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Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
A while ago, a question in a magazine advertisement caught my attention: “Is it an alarm or a calling that gets you out of bed in the morning?”
I like that question. I think it’s something we need to ask ourselves.
What gets your blood pumping? What makes you tick? All of us have someone or something we live for, some passion or ideal that drives us on and gives our life a sense of purpose and meaning. What is your master passion? If you had to sum up in one phrase what you actually live for, what would you say?
That brings us back to the 10 commandments that begin with the words:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3)
In a previous article, I listed God’s Top Ten list of all time, the Ten Commandments. If we were to reorganize the Ten Commandments, we might list them differently. We might put “You shall not murder” or “You shall not commit adultery” at the top of the list. But what does God put at the top of his Top Ten list? “You shall have no other gods before Me.” According to God, having another god before Him is the No. 1 offense.
“Have no other gods before Me.” This is one most of us don’t think we ever break. A recent survey revealed that 76 percent of all Americans consider themselves “completely true to the first commandment.” But is this really so? Have most Americans never had another in the place of the true God? Is God really No. 1 in the lives of most Americans these days?
Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” (Matthew 4:10) If God is who He is, then He deserves my undivided attention. If the Lord God is No. 1 in your life, everything else will find it’s proper balance, but if He’s not, then everything else will be in chaos.
Note the wording that the Lord uses here: “I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” It is amazing how much can be revealed by a simple little word such as “I.” This little pronoun, only one letter long, conveys a profound and fundamental truth about who God is.
When God says, “I am the Lord,” He is refuting all other belief systems, including pantheism, polytheism, deism and New Age thinking. As James Kennedy points out in his book on this topic, “Why the Ten Commandments Matter”:
- Pantheism teaches that all is God. The universe is God. Everything is God. But when God said, “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), He revealed that He is a Person. He was in essence saying, “I feel, I act.” God is not, as pantheism teaches, an impersonal cosmic force. No, the Lord says, “I and I Alone am God, there is no other!”
- Polytheism teaches that there are many gods. Hinduism is a polytheistic belief system. But God didn’t say, “WE are the Lord, your Gods.” No, He said, “I AM the Lord, your God.” “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
- Deism proposes that God created the world, “wound it up like a clock,” and then went off and forgot all about it. A deist would say that God is “on vacation” and has no interest in the affairs of men. But when God “brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” He expressed His desire for a personal relationship with them as a God who sees, hears and cares. And the God who led, protected and blessed His people still wants to do that for us today.
- New Age thinking says the answer is inside of you. YOU are God! But New Age thought is nothing but the old lie of the devil. Remember, he said to Eve, “YOU shall be as gods.” (Genesis 3:5) But the God of the Bible alone is the Creator. He and He alone saves. This means that He is in charge of your life, not you. “You are not your own, you have been bought with a price” – but New Age thinking denies this and claims WE can do whatever we please, with whomever WE want, and whenever WE want. In short, New Age thinking gives us an excuse to live any way we want, without answering to God in our lives.
In short, when God said I AM the LORD your God, He revealed Himself as a distinct, unique and personal being who intimately cares for His people. This is the God “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” He doesn’t start His Top Ten list by threatening them or scaring them, but rather by reminding them of what kind of God He was: A loving, caring God who delivered them from misery!
You might respond, “Well, that’s great for them. But I wasn’t a slave in Egypt!” True, but you were a slave to sin on your way to hell. But God loved you so much He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in your place. If we really appreciate what He has done, if we know anything of His all-encompassing forgiveness, it should be our privilege and pleasure to seek to live a life that is pleasing to Him, not because we have to but because we want to! “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Now, with this in mind, let’s reconsider this first commandment, God’s No. 1 of the Top Ten list. What does it mean to “have another god before Him”? We tend to imagine an idol worshipper as someone lying prostrate before some carved image (and there are many that do that), but worshipping idols means a lot more than that.
An idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives. And know this: Everybody has a God. Even atheists have a god. It is not the true God, but a god nonetheless that they worship and serve. Everybody’s got to love somebody – whether it be the true God or themselves. Everybody makes something of ultimate concern in their hearts.
The real question, then, is “Who or what is your ultimate concern? What gets you excited? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you think about most of the day? What do you dream about? Plan for? Hope for? In short, what are you really passionate about? Now, that is your God.
Back to that question, “Is it an alarm or a calling that gets you out of bed in the morning?” Many of you reading these words might say, “The LORD is God!” And maybe He is. But then again, maybe He isn’t. God is not just merely whom we name, but whom we serve. What is the focus of your life? What occupies your attention and affection? What directs your interest and concern? Is it your career? Your family? Time for yourself? Your answer will reveal to yourself who is your God!