What Does It Mean to Love God with All Your Heart?
Recently, a blog reader asked us, “What does it mean to love God with all your heart?” Since this is an excellent and important question, one that many of us may have asked ourselves, we’ll respond here with a full post.
Mark 12:30 says,
“And you shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart and from your whole soul and from your whole mind and from your whole strength.”
Briefly speaking, this verse means that God wants us to love Him with our whole being.
So what is our whole being?
In a previous blog post, What Is the Difference between the Soul and the Spirit?, we pointed out that 1 Thessalonians 5:23 shows us all three parts of our being, saying, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our spirit is the innermost part of our being, the part we use to receive God and contact Him. When we received the Lord Jesus as our Savior, this is where He came to live in us. In our spirit we can have fellowship with the Lord and spend time in His presence.
Our soul is made up of our mind, our emotion, and our will. It is our person, our psychological part.
Our body, of course, is our physical part, with which we contact physical things through our fives senses and express our inward parts.
The Lord Jesus said that we are to love God with these three parts, that is, with our whole being. This is a strong yet mysterious commandment. First Peter 1:8 says, “Whom having not seen, you love; into whom though not seeing Him at present, yet believing, you exult with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.” How can we love someone we haven’t even seen? And how do we love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength? Do we even have this ability?
Let’s take a look at how we love God wholly and absolutely with each of the parts of our being.
It all begins with our heart
We may think of our heart simply as the seat of our emotions. But in the Bible our heart is more than that; it’s composed of our emotions, yes, but also of our mind, our will, and our conscience. Our heart is the source of our feelings, thoughts, intentions, and our sense of condemnation or guilt when we’ve done something wrong.
God created us with a heart so that we would love Him wholly and absolutely. Today, however, our hearts love many things besides God. We would find it difficult to pray with the psalmist, “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And besides You there is nothing I desire on earth” (Psa. 73:25). We must admit that though we may love God to some extent, He is not our only, nor our first love sometimes. The things of the world tug at our heart. So how can we obey the Lord’s command to “love the Lord your God from your whole heart”?
First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” The note on this verse in the New Testament Recovery Version says, “God first loved us in that He infused us with His love and generated within us the love with which we love Him and the brothers (vv. 20-21).”
God commanded us to love Him absolutely, but He never intended us to work up this love for Him out of our own effort. In fact, He is well aware that we, in ourselves, aren’t even capable of such love. We need to realize that when God makes a demand, His intention is that He Himself would come to meet that demand for us. Our love for God actually originates from God Himself. It comes from His love within us, which is higher than anything we can generate.
God is love, and He became a man named Jesus Christ. When we receive the Lord Jesus, we receive all that He is into our spirit. The good news for us Christians is that we can turn our hearts to Him where He is in our spirit. Second Corinthians 3:16 says, “Whenever their heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Then verse 18 says, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.” These verses liken human beings to mirrors that reflect what they behold. When our heart is turned away from the Lord by things such as sins, preoccupations, and love for worldly things, our heart is covered by a veil, and we can’t see or reflect the Lord. But when we turn our heart to the Lord within us, the veil is removed, and we can see the glorious Christ. We see His beauty, His virtues, and how wonderful He is, and He imparts what He is, including love, into us. Our love for Him grows.
We can turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus by praying to Him, calling on His name, confessing to Him and applying His precious blood, and spending time in His Word. These simple practices can remove the veils from our heart, restore our fellowship with the Lord, and rekindle our love for Him. We don’t have to remain in coldness or indifference toward God. We can turn our heart to Him at any time. He will revive us and bring us back to Himself as our first love.
Our soul—our mind, emotion, and will—is a large part of our heart. God created our soul so we could express Him, but because of the fall, we tend to express ourselves. We have our own opinions, our own feelings, and our own decisions apart from God.
But when we turn our hearts to the Lord, our love for Him grows. We love Him with our heart, and, specifically, we begin to love Him with our soul. His thoughts become our thoughts, His feelings become our feelings, and His decisions become our decisions. As He does His transforming work in us, we spontaneously express God and glorify Him. Others see Christ expressed in us by our loving Him with our whole soul.
Our mind is the leading part of our soul, directing the rest of our being. It can be set on many things, but God wants it to be set on the spirit, where Christ is. Romans 8:6 says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” When we set our mind on the flesh or fleshly things, we feel lifeless and uneasy because we’re turned away from Christ in our spirit. But when we set our mind on our spirit, we’re peaceful and full of life. By setting our mind on our spirit, our whole being is focused on God.
One way to set our mind on the spirit is to read the Bible with an open heart. As we read, our mind is enlightened and renewed, and we are washed by the water in the Word. Reading God’s Word daily greatly benefits our mind and our entire soul.
Our strength refers to our physical strength. When we turn our heart to the Lord, express Him in our soul, and set our mind on Him, our body will follow. We formerly used our strength to serve ourselves or the world, but as love for the Lord pervades all our inward parts, our outward actions will begin to change. Things that used to occupy our time and energy will give way because what we love has changed. We have a new aim, a new goal, a new pursuit. Our physical strength is now for His purpose.
To love God with our whole being is an exercise. We don’t always wake up in the morning with a loving heart toward the Lord. But we can start the day by turning our hearts to our dear Lord Jesus. We can say, “Lord Jesus, I turn my heart to You this morning. I love You!” We can practice telling the Lord we love Him every single day. We can also pray, “Lord Jesus, cause me to love You more today than I did yesterday.” As we pray back to our Lord His own desire for us to love Him absolutely, He will have the way to work Himself into us so that we love Him with our whole being!
All verses and quoted footnotes in this post are from the Holy Bible Recovery Version, published by Living Stream Ministry. Bibles for America gives away free copies of the New Testament Recovery Version. You can order yours here.