Christian Education

Preached: September 11, 2011

Wear Your Faith on Your Sleeve
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit draws our hearts to Jesus today is Deuteronomy 6.

Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words, which I have commanded you today, shall be upon you heart. Sharpen your children with them. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as signs on your hand and place them on your forehead. Write them on your house’s door frames and your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

This is the word of our Lord.

You didn’t have to wonder about how she was feeling. Her smile beamed when she was happy; her eyes drooped when she was sad. Embarrassment reddened her checks; anger furled her eyebrows. She wore her heart on her sleeve, as the saying goes. Some keep their emotions secret, like a poker player holding his cards close to his chest. Others wear their hearts on their sleeve. God has made us differently.

But when it comes to faith, that’s not a secret to keep hidden like a poker hand. Rather, dear Christians, wear your faith on your sleeve. That’s a key thought in the words God gave Moses to write here. And it’s an important part of passing the faith on to our children and their children. So let’s remember that theme today

Wear your faith on your sleeve. That starts inside. In your heart know the One in whom you believe. Then in your life pass it on to the next generation. Those are the two parts.

A. In your heart know the One in whom you believe

Moses was 120 years old. He had led these people for forty years. Many of them weren’t even born when the Lord rescued them from Egypt and parted the Red Sea. They had not been there at Sinai when he came down in smoke, fire, and thunder. But now they are about to enter the Promised Land, Canaan, and Moses will soon be taken from them. Much of Deuteronomy is Moses’ parting words and instructions to the next generation of God’s people. He’s wearing his faith on his sleeve, for he knows the One in whom he believes.

The opening words of the text are a wonderful summary of that faith. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV1984). Let’s just focus on that phrase, “the Lord our God.” How well that summarizes our faith! For he’s the One in whom your hearts believe.

The word translated Lord is not your normal Hebrew word for a lord. The translation indicates that by capitalizing each letter. It’s the special Hebrew word God chose to make himself known. It’s the name he uses. Sometimes it’s put into English as Jehovah or Yahweh, as you see on the banner.

It means that he is the I-AM, the eternal God, who does not change. He is independent of all. He is perfectly consistent. He does not depend on anyone or anything. So he can freely makes his promises, since he is independent to act according to his good will and pleasure. And he faithfully keeps his promises, since he is constant, consistent, unchanging. What great grace and love! But when his grace in despised and rejected, he is also consistent in his holiness to punish sin with death and damnation. He is the Lord.

But here, dear friend, is the wonder above all wonders. The Lord who does not need us in any way at all; nevertheless, tells us, sinful mortals, to call him our God. Why would he give someone like you and me such a privilege?

Consider why the Israelites were to call him their God. It wasn’t because they were such a good people. Moses made that clear when he tells them, “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:6 NIV1984).

So why then? Because of the promises he had freely chosen to make to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their forefathers. Because of his gracious promises, he rescued these people from slavery in Egypt and delivered them by parting the Red Sea. Because of his promises, he made his covenant with them at Mt. Sinai and now was bringing them into the Promised Land. They were his people because he rescued them for himself. That’s why they are to call him their God. And through them he would send a much greater Savior for them and for us.

How much more hasn’t the Lord done for you and me! We were slaves to sin, but the Lord himself, Jesus Christ, redeemed you to be his very own. He redeemed you with the price of his life, measured out in his blood and his god-forsaken cry from the cross. We had nothing in us to attract this rescue. We deserved hell -- stiff-necked sinners that we are.

But Jesus came for you, and this Good News changes you. What grace! He gave us the good we did not deserve and took our evil on himself to die in our place. That’s the One in whom you believe, dear Christian. Jesus is the Lord, your God. For he has ransomed you to be his own. Through faith you call him your God, your Lord, your Savior. For that is what he truly is.

We confess Jesus, the Son of the Father, to be one God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, our only Savior. That’s the faith in your heart. “The Lord, our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV1984).

Now that fervent love which God has shown to you and me ignites love in our hearts. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV1984), Moses writes. In other words, such love from God that did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all ignites out entire being with love. The word heart in the Bible doesn’t just mean your feelings. It includes your mind and will as well as your emotions -- your entire inner self. Likewise the soul is that life-force the drives us, again emphasizing our entire self. And to do it with all our strength means to do it to the utmost degree, leaving nothing out. Such love cannot be locked inside. You have to wear it on your sleeve.

So dear friends, you know the One in whom you believe. He is the Lord, your God. For he has redeemed you to be his own. Such grace and love from him moves us to love him with our entire being. How can we not wear such faith on our sleeves?

B. In your lives pass your faith on to the next generation

Yes, dear friends, wear your faith on your sleeve because you know the One in whom you believe. But also wear you faith on your sleeve so that your life will pass that faith on to the next generation. For you see it only takes one generation for faith to die out.

We don’t realize how quickly things are forgotten. We all know what today is. Most of you no doubt could tell me where you were when you first heard of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers. We know all to well how the aftermath of that day has changed our lives, even taking sons and daughters from our homes to fight in foreign lands. You will certainly not forget, but what about those not yet born?

To illustrate how easily we forget, let’s go back in history. How many of you would rally to the cry, “Remember the Maine!” In it’s day it helped ignite the Spanish-American war. For most of us today it’s probably meaningless. And even if your up on your history and knew what it meant, it probably doesn’t move you to action at all, does it? And that all took place only a bit more than a hundred years ago.

Now do you see why it’s so important to wear your faith on your sleeve, if we want to pass it on to the next generation? We don’t want our children to think that faith is just knowing some facts from two thousand years ago. We want it to move them. We want love for Jesus to fill their hearts, souls, and minds. We want them to feel that Jesus is more important anyone else in our lives and what he did on the cross and on Easter morning is more important than any event ever. He is worthy of our time, our worship, our offering, our hearts, our minds, our bodies, and our souls.

But why would they think that faith is so powerful and moving, if we, the parents, aren’t powerfully moved by it? And how can they know that it’s important to you, unless you’re wearing it on your sleeve?

Consider how Moses describes wearing your faith on your sleeve. What are we to do with the words God has written? “Impress them on your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7 1984NIV). The Hebrew word translated impress has the idea of sharpen. To sharpen a knife, you don’t use the sharpener once or twice. You do it repeatedly. And the more you use the knife the more you need to sharpen it. So also as we pass the faith on to the next generation, that isn’t something we do just now and then, but continually. For as long as we live in this world, Satan and his allies are at work dulling faith. Keep using God’s Word to sharpen your faith and your children’s faith. Let them see you hold God’s Word in highest regard, not just sending them to study it, but studying it yourself, regularly.

Moses continues. “Talk about them [God’s words] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NIV1984). Passing on the faith is not just a Sunday morning thing, but every day. When you wear your faith on your sleeve, you don’t take it off when you leave the church. You don’t hide it in your pocket. It’s part of your life, whether your coming or going, whether your headed to bed or getting up. It’s part of you life, day-by-day, every day.

Moses continues. “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 6:8 NIV1984). That’s almost the same picture as wearing your faith on your sleeve. Let others know that you belong to the Lord. He is your God. Don’t forget it. In ancient times slaves could be marked on their hands or forehead to show to whom they belonged. Let what your hands do and let the decisions your head makes show others to whom you belong. Remember the Lord is your God, for he has redeemed you.

And finally, “Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9 NIV1984). Your life is what others, including your children, read to see whether Jesus is important enough to bother with. What is written in your homes by your actions, behavior, choices, words, treatment of others, or even by your decorations?

So this is how we pass on the faith to the next generation. Wear your faith on your sleeve. First know in your heart the One in whom you believe. He is the Lord, your God. His word of promise will not fail. His grace has redeemed you to be his own. In your life let his love for you overflow as you express your love for him and his Word. As your words and actions expresses how important Jesus and his Word is to you and how you cherish them, how much that contributes to passing the faith on to the next generation!

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313