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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:The Tenth Commandment teaches us to bring our desires in line with God's
Text:LD 44 QA 113 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:10th Commandment (Jealousy)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 77

Psalm 139:1,2,13

Psalm 119:25-27

Hymn 1

Psalm 150

Scripture readings: Psalm 19, Galatians 5:16-26

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 44, QA 113

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

The life of a Christian is a constant battle.  Every day we have to wage war against sin in our lives.  This is part of what marks a true Christian.  A true Christian isn’t a sinless person.  A true Christian isn’t a perfectly holy person.  No, a true Christian is someone who hates their sin and fights against it.  The battle isn’t always as intense as it should be, but it’s there.  Article 29 of the Belgic Confession is known for its description of the marks of the true and false church.  But often forgotten are the marks of Christians in the same article.  Our confession says first that believers are known for their faith in Christ the only Saviour.  But then it also adds, “Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life.”  Christians are fighters.

We fight not only against our external behaviours, but also against our internal desires.  Scripture teaches us quite clearly that it isn’t enough that we just behave correctly.  The Law of God isn’t superficial – it goes deep.  It goes way deep into our hearts and addresses what lives inside our thoughts and desires.  We’re talking here about our sanctification, the process by which we become more and more holy and Christ-like.  Our sanctification isn’t merely about doing right things.  It’s also about wanting to do right things and wanting to stay away from wrong things.

All of the commandments address our desires in some way.  For example, the First Commandment teaches us to desire God.  The Sixth Commandment teaches us to put to death the desire for revenge.  The Seventh Commandment teaches us that God forbids all unchaste desires.  So the Tenth Commandment isn’t introducing something totally new when it says, “Do not covet.”  It’s addressing our desires too, but the difference is that this commandment focusses on that.  We have one commandment that just focusses on what’s happening in our hearts.  So this afternoon, we’re looking at the Tenth Commandment.  And we’ll see how it teaches us to bring our desires in line with God’s

We’ll specifically learn about:

  1. The coming to life of holy desires
  2. The dying of impure desires

The commandment we’re looking at says, “You shall not covet.”  At least that’s how the apostle Paul summarizes this commandment in Romans 7:7.  As you know, the actual text of the Tenth Commandment is a little longer.  It specifically forbids coveting or desiring your neighbour’s house, his wife, his servants, his animals, and anything that belongs to your neighbour.  The words of the Tenth Commandment then focus on the negative, “You shall not…”  However, as we’ve seen again over the last few weeks, when God’s Law gives a negative command, a positive command is also implied. 

When it comes to the Tenth Commandment, the flip side of “you shall not covet” is “you shall delight in all righteousness.”  Or, you could say, “you shall have holy desires.”  You shall have desires that line up with what God desires.  After all, what God desires is righteousness, a rightness reflecting what he’s like. 

Psalm 19 teaches that to us.  That Psalm has two parts.  The first speaks about the glory of God revealed in creation.  The whole universe says something powerful about God’s might and majesty.  In the second part of the Psalm, David turns his attention to God’s Word, specifically to the law of God given in his Word.  He praises the law of the LORD as being perfect, right and pure.  God’s law is true and righteous.  David speaks of what the law of God does:  it revives the soul, it makes the simple wise, it rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes.  Then hear what he says in verse 10, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”  David is speaking in that verse 10 about the rules of the LORD, his righteous and true law.  He says these laws of God are to be desired.

How much are they to be desired?  According to David, more than the finest gold.  People put so much worth and value on gold and money, but Scripture says there’s something we should long for far more and that’s the righteousness taught us in God’s Law.  Then David appeals to another thing that people often crave:  delicious food, particularly honey.  The Law of God is sweeter than honey to a believer.  It’s better than drippings of the honeycomb.  In the Ancient Near East, honey straight from the comb was considered to be a delicacy, especially if it still had the young bees in it.  We still enjoy honey today, but it’s not considered anywhere near the delicacy that it was in David’s day.  In our world today, an equivalent might be the finest chocolate from Belgium.  They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Something similar is happening here in this Psalm.  The point is that the Word of God and what it teaches for our lives is to be esteemed so highly and treasured so deeply in our hearts, far more than how we might esteem or treasure any culinary delicacy.  That’s how this poetry is meant to speak to us.

You can be forgiven if you hear this and your first reaction is a bit of despair or maybe even a lot of despair.  If we look at our lives, we have to say that oftentimes chocolate from Belgium is more delightful to us than obedience to the Law of God.  Chocolate in itself isn’t sinful, but we go further and many times we delight in sinful things more than we do in following the good law of our God.  What it says in Psalm 19 is nice, but it seems idealistic. 

This is where we need to turn our eyes away from ourselves for a moment and look at our Saviour Jesus Christ.  In him and through everything he’s done for us, we have forgiveness.  You have forgiveness for all the times that you have not had a holy desire to follow God’s law.  The gospel promises that you’re washed in the blood of Jesus.  Moreover, what we read in Psalm 19 is perfectly fulfilled in Christ.  What I mean is that he did desire obedience to God’s law more than anything else when he walked on this earth.  He always delighted in all righteousness and he didn’t do that for himself.  He did it for you.  He did it in your place.  Also when it comes to the Tenth Commandment, we have the perfect obedience of our Saviour credited to us and for that we can rejoice.  We can be thankful!  We can approach this commandment in the light of the gospel. 

Since we have Christ as our Saviour, we can look at Psalm 19 as an aspiration, as a vision of who we’re becoming in Christ.  We’re being transformed into people who reflect Christ and his perfect obedience.  We’re being renovated so we have a desire and delight in all righteousness.  It might happen slowly, but more and more we can see that God’s Law is desirable and we want to follow it.  We want to learn from his Word how we should live, what we should love, what we should desire more than anything. 

Moreover, as believers we have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us.  His presence is a gift and a blessing that should never be underestimated or forgotten.  The Holy Spirit works in us to produce the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5 famously says the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  All of those aspects of the fruit of the Spirit have their roots in what goes on inside our hearts.  This is where the Holy Spirit begins his work.  His work begins inside us.  He works in us to create holy desires that please God.  But where does that leave us?  What are we to do with this teaching?  There are three things. 

First, we have to pray for the Holy Spirit to do his work in us.  We must pray that he would help us to have the holy desires God wants us to have in the Tenth Commandment.  We need his help and strength, and when we pray for that, God will hear and answer.  According to what we confess from the Scriptures in Lord’s Day 45, God will give his grace and Spirit to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts.  Brothers and sisters, ask the Lord to strengthen you with his Spirit so you can have holy desires, so that you delight in all righteousness.  So that’s first:  pray.

Second, we need to remember how the Holy Spirit does his work with a tool in his hand.  His tool is the Word of God.  The Scriptures are the way the Holy Spirit shapes our desires in a God-ward direction.  Therefore, we can never expect our desires to become holy if we’re ignoring the Scriptures.  We need to regularly be under the preaching of the Word.  We need to be regularly reading the Word for ourselves and in our families.  We need to be studying that Word by ourselves and with others.  As we do that, the Holy Spirit will speak to us and he will show us the new desires we should have, the desires that will please God.  So that’s the second thing we can do:  read and study the Word of God, listen to its proclamation.

Third, the Holy Spirit doesn’t do his work of sanctification by himself.  We see that in Galatians 5.  Paul says in verse 25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”  What I want you to see is that there’s an active role for the believer in sanctification.  You aren’t passive in your sanctification.  You can’t just sit back and say, “Okay, sanctify me.  I’m waiting.”  We have to exercise our wills, wills which have been made alive by the Holy Spirit.  We have to make an effort towards this.  Concretely, that first of all means that we have to be reflective about our desires.  Christians need to think about what’s going on in their hearts and when what’s going on there isn’t pleasing to God, we have to want to change it and we have to do what we can to change it.  We have to keep in step with the Spirit – it’s a command for each of us.  When it comes to our desires, we have to speak to ourselves and tell ourselves to want what the Lord wants for our lives.  It’s a type of preaching to yourself – and that’s the third thing we can do. 

So to review, the coming to life of holy desires involves prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit, diligent use of the Word of God, and then finally actively encouraging yourself towards it.

Now let’s flip over to the other side of this commandment and consider the dying of impure desires.  Our Catechism says that not even the slightest thought or desire against any of God’s commandments should ever arise in our hearts.  Instead, we should always hate all sin. 

Loved ones, we’re both saints and sinners.  We’re saints before God through Jesus Christ.  In his sight, we’re justified.  That means he has declared us righteous, perfectly holy before him.  We’re accepted in the beloved – praise God.  But as we live in this world, we continue to be sinners.  We all know that our sin has its roots in evil desires.  James says this in chapter 1, verse 15:  “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”  The same thing happened in the Garden of Eden.  We often think of the first sin as being the eating of the fruit that God had forbidden.  But the departure really began in the realm of desire.  In Genesis 3:6 we read that the woman saw that the tree was good for food, despite God’s warning.  She saw that it was a delight to the eyes.  She saw that the fruit of the tree was desirable.  She wanted it.  She should have put that desire to death.   Instead, she allowed that desire to conceive and give birth to sin.  We all follow in that path of our grandmother Eve.

Someone once compared our situation to having a pack of wild dogs inside.  These wild dogs want to destroy you and if you let them, they will.  You have two choices.  You can feed these wild dogs and allow them to gain strength so that they can destroy you.  Or you can starve these wild dogs and they will get weaker and weaker so they can’t do any lasting damage.  These wild dogs are your sinful desires.  If you feed your sinful desires and allow them to get stronger, they will destroy you.  If you cherish your sinful desires and coddle them, they’ll take over your life and leave you with nothing but hurt.  However, if with the help of the Holy Spirit, you’re starving those sinful desires, they’ll get weaker and your life will be the better for it.  You have to starve the wild dogs and kill them.  How can we learn to do these things? 

It begins with hate.  So often we get it drilled into us that hate is bad.  But loved ones, not all hate is bad.  There is a good hate, a necessary hate.  There is a righteous hatred that God has and that Christians should have too.  We must hate all sin with all our heart. 

This isn’t easy to do.  It’s not easy because we still have the remnants of our sinful nature and that sinful nature loves sin.  It loves the very thing that’ll destroy us.  It loves the wild dogs.  But thankfully, we have a tool at our disposal to help us with this.  We have something that’s mighty and powerful to help us learn how to hate sin.  Do you know what it is?  It’s the Word of God.  The Scriptures are there to teach us the reality of what sin is and what sin does, so we’ll hate it with all our heart, so we’ll learn to hate it the way the LORD does.

Let’s look briefly at some ways that the Bible speaks about sin so that we can learn to hate it and put to death sinful desires in our hearts.  In Proverbs 30:15, sin is compared with a leech and its children:  “The leech has two daughters, ‘Give’ and ‘Give,’ they cry.”  First of all, no one keeps pet leeches.  They are not cute.  Leeches are some of the ugliest creatures on this earth.  People are disgusted by leeches.  Not only that, but leeches are destructive, life-sucking creatures.  They suck your blood, the life right out of your body.  That’s a picture of sin.  All sin wants to do is take from you, take, take, take.  Sin doesn’t give anything positive or worthwhile.  It steals from you and destroys you, just like a leech.  Sin and sinful desires are like a parasite.  Do you see it?  Brother, sister, think about the ways in which sin and your sinful desires are like a leech in your life.  Do you see from this passage in Proverbs a reason why we should always hate all sin?

One of the most disgusting images in the Bible for sin is found in Proverbs 26:11.  It’s quite extreme and it’s meant to illustrate how revolting sin should be to us.  Proverbs 26:11 says, “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”  When dogs throw up, they sometimes go back to it to eat it.  Humans see this and they find it totally disgusting.  We would never do such a thing.  Except when we sin, we actually do.  We do something that’s actually as disgusting as a dog going back to its vomit.  If we’re being thoughtful about our lives and about our sin, we should clearly see all sin as disgusting, it’s like vomit.  And when we go back to it and do it over (which we all do), it should be even more revolting and stomach-turning.  This Proverb is given to us in God’s Word so we have clarity about our sin, so we hate it and put our impure desires to death before they give conceive and give birth to sin.                                  

The last image we can look at is from the New Testament, from Romans 6:23.  In that well-known passage we hear how the wages of sin is death.  Here the illustration is like a worker receiving his pay from his employer.  Earlier in that chapter of Romans 6, Paul speaks of unbelievers as being slaves of sin.  In the New Testament, slave owners would often give a wage to their slaves.   In verse 23 then, those who are enslaved to sin receive the wage of that slave-master.  That slave-master has nothing to give them but death.  The wages of sin is death.  Death is all you’ll ever earn with your sin.  So why would you love sin?  Why would you want to commit sin?  If sin is going to kill you, shouldn’t you rather hate it?

Loved ones, let’s think clearly about sin.  We cannot minimize it and we shouldn’t rationalize it.  Sin is enmity against God – it’s dishonouring to God.  Sin is lawlessness.  Sin sucks the life out of you.  It destroys relationships.  Sin is disgusting and it earns nothing but death in the end.  Indeed, as our Catechism puts it, we should always hate all sin.  We have every reason to do so.

There’s always going to be a battle for holiness in our lives here on this earth.  Thankfully, we have God’s promise that someday the fight will be over.  When the Lord calls us home or when our Saviour returns, whichever happens first, we’ll at last have total peace.  But not right now.  Now is the time to make war.  Now is the time to fight the good fight.  Loved ones, in this week ahead and always, let us be resolved to hate sin and fight against our sinful desires, and let those new and God-pleasing desires come to life in us.  Brothers and sisters, keep in step with the Spirit.  AMEN.


O Holy God in heaven,

Thank you for your good and holy Law.  We’re glad also for the gospel of forgiveness through Christ.  We rejoice that he is our great Law-keeper.  Father, we want to respond appropriately to the gospel of our salvation.  This afternoon, we’ve heard about the Tenth Commandment and we want to obey that.  We do want to delight in all righteousness.  We pray for the Holy Spirit to give us help in that.  Please let him speak to us through your Word, so we can keep in step with him.  We also want to hate all sin.  Please help us to see more clearly and consistently the offensiveness of sin, the way it sucks and destroys life.  With your Spirit, please help us to see always that sin leads to nothing but death.  We ask for your help and strength so that, more and more, not even the slightest thought or desire against any of your commandments arises in our hearts.  Lord, please show us your mercy and give us your grace.                  

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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