Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength
We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The fact that we are commanded to love Him indicates the importance of love to God. Obviously by this command He demands more than merely liking, or having a warm feeling of affection toward Him, but just how much more, and how?
When a scribe asked Christ what He considered to be the most important commandment, He said, “The Lord our God is one Lord: And 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. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).
The scribe agreed with Christ’s answer and went on to say that these two moral laws were more important than all of the ceremonial laws and rituals that his people had been keeping, “And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33).
Having discerned wisdom in what the scribe said Christ told him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 13:34).
While the scribe had his priorities right, the religious authorities at that time did not, “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Luke 11:42). They had prioritised ceremonial law and neglected the most important commandment, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.” (John 5:39-42).
They had all the trappings of a religious society; the temple with its sacrifices, ceremonies and rituals, plus the status and power that the priesthood gave them. But they did not know their God therefore could not love Him, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (I John 4:8). Because they did not know Him they failed to understand the role of love and its relationship to eternal life, “For my people is foolish, they have not known me… …and they have none understanding... …they have no knowledge.” (Jeremiah 4:22 see also John 8:19, 54-55).
The sort of love God seeks from us is not what most people realise. God does not need our love to satisfy some inner need, or to boost His ego. He is not talking about an attraction, infatuation or an emotion that most of us associate with the word love. The love He seeks is something far greater.
The word ‘love’ often transcribed in the Bible as ‘charity’ comes from the Greek word ‘agape’. Agape is generally regarded by scholars as the highest form of love mentioned in the Bible and means unconditional, self-sacrificing love. It is the type of love that God has for us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). His concern for our future and well-being transcends what is important to Him. It is the type of love that He wants us to have, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
He obviously takes great delight when we respond in kind both to Him and to our neighbours as we come to understand the importance of love and its role in the future of humanity.
It doesn’t matter how ‘religious’ we may seem, or what works we may perform in God’s name, if we lack the sort of love He seeks then all our efforts to please Him will be in vain, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (love), I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity (love), it profiteth me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3).
The fact that God wants us to love Him with all our ‘heart’, ‘soul’, ‘mind’ and ‘strength’ indicates that He wants us to focus on and commit to what He is doing for humanity.
To understand what is required of us we need to know what is meant by heart, soul, mind and strength.
The Greek language makes a distinction between the mind ‘kardia’ and the thoughts ‘dianoia’
English translators have caused some confusion by translating ‘kardia’ as ‘heart’ and ‘dianoia’ as ‘mind’ when in fact ‘kardia’ is the mind. We need to keep this in mind when reading the word ‘heart’ in the New Testament.
The Greek word ‘kardia’ roughly equates to the Hebrew word ‘leb’ that is also translated as ‘heart’. Both the words ‘kardia’ and ‘leb’ not only refer to the heart as an organ of the body, but also to the heart as the centre that governs all the physical, intellectual and psychological attributes. In other words the heart was seen figuratively as the mind of the individual.
The mind is the conscious awareness. It is our personal individual psyche - the ‘me’ that is who and what we are. It is where information is received from the five senses, from parents, teachers and general life experiences that shape our personality and character. The mind is like the central workshop where information is received, stored and processed to form thoughts and imaginations that determine our actions.
Where the word ‘mind’ is used in the New Testament and is translated from the Greek word ‘dianoia’ it actually refers to the thoughts and imaginations that are formed within the mind. For example, “…he hath scattered the proud in the imagination (dianoia - thoughts) of their hearts (kardia - mind).” (Luke 1:51).
The ‘spirit in man’ that provides our intellect is something we are born with. But the information we receive and process in the mind comes from our senses and external sources. That information is analysed and processed by the intellect to form our thoughts, intents and imaginations. Those thoughts, intents and imaginations translate into emotions, opinions and behaviours.
We have some control over the information that goes into the mind and how we think and translate our thoughts into actions. But most people do not consciously exercise that control and they let their emotions dictate their behaviour. Thought patterns and behaviours become engraved on our minds and once established take a great deal of discipline and determination to change.
There is a great deal of confusion in the Christian community as to whether we have a ‘soul’ and if it is immortal or not. When God created man He breathed in to him the spirit of life that made him a living creature, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed (naphach - blew) into his nostrils the breath (nᵉshamah - spirit) of life; and man became a living soul (nephesh - creature).” (Genesis 2:7). In the Old Testament the soul is simply a lifeless body or creature that is given life through a spirit added to make it a ‘living soul’. However, in the New Testament the Greek word ‘psuche’ that equates to the Hebrew word ‘nᵉshamah’ in meaning, has been translated as English as the word‘soul’. It would have been more appropriate and caused less confusion if ‘psuche’ had been translated as ‘spirit’ or ‘spirit in man’.
The ‘spirit in man’ not only provides life to our flesh; it generates and sustains our mental faculties, or intellect, that enables us to collate, analyse and process the information we receive into our mind to give us understanding of our surroundings, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” (Job 32:8). It also establishes and sets our basic moral proclivities that form our human nature.
Other creatures have a similar spirit that gives them life but not the same level of intellect or potential that humans have, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21 see also Psalm 104:29).
The ‘spirit in man’ returns to God when we die in a form that the Bible describes as ‘sleep’ from which we can be awakened, “…and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1-2). While asleep in this sense there is no consciousness, “…for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). In this state none of our faculties function, “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.” (Psalm 115:17).
The ‘spirit in man’ can be likened to a spiritual DNA from which God can resurrect us back to life with all our personality, character, knowledge, experiences and thoughts still intact. Paul said that the dead who are asleep will be resurrected, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). Christ also spoke about his friend Lazarus as if he were asleep, knowing full well that he was dead (John 11: 11-14). It is important to understand that the dead remain in the grave as if asleep, until they are resurrected by God.
Contrary to popular belief the ‘spirit of man’ can be destroyed. It is not an immortal soul at all, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). The word ‘hell’ is translated from the Greek word ‘gehenna’ which refers to the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem where rubbish and dead animals were burned. It is symbolic of the lake of fire where the spirit of those who do not repent will be destroyed forever, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). We are destined once to die (Hebrews 9:27) but the destruction of the ‘spirit in man’ in the Lake of Fire is a ‘second death’ (Revelation 20:14).
Human beings have a spirit that generates life and provides an intellect that enables us to analyse, process and understand the information we receive into our mind.
The Greek word translated as ‘strength’ means ability, power or might. To do something with all our strength means to do it to the best of our ability with all the might and power available to us. There is no room for doing things half heartedly or reluctantly – it’s all or nothing!
God holds us all responsible for our actions, “So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12). We are to be judged for what we say, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). And what we do, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10). In addition Jesus Christ indicated that we will also be held responsible for what goes on within our minds, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28). Including our emotions, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:” (Matthew 5:21).
The ‘spirit in man’ provides our moral base and the intellectual processes by which we analyse the information we receive from various sources to form thoughts and imaginations that determine our emotions and behaviours. God holds us responsible not only for our behaviours but also our thoughts, imaginations and emotions.
When Jesus Christ said that we are to express our love of God through all our heart, soul, mind and strength He was talking about loving God with all of our strength using our spirit, mind, thoughts, emotions and deeds.
What most people do not realise is that the ‘spirit in man’ has been corrupted. When our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden evil became part of the spiritual DNA that is our human nature. It became a mixture of good and evil. Evil is a negative quality that inspires and nurtures the selfishness, greed, hatred and jealousy that results in deception, lies, theft, murder, depravity and wickedness that in turn causes unhappiness, sorrow, pain and death, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12). By its very destructive nature evil will inevitably result in total death and destruction to all that it has corrupted.
Humanity’s moral foundation was undermined by evil from the beginning and all who have descended from Adam and Eve have walked, “… in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:17-19). It has affected the way we think, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Consequently our thoughts and ways are contrary to God’s, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Although we may not realise it there is always sub-conscious guilt associated with sin that causes enmity in us toward God, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7). That enmity is hatred and when we have enmity toward Him it is impossible for us to love God.
Our enmity not only prevents us from loving God it also distorts our understanding of the purpose and power of love. The love that most people in this world experience is basically selfish and rarely extends beyond our own family, friends and the things we like. Even our romantic notion for another person often has an element of selfishness.
Many in this world see love as an emotion that indicates softness or weakness, but it is not! Christians define the higher form of love for God as a selfless, outgoing concern for others, but even this fails to fully define the truth about love.
Most of us do not understand what love really is! We fail to see what is revealed by the words, “God is love” (I John 4:16).
Love is a product of God’s Spirit, “the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). His Spirit is the very essence, mind, nature and power of God. Everything He thinks, does and says is underpinned by love. The power that emanates from Him is the power of love. Love is the very powerful spiritual force that is the essence of God – He is love! Love emanates from God and by His very nature is positive, dynamic and actively motivating. All the qualities of God, including His goodness, righteousness, mercy and truth are encompassed within the definition of the love that comprise the fullness and essence of God, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19).
The full magnitude of the breadth, length, depth and height of God’s love is beyond the comprehension of the unconverted human mind. Even with God’s Spirit we do not fully understand the full extent of His love, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).
It is by the power of His love that everything has been brought into existence, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” (I Corinthians 8:6). And it is the same power by which the creation is sustained, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power…” (Hebrew 1:3). It is an everlasting love, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:” (Jeremiah 31:3). It never fails, “Charity (love) never faileth” (I Corinthians 13:8).
Without love we are nothing, “…and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:2). And every thing we do will fail, cease and vanish away, “…but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (I Corinthians 13:8).
These verses tell us that without love we are nothing and everything else fails, ceases and vanishes away until there is nothing at all! The conclusion from this is that eternity itself is sustained by the positive and dynamic power of love. God is love and He sustains eternity.
Many fail to comprehend the power of love and how essential it is for eternal life. That is why the law God has given us is based on love and we are to love God with all our minds, spirit, thoughts and deeds and to love our fellow-men as we love ourselves - especially the brethren whom we are to esteem better than ourselves! This encompasses all people regardless of race, religion or politics and includes our enemies, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44). God is giving us His Holy Spirit so we can receive the fullness of the love that He is and live forever.
Evil is an opposite of love, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). It is a very destructive force that brings about eternal death - that is an absolute! There is no eternal inheritance for those who have been corrupted with evil, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
Their existence will ‘fail’, ‘cease’, ‘vanish away’ and ‘become nothing’ for the rest of eternity when they die. This is the second death (Revelation 20:14-15) which is a permanent cessation of life for all eternity.
To enter God’s Kingdom and have eternal life we must become like God so that everything we think, do and say is underpinned by the principle of love. It requires His intervention to change our enmity to love.
The good news is that God has promised to intervene on behalf of each and every one of us, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6). Salvation from eternal death is a gift from God, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8). But it is given on His terms, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).
He offers salvation through His son Jesus Christ God, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:21-22). Everything Christ does is motivated by the same love as His Father, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 1:14). There is no-one else through whom we can be saved from our current predicament, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
A New Spirit
Through Christ He will give us a new uncorrupted Spirit that will re-establish a sound moral foundation of character within us, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27 see also Ezekiel 11:19-20).
We must be willing to repent and commit to what Christ is doing in us through the act of baptism in order to receive the new Spirit, “Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV). The Holy Spirit is the very spiritual essence, mind, nature and power of God who is love.
While the ‘spirit in man’ continues to sustain life within us the Spirit of God raises our understanding from the physical to the spiritual, “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:9-11).
This means that we are able to share in God’s very own divine spiritual nature, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Peter 1:4). Because His Holy Spirit is in effect His spiritual DNA we are begotten as His children, “…and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17-18). It is the same spiritual DNA that is in Christ. In a spiritual sense both the Father and Christ are in us, "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). And, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16).
It also means that we become co-heirs with Christ, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:16-19).
These are the things God has in store for those who love Him.
Having God’s Spirit does not immediately resolve all our problems. The corrupt ‘spirit in man’ has had a profound effect on our thought processes. Existing thought patterns produce habits and emotions that are deeply embedded; they are extremely hard to change, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23).
The knowledge that is evil corrupts our thoughts and is evident in the things we talk about, “…but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.” (Proverbs 15:28). And do, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” (Matthew 15:19). These type of thoughts continue leading us to sin, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:” (Mark 7:21-22).
When we turn to God we begin a battle with Satan for control of our own minds, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
We also struggle against our own thought processes that have been established under the influence of Satan. These processes need to be over-ridden and re-established to produce thoughts that are acceptable to God, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).
Our new Spirit gives us the ability to overcome old entrenched thought patterns and establish new ones, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12).
By providing us with a new Spirit God can through Christ begin to cleanse our minds, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). Even from things of which we are not aware, “…cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12).
Our Part in the Process
God has promised to cleanse us but we must also do our part, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Corinthians 7:1).
We do our part by withdrawing from what we know is wicked and those we know who lead us to sin, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.” (Psalm 101:3-4).
We also learn to reject the knowledge of things that are evil and seek knowledge from God, “…he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;” (Psalm 94:10-12).
We do this by studying the Word of God to identify the righteous from the unrighteous, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul (spirit in man) and spirit (Holy Spirit), and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (mind).” (Hebrews 4:12).
Our new Spirit helps us to discern the spiritual knowledge that we couldn’t understand before, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:12-14).
This helps us to focus our minds on the right things, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). When we focus our minds on the right things the Spirit can help us to form new thought patterns, “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5 NKJV). And those new patterns of thinking will become formed when we set our minds on the things of God, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2).
It takes time and effort on our part, but little by little - day by day as we continue to resist evil and focus on Godly things the mind is renewed, “…but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16). Over time a transformation will take place, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2).
Having cleansed our minds and established new thought patterns that provide thoughts and imaginations acceptable to God we will also see a transformation in the way we behave as those thoughts are translated into actions. It should be apparent in the way we feel and act toward God whom we have come to know and love as well as the way we treat our neighbours, especially the brethren. As we grow in knowledge of God we will respect and obey Him out of love rather than fear.
A Way of Life
Christ has been working in us to establish love as a way of life, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17). So we learn to, “…walk in love,” (Ephesians 5:2). Dwell in love, “…he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16). Increase and abound in love, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men” (I Thessalonians 3:12). And become perfected in love, “…If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (I John 4:12). When that love is perfected in us we will be able to come before Him without blame, “…holy and without blame before him in love:” (Ephesians 1:4). Having confidence of His favourable judgment, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment;” (I John 4:17).
This sort of confidence gives us hope for the future, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” (Ephesians 1:17-19).
Love for God
The greatest way we can express our love for God is by keeping His commandments, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:” (I John 5:3). When we live in accordance with His word that love is perfected in us, “…whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (I John 2:5). Maintaining that way of love results in eternal life, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:21).
According to Christ loving God is our priority and loving our fellowman, especially our brethren in Christ comes next. These two acts of love encapsulate all of the law and all that the prophets have foretold about God’s plan for us, “…Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).
The first and most important commandment is to love God with all our mind, soul, heart and strength. When we look at the spiritual aspects of the four components of that first commandment we are directed to focus on worship, belief, commitment and obedience.
God is the only one we are to worship, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). ‘Worship’ is to acknowledge His authority; to love, adore, honour and respect Him, which means to hold Him in high esteem, to bow down and pay homage to Him and not to any other.
He is Spirit, we who have His Spirit are to worship Him in spirit, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3). It means renewing our mindset to the spiritual things of God and not focussing on the physical, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3).
He wants us to have a clear vision of who He is and what He is doing. He does not want us to be hindered by false concepts of these things, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:” (Exodus 20:4). He is not like anything on this earth. The spiritual aspect of this commandment is that we worship a true concept of what and who He is, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24).
We are to love God and show our commitment to Him by taking on His name, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7). We take on His name when we receive His Spirit and become children of His spiritual family. We also become part of the bride of Christ when baptised in Christ’s name and enter into the equivalent of a marriage agreement with Him. We are ambassadors representing both God’s Kingdom and His name. This is not something to take on lightly. It requires a commitment on our part not only to God and His Son but also to what they are doing.
Our commitment is made when we acknowledge Christ as our saviour, repent of our own ways and agree to live God’s way under the New Covenant that is administered by Christ, “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). That commitment is ceremoniously acknowledged through the act of baptism, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV).
There are no half measures, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:16-17).
Lastly the Sabbath commandment is to acknowledge our willingness to obey God, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). The love of God requires action. If we worship God and have a good understanding of who He is and what He is doing we will willingly commit to Him and obey His commands.
We are no longer children of Satan, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (I John 3:10). It is the same if we love the things of this world rather than the things God has in store for us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15).
The importance of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength cannot be over-emphasised. Our love and commitment to Him is crucial. It is the difference between eternal life and eternal death. We express our love toward God by obeying His commandments, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10). This is what He desires, “…walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:2). We too will be a sweet-smelling savour to Him.
To love God with all our heart mind soul and strength we must first come to know Him so we can understand the fullness of the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love that He is and what we are to become. Our love for God is to be expressed not only by loving Him but also by loving those whom He loves in like manner. The first four of the Ten Commandments define how we are to love God and the last six define how we are to love our neighbours. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves, including our enemies and especially the brethren whom we are to esteem even higher than ourselves.
We are being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) to become eternal spirit beings like Him. He is love! Love is the very essence, mind, nature and power of God. It is a powerful, dynamic and inspiring spiritual power, force, or law that sustains eternity. God has set Himself as the standard to which we are to be perfected. He is love and loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice all that was important to Him. He offers us His own spiritual DNA which includes us in His own family as sons and daughters and ensures that we can live forever. However we cannot live forever unless we are grounded and perfected in love like
Him, otherwise we will cease to exist and become nothing!
He wants us to love Him with all our ‘heart’, ‘soul’, ‘mind’ and ‘strength’ so we focus on and commit totally to what He is doing for us. As we learn to love Him and to love our neighbours as ourselves, the brethren whom we are to esteem better than ourselves and our enemies, we will become like Him.