Why the Ten Commandments Matter

Why the Ten Commandments Matter

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by D. James Kennedy

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- The Coral Ridge Hour television program is broadcast nationally and internationally on over 200 stations and has a viewership in excess of three million. - Kennedy hosts a daily, half-hour radio program, Truths That Transform, carried on over 700 stations, and The Kennedy Connection, a daily 90-second radio feature carried on over 500 stations. - Kennedy is

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- The Coral Ridge Hour television program is broadcast nationally and internationally on over 200 stations and has a viewership in excess of three million. - Kennedy hosts a daily, half-hour radio program, Truths That Transform, carried on over 700 stations, and The Kennedy Connection, a daily 90-second radio feature carried on over 500 stations. - Kennedy is president of Coral Ridge Ministries, whose newsletter has a circulation of more than 200,000. - Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion (Tyndale House, 2002) is used in every nation of the world and has more than 1.5 million copies in print. - Solving Bible Mysteries (Nelson, 2000), Why I Believe (Word, 1999), and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nelson, 1994-62002) have together sold over 300,000 copies. - D. James Kennedy (Ph.D.) is the long-time senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is the author of over 60 books.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kennedy, a Florida minister with national influence through writing and hosting the television program The Coral Ridge Hour, says that our morally sick society needs the antidote found in God's law. Kennedy begins by explaining why the Ten Commandments remain relevant: they summarize God's timeless moral law, convince people that they are sinners, and teach believers what pleases God. Kennedy then walks the reader through the positive and negative imperatives of each commandment. Interpretations that would have been familiar in American culture a generation ago might sound foreign to many readers. For example, Kennedy suggests that it's wrong to go out to eat on Sunday, and he says that the fifth commandment mandates respect not only for parents but for all those in authority. His sermonic style, reliance on hypothetical examples and tired anecdotes limit the book's effectiveness. He fails to provide sources for purported facts; for example, statements like "Today, in Los Angeles, there are more gang members than there are police officers" beg for attribution. Kennedy also prefaces several assertions with "I believe" or "in my opinion," a distraction during a discussion of absolute truth. While Kennedy answers the question implicit in the title, stylistic shortcomings muffle this book's message. (May 16) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Why The Ten Commandments Matter

By D. James Kennedy

Warner Faith

Copyright © 2005 D. James Kennedy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-57727-8

Chapter One

Do We Need the Law of God?

Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. -Exodus 19:18-20

IMAGINE THAT you are among the vast throng of Israelites who have just been delivered from Egypt, following Moses in the great Exodus. You have seen the incredible power of God with your own eyes. You watched in awe as He rolled back the waters of the Red Sea to allow you and your countrymen to cross on dry land. Then, safely on the other side of the sea, you saw the waters come back together, covering the terrified Egyptian solders who had been pursuing you.

You have tasted the manna that God sent from heaven to feed you, and quenched your thirst with water that flowed from a rock at His command. Yes, you have seen God's power to save and heal, and you have also seen His power to destroy and kill.

And now, you stand before the mountain of God-Mount Sinai! It is shrouded in cloud and smoke, as if from a furnace. There is lightning and thunder. The mountain shakes and trembles.

And you, too, are trembling. Your heart is melting within you as you fall upon your face with all the others and cry out to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exodus 20:19).

What an incredible day it was when the Almighty came to sit, as it were, upon a gigantic throne of granite to dispense His laws to His covenant people! They were the operating instructions from the Creator. On this occasion, God did not use the voice of a prophet, but spoke with His own voice. He did not use the pen of a scribe, but wrote with His own finger upon the tablets of stone.

They were the Ten Commandments of God, His moral laws for all mankind.

And you-lying in the dust before the smoking, flaming mountain of God-would never, ever consider breaking one of them. After all, you knew what would happen to you if you did. The Israelites who followed Moses out of Egypt some 3,500 years ago feared and respected God and His laws because they saw the consequences that came from disobedience.

But since the day God wrote His laws on those tablets of stone, innumerable individuals and nations have hurled themselves against them. The remnants of their destruction may be found in the hospitals, the asylums, the prisons, the battlefields, the skid rows of this world. What was true thousands of years ago remains true today. You cannot break the law of God; you can only break yourself upon it.

Consider a small sampling of what happens when people think they are free to disregard the Ten Commandments:

Leslie met her husband, Ron, in a church youth group when both were teenagers. They fell in love and were married just three years later, shortly before Ron's twenty-first birthday. When some of their friends questioned them about the wisdom of getting married so young, Ron said that no matter how long he lived, he knew he could never love another woman as much as he loved Leslie.

That was then; this is now.

Just a few weeks ago, Leslie discovered letters tucked away in one of her husband's drawers. Her heart broke because the secret letters caused her to believe Ron had been unfaithful to her. Not once, but at least three times ... and possibly more.

When she confronted Ron, he admitted his guilt. But that was all. He was completely unrepentant. Unwilling to break off the relationship with his current girlfriend, Ron chose to walk away from his marriage and his two young children. The kids are really too young to know what has happened, except that they miss their daddy. However, Leslie is devastated and lies awake at night, wondering how a fine young man who seemed to love God and his family with all of his heart could have slipped into this kind of lifestyle and become so callous and unfeeling toward people he once loved.

David grew up in a safe neighborhood where kids could play freely and parents didn't have to spend a lot of time worrying that they might be getting into trouble. It wasn't a rich neighborhood by any means, but it was secure, and he always felt safe. Now, thirty years later, he worries when his twelve-yearold daughter rides her bike alone in their affluent neighborhood. If she isn't home exactly when she promised, he prepares to look for her.

Is he overreacting? Not at all. He knows the statistics. He understands that thousands of children just like his daughter are kidnapped, molested, or victimized by lesser forms of violence every year. And he also knows that no neighborhood in America is truly safe.

Just last month, a student was expelled from the local high school for bringing a gun to class. David shakes his head as he remembers the America of his youth. He wonders what happened to that nation. How did we get to this point?

Dana has always thought of herself as an honest and upright person, but she has trouble telling the truth when she thinks it might hurt someone's feelings. So, when her friend Joyce called recently and asked her if she wanted to go out for dinner, she said she had a headache and was going to stay home and go to bed early. She didn't want to admit that she already had plans with someone she'd just met-a coworker from the school where she was a teacher. She justified her dishonesty by reminding herself that Joyce was easily hurt and might not understand.

She didn't count on Joyce coming over with a big pot of soup for her "sick" friend and discovering that Dana wasn't home. Talk about being hurt! And now Joyce says she feels that she can't trust Dana and no longer wants to be her friend. Dana has tried on several occasions to get things patched up, but Joyce says, "I just don't understand why you lied to me."

All Dana can say in reply is, "I don't know either, and I wish I had never done it." Sadly, she can't go back and change what has already happened.

The situations I've just mentioned are typical of those faced by thousands of people in modern American society. All around us, families are breaking up, once-safe neighborhoods are falling victim to violence and crime, and moral absolutes are being discarded whenever they get in the way. Furthermore, every one of the situations I've just described results from direct disobedience to one of God's laws.

For example, one of the Ten Commandments says, "You shall not commit adultery." Ron has broken that law, with the result that he has also broken his wife 's heart and split his family apart. He has touched off a cycle of hurt and shame that will last for generations, and unless he repents and changes his ways, he will be broken eventually.

The difficulties in David's neighborhood-and in neighborhoods throughout the United States-have also occurred because the Ten Commandments are not being heeded and obeyed. God says, "You shall not murder," and "You shall not steal," but modern society-having attempted to turn its back on God's laws- has created a world where few seem to know the difference between right and wrong, and where stealing and killing are commonplace. Am I overstating the case? Hardly. For example, consider that murder isn't even front-page news anymore. In big city newspapers, the latest murders are usually relegated to tiny reports far back in Section B.

As far as Dana is concerned, she would have preserved a friendship, and she would have felt better about herself, if she had obeyed God's command not to bear false witness, which is another term for lying.


Sometimes it seems as if our entire society is attempting to turn away from God's laws, with very dramatic and unpleasant results. People act as if the Ten Commandments are pass?-a relic from a long-gone era. But the truth is that they are the lynchpin that holds our society together.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling forcing a small town in Indiana to remove a monument featuring the Ten Commandments in front of its city hall. What a tragic mistake! Were it up to me, I would make sure the commandments were posted in every courthouse in America-and not only in America, but all over the world! I would also make sure they were posted in a prominent location in every public school. That is why I am so pleased with the courage and conviction of Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, who placed a granite monument bearing the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state supreme court building. Both his courage and conviction were put to the test in 2003 when a federal judge ordered him to remove the monument. Moore refused to do so, citing the obligation imposed on him by his oath of office, and he paid the price. He was removed from office by a state judicial body, an action he has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not long ago, a snippet of a song from the late 1960s caught my ear. If you're old enough, I'm sure you remember the hit song "Aquarius" by a vocal group called the Fifth Dimension. The song proclaims again and again that "this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius." And it talks about all of the "love and understanding" that are going to be so much a part of everything as the world moves into a wonderful new era.

In 1969 that song sounded like an anthem of optimism. Today it sounds more like a sad, pathetic joke. What has this "age of love and understanding" brought us?

Neighborhoods where people are afraid to venture outside because of the threat of gang violence.

Drive-by shootings involving kids as young as twelve and thirteen years of age.

The tragedy of Columbine High School, and a number of other shootings in schools throughout the United States.

The tragic decimation of the family.

I am certain you can think of many more ways in which our society has regressed over the past few decades and even in the last few years. As a society, we have blatantly turned away from the Ten Commandments, and as a result, our world has become unstable, frightening, and dangerous.


Now, one reason why the age of "love and understanding" never materialized is that those who proclaimed its arrival didn't know God or understand His laws. They envisioned a world in which we would throw off the restraint of "old-fashioned" morality, forget about God, and live in complete peace, freedom, and harmony. They didn't understand that God gave us His laws for a reason. His desire has never been to hold us back or keep us from having a good time. God gave us His laws because He knew that only in following them can we achieve our full potential-which is not the potential of "enlightened, fulfilled men"-rather, it is our potential to become the obedient sons and daughters of the living God.

Dr. Paul Johnson, an eminent historian, has written a book titled Modern Times that chronicles the events of the twentieth century. He points out that one of the most important events of this century was the publication, in 1905, of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

Johnson notes that ever since that theory came to be accepted as fact in the world of physics, others have been trying to make it work in every conceivable discipline, including ethics and religion. It has been one gigantic experiment, testing whether man can live without absolutes.

The answer, apparently, is that, yes, man can live without absolutes, but not very well.

Please do not misunderstand me and think that I am blaming society's slide into anarchy and relativism on Albert Einstein. The great scientist expressed his fear over where this movement would lead us when he said, "Relativity applies to physics, not ethics."

Yet for most of the twentieth century, people were willing to listen to the voice of a person like Karl Marx, who insisted that man is controlled not by the absolutes of God, but by economic factors. They nodded in agreement to Friedrich Nietzsche's proclamation that "God is dead," and therefore, the only thing that controls man is the quest for power. They marveled at the wisdom of men like Sigmund Freud, who maintained that man is controlled by sexual desire and not by the laws of God; and Charles Darwin, who vowed that the only law that really mattered was "the survival of the fittest."

What is left of the legacy these men handed down to us? The Communist empire that was built on the teachings of Karl Marx lies in shambles-a bitter, failed experiment, leaving behind a sordid history of torture, murder, genocide, corruption, and betrayal of the innocent.

Friedrich Nietzsche? The man whose theories gave rise to the secular religion known as humanism-which would elevate man into the position of God-lived out the last years of his life in a mental institution.

Sigmund Freud is no longer revered in psychological circles. In fact, his theories are considered pass? by most modern psychologists. Sadly, it is too late to undo all the damage his theories did by unleashing a sexual revolution that perverted one of God's great gifts to mankind.

And what of Darwin? His views have largely been discarded by scientists working in the field of genetics. Why? They just don't seem to fit the facts. Yet thousands of people go on blindly believing the theory of evolution rather than accepting the truth that there is a God who created the universe, just as the Bible says.


The truth is that God's laws are not relative. They are absolute and they are immovable. That this is so is a fact borne out by several thousand years of world history.

At this point, you may say, "But Dr. Kennedy, didn't the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ fulfill our obligation to obey the Ten Commandments?"

We will allow our Lord Himself to answer that question from a statement recorded in the gospel of Matthew:

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19).

If we want to fully understand what Jesus was teaching in this passage, we need to understand that when God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave three kinds of laws.

Civil Laws

The first were the civil laws-the laws of government for Israel.


Excerpted from Why The Ten Commandments Matter by D. James Kennedy Copyright © 2005 by D. James Kennedy . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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