By Rev. David Scudder
Prepare to be shocked. According to the Government Printing Office, the number of new laws passed by the Federal Government from 1995 through 2016 is 4,312. That is a lot, but that isn’t the worst of it. When new laws are passed by Congress, they give “rulemaking” power to unelected bureaucrats in the department that most closely relates to the law they just passed. Some refer to these rule-making government departments as the “deep state.” When you count up the number of rules (which have the force of law), that number of new laws balloons to 88,899. Keep in mind, that number doesn’t include the new laws that have been enacted on the state and city level. [See: shorturl.at/dkDX7.]
Why are there so many laws? Nobody could possibly be aware of all those laws, let alone obey them. That is really scary because there are estimates that as of the early 1990s, there were as many as 300,000 Federal regulations that could be enforced as crimes. [See: shorturl.at/giJZ6] Imagine how many there are today! It is as if our government has potentially made us all criminals.
It has not always been that way. The American government started with a very short list of crimes that a person could be prosecuted for, crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. Our founders started out using the Bible as the final standard to determine what is right and wrong. Compared to the thousands of laws that we live under today, it is even more amazing to think that God only gave us 10 moral commands. As John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence put it, “The Ten Commandments are the sum of the moral law.”
The founders of our system of government believed that God’s moral law was all that was needed for an orderly society. Our second President, John Adams said just that: “If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable [absolute] precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
Even though God only gave us 10 moral commands, ironically, we are not able to obey even those simple, straightforward directions. The very first command to always put our affections on God (Exodus 20:3) condemns us all. We regularly give preference to our own wants and desires, rather than putting God first in everything we think or do.
Jesus Himself simplified the moral law even more for us. When asked what He thought was the most important command, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).
It couldn’t be any simpler, right? Love God. Love your neighbor. The problem is that “simple” still doesn’t help us to meet God’s standard of perfect goodness. Left to ourselves, we are all failures at being good enough to please a holy God. Our sinful nature is constantly bending us to love OURSELVES or those around us instead of loving God. “All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way….” (Isaiah 53:6).
What we need is for God to change our desires so that we really WANT to love Him more than we love ourselves. That is exactly what God has promised to do for those who repent and turn to Him.
Are you tired of trying to make life work on your own? Maybe you have tried really hard to become a better person and nothing seems to work. Even being more religious winds up leaving you still feeling empty and useless. The answer is to stop trying so hard to be good and give your life to Jesus. Let Him change you from the inside out.
Keeping the rules will never make us good enough for God. All they do is remind us that we need God’s amazing grace. That is what the Bible makes very clear: “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
Jesus can make your life new. It starts when you turn from your sin and put your full trust in Him. Here is a promise that I–and millions of others–have found to be true. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Forget trying to keep all of the rules. Attempting to keep them all will never accomplish the heart change that only Jesus can give. When we turn our lives over to Jesus, we fall in love with Him. Then, ironically, we find it a great joy to do what He commands. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
Christians don’t keep those commandments with duty-driven drudgery, fearfully trying to obey them. Instead, we keep them with the joyous heart of a dearly-loved child, one who is forgiven and cherished, and who knows that all his Father’s directions will always be for good.
Bethel Chapel Church is located at the corner of K & Lycoming Streets in Juniata Park. Website: http://www.BethelChapelChurch.com — You can email Rev. Scudder at DaveBethel@gmail.com — His column appears weekly in the Juniata News.