The Bible is a book of God’s redemptive plan for a fallen people, but it is also a book of commands, decrees, laws, and rules. All of these from a perfect and holy God. But who is able to keep them? Thankfully, Jesus narrowed them down to only one, with a second that is like it. No need to wonder any longer what is most important, most valuable, or most able to satisfy. No need to be crushed under the weight of impossibility, knowing you cannot possibly measure up. We have been given the answer to all of life, and the reason for why He made us. We have been given grace. We have been given Jesus.
He laid it out this way. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” The command is singular, to love the Lord, but to exercise this love we are given specific God-given capacities. Four different ways to worship and glorify God with your whole being. Four things that we all use every day. And when we love the Lord with these things, as He said to, we are honoring the greatest command in the universe.
Will you look at these four things carefully with me?
1. The Heart – It’s a deep thing. The hunk of muscle at the center of your chest is the core of your physical body. Similarly, your heart represents the core of your capacity to love, to give, and to desire. Loving with your heart generally means it affects your whole being. It’s a sacrificial love that makes you willing to do things for the object of your love, that you wouldn’t do for anyone or anything else. Tell your spouse that you love him or her with all your heart, and you are saying that it’s a kind of love reserved for them, and them alone.
- God made you with this incredible capacity. He gave you a heart so that you could know something about Him. He too has a heart, a center of His desire, the thing that makes Him do for you what he wouldn’t do for just anyone or anything. He gives sacrificially and commands that you do the same. “Love the Lord with all your heart”, means to love him with total commitment, total abandon, and total willingness to look like a fool. It means that if He has your whole heart, then no one else gets it. Every love of this life, love for your spouse, your kids and your friends, are all to be funneled through a complete handing-over of your heart to God.
2. The Soul – It’s a bit of a mystery because all we see is the physical body. You can’t see a soul. But we know there’s a soul by the fact that humans express emotions of anger, sadness, happiness, and excitement. All of these are non-tangible. You cannot put a finger on them, but boy do they exist. It’s the invisible part of you, the real you, that was made to reflect the invisible God.
- Every emotion of mankind is a gift from God created with specific purpose. The fall of man has marred these emotions so that they are used by the natural man in unholy ways, but the original intent was for God. The soul is your capacity to emote, to express what you want to the one you love, or don’t love. The soul is your unique ability as a human, the pinnacle of God’s creation, to give to God in worship. To sacrificially give when you feel angry, sad, or happy. We are to love Him with all our soul. Every moment you feel, even the deepest feelings, even the most painful ones, you must surrender to God what is rightfully His, and what He knows best how to handle with care.
3. The Mind – The neurological center of the masterpieces of God’s genius. You and me. I don’t mean to to puff you up, but to glorify God who made you. But because you have no willful control over the majority of your nervous system, I’ll only speak on the more common function of the mind, your thoughts. There is never a moment when you are not thinking something. You process what you see, feel, smell, hear, and taste, and you do so efficiently. But the things you think, matter more than you might think.
- Yes, this too is a glorious gift from God. You can see it all the way back in Eden. The smells, the sights and the tastes of all that God had made for Adam and Eve. It was all perfect. The minds that God had given to them were being used for His glorious purpose. Then came the Serpent with every attempt to arrest their thoughts and usurp authority. The Serpent said “Did God really say not to eat of that tree?” Eve – “Well, let me think about this for a minute. He did say that, and come to think of it, I don’t really like that He’s keeping me from this full potential you mentioned.” (paraphrased of course) So she ate, and Adam ate, and they fell, and so did we with all our God given capacity to use our minds for Him. This too must be brought under the redeeming blood of Christ. “Love the Lord with all your mind” means to let Jesus have your thoughts again. Every one of them. Love Him with your plans, your formulas, your reasons, your intellect, and your learning. Learn of Christ every day. Think on God, His ways, His love for you and the world. Think just how much information there is out there, and how much info your brain can hold. Is there any bit of it that is more worthy of your brainwaves than He is?
4. Your Strength – This is a big one. It seams to under-gird the rest of them. It’s our actually ability to do the other three. It’s also your physical strength to go, stop, run, and fall. This is the one thing we think we have the most control of. The most rights over. We work and we get stronger. We’re lazy, and we get weaker. It’s ours to decide, right?
- The only way this attitude is correct is if you do not belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:20 “For God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” You see, if you are surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus, then you have surrendered all your rights to Him, including how you use your strength. As little or as great as your strength may be, It’s His to control, and yours to let Him control. “Love Him with all your strength” means to give to God what you think is mostly yours, and that’s a sacrifice. Are you weak? Then give Him that, and let Him use use it mightily. Are you strong? Then give Him that, and let Him use it the way He desires, to feed a lowly beggar in your town, to comfort a hurting soul, or share Jesus with a lost person. No matter the outcome, the means must be His strength, i.e., yours surrendered to Him.
As I said earlier, the second greatest command is like the first. It is like it because obedience to it is dependent on how you honor the first. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we do this? By making the Lord your number one in life. If you desire to love people the best, be tender in your emotions towards people, use your mind for the good of others, and be strong for the helpless in this world, then you need to give each of these to God. It is sacrificial worship. And this is why it is the greatest command of all. It all made possible because of the Gospel. We love because He loved us first. He loved us first in His death for us. Romans 5:8 “For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”