Theology

The Ten Commandments: Guideposts to Living Free

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The Ten Commandments have a bad reputation. They've been used to try to impose our beliefs on others--specifically the unchurched and those from other religions. They've also been used as a guilt-laden way to try earning the forgiveness of our sins (called "salvation"). We look at them and snarl, "They're just a bunch of laws. I don't like laws!" Or we say, "They're so restricting, telling me 'don't do this or that'!" Despite our tendency to look at the Ten Commandments negatively, they are actually a great blessing given to us by God Himself. To understand this, I think it is important to briefly look back at the circumstances surrounding their origin. Israel, God's chosen nation, had been in slavery in Egypt for 440 years before we are told that "God heard their cry" and set events in motion to save them from Pharaoh (the ruler of Egypt). The people of Israel were free! They were now able to worship their God as his people. But that wasn't what happened. The people of Israel started to live in ways that caused them great pain and danger--drawing them further away from God and instead enslaving them to sin. Knowing that they needed to be shown the way to live free--how to live in the very ways of God--He gave them Ten Commandments as the guideposts to free living.

Just because the Ten Commandments were given to Israel under the Old Covenant does not negate their importance for us today. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that he had come to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Then, in Mark 12:30-31, Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments in two broad commandments which, if followed, would lead to the natural fulfillment of all Ten Commandments.

Of course, the really great thing is this: these commandments are not a set of guidelines that must be followed in order to gain salvation. You see, John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his son, Jesus (who is also God Himself--I know, the Trinity is confusing), to pay the price for our sins (i.e., misdeeds, mis-thoughts, rejection of God, etc.). All we have to do is accept the free gift offered us by believing in the supernatural work of Jesus and submitting to him and we are saved! So, the Ten Commandments do not earn us our freedom, but are used to show us how to live out the freedom those who are true Christians have already received!

Furthermore, these commands from God do not take away our freedom, despite telling us not to do certain things. This is because they protect us, our relationship with God, and the rights and freedoms of those around us. For a community to live free, they have to watch out for each other! We can understand the protection aspect like this: a good father will create rules and boundaries around his children in order to keep them safe so they do not get killed or find irreparable harm. A father who lets his children do whatever they want is not giving them freedom, but condemning them to a poor existence. Likewise, our Heavenly Father (God) has given us boundaries to keep us safe from the harm that can come from certain things, and also to prevent us from slipping back into slavery to that which we have been delivered from--sin and eternal death.

Abundant Springs is in the midst of a series on the Ten Commandments and I invite you to follow along--either in person, or by listening online here. We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post, so leave them below or on our Facebook page.

--Pastor Stephen Valcourtpastorstephen

Full and Continually Filled

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5547035820_62221f3eea_z Sunday we talked about resisting temptation through the Holy Spirit's power. If you haven't heard the message yet, you can listen to it here. A question was brought up that I thought may be good to speak to here. It was brought up that the idea of being "Full" of the Holy Spirit while also being called to "continually be filled" with the Holy Spirit is contradictory. "How," I was asked "can one be full of something, yet need to continue to be filled?" This is a very good question and one that I will try to answer below.

1) We leak

We're not perfect, nor are we always focused on what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us. Until the day that we arrive in heaven we, as Christians, are Holy, but not perfectly Holy; New, but still being made new--we are works in progress.Therefore, we can be full of the Holy Spirit, but begin to ignore him and lose some of his presence in our lives. I don't believe the Spirit ever fully leaves, but that overwhelmingly powerful presence can fade if we're not careful.

As I am continually filled more and more with the Spirit I want his presence to run over and soak those around me.

2) We are growing

As I said previously, we are works in progress--new, but still being made new. As we grow closer to God and are conformed more and more to his image, our capacity for the Holy Spirit grows leaving us less-than-full. This necessitates us to be re-filled with the Holy Spirit.

3) The Spirit is an unending source

Even when a cup is full, you can continue to fill it as long as you have more water to pour into it. The Holy Spirit is an unending source of life and he can continually pour into our lives without ever running out of himself to give. Sure, stuff is going to run over, but isn't that the point? As I am continually filled more and more with the Spirit I want his presence to run over and soak those around me. I want people to feel the Holy Spirit when I meet them and interact with them so their lives can be changed and transformed into followers of Jesus.

As we grow closer to God and are conformed more and more to his image, our capacity for the Holy Spirit grows leaving us less-than-full.

Hopefully this dis-ambiguates the concept of being full and still needing to be filled for you. I pray that you will seek more of the Holy Spirit and unleash the power he has for you in your life.

--Pastor Stephen Valcourtpastorstephen

Image of dove, "Holy Spirit 33", by Waiting for the Word. Used according to Creative Commons Licensing

How We Can Know the Bible is What it Says

I believe that the Bible is a message from God himself, designed to lead humanity to peace with God through belief in Jesus. However, you may not agree with me. Perhaps you instead believe the Bible is corrupted, or that it is a work of fiction. Therefore, let me share with you how one can know that the Bible is, in fact, what it claims to be. First, consider how the Bible is constructed. It is not just one book, but a collection of 66 harmonious books penned by 40 different men (many of whom were willing to die for what they had written) of diverse backgrounds over the course of about 1500 years. All of these books follow a singular theme containing a broad variety of genres including historical, narrative, law, epic, poetry, prophecy, wisdom and letters. Add to this the fact it is made up of books written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and contains writings from three different continents, and one can begin to see how it should have been nearly impossible to keep a common story throughout the entire Bible without any true contradiction. Despite these odds, the Bible is a perfectly unified work.

Second, archaeology continues to support the places and events in the Bible, while discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls (ancient manuscripts discovered in the 1950’s) continue to confirm the accuracy of the Bible we have today. As well, all but 11 verses of the New Testament (the 27 most recently written books of the Bible) were quoted and affirmed by scholars within the first 300 years after Jesus’ death. To put it in perspective, no one would argue that the works we attribute to Plato or Homer were not written by them, yet the Bible is far more authenticated than they are!

Finally, the Bible has the ability to impact people at a personal level like no other book in history can. It has changed the behaviour of drunkards, murderers, molesters, and the common man. If one approaches the words of the Bible with humility, it will speak to him or her on a deeply personal level. If you don’t believe me, read the first four books of the New Testament with an open heart and mind and see what happens. Truly, the Bible is like no other book—inspired by God and revealing His plan for humanity. It is a book of hope and promise, a book that I pray you will come to see as God intended.

--Pastor Stephen Valcourt pastorstephen

This article originally appeared in the Pincher Creek Echo

Nothing We Can Do.

shrugSome people may not like what I am about to say: Nothing that you can do can get you into heaven. Living a good life, helping out the poor, going to church--none of it will ensure that you will spend life after death with God. You may feel like that is quite a hopeless statement (especially coming from a pastor); however, let me explain how we can get to heaven. God is perfect and holy and we are not. No matter how hard we try, we will never be “good enough” to be with him, yet he loved us so much he provided us a way: through His Son, Jesus Christ. See, in Matthew 19:25 the disciples asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” to which Jesus responded, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Believe it or not, you or I living with God in heaven is the most impossible thing imaginable! Our hope comes in John 3:16-18:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Nothing that you can do can get you into heaven.

If you believe in Jesus, the Son of God and in his death and resurrection to save us from our misdeeds and ill-thoughts; and if you desire to spend eternity with him, you’re saved! What is impossible for us to do through good-works and being a good-person is possible in the most beautiful way: through belief in God’s saving grace!

I hope you will join us at church on Sunday,

--Pastor Stephen Valcourtpastorstephen

This article wasoriginally printed in the Pincher Creek Echo