Martin Luther said there is a "baseline" for every Christian - The Ten Commandments, The Creed, and The Lord's Prayer. The following is the first in our "Set Free to Live Free" series as we walk through the Commandments.
Years ago, I met an ex-con who spent time at a large penitentiary in Louisiana called Angola. He was convicted for armed robbery. Then while at Angola, he escaped and spent two days on the run in the thick backwoods and Louisiana bayous. The dogs found him, he was returned, and his sentence extended. He entered prison as a man in his 30’s. He left as a man in his 60’s. Although a free man, he didn’t know what to do in open spaces, or how to make his own decisions.
He told me, “I still feel like a captive. I don’t know how to live free.”
You're a Christian, so everything should be perfect, right? But sometimes you still feel like a captive. You might feel burdened, shackled, or imprisoned by sin or circumstance.
What are you captive to?
Fear and worry.
A nasty habit.
Regret over the past.
Like an ex-con you say, “I still feel like a captive. I don’t know how to live free.”
What do you do when you feel captive, trapped, or burdened? There is a misperception among many Christians that you can get out of captivity by good behavior. “If I’m just good enough, if I just ‘get right.’” The Ten Commandments are treated like a scorecard. “If I just follow the rules . . .” When things are going good, you think, “I must be doing something right.” If things are going bad, you think, “I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure. God is out to get me.”
If the only way out of captivity is good behavior, then you’re gonna end up arrogant or depressed. Arrogant because you think you’re good. Or depressed because you’re never good enough.
So how do you get out of captivity? Let me bring some freedom to your captivity. The Ten Commandments come in Exodus chapter 20. But their foundation is laid in the first 19 chapters. The heart and soul of the Commandments is in the concept of redemption. Key redemption words that reoccur throughout Exodus are:
Draw out (the meaning of Moses’ name)
Exodus 20:2 uses this language, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” In Jewish heritage, the Commandments were referred to as the “Ten Words.” And in many ways, they counted verse two as the first word. Verse two is also called the prologue to the commandments, so that before you hear God’s commands, you are given some context.
What does this mean? It means the Commandments are not used for captives to get free. They are for free people to live free.
The commandments are NOT like a prison warden saying, “You can get out of your life sentence if you just follow these rules.” The commandments are like a warden saying, “You’ve been pardoned by the governor. The door is open . . . Now here’s how to live free.”
Too often, Christians operate this way: Behave, Believe, Belong. That the first step in becoming a Christian is right behavior. Do right, then you’re in.
The biblical revelation, both in the Old and New Testament is the other way around. Belong, Believe, Behave. God always takes the initiative. He chooses a people before they choose him. He gets them out of Egypt, even when they doubt him, complain, or are ungrateful. Paul says it this way, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”
“I am the LORD your God who brought you out . . .” NOW you can hear the commandments. NOW you can live free. NOW you can begin with the first commandment:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
Now hear the first commandment, “ You will have no other gods before me.” You need no other. Love and trust him above all things. He’s the only one you need.
A captive cannot get himself out. Someone must come and free him. Yahweh brought you out at great expense. Jesus became captive to the cross so that you could be free.
The foundation of the Ten Commandments, and the Christian life, is the fact that you are set free to live free.