by Michael Smith
Chapter Twenty Three
LOVING GOD WITH MY WHOLE BEING
Please read Mark 12:28b-30
|God created us that we might love Him with our whole being.
To love and be loved is one of our strongest desires - we feel loved
when someone takes the time to get to know us and wants to be with us,
when they have our best interests at heart and when they look out
for our highest good. This is how God loves us and for love to
fully work and be complete, we have to respond to God and return His
love by obeying His will for us and putting Him first in our lives.
Any part of our life that becomes more important to us than our love
for God can soon become an idol to us, be it work or money, sport or
hobbies of some kind, even family members or our marriage. So
many Christians have found themselves drifting far from the Lord
when they have allowed Him to take second place to any other person
or interest or thing.
In contrast, as Jesus said, if we love Him then we will keep His commandments. We may not always find that easy to do, especially if His will for us competes with our self-will, and sometimes it may be needful for God to use pressures outside ourselves to rid us of our hard hearts and perfect in us His grace and strength, but when we learn to love God with our whole being, our desires will come to match His. We will want what He wants and be able to do what He asks us to do with a joyful heart. Are we willing to allow God to reform us into His image through trials and adversities? We are all weak or even broken in some areas and ultimately we are all dependent on God Who created us, died for us, and knows all about us . We have to 'let go and let God', as the saying goes, because the only real and lasting strength we have is God's own strength working through us , but we must humble ourselves, admit our weaknesses and ask for His grace to fill us and enable us to love Him and live for Him rather than for ourselves.
Thus there can be nothing more satisfying for any of us than putting God and His Kingdom before all our other competing interests, wants, loves, and desires .
God wants us all to become whole in heart, mind, soul, and strength, to be one with Him (and with others as far as possible), to remain faithful in worship, prayer, and reading His Word each day and to remain obedient to His will for us. We are to love God with all of our minds, our souls, and our spirits.
The person who claims to love God but is without understanding of His ways will be spiritually shallow and unsatisfied. In the Old Testament we read that while Moses knew the ways of God, the people of Israel knew only His acts . They saw and benefitted from God's mighty miracles, such as the parting of the sea that they might cross safely to escape Pharaoh's army, and the provision of manna from heaven and 'long-life' clothing all the years they travelled through the wilderness to reach the promised land, yet they did not know God as Moses did. They saw what God did for them, but they did not understand why He acted for them as He did and without that understanding their minds consequently wandered from the commands He had given them for their own spiritual (and material) good, and they fell into sin - and thus the enemy's clutches - over and over again; and over and over again they had to be rescued and set on their feet again by God's faithful prophets and judges.
Since the cross, God wants and expects all of His children to know Him as Moses did; i.e. we are to love God with our understanding so that we come to know His ways as well as His acts. He wants us to fill our minds with the Scriptures, and as we think and meditate on them - what they mean and what God is saying to us through them - and as we allow them to settle in our minds as truth and knowledge, our minds will gradually be renewed from the world's ways of thinking about things into God's ways of thinking about things. If we learn to fix our minds on "things above"; if we let the Word of God "dwell richly" in us, and with humility and gratitude have compassion for others and kindness and patience towards them; and think on all that is good and true, we will find ourselves growing in the fruit of the Holy Spirit and our love for God and others will increase.
Some particularly helpful scriptures for teaching us how to learn to love God with all our minds are these:
Blessed is the man ... [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Psalm 1:1-2)
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word (Psalm 119:15-16)
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)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23)
Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth ... let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom (Colossians 3:2, 16a)
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).
Though our bodies decay in the grave after death, our souls live on into eternity. Our souls consist of our will and heart, our memory, our feelings and emotions, desires, habits, and attitudes. They contain our identity and personality. We may sometimes be asked, "What do you do?", meaning, what job or profession do we have, but when we retire or maybe lose our jobs all that stops because our work doesn't provide us with a permanent identity. Our true identity should be found in Jesus alone, i.e., it is not what we do, but what is in our souls that is important to God and should be important to us.
It is when we become too busy with all our worldly responsibilities to spend time alone quietly with God that fears, worries, and doubts creep into our minds and if they are not quickly given to the Lord for Him to deal with, they can lead to bad habits, addictions, and unhealthy obsessions which may keep us in bondage for years - perhaps even for the rest of our lives. Firstly we are tempted or distracted by an unhealthy thought, or by something unhelpful we see or hear, which if we don't quickly renounce begins to burrow its way down into our feelings then into our desires, eventually taking up residence in our souls and controlling our wills which has become too weakened to resist the temptation. Once our wills have become captive we find it impossible to rid ourselves of the fear or worry or doubt or desire. The problem is we have no strength within ourselves to become free; if that were not so, folk wouldn't remain slaves for years to the habit or addiction to which they first succumbed. We need help.
Only one person can set us free. The Lord Jesus won the victory over every temptation that can claim our souls on the cross of Calvary two thousand years ago. He alone, through the power of God the Holy Spirit, can rescue us and replace our soulish ways with His abundant and eternal spiritual life.
We turn now to another aspect of our souls. God has made each one of us unique. We all want to be unique, but we also want to be accepted by others, and very often through peer pressure we will compromise our originality to copy someone we admire or to be accepted as part of 'the group' or 'the gang'. But if we settle for being like someone else we rob ourselves of being the person God has designed us to be, and we will never be transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus, Who alone lived the perfect life and Whom alone we should want to be like.
Individually designed by a loving Creator, and equipped with certain gifts to fulfil a specific purpose, we each have distinctive roles and work to do in helping to build God's Kingdom. The sad thing is that if Christians get weighted down with worldly issues, or seek to emulate those around them, they never find out God's perfect plan for them, and they never learn how to love God with all their souls.
While most of us come to know our bodies well, and our souls perhaps less so, our spirits are even less well understood. The human spirit is sometimes called our 'God slot'. It is the very innermost part of our being; it is what distinguishes us from the animals who were not given spirits by God and what makes us human. It is our spirits that are 'quickened' into eternal life when we first receive salvation , it is within our spirits that the Holy Spirit comes to dwell, it is through our spirits that the Bible tells us we are to worship God and through which we communicate with Him when we pray.
As we grow physically we automatically learn to make use of our souls by thinking, feeling, and making decisions, but the human spirit is different and many non-believers never come to realise they even have a human spirit at all - those who consider themselves atheists or humanists, for example, dispute the existence of a human spirit, believing humans to be little other than highly evolved animals. Before we are saved, our human spirit is very much like a room in a home that is left in total darkness without windows and with the door firmly shut - until we hear and respond to the gospel! Then the door is unlocked, the windows thrown open, light floods the room, and the Holy Spirit comes in and makes His home in that newly restored sanctuary. From that inner room He renews the rest of our 'temple'; gradually transforming our souls, and sometimes even blessing our bodies if that is His will for us. That the Holy Spirit works within us to change us into Christ's likeness, if we let Him, is found in Galatians 5:19-24.
There are several scriptures however, that tell of the many ways in which the human spirit can be terribly damaged . These scriptures are no less true of those folk who deny they even have a spirit. Doctors and surgeons can repair broken bodies, and every one of us can minister sympathy and encouragement to the bruised soul of a loved one, but it is only God Himself who can heal a damaged spirit.
A person's spirit may be crushed by a continued period of sustained oppression; perhaps verbally or physically or sexually from another person, especially if the abused is a child. Someone may suffer from an imprisoned spirit if they come under the control of a person who always wants to dominate them, or who is legalistic, or very demanding. A fearful spirit can be the result of a traumatic experience which has gone deeper into the person's being than the level of the emotions, and it often manifests in an excessive timidity, lack of confidence, and a withdrawing from relationships or situations. The human spirit can be defiled through following false religions or dabbling in occult practices, either oneself or even through the occult practices of others related to us, or sexual abuse, especially that of a child by an adult. It is also possible to have a broken spirit; more usually spoken of as a 'broken heart', which can be caused by an overwhelming sorrow, by prolonged grief for a bereavement, by despair and subsequent loss of all hope, by rejection, betrayal, or abandonment by parents or spouse, or by a great disappointment of some kind.
The grief of the damaged spirit can sometimes be visible in a sadness of face or premature ageing, or it may manifest physically - perhaps in arthritis or other ailments, or there may be a seemingly unaccountable bitterness about a person, or maybe the person suffers from sleeplessness, or there's a constant inner rawness or pain or turmoil that cannot be soothed and is never at peace no matter how much counsel or therapy the person may receive.
It is a very sad fact that many of these deep problems of the human spirit stem from childhood, and unless dealt with by God Himself will last throughout a person's whole life. Jesus gave a very stern warning to those who would cause such immense harm to little ones: "whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). A terrible, terrible warning indeed.
The good news is that every damaged spirit can be healed. Jesus began His ministry by calling to Himself all those who were hurting: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath appointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18). The Lord here was quoting from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and it's well worth reading the continuation of this wonderful passage to see the kind of worship a whole and healthy spirit can give to God Who created it, renewed it, and healed it:
...to comfort all that mourn; ... to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:2b-3)
 Psalm 139:1-24.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  Psalm 73:25-26.  Psalm 103:7.  John 3:3-8.  Exodus 6:9; Psalm 142:3; Psalm 143:3-4; Proverbs 15:13; Proverbs 17:22; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
© Michael Smith 2013