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*One God, One Love, One Word*
A sermon on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 preached at College Church on October 7, 2007
*Prayer:  *Father, we ask your richest blessing upon the proclamation of your Word.
And so, we ask you, our Lord, to renew our minds, and to revive our hearts, and to enliven our wills –to hear, and believe, and obey your Word.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
* *
*Introduction:  *A few weeks ago I attended a dialogue between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals.
For me, as someone who lived half of my life as a devout Roman Catholic and the other half as a devout Protestant Evangelical, I was less than satisfied by this “dialogue.”
Less than satisfied because there was only one moment where the two parties talked seriously about their differences.
And that was when the moderator asked the Evangelicals, “Do you believe that explicit faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation?”
Thankfully, both Evangelicals quickly and rightly affirmed that that is the case, however unpopular such a position may be.
The moderator then turned to the Catholics, represented officially by two Catholic priests, both professors of theology.
Immediately, one of them replied, citing the Second Vatican Council, saying, “Even a sincere atheist, one who has not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, can be saved.”
Now, as I sat there, sitting next to my brother (my brother who took temporary vows as a Franciscan friar last year, and this year is seeking to enter into the diocesan priesthood), I thought to myself, “O I wish I had a voice in this dialogue, for I think at this point I’d turn it into a /debate/!”
For to me, the Catholic claim of inclusion of sincere atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and so on, is not only unbiblical, it is anti-catholic (small “c”).
What I mean is that you would be hard pressed to find anyone anywhere at anytime from the year 33 A.D. to 1933 A.D. who /remained/ part of the universal Church who held to any form of universalism, even the kind Rome does today.
Christians have always believed that Jesus is the only way to God; /and /that one must believe in Him and Him alone for salvation.
A few days after this dialogue, after I had some time for my thoughts and emotions to settle, I wondered to myself, “Now, how did the Rome ever arrive at this position?
In light of the clear teaching of Scripture /and /in light of the clear teaching of their own Tradition, how did they arrive at this view?”
Now, I know there are complex answers to this question.
But here’s the simple one.
They came to this conclusion (as any of us would be tempted to do) because they let the “Canaanites” get hold of their hearts and minds.
That is, they allowed the ways of the world to intermarry with their theology, and even with historic and biblical Christianity.
But, think of our situation today.
Today, what is the most detestable doctrine in the world to the world?
Is it not/ the exclusivity of Christ/?  Think about it!
No unbeliever I have ever encountered has a problem with us teaching—God is love.
Everyone likes that!
And few people take issue with us teaching—God is light (that He is holy, and that all people are sinful).
I think most people instinctively know that, and thus agree with us at some point.
But if and when we were to say, *God is … ONE* and therefore, there is only one way to the one true God, well then … fire up the fiery furnace, open wide the lion’s den!
Here comes the intolerance of even the most tolerant.
You see, my brothers and sisters, the first verse of our passage this evening walks right into our world, doesn’t it?
It jumps right into the hot seat that we so often sit upon!
Here is the Shema, the exclusive claim of Israel’s unique God, our unique God—*“*Shema Ya-Israel/*Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is … one.”
* *
The LORD alone is God alone.
That’s the sense of it.
You see, the LORD (YHWH) He is not merely Israel’s national god.
And He is not just the first among Israel’s many gods, like Baal was for the Canaanites.[1]
And He is not just one god among the pantheon of gods throughout the world.
No!  YHWH is “the one absolute God.”[2]
He is the God alone.
There is none beside Him.
Now, this oneness of God (not so much His unity, as His uniqueness) is so well illustrated throughout the Old Testament.
I think of that remarkable scene of the prophet Elijah doing battle with the priests of Baal, or of that wonderful, somewhat humorous, story in 1 Samuel 5 when YHWH is put beside (literally put beside) the so-called god of the Philistines.
Do you remember what happened when their “god” encountered our God?
This is probably worth you seeing yourselves.
So, turn with me to 1 Samuel (that’s 228 in the Pew Bible); and look with me at those first few verses.
The Philistines had just captured the Ark of the Covenant, which to them symbolized their defeat not only of Israel but also of Israel’s God.
We know, however, that God allowed them to capture it because the foolish Israelites were using the ark like a magic military wand).
Well, anyway, the Philistines, as we see now in this text, brought the ark into their sacred temple and placed it *“beside”* (v.2) their god—Dagon was his name, which I must admit is a pretty cool name for a god.
If one is to make up a god at least one should pick a strong-sounding name, like Dagon—Dagon the invisible.
I once saw a movie called, /Yor:  The Hunter from the Future.
/“Yor” is a great name for a barbarian warrior.
“Dagon” is a great name for a god.
/  /      
Well, there was Dagon (Mr. seemingly invisible god), a god made of stone, a man-made god who (surprise, surprise) looks a whole lot like a man—He has a face with eyes and ears and a mouth, and he had a torso, a trunk with arms and hands attached to it.
Well, what happened to Dagon?  Look at v.3.
The next day the Philistines came into his House, and poor *“Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD.”
*So, the people mustered their strength and lifted old Dagon back in place.
But then the next morning arrived (v.4), and there he was.
Oh my!
He had fallen again; and this time, his *“head … and both his hands were … cut off,” *lying there on the floor.
Only his trunk was left.
And sadly this time all the kings’ people and all the kings’ men couldn’t put Dagon back together again.
Because Dagon was dead!
He was absolutely dead because He was never ever truly alive!
There is only one true and living God!  *“Hear O Israel:  the LORD our God, the LORD is one,” *exclusively one.
Now [turn Bible], if there is only One God, what then are the ramifications of such a reality?
Well, if this one God is just an unmoved Mover or some absolute independent ethereal entity (a deistic deity), well then I don’t know if there are any clear ramifications.
We can live, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
But if this one God is personal and present; and if this one God has no eyes, but He sees; no ears, but He hears; no mouth, but He speaks, and no hands, but He has reached out and rescued them and us from bondage~/slavery (them to Egypt and us to sin), well then this one God is to be our … one love, our first love above all loves.
And that of course is what God’s Word teaches us next.
Look at v.5, what our Lord Jesus called, “the first and greatest command”— *“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
*If there is one God, there is to be one love; one ultimate allegiance.
Inwardly and outwardly—with “every aspect and element” of what we are[3] —we are to be /“covenantally committed”/* *to Him.  /Covenantally committed/—That’s how Dr. Block put it a few weeks ago, and that is a good way to think of it.
For you see here, the point is not perfect moral obedience or a perpetual passionate inward desire, but rather an honest and faithful one-heartedness towards this one God.
I’ll put it this way: the command here to love functions not as a kind of marriage vow, but as the marriage itself.
So, it is as if God says, “We are already bound together in the covenant of marriage.
But, if you want to enjoy this relationship we have and sustain it, you will remain faithful to me, as I to you.
You will love me and no other, with heart and soul and strength.”
*“Whoever loves father or mother more than me” *Jesus once said, *“is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”* (Matthew 10:37).
God first.
Christ alone.
One day a young rich ruler came up to Jesus and said, *“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”*  Do you remember what our Lord did?
He took him to the Ten Commandments, walking him through the second half of the Law, those commandments which focus on loving neighbor.
*“You know the commandments” *He said, *“Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness …honor your father and mother.”*
The young man responded, *“Teacher, I have kept all these ever since I was boy.”*
Then, do you remember, what Jesus did next?
He turned on His x-ray vision and looked into this man’s heart of hearts.
And so, next He tested if this man truly loved God more than anything else.
He put before this man a choice:  Do you love God more than… let’s say… money?
*“You lack one thing, go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and then come and follow me.”*
Isn’t that interesting!
Jesus tells him what?
He tells him, “Give away that one, big idol of yours—money.
“*For you cannot love /both/ God and money”—*“both” being the key word.
And then, Jesus gives the call to follow, the call to love, the call to put Jesus first*—“Come and follow me*.”
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