A sign of a healthy church is that it earns a favorable reputation within its community through demonstrating the wisdom and justice of God in its life together.
The book of Numbers detailed how the wandering wilderness generation of Abraham’s family died without entering the Promised Land. But it ended with God keeping His promise to the family by allowing their children to do so.
Wholehearted devotion to God
The book of Deuteronomy is basically Moses addressing the next generation as they enter (Deut. 1:1-5). He’s calling them to avoid the same mistakes and fate of the previous generation by being faithful to the covenant they have with God.
He starts off by reminding them of what happened with the previous generation and how God has been faithful and gracious to them. He then pleads to them with what has become known as “The Shema.” Moses says this…
Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might. (Deut. 6:4-5)
Moses is basically saying that in order to fulfill their calling as the family through which God would rescue humanity and restore it back to the Garden of Eden conditions (the sign of a healthy church from Genesis), it would take a wholehearted devotion of obedience to the laws God gave them.
If they did this, they would become a kingdom of priests that represent God, show what He is like and show what it’s like for Him to be Lord of heaven and earth.
Showing the wisdom and justice of God
Much of the book is a collection of laws, some that are new and some that were given at Mt. Sinai. Moses is delivering these laws again as a sort of “reboot” for the family as they enter into a new life in a new land.
The laws were given to the family to set them apart from their neighbors. They were specifically given to show God’s wisdom and justice through them where they lived at the time. They weren’t meant to be followed by everyone for all time. They were meant for ancient Israel.
When you compare them with those of their neighbors and look at the core principles underlying them, there is where you find their purpose and can pull out the wisdom and justice of God in any context.
Y’all need transformed hearts
At the end of the book, Moses gives a final speech where he warns the family about how their choices will affect their destiny. He offers this ultimatum…
Today I set before you life or death, blessing or curse, goodness or evil…so choose life! (Deut. 30:15-20)
Then he says he knows they’ll choose the latter and end up in exile! He knows them well of course, so it’s a seemingly easy prediction for him.
But he also says something very interesting…
The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, so that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
So while Moses is pleading with his family to be faithful, he’s at the same time saying that something is wrong with their hearts that’s keeping them from doing so. He’s saying that one day their hearts will be transformed so that they can truly love God and experience His Life.
After he warns them and blesses them, he walks up on a mountain and dies.
Moses was foretelling what Jesus would do. He provided the ability to become a new family with new “circumcised” (transformed) hearts (Romans 2:28-29) that weren’t stubborn and hard.
The new family’s DNA
The Church is the renewed family of Abraham. This new family is made up of people with new hearts that can be wholeheartedly devoted to God and His ways (2 Cor. 3:3). That wisdom and justice that used to be found in written laws that sinful people couldn’t keep is now found inside of the hearts of the new family.
You can say that the wisdom and justice that was underlying the laws given by God to Israel was now a part of the family’s DNA. Because of this, what the law intended the family to demonstrate to the rest of the world became their new instincts they could live by.
Favor with all the people
Churches should develop reputations within their communities, and they should be similar to that which the early church developed. Acts 2:42 is a really popular verse about how the first Christians “continually devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
But let’s also look at the verses right after that…
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all the believers were together and had all things in common; and they would sell their property and possessions and share them with all, to the extent that anyone had need.
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47)
You can see the picture being painted here. A healthy church has learned to live by the new instincts “written on their hearts” to a high enough degree that they uniquely demonstrate the wisdom and justice of God within its community through their life together.
Regardless of what the community thinks about what the church believes, it should earn respect of the world around it because of its behavior.
If you were to ask unbelievers within a church’s community what they thought of it, their answers should be overwhelmingly positive related to their behavior. Not only that, but it should be known for more than just religious activities. It should be known for living unique lives.
If it is, this is a sign that a church is healthy. Their demonstration of the wisdom and justice of God in their life together will set them apart from their neighbors. They will show what He is like and show what it’s like for Him to be Lord of heaven and earth.