“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’” (Exodus 20:20).
The above verse was the culmination of Moses’ reception of the Ten Commandments atop Mount Sinai. The people were afraid of what they had seen happening on the mountain and this was Moses’ response to them. He told them (and us) how to use God’s Law, because His Law has some very definite and useful purposes for the believer. In fact, it can be quite beneficial if used correctly. In Exodus 20:1–20, God showed up in fire and smoke because He wanted His people to be awed. He’s not some “old man” in the sky as popularly depicted; He’s the Almighty God, deserving our utmost respect. That’s what His Law is all about.
Use the Law in a way that truly benefits you; use it to know God Himself. The Ten Commandments lets us see who God really is. The Ten Commandments are not the whims of a capricious God who made them up just to make us miserable. They reflect the unchanging character of a holy God. God told us to honor our earthly parents, because He values and honors everyone that He made. God told us not to murder, because He is the Author of life. God told us not to commit adultery, because He is faithful in His commitments to us. God told us not to steal, because He is generous and gives freely. God told us not to lie, because He is the Truth. And God told us not to covet, because He is self-sufficient.
God wants for nothing and when we have Him, we should want for nothing. The Ten Commandments reveal part of the character and nature of our holy God. Our minds are too small to comprehend the full nature of God; He is far beyond our understanding. God Himself says in His Word, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9). And yet, the Ten Commandments give us a glimpse into God’s character and nature. We don’t always understand what God is up to, but we do know that God is good. We do know that He always does what’s right. We see His goodness and righteousness reflected in His Law.
Use the Law to know yourself. The Law shows us how bad we really are. It reveals our sin and desperate need for a Savior. “If it had not been for the Law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7). The Law is a spotlight that illuminates the dirt on our souls. “The deadliest sin is the consciousness of no sin.” (Thomas Carlyle). The Ten Commandments give us a consciousness of sin, so we can do something about it before it destroys us.
Are you tired of the mess in your life? Then turn to Jesus. Call upon Him, who died on the cross for your sins and rose again. “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7). No matter how dirty you are, Jesus can make you clean. Just trust Him with your life. Through faith, put your life in His hands and let Him start the cleansing process. Then the Ten Commandments will no longer be a cause for guilt, but instead they become a cause for joy. The Ten Commandments not only reveal the problem, but they become a promise of what Christ can do for you if you depend on Him. When you trust Christ to clean up the mess, the Law shows you how good you will become as Christ completes His work in you.
Use the Law to know love. The Law shows us how compassion really works. It shows us how to put our affection into action. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). When you obey Christ’s commands, you demonstrate true love. Anything else is just fluff. When Jesus was asked, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ [Jesus replied:] ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:36–40). The Ten Commandments truly show us how to love God and others. Love can keep us from sinning. Thank the Lord that we have God’s Law and the fear of God with us to show us and lead us to know our God, to know ourselves, and to know love.