Mark 12: 28-34
The word “heart” is used in many different ways. For example, a person without compassion is described as "heartless," and we urge them to "have a heart." The truly evil are "black-hearted" while godly saints have "hearts of gold." Courageous soldiers are "brave hearted." Jilted lovers are "broken-hearted." If we need to speak intimately with someone, we have a "heart-to-heart" talk. But when we lose our passion for life, we confess, "My heart's just not in it." And our deepest hurts we call "heartaches." But when we love someone as deeply as we can - we’re said to love "with all our heart."
In our reading Jesus says that the greatest commandment in all Scripture is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” We often speak of how much God loves us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” But sometimes people fail to think in terms of how we feel toward God. Often in our prayers all we talk about are our needs and wants. Rarely do we take the time to tell God how much we love him. Rarely do we spend the time telling him why we love him. We’ll do our duty and presume God loves us but for many believers, the idea of emotionally loving him is difficult for us.
If we look at some of the psalms, “As the deer pants for water so my soul pants for You”, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” And then in Isaiah “My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you...” This is a love that is an all-consuming passion - a desire for God that goes so deep that it can literally hurt sometimes.
But what if I don’t have that kind of love for God? What if I don’t have this kind of passion – that love for God that comes from loving him with all of my heart? If I don’t have it, how do I get it? Well – in these examples– the writer is crying out to God because he seems to understand/remember what God has done for him in the past. When we do this, not only will anxiety melt away, but we will experience a peace that passes all understanding. It almost defies explanation, but that’s what we’ll receive. Loving God with all of our hearts, is a love for God that is saturated with thanksgiving.
When Lincoln was President of the USA, an elderly lady came to see him. As she entered his office, he said, "How can I be of service to you, Madam?" The lady answered, "Mr. President, I know you are a very busy man, and I have not come to ask you for anything. I simply came to bring you this box of biscuits." There was a long silence. With tears in his eyes he said: "Madam, I am greatly moved by what you have done. For since I have become President, people have come into this office one after another asking for favours and demanding things from me. You are the first person who has ever come asking no favour but bringing a gift. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” In our prayers, we need to learn to deliberately set aside time to come into God’s presence – not asking favours - but bringing the gift of grateful heart. That’s what it means to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts.
Jesus also says that we need to love the Lord our God with all of our soul. This is the idea of total commitment. When a person is in love with God with all of their heart they become consumed with the idea of committing everything to God. David was a man after God’s own heart and he reflected that in loving God with all of his soul.
In 2 Samuel 24 we’re told of an Israelite who offered to supply David with the wood and animals for a specific sacrifice. But David responded: “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” David loved God so much that he was committed to giving something to God that actually cost him something. Martin Luther once said “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” Loving God with all my soul is a love that leads me to give of myself because I love him not because of duty or obligation. This kind of love is overwhelming that I’m just so consumed with God. I can’t help but dedicate my resources to pleasing him.
Jesus also says my love for God should be with all my strength. When I love with all of my heart, that kind of love leads me to love God with all of my soul - to make an emotional commitment to please God. And if I love God with all of my heart and all my soul then I will be lead to want to love him with all of my strength. To love God with all my strength means that - whatever I do - I do it all for Jesus.
Paul said “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This kind of love should affect not just how we worship him on Sunday but how we live for him during the rest of the week. When you love the Lord your God with all of your strength, you do everything in life with an eye toward pleasing God. That is your driving passion whether anyone sees what you do or not. You do it totally for God. You do it for God as an employee, an employer, a husband or a wife, a relative, a friend, or even a stranger. It doesn’t matter what your role in life you should do all that you do for the glory of Christ. And that kind of love is that the type that requires all your strength.
Jesus had been approached by a teacher of the Law who asked “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” There were 613 laws in the Old Testament and experts in God’s law would spend hours arguing over this very question. Jesus responds “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself”. And Jesus explains that all the law and the prophets hung on these two commands. This encounter is unique in that a scribe was asking a genuine question rather than trying to trip Jesus up. And he is impressed with Jesus’ answer. He exclaims “these are more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Up to that point he was just engaged in legalistic argument. That’s what he did as a teacher of the law. But up until this point in his life he hadn’t understood the God of love Jesus had just introduced him to. Suddenly he began to see God as He really was. This was a God who wasn’t impressed with people who just wanted to know God’s word, but rather a God who wanted his people to love him passionately. That was the choice that this young man was now facing. To love God with all of your mind that means that you have made a choice - that it’s God you want - more than anything else in this life. Moses said “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.”