Shema (Deut 6:4-9) Part Four: Spiritual Growth is Measured in Lifetimes

This is part four of a series on the “Shema” (Deut 6:4-9). Part one of this series covered the notion of biblical simplicity and how it is the proper response to the God of the Bible.  It can still be found on the Gospel Coalition site. Part two, found here, talked about our “heart, soul, and strength” and how they can be directed by the love of God. Part three dealt with centrality of the Shema in the prayer of Jesus in John 17 and the hope that his prayers gives to us.

In part four, I look at how God works over a lifetime to form in us a life of simple love.

Here is the Shema:

 “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 self and with all your strength. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut 6:4–9

Song of Songs ch. 2, by Huang Yang-hu

By Christ’s substitutionary death and his subsequent indwelling of the Spirit, the simple love described in Deut 6:4-9 (whole heart, whole self, whole strength) is available to all those who believe in him.

This new life that he offers is not a life of ease or convenience, quick pleasure, or even a life at all, because as Jesus warned you must lose your life to gain it. It does, however, offer something else, something better: true love, true meaning, true hope for life in communion with him that does not end.

Such a life is immediately provided to those who would turn from their self-reliance and rely on Christ and him alone. Christ has died for them and they enjoy God’s favor as a result. As in the case of the Shema, the call to love comes after redemption from slavery through exodus has been accomplished.

The redemptive work of Christ is done. Simple love is the outworking of it.
Of course, anyone who has ever known a Christian knows that Christians do not immediately manifest the kind of whole-hearted love to which Deut 6:4-9 calls us. In fact, all Christians struggle to exhibit that kind of love. The struggle to see that love become a mark of our lives is a process that takes time, but we can take comfort that Christ is committed to bringing it to completion (Phil 1:6).

Futhermore, the path to simple love of the Shema is measured in lifetimes, and spiritual growth resists a standard timeline. Not all Christians grow at the same rate. Some Christians seem to have love in surplus and others seem to have to sweat, struggle, and fight for every inch. You may see radical change tomorrow and then experience a plateau for five years. You may be in the middle of a season of brilliant success and suddenly fail catastrophically in one afternoon. When you fail in life (and you will fail), when you stumble and fall (you will), when you find your heart fragmented and divided (it will be), confess it to the Lord and ask him to restore in your heart a desire for simple love.

Your personal failure does not bring Christ’s love into question, it proves it. The fragmentation can be mended. Healing can and does happen. Wholeness and simplicity are within reach, because Jesus has asked his Father that he would make it so, and his Father will not turn him down (see John 17 and the last post). 

In order to move from fragmentation to simplicity, from division to wholeness, we need to begin to see the dividing lines erased in our lives. 

Next post: “Tearing Down the Walls of the Heart”

4 thoughts on “Shema (Deut 6:4-9) Part Four: Spiritual Growth is Measured in Lifetimes

  1. I finally got a chance to read your stuff on the Shema. I love it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are very encouraging.

  2. I enjoyed that, too many leave out the part of the cross life. And just teach prosperity and self asteem. We get all the benefits while Christ did the dieing. Only a few good bible teachers left, who teach the full gospel.

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