Greg Laurie - The Heart Of The Problem
Why did God give us these 10 commandments? Well, for a lot of reasons. Number one, they're the foundation of all morality. Here are the absolutes we're looking for. So we know right from wrong, up from down. They are guard rails given to us so we can live happy lives. They're given to us for our own protection. There are walls of protection to keep us safe. And one last thing I'll say about the commandments. They're absolutely impossible to keep on your own.
The commandments are sort of like a moral mirror. Have you ever looked in a magnifying mirror? You know, you look in the regular mirror and you think I look good. And then you look in that magnifying mirror with extra light, and you realize you don't look nearly as good as you thought you looked because a magnifying mirror puts your flaws on display.
So let's go to commandment number five. It's Exodus 20:12, "Honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God has given you".
Commandment number six, "You shall not murder".
Commandment number seven, "You shall not commit adultery".
Commandment number eight, "You shall not steal".
Commandment number nine, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor "or don't lie".
And finally the last commandment, verse 17 of Exodus 20, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house nor covet your neighbor's wife nor his male servant nor his female servants or anything that belongs to your neighbor". All right, let's dive in to commandment number eight, "You shall not steal".
Now we've seen how we all fall short in these other areas. Who among us has not had another God before him? Who among us has not at some time taken the Lord's name in vain. We might say, well I've never committed adultery or murdered anyone. But Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, if you've looked on a woman or a man with lust in your heart, it's the same as committing adultery. And if you've had hatred in your heart towards someone it's the same as murdering them. So if you ever had hatred in your heart toward anyone, let me rephrase the question. Have you ever driven on a freeway, especially in Southern California?
So clearly we've broken these commandments but now when we come to, "You shall not steal" we might all breathe a collective sigh of relief because we'll think, well I actually don't steal anything. In fact, a poll was done by Barna that revealed that 86% of those who were polled said they were completely satisfied that they had never broken this commandment. We think stealing, well that's a problem for thieves and robbers but not us and we certainly see this on display as we have people who are rioting and looting in the streets of our major cities.
And I think theft has become so common. We don't even notice signs. For instance, you read that a cashier can't open their safe or a clerk at a gas station is working behind bulletproof glass and red lights blink on our dashboards of our cars telling people that the car alarm is on and security cameras monitor our every mood when we go into a store, our every move rather, as we go into a store and they even monitor us out in the streets as well.
An article in Newsweek pointed out that people shoplift, get ready for this figure, $13 billion worth of merchandise a year. And to all of this God says in his word, "You shall not steal". It's not only a crime, it is a sin. Here's what the Bible says about stealing in Ephesians 4:28, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer. He must work and do something useful with his own hands that he may have something to share with those in need". That's a very important verse and it tells us three very practical things about stealing. Number one, we should steal no longer. Verse 28, he was been stealing should no longer do it. So if you've taken something from someone give it back. It doesn't belong to you. That's very important.
The story of Zacchaeus I think is the perfect illustration. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. So he didn't have many friends because back in those days the tax collector, it's not just like someone who worked for the IRS. It was someone who worked with the Roman Government. So Zacchaeus being a Jewish man, worked for the occupying force. So he was perceived by his fellow Jews as a traitor or a turncoat. And if it wasn't bad enough to collect the taxes for Rome, the tax collectors often added on more for their own benefit. So, no one liked Zacchaeus. So one day Jesus came into the town that he lived in called Jericho for a visit. And as he's walking through the town, Zacchaeus was kind of a little dude so he climbs up a tree to get a look at Jesus. And here's Christ moving through this crowd.
Suddenly he stops and looks up and says, "Zacchaeus, I'm coming over to your house today". And Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree and took Jesus to his home and they disappeared behind the closed door. And a little bit of time passed and they emerged together. And Zacchaeus said to all of the people that were there, "If I've taken anything in a wrong way, I'll give back four times as much". And Jesus said, "Truly salvation has come to this house today". So this is a man that understood he stole from others. So he should return what he had taken and compensate for it. This is called restitution. So if you steal something from someone you don't go to them and say, "Sorry, I stole this from you, forgive me". No, give it back. And if you broke it or lost it or sold it to someone else, buy them a new one.
So number one, don't steal any longer. Number two, do something useful. It says in Ephesians 4:28, "But then men must work". Like it or not the Bible teaches that we are to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow. And 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 says, "Whoever does not work should not eat. Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work. Wasting time meddling in other people's business". Listen to what Paul says, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we appeal to such people, that we command them, settle down and get to work and earn your own living".
Listen, the world does not owe you a living nor does the government. Your parents can't support you forever. Learn a work ethic. Get out there and apply yourself. This is so important. And then thirdly, share what you have with others. Again, what does he say? He says, "So you might have something to share with those in need". Sharing is the opposite of stealing. Socialism has become very popular in our culture. More and more people especially those who are young, Say they think it's a new way of life we should adopt for America. The Bible does not advocate socialism. You say, but wait I heard that in the Bible they shared one with another, yes voluntarily. They weren't forced to do it. The redistribution of wealth in the Bible.
We have many parables where the person who takes a little and multiplies it is rewarded. And the person who has given something and does not use it or invest it properly, has what they have taken away from them. The point is simply this, we should share instead of take from others. And by the way, if you think the government is good at doing these things, I don't know when you went to the DMV the last time or even the post office, but I think government efficiency may be something of an oxymoron. So we wanna give to others.
Now, here's something to think about when we talk about stealing. Did you know it's possible to steal from God himself? But here's what we need to understand. Everything that we have comes from God. Everything that you own comes from God because you belong to God. He has provided that back to you. So we should give back to the Lord. Of our finances now, when we talk about stealing from God, in the book of Malachi we read this incredible statement. Malachi 3:8, "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. And then we say, but how have you robbed you"? And the Lord says, "In your tithes and offerings".
So, it should be understood by the Christian that it is a privilege to give of our finances to God. We should all want to do it and we all should do it because as I already said everything that we have comes from the Lord and he makes specific promises to us as we faithfully invest into his kingdom he will bless us as a result. And back Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you". What things? The context of what he was talking about is, don't be like nonbelievers who just worry about what they're gonna wear, what they're gonna eat, what they're gonna drink. Jesus says, "Your father knows you have need of these things". But instead put God first. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.
Then in Malachi this amazing promise is made, in Malachi 3:10, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there'll be enough food in my temple. And if you do", says the Lord, "I'll open up the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing so great. You won't have room enough to take it in". And then the Lord says, "Try it, put me to the test". I challenge you. Put the Lord to the test, give faithfully to him. Don't steal from the Lord. Don't steal from other people.
Commandment number nine, verse 16 of Exodus 20. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor". Or a simpler way to understand it, you shall not lie. We know lying is wrong. So why do we do it? It's often because we've been caught doing something wrong and we wanna find a way to explain it. So a lie will come as a result. I read an article from the Washington Post Magazine, that said that lying happens 92% of the time because people want to save face and 98% of the time to keep from offending someone else. So it can be challenging.
You know, maybe husbands your wife comes to you with a new dress and she says, "Do I look fat in this"? By the way the answer is always, no, you don't. But you know, you don't wanna say, well, actually you do a little because that will offend them. So you don't wanna tell them the truth. And it's hard, maybe you're invited over to someone's house for a meal and the meal is so bad, you can't even finish it. And you took it and fed it to the dog and the dog just died. And after the meal's over, she says, "How did you like the dinner I served you"? And you say, "I would say it was one of the most unusual meals I've ever eaten. I've never eaten anything like it before. I have to go, excuse me". And then you go throw up in the bathroom.
But the point is, it's hard to say, "Actually that was horrible. Don't serve that to anyone again". Because we don't want to offend them. But we tell little white lies too. You know, someone calls you don't wanna answer the phone. So you tell the kids to say, "Tell them mum's not home". Sometimes we lie to the kids. We're having a great ice cream. They say, "Can I have some"? Oh, I don't think you would like it. It's a little too spicy".
You know, we do these little white lies so to speak, all the time. For instance, we'll say this, "Oh, sorry. I forgot". When you didn't forget you just didn't care enough to do it. You say to someone, "It's good to see you". When actually it isn't good to see them at all. You say, "I love your outfit". When actually you don't love their outfit. You're late for an appointment you say, "Oh, sorry I hit traffic". When you didn't hit traffic, you just left really late. "Oh, I was just getting ready to call you". When you weren't or "The cheque's in the mail". When it isn't.
Or how about this one, "Well, I'll be praying for you". Okay, that's nice to say make sure you do it. If you say to someone I'll be praying for them, make sure you pray for them. Here's another way that you can lie, through gossiping and backbiting. Saying things like, have you heard, hey I don't know if this is true, but I just heard that or I wouldn't tell you this but I know it won't go any further but. How about this one? I'm telling you this just so you can pray. Hold on, if you don't know that something is true, don't you dare repeat it. That's gossip. The very name hisses, gossip. Remind yourself of the serpent, tempting Eve in the garden and the devil can really get into the details of this sort of thing 'cause we can end up slandering a person or destroying their reputation. And what we're saying is not factually true. As I've said to you before apply the acronym think before you speak.
T - is it true?
H - is it helpful?
I - is it inspiring?
N - is it necessary?
K- is it kind?
If it does not pass muster with the acronym of think don't say it. You see Greg if I applied that principle in my life, I'd hardly say anything about anyone. Good, shut up and do us all a huge favor because if you've been the victim of gossip or a lie told about you, you know how hurtful it can be. Let me tell you something. God hates it when his people lie. Over in Proverbs six it says there are seven things the Lord hates. Haughty eyes which means sort of a look of arrogance, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart the plots evil, feet that raise to do wrong, a false witness that pours out lies and a person who saw sows discord in the family. It's interesting out of the seven things that God hates, two of them have to do with lying and deceit. I'll tell you why God hates lying, because he is the source of, and the very personification of truth.
Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life". In contrast to Jesus who is truth, we have the devil who's described in the Bible as the father of lies. So when we lie, we're behaving more like children of the devil than children of God. Why do we do it? To cover stuff up. One of the biggest whoppers of all time is the story of Aaron and the golden calf. So after Moses receives the 10 commandments he descends from Mount Sinai. And what does he find? He hears noise in the camp and, and he thought they were having a war and it turns out they were having a big old party and here's good Moses sees, picture it. He's holding the commandments. In each hand, he comes down from the mountain having been with the Lord himself.
And then people are dancing naked around a golden calf and they're singing, "Celebrate good times, come on". I don't know if there were singing that, but they're celebrating and he demands an explanation. And Aaron who he left in charge, by the way Aaron the worst babysitter of all time, offered this explanation. Well, Moses I know this looks bad standing in front of a golden image and worshiping it or it looks like we're worshiping it but here's what happened. We threw our gold into the fire and this calf just came out. So what else could we do but strip off our clothes and worship it, right?
Well, Moses was not happy needless to say but that was a lie. What actually happened was Aaron said, "Bring all of your gold, bring all of your bling, bring your earrings and your rings and your necklaces". And he melted it. And he made it in the shape of a golden calf that the people were bowing before it. But that was a lie. And we live in a culture, where especially on social media, it's literally built on lies. You have click bait.
You ever see one of those images and it'll have a little headline. "Oh, they left us too soon". And it's some well known movie star. What they died? You click it and it has nothing to do with that. There are lies that are told about people. Side said deal primarily in gossip. Let that not be something that's a part of our lives. Another form of lying is flattery. One definition of flattery is quote, "Flattery is saying things to a certain person's face you would never say behind their back". So you say, "Oh, you're so wonderful. Oh, you're so smart". Then you turn around and say, "I can't stand that person. There're such a loser". You're lying when you say these things to a person.
Another form of lying is exaggeration. Now let's be honest, sometimes preachers are guilty of exaggeration, especially when it comes to numbers. How many people come to their church, how many people attended this event. It's sort of like evangelastically speaking than evangelistically speaking. That's why we try to keep very accurate numbers and when we give you a number, it is really factual. But we might exaggerate our skills to get that promotion at work or whatever it is, stretching the facts that's a form of lying.
Here's another one you can also lie when you remain silent, when you should speak. You can lie by remaining silent when you should speak. Maybe you're in a setting where something is said about someone that you know that is not true. And you don't refute it. You say nothing even though you know what they're saying is not true about this person you know. That's called slander by silence or complicity by passivity. Christians need to be telling the truth and not be telling lies. This is a reflection of the Lord and his will for us.
All right, one last commandment. Commandment number 10. And by the way, I think this is the hardest of all 10 to keep. I think it's harder to keep than you should not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not take the Lord's name in vain. It's harder than all of them because it's a matter of the heart. The title of this message is The Heart of The Problem. Listen to this, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. What is the final commandment? Here it is, "You shall not covet". Exodus 20:17, "Don't covet your neighbor's house or his wife or his men servant and maid servant or ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor".
Coveting is in simply desiring something that someone else has. Coveting is being devoured by desire for something that is not yours. It actually means to eagerly desire that which belongs to another or to set your heart on something. The New Testament translates the Hebrew word for coveting with the word lust. And it can be translated to pant after something. Pant after something. So you think of a dog, you know, panting after it's food. You know, you put food in a dog's dish the dog wants to eat that food. You better not touch that food. That's a dog soup. It's like panting after. I must have this thing. That thing must be mine.
Remember The Lord of The Rings, a film series and there was a little creature called Gollum and he was obsessed with getting the ring from Frodo. And he called the ring, "My precious". You know, he had to have the ring. He was obsessed with the ring. And that's what coveting is like. You become obsessed with something, you feel that you must have this thing. I heard about a Roman Catholic Priest who heard the confessions of some 2000 people. He said every imaginable sin was confessed including adultery and even murder. But this Priest said, "I never heard one person admit to committing the sin of coveting". And I think that's because we don't really know what it is and we don't understand how bad it can be.
How does coveting work? Well, basically the eyes look at an object, the mind admires it, the will goes over to it and the body moves in to possess it, that's coveting. For instance, you might admire your neighbor's new car and go and buy one exactly like it. That's not coveting, that's actually copying. It may irritate him. But I don't think that's a sin though might bug him a little bit. But coveting is different. It's when you admire your neighbor's car and then you say, "can I Cake it for a spin around the block"? And you never come back again. That's coveting.
Well actually that's also Grand Theft Auto. But the point of it is, you've taken something that belongs to another. I saw what somebody else had. I decided I wanted that thing for my self no matter what it costs me or anybody else. That's how coveting works and it can destroy your life. We read of Judas who betrayed the Lord for three 30 pieces of silver. 1st Timothy 6:10 says, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. While some have coveted after", there's that word, "while some have coveted after, they've erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows".
It's not a sin to wanna be successful in your business and make a good living. But when you become obsessed with it, when you're willing to do whatever it takes to get there, when the most important thing to you in life is that thing instead of wanting to seek after the Lord coveting has turned into idolatry.
Colossians 3:5 warns us and says, "Covetousness is idolatry". Maybe one of the best examples of this is King David. He's just a man who is very successful. He was the King over Israel. He was loved by his people and he was on the grounds of his beautiful palace. Back in those days on the top of their palace they would have a little garden to walk around on and I've actually been to Israel and they have the city of David that they've unearthed and excavated. And you can see the general area where David's palace was. And so there at that elevated spot David's looking over his kingdom and he happens to see a beautiful woman named Bathsheba, ironically taking a bath.
So, you know, he saw a woman bathing herself and that was something that obviously had an effect on him and he began to lust after her. So he should have just repented, taken a cold shower and call it a day but instead he says, "I want that woman brought up to my chambers". They have sexual relations together, she gets pregnant. And then instead of admitting this sin to the Lord he tries to cover it up by bringing her husband back from battle to have relations with his wife and her husband named Uriah doesn't do what David wants him to do. So David effectively has him killed. And then he marries Bathsheba.
So look at all of these things that happened. It started with coveting, seen something that belonged to someone else or I should say someone that was the wife of another, it started there. Then that gave way to adultery and that gave way to murder. And then he lied to cover it up. He broke four commandments but it started with coveting. It starts with controlling our mind and channeling our thoughts toward the Lord. So in conclusion, have you broken any of these commandments? Have you committed adultery? Have you lusted after a man or a woman? Have you hated someone? Have you stolen? Have you lied? Have you covered it? The answer is, of course you have.
Let me restate it, of course we have. We've all broken these commandments. So sometimes we have pain in our life and we say, "Why do I have this pain"? It's the pain of sin in your life. You're experiencing the implications of sin. You don't wanna just get rid of the pain. You wanna get rid of the problem that causes the pain, right? Here's the problem, it's sin. Again as I said earlier, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. You can control your heart. The Bible says the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things who can know it.