First, Jesus commands us to love God with all our heart. Not half-hearted. Not love some of the time when we feel like it. Whole-hearted devotion, all the time. The Bible stresses the importance of our heart. God looks at the heart because the heart is the control center. If your heart changes, your mind, your actions, everything falls in line.
If Brother Matthew stumbled into service every Sunday at 3:55pm and he didn’t choose the songs ahead of time and nobody on the praise team got a chance to see the music until 5 minutes before service and we started singing and his guitar was out of tune and this happened week after week, I would probably sit down with Matthew and ask, hey, what’s going on? Is everything okay? You can’t keep winging it up there. Show a little heart. I am picking on Matthew because I know he does put his heart into preparing for praise. And he is not paid. He is just volunteering his time out of his love for God and this church.
We all show heart toward whatever we value. We show heart toward our studies. We show heart toward our careers. We work hard. We plan ahead. We prepare in advance and get all our ducks in a row. We show heart toward our favorite sports teams and our hobbies. Let’s show some heart this year toward God. Not out of a sense of duty or obligation. But out of an overwhelming sense of gratitude for his love for us in Christ, let’s love God in response with all our heart to show how much he means to us.
Second, Jesus commands us to love God with all our soul. When I hear the word “soul,” two things come to mind. Music and food. As an Asian, I don’t have much soul, but I can recognize soul when I see it. There are a lot of singing shows nowadays on TV. After a singer gives a very soulful performance, the judges say things like, I like your tone. It was bluesy. I heard a rasp in your voice. There was some grit. I like the texture of your voice.
Is this a singing show or a cooking show? It almost sounds like they are describing food. So I, too, will mix my metaphors between singing and food. Soul food is not a hollow, air-filled puff pastry. That’s not soul food. Soul food is artery clogging ribs and mashed stuff, smothered in butter. When you listen to soulful music, there is a substance that gets communicated. I like music with a lot of bass. Because you can actually feel the music in your bones. It’s not a thin broth of diluted chicken noodle soup. We are talking some chunky beef stew. It’s meaty. It’s because the artist’s soul is being communicated. His soul is coming through. His or her essence is present in the music. When we love God, we want the deepest part of our being to be engaged.
We might not have the talent here that Friendship Baptist Church, who worships in the morning, has, because those guys can sing, however, when we sing, is your soul engaged? Are you fully present? Or do you sing (clapping), “Blessed be the name” and your mind is wandering. You’re thinking about how much homework you have to do. Or the pile of laundry at home. Or your deadline at work. Whatever we do for the Lord, we want our soul to be communicated. We want to give God our very best because we love him that much. We want to lay our heart and soul on the table as an expression of our love for him. Let’s love God with all our souls.
Third, Jesus commands us to love God with all our mind. I read an article on CNN this past week entitled, “Secrets to a Better Brain.” Did you know that our brain actually changes based on how you think. Your thinking alters your brain cells and neural pathways. It’s amazing.
The best way to relate to your brain is to inspire it; the worst way is to ignore it. Let’s start with the negative first. Here are some qualities of people who tend to ignore their brains. They ignore their brains by getting set in their ways, by never looking beyond their own opinions, their likes and dislikes. They assume they are always right. They ignore the brain by isolating themselves from others and they take existing relationships for granted. Also, they assume that their best days are behind them and so life feels like a slide downhill. They act on selfish impulses. They give in to anger and anxiety. They avoid anything new or challenging. They tolerate stress. They find ways to distract themselves with mindless diversions. This is how one ignores the brain.
In contrast, here are some qualities of people who inspire their brains. They take care of stress. They avoid dulling routine. They do something creative every day. They read materials that makes them feel uplifted. Sounds like reading the Bible would fit here. They take time to be in nature. They bond with another person who is heartwarming. They make sure to take time every day by themselves to relax, meditate and self-reflect. Sounds like prayer to me. They deal with negative emotions like anger and anxiety. They focus on activity that makes them feel fulfilled. They give of themselves. They attach themselves to a cause that is bigger than they are. Hmmm, what could that be? They take the risk to love and be loved.
The difference between these two lists is pretty stark. In one case, you are approaching the brain as something that runs on auto-pilot. In the other, you assume that the brain has all this untapped potential. How we approach life is largely informed by the way we think.
Our minds are often like those vinyl records. There are grooves and the needle of the record player spins around the same grooves in a circle. Around and around. There are certain patterns of thought that God wants to break in the new year. Certain people pleasing patterns. Certain self-glorifying patterns. Certain fearful, paralyzing patterns. Be encouraged–we can actually change our brain circuitry. God wants to renew our minds and break those patterns so that we can love him in new and fresh ways. Transformation often begins with our minds. Let’s love God with all our minds.
Fourth and finally, Jesus commands us to love God with all our strength.
What happens if you don’t exercise? Our muscles atrophy. We lose our strength. Strength is important. We might be all in when it comes to our hearts. Our soul might be fully engaged as an expression of our love for God. Our minds might be sharp and focused on inspiring things; Phil 4:8–our minds might be zeroed in on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. But, if we are lying in bed with the flu and have no strength, then what good is it? While we have our youth, while we still have breath in our lungs and the ability to serve, let’s love God with all of our strength.
The Greatest Commandment–love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You can only obey this commandment if you have first experienced the love of God. Our love for God is only a response to God’s love for us. He loved us first. We love second. I pray that we can love God with everything we are and have in 2013 because he gave everything to us.