6-10.