When Jesus was asked by a teacher of the law what the greatest commandment was he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…’ (Mark 12:28-30). This is one of those verses in Scripture that many have committed to memory. Essentially, it sums up the first four of the Ten Commandments. The command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31) sums up the last six of the Ten Commandments.
Have you ever taken the time to truly consider what it means to love God the way Jesus commanded us to – to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? In this edition I want to offer some thoughts on what it means to love God with ‘ALL our heart’.
The Bible mentions the word ‘heart’ several hundred times. Generally speaking, the meaning of the word ‘heart’ describes the spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires reside. That is why there is so much emphasis placed on the heart of a person. The Bible tells us that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin has affected us at the deepest level; our mind, emotions and desires have all been affected and we are blind to just how pervasive the problem is. Only a work of the Spirit of God can change our hearts. God, through the prophet Jeremiah, said that He would ‘give His people a new heart with which to know Him’ (Jeremiah 24:7). If we truly want to know God and to love Him we must first have this spiritual ‘heart transplant’ – to be made spiritually alive to God and His ways. Paul tells us in Romans 10:10 that it is ‘with the heart that one believes and is justified’ through faith in Jesus Christ.
Having had our hearts made new they then need to be taught the things of God through His Word – God’s Word needs to be continually on our hearts (c.f. Deuteronomy 4:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:6; Colossians 3:16; Philippians 4:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
How does this happen? We need to be spending time reading, meditating upon, and committing to memory, the Word of God. There is no short-cuts to this process. The more we are ‘in’ the Word of God the more it will permeate our thoughts and lives.
The heart is a great indicator of who we really are – it reveals our true nature. We can seek to put on a good face and pretend but God doesn’t just see the outward appearance – He looks deep into us and sees our hearts for what they really are (c.f. 1 Samuel 16:7). There is no ‘pulling the wool’ over God’s eyes – we cannot fool him. The Bible also tells us that ‘where our treasure is there our heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21). The things which we give the most attention to; which we give the most time and effort and energy to; that fill our minds and our desires – that is what we truly treasure and point to where our hearts are centred. Along with this, Jesus tells us that our words will also point to the condition of our hearts (Matthew 12:34). Do our words build up or tear down? Do they speak of the glory and goodness of God, or of other things? Do the things of God feature prominently in your life? Is obeying God and pleasing Him and serving Him your ultimate priority? If so, does your life (both words and actions) really show this?
God will test our hearts to reveal to us their true nature and character – He does this out of love to draw us into a closer and deeper dependence upon Him and to grow us in our love for Him. Nothing quite shows up the true character of something than when it is tested – this testing often comes as a result of something being put under stress or pressure (times of hardship and trial). Perhaps that’s where you find yourself now. What is it revealing about your heart?
Thankfully, God is so patient and gracious towards us, that even when we do fail He is always ready to forgive us and help us to grow. He never gives up on us! His heart is filled with love towards you. How is your love (heart) for Him?