Could you be worshiping a false god? Here is practical instruction to help you fully obey the First Commandment.
Sure, all of us as co-workers and members know about the Ten Commandments! We have read The Ten Commandments booklet and we've probably heard a lot about them. We know that breaking them constitutes sin, and we know what basic points to avoid so we won't transgress them, especially in the letter. But do we really understand the positive, practical, doing aspects of God's law? Do we really see how God's Holy Spirit should flow through us back to God and out to fellowman in a continual, joyous fulfillment of God's royal law of liberty? For, as we should come to understand more deeply, the Ten Commandments truly do bring liberty.
The way to success
God's law is for our good, as Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong has so often said. God gave His law to promote the health, happiness and welfare of mankind. God's law is the way to success, accomplishment and joy — the way to freedom from every headache and heartache, from every war and financial panic, literally from every sorrow that imposes itself on a confused and misguided human race. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Ps. 19:7). And, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 7:12). Many people wish God would modify His law to make it "better" or "easier" for us. Much of Christianity, in fact, has thrown away God's law altogether — they believe it is no longer in force. But we who understand God's truth must profoundly grasp that changing, watering down or doing away with God's law would only harm us individually and add to the collective woes of the entire human race! The infinite wisdom of the great God who designed all of the vast, fantastically intricate universe is the same wisdom behind the "perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25) — the Ten Commandments.
Remember God's purpose
Keep in mind this fundamental principle: The Ten Commandments are a vital part of God's supreme purpose on earth. God intends that each of us develop a sense of awe and worship toward Him and His right ways before we are made like Him by being born into His very Family. And we must learn to love our neighbors as ourselves before being made, along with many of those neighbors, members of God's own Family and we have to share eternity together. Our Creator wants to be sure we have deeply inculcated into ourselves the way to humility, love and service before He gives us eternal life in a situation that could be an eternal "hell" if we do not know how to enjoy that unending togetherness. These are real needs we must consider as we think on the purposes of God's law and the lessons we must learn. For eternity is a long, long time.
The First Commandment
Notice the first of God's Ten Commandments: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:2-3).
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" [Ex. 20:3].
We need to be sure that the true God — the Creator and Ruler of all — is the God whom we worship and obey and by whom we have been conquered! Many professing "members" of God's Church talk against the Church, the Work and to some extent even the very way of God, and yet think of themselves as converted Christians. In fact, though, such people have never been converted - never have been truly conquered by God. After conversion, nothing should remain, in your sight, that is equal or anywhere near equal to God. God and His will are to be the very center of your being. God and God alone is to be worshiped and adored. God says He brought us "out of the land of Egypt." If we are converted, then God indeed has called us out of sin, out of this Satan-influenced society. So ask yourself if you have really come out of spiritual Egypt. There are professing Christians who saturate their minds with entirely too much television, even letting their children watch it constantly. Some drink too much alcohol, think and talk about carnal interests all the time and devote too little thought to God's Kingdom and His Work of preparing for it. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," says God. Whatever captures your highest interest is your god.
What is your god?
Think about it: If money, material possessions, sex, self-importance, sports, music, family, fun or any combination of these things captures your interest, time, talents and energies more than anything else, it becomes the god you serve and worship. Take, for example, the case of John Doe. John is really "into" his body — he is constantly exercising, looking at his muscles in the mirror, taking massive doses of vitamins and other supplements, attending health lectures, weighing himself and worrying about how many grams of this or that are in his daily diet. Now, what is John Doe's chief interest in life? God? Christ? God's Work? The millions of spiritually blind and often physically suffering humans around the world who need our help? No. His chief interest — his god — is, literally, his own human flesh, which he serves and worships more than anything else. Each of us must make certain that our time, talents, interests and enthusiasm are wrapped up in God, in our personal Savior Jesus Christ, in the great purpose of God and in the Work of God more than anything else. Our personal weaknesses may not be as obvious — to us, at least — as the self-worship of the body builder described above. But Satan has many devices — many means of getting every single one of us distracted from the great goal of the Kingdom of God. Some are virtually obsessed with money or making money. Or their jobs. Or their desire to be important. Some idolize sports. Some are so totally involved with their relatives and friends that God and the Work of God come in second best. And some concentrate on simply seeking pleasure or fun. But remember: God is not the God of your life if He has to step down occasionally to allow another god to reign. There is no place in God's plan for a second god in your life. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death" (Rom. 8:5-6).
How do you spend your time?
We might think of the little old lady who tends her garden all day long, spending most of her free time that way. Or the teenage boy who, hour after hour, works on his car, fixing it, polishing it, looking at it and showing it off to his friends. Your life is composed of so much time. How you spend your time determines how you spend your life. A converted Christian has given his life to God. Have you? Do you really seek God first in the use of your time and energy? Do you discipline yourself to get to bed on time so you can rise in time to pray and commune with God first thing in the morning, before anything else interferes? Have you organized your life so you may regularly study and drink in the words and thoughts of the Bible? Have you developed the habit of meditating on the Bible and on God's law? Do you regularly seek God with all your heart through fasting (and this does not mean just on the Day of Atonement)? Using these spiritual tools to draw closer to God will enrich your life and make God much more real to you. Mentally and emotionally, you can then walk with Him through each day. You will come to sincerely want what He wants, think as He thinks and have Jesus Christ literally living within you through the Holy Spirit (Gal. 2:20).
Worship and adore God
Jesus said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matt. 22:37-38). As you learn to fervently pray, to commune with God each day, to always be in a spirit of prayer — as you seek to be like God and desire to be with Him forever — you will learn what it means to love God "with all thy heart." God will become the greatest reality in your life. You will do the same necessary things you always did, but with a new emphasis. You will eat, but you will eat good, wholesome foods, and in moderation, to better serve God and honor Him. You will exercise, but only in right balance, so you may "glorify God in your body" (I Cor. 6:20) and have the strength and grace to serve Him better. Your entire life will take on new meaning. In your whole outlook and motivation, you will become a "new creature" in Christ (II Cor. 5:17). You will love your husband or wife more than ever, and with a deeper love — a love filled with the recognition that your mate is a potential God, a precious thing in the sight of the Creator. Your mate will become more precious to you, too. And you will do all you can to encourage and enrich your mate's life — serving, helping, gladly sacrificing for his or her ultimate good. Why? Because these things all tie in with God's great purpose for you, which you will fervently desire to fulfill. If your conversion is to be deep and genuine, you must make God the very center of your existence. Learn to take delight in seeing God in everything. Appreciate beautiful sunrises and think of God. Listen to beautiful music and think of the Creator of every good and every perfect gift (Jas. 1:17). Walk out under the stars at night and think of God and His awesome majesty and power, and of His love for us weak human beings on this earth, a little ball in the darkness of space. Think constantly of God as your Father, your Protector, your Deliverer, your Sustainer, the One who blesses you. As Jesus said, begin your prayers in this manner: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (Matt. 6:9). Learn to spend the first part of your prayers in thanking, praising and hallowing God. Go into detail. Thank Him fervently for your very life, for protecting you, feeding you, clothing you, housing you, perhaps giving you a mate and children and a home. Thank Him for the good things that happen each day. And thank and praise Him most of all for calling you to understand the purpose of human existence, to have a part in His Church and in His Work. Thank Him that your life can really count for something in this age when so many people lack meaning in their lives.
Learn to exult in God
Some of us have tended to crush and repress our emotions, many of which are right emotions that should be expressed. Many times we don't show the affection we should to our parents, our mates, our children and even to God. But David, our future king, was not like that, and he was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). As a young man deeply in love thinks on his beloved, so David thought of God. He constantly pictured God's strength and greatness, His massive intellect and creative powers, His steady help, deliverance, love, mercy and forgiveness to man - all this and much more. "I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High" (Ps. 9:1-2). David surely did pour out his "whole heart" in worshiping and praising God. And let us remember that "worship" involves singing hymns and psalms to God, coming into His presence with thanksgiving in public as well as private (Ps. 95:1-2). This attitude of worship involves the total surrender of the human spirit to the Creator. It involves the all-encompassing realization that you have no life apart from God, that your whole being belongs to Him to use as He sees fit (I Cor. 6:19-20). Then you may say with King David: "As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:1-2, Revised Standard Version). You will then desire that total oneness with God that Jesus prayed we would all attain (John 17:11, 21-23). As we attain this oneness with God, we will yearn to fulfill God's purpose for creating us — desiring to obey Him, to walk and talk with Him, to be like Him and with Him forever. We will gladly give ourselves in unconditional surrender to our Maker — having no reservations, having no hidden corners of our lives — knowing deeply within ourselves that as an acorn is destined to become an oak, as a child is destined to become an adult, our destiny is to become part of God's Family, to become God as God is God! Only in this way can all of us who are truly called of God keep the full intent and spirit of the First Commandment.