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God's code of conduct is as relevant and insistent today as it's always been.
The landscape of contemporary society reveals signs that we neither know nor care much about the Law of God. There is:
- A general listlessness and lawlessness in the lives of professing Christians.
- An absence of the fear of God in public worship and private living.
- A growing confidence in ourselves and an accompanying loss of confidence in God and His Word.
Amidst this moral crisis, the message of the Ten Commandments can give us order, direction, and hope.
With dynamic implications for how each of us lives every day, Pathway to Freedom will challenge you to think long and hard about the significance of God's Law.
"We have entered into a time of moral crisis in our culture and in the church as well. Stories about divorce, adultery, and the individualized picking and choosing of doctrines abound. Pathway to Freedom is forthright and necessary teaching that today's church cannot afford to ignore. How now shall we live? The beginning of the answer must be in obedience to God's moral law summarized in the Ten Commandments."
-CHARLES COLSON, PRISON FELLOWSHIP MINISTRIES, WASHINGTON, D.C.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
ALISTAIR BEGG (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside, and is the author of Made For His Pleasure, Lasting Love, and What Angels Wish They Knew. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Read an Excerpt
Pathway to Freedom
How God's Laws Guide Our Lives
By Alistair Begg
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2003 Alistair Begg
All rights reserved.
NO OTHER GODS
You shall have no other gods before me.
Two religious convocations, one ancient and one modern, set the scene for our consideration of this first commandment.
In 1993 a parliament of the world's religions convened in Chicago. Seven hundred attendees sought common ground by minimizing their differences. They were in search of a multi-faith unifying consciousness. The mutual tapestry of understanding, respect, and cooperation, which marked the initial discussions, quickly unraveled as they began to tackle the substantial areas of disagreement. That event was separated from the ancient gathering by a few thousand miles and a few thousand years.
On Mount Carmel God's prophet Elijah went before the people and confronted them with their failure to give to God the loyalty He demanded and deserved. There was to be no attempt at blending the worship of Baal with the worship of Jehovah.
"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."
—1 KINGS 18:21
Met with total silence, Elijah proposed "the battle of the prophets." There were 450 prophets of Baal and on the opposing side, Elijah. If the numbers were any indication, it would appear that the odds were heavily in favor of Baal. The people were about to discover that one plus the living God is a majority.
The terms of engagement were clear. The 450 would cut a bull in pieces and put it on the wood. Then they would call on the name of their god, imploring him to set fire to it. Elijah would then do the same, calling on the name of the Lord. Victory would be clearly established: The god who answers by fire—He is God.
What followed was a scene that almost defies description. The prophets of Baal spent the entire morning wailing and howling to no avail. Elijah's taunts hit them where it hurt. Maybe their "god" was "deep in thought," in which case it was pretty obvious that he wasn't thinking about them. Maybe was "busy"—responding to a call of nature—therefore, subject to human limitation. If he is "traveling" and can't be present to help them, he is obviously not omnipresent. Perhaps he has grown weary and has fallen asleep, and so they'll need to shout louder and awaken him. What a picture of ecstatic frenzy as they pierce themselves and produce red blood but are totally unable to ignite red flames to burn the bull. "There was no response, no one answered, no on paid attention" (1 Kings 18:29).
In direct contrast and with ordered calm, Elijah repaired the altar and had the offering doused three times with water. God answered his prayer, and the people fell prostrate, proclaiming, "The LORD—he is God! The Lord—he is God!" (v. 39).
At issue was the question, Is there a God who hears prayer? The answer came with dramatic impact. Only one. Yahweh. He is the real God. In contrast, the gods of the nations are "nothing." The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah seem to be constantly calling God's people away from the worthless foreign idols to the exclusive worship of the true and living God.
Their words do not fit the twenty-first century category of political correctness! Listen to Jeremiah: "For the customs of the peoples are worthless; ... Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good" (Jeremiah 10:3, 5). In contrast, Yahweh declares, "There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me" (Isaiah 45:21).
God's demand for His people's total devotion is firmly based upon who He is and what He has done. He is both Creator and Redeemer. But why, the reader may be asking, have we launched immediately into this hotbed of debate? Should we not be facing up to our proneness to worship at the shrines of materialism, egotism, and intellectualism? Should we not begin by toppling some of these "gods" from the perches they occupy in our wayward hearts? True, each of us must face up to the peculiar personal temptation to idolatry, but it would be possible to do so and at the same time fail to be present where the battle rages. The Christian must resist the spirit of the world in the form it takes in his own generation. Is the epicenter of the storm really that obvious? I believe so.
In the 1960s, science, education, finance, arts, and the media voted God out of office. No one wanted to hear from the "God-squad," and the prevailing mindset was more than casual indifference towards God; it was willful disregard. The seeds planted in the 1960s blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s. But the quest for free love and unlimited self-expression issued not in beautiful foliage but in ugly weeds. Lawlessness, violence, and greed began to spoil and spread, as freedom, instead of being defined as the right to do what is right, became codified as the "unrestricted right to do whatever one pleases." As we careened toward the end of the millennium, Western culture was beset by a range of discontents and confusion. While the stock market took many to unimaginable heights of financial success, the culture was showing signs of futility, foolishness, and deep darkness. Drugs—made freely available to children at school. Perverted lifestyles—given the stamp of approval by the entertainment industry and of normality by segments of the church. Rap music—taking language to a new level of degradation, and young people working out their own damnation in the murder of their teachers and fellow students.
And so it appeared that Judge Bork was right when he said that we were "Slouching Towards Gomorah."
Meanwhile, as the natural, scientific quest for utopia fizzled and materialism was yielding only greater hunger and lonelier heights, spirituality was waiting in the wings for a chance at the leading role. So there was hope, after all, we were told. We have come to the end of the age of disbelief, and as the new millennium beckons, perhaps the dawning of the age of Aquarius, about which the 1960s dreamed, was about to become reality. At least it was reckoned we were entering a new age of faith. In casual conversation, it was not difficult to get general agreement that as a society there would have to be more emphasis on responsibilities and less on our rights if we were going to pull out of what might be realistically seen as a moral and spiritual death spiral.
The frenzied greed, which had fueled the dot.com explosion, turned to wholesale panic as billions in value were flushed from the financial markets in less time than it had taken to accumulate. And then came the sad and horrific day at the dawn of this new millennium, 9/11/01, bringing many to their knees.
The "God is dead" slogan of the 1960s was to be replaced. "God is back," the newspapers declared, as countless individuals who had been quite content to live without any thought of God went in search of spiritual solace.
What a moment of opportunity! When Jesus saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion because He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. Responding as Christ did, we may declare Him to be the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. We must affirm that all who came before Him were thieves and robbers and that He alone is the gate that leads to the safety of forgiveness and eternal life.
Aye, but here's the rub. Surveys in this "new age of faith" reveal that more than three-fourths of all Americans believe that "many religions can lead to eternal life." Staggeringly, nearly half of those who identify themselves as "highly committed" evangelicals agree with this statement. The extent of the confused muddle-headedness on this matter within the ranks of professing evangelicalism is frightful but not surprising. Congregations that have been amassed without being instructed in basic Christian doctrine are devoid of the theological acumen and conviction necessary to hold firmly to the faith of our fathers.
It is here that the battle rages, and it is here that we must take our stand. Instead of mumbling some mushy religious pluralism, we need to be prepared to take our Bibles in hand and graciously, yet courageously, declare a worldview that begins with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the person of His Son Jesus (with whom He and the Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal) has stepped out of eternity and into time, demonstrating that He is neither anonymous nor vague.
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
The exclusive claims of the gospel are designed to reach all nations throughout the whole world. But if we are going to uphold this first commandment, we dare not flee from the battlefront at this point. Martin Luther said:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at this point.
on the basis of this first commandment we must be prepared to declare that there is a decisive difference between the Christian faith and other religions. God is revealed in Scripture as powerful having spoken the world into being. He is perfect, self-existent, in need of no one and nothing. He is praiseworthy on account of His person and His works, and He is plural. He is They. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is thus not possible for us to talk of God except in light of the unity that exists within the Trinity. The unity between Father and Son has clear implications for our reading of the first commandment. For example, how can Judaism claim to be worshiping God when they refuse to honor the Son?
He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who has sent him.
It is not arrogance that finds Christians making such declarations. Jesus is not simply a prophet standing on the same level as Muhammad. He is the incarnate God, and one day at the name of Jesus every knee, including that of Muhammad, will bow.
When we think this issue through, we realize why Paul describes the Ephesians before their conversion as living without God. Despite the fact that pagans can clearly be very religious (Acts 17 testifies to man's capacity to skillfully and imaginatively fashion idols for worship), that doesn't deny the necessity of their turning from their empty ways to the true and living God (Acts 14:15-16).
In stating these things, we must keep in mind that the warnings given by the prophets not to run after idols were directed not to the surrounding natives but to the people of God. The distinct contrast between the Christian faith and other religions should not be the basis of animosity or aversion toward non-Christians. In reaching our children about this we must affirm the importance of social tolerance. We must lead by example in treating our Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish neighbors and friends with genuine courtesy and respect. However, we must at the same time save our children from being swallowed up by a form of intellectual tolerance that fails to recognize the clear differences that exist between our Christian faith and the religions of our neighbors. For example, Hinduism says that God has been incarnated multiple times, but Christianity declares the Incarnation to be a unique event—we cannot both be right. Judaism says that Jesus was not the Messiah, but Christianity affirms that He is—again, we cannot both be right.
of course, one of the peculiar challenges of our time is the rejection of the idea of universally valid truth. The collapse of scientific rationalism has paved the way for the idea that truth is what I reckon it to be. The huge change in the way people think about truth is humorously illustrated by os Guinness, who tells the story of three baseball umpires discussing their profession.
The first umpire, who represents a traditional Christian view of the world, says, "There's balls and there's strikes, and I call them the way they are." In other words, he is saying, "There is such a thing as a ball and there is such a thing as a strike, and my job is to call them the way they actually are. The second umpire says, "No. No. There's balls and there's strikes and I call them the way I see them." This umpire says what's important is not whether or not it is a ball or a strike that comes over the plate, but what he sees. This relativistic view says that truth is what is true to me. In conversation with friends we find them saying—you have your truth, I have my truth. The underlying notion is that truth is what I perceive it to be and in the end all truths converge. The third umpire says, "No. No. No. There's balls and there's strikes and they ain't nothing till I call them." Balls and strikes don't even exist until he calls them into being by his own word. His radical perspective denies the idea of absolute truth.
It is not easy in this philosophical climate to hold firm to the biblical conviction that there is such a thing as truth and it is knowable and that when we say God it doesn't mean whatever we want it to mean. When Paul addressed the intelligentsia of Athens he was bold and unashamed: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else" (Acts 17:24-25).
Why was the city full of idols? Calvin writes of the way in which man makes for himself "shadow deities" so that he does not have to face the true God, whom he should reverence and adore. Paul explains in the first chapter of Romans that man is created with an awareness of divinity. Creation reinforces this awareness as we contemplate the order of the universe. Created to praise and worship the one true God, man suppresses the truth that is plain and invents for himself all kinds of pseudodeities. These are the sorry creations described by Isaiah as he pictures a man taking wood from the forest and with some of it lights a fire and with the rest of it fashions an idol.
Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal, ...
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
"Save me you are my god."
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
"Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?"
He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
"Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?"
As we have noted before, the prophet was not abusing the surrounding nations. Instead, he was confronting God's people with the amazing incongruity of their dilly-dallying with these "nothings" when their creator and redeemer called for their total devotion.
There is a sense in which the children of God are called continually to choose wisely and to ratify their choice in their lifestyle. This first commandment excludes all the gods invented by men. The Law of God is the lifestyle of the redeemed. His liberated people must not be foolish enough to go looking for the old gods beyond the river. This is the significance of the scene that comes at the end of the book of Joshua. Having summoned the leaders of Israel, this great general reminded them of how God had redeemed them and provided for them. Surely their hearts were so full of gratitude that they were shining examples of exclusive loyalty. Actually, no. Listen to what Joshua has to say:
Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
So Bob Dylan was right when he wrote the song, "Gotta Serve Somebody." Either the people of God will worship and serve the true and living God, or they must choose for themselves shadow deities for the object of their devotion.
The application of this historic incident is clear for the Christian. The liberation of God's people from Egypt foreshadows the even greater deliverance and redemption that is ours through the work of Christ upon the cross. The Christian's supreme loyalty is to the Lord Jesus, who loved him and gave Himself for him.
The point made so clearly in Joshua's call to the people is that to serve the living God means putting away other gods that are pretenders to the throne.
We make a grave mistake in assuming that because our houses are free of idols fashioned of metal, wood, or stone we have dealt with this and are ready to move on to the second commandment. The sobering truth to be faced up to is this: Anything or any person (including myself) that claims our primary loyalty has become "another God."
As we work our way through these commandments, we will constantly be on our guard against the spirit of the Pharisee, which contents itself with an outward conformity to the Law that is unmatched by the submission of the heart.
"Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Solomon gives directions about our words and the gaze of our eyes and the path of our feet but the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Every idolatrous inclination begins in the heart.
Excerpted from Pathway to Freedom by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003 Alistair Begg. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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.
Table of Contents
The Ten Commandments
Chapter 1. No Other Gods
Chapter 2. Graven Mistakes
Chapter 3. What's in a Name?
Chapter 4. Holy Day or Holiday?
Chapter 5. Family Life-God's Way
Chapter 6. Life Is Sacred
Chapter 7. You Shall Not Commit Adultery
Chapter 8. I Was Only Borrowing It
Chapter 9. The Truth Matters
Chapter 10. The Other Man's Grass
Good News for Lawbreakers
What People are Saying About This
We have entered into a time of moral crisis in our culture and in the church as well. Stories about divorce, adultery, and the individualized picking and choosing of doctrines abound. Pathway to Freedom is forthright and necessary teaching that today's church cannot afford to ignore. How now shall we live? The beginning of the answer must be in obedient to God's moral law summarized in the Ten Commandments.
-Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Washington, D.C.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just being good isnt getting you anywhere. Alstair show us. How living under the law gets us nowhere to. Being a Christian and living under grace and being indebted to mercy. We have all fallen short.