The last few weeks we have been talking about how our faith transforms all of life. This week we are looking at the devotion God calls us to. I had intended to make this message about our small group ministry, but the focus got shifted a bit, and I think this is a good thing.
"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9 ESV)
The word of the Lord...
Thanks be to God.
This passage mentions several things that shows us what devotion to God is to look like. First is that it is to be a...
● Consuming Love
This passage is very significant for God’s people. The book of Deuteronomy is known as the book of the Covenant. A covenant is a promise. God made a promise to be with his people. He would be their God and they would be his people. God also required something of his people, they should follow him, and following him meant abiding by his word. This book states that covenant and the books form takes the form of a covenant. The first few chapters of Deuteronomy recount the history of what God has done for his people and the right he has to rule over his people (1:1-4:40), the general stipulations of the contract are in 5:1-11:32). This section clarifies what God has done for his people, what he will do, and how they are to respond. The next section gets to the specific stipulations (12:1-26:15), which is really a specific application of the ten commandments. It gets connected to real life in ancient Israel. There is also a list of blessing and curses (27-28). This is what the people can expect to happen to them if they are faithful or unfaithful. And right at the heart of this document, is the heart of who God is and and what God expects of his people is this passage known as the shema. Shema means “ hear.” first word of verse.
v4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Jews would say it twice a day. Jesus quoted it as the greatest commandment. One commentator said, “ It is an adumbration of the entire covenant God made with his people. It’s the expression of the essence of all God’s person and purposes.”
The Lord is one emphasises the uniqueness or exclusivity with which he is to be worshipped. It also emphasizes the unity or wholeness of the Lord. The people are to love him. This is the type of obedience God desires of his people. It is not the obedience you give to the city code for your house an emotionless allegiance. It’s not the obedience you give to your bank. It is one of love, the greatest and strongest love you can imagine.
V5 says Love him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. These are not different segments of the person, but rather than signifying different spheres of Biblical psychology seem to be semantically concentric. They were chosen to reinforce the absolute singularity of personal devotion to God. Heart denotes the intention or will of the whole man; soul means the whole self, a unity of flesh, will, and vitality; and strength accents the superlative degree of total commitment to Yahweh.
Consuming Love: Consume means to devour something completely. I am going to consume the lemon meringue pie in the refrigerator. I’m going to start with the crust, then the top, the middle. And every bit of that entire pie is going to be in my stomach. Sometimes we get consumed by other things. A project at work consumes you. Its urgent and important and each moment of the day your are thinking about it, working on it, worrying about it.
This is how our relationship with God is to be. It consumes us. It guides and directs every part of who we are what we do. There is not anything, anyplace, any part of who we are that does not get devoured by it.
He deserves it. Why would they love him. It doesn’t say in these verses, but the first five chapters of Deuteronomy have given reason for that. He delivered them out of Egypt! They were enslaved. He brought them out. He delivered them in the desert when after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites and Og the king of Bashan, (Deu 1:4 ESV)). He chose them and revealed himself to them. He gave his holy law to direct them. What God did for the Israelites is a foreshadow of a greater deliverance Jesus bring. In Jesus we are delivered from the power of sin, we are delivered from the power of Evil, we are delivered from the world, we are delivered from death.
We are to love God. Our love for him is tested. The Israelites were tested in the desert. There is testing. Who will get your love. Not about you getting what you on your time frame. It’s about getting God, loving and honoring him. This testing is not about you getting what you want-achieving your 5 year goal: job, wife, house, kids. The primary testing is will you love something more than you love God. Will you abandon him when riches abound. Will you abandon him if life is too hard. Will you abandon him when things don’t make sense. When you abandon God because life deals you a hard blow it often reveals what you really loved.
Your Love to God should be wholehearted. It should consume you and what you do. And that naturally leads to a...
● Committed Life
A committed life is the result of consuming love. When you love something you think about. You are drawn to it. You keep going after it. And that devotion is what protects that love.
V2 “ keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life” (6:2), also “ diligently teaching” the word (6:7), “ not forgetting” what he has done for you (6:12).It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve. He is a jealous God. v15.
All of life, every moment of every day is time spent remembering him, what he has done for you, of fearing him, loving him, serving him. That is the Christian life! Do we ever forget, yes. Do we ever mess up, yes. But we are broken hearted over it. If your Christian life consists of showing up to a meeting on Sunday, sitting through it with minimal engagement and never referencing it the rest of the week then you have missed the whole point!
Jesus saves us from the world. He offers us life and we have that by believing in him and following him. But this is to be a way of life. Commitment to him is not a moment of time. It’s not like I got my social security number when I was born and as long as nothing unusual happens I’m good. This is how many people think about their relationship with God. I got Christ five, ten, thirty years ago. I prayed and I’m good. Do you love him??? How does your lifestyle reflect this Scripture. The heart of what God wants from his people is their heart. Getting religion is not the same thing as walking with God, loving God, serving God.
Religion is the external form of a dead faith having none of the internal reality. It’s going to church. Its walking an aisle. Its saying a prayer. It is these things without the greater of loving God, serving him, pursuing him.
**For a lot of people their religion has been more like a vaccine.** In a vaccine you take cells of a virus, a virus that could consume you, and you kill them. You then inject these dead cells into the body and the immune system learns to fight them off. The body has seen it before and now fights off the real thing. For many people you have received a religious vaccine, a dead version of Christianity, its a Christianity that doesn’t have the consuming love and devotion, and you have injected it into your life, and that injection has made you immune to the real thing. You say you have it or had it but it’s nothing. Its dead. And you need to realize the danger you are in. If you were to open your Bible and read what it says you would very quickly realize that what you have is a dead version.***
Jesus rebuked some for their faith saying, “ For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (Mat 23:27 ESV)”
God saves us from the world. But sometime he needs to save us from ourselves. Sometimes God has to save Christians from Christianity.
Do you love him? Do you really love him? If you can’t say yes to that, the good news is you can repent of dead religion. You can repent of your hollow devotion. But remember that religious vaccination you got is powerful and is going to tell you that you don’t need it, that you have had it, but you have to know there is so much more to the Christian life.
It’s going to say, “ Lets not get too serious about this stuff. Don’t get carried away. Don’t get fanatical.”
This passage shows there is to be a commitment to God. If you love him you want him. You want his ways. You want a way of life that reflects it. It’s what the faithful people of God do throughout the Old Testament. They stick to God’s word and push aside threats and temptations.
Commitment to God means commitment to his Word.
Talk about them when you walk along the road...
Studying the Word. Focus on the Word. Talk about when you sit at home, when you walk along the road. They were not watching tv all the time. They were not on their phones. They were in the Word. These phrases speak of the totality of time that they were in the word.
“ devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Act 2:42).
diligently keep his commandments. Incisively, sharpen. Impress them on your kids. Its used of making sharp arrows. Not dull. Not rusty. Sharp. Ready for battle. “ Sanan” refers to an engraver of a monument who takes chisel in hand and with painstaking care etches a text into the slab of granite.
Commitment to God means a commitment to others . This passage presumes a commitment to the things of God in the context of other people. Who else are they going to talk about these things with? Who do they talk to
The average church community today looks nothing like the church community in the New Testament. Every good church is fighting the tides of isolating independence. We think we can do Christian life alone. It’s not true and we are in danger.
The danger of isolation: watching national geographic and the migration of elk across North America. Most predators could not take them out head on, so they would go for those who are isolated from the pack. The longer I have been in the church, the more I have come to see what I think are both the devil’s tactics and Christians own misguided foolishness. People think they are all alone.
A married couple barely speaking doesn’t know what to do and feels like they will be judged if they share about their arguments. ... How foolish bc if it was some other area they didn’t know about they would ask. “ I don’t know how to handle the loan on my new home.” “ I don’t know how my phone works.” You find out. So why do we not ask about other areas of life. Either you don’t know or you don’t care enough to find out.
I want us to have a church that has real community. I’m ok if someone walks in and they are unsure of things and they want to be in the background and check things out from a distance. If you are in that place you are welcome here. But we are going to invite you to other stuff. We are going to ask you to come to Bible Study. We are going to ask you over for lunch or dinner. This is who we want to be. I think the larger community needs a church like this! But if you stick around I want you in real relationship with other people.
JI Packer, “ We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament: it denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health, and central to the Church’s true life... The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship.”
In NT The believers were together and praying. They were gathering in their homes and praying for God’s kingdom to advance. How are you doing on this? How is the church doing on this? The Church is losing ground in culture and most don’t seem to care. We pray for our jobs, we pray for our kids education, we pray for new cabinets and better floors but do our hearts break for the mission of God.
Does our parenting, our marriage, our way of life reflect God’s word or the world? We need to be a community in the Word sharpening each other to make a difference in the community. Talk with others about influence.
Influence: how are you influencing people around you, people at your workplace? How are you influencing your grandkids and children. Sure just being there is a huge help. Could you be doing more? Could you be sharing the word with them more? Could you be doing more to help your kids see their need for God in their parenting? What are you doing to make memories with the grandkids and how are you helping implant the word of God in their hearts? Have you sat in a group of other believers to hear what they are doing?
How are you answering the people in your work environment that are transgender and want nothing to do with Christianity because they anticipate only rebuke, correction, and hate? Do you point out their wrong? Do you say nothing at all? Maybe there is a middle way to show you care about them even though you don’t agree with them. Are you being sharpened by others in mission?
...We are in a unique season as a church where we are building a new foundation for reaching the next generation of people in suburban Atlanta. This is part of why I wanted to replant. I think the church needs to reevaluate its strategy of reaching the lost. You can get a replant turned quicker that a larger church. But to do this we need the whole church pressing in to outreach and viewing every part of life as a missions trip. Be bold and be aggressive.
Let’s get real practical. What can we do to cultivate this in the church. ** Small Groups.** We don’t want to be about small groups for small groups sake. We want to be about small groups because they afford an opportunity for discipleship. People growing in their knowledge of God’s word. People sharpening one another and being there in community. And Mission helping reach the lost and hurting in the community.
A part of our strategy for this type of community is small groups, which we are calling Life Groups because we want people to experience the life that God has for them. We are going to have a variety of life groups: some meet in people’s homes, some meet on Sundays. Some are Bible studies, some discussion groups, some are missional focus. And these may vary in seasons: one group may study the book of Leviticus in depth, another may decide to focus on community outreach. But connecting with people regularly to worship God and spur one another on. Where people are using their gifts to teach, to serve, to lead. Where those younger in the faith can learn from more mature people in the faith. Where you have a group of people who know you and you know them.
A few weeks ago I met with the mayor of Alpharetta, David Bell Isle. We want to build the church the community needs, and we have been working organically from the grass up, but I also wanted to meet with a city official so that we get it right there too. We had a great conversation. He was aware of Bridgeway and excited that we are rebuilding it. He actually had some very good thoughts for us that I will share another time. But one thing he said he was trying to do for Alpharetta with the development going on downtown is to give the city a place, an identity. He said without that you just have sprawling suburbs unconnected. He wants people to have something they connect to.
I thought that sums up what happens in small groups. You will never intimately know everyone in the church. And that’s OK. We can’t be everyone’s best friend. But we do want to have people we are connecting with, praying for our true needs, the important things in life, who we can ask questions of the faith.
To the men. Whose sharpening you? Who are you sharpening?
Small groups are helpful because they provide a predictable and repeatable opportunity for people in the church to gather.
Bible: We want to know the Word. We want to be studying it.
Community: Christians are called to serve one another, pray for one another, help one another, bear each others burdens. How you go’n to do that if you don’t know nobody.
Mission: We need to remember the church is here to meet all of our needs. We are here to reach those who are not in the room and don’t see a need to be here.
If we are going to live for God we need the things of God in our life. If love for him consumes you it will lead to these things.
Difference in outward form and inner reality. Small groups that look great, highly organized, and a great website. All that is great to have and I want that. But it’s easy to pick that and be content with it all the while you lack the greater. I don’t want to have that as a church. I hope you don’t want it as a Christian. I hope you will consider joining a small group, or if that doesn’t work for you for some reason get with 3-4 other guys and talk about the Scriptures, share where you are struggling, and pray about what’s really going on. Be devoted to God and pray, yearn for, seek after a consuming love for him.