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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Trinity Sunday
May 31, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

WE ALL BELIEVE IN ONE TRUE GOD -- DON'T WE?
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, Amen. This morning we give our attention to the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter six, beginning with the fourth verse, as follows:

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 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. Here ends our text.

In Christ Jesus, our risen and ascended Savior, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

One of the worst problems facing our society today is a philosophy called "value relativism". It's the idea that the difference between right and wrong is determined, not by any absolute standard (certainly not the Bible!), but rather by the changing standards of what's acceptable in current society, or even what's acceptable to a certain individual; that is, what's right for you may not be right for me, and vice versa. We Christians tend to think of value relativism as a very modern evil, but it's not, of course. A hundred years ago, Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes endorsed value relativism when he said, "The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas…the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." In other words, what most people believe at any given time - that must be the truth. The trend has continued and been perfected by our modern politicians, many of whom seem to shape their policy not from any deep-seated convictions, but from opinion polls and focus groups. People in this country are asking the same question Pontius Pilate so cynically asked two thousand years ago: "WHAT IS TRUTH?" But it seems like nobody is willing to answer.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Boy, am I glad we're not like that. We Christians know what the truth is!" And it would seem that we do: a few minutes ago we all stood up together and confessed our faith in the one true God. We all say that we believe in the Bible as the only source of truth for our Christian lives. But do we? Is that how we live? Does God's revealed truth really govern our everyday lives? Today's text has some important questions - and answers! - for you. Our theme this morning is:

WE ALL BELIEVE IN ONE TRUE GOD -- DON'T WE?
I. Do we confess the one, true, Triune God?
II. Do we offer the love that is due Him?
III. Do we keep His Word in our Hearts?

Our text this morning comes from a speech that Moses made to the Children of Israel before they entered the promised land, Canaan. They were standing on the eastern bank of the river Jordan, eagerly looking across to the land that was about to become their home. They'd waited a long time for this day to come, and they were impatient to get on with it. For many years they had served as slaves in land of Egypt. When they finally escaped from there, they wandered through the wilderness for forty more years. Now they were so close to the promised land that they could almost taste the milk and honey. And Moses picks this moment to stop and make a speech! But there were some important things they needed to be reminded of, and the first thing was this: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

Do you know the difference between "polytheism" and "monotheism"? Polytheism means, "believing in many gods." Monotheism means, "believing in one God." Unique among the nations of the ancient near east, the Israelites were monotheists. They believed in Jehovah, the one, true, Triune God. They probably thought Moses' reminder was unnecessary: "Come on, Moses - we all know that! Of course we all believe in one true God!" But the people of Canaan were polytheists - they believed in many gods. Baal, Ashteroth, Anat, Aqat, Molech. And Moses knew that the many false gods of Canaan would have their effect on Israel. Eventually, the people would turn away from the Lord, and bow themselves down to these idols.

What about us members of Ascension Lutheran Church? We all believe in one true God -- don't we? Don't we all confess our faith in the one, true, Triune God? We certainly do on Sundays! But what about the rest of the week? In our everyday lives, are we still "monotheists", or do we have many different gods? One thing's for sure - we definitely live in a polytheistic society. The people around us worship many different "gods" - chief among whom is a god called The Almighty Dollar. Is money a god that you bow down to and serve, that you rely on to solve all your problems? Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon." Lk 16:13. What about power - is that your god? Success -- your career - even your family - does your service to any of these come before your service to God?

Moses continues with the First Commandment - a passage that each of us probably knows from memory: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. I'd like you to take a moment and really think about what involves -- Jesus called this "the first and great commandment." It's been rightly said that anyone who could keep this First Commandment wouldn't need the other nine! But do we really offer God the love that is due to Him?

This First Commandment is a wonderful tool to inspire a humble spirit in a Christian. It snaps us back to reality when we forget about our sinfulness. It's a sad fact that we believers tend to lose sight of how grievously we have offended God with our sins. We tend to think that, if we haven't killed anyone, haven't committed adultery, and haven't physically stolen anything, well -- we must be doing a pretty good job of keeping God's Commandments! But go back to this First Commandment - do you love the Lord? Really love Him, 24/7, With all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength? You don't have to think about that one very long, do you? Here even the most dedicated, pious Christian has to hang his head. This is one place where all of us fall pathetically short of fulfilling God's Law.

How can we even know what kind of love that is? And how can we possibly carry out that love? The answer to both those questions lies in one simple word: Jesus! We can see what true love is when we look at what love drove God to do for sinful mankind. The Apostle John asks: Do you want to know what love really is? "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins." I Jn 4:10. In love, God handed over His innocent Son to be tortured and executed on the cross for us! For sinful people who were actually his enemies by nature! And when it comes to fulfilling God's commandment of love - showing our love for Him in return - we simply can't do it. So Jesus did it for us. Where our love of God is imperfect and flawed, His love was perfect. Where our devotion to God has gaps - periods where we forget our God for hours or even days at a time - Jesus' devotion was perfect. And His perfect devotion and love for God becomes ours, by faith. It's a free gift, ours for the taking! That's the Good News of the Gospel that we hear in Romans: "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Rom 5:5.

I knew a young man once who had a real aversion to the Christian faith. He was one of that group of people who seem to be increasing in numbers especially in our day-people who express open hatred of Christians and their faith. "You Christians," he said, "You make me sick. The rest of us strive and struggle to find life's answers, but not you. You've got this Book. And whatever the Book says, that's what you believe!" He meant that as an insult, of course, but it's true. And the more I thought about it the more I realized what a comforting truth that is. As a Christian, you don't have to wonder where you came from - the Book says, "Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him." You don't have to wonder where you're going -- the Book says, "I have prepared a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also." You don't have to search high and low to find the meaning of your life -- the Book says, You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Pet 2:9. You don't have to struggle and strive to solve the problem of your own sin and guilt -- the Book says, He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psa 103:10-12.

So cheer up! The message of God's Word is this: that through Christ, God's commandment of love has been completely fulfilled. On the cross, your Savior gained for you a complete pardon for each one of those sins that burden your conscience. What a wonderful Word that is! It's the sweet, ancient story of how Christ came to rescue helpless sinners like you and me. This is the Word that we come back here to God's house each Sunday to hear. The question now is, will we keep this Word in our hearts? Moses says, And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

I'm going to teach you a Hebrew word. The word is "tefillin." Tefillin were little square boxes of leather which contained Scripture verses. Jews who wanted to appear very religious (especially the Pharisees) would hang these little boxes by leather thongs so that they dangled from their arms and on their forehead between their eyes. That's how they carried out God's command to "keep His words in their heart." Jesus said that they had God's Word on the outside, but not on the inside: "All their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries (their "tefillin") broad and enlarge the borders of their garments." Matt 23:5.

But the Holy Spirit has given us true faith in the redeeming Son of God. His Word is in our hearts, not just tied on the outside of our bodies! Because of what Christ has done for us, we're free from sin and death. Our future is bright and our salvation is assured. The eternal fruits of Christ's victory have been promised us! How, then, can we possibly keep our joy over God's Word a once-a-week celebration? We can't. It naturally overflows into our everyday lives. We take care to teach that Word faithfully to our children. We take advantage of opportunities to speak about God's Word every day to coworkers, neighbors, relatives and acquaintances. Let's make the most of every one of those "divine encounters" that the Lord sends our way each day!

Finally, Moses says of God's Words, "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." I knew a Christian husband and father once who took great care in crafting a beautiful plaque for his front door. On the plaque were inscribed the words of Joshua, chapter 24, verse 15: "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve -- but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." But you know what impressed me most about that fellow? Not that he had those words written on his door, but that I knew he had those words written in his heart as well.

Is truth relative? Is the right way, after all, impossible to find? Not for us, it isn't! We have the eternal, unchangeable and irrefutable Word of our Savior, who said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Jesus is the way we're walking, the truth God has revealed to us, and the eternal life we're waiting to inherit. After all - we all believe in one true God, don't we? By His grace -- yes, we do! AMEN.