There once was a man who served time in prison because he was a thief. This had been his lifestyle, but during his time in prison, he heard the gospel and was wonderfully converted.
When the time came for his release, he knew that he would face a great struggle. Most of his old friends were criminals, and he knew it would not be easy to break the patterns of his old way of life.
With this anxiety in mind, the first thing that he did when he was released from prison was to find a church where he could pray.
As he looked to the front of the church, he saw the words of the Ten Commandments, inscribed on the wall. His eyes went immediately to the words of the command that seemed to condemn him. “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15).
“That’s the last thing I need.” the man thought to himself. “I know my weakness. I know my failure, and I know the intensity of the battle I’m going to have with this temptation.”
The man kept looking at the words on the wall. As read them again and again, it seemed that God was speaking these words into his heart with a new meaning that he had never perceived before.
Before, he had always heard these words in the tone of a condemning command, “You shall not steal!” But now, it seemed that God was speaking these same words to him as a wonderful promise, “You shall not steal!”
You shall not steal, because I have put my Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my ways (Ezekiel 36:27). What once was only a condemning command now seemed like a marvelous promise of new possibilities that had been opened up by Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A new life is possible for you through Jesus Christ and by the power of His Spirit. When you come to faith in Jesus, God gives you His Holy Spirit to empower you for the life to which He calls you.
God sent His Son,
In order that the righteousness requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4)
Jesus fulfilled the law for us. But here the Scripture tells us that God’s purpose is that the law might be fulfilled in us.
How does that make you feel? If you’re like me, you will feel that you have a long way to go. But I have found great encouragement from the Heidelberg Catechism, a document from the sixteenth century that lays out the Christians faith in a question-and-answer format.
The Heidelberg Catechism is arranged under three headings: misery, deliverance, and gratitude. Misery deals with our state of fallenness in sin. Deliverance deals with what Jesus has done for us. Gratitude is a description of the entire Christian life.
Significantly, this is where the Heidelberg Catechism deals with the 10 Commandments. The commandments describe the life for which we have been redeemed. So, for the Christian, they don’t belong under misery, but under gratitude.
Question 114 of the catechism asks, Can those converted to God obey these commands perfectly?
You may say, ‘I thought this was supposed to be encouraging!’ But that’s not the end of the answer:
In this life, even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience. Nevertheless… they do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments.
No Christian is everything that God calls him or her to be. The holiest person you know has only a small beginning of obedience. But there is a beginning of true holiness in every believer. Every Christian has this beginning: A beginning of loving God, a beginning of loving our neighbor. A beginning of integrity, a beginning of truth, a beginning of worship, a beginning of rest.
No Christian is completely pure, but there is the beginning of purity in every believer. No Christian is completely content, but there is the beginning of contentment in every believer. What we have now is a beginning of truth, of peace, of integrity, of rest, and of worship.
This beginning is real. We truly begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments. Every day brings fresh opportunities for this small beginning to grow. And when our Lord appears, what He has begun in us will be complete.
This article is an excerpt of the sermon “Law” on the Ten Commandments. For a more detailed look at the Ten Commandments, check out Pastor Colin’s book The Ten Greatest Struggles of Your Life: Finding Freedom in God’s Commands.
 Ursinus, Zacharius, and Caspar Olevianus. The Heidelberg Catechism. Reformation Heritage Books, 2016. Page 39.