Ten Commandments: Know God – Exodus 20:4-6

Ten Commandments: Know God – Exodus 20:4-6

I’m not proud of some of the things I did after I became a Christian.


Normally when Christians talk about the past, they talk about the dumb stuff they did before they came to Christ. But I did a load of dumb stuff after I became a Christian.


A lot of it were to do with the way I treated some of the girls I dated and how they sort of functioned as trophies for me in front of my mates. In that stupid way that only a teenage boy can, I thought I was something special because I now had a girlfriend.


If you’d asked me “Barry, as a Christian where do you get your hope and joy in life from?” I’d have given you the right answer: God. But actually I’d have been lying. I got my hope and joy from having a girlfriend.


Now straight-away I gotta say –it’s not wrong to have a girlfriend. Well unless you’re married – which I wasn’t. So what’s was the big deal for me? Well although I’d have told you Jesus was #1 in my life, actually it was having a girlfriend.


The language the Bible uses about a situation like that is “idolatry”. An idol is anything we allow to become more important to us than Jesus. An idol is anything that takes the #1 spot away from Jesus.




Right, let’s read the 2nd commandment together.


“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [ generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Ex.20:4-6


Now – forget about idolatry for a moment. Just look at that amazing promise? A thousand generations of blessing. Just think what God is promising us! And our children. And their children. And their children’s children’s children’s children to a thousand generations. Is that something you want for your family forever? Then God says – get rid of your idols!


  • What is an idol?

Now chances are – you’re thinking “But Barry, I don’t have any idols!” And you’re saying that because you think idols are lumps of metal or stone. Psalm 115 talks about them like that: “idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;  they have ears, but cannot hear” (Ps.115:4-7)


But there’s more to idolatry than statues. In Ephesians 5:5 Paul tells us that at heart – all immorality and impurity is a form of idolatry. In other words – anything can become an idol. Anything that dislodges Jesus from the #1 slot in your life – even just for 10 minutes – is an idol.


So idols aren’t just statues. They can be good things that God made to bless us – like family – friends – sex – booze and dancing – or it could be addictive stuff that takes control of us like drugs or porn. The point is – that for a period of time – something created becomes more important to us than the creator. That’s an idol.


Now all this series we’ve been thinking not just about how we break these commandments – but also trying to find some practical solutions to the problems. So what I want us to do is spend out time today on that. Practical stuff. And that’s gonna’ mean we do some soul searching. And we may not get it all done this morning – so carryon your thoughts over lunch and through the week. Okay? Because we want that amazing blessing the commandment promises don’t we?


Right – here’s where it gets complicated. We’re all different. Even you. And so what I’ve got for you is 8 questions – which will help you explore what your idols are. I say IDOLS – if you’re anything like me you’ll have more than one. And these questions will help you spot them.


Okay, so let’s go idol-spotting.


  • Spotting our idols
  • What can’t I live without?

In Genesis 30 – there’s a lady called Rachel – one of Jacob’s wives – suddenly breaks down in front of her husband and cries out “Give me children, or I’ll die!”(Gen.30:1)


Is there something you have that you can’t live without? A car, property, iPhone? Or maybe it’s something that you desperately want. Maybe it’s something you’ve been praying about daily for months or years and God just doesn’t seem to have answered. Maybe his silence has even caused you to doubt him. Well chances are – that’s because it’s become an idol for you.


  • How do you spend your money?

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also” (Matthew 6:21) So think about how you spend money – what does that say about what you truly love?


  • What do you daydream about?

Where do your thoughts effortlessly go when nothing else is demanding your attention? Perhaps it’s the next career move, the house move, a sexual fantasy?


Archbishop William Temple once said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.”


Now one or two daydreams don’t indicate idolatry, but if we’re habitually getting joy and comfort from them – that’s an idol.[1]


  • Is there something about Jesus that makes you really angry or sad?

That sounds really odd doesn’t it? Yet often people who claim to follow Jesus get angry or sad with him.


Think of the story of Jonah. Jonah’s an Old Testament preacher who God sends to the city of Ninevah to warn them that unless they turn from their sin he’s gonna destroy the city.


Problem is, Jonah’s a really self-righteous proud guy who gets his kicks from despising the corruption of foreigners – like the Ninevites. So when God starts talking about forgiveness, it makes Jonah angry.


What about us? As we hear Jesus’ message of love and hope and forgiveness what makes you angry – or feel threatened or maybe just sad?


Or maybe it’s not the gentle side of Jesus you struggle with. Maybe you’re so caught up in our culture’s desire not to offend that when Jesus talks about sin and justice and heaven and hell you just want to tell him to shut up.


  • What do you love doing more than being holy?

A Christian friend of mine recently boasted on Facebook about how she’d cycled 90,000km on recumbent bikes since June 2008. What she didn’t boast about was that all this cycling destroyed her marriage.


Of course it isn’t just obsessive sport that does this. The common man thing is career isn’t it? I reached the top of my career – but it wrecked my family and faith.


  • What do I turn to for comfort when things go bad?

Biscuits? Booze? Tobacco? Exercise. Masturbation.


  • Do you have any superstitions?

Think back a week to the Paris bombings. Friday 13th. That’s a date we get a bit spooky about isn’t it? Some hotels don’t have a 13th floor. People won’t buy a house numbered 13 or sit in row 13 on an airplane.


Whenever we do that – what we’re actually doing is admitting that there are powers other than God at work in the world – and that he can’t protect us from them. Which effectively turns them into an idol.


Time for one more – and this one’s a bit different. So far – most of these potential idols have been “outside of us”. Things like money or power or career.


But this last one – it’s different – this is about worshipping ourselves.


  • Do you think the whole world revolves around you?

Now of course you’ll say NO to that – so ask your friends and family!


You see when you’ve been raised in a consumer culture that bends over backwards to meet your every whim – it’s hard to avoid concluding that everything exists for you.


Children and pets become fashion and lifestyle accessories. A makeover becomes a way to reinvent yourself and take control of a situation. A selfie posted on Facebook is an invitation to your friends to like you. And church  – well that’s not about serving other people like Jesus did – it’s about getting your needs met.


Daniel – let me say something challenging here. Its fantastic that you’ve given your life to Jesus Christ. But I want to warn you about a terrible lie that circulates among Western Christians. It’s the lie that the church exists so that you can get your needs met.


That’s not Christianity. That’s consumerism. And if you embrace a consumerist attitude to your brothers and sisters in Christ it will devastate your faith,  and harm the faith of those around you.


You see, church, these people here – was never meant to meet your needs. We don’t gather together on a Sunday to consume worship, a sermon, friendship. We gather to contribute. We gather to give. Like Jesus did. He said, “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27). Not receives. Serves!


Church is about serving in the mission of God. So if we want to grow in Christian maturity, we’ve got to learn to serve like Jesus did, not consume like the atheists do. Because the world doesn’t revolve around us, it revolves around Jesus.







So look – there’s 8 questions to help us think about the idols in our lives – let me put them all up on the screen – and why don’t we take a couple of minutes on our own and reflect on them and see what they reveal about us. I’m not gonna’ ask you to share your thoughts by the way!


If you can’t read them on screen – they’re in your handout as well.




Okay – why don’t we read the 2nd commandment together again?


“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [ generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Ex.20:4-6


That’s an incredible picture of blessing isn’t it? A thousand generations of love. If only we’ll keep ourselves from idols. But I’m guessing if you’re anything like me – it’s hard. The things we’ve just been thinking about – they’re deep ingrained, habits, comforts, built into how we live day-to-day. And changing that is a big ask. How are we gonna’ do it? How are we gonna’ change?


3) How to change

Well look – remember our main bible reading? Paul wrote that to the church in Ephesus – to help them change. So let’s Let’s read what he said:


You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)


And those three phrases I’ve highlighted – that’s how we’re gonna deal with our idols.


  • “Put off” your idols

“Put off” means get rid of your idol. Destroy it.  But how you do that is gonna’ depend on the nature of your idol.


When I was a student I knew a guy who was a witch – and he became a Christian. And his first action was to take all his spell books and throw them away.


Maybe you’ve got a big stash of pornography stored on your PC. It’s time to hit delete and install some software to make sure it doesn’t come back.


Maybe it’s not porn. Maybe it’s a celebrity – a pop idol. Well you might need to destroy the poster, and delete the songs from your iPod.


Maybe it’s DIY or cars or shopping or football, and you’re running up huge credit card bills to fund it. Cut up the card.


Maybe it’s booze. Well it’s time to go cold turkey.


Maybe its something you’ve longed for but never received. Time to let go and let God.


Maybe you’ve got an actual physical idol in your house. A little fat Buddha or something. Smash it or throw it out.


We’ve still got our amnesty bin out in church. If there’s something you love too much that you want us to dispose of – just pop it in there.


But look – sometimes that isn’t gonna’ work. You ever met that woman who lives for her husband? Or the dad who lives through his son. Well look, if that’s you…please don’t put your husband or son in the amnesty bin.


But you still got to deal with the idol. You’ve got to find a way to take him off the throne of your life. How do you do that?


The simple answer is to develop an attitude of gratitude. You got to retrain your mind to get things in the right order. And you do that by taking time every day to thank God for your spouse or child.


Now look this – putting off your idols – is just about the hardest thing in the world for people to do on their own. So where do you get the power to do it?


The power comes not from us – but from God. And here’s the thing – because we’ve been worshipping something other than him – that power’s not going to be available to us until we do something first. We say sorry.


The big Bible word for that is REPENTANCE. It means doing a U-turn – admitting we were going the wrong way and saying sorry to God for it and then turning around. And if we’ll do that – he’ll empower us to put off our idols.


So that’s our first step.


  • Renewing the attitude of your mind

And this is all about the question WHY?


Why is it that when I feel miserable I reach for chocolate? Why is it that I’m so empty inside that I give myself over to pornography? Why is it that I’m so craving the acceptance and approval of others that I will never speak of Jesus in public?


This is all about discerning the why of your behaviour. Why do I choose an idol over Jesus?


For some of us that’s an easy question to answer. For others it might take longer. You might have to pray and reflect and ask God to reveal things to you.


If you’re gonna do that – you might find this book – Idols of the Heart – by Elyse Fitzpatrick really helpful. She’s a Christian Counsellor and she’s written the book to help people explore this whole business of dealing with their idols and changing. It’s on Amazon, costs about £8. And worth every penny. Details are on your handout.


But self-help might not be enough. Sometimes you might need to dig a bit deeper. That might mean talking it through with other Christians –or even seeking professional help from a Christian Counsellor. I’ve put a link to the Association of Christian Counsellor’s website on your handout.[2]


But the point is that as you explore your WHY –  the why of your idolatry – you’ll also begin to discover a solution.


  • Putting on

You see, once you’ve destroyed the idol and thought about why you had it in the first place – the third stage of the change process is to replace it with God.


The Bible tells us that we’re made in such a way that all our longings, all our hopes, all our dreams, ultimately find their satisfaction in God.


That’s why I say CHURCH WILL NEVER MEET YOUR NEEDS. Only God can!


Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28)


He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)


Sounds good doesn’t it? And that’s why Paul can say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through [CHRIST] who gives me strength.” (Phil.4:11-13)


You see we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts – and the best thing to fill that hole isn’t an idol – it’s God himself.


So the great invitation of our commandment today is to put off worshipping created things, and put on worshipping the creator. And as we do that we’ll begin to experience that amazing blessing that God promises for those who reject idols and are loyal to him alone.




So as we finish, I wonder how you’re feeling right now?


Maybe you’re feeling guilt – because God’s challenged you this morning about what’s number one in your life? Well if that’s you – don’t delay – put off your idol, and put Jesus back on the throne of your life. Say sorry to him and receive his forgiveness and he will help you live for him.


Maybe you’re feeling afraid – because you know you need to change – but you don’t know what it will be like to let Jesus be on the throne of your life. Please don’t let fear of change cause you to miss out on God’s promise of a thousand generations of blessing. Remember – God’s “perfect love drives out fear” (1Jn.4:18) Remember that Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness. Life as it’s meant to be lived.


Or maybe you’re feeling trapped. Because you’ve been living the same way for a long time– and you know you want to change – and you’ve tried in the past – but it never seems to stick. Well if you sincerely put Jesus on the throne of your life he will help you change.


As always the prayer team are available to pray with you after the service – and I’ll be around when we sing in a minute too – or you can grab me some other time.


But there’s no time like the present. So decide to make the change today.


Will you pray with me? I’m going to invite you to pray this prayer yourself – quietly – but to repeat each bit after I say it?





Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgive me for turning to idols

that are really no solutions at all.

Forgive me for embracing idols.


Today, I choose to turn away from idols

and serve you Jesus –

the true and living God.


I invite you Holy Spirit into my life.

Illuminate my mind and heart

with your Light, Life and Truth.


Help me to build my life on you.

Now and forever,


[1] Keller, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/octoberweb-only/142-21.0.html

[2] http://www.acc-uk.org/


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