(The following is a sermon that I recently preached at Irvington Baptist Church and Westmoreland Baptist Church)
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”- Deuteronomy 6: 4-7
I have a confession to make, I love watching documentary movies. It’s nerdy I know but I love them. My wife and I have Netflix and it has a ton of them. I like to watch documentaries on about anything: War, history, food, politics, dinosaurs, or grass growing. You can film someone putting up wall paper, get Morgan Freeman to narrate it and I will want to watch it. I’ve tried to show my wife a few but they often just put her to sleep. Anyways, the other day I was on Netflix and came across this documentary called “Hitler’s Children.” So I watched it. It was one of the most powerful documentaries that I have ever seen. It has occupied my thoughts for several weeks now. Now you may know, Adolf Hitler did not actually have any children of his own. He only got married a couple of days before his death; however, some of his closest companions did have families and children. This documentary focuses on five people who are the descendents of those Nazis. One such person is the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the commander of a concentration camp. As I watched the documentary, I saw five people trying to come to grips with the legacy that their parents or grandparents left them, each of them enslaved to an overwhelming guilt of being associated with those horrible Nazis. They want to love their parents as any child would but yet are horrified at the things their parents did. After watching this film, I was just overwhelmed with thoughts about how our lives affect those around us. And now as I stand here at the beginning of this sermon with you, I am reminded of the impact of that movie: “Your legacy matters.” The things we do matter to the next generation, to our children and those around us. Just as these Nazi’s left a legacy to their children that will haunt them their entire lives, we too leave a legacy behind. With that in mind, I want to preach to you a message from God’s word regarding the type of legacy God would have us leave.
What verses or passages come to mind when you think of the great passages of the Bible? What bible stories stick out in your mind? You might think of John 3:16, The Great Commission, “Judge Not”, The Ten Commandments or even Genesis 1:1, “In the Beginning.” We believe all of the Bible to be God-breathed and useful for correction and reproach but even in the church there are some passages that we know more than others. I want us to look at one such passage in the Old Testament that for the nation of Israel and even for Jewish people today is the passage that would stick out in their minds. The Jews call this passage in Deuteronomy the “Shema Israel”. It gets that name because the first two words of these verses in Hebrew are ,you guessed it, “Shema Israel.” For Jews, this passage is one that they remember from childhood. This is their version of John 3:16. This would be the first verses that they teach their children. Even today if you were to go to a synagogue on any given Sabbath you will hear this passage recited. It is of extreme importance to them. A Jewish boy or girl would be taught these verses and would read them every night in what is called the “Bedtime Shema.” They would also be taught that these words should be the last on their lips as they die. In 2006, Roi Klein a major in the IDF, said the Shema before jumping on a live grenade to save his fellow soldiers. So as you can tell this passage is important. In fact it is important not only for ethnic Jews but for us as well. Jesus was once asked what the most important commandment of God is and he recited this passage.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
A little background information to this passage will be helpful as we dig in. You will remember how the Israelites had been enslaved to Egypt and how God had inflicted the plagues on Pharaoh The Israelites led by Moses crossed the red sea on dry ground and were heading to the promise land. They, however, refused to trust God and thus he swore that they would wander for 40 years in the desert. So for 40 years, the Children of God wondered the desert instead of entering the promised land. Moses who had led them faithfully for 40 years was nearing his death so in the book of Deuteronomy, He recounts to the Israelites who would be entering the Promised Land the Law that God had given them at Mount Sinai. In Chapter 5, Moses tells how God had appeared to the Israelites in the dark clouds over Mount Sinai and had given them the Ten Commandments. Chapter 6 is the capstone or summary of all of the ten commandments and beginning of the exposition of the law to follow. With that in mind, we see four things from this passage. 1. Who God is 2. What God commands. 3. What God fulfills 4. and How we respond.
The first thing mentioned here is “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Everything begins with originates from and gets validity at their source which is God. Thus we begin looking at God. God in this passage starts by identifying himself. It is God who reveals himself to us. God is the one who defines who God is. And the very first thing He mentions is that He is Lord. This is something we have forgotten or lost in our current culture. We have sometimes rush so quickly to “Jesus is a Friend of Mine” that we forgot the Holiness, the otherness, the supreme-ness, the Kingship of God.
We must have a right understanding of God as he reveals himself to us before we can ever get to the awesome good news of the Gospel. And while the cross and Jesus’ death on it are the central part of the Gospel, we must first, however, have a right view of God before we ever get to the cross. God is creator of everything. The 2nd London Baptist Confession gives an excellent summary of how God reveals himself in the Bible. It says :
“The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”
God is Holy. And He is Creator. And it is He and He alone who decides the purpose for our lives and the way that we should live. The creation never gets to say to the creator what its purpose will be. That comes from God. God’s holiness also explains how he is also unable to be around sin and imperfection.
2Samuel 7:22 says “Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”
C.S. Lewis wrote a series of books called Chronicles of Narnia. Some of you may have read them or seen the movies but in them, Aslan the creator is a lion. This lion represents God in the world of Narnia. Recurring over and over again in the book is this phrase about Aslan: “ He is not a tame lion.” We need to remind ourselves this about God: We have not and cannot tame Him either. All throughout the Old Testament we are given pictures of the awesome wonder and power of God. Many times it is scary. In fact, King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that the beginning of knowledge is the Fear of God.
We need to reclaim the fear of the Lord. When we come to worship God we are to have a reverence for God. We are entering the presence of the Holy God who created everything and who holds the power over life and death. I like how John Piper talks about Worship and how it fuels missions: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. “
Worship then is the ultimate reason we exist. We should seek to present to God our very best. We should not come flippantly into worship as if this time is just the hour before lunch.
There is another documentary called “Grizzly Man.” It was about a guy named Timothy Treadwell. He had a strange fascination with Grizzly Bears. He went to Alaska each summer and lived in a tent right out in the wilderness next to the bears. Over the course of several years, he began to name the bears. He even would pet the bears and get on all fours and walk around with the bears. As Timothy came to know and care for these bears, he forgot one important thing; they are bears. He became too comfortable with them and lost track of the fact he was human and they were bears. Things didn’t end well for Timothy because one summer both he and his girlfriend were killed by a grizzly bear.
We need now more than ever to remember that we are not humans and that God is God. And God burns with an infinite passion to declare and uphold the glory of His Name. This passage begins with the declaration that God is Lord.
If I left you here, we would miss something for important. The passage says the Lord “OUR” God. While God is holy and perfect. He is personal. He is good and can be known. He is not a grizzly bear that may lash out irrationally in the heat of the moment. This untame God has created us for the purpose of knowing and enjoying Him forever. He created us for His glory. The Westminster Catechism asks this question about man “What is the chief end of man?” The answer given is this” To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” That fact the Lord is Our God makes this possible. God receiving glory and our enjoyment go hand in hand. John Piper again says this famously, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” God is personal and we can know him. He is not just some being out there in the nebula of space but is closer than any brother.
This verse also reveals to us that God alone is God. God is one. 1Ch 17:20 says O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
In the New Testament 1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
There is only one God and He exists eternally in three persons, The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. We sing his praise every week. Sometimes we sing a song that says “Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.” This Trinity God is the only God. As the first of the 10 commandments say we are to have no other God before Him.
Theology or the study or thinking about God is important and vital for us as Christians and for this church. Theology is not just left to your pastor. Each of you are theologians in some way or another. In fact every person is a theologian in the sense that they have think about God. You will either have thoughts about God that either conform to what God says about himself or you will follow some other god. Many people get caught up listening and following all kinds of different voices. There are plenty of people with nice personalities who may have charisma and speak words eloquently. However none of those traits are worth a hill of beans if the person does not have a right understanding of God and his word.
This brings us to the second point. God commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Jesus was asked what was the most important command and he answered Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
What is love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More. You can’t turn on the radio without hearing a song about LOVE. The Beatles sang “All We Need is Love. Elvis couldn’t help falling love. The Righteous Brothers lost that Lovin Feelin. Stevie Wonder was a Part time Lover. In today’s world, Love is often nothing more than a song. In our culture it is definitely is only a feeling. And as all feelings go, Love can to. Maybe when we think of love, we think of all butterflies in the stomach and knots in the throat we got in middle school. We were all shook up. But as Tina Turner sang “What’s Love got to do with it?” So What is love? Like Foreigner sings “I wanna know what Love is” We need to rethink Love. It’s more than a radio jingle and more than roses and flowers.
One contemporary Christian song describes God’s love this way “ God’s loves like a Hurricane and I am the tree.”
But here we are commanded to love God. We don’t often think of being commanded to love. But here it is, a commandment to love. Love then must be more than these feelings. It must be a conscious determination to make the object of your love more important than yourself. We are to love God with our Hearts:
This is the seat of our emotions so feelings do play a part. And when we think of God and his holiness and what he has done for us it does move us to love him with our hearts. It is not however only a part of our heart that God wants. He wants the entire thing. No looking back as Sodom with love in our hearts for the idols there like Lots wife. No this love takes our entire heart.
It takes our Heart and Soul. But what does it mean to love with our soul. We might summarize loving God with our soul as Greg Simas does:
“We love the Lord with all our soul by living a life of faithfulness to all that the Lord has required of us. While loving the Lord with all our heart has to do with affection, loving the Lord with all our soul has to do with devotion. The soul literally is the part of us that defines who we are. The essence of the biblical definition for soul means life, personality, the inner self and our identity. It’s where we make our decisions and choices that ultimately decide our lifestyle and behavior. Think of the soul as the “core you”. To love the Lord with all your soul means to love Him in the way we live, in the choices we make and in the behavior and lifestyle we adopt.”
Next we are to love God with our Mind: I think this is most of the neglected parts of this commandment today. There are several components to intellectual love for God. 1. Dedicating our minds to knowing him. 2 Thinking clearly and truly about him so that we don’t have false ideas in our minds.
We can only love God with our minds if we use them. We need to be in his word reading it daily. There are many false teachers out in this world. Loving God with our mind means testing the teaching we hear and seeing if it truly is from God. We can only do that if we know our Bibles. Did you guys know that before you got here this morning that I got on a ladder and painted the word gullible on the ceiling. How many of you looked up? We can’t be gullible. Not every person claiming to speak for God does. There are preachers who will tell you what you want to hear and may say things that sound nice but they distort the scriptures for financial gain. You can turn on the tv and see some of them with large smiles and big wallets ready to take you for a ride. I don’t want to name names but they might rhyme with Foel Bosteen and Royce Fryers. Stay away from them. Open your Bible and turn them off. Loving the Lord your God with your mind means engaging your brain.
And the final component of love is our strength. Some translations put it as resources. I think that is a fair translation. To love the Lord God with our strength is to love him with our resources. It is to love God with our time and the things that we have.
The biblical definition of love according to Voddie Baucham is that love is an act of the will (it’s a choice) accompanied (not led) by emotion that leads to action (it’s proved by our efforts) on behalf of its object.
This is the great commandment. And it’s a commandment. Sometimes we treat God’s commands like great suggestions. We read a command in the Bible from God and think, “Alright God, I’ll take it under advisement.” We hear sermons and then leave thinking that what we heard was optional. God’s commandments are not optional. They require our obedience. This commandment to love God with everything requires our obedience.
When this command was first given Mt. Sinai, Moses was on the way down the mountain with the great tablets of stone that God had written with his own finger and the Israelites were already worshipping a god made out of their own hands. Again when Moses writes this down in Deuteronomy, the ink could not have even dried on the paper before the Israelites broke the commandment. It’s like the bride stopping off on the way from the wedding to the reception for a fling with another lover.
There is more bad news as we read this commandment because the truth is that we disobey it. From birth, we want to be god. Like our fore-parents Adam and Eve we reject God. One of my favorite rappers Shai Linne writes about our rebellion this way:
“So why do the nations rage and all of the peoples plot in vain?
Their sin and offense is against His excellence and they’re not ashamed
As though He’s lacking the power to shackle them now in the hottest flames
And so they cock and aim- the target? His cosmic reign
That’s like a kid with a super soaker trying to conquer Spain!
Man thinks he’s a pugilist, trying to ball up his puny fist
At the LORD, who is ruling this
What’s amusing is God just laughs, like “Who is this”?
Stupid kids who persist in foolishness
It’s only by God’s power you exist
Now you declare war on the LORD
When before you were born, He formed you in the uterus?”
The Bible says there is not one who loves God not one. Yet, here we are stuck with a commandment we don’t obey and the punishment for this commandment is Hell. We deserve God’s wrath and judgment.
God fulfills this commandment. But there was one who did complete this. His name is Jesus. It was the greatest commandment. He lived it, breathed it, and died with it on his mind. Jesus fulfilled this commandment because we couldn’t He obeyed God’s law and lived a Holy life free from sin. Yet ,He chose to take our sin and punishment upon himself and die. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus to be sin even though he did not sin, so that we might become righteous. He did this as 1st Peter 3:18 says by suffering in our place so that we might be forgiven by God. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that this would take place years before Jesus would come. Isaiah said “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus however not only died but defeated death by rising from dead. Jesus did this so that we might have a right relationship with God and this demands a response.
Our response to the good news that Jesus died for our sins is to turn from our sins and to put our faith in Jesus. Romans 10:9 says it this way, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We realize the evil in our hearts and the rebellion that we have against God’s commands. We then throw ourselves at His mercy and accept the gift of salvation that is offered in Jesus. We respond to the Gospel by faith. This is not a blind faith but a trust in the reliability of Jesus. We can trust Jesus because he loves us and because He rose from the dead. When we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God places on us the righteousness that Jesus earned and removes the guilt and shame of our rebellion and sin. , Paul wrote that when someone trusts in Jesus, they become a new creation. They are forgiven and will have eternal life. Jesus said in John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” God then writes on the heart of the new creation his law.
While we were dead in our sins and rebellion to God there was no way for us to keep the Shema. We would not and could not obey this command because of the enslavement to sin. Yet when we place our trust in Christ and repent of sins, this is a sign of the change in our heart that God has done. And when God changes our heart in salvation, we can now return to this commandment with gladness. It is no longer a burden but is something that the repentant heart, soul, mind, and strength will want to do.
We can keep this commandment because God made a way for us to do it. Maybe Elvis wasn’t too far off when he sang that he couldn’t help fall in love. When you have been saved by Christ, you can’t help but love God. It will be imperfectly done in this lifetime but God will work in you to bring you to completion.
I want to ask you to examine yourself. Can you see in your own life a desire to love God with all that you are? Do you see in yourself a desire to obey God’s commands? Do you still have places in your heart where you hold onto rebellion? Repent and turn to God.
Finally this passage ends with an example of the outworking of our response. This example is one of the first ways we love God with everything we have. This part of the passage has become my personal mission statement as a student minister and father.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise
I want to encourage you that this command is part of the previous. Loving the Lord means you will teach your children and those around you to love him as well. It is a way of life. Not something that can be done on Sunday and Wednesday Nights alone. It is not something that you can outsource to a youth pastor or a children’s church worker. You as parents and church members are commanded to teach these things to those around you especially your children. We see from this passage that it is to happen all day every day in everything we do. When we sit around the house, when we go out for a drive, when we lay down at night and when we wake up in the morning, we are to be constantly teaching and speaking about the love and commandments of God.
I want to share with you some statistics: “According to researchers, between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teens are leaving the church by their second year in college. That’s right, modern American Christianity has a failure rate somewhere around eight (almost nine) out of ten when it comes to raising children who continue in the faith.
Over the past several years a number of researchers have discovered that the overwhelming majority of our teenagers who still attend church and identify themselves as Christians have belief systems that mitigate their claims. Researcher George Barna, for example, discovered that 85 percent of “born again teens” do not believe in the existence of absolute truth.”
From the same study George Barna comes to this conclusion:
” Our research suggests that religious congregations are losing out to school and the media for the time and attention of youth. When it comes to the formation of the lives of youth, viewed sociologically, faith communities typically get a very small seat at the end of the table for a very limited period of time. The youth-formation table is dominated structurally by more powerful and vocal actors. Hence . . . most teens know details about television characters and pop stars, but many are quite vague about Moses and Jesus . . . Many parents also clearly prioritize homework and sports over church or youth group attendance.”
Youth are not leaving the church because the games are not cool enough. Youth are not falling into the world because we didn’t serve the right pizza. We are losing this generation because we have neglected to keep this commandment. We send our children to the enemy for 8 to 10 hours a day to be educated and don’t live out a life of God’s love before them the rest of the day and then take them to church on Sunday for 2 hours and expect that to be enough.
The Bible here and elsewhere gives Parents, not the student minister, not the church workers, not the nursery workers, not the schools but the Parents and in particular the fathers the responsibility to teach their children the commandments of God and to raise them to be followers of Christ.
Related research among church goers, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. . . . About two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. . . . The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive.
However, Parents are the primary teachers in their children’s lives, even if they don’t know it. Some parents are better teachers than others, but every parent is a teacher when it comes to the children with whom he or she shares a home. Parents are the primary disciple-makers, every ministry should exist to support but never to replace the parents’ role. A key objective for this entire church must be to equip and support parents in making their homes ministry centers for the spiritual growth of their children.
Voddie Baucham says “A family without a commitment to the God of the Bible has no hope of stemming the tide of cultural onslaught. If we mix a little biblical truth, a little secular psychology, a little romance novel ideology, and a little eastern mysticism, we will get a deadly mixture of lies. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many Christian families do. We do marriage according to Dr. Phil, raise our children according to Dr. Spock, govern our sex lives according to Dr. Ruth, and only run to Dr. Jesus when things have gotten so bad we can’t find another doctor to help us.”
You cannot read the bible without getting the vision from God that parents and families are important. You will also see in our culture that families are under attack. Fathers and husbands are called by God from the very beginning in Genesis through the Old Testament and right into the New Testament to be the servant leaders and biblical leaders in their home. This fact has been under attack since the beginning. Since the beginning men have abandoned this role. When Eve ate the fruit and sinned, the bible makes it pretty clear that Adam was standing right there and did nothing about it. In fact , the bible places the responsibility of sin on Adam the man. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” Men the bible holds you accountable for how your families turn out. You have the spiritual responsibility and no one else. I do not have time to go through all the verses and there are a ton of verse s about male headship to point this out but you can begin in Ephesians.
My point is this- fathers and men, you are called to lead your families and to love them like Jesus which is sacrificial with great gentleness and strength. Many men must move from merely bringing their families to church to embracing their God-ordained role as their families’ spiritual shepherd and mentor.
Women and mothers you are called to come along side your husband and to also be responsible in raising your children in the nurture of the Lord. Look at proverbs 31 to get a picture of what a strong woman who willfully submits to the godly leadership of her husband while raising children that are pleasing to God looks like.We are to be teaching our children all day. It’s when you are at home, when you are on the road, when you walk by the way.
“What you do for God beyond your home will not typically be greater than what you practice with God within your home.” – G. Wishall.
Teaching your children happens every day and all day long. You teach with your words and actions. What is important to you will be important to your children.
I want to give you one practical thing that my wife and I begun when Jasmine was born and has become the highlight of my day. Every night about an hour before bed, we get the girls ready for bed and sit down with them in the living room. I as a father read the Bible passage for the evening. We then sing songs with our girls. Some of them are silly children songs but others are hymns and worship songs. We then pray together. This time is precious to me. It is refreshing and it is amazing to see Jasmine learn these songs. I want to encourage you whether you have children or not, to start this practice with whoever is in your household
This may be a completely foreign concept to some of you. It may take some getting used to. So many parents think they don’t have enough Bible knowledge to teach their children. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you can read, you can teach your children God’s Word. All you have to do is stay a step ahead of them. Don’t be afraid. God has given you everything you need to do this. You don’t have to be a seminary-trained theologian to read the Bible and talk about what it means. Besides, God would not have given you the responsibility unless He knew you could handle.
Regarding Family Worship, parents, you have the responsibility to carry this out. Fathers and men, again the bible places it squarely on your manly shoulders. Don’t neglect to lead your family and this church family in worship. Do not let worship and music be the domain of woman only. There are boys in this church that need you men to step up and be an example of Jesus. Men should be some of the loudest singers and worshipers we have. Women and mothers, don’t let your husband’s neglect this responsibility. And when they take responsibility follow them into worship of Jesus. Girls and young women need adult women to lead them into loving the Lord.
Finally, The world’s limited view of life says that the most important thing we can teach our children to do is get good grades, go to a good college, get out of school, and get a good job so they can make more money than their mom and dad did.
“Being a member of an organized traveling baseball squad at age ten doesn’t add a single day to one’s life. In fact, many of these activities get in the way of much loftier pursuits. If I teach my son to keep his eye on the ball but fail to teach him to keep his eyes on Christ, I have failed as a father. We must refuse to allow trivial, temporal pursuits to interfere with the main thing. Making the team is a tremendous achievement; however, it must be put in its proper perspective. No sports endeavor will ever be as important as becoming a man or woman of God.” – Voddie Baucham
It all comes down to a simple question: Why are we here? Does your family exist to prepare children for the NBA? If so, then basketball will be the center of our family’s universe, and everything will bow to the whims and wishes of the basketball god. Does your family exist to produce little pop culture icons? If so, then our family must revolve around the social calendars of our overloaded teenagers and their hectic schedules. However, if your family exists to love God then we can not allow anything to interfere with our commitment to family worship, prayer, and Bible study.
Today we have looked at who God is, what He commands, how he fulfills and how we are to respond. How will you respond? Will you join me and making this passage one of your life’s goals?