Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Back to Basics: How to Love God With All Your Heart

This is number eight (8) in the ”Back to Basics Series”: this link leads to an index post that will direct you to the rest of the series. The first six mainly had to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in our lives and the ways the Spirit enables us to live out the Great Commandment. The seventh examined why love is the Great Command. Now, Carl begins to examine the Great Commandment itself in detail.

May The Words Of My Mouth

For this is what I'm glad to do
It's time to live a life of love that pleases You
And I will give my all to You
Surrender everything I have and follow You
I'll follow You

How To Love God With All Your Heart

Carl Palmer, Pastor-Teacher; Mark 12:30; November 13, 2005

“Its time to live a life of love that pleases you”. Carl tells folks visiting for the first time that our church is trying to find the way on a new journey – a life of love that pleases God. Now we have actually been on this journey for awhile, so it may be more accurate to say we are asking God to do a new work in us that allows us to “get it” and “go there” and “do what it takes” to live the life that God calls us to live.

We sang that old hymn
And Can It Be?.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?
We know – at least we know in our minds – that there is no way we can live the life of love God intends us to live unless we receive His amazing and incredible love for us. We must know and believe this again – and maybe believe more than we currently do. We must know this again so that God can do a deeper work in us.

God speaks to Carl most through His word. Carl is trying to learn to meditate on that word better – just to let one verse go around and around in his mind. The next few weeks we are going to meditate on the Great Commandment. This first and Great Commandment shows us passion for God! We need a new fire in our hearts. We need to be redder hot for God than we currently are. Carl has never met anyone who has arrived where they want to be. Some are closer than others; but no one is “there”. We need to be able to love God with our ALL: all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our soul, and all of our strength.

When we look at the four-time repetition of “all” in this verse we see that God wants a love that is big. God wants a love that permeates and that is unlimited. God wants a very special kind of love. Notice that the second command (“love your neighbor”) is not the same as the first. The first commandment is you should love the Lord your God with all. The second is “just” to love people as much as we love ourselves (that couldn’t be too hard [laughter from crowd] – we will work on it later). You do not need to love people as much as you love God.

We have a Maker to love – before we have a neighbor to love. Once you think about heart, soul, mind and strength you realize that is all of us – we have nothing left. You do have a body, but it is a shell in which you do these other things. Eventually, the real you is going to eject out of this body and you are going to get a new suit – not like this earth suit but much better. We will still have our heart, soul, mind, and strength in this new suit.

Why Heart First?

God wants us to love Him with all that we have, and He starts out with heart - Why? The Greek word is kardia from which we get the words cardiac and cardiovascular about the physical heart. Immediately you know you have a physical heart; but you also have a soul-heart – a spiritual heart. Jesus never talked about the physical heart at all – but He talked about the heart all the time. Jesus didn’t talk about spirit much – He talked about heart. If you want an interesting study, look up “heart” in a concordance or computer concordance and see how much the Bible talks about the word. In the New Testament alone (NIV), the Bible mentions the word heart 162 times. [the New American Standard is only 157 in 150 verses – still a bunch]. In the Old Testament (NIV), 621 times [NAS: 586 times].

Jesus talked said things like this:

Matthew 15:18 "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders . . .”

Matthew 15:8 `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me” [quoting Isaiah 29:13]

Matthew 13:15 “For the heart of this people has become dull . . .” [pacuno. NIV and Carl=”calloused”] [quoting Isaiah 6:10]

Matthew 12:34 ". . . For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”

Matthew 6:21 “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

Matthew 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Why heart? Heart is where we must begin because nothing is as important to God; and nothing is as important to us as our heart. You may have all sorts of physical maladies and, in fact, your body may be falling apart; but one thing that you discover is that if your heart is okay (again, not the physical organ) you may not be happy about your body coming apart – but you will be okay. On the other hand, if your heart is a mess you can just get a cold and come apart. The heart is the most important part:
Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it {flow} the springs of life.
The NIV used the words “wellspring of life”. This is the idea of a fountain, an artesian spring, which bubbles up and is the source of everything else. All the really crucial issues of life are heart issues. God says He wants you to love Him with all of your heart.

The best understanding of this links the heart to the human spirit – if fact some say it is the same. Within the spirit and heart of a person, resides their will as a function of their heart. Jesus talked about this all the time: out of the heart came good, and out of the heart came evil. Paul says that faith lives in and flows out of the heart:
Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
The human heart is the “control center” of the person. The heart controls what you do and what you want. Another person said “we live from our heart”. Now you may not think you do, and sometimes you may not be able to do that. This is frustrating because your heart is leading you one way; and you are not able to follow that completely – but if you could you would go with your heart.

The heart is the part of us that compels us, motivates us, draws us, fuels us, and moves us. Of course, that is why God wants all of our heart. Jesus wants our hearts to be like His – devoted to loving the Father. One thing about Jesus is that He deeply loved His Father. Have you ever wondered about that “going out all night to pray” thing? For Jesus it was love – it was His heart; and it was the way in which He connected most deeply with His Father.

Jesus wants to change our hearts. This goes right back to the beginning: becoming a Christian is about receiving a new heart – having our heart changed. Jesus called it “the new birth” (born from above}. God has got to do something to the heart because it is deceitfully wicked and tends toward evil. The heart is also the thing that strays away from God, rather than toward Him. The change of your heart to desire and love God rather than turning away and pursuing evil is a “heart transplant” – a spiritual transformation. Christ is being formed in my heart; and, more and more, we want to be what Jesus was – deeply in love with His Father.

Why am I to “love God” with “all my heart”?

Because God is a person.
Not everybody knows that today in these times of spiritual hunger. There is a great deal of spiritual hunger in the world, but the world is confused about spiritual issues. To many people God is “a force” [may it be with you Luke]; a cloud; an idea; or a concept. God is not any of those things – He is a person. God has heart, soul, mind, and strength. His are way beyond ours; but He has them. He apparently does not have a body even though He can show up in one anytime He wants to.

God wants to connect with us. We were created (the Bible says) “in His image”. God gave us heart, soul, mind and strength (in His image); and now He wants us to relate to Him with what He gave us. One of the most astounding things that will happen to you is when you deeply realize that your God is a person; and you are to relate to Him person-to-person. This is not about a religion, or about a church. Church is the place you go, and the family you belong to, to help you relate to the person of God.

A crucial key to the joyful Christian life is a simple constant realization that God is a Person to be loved! You have to understand this: God is a Person, and you can have a person-to-person relationship with God. The God who made the heavens and the earth; that sent His own Son; and that is eternal – that God is a person you can know, and (while He knows you inside and out) wants to have a relationship with you and is dependent (that’s an amazing concept) on you to seek that relationship.

Carl can love people with just a little part of him. He can just give a little part of his mind; or know them by acquaintance. Just a small part of his heart, soul, mind and strength is committed to that person. Occasionally, someone will come along and Carl will say: “I hold you in my heart; and I love you with all of my heart”. This is a deeper kind of love, and this is the kind of love God wants from us.

God actually feels that right now about you. He loves you; and, in fact, He likes you. Isn’t it amazing that we can go to the whole “God loves you” thing; but when we say “He likes you” we balk? We kind of do not really like ourselves, and we find it impossible that God could like us. He wants to do a little bit of work on you; but He likes you. He is a person and He wants to touch you (speak to you, communicate with you, make you feel, fill your heart, give you a sense of joy, give a sense of security) in a way that no one else can. God can do things for you that you cannot begin to grasp. Some have felt this and want more – and this is great. We need to want more.

Because I was created to love God with my whole being.

Once again, notice that 4 time repetition: “with all your”. We need a love relationship that is “all” not part. We have settled for too long for part. He wants you to love Him with everything you are.

Because only loving God “with all” will break the power of the self-life.

Who do we love most? Carl doesn’t want to talk about this too much because he doesn’t want to project too much that he really loves himself. Of course, the reason he doesn’t want to project that is because he really loves himself; and he doesn’t want you to think about him – badly at least. So he is willing to deceive you a little about him focusing on himself; because he is focusing on himself. This self thing is really sneaky. We try to be humble (or loving) – so we can be known as humble (or loving). Do you ever think about things and wonder whether you ever do things for the right motive? Jesus said:
Matthew 16:24 . . . "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
Carl doesn’t want you to misunderstand: there is no way loving God has the power to overcome the self – the flesh. There is no way we can overcome our flesh by our flesh. Only one power in the universe can do that and that is the Spirit of God. That is what we looked at a few weeks ago in Galatians 5. We will never be able to depend upon the Spirit of God in our lives until we love God. Until we love God in our heart – our control center – we will not be able:
  • to ask Him to give us a religion that is real and not fake;
  • to want Him to help us with our flesh;
  • to want Him to help us love Him more;
  • to want Him to help us with our selfishness;
Every attempt we make to love God with our whole heart is a confrontation with our self; and that is exactly where God wants us to be. Carl is talking about that self that tends toward selfishness. There is a part of our self that is redeemed and holy.

How can I love God with all my heart?

First, this is huge; and it is life-long – it is a quest. One of the reasons He has left us here is that He is apparently glorified by this journey. He is apparently not glorified by our existing in lukewarmness; but by our living by faith in this world - struggling against evil and learning to love Him. He apparently wants us to show up on heaven’s shore someday and be able to say “I walked by faith”. Carl wants to say that this is a struggle – it is not easy. Having said that, he wants to tell you it is simple.

Loving God with all of your heart was a command before Jesus even came. God’s people have loved God with all of their heart for thousands of years. Carl has libraries of commentaries; computer Bible programs; notebooks; been to many seminars (seminared to death); he knows stuff (oh he knows stuff); and in fact he has forgotten so much that he once knew. He brings this up to point out that for hundreds and thousands of years people have loved God without the commentaries, notebooks, seminars, churches, pastors, teachers, study of the Greek, etc. God has given this command to people who cannot read the Bible; and cultures where the Bible doesn’t even exist in their language yet. Do you need to be smart? Does intelligence help here? No. Actually, being childlike is best. Test this out: Ask a 6 or 7 year old who knows God what it means to love God with all of their heart – and they will tell you: without a 40 minute sermon. They will probably sum it up in a sentence or two.

Carl suggests two simple things – two “musts”. We must choose to make heart-love for God our first-love. The word “first” means primary – number one. It is like the First Commandment: you shall have no other gods before God. This doesn’t mean God is first on the list – it means no other Gods in His presence, and He is everywhere. It could literally be taken to mean “no other Gods at all”. First-love therefore does not mean first in a sequence; but first and only. The truth is that our lives are full of competing loves and attractions. We are therefore painfully aware of how easy it is for too many good things to squeeze out the very best thing.

God is not concerned about many our loves. He is not saying to love Him and only Him. He commands us to love our neighbors, children, spouses, enemies, etc – to love people. Interestingly enough, God does not say to love the world; or the things of the world. Imagine a large room as your heart. In it are all of the people you love. If you make a list it will probably be pretty long. All of the things that compete for the attention of your control center are here; but God must be the only god in this room. God does not expect that every waking moment will be spent thinking of Him (because this is impossible); but that His throne will be right in the center of your heart and nothing else will take His place as God.

This brings up the second “must”: In order to keep God in His rightful place you must relate to everything and everyone through your first-love for God. All the other competing demands (loves, requirements, obligations, jobs, good things and bad things, positives and negatives and neutrals) in our lives are to be related to and through our first love for God. First-love then becomes like a set of glasses through which we look at everything and everybody in our lives. Once you are looking at your life through these lens, you can ask God to help you love your wife as Christ loved the church; or love that neighbor you do not even like.

God wants you to look at everything and everybody in your heart through the lens of your first-love for Him. The encouraging news is that God is in your heart. The Gigantic, Eternal Being that created the Universe is in your heart (that shouldn’t just be easy to say).

2 Corinthians 1:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
When we realize that everything and everybody is to be seen through this lens of love of God, we realize that every part of our life can be lived for love of God. Have you reached that place in your life where you realize that every part of your life is to be lived in love of God?


  1. This stuff is ingenius . . . I really liked how you kinda touched on how we can love God back alittle . . . Could you ive some more ideas?

  2. Sorry ive is supposed to be give =)

  3. John H,

    I realize you posted this close to 6 years ago - but I wanted to say, "Thanks!" - it was a helpful, simple study on the greatest commandment.

    Grace and peace,


  4. This was absolutely beautiful. I loved every piece of it and most importantly the examples were easy to understand and was able to get through to me. It was like eating chocolate after being denied it for a few years. Definitively what my soul needed. thanks so much for letting God use you this way!!!!!

  5. A free ebook, “Love Breathing” is available at www.howtoLoveGod.org.

    It relates methods to help people practice loving God better in their daily life.

    These methods have initiated a wondrous change in my own relationship with God. Now I feel inspired to share them with others.

  6. Thanks a lot. I have been blessed. It creates even a greater hunger for my Maker and a deeper hunger for His Word. Thanks

  7. Thank you so much. I mean it from the heart. It fulfilled me; I think, because my heart wants this. especially when I thought I don't know how to love. I only need to begin at one place first. Thank you.

  8. I really love God. It's such a huge relief and honor to know he loves and likes me. I pray I experience His touch, Him communicating with me giving me His joy and security.
    Thanks sooo much for sharing. This has been really helpful.

  9. This was really a blessing for me, I really appreciate you sharing.
    God Bless you for speaking so eloquently on the Great Commandment--many blessings to you in life and your future endeavors. And may we all know the love God has for all of us, so we can make Him the first-love in all our lives He deserves to be, every day, one day at a time. Thank you.

  10. Wow I never would have even comprehended that God actually likes me. I can't really get my head around it but I guess that is just his amazing grace and undeserved mercy. Thank you this has been a great blessing to me. I pray I can experience a little more of him each day so one day I can truly understand this amazing love of his.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly