Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Love the Lord Your God With All Your Heart, Soul, and Mind
I remember hearing it put so simply. When facing any difficulty, situation, or burden in life always take a step back and ask God..
"How can I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and how can I love my neighbor as myself in this exact circumstance?"
It sounds so simple, but yet it seems incredibly difficult in the midst of any hurdle life presents itself for us to jump over or through let alone the daily of life. If I'm being honest, my natural tendency with any perilous news or condition is not to stop and ask myself these things or truly take the time to seek God on the answer. Upon reflection, a lot of my life has been quite reactionary; reactions based upon either my pride, selfish motives, or what logic I could apply within a short period of time. I am incredibly imperfect at doing this, and therefore I write this blog from a place of needing to re-learn it as well. Let us humbly come before the Lord aiming to understand from His heart how we are to best live out these commands in our lives.
When we consider the fact that Jesus himself instructed his followers (that includes us) to continually abide by these commandments, I think that it then remains gravely important to understand both what that looks like in the middle of a pandemic and whatever our lives look like thereafter. To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind is a task we will never do perfectly, but one that shouldn't be negated because life ultimately is filled with the busy-ness we or others pack into it. It can become easy to allow for both of these commands to become a verse we throw out in varying circumstances, but how often do we sit and seek God on how to do them daily? I believe in order to even look at the second command, we have to marinate our hearts in the first. Because of this, I'm going to spend my time in this blog unpacking what it looks like to love the Lord our God with our hearts, souls, and minds before we even move onto loving our neighbors. As both Christians and non-Christians typically agree upon our need to love our neighbors well, what then does the Bible provide as a distinction on both who the neighbor is and how to love them as Jesus loves us? (John 13:34) I think the first simple answer to that is that in order to do the second command as Jesus instructs, we seek the Lord on how to do the first in a way that glorifies Him and honors others.
In Matthew 22, both the Pharisees and Sadducees got together and sent an expert in the law to ask Jesus a specific question. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus responded not with one commandment but two. First he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." The first and the greatest commandment. I start then with this question for both myself and all those reading. What in your life are you placing above this as the first and greatest commandment? Maybe it's money, a spouse, a job, a perfect physique, travel plans, freedom from the quarantine, or anything in between. What either good or bad thing(s) have taken the throne away from loving the Lord in your heart, soul, and mind? Let's pause there and come back to those questions.
Although most often quoted from New Testament verses, the necessity of loving the Lord with your everything (heart, soul, mind, and strength) was clearly a part of the old covenant as well. In Matthew 22, Jesus was speaking to his followers simultaneously with complete authority over all things and also from Old Testament scripture given to Moses from God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Moses spoke to Israel saying, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." He went on to instruct Israel to keep such commandments both on their hearts, doors steps, and for generations to come. Although devotion to the Lord in the Old Testament was most often seen through the attempt to abide by the saws God had given to Israel, the idea remains the same: There is one God who deserves our utmost affection, praise, worship, and love. All other gods (ones we put on the throne in our hearts/souls/minds) cannot give our hearts the deep soul rest and satisfaction we desire; only the Creator God can. Even more, the Israelites inability to perfectly follow the law (which ultimately is a reflection of God's perfect character) was used to point us towards our desperate need for a perfect intercessor and Savior (Jesus) to fulfill the law for us. Therefore, our affections continually need to be analyzed through the lens of the gospel in order to see what idols are taking our hearts away from devotion to the Lord who alone makes us whole through Christ. Idols and earthly gods that we create cannot make any person whole because idols and earthly gods cannot and will not ever make anybody. The Creator of the Earth who created you, is the only one who deserves our complete and utter devotion through loving Him first and above all else with our hearts, souls, and minds. We will never do this perfectly, but our imperfection should point us back again to the undeserved grace we receive when we are His. In our inability to love Him perfectly with all of ourselves, we should not run from Him but press towards Him and His grace. Out of abiding in Him, the fruit we bear will reflect our desire to love Him with all of us.
During the sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." (Matthew 6:24) If we are to love the Lord our God with all (being the key word) our heart, soul, and mind this teaching of Jesus would beg the truth that our all cannot be divided into equal parts for all the masters that we serve. Scripture reveals then that our supreme loyalty, affection, and love should be first and foremost on the supreme Creator of all the universe; a loyalty and affection that first starts with our hearts. Don't hear me wrong, this isn't an allegiance to a dictator or totalitarian leader. Rather, this allegiance with every fiber of our being is to a God who is Himself love. A Holy God who cares infinitely more about us than we can ever try to care about Him. An omnipresent God that came to Earth to defeat death so that we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Even more than that, He came to earth and conquered sin and death because apart from Him we could never overcome it. Even as we abide Him, we will always fall short. Even as we fall short, Jesus still points out these two commandments as being the greatest. Loving God isn’t a burden we have to strive for because being in relationship with Him is as a result of His great grace through Christ. Therefore, loving the Lord our God with all of us is not a burden but rather a beautiful relationship with the Creator. At this point, I would imagine some of you might be asking, "How then do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind?" I invite you to look at scripture with me in order to understand God's heart on this.
With All Our Heart
This may not be something you've heard often, but God has been after our hearts for all time. In the Old Testament, we see God continually speaking to prophets and people in Israel about His desire to have their hearts turn back to Him. In Psalm 26, the Psalmist famously says, "Test me, O God, and know me, examine my heart and mind." (Heart first as in the great commandment) During a fierce time of rebellion and abomination, God spoke to Ezekiel that He alone is the Lord and that He desires for them to "make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!" (Ezekiel 18:31b) Yet again, the heart comes first. God desires our hearts, because as the New Testament scripture affirms, often our misguided allegiance starts first in the heart. Paul teaches, that the ignorance and darkened understanding of God from some Gentiles is because of the hardening of their hearts. Even if you have all the wisdom in the world, if your heart is calloused and hardened to goodness of God, you lack the ability to love and serve Him rightly. In order to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, we have to not just "accept Christ into our hearts," but we must make our hearts a place for Him to dwell and be Lord of forever. We must honor him as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15) We do this through prayer and intimate time with God in our personal lives. We do this through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (who dwells in us once we are His). And most importantly, we do this by seeing our inability to do it on our own or out of our own strength/will and therefore laying aside all things (even the good things) that take up the spaces of our heart where Christ himself is to dwell. The act of salvation through Christ's death is not a business transaction. It is the greatest act of love in all of history. His love for you and His death on the cross results in the ability to have an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe. There's nothing better that you could make space for in your heart. All of your heart.
With All Our Soul
Along with our hearts, loving God with all of our souls takes an act of both reverence and surrender. We are not merely bodies. Rather, as Genesis 2 points out, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." We each have a soul, and it was created by the Creator. We then are to love Him with all of it. We love Him with all of our soul by living out our passions, talents, desires, and choices through abiding in His will for them. We love Him with all of our soul by humbly submitting all that we want to Him allowing for His directive before we act instinctively. To love the Lord our God with all of our souls requires surrendering all that we want for all that He is. Sounds easy, right? We will fail at this. We will fail at all of these, but it doesn't mean we are to stop pursuing the way of the Lord because of it. When we fail at loving Him with all of our soul, we should not hide away in shame like Adam and Eve but rather approach His throne of grace with confidence knowing that we will be received with mercy and grace to help in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
He doesn't desire for us to love Him with all of our soul just because. He desires for us to love Him with all of our soul because He wants to be in relationship with you. The Creator of the universe desires to have a personal relationship with you. Again, it is not because we can pursue Him first, but because He alone unveils His glory to us through His continual pursuit. Undeserved grace because of Christ's conquering of sin and death. How beautiful. Therefore, loving Him with all our soul is worth it. It's always worth it no matter the cost.
With All Our Mind
If I'm honest, I think loving the Lord our God with all of our minds is ones that we Christians sometimes sidestep more often than the first two, but we see clearly in Paul's teachings that in order to not be conformed to the likeness of this world, we have to do so by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). The renewal of our minds through testing and discerning what is good, acceptable, and His perfect will - not what we want to will over our lives. How are we to know the will of God? Through His word. We can so easily get caught up in the distractions of the world and wonder where we have time for studying, understanding, and pressing into the living and breathing word of God. We can ultimately look more like the world when our free time is spent less on seeking Him and more on what inherently meets our desires. There will be many times where the last thing we want to do is open our Bibles. I press on us that those are times we should be seeking Him most. We are never going to desire Him perfectly, but just as we are to love Him with all of our hearts and souls, we have to surrender sometimes good things in order to replace them with the best thing (Him).
Don't hear me incorrectly. I am not saying reading your Bible is a transaction into becoming the best Christian you can be. Reading your Bible is not what you do in order to check off your good Christian box. Reading your Bible, rather, is a beautiful gift into the heart of God to be cherished, revered, and desired. There will be days where you can't get enough of God's word. Praise Him for that! For it is not by your own doing but by the work of the Holy Spirit. There will be times where you want to binge watch a show or scroll through Instagram instead of reading His word. In those moments don't approach Him or the Bible with shame, guilt, or dismay. Rather, seek Him, sit with Him, and accept His unchanging offer through Christ into His heart. God uses us when we are stubborn or not seeking Him as we should (just look at Jonah). This takes the burden off of you to love Him perfectly and opens you up to pursuing that beautiful relationship because of an affection for Him. He knows we are imperfect. Don't let this either make you lazy or feel guilty in your ability to pursue Him the way He pursues us. Rather, let each time you spend in the Bible renew your mind. Let it transform you - because it will. Study it contextually, historically, and ask Him questions about what doesn't make sense to you. Be in relationship with Him through giving Him all of your mind. Love Him with all of your mind for He loves His adopted children with all of His infinitely, holy, immutable, self.
With Everything for The One
So again I ask us, what thing(s) have taken the throne in your heart, soul, and mind away from loving the Lord? Maybe the answers to those question weren't necessarily bad things. They very well could be good things. A spouse, having food to feed your family, experiencing God's creation, a job, and placing importance on living a healthy lifestyle are all good things. I'm not suggesting we remove all of them from our hearts, souls, and minds. Rather, I suggest we are to reorder our love for them. Tim Keller says it well when referencing these good things in our lives.
"Don't love anything less (in referencing things that aren't wholly sinful); instead learn to love God more, and you will love other things with far more satisfaction. You won't overprotect them, you won't over expect things from them. You won't be constantly furious with them for not being what you hoped. Don't stifle passionate love for anything; rather, redirect your greatest love toward God by loving him with your whole heart and loving him for himself, not just what he can give you."
Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind is nothing we can do perfectly. Maybe that feels defeating to you, but I pray instead that it draws you closer to Him. Closer to Him because you see the undeserved grace and mercy He showed us that are His through Christ. So, loving God is not a something that we have to do but something that we get to do through the work of Christ on the cross. It's not a business transaction where we have to go back to Him in confession every time we don't do it perfectly. Ponder this, He already knows your heart, soul, and mind fully. He knows it better than you will ever know it, and yet He desires for you to give it to Him. He doesn't need you to do that, but He desires it. He desires it because He wants to be in relationship with you. Why then would we ever not accept this first and greatest commandment as glorious and good? God is better than any best thing this earth could offer. He is worthy of all of our love. So then, don't look at all those good things that you may have placed on the throne that only fits Him in your heart with shame or guilt. Rather, surrender those that are not of His will and re-order those that are good always being put after Him in adoration. Ultimately, love God more. Let us seek Him on how to love Him with all of ourselves. He is worth it. He is worthy, and always remember we ultimately love at all only because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)