We live in a world of values. People voice their values, vote their values and join churches that reflect their values. According to Alan Bloom, who wrote The Closing of the American Mind, someone who lives his values is respected for his or her character, and great religious leaders are value givers. Moses, according to Bloom, gave us the Ten Values.
But values are not commands. Values are personal. Commands are universal. Values arise from culture. Commands descend from heaven. Values are based on human consequences. Commands are based on divine character.
God called Moses up into the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments to show us that they descended from heaven. They were written in stone to show us that they are timeless and universal. And they were written with the finger of God to show us that they come from God.
When Christians make obeying the commandments of God a matter of personal conscience, we reduce commandments to values. Adultery is not a matter of personal conscience. The seventh commandment says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” There are a thousand rationalizations why your circumstances are different, why the consequences won’t matter and why it doesn’t really apply to you.
If you think that way, you reduce the commandment of God to a personal value. Jesus didn’t think that way and warned those who teach their values as commands. “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 5:8-9).
In churches across America, the commandments of God are being reduced to values. Worship choruses may arise from our lips but our hearts are not right. We cannot be right with God when our personal sexual values replace God’s clear commands.
Living together before marriage, infidelity after marriage and homosexual sex are contrary to God’s commands. Those commands are not outdated. They are timeless, universal and apply to you.
That’s the problem with looking at life the way Jesus did. It’s fun talking about the worldview of Jesus until we look at ourselves through his eyes. I would rather refute Nietzsche, than repent of my sin. But when I do repent, I receive forgiveness and my eyes clear to see as Jesus saw.
Dr. Michael Peters is the lead pastor of Christ the King: TheCellChurch.com. He is married to Linda, and they have two children and seven grandchildren. Dr. Peters graduated from Covenant Seminary with an MA and obtained a PhD in historical theology from Saint Louis University. He has written several books. His most recent is titled Cell Vision. It’s about organic discipleship and how to develop supporters into disciple makers. He taught critical thinking and Biblical worldview at Missouri Baptist University. His favorite course textbook was Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. His favorite philosopher is Nietzsche because postmodern people are just catching up with premodern Nietzsche. And his favorite Christian writer is G.K. Chesterton because he understood the difference between a poet and theologian. “The poet,” he wrote, “only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the theologian who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”