Verse 5: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”
Today’s message is focusing on the observations of the nations around Israel – what did the nations around the Israelites see? We the Church are the bride adorned so the world looks at us and observes. What do they see?
We lived in Rotorua for 13 years and our neighbors were an elderly couple which we had a marvelous relationship with. I’d sometimes sit and chat with the elderly man and on one occasion the door opened for me to share the gospel. I started but the man said, “No I’m not interested”. His reason was because when he was a teenager he lived in a small community and at that time there were about a dozen religious groups/churches. Each would have nothing to do with the other. They would backstab and talk negatively about the others. This closed the door for this man. These people who professed to know Jesus, did not possess what they professed and there was a lack of love among them. God intended for the Hebrew people (as written in Deut) and with His church today to be to the praise of his glory.
In Deut 4:6& 7, it says the Hebrew people were a great people. In what way were they great?
God didn’t choose the Hebrew people because they were the largest in number. He didn’t call them great because they were great in number.
Deut 9:4-6, “After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
God did not call them great because of their righteousness. God says this three times which means He wanted to ensure people understood and this applies to us today. Our righteousness is like filthy rags in front of God but any righteousness we have has been imputed to us by faith – Jesus’ righteousness. We have no righteousness of our own, it must be the righteousness of Jesus. We are called to be to the praise of God’s glory, we are to be like light and salt that hasn’t lost its flavor.
St Francis of Assisi was born in 1181. One of his sayings was “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words”. We need to preach the gospel by our life, through our attitudes, actions and way of living. We should be able to impact the world by our lives even before opening the scriptures.
The church existed not only in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament. What is the church? How do you define it? It is an assembly of Gods’ people that He has called out. This applies in Old Testament and New Testament. The people of God in OT were the Hebrew people, one nation and were called out of Egypt by miracle. Egypt is a picture of the world in which we live today. The NT church, is not one nation. It is many nations but one people consisting of Jew and Gentile. In both NT and OT church we are people saved by grace through faith. Abraham is mentioned in NT as the father of the faithful and we are the faithful. In OT, the people were saved by the grace of God through faith.
There are many differences between OT and NT which is obvious from reading the book of Hebrews. Hebrews reveals that the New Testament covenant is superior to the Old Testament Covenant. The sacrifices for sin were made complete in Jesus, He was the final perfect sacrifice for sin. God dwelt in the midst of His people in the OT church because God was between the cheribim on the Ark of the Covenant. The tabernacle was situated in the center of the Hebrew community. A better way has been ordained for the NT church because God dwells in each of His people by dwelling in your body when you receive the Lord Jesus. When we come together, Jesus is with us not because we are in a building but because he dwells in each individual.
Titus 1:5, 12-13; 2:9-10, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith… Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”
This is a letter from Paul to this Gentile believer and an elder called Titus. He tells Titus to make the teachings of God “attractive” which means to adorn the doctrine or make it beautiful, to garnish it. Like going to a restaurant and the fancy meal is garnished with parsley in order to present the food attractively. We are to make the gospel attractive by our lives. Non-Christians know how Christians should live and they are watching and looking to see if we possess what we profess to be. If we trip up, they lose interest and call us hypocrites.
Everyone to a lesser or greater extent is a hypocrite. This means that we act in a manner to gain acceptance by other people. We act according to what we think other people would be able to relate to.
1 Peter 3:1-7, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
Before I became a Christian, I worked in Whakatane for a few years in a merchandise store. At the time there was a Christian co-worker going to the farmers with produce. His name was Ian. I was a pagan at the time and had very little thought about religion but I was observing Ian. He was a very pleasant 19 year old. He was different. For example, if Ian made a mistake or there was a problem at work and Ian was the one to blame, he would straight away confess. In other situations when someone else was at fault, the guilty one would try to pass the buck. That impacted my life.
Another example that impacted my life was a day when some of the staff went to a seminar. During the lunch hour we went to the bar and we all ordered drinks. Ian ordered something non-alcoholic and engaged in the talk. When he finished his glass, someone came to top up the drinks but Ian put his hand over his glass and said “No thank you, I’m drinking something else”.
Another example was during the break time in the work staff room there were sometimes dirty jokes told and Ian would just quietly get up and move out. All of this time I was observing him and his example was impacting my life. Another occasion Ian invited me to have lunch at his home. Before lunch he asked me, “Would you mind if I give thanks for this meal?” I thought that was awesome. It was his own home and he is free to do what he wanted but he asked if it would be acceptable to me. He was so sensitive and considerate of other people and their needs. I thank God for Ian because his life moved me toward repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
I go to Waikeria prison weekly. Three years ago there was a special event there and I was surprised that Ian was there. I hadn’t seen him for 45 years. I introduced myself and he didn’t know that I had become Christian.
Let’s be like Ian, presenting a beautiful gospel. We can present ugliness of self or the beauty of Christ. We can adorn the gospel, or fail if we are not walking according to His will. His instructions on pure holy living are in the Word of God.