DECORATE YOUR DOORPOST
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 CSB
4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.
We have been looking at what the Bible says about discipleship, and we stopped off last week at a station rarely visited by those who study this topic. This week we are staying in the Old Testament as well. Today’s text in Deuteronomy 6 is famous because it is part of a confession of faith for Judaism called the shema. Verse 4 in Hebrew is recited as part of this confession of faith. It sounds like this: “SHEMA YISRAEL, ADONAY ELOHENU, ADONAY ECHAD.”
Jesus also pointed out the significance of today’s text when he quoted it in response to someone who asked what the greatest commandment in the Law is. Jesus recited verses 4 and 5. Loving the Lord with all that we think and feel (all our heart) and all that we say (all our throat) and all that we do (all our strength) is the greatest commandment because it is the very foundation of what it means to be a disciple.
Every born again believer in Jesus Christ wants to be a disciple in that sense. We want to be more than merely church members. We want to be more than merely professing Christians. We want to love God with everything we are, and declare that love by everything we say and do. Today’s text gives us some specific instructions as to how to become that kind of disciple.
Becoming a disciple is a one-time decision. But being a disciple is not. Once we jump the hurdle of confessing Christ as savior, our battle in life will be reduced to this one thing. Being a Deuteronomy 6 disciple is a decision that we will have to make every second of every day of the rest of your life. Fortunately, here in this text we have some guidelines that will help us in that battle.
The disciple internalizes God’s word (6).
“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.”
When God’s word is treasured in our hearts, it protects us from failing him (Psalm 119:11). When we just know the words with our heads, they may not protect us from sin. But when we have those words in our hearts, they can keep us from stumbling.
We have to learn God’s word as it applies to us. We cannot stop after we learn the Bible as history. That’s a good start, but it is not enough. God’s word has to be internalized.
The book of Acts tells us the story of seven sons of a Jewish chief priest, named Sceva. They were not believers in Jesus, but they knew that Paul was performing miracles in Jesus’ name, so they decided to cast out some evil spirits by invoking the name of Jesus and Paul. But it didn’t work. The evil spirit responded to their command by saying “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
The problem with the sons of Sceva is that they wanted the power of the gospel without believing the gospel. They wanted the power of the Holy Spirit without internalizing the word of God. You cannot do that.
You internalize the gospel by believing it. You internalize a command by obeying it. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). He asked those people who were not internalizing his words “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).
One of my goals for this congregation is that we become more familiar with exactly what Jesus commanded, and how we can obey his commands. This series on discipleship is the first of several, where I plan to take each command of Jesus, and teach how to obey it personally, and as a congregation.
The disciple normalizes God’s word (7).
“Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
There are a great many religious people who are quite good at compartmentalizing the faith. We used to call those people “Sunday Christians” but today they are more like “Sunday morning between 11 and noon Christians.” They come for the show, and go back home with no appreciable difference. They have placed all their religious experience in a small box, and are careful not to let any of it out into the air to expose it to the rest of their weekly schedule.
Today’s text prescribes the exact opposite of that attitude. It encourages Israelites to make learning and trusting and obeying God’s word the main item on their agenda for every hour of the day. They are to wake up with God’s word, eat it for breakfast, work at it at work, work at it at home after work, and go to bed with it at night. They are to make God’s word the topic of every conversation, the focus of every thought, the therapy for every problem, and the center of every relationship.
Making God’s word the main item on our agenda every hour of the day is how we live up to our promise to be his disciples.
The disciple also personalizes God’s word (8).
“Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.”
You personalize the word of God when it is God’s word to you as an indication of a personal relationship. Jesus told about people who will be standing before him on judgment day, and he will reject them. They will say ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then he will announce to them, ‘I never knew you.’ (Matthew 7:22-23). They thought that doing great things in Jesus’ name is a substitute for a personal relationship with him. It is not.
The Lord wanted the Israelites to symbolize their personal relationship with him by how they treated his word. He told them to strap his word to their hands and to their heads. That way, nothing they ever did, and nothing they ever thought would be outside of the boundaries of his word.
For example, the Israelite goes about his daily walk, and he walks upon a Canaanite practicing his pagan religion and worshiping a pagan god. Should he be tempted to think like this pagan? He reaches up to touch his forehead. He feels that portion of God’s word bound onto his head like a hat. He remembers that he is supposed to Love the Lord his God with all his heart. No room for idolatry there.
Another example, the Israelite goes about his daily walk, and notices a coin left out in the open. His hand reaches for the coin, but stops. His hand has the word of God bound to it. God’s word says do not steal. He remembers that God has already provided for all his needs. He can walk away from that “free” money because he knows that it would not be free. It would come at the cost of betraying his relationship with God. That is too high a price.
The disciple also publicizes God’s word (9).
“Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”
The title of today’s message comes from this verse. It reminds us that our Lord is not the author of a private religion. If you cannot advertise your faith, you might want to reconsider that faith. Jesus said “everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
The Israelite who wanted to show his relationship to the God of his ancestors had to begin by showing that relationship to those who entered his home. He was to write God’s words on the doorposts of his house. Everyone who looked at his house would see clear evidence of his commitment. It was a decoration, but it was also discipleship. It established the boundaries of that person’s family life. It defined the husband and wife. It set the children apart as belonging not just to that couple, but to their God.
But notice that it was not just the house door that was to be decorated. It was also the city gate. “This house belongs to the Lord” is not enough. This city also belongs to the Lord. God’s word is not just the foundation of our families, it is to be the law that rules over our governments.
Jesus said that we are the light of the world. That light was never intended to be a pen light, showing on our personal lives and families alone. It was intended be a floodlight – to shed God’s truth to the world. In fact, it was in the very context of Jesus’ teaching that we are the light of the world that he told us “a city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
God’s word was intended to be publicized. He wants us to believe it and trust it as individuals, but that is only the beginning. He designed discipleship to happen when we share his word with others.
God has provided us with numerous opportunities for sharing his word in this generation. In fact, at no time in history have we ever been in a place where we can communicate to more people faster and more efficiently.
But I have to warn you about something. We Americans (and a lot of other people in the world too) have learned to be quite lazy about this aspect of discipleship. We have learned to be very efficient Sunday morning Christians. People observing us at church see something altogether different than the person they see at work, at our homes, at the football game, or on the internet. That is precisely why we need to come back to Deuteronomy 6. God’s kind of disciple is not someone who compartmentalizes. A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who internalizes, normalizes, personalizes and publicizes God’s word 24/7.