Tonight, we are having an interest meeting for our new youth and family ministry. So, before we have some conversation about what we want to see and how we want to be able to serve teenagers and parents and kids, I want to read from the Scriptures and make some points about the goal of our lives. The truth with any ministry of the local church is that the goal should always be to come together, in every generation, in order to stimulate one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.
The Shema (v. 4)
Any time we talk about anything written in the Bible, including the Law, we see that it comes from God and is preceded by God’s identifying of Himself as the only God. As early as Genesis, we see that God is identified as the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit. So, when God identifies Himself as one, He is declaring unity among the members of the Godhead. God is only one essence existing in three persons. He is also clarifying that there are no other gods. He is it.
If there is only one God and He has identified Himself by giving His people His Bible, then He has given the Bible that we may know Him and honor Him and praise Him as He is. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know (Jen Wilken).
The greatest human responsibility (v. 5)
Because there is only one God, and people are not him, the responsibility of every person is to love God with their whole being. People say, all the time, that they love God, yet they are not getting to know God more. They are more concerned with so much other stuff or or being entertained or with simply having a good place to hang out. Most of the time, when people do things like youth ministry (or any other specialized ministry), all they do is cater to a certain set of desires or preferences in order to get people in the door and there is no real profit. If, in our religion, churches, and lives, we are not coming to love God with all of our being, all of our activities, all of our relationships and all of our ministries, then we have ignored the most prominent human responsibility.
Over the thousands of years since this command was given in God’s Law, we have seen that no one is able to love God completely on this earth. God predicted that this would be the case in Deuteronomy 31:21, when He revealed that the Law, including the Shema, would stand as a testimony against the people. This is why we need Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness, and it is why we need to be saved by His grace. Those who are in Christ will grow in the love that they have for the Father as a result of Jesus’ grace working out in their lives.
The responsibility of older generations (v. 6-15)
Because the primary responsibility of all people is to love God wholly, God gave this instruction to the generations- that with each generation, our primary responsibility is to teach the things of God. While, according to this text, the primary place for this is in the home, we have to say that if specialized ministry is not accomplishing the teaching of everything God has given us, then our ministries are unprofitable for teenagers or young adults or anyone else that would need to benefit from a specialized ministry of the church.
Our goal is to know God more deeply so that we love Him more deeply because we cannot love what we do not know. Notice that God’s instruction requires people to learn from His word in order to come to love Him. This is why the focus of the church’s specialized ministry cannot be cool games and cute object lessons and attractional music. The word of God must be central. Christ must be presented as preeminent. All else is secondary.
Where parents and churches fail in discipleship, God shows much grace. We pray that God grants us understanding, and that He moves the hearts and minds of those in every generation to know Him and love Him. We pray that our ministry is, first and foremost and wholly, glorifying to God alone.