Monday, October 16, 2017

Are rules for life helpful? Or harmful? .......... Parables 654

December 4, 1999

A church ad showed a picture of two hands holding stone slabs inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The ad copy read: “For fast, fast, fast relief, take two tablets.”

Dr. Laura would agree. She says the sick moral climate in America can be cured only if people listen to God and do what He says.

Others disagree. In fact, some even say we have too many rules already, that religion imposes only restrictions. What we really need is more freedom.

Seeing that morals are not as important as they used to be does not require a degree in sociology. However, can more rules bring up moral standards or change people’s behavior? Or do rules simply raise our awareness of guilt?

That church sign implies that obedience to God will bring relief not guilt. Relief from what? God says we should not steal. If everyone obeyed, crime rates would decline. God says we should not commit adultery. If everyone obeyed, divorce rates would nose dive.

But life has other problems that call for relief. What about single mothers who need jobs with enough pay to cover their needs and the cost of daycare? What about sickness, financial debt, strained relationships, unemployment or other pressing issues? Would adding these commands give relief for these problems? Or complicate them?

We could say that keeping the laws of God has value in society but argue with the “fast relief” part. Ask any teacher. Ask any parent. People simply do not change overnight.

On the other hand, a few self-righteous folk might see this church sign and applaud. They wonder why people act the way they do. They insist everyone should put God first and live decently. Then the world would not be in this mess.

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees fit this profile. They looked down at those “less religious” but made the mistake of thinking they themselves were okay. Jesus called them hypocrites.

So, can taking these “two tablets” actually give relief? The Bible teaches that the Law of God stands forever. It is important. However, the Bible also teaches that no one can keep His Law perfectly, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So why have these ten? If putting them on the classroom walls had no effect, why did my Sunday School teachers do it? The New Testament gives the reason: “The Law was our tutor, to bring us to Christ.”

The self-righteous think that obedience to God’s commands is their ticket to heaven. They assume their adherence will give them favor with God. They do not understand or will not accept that everyone falls short. Our efforts at law-keeping do not impress God. The Apostle Paul wrote that keeping the commandments could not impart life. In Romans 3, he says people “are justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

This does not nullify the law as if it were unimportant. God’s standards are high. However, the Bible teaches that “all our works of righteousness are like filthy rags” in His sight. The gospel declares that our only hope is in His grace, not in our own efforts. As the Bible says, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

For those who believe in Christ, the commands remain to show us God’s high standard. Repeatedly, we see that our hearts are prone to sin. We are in constant need of God’s grace. In that sense, taking two tablets does give relief — it relieves us of the ignorance of sin — but the tablets do not cure the problem of sin nor any of the results of sin. Only Christ can do that.

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