A First Commandment Gut Check

Brothers and Sisters,

This past Sunday, we continued in our series on the Decalogue with a sermon on the first of the ten commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” We learned that, because the human heart is an idol factory, our perennial temptation is to allow other gods (wealth, career, family, etc.) to compete for our devotion and trust.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (2.8.16), John Calvin unpacks four things required of us under the first commandment: adoration; trust; invocation; thanksgiving. These give us a helpful summary of what it means to have no other God:

Adoration is that veneration and worship that each of us gives to our Almighty God. It involves our subjective sense of love as well as our objective submission to His law.

Trust is the recognition that the One is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (WSC 4) will not (can not) ever let us down.

Invocation, Calvin says, is “that habit of our mind, whenever necessity presses us, of resorting to his faithfulness and help as our only support.” When the chips are down, we lift our eyes up to the Maker of Heaven and Earth (Ps 121:1-2).

Thanksgiving is our gratitude to God as the provider of all things. We praise Him for every good thing—not some other god or our own efforts.

In his helpful book on the Ten Commandments, Kevin DeYoung applies these elements to our relationship with Christ: “In adoration, we worship Christ. In trust, we treasure Christ. In invocation, we look to Christ. In thanksgiving, we find grace in Christ” (38).

That is how we obey the first commandment as Christians.

DeYoung goes on to give a four-point diagnostic based on these elements. Following his lead, I’ve adapted this short set of questions as a quick diagnostic for all our souls:

  1. Adoration – Who gets your highest praise? Your parents? Your spouse? Your kids? Your favorite athlete? Yourself?
  2. Trust – Who or what do you count on to preserve you and your way of life? Your bank account? IRA? Doctors? Prescriptions?
  3. Invocation – Who do you call or where do you go when you’re in a bind? Who do you count on to rescue you from this world’s darkness? What numbs the pain?
  4. Thanksgiving – Who do you thank for the goodness in your life? Who do you rely on as the source of every good gift?

Quiet your mind and ask God to search your heart by way of these questions. Have you brought other lovers into competition with your heavenly Husband? If so, He’s calling you to show them the door so that you can come back and enjoy the immeasurable riches of intimacy that are yours in Christ.

As we lament our failure, let us marvel all the more in the grace of a God who promises His adulterous bride, “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD” (Hos 2:19-20).

In Christ, God has betrothed us to Himself in righteousness and justice, love and mercy. Praise God that He is faithful to keep His vows, even though we demonstrate our faithlessness time and again.

In Christ alone,