“I am the LORD your God”

Exodus 20:1-3
1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Yesterday, a friend of mine was telling me about how difficult he was finding it to witness to someone. The person to whom he wants to witness is a woman who comes by now and then to do some work around his house. While my friend struggled to find an opening for his testimony, his daughter broke the ice in a way that only children seem to do, by simply asking the woman, “Where do you go to church?” The woman’s answer was rather noncommittal: “Well, I’ve been to church, but I don’t go now.” In the course of the conversation, the young woman offered only politically correct platitudes about respecting other people’s religions, and said that religion really wasn’t her “thing.”

I’ve never met that woman, but I know an awful lot of people just like her. In fact, when pressed on the issue, a very large portion of nominal Christians–you know, that nearly eighty percent of Americans who identify themselves as “Christians”– would probably answer the same way. They don’t go to church, they barely know anything about the faith in which they were raised, and they say they “respect other people’s religions” as a kind of mantra for not discriminating against their neighbors–who, quite likely, are just as noncommittal as they are. In surveys and polls, they will say they are Christians because that was how they were raised, or because they were baptized at a young age, or because their parents always had a Bible on a shelf in the living room. But when pressed on the issue about what they themselves DO believe, many self-named “Christians” come up with something that they think is good enough: “I believe in God.”

James 2:19
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble!

I was reflecting on all of this yesterday when our pastor mentioned a couple of verses that got me to thinking about what it means to really believe in God:

John 14:21
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Matthew 22:34-40
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 “This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

You see, it is not enough simply to BELIEVE in God. As James wrote, even the demons believe in God, and they tremble because they know who He is and what is coming for them! What is clear from the words of Jesus is that we are to LOVE God.

1 John 4:19
We love Him because He first loved us.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God loved us FIRST–long before we ever realized who He is and what He has done for us, long before we knew of His greatness and sovereignty, long before we understood His salvation. And out of His great love for us, out of His righteousness and His faithfulness, He sent His Son to die for us on a cross, so that we might know peace with Him. He brought each of us out of our own “Egypt”–that place where we were in bondage to sin, that place where we had thought we would be saved from famine only to find we were enslaved by our own appetites, that place where life seemed so much easier because we were minimally provided for, that place where we were far, far away from the Promised Land. The Lord our God brought us out of that place, and He has paid the price for redeeming us from the wages of our sin–which is death–and He has given us the gracious gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:23)

Jesus said that “all the Law and the Prophets” hang–literally, depend–on the commandments to love God and love each other, and He meant that almost literally. Look at the first of the Ten Commandments seen in today’s verses. Before that commandment, the Lord is tells us a couple of key things that will help us understand WHY we should love Him and keep His commandments:

1) He IS the “I AM,” the God above all other gods.
2) He HAS brought us out of Egypt, the land of our bondage to sin and death.

Do we believe that? Do we KNOW it? Do we have FAITH in that? The writer of Hebrews tells us that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) I cannot point at my salvation and say, “There it is.” I cannot show someone eternal life nor the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I cannot even show them this great “I AM” who has given me these things. But I CAN show them the evidence of these things: my faith. I can show them a life transformed by the gospel of Christ, a life redeemed from slavery to sin, a life that is no longer my own but God’s, a life that is lived in expectation of eternity, a life of love for God. If I am truly born again of the Holy Spirit, then my life will show it as surely as we see the trees moving in the wind. (John 3:5-8)

I do not simply believe in God, I love Him. I love Him because He IS the Almighty God, He IS the Healer, He IS the Redeemer, He IS the Rock and the Fortress, He IS the Creator, and He IS the author and finisher of my faith. I love Him because He is my Father in heaven, and He is the Son who paid the price for my sin, and He is the Holy Spirit who dwells within me even now.

When God told us to have no other gods before Him, He wasn’t simply asking us to BELIEVE in Him, but to LOVE Him more than all other things. All that we know, all that we see, all that we experience is possible because He first loved us, because He created all that is or ever was. When we love each other, we are indeed showing a little of our love for Him, but we must love God FIRST, having no other gods before Him–no friends, no family, no teachers or preachers, no religion, no country, nor even ourselves. (Matthew 10:37-38) He alone is the Lord our God, and He is to be first in our hearts, first in our souls, and first in our minds.

Romans 10:14-17
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those
Who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says,
“Lord, who has believed our report?”
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

There are many who say they “believe” in God, and many more who cannot even say what they believe. They cannot say what they believe because they do not know. And they do not know because they have not heard God saying to them, “I am the LORD your God.”

If we are to stem the tide of unbelief around us, we must first start by pressing people on what they DO believe, trying to understand what is important in their lives. Is it money, family, fame, or some nebulous measure of success? Do they worship their favorite sports teams or their favorite teacher? Where do they seek peace and solace and healing and redemption? In short, what are the “gods” of their lives? And have ANY of those “gods” ever redeemed them from slavery to sin? Do any of those “gods” love them so much that they would sacrifice their own lives for them? And do they love any of those “gods” so much that they would sacrifice their life for them?

The first and greatest commandment is that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind. It is therefore no coincidence that the first of the Ten Commandments is that we shall have no other gods before the Lord, the one true and living God. He is the Lord our God, the One who loves us so much He has given His own Son to redeem us from slavery to sin and to bring us to eternal life. (1 John 4:9-10) Our faith and love is to be rooted in Him, the One who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) We are not simply to respect other people’s religions, nor even just to tolerate others’ beliefs. We are to believe in and LOVE the Lord our God who brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. We are to place Him FIRST in our lives. All our love for others, all our obedience to His commandments, all our faith, all our hope of eternal life–all these things depend on our love for God. Therefore, let us read God’s words one more time and follow His simple commandment:

Exodus 20:2-3
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Holy Lord God, You HAVE brought me out of the land where I was once enslaved to sin and unbelief. I, too, was once someone who respected others’ beliefs but had none of my own. And then someone spoke the gospel of Jesus Christ to me, and finally I understood and believed. And in my belief I found love, and so I love You. Father, help me to drive all the other idols from my life and seek only Your kingdom and Your righteousness, to love You above all other “gods” in my life. And, Father, help me then to show others how to find You and to love You, the one true and living God. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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