With All Your Heart
In responding to the question, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus says, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark12:30).
We Have Missed the Mark
Our initial response to such a commandment will surely be a deep conviction of how far we have missed the mark. If we have seen our sinfulness in the sight of a Holy God, we are keenly aware that we have a heart problem. It is from the heart that evil thoughts, wickedness and foolishness arise. Jesus said, “All these evil things come from within, and defile a man” (Mark 7:21). Jeremiah informs us “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9).
We are made to realize that apart from God’s love for us we would never love Him. John makes this very clear as he writes, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Surely that is an amazing love that God would love us while we were yet sinners, while we were His enemies — love us enough to give His Son to die for us. The thought of that love melts our heart and stirs us to express our thanksgiving for it.
We Must Pray for a Tender Heart
But Jesus says we are to love with all our heart. How often our heart seems to be cold and indifferent. It is sometimes hard and unmoved. It is sometimes stubborn and unwilling to submit. We pray for a tender heart, a loving heart, a pure heart; but grieve that we so often fall short of what we should be. We feel the need to pray in the words of Isaac Watt’s hymn,
Look how we grovel here below, Fond of these trifling toys; Our souls can neither fly nor go To reach eternal joys.
Dear Lord! And shall we ever live At this poor dying rate? Our love so faint, so cold to Thee, And Thine to us go great!
Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, With all Thy quick’ning powers; Come, shed abroad the Saviour’s love And that shall kindle ours.
The conflict with our old nature is always a challenge, yet we rejoice to believe “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”(Romans 4:5). So while we recognize that it is by God’s work in us that we love Him at all, we know that we are to focus on loving Him more intensely. Just as Paul writes in the Philippian letter, it is God Who works in us, yet we are to work out what is worked in.
Our Love Grows As We Trust Him
If you love God with all your heart, then you are involved. Genuine love for Him will be expressed by our words but proven by our actions. Jesus said “if a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23). John writes, “whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:5).
Love the Lord with all your heart — how are we going to do that? Well if we love Him we are going to think about His greatness. In Psalm 18 David says, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
The more we meditate on what an awesome God He is, the more we love Him.
Our love grows as we trust Him, as we delight in Him, as we commit our way to Him, as we rest in Him. The Psalmist writes, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (119:97). If we love God we will manifest it by loving His Word, loving His gospel and loving His people.
Pour Out Your Heart Before Him
But even as we consider how our love may be increased, we are keenly aware of how easily we are distracted by worldly things, how idols of the heart keep us from truly loving God as we ought. The Psalmist encourages us to “pour out your heart before Him” (Psalm 62:8). We can come before the Lord confessing our struggles, opening up our heart, asking for forgiveness for our failures…and David tells us in Psalm 27 that the Lord will strengthen our heart.
May we seek today to root out all that hinders us in truly loving God and lay to heart these words spoken by Joshua, “take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).