Following Jesus: What to do with the 10 Commandments?

Andy Stanley is one of my favorite authors, youtube preachers and DVD study creators. He is an amazing communicator. He has lead me to a better experience of God, to love my family and others in a deeper way, and to see that Jesus is even better than my dreams imagined.

Pastor Stanley has always had his detractors, and recently more of them because of his apparent dismissal of the Bible and the 10 commandments.

On the Bible issue, his comments appear to have been striving to get his congregation to move beyond a “the Bible says” approach to sharing their faith with others. He believes a fresher approach is needed with post-Christian America. Focusing on the events and experiences that deeply shaped the founding identity of the Christian community, mainly the Resurrection of Jesus, and our experience of our faith in accepting these witnesses, can have a powerful impact on unbelievers or disbelievers.

I agree that we can find more effective ways to reach others that walks back from Bible idolatry or bible-banging to get our point across. Sharing, counseling or convincing others of “the need” for faith takes a deep encounter with the Person of Christ who we can put faith in. I accept his pastoral challenge. Thanks. (Later, I will offer a caveat that might help him and his detractors find a more common ground for conversation).

On the second issue, the 10 commandments, Andy’s move to “unhitch” ourselves more from the Old Testament and embrace the “new” covenant which moved Christianity past the “old” covenant is a little more difficult for me to see as a safe place to go.

He is not too keen on the Ten commandments arguing God replaced them with One commandment, the commandment to Love!

He makes a strong case, has some good insights, but misses the opportunity to find a more integrative understanding of the God of the Old and the New and how that brings us to the God of the Now.

Yes, Jesus is the Word incarnate, showing the face of God better than texts or saints or angels. that is the point of Hebrews 1-3. But to dismiss or even marginalize the Old Testament, Judiasm and the 10 commandments seems to throw the baby out with the bath water. It seems to suggest God wasn’t trying to say something to all of us through the Law and the Prophets. Did he not have a plan back then? Hebrews 11 seems excited to extend us a list of people to follow, and if you notice, most of those we read about in the Old Testament. What are we to learn in our Christian walk from Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, Ruth, Esther and others.

Failure to grasp the continuity of the Old Testament and New Testament and to see God working always on the same basic game plan, it to miss a robust view of God’s work of restoration and redemption.

My faith community, Seventh-day Adventist, has helped me try to find this continuity and that itself has given a unique path into the mind and heart and strategy of God. The sanctuary services, detailed in the Old Testament, has been especially useful for providing a big picture of his work. Revelation and Hebrews confirms that big picture continues into the New Testament. It culminates in a wonderful game plan of grace and restoration, but also God’s dealing with evil and those who cling to it, most notably Satan.

This unhitching of Christianity from the Old Testament makes it vulnerable to certain infections, most notably a sentimental love unconnected with the work of reconciliation and understanding of value commitments (named well in the 10 commandments). It also opens it up to a Gnosticism that seeks knowledge without a thorough training from God and the two witnesses (Revelation 11), which I see as the Old and New Testament periods, as documented in the full Bible.

And the view that the 10 commandments aren’t crucial to Christianity shows a distortion of much of the New Testament statements referring to aspects of that law and to the work of God to write his law of love, which includes all his good laws, on our hearts.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I especially think Andy needs a deeper study of the Sanctuary, Sabbath and maybe something about the healthful living principles of the Old Testament.

Now, I will be the first to admit that on these OT teachings, I got mired in legalism and would confess many in my denomination have. But many others have found a deep grace and love in these old but amazing teachings.

I think Jesus, in love, invited me to rest always in him and I also believe that includes the privilege of Seventh-day Sabbath observance. I think he taught us the Sanctuary system in the Old Testament, so we might trace better his multifaceted ministry as creator, law giver, lamb, priest, advocate, and judge.

Which leads me to my final invitation to Andy, to his detractors, and myself. I think we would all agree Jesus loves others and wants a lifegiving encounter with them. It seems, from the Old Testament, he is creative in how he can make that happen and I believe he uses various experiences and words on a page or in our experiences to draw us closer to himself AND to His community of disciples.

So getting people closer to Jesus is our shared goal. As they come closer to him, they come closer to each other, and in that process see new aspects of Jesus through the experience others have of him.

This was the adjudication process of having the benefit of 2-3 witnesses. Without that fullness, we individually get distorted. This fundamental Christian growth strategy I discovered both in my life, but also in the Old Testament teaching of 2-3 witnesses, and in the realization that God engaged in such “judgment” that is through (compare PS 82, Daniel 2, 7-9; Revelation).

If I am tracing Jesus well in my walk with him and my reading of scripture, he has moved into yet another redemptive function: the Judgment Hour spoken of in Revelation 14.

While Andy, has isolated one of the biggest events, the resurrection, Acts 17 reminds us that this was part of a larger plan to bring all things under judgment by the Man God appointed, mainly Christ. The Old Testament sanctuary system, which plays out strongly Revelation and Hebrews and in the legal-judicial themes of John invites us to a deep appreciation of the thoroughness of God’s love, not only in his redemption of us individually, but of the whole order.

The Holy Spirit and Jesus are teaming up to continue the encounters and I would hope we can let him use the Bible to guide his followers in understanding more of the invisible attributes of his system and his work.

The disciplines on the road to Emaus got a Bible study instead of a first hand account of the resurrection by the only one who ever went through it completely of his own volition. Even Jesus at the Resurrection seems to value a scriptural pursuit of truth. It didn’t end there, there is also the encountering moment. But it seems that witnesses–not only ours but others–is crucial in the faith development process. Which is why we need the witness of the Old Testament and especially the 10 commandments. They help us encounter Jesus in more reliable ways.

Many experiences, testimonies, events or encounters can teach us about Jesus. What does the Creation tell us? The Flood? The cross? The giving of the Law at Sinai? Christ move into his priestly ministry in heaven (Hebrews)? The judgment hour of Revelation 14?

Andy, I would suggest add to the conversation but also let others share what they have found valuable in their walk with God.

Yes, you see correctly the power of the resurrection. But I see in his discussion with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ resurrection that it is about His person, Jesus, and where he is, events can happen that bring more love.

One of those was at Sinai. Another will be at the judgment hour.

Which brings me to my agreement with Andy. Matthew 25 is the Yom Kippur of the New Testament. It is where Jesus states what will be the deciding aspects of his work of judgment. And it seems to be the one commandment law of love.

Prayer: God, help me to love like you!!! I know that will fulfill all your expectations for me and my desire to follow you. This will not be an abandonment of what you have said in the past but a crescendo of law and love combing.


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