Summary: Everyone gets their moral system from somewhere. Christians accept God’s leadership through the Ten Commandments. Jesus is the mediator of those commandments, and helps us to obey them through the Holy Spirit.
In my last post, I taught about the conscience and how you can develop a Christian conscience. In this post, I will talk about part one of how to practice Christian morality.
Morality and integrity are two of the hottest issues as we look at the crazy things happening in our world. It seems they go unquestioned until something strange happens. The media and other analytical groups question them without realizing it. When something goes against what we think is right, we notice.
Morality is a given in leadership positions and business. People expect you to do “the right thing.” When we discussed the conscience, we came to the realization that your conscience is based off whatever morality system you choose or accept to live by. So, we need to choose a system of Christian morality to please God and give our conscience a godly foundation. Let’s get started.
Where You Get Your Morality
Unless you are a Christian, you either go with the general flow of culture-driven morality and values, or you choose your own system of morality. Christians have higher expectations from the Lord. He gives us a different value system than the world. Morality goes with that.
Sometimes cultures around Christianity share some of the same values. In almost every culture, things like murder, rape, stealing, and other values will be close to Christian values. But it’s not that cultures are Christian. These basic principles of morality maintain society. If we didn’t have these basic values in place, no civilization or society would ever work.
That’s where most cultures draw the line. They do the bare minimum of morality so that the society can survive. Most people before they meet Jesus work off of a purely selfish morality model. They do what they want as long as it doesn’t upset the apple cart in their culture.
Christian morality is different. We do not answer to culture. We are not concerned about society maintaining itself or surviving. Our goal is to glorify God and please Him with every action we take. Christian morality is usually more strenuous than cultural morality.
In some instances, you will find that you must disobey political leaders and worldly systems because they violate God’s higher laws (Romans 13:1-7). Nations and societies that were built on biblical values, like the United States and Israel for example, can also change throughout time. While democracy is a positive influence, majority rule could overturn the biblical foundation of the nation.
Although we can’t imagine society and morale changing too much in the United States, as I write this post, we are seeing fundamental values change that go against the grain of God’s standards in the Bible. We cannot take it for granted that our culture winds up with biblical values.
We must evaluate our culture in light of God’s Word and realize the places it does not line up. Each of us must be ready to endure hardships in society when we must disobey leaders because they ask us to go against godly values. When Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were exiled to Babylon, they had to go against the laws of the Babylonians because they violated God’s laws (Daniel 3:1-13; 10-18).
Founded in the Ten Commandments
Christian morality is founded in the Commandments of God in the Old Testament, but renewed and enhanced in Jesus’s teachings. We will get to those in Part 2. The moral and civic laws explain our relationship to God and our fellow man. Even today, you can find a plaque of the Ten Commandments on the wall of every court in our land.
One thing outside groups like socialists and dissidents do is try to get them covered up or removed. They like to use the defense of church versus state. The original understanding of church versus state is that the state could not force a particular religion upon the people, not that the church could not influence the state.
When Yahweh came down on Mount Sinai, He gave the laws Israel must follow, 613 altogether, so they would be holy and He could dwell among them. It is the same today. For the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, we must follow God’s laws and obey the Holy Spirit. We must be a holy people for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. That’s why He is transforming to me like Jesus.
Many scholars divide the laws God gave to Israel into three categories: moral laws, civic laws, and ritual laws. The civic laws are meant for the nation of Israel, not everyone. Paul defended a Jesus only gospel that did not make Jews out of Gentile Christians (see Galatians and Acts 15).
Christians do not have to follow these laws. However, we need to follow the spirit of these laws. Many of them deal with how to treat your neighbor, which is absolutely part of Jesus’s teaching (Luke 10:29-37). Jesus fulfilled all the ritual laws about sacrifices. As we follow Jesus, He has fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17-20), and so in obeying Him, we fulfill the law.
I teach that if a law is repeated from the Old Testament in the New Testament, we are still under that law. Even in the new covenant, Christians are subject to the moral laws like the Ten Commandments and others in God’s law. Following Jesus keeps us from violating most of the cultural laws around us (1 Peter 4:12-18)..
The First Four Commandments
You can divide the Ten Commandments into two groups. The first group addresses our relationship to God. These deal with how we worship and treat God. If we want to maintain a good relationship with God and the Holy Spirit, we must follow these first four Commandments. When we don’t, and idolatry sets in, God will judge us harshly as He did with Israel. You can find the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-21 and Deuteronomy 5:1-33.
The first commandment has a preface that’s just as important to understanding the first commandment and has taken the word by word. In Exodus 20:2, God reminds the Israelites of who He is and what He has done for them. Based off of this covenantal relationship, God expects them to obey these commandments. Although the Ten Commandments begin God’s law for the people, they encompass the whole of His law given to Israel, found from Exodus through Deuteronomy.
When the Israelites acknowledge that He is Yahweh their God, and He has brought them out of Egypt, the house of slavery, and has done these great things for them, they must obey His laws to maintain relationship with Him and and enjoy the benefits of relationship with Him. With that foundation, they must have no other gods besides Him.
There’s lots of debate about the word “besides” or “before.” The word “gods” does not refer to divine beings. It refers to celestial beings and heavenly beings. It probably refers to beings who are part of God’s divine council (Psalm 86).
So, God was not acknowledging divine beings comparable to Him. There are none. He was referring to the other “gods” of the nations around Israel and other heavenly or celestial beings that showed any power the Israelites might worship. God must be the supreme Person in our lives now, and only He deserves our praise and adoration. That is what the first commandment commands us to do.
The other three commandments flesh this out. If God is the supreme Person in our lives, there’s no reason to worship idols, so the Israelites must not make any idols (the second commandment). The third commandment is based on God’s character as a holy God. His name is sacred and precious. Therefore, the Israelites must not abuse His holy name, for it is separate from everything in creation. They must not profane, or make it common. It must not be uttered along with other words.
On the Sabbath, we reserve that day to worship the Lord. That’s wife was commandment the Sabbath day of rest in the Lord must not be like the other days we work. That is why it is holy, separate from the other days of the week. When we follow these first four Commandments and honor God in our lives, we will have a right relationship with Him. We live to glorify our King.
The Last Six Commandments
The following six Commandments tell us how to treat our fellow man, made in God’s image, and therefore as His creation with His image, holy and important to Him. Getting along with others is a way of worshiping God. We honor Him in the way we treat one another.
Jesus put it best when He said that the greatest Commandment is to love God, and the second greatest commandment is to love others (Matthew 22:26-30; Mark 12:28-31). Respecting others begins with how we respect the person and their property. Respecting them as a person made in God’s image means we do not commit adultery, murder people, honor our parents, or bear false witness against them in court.
We respect their property by not stealing from them or coveting their things, which leads to improper behavior. We should live at peace with them as much as it is possible. When we follow these commandments, we glorify God by respecting the people He has made in His image. When we disrespect others, we violate God’s image in them. We cannot say we love God if we do not respect people He has made.
The Cross is a beautiful representation of the Ten Commandments and how we worship God and respect others. Your relationship with God is a heavenly one, and therefore can be represented by the vertical wooden plank that held Jesus between heaven and earth as a Priest representing God in His sacrifice for people who turn to Him.
This vertical relationship between you and God is made possible by the bridge of Jesus on the Cross. Through His sacrifice, whatever breaks in your relationship with God have been reconciled when you accept Jesus’s sacrifice in your place.
Picture your relationship with others as a horizontal relationship, represented by the horizontal beam from which Jesus’s hands were nailed and arms hung. Jesus can also mend your broken relationships with your fellow man. Paul describes Jesus making peace in His body between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:13-16).
Christian morality begins with how we treat God and others. It is the foundation for everything we do. Jesus is the Waymaker who makes all these relationships possible, and brings peace between hostile parties. Because of His teachings and Commandments, and His sacrifice on the Cross, we have a new way forward of how to deal with every relationship.
Which of the Ten Commandments is the hardest for you to do? Thank Jesus for His sacrifice and endeavor to obey the Holy Spirit as He deals with your character in obey all Ten of the commandments with His help.
We have only covered the first part of two parts on practicing Christian morals. My next post will conclude our discussion on Christian morality with Part 2.