December 4, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”—Exodus 20:13–16 (NIV)
“You shall not pass!” are words etched into my mind after watching the epic showdown between Gandalf and Balrog in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Gandalf is a wise and powerful individual who’s protecting his friends from a wicked and powerful demon, Balrog. In the scene, Gandalf places himself between Balrog and his friends standing on opposite sides of an underground bridge that spans a bottomless pit of darkness below. Gandalf boldly and authoritatively says to Balrog, “You shall not pass!” He claims victory and safe passage for his friends by sacrificing himself to do battle with the demon.
Just as Gandalf addressed Balrog, God likewise addresses our sinful nature (the flesh) in today’s passage of Scripture. Each of the commandments listed above are examples of God addressing our sinful nature, addressing us, saying, “You shall not pass.” Murder, adultery, lying/giving false witness, stealing. The commandments are clear, and yet in the Gospels we see Jesus take them even further when He says, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NIV) and
“Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22 NIV).
How do we keep ourselves from falling in these? It’s so easy to get angry at someone or to lust because it originates inside of us. But these acts break the commandments according to Jesus. So, what hope do we have? Our hope is Jesus, the One who battled our sinful nature and won by His sacrifice.
Since the fall in the Garden, mankind has been born into sin with a natural desire for evil (Genesis 8:21). The apostle Paul writes, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come” (Romans 5:14 NIV).
Why would God give us the Ten Commandments if He already knew we were guilty of original sin and sentenced to die as a result? Quoting the apostle Paul, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20 NIV). So, the Ten Commandments (the Law) make us aware of our sinfulness and show us that it’s impossible to obtain right standing with God by works or by being a good person. Ok, so that’s the why, but what about the how?
If the Law is good but can’t make us righteous, then what hope do we have for salvation (right standing with God)? Once again, the apostle Paul tells us, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3 NIV). This is our reason to rejoice! Jesus took on flesh in order to condemn flesh (our sin nature) and claim victory over sin through His sacrifice on the cross.
Pause: Take a moment to reflect on these two questions: “In what areas do I compare my life and my works to those of others?” and “In what areas do I compare my life and my works to the righteousness of God?”
Practice: For any area of your life that you compare with others, practice comparing that with the righteousness of God. Then give thanks to God for Christ’s righteousness and His atoning sacrifice to save you from the condemnation and judgment due of your sin.
Pray: Thank you God for Your Word and righteous law. I acknowledge that I fall woefully short of Your righteous decrees and judgment. Please help me to place my trust in the finished work of Your son, Jesus, and not in my works of the flesh. For “my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). Amen.