This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Politics and the Christian

Now that the political conventions are upon us, I think it might be prudent to consider how a Christian should view politics.  Of course, this is a very different question than how a Christian should view government.  On that issue, the Bible is very clear—obey the governing authorities, pay your taxes, pray for your leaders (see Romans 13; 1 Timothy 2).  A biblical view of politics, on the other hand, is not as direct a matter.  The main reason for this, of course, is that the writers of the Bible were writing in specific cultural contexts where the idea of voting for the leaders of government was not as pronounced as it is in our nation.  So, here are some principles which I think should help us in this election year.

#1 Be a one issue voter.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There is one paramount issue that trumps all others.  It is not the economy, foreign relations, defense, or health care.  It is the matter of the sanctity of life at all stages of life.  The biblical evidence in support of the sanctity of life from conception to natural death is overwhelming (see, for example, Psalm 139; Jeremiah 1).  There is no other issue if the sanctity of life is not upheld.

I refuse to vote for anyone who is not solidly pro-life.  It does not matter that one pro-death candidate is better than another on some other issue.  I am glad that in Abraham Lincoln’s day there were one-issue voters who sought above all else to remove the blight of slavery in our land.  We must be vigilant on this and never, never compromise, even if our vote is “wasted” on an “unelectable” candidate.  If we compromise on this, do you think that we will ever see our laws allowing abortion on demand changed?  If we compromise, what do you think will happen to our senior citizens as health care costs spiral upward?  No, someone must stand in the gap, and that someone, dear Christian voter, is you.

The issues of fetal stem cell research (which is nothing but a sophisticated form of cannibalism) and euthanasia are real and upon us to say nothing of the horrors of partial birth abortion.  Be a one issue voter!

You might say that you don’t need to be a one issue voter on so-called minor offices.  But you do!  I learned this lesson the hard way.  I helped a neighbor a few years ago in her campaign for the city council.  She was a great alderwoman, but I had failed to ask her about her position on abortion.  This year, based on her effectiveness in city government, she is running for Congress as a very pro-abortion candidate.  I regret having helped her.  Be a one issue voter.

#2 Be an informed voter.  The only way that one can know the candidates for office is to find out as much as possible.  Far too many people ignore politics until the last week of an election cycle.  By then, the full machine of political spin makes it impossible to know where a candidate really stands.  Even if it is boring, it is important to read political platforms.  The devil, they say, is in the details, and voters must read the fine print.

A key principle to governing is that whatever a government subsidizes, we will get more of it.  And whatever a government taxes, we will get less of that.  So, for example, when the government extends unemployment compensation to unemployed people, we should not be surprised that many people choose to remain unemployed, if those benefits approach what a person could get by working.  Conversely, when the government taxes hard work, risk, and ingenuity, we should not be surprised when we get fewer wealthy people, fewer new businesses, and fewer innovations.  We need to know what candidates for office want to subsidize and what they want to tax.  Then, ask yourself, “Do I want more or less of what the candidate wants to tax?”  Ask, “Do I want more or less of what the candidate wants to subsidize?”

 3) Be an unselfish voter.  Sometimes we want to vote for a candidate because he or she favors policies which will personally benefit us, even though those policies are not good for the rest of the nation.  John Adams, our second President, wrote, “To expect self-denial from men, when they have a majority in their favor and consequently power to gratify themselves is to disbelieve all history and universal experience;  it is to disbelieve Revelation and the Word of God, which informs us the heart is deceitful in all things and desperately wicked.”  This is sound reasoning, and it is why I believe that everyone should pay at least some taxes.  Today, approximately 47% of Americans pay nothing in federal income tax.  This means that they have no personal incentive to stop government spending on anything at all.  After all, it doesn’t cost them!

I want to urge you, whatever your tax bracket may be, to look beyond your own selfish, personal interests and vote for candidates who will be cautious and prudent in spending the peoples’ money.  The government does not have any money.  When the government spends money, it is because the government has either borrowed it (postponing the day of reckoning) or has taken it from someone else on threat of jail or fines for failure to pay.  Many candidates brag about what they can do or have done for people by getting “government” money to their constituents.  These candidates are thieves and don’t even know it.  There is no such thing as “government” money.  There is only money taken from the wages and investments of the taxpayer or borrowed so that one day it will be paid back from the wages and investments of the taxpayer. Candidates who regard as precious every penny taken from the work and investments of the people will not become thieves.

4) Be a theologically aware voter.  There are two important principles here.  First, while no candidate is perfect, the more morally flawed a person is in his/her personal life, the greater the likelihood that the candidate will be inadequate to resist the temptations that come with public service.  To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, “if a man cannot rule his own house, how can he rule in larger spheres?”

Second, it is tempting, particularly by political conservatives, to want to get rid of all government whatsoever.  The more that government encroaches on personal liberties, the more that we see so much waste and inefficiency, the more that we are attracted to the notion that less government everywhere would be better.  It is likewise tempting, particularly by political liberals, to see corruption in business and nearly all commerce.  The more that the marketplace dominates, the more liberals see destruction of the environment, corruption and thievery, and a lack of compassion for the poor.

Both the political conservative and political liberal are theologically na├»ve.  If government disappeared altogether, we would have chaos.  The fact is that people in the marketplace are depraved and will be evil.  On the other hand, the liberal thinks that everyone is corrupt EXCEPT the government!  The liberal wants the long arm of government intervention to reach into every sphere, but he never thinks that perhaps the most evil sphere of all is the one doing the reaching. 
These ideas—that less government is always better or that more government is always better--ignore the plain facts of human depravity.  James Madison, our fourth President, observed, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  Be a theologically aware voter.

5) Be a non-utopian voter.  Politicians promise what they can never deliver.  Many of them promise the kingdom of God itself.  Then, when those promises are unrealized, they say, “Well, if we just had more time and spent more on our policies, we would have reached our promises.”  Don’t believe it.  George W. Bush bet his presidency on the shaky notion that a democratic republic could be established on the foundation of Islamic fragmentation in Iraq.  He was reelected in 2004 by saying that we needed more time and more money in the Middle East.  The issues are different, but Barack Obama is communicating that he needs more time and more money to accomplish his utopian vision. Mitt Romney is communicating that he will accomplish his utopian vision. It is important to know that no utopian vision is going to be realized until Jesus returns.  Events external to the politician and his own missteps make utopia unachievable.  Consider the following campaign mottoes and what happened:

1916 Woodrow Wilson “He Kept Us Out of War”   Result: In the next two years, 116,728 Americans killed in WW1
1928 Herbert Hoover “A Chicken in Every Pot and a Car in Every Garage”  Result: The Great Depression
1976 Jimmy Carter “Not Just Peanuts”                      Result: High Inflation, interest rates, and demoralization
1988 George H.W. Bush “Kinder, Gentler Nation”  Result: Not so kind and gentle to Iraq
1992 Bill Clinton “Putting People First”                      Result: Monica Lewinsky
2000 George W. Bush “Real Plans for Real People” Result: Plans set aside due to 9/11

What this is means is simply not to get too excited about any politician.  It’s fine to be enthusiastic about one’s political preferences, but be careful not to have messianic expectations, or you will be disappointed.  The more grandiose the promises that a candidate makes, the greater our skepticism should be about their fulfillment. God alone is qualified to build His kingdom. 

6) Be a voter! It is easy after reading an article like this to throw up our hands and say, “Why vote?”  However, there are really important reasons why we should vote.  Elections, especially in recent times, have hinged on just a few votes.  If all evangelicals voted, we could affect huge changes in the outcome.  Yet many people are not even registered to vote.  Given that God calls us to honor our authorities, given that we in this country have the privilege of choosing those authorities, given the importance of the issues of the day, given our responsibilities before God, WE MUST VOTE.  No matter how inconvenient, no matter how sick of it all that you are, no matter what hindrances are placed in your way, please vote.  In our country, the people get the government that they deserve because they elect them.  When we opt out of the process by not voting, we are asking God to do what He already has committed to us as a sacred trust.  We are asking God to do what He has already given us to do.  When a student asks me to pray for them about a test, I usually ask, “Have you studied your best?”  If they say, “yes,” then I assure them of my prayers.  If they say, “no,” then I tell them that God generally won’t make up what He’s already given us a stewardship to do.  It’s the same way with our vote.  God sovereignly determines leaders, but He’s given us a moral obligation to work out His will by voting.

7)  Be an unworried voter.  The issues are great, and the stakes are high in the upcoming election (they always are).  The weight of significance bears down on us, and we can become worried and filled with anxiety.  Sometimes, that worry can cause us to withdraw from thinking about politics altogether.  However, there is no need for worry.  “The Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will” (Daniel 5:21b; see also Daniel 4:25, 32).  God wants us to exercise our stewardship; He does not expect us to be God.  So, enjoy this election year in a way that most political pundits cannot.  They fret and worry to the point of destroying their health, thinking that this world absolutely needs their guy or all is finished.  It is the Christian alone who has the proper perspective—doing what God has given him to do and then trusting His Lord for working His will and bringing glory to Himself.

Pray daily, vote, and trust the Lord, Who alone can build His kingdom,

Scott Boerckel

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why Bethany Community Chose to Use the ESV

This week someone asked me why we use the English Standard Version (ESV) as the preaching and teaching Bible at Bethany Community Church. It occurred to me we have many people in our church now who weren't around when we first addressed this question four years ago. Here are some things I shared four years ago as we talked about using the ESV (and a few new things I didn't share).

My Translation History

At the school I attended from 2nd to 4th grade, each child was required to bring a King James Bible (KJV) to school. I can still remember going with my mom to purchase the Bible and holding it in my hands for the first time. It had a blue cover and the words “Holy Bible” inscribed in gold on the front cover. As I held it, I couldn’t believe I actually owned a copy of the Bible.

The KJV is a beautiful translation and I used it to memorize verses while in elementary school. When I'm thinking of the wording of a verse, I often think of it in the King's English. I thought that the "thee's" and "thou's" were part of the original text and assumed that Jesus, Paul, and Moses spoke Elizabethan English.

In our family devotional time, however, we didn’t use the KJV. We generally used the New American Standard Bible (NASB). This was the version of the Bible that I used most of my life.

In 6th grade, my Sunday School teacher, Mr. Hill offered a prize to any boy in the class who memorized a certain number of Bible verses. The night before we were to be tested over the passages memorized, Mr. Hill called my dad and told him to make sure I was ready. Without that extra encouragement, I’m quite sure I would not have been prepared. The prize was an NASB Ryrie Study Bible.

I still own it:
I think it's hard to overestimate the impact of that Bible on my life.

The Ryrie Study Bible opened a whole new world to me. I learned the historical context of the books of the Bible and was able to understand passages that had seemed incomprehensible before. While I’ve sometimes questioned some of the conclusions Ryrie reached in his notes in the intervening years, I owe a great debt to his monumental effort—and to Mr. Hill’s generosity. The NASB, then, was the version of the Bible I became most familiar with.

In college, I began to learn a lot more about the philosophy behind Bible translations. I learned that, broadly speaking, Bible translations could fit somewhere on an equilibrium between “formal” translations and “dynamic” translations.

A translation that is formal translation seeks to be literal and correspond, as much as possible, word-for-word with the original text. A dynamic translation is not as concerned with word-for-word equivalency but instead tries to communicate the sense of the passage.

In college, I began working at a Christian bookstore and bought a lot of different versions of the Bible to familiarize myself with their differences. Pictured on the right are some of the Bibles I bought while in college.

Some complain that formal translations are too stilted and it’s certainly true that a purely literal translation would be unreadable in English. However, I generally like my translations like my personality: wooden.

Here's a chart from Dave Croteau in his article on translation philosophy (which can be found here) that shows how different translations compare in terms of their translation philosophy:

A translation that is more formal has several advantages, such as:

* It protects translators from overly incorporating their own, sometimes mistaken, theology into the text.

* It forces readers to confront idioms or sayings with which they may not be readily familiar but deepen their understanding of the text.

* It helps a congregation to see how the preaching pastor reaches the conclusions he does, thereby aiding their ability to understand God's Word on their own.

* It shows a greater reverence for the inspired text.

* It allows readers to make connections between texts that might be missed if translators are doing “thought for thought” translation.

Which Translation for the Church Plant?

When we were deciding which translation to use for the church plant, my heart was initially drawn to the NASB. There was a comforting familiarity in that text, like an old friend. It is an excellent translation, in my opinion, but it has suffered from having a reputation of being too hard to read. I also think those who own the copyrights to the text have done a poor job of allowing it to be used and so it's a translation that is hard to access.

There were three other options I and the shepherding team considered: the NIV, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and the ESV.

I wasn't that excited about the NIV. It’s an excellent translation in many respects, but not suited for expositional preaching. For example, consider how the NIV translates 1 Peter 5:6-7:
NIV: 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
If I was preaching from the NIV, it would seem like there were two commands in these verses: (1) Humble yourself (v. 6) and (2) Cast your anxiety on God (v. 7).

This is readable but not as accurate as the HCSB and the ESV:
HCSB: 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.
ESV: 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Do you notice the difference? There is a clear relationship between the two verses. In verse 7, casting your anxieties upon God is how humility is demonstrated. The ESV and HCSB make it clear that "casting" is a participle. There's only one command: humble yourself. That’s not as clear in the NIV.

So Why the ESV?

The elders ultimately chose to use the ESV at Bethany Community Church as our preaching translation for several reasons: (1) it was more literal than translations like the NIV, (2) it was more readable than translations like the NASB, and (3) it had a greater level of availability than translations like the NASB and HCSB.

One more thing: I want to emphasize my appreciation for the plethora of great translations that are available to me as an English reader. The issues I have with most translations are relatively minor. None of the translations I've mentioned are poor translations. And even poor translations can still communicate God's truth to some degree. Whatever version of the Bible you have, be sure to read it!

By His Grace,


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Loving Sinners By Hating Their Sin

I like Mark Lowry.  He is funny and talented.  Recently, I read this quotation posted from him on a friend's Facebook page.  

Would you hit the "like" button for this?  

I understand the main message of Lowry's comment rightly points to our need to humble ourselves before God and to focus on taking the log of our own eyes before commenting upon the splinters in another person's eye.  We must not speak of another's sin as though it were alien to our own souls.  Condemning sin from a position of self-righteousness negates the Gospel message of God's righteousness available to us by His grace through faith in Jesus.  We indeed are hypocrites if we condemn sin in others' lives that we are not willing to confess and condemn when those sins or similar sins reside in our own soul.  I get this.  

But Lowry's comment goes way beyond that message.  His comment indicates that we should not repeat the truth that God has revealed to us about sin when sin is attached to anyone other than ourselves.  Is this what love demands of us?  I think many in the church today agree with Lowry.   But I would argue that this response is extremely unloving.  Love requires us to find time to hate all sin.

Why do I say that love requires us to hate all sin?

1.    Love hates all sin because sin causes the sinner to die. 

Hating the sin of another is not harmful to another person, but helpful.  Every sin brings some kind of death to an individual.  Some sins bring death more tragically and visually than other sins, but all sin brings death upon the sinner.  Imagine a friend who has become addicted to heroin.  His sin locks him into the world of physical, emotional, relational and spiritual death.  Just a year earlier, your friend looked healthy.  He was excelling in his work; he was happy with his wife and children at home; he was worshipping God in church.  But now, he is emaciated in appearance; he has been fired from his job; he has abandoned his family and he is disconnected from God.  Can you imagine saying to your friend, “I do not have time to hate your sin.”?  Every sin brings forth death, even those sins that seem more innocuous.  A friend loves at all times and cares enough to confront sin in gentleness.  This is the very heart of God’s instructions in Galatians 6 and James 5: 
Galatians 6:1 "Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."
James 5:19 -20 "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

2.    Love hates all sin because sin causes innocents to suffer.

Many sins harm not only the person committing the sin, but also injure other “innocents.”  I use this word “innocents” to describe the people who are directly harmed by another’s sin through no involvement of their own.  Hating the sin of another person is often necessary to loving those who are the victims of sin.  For instance, love demands that I hate the sin of the rapist.  Love demands that I hate the sin of the slanderer, the murderer, the thief, the adulterer, the oppressor, etc . . .  Love cannot say to the parents of a molested child, “I do not have time to hate the sin of the man who molested your son.”  Love hates sin because sin brings unjust pain and suffering upon innocents.  Isaiah the prophet wisely counsels us:  Isaiah 1:16-17  "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause."
I love that Isaiah urges us first to wash ourselves and remove evil from our own lives.  But his counsel urges us to hate evil, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others.  Only as we hate others' sins are we able to “correct oppression” and “bring justice to the fatherless.”

3.    Love hates all sin because sin caused Christ to suffer on the cross.

Love for Jesus’ requires that we hate sin in every form and every person.   We cannot be apathetic to any sin when we know what suffering sin brought upon our Savior.  What grief sin brought upon Him!  What unspeakable pain was His because of sin.  Yes, we are right to personalize Jesus’ pain by acknowledging that our sins nailed Him to the tree.  Yet our love for Jesus forever turns our hearts away from all sin with a disgust that it rightly deserves.
It is a passion for God’s glory that causes the psalmist to say:  Psalm 97:10  "O you who love the LORD, hate evil!" 

4.    Love hate all sin because God is love and He hates all sin.

God hates all evil and we are never wrong when we imitate Him.  It is God’s hatred of sin that motivates our hatred of it.  We do not hate sin because it offends our natural bent, but because it strikes at God’s glory as our Creator, Sustainer, Master and Savior.  As believers, we carry an awe of God that changes the way we think about those sins that our flesh accepts.  The more we reverence Him; the more we will hate sin in every form.  Consider God’s truth from Proverbs 8:13 "The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil."

So what are we to do with Mark Lowry’s advice?  If there were a “dislike” button, love demands that I hit it.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Loving the Book

My wife Whitney is currently reorganizing several rooms in our home. Most of the changes have been nothing short of brilliant. Bookshelves have been painted. An old computer discarded. A dilapidated desk moved to the garage. A once cluttered office is now a refreshingly spacious room for study.

Only one change has really caused me some angst. Instead of having several rooms with piles of books in them, we now have moved the majority of our books into one room. I like this idea in concept, but it’s stressing me out a little.

The reason for my unease is that I look at the books on these shelves and it feels like they're out of order. Greek tragedies are right next to North American literature. Theological books are right next to Whitney's biology textbooks. What order should our books be in? That's the problem. I don’t know. I’m just pretty sure that the order they’re currently in is not the right one.

Different people express their love for books in different ways. In Ex Libris, a collection of essays by Anne Fadiman, she opines: “just as there is more than one way to love a person, so is there more than one way to love a book.” In her family, they showed their love for books by abusing them for “a book’s words were holy, but the paper, cloth, cardboard, glue, thread and ink that contained them were a mere vessel, and it was no sacrilege to treat them as wantonly as desire and pragmatism dictate. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy.”

Fadiman gives examples of the ways individuals express their appreciation for books that other book lovers might find scandalous. Her brother keeps the books on his bedside table facedown on the page he’s currently reading. Her father would tear off chapters from paperback books he’d completed in order to lighten his load while travelling.

By contrast, her friend “won’t let his wife raise the blinds until sundown, lest the bindings fade. He buys at least two copies of his favorite books, so that only one need be subjected to the stress of having its pages turned.”

With all this in mind, how should love for God’s Word be demonstrated? 

Some may buy expensive Bibles with really cool covers. Others show such reverence for the Bible that they refuse to place any other book on top of it. The Jews used to refer to the canonical books as those which “defiled the hands,” presumably meaning that one shouldn’t come into contact with Scripture with unclean hands.

But one of the most important ways to demonstrate a true love for God's Word is obedience. The psalmist declares in Psalm 119, “O how I love Your law” (v. 97). And how is that love manifested? By his obedience and commitment to its contents. He meditates upon it (v. 97), observes it (v. 100), and understands it (v. 104).

It is important to demonstrate respect for God's Word but people are going to do that in different ways. What should be universally true for all of us is that we are reading and obeying His Word.

By His Grace,


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cheating for Gold

Cheating for Gold

When I was a boy I was told, "Cheaters never prosper."  Tell that to South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh.  He admitted to cheating in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Olympics on his way to winning the gold medal.  In addition to the glory of the gold medal, Van der Burgh is also credited with a new world record for that swim.
In the breaststroke, swimmers are allowed to take one "dolphin" kick at the start and one after each turn before entering into the motions of the breaststroke.  The dolphin kick is not part of the breaststroke, but enables the swimmer to travel faster through the water than the breaststroke does.  The more dolphin kicks a swimmer can get away with the faster the swim.  Video replays show Van der Burgh taking three dolphin kicks instead of the allowed one.  However, the Olympic judges stand along the deck of the pool and cannot see clearly what happens below the surface of the water.  The judges have no underwater video to monitor the dolphin kicks so swimmers can sneak in more dolphin kicks than allowed.  If a judge had seen Van der Burgh’s extra kicks, he would have been disqualified from the competition.  But no judge saw those kicks.
We could chalk this story into the "things happen" category if Van der Burgh simply made a mistake and was not penalized for it.  But it appears that Van der Burgh intentionally took two extra dolphin kicks to enhance his swim.  He spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald and admitted to breaking the rules.  He explained that other swimmers take the same approach to the race. 
It's got to the sort of point where if you're not doing it you're falling behind or you're giving yourself a disadvantage so everyone's pushing the rules and pushing the boundaries, so if you're not doing it, you're not trying hard enough." Van der Burgh told the paper. “It’s not obviously - shall we say - the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.” 

In the Sydney Morning Herald story, Van der Burgh related that in a meet in Sweden in 2010 the race officials used underwater video technology to judge the swimmers regarding their stroke.  He commented on that race,
“‘It was really awesome, because nobody attempted it (additional dolphin kicks).  Everybody came up clean and we all had peace of mind that nobody was going to try.”
Van der Burgh's ethic seems to be that cheating is immoral, but if everyone else cheats, you would be foolish not to join the cheaters.  He considers that a failure to intentionally break the rules is actually penalizing oneself with a disadvantage.  The cheater’s ethic is not driven by a love for cheating so much as by a practical view of life.    This pragmatic view of cheating appears to have captured the hearts of more and more people to the point that cheating does not carry the same stigma that it used to.  Studies reveal that back in the 1940’s, only 20% of college students admitted to cheating in high school; today between 75% to 98% of college students surveyed admit to having cheated in high school. 
Why not cheat if cheating brings good reward? Why not cheat if honesty places oneself at severe disadvantage to win the prize?  Why not cheat if you will not get caught and everyone else is doing it?  These are questions that very few individuals in the world can overcome.  Yet we as believers have Gospel answers to these questions that drive us away from the cheater’s ethic and move us toward God’s pleasure.  
The Gospel’s answer to these questions rests in the realm of the eternal.  All human accomplishment is measured by their impact not upon our temporal lives, but upon eternity.  Those who possess eternal life are aiming at a greater prize than those who are living for this world only.  God’s Word teaches us that temporal victories will rob us of eternal joy if we disobey God in order to achieve them and that obedience to God brings rich reward (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; John 6:27;
The Gospel teaches us that we are redeemed out of sin by God’s grace alone through Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross.  Yet God’s grace does not lead us deeper into a life of sin that alienated us from HIm, but His grace shows us the way out of a life of sin. God gave us His commandments so that we might know how a redeemed people can enjoy God and bring Him glory forever and ever.  How can we who were rescued from the misery of sin give ourselves willingly to it?  We forfeit God’s joyful rewards when we give ourselves over to sin.  Sin always brings forth death; sin never gives birth to life.
And to be sure, cheating is sin against God.  At least five of the Ten Commandments are broken when we cheat. 
Cheating breaks the First Commandment. 
Ex. 20:3  “You shall have no other gods before me. 
Cheating places the god of success above the God of scripture.  When we cheat, we acknowledge that we do not trust the LORD to give us the best blessing.  We cheat because we believe we can accomplish for ourselves a better life than God can.  Cheating and faith are polar opposites.  Warren Wiersbe rightly said, “Faith is living without scheming.”  Faith joyfully submits to God’s intended outcomes, rather than our own.  Faith trusts God to use His methods to achieve the results He ordains for us, knowing that He is good, loving and wise.    
Cheating breaks the Fourth Commandment.
 Ex. 20:12  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 
Few parents beam with joy at the news that their son or daughter was caught cheating.  Perhaps some parents feel proud and honored when their children cheat to gain success, but even in our spiritually dark world, cheating most often dishonors the name that our parents have given us. 
Cheating breaks the Eighth Commandment.
Ex. 20:15  “You shall not steal.
When we cheat, we rob God of the glory that is due Him in our lives.  When we cheat, we rob our community of the moral strength.  When we cheat, we rob our competitors of a fair contest.  When we cheat, we rob ourselves of the joy of true accomplishment.
Cheating breaks the Ninth Commandment.
Ex. 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  
Cheating requires that we lie and cover up our lie.  We cannot cheat and be a man or woman of truth.  Jesus taught us that the devil is the father of all lies.  We speak his language when we cheat.
            Cheating breaks the Tenth Commandment.
Ex. 20:17  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The reason we cheat is because we want something that we do not have.  The gleam of the gold medal lures us from our contentment in God.  From discontentment with God, we lust after something we do not have (a gold medal, a dream job, an “A” on a test, an illicit relationship, a low golf score, etc. . . ), thinking it will fill the void.  But the person who is not content with God will never be content.  God alone can give us that which makes us eternally happy.
            Do cheaters prosper?  Yes.  They sometimes win the gold medal.  Do cheaters prosper?  No. They forfeit the eternal for the short-lived; they forfeit true joy for a momentary thrill.