Reading Deuteronomy 4, I came across something that grabbed my attention in a very strong way. It is one of those paragraphs that feels wrong in our culture. But it is absolutely perfect.
Deuteronomy 4:5-8 – 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
When God sent Israel into the land, he told them to keep his law. One reason for them to keep his law is that doing so would show the people of Israel as wise to the watching pagan world around them. People would see a people who were different from them in a thousand ways, and that difference would be notable.
This paragraph stands as an indictment against our modern American culture. God is clear that lost people should see the people of God who live according to the commands of God and find it wise. Lost people should see how we deal with worship, with family, with community, with justice, with charity, and they should be amazed at how orderly and wise is the word of God. It is a black mark against America that we as a nation no longer express respect for the justice and wisdom of the word of God.
And this stands as an indictment against the modern church. We as the people who claim the name of God today in America—I’m here talking about big evangelicalism in general—have failed to cling to the word of God in the face of society. Church after church and organization after organization has let go of the word of God. Bit by bit, standard after standard, people who say they love God are letting Go of God’s word and God’s ways so as to look pleasing to our culture. We fear that our culture will not like us, will not accept us, might even persecute us if we do not show them that we are willing to adopt their ways. And thus we deny that the word of God is clear that the people of God, living in accord with the word of god, will ultimately amaze the watching world with the wisdom of God’s word and ways.
Church, let us love and obey the word of God. Yes, that will make us look different from the world. That is, after all, the point. There is no value in winning someone to a gospel that has let go of the word of God as if that is any sort of gospel at all. We must look, think, and act differently than the world around us. And we reach out to that world with the grace of the God whose word we obey. God will use that word to convict others of sin and draw them to himself. And we must never pretend that following the Lord looks just like the rest of the world, only with a little cross attached somewhere.