“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time in His ministry, the crowds gathered to meet Him were large. Some had heard His teaching throughout Galilee, some from an earlier visit to the city, and most recently, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The Pharisees already had decided to be rid of Him by death. The Sadducees who believed not in any resurrection were challenging Him, but the wisdom of Jesus’ knowledge surpassed them. It was then a layer from the Pharisees came to trick Jesus about the law. They asked Jesus which law was the greatest? The lawyer may have wanted to debate the law of Moses, but Jesus does not quote a law from Moses. (Matthew 22:34-40)

Instead, Jesus gave these two commandments as the greatest of the law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). The crowds were astonished, and the Pharisees had no reply. How arrogant the Jewish leaders were that they could not accept a carpenter from Nazareth would have greater knowledge. Their pride of life caused them to miss their Messiah. The week before Passover, many missed the Lamb of God and, therefore, the Day of Visitation with their Messiah.

We have heard these commands before from Jesus, as they are common in the biblical teaching of the gospel. The commands are not simple, neither are they easy to comply with or accomplish without discipline. For discussion, let us explore the meaning of several words in this verse. First, let us look at the word heart. To find the best definition, we use the Hebrew word “Led” found in a verse of Solomon teaching us to guard our hearts. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

The heart is the core of our being, the center of our consciousness. Here resides our will that drives our moral character. We have determined that our mind by memory and reflection processes the knowledge we have learned and wisdom we have gained. To know one’s heart is to understand who one is and what one will do. God knows the heart of an individual, and therefore His judgments are righteous.

People see the definition of soul differently, as some say it is the spirit, some the heart, and others the body. Of the three, the body would be closest, but all would be correct. The word for soul in Hebrew is nephesh. Nephesh refers to breathing creatures, both human and animal. Nephesh also includes the mental abilities of the body. All of the answers would work as the soul is the completeness of the created living being. There is a difference between humanity and all other created living beings. That difference is the spirit. At creation, God breathed His Spirit into Adam. “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

There are several meanings for the word spirit. All of them entail a definition of wind. Wind can range from a violent to a gentle breeze. I laugh within myself, as I know many people who are puffed up with themselves. In Genesis, the word is nesh-aw-maw, meaning Lord God breathed a puff of His Divine breath into the soul of His created man. God’s Divine Spirit gave humanity an inspired intellect for their soul and spirit. Only humanity has this, and it separates humanity from all of the earth’s created living beings.

The mind of humanity is the center of deep thought to exercise knowledge through wisdom and exercise the imagination. These three, the heart, soul, and mind, were created to love their Creator, the Lord God Almighty. All creation gives the Lord God praise and glory. The vegetation, as the trees clap praise with joy. “For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12) The heavens rejoice in the Lord by singing worshipful music. “When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7) Humanity was created to give the Lord God glory. “Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isaiah 43:7)

Our heart, which drives our moral character, our soul is governed by the heart and our mind that so quickly missteps we are to devote to the love of God. We each know what our love is, and in this world, we often find our love is for the world. The world we live in is a dark place and abounds with evil that, at times, will take us farther into the darkness we have ever been. To love God as our first love takes the discipline of focus to stay on the course. We may wonder at times why we should love God. The Apostle John answers. Our love grows from the experience of God’s love for us. “We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Love holds many explanations for people, and sometimes it is hard to know what love is. Sometimes we get love mixed up with lust, and sometimes we proclaim love for things we do not love. I love watching a campfire sparking the evening sky, and I love the evening star-filled sky. I love chocolate, and I love West Virginia, but none have given me anything to take home. There are several words and meanings for love, but only the Lord God has the highest form of love, Agape. Agape love from God is a fatherly love from our Creator. Agape is unconditional, and therefore there is nothing we can do to receive His love but accept it. The love God gives us, we return to Him and share His love with our neighbors unselfishly.

Why should we love God? We love God because He laid down His life to pay the sin debt we all have. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10) As my grandma would say, “Isn’t that the gospel.” The gospel of Jesus and that alone has the power to produce desire in our hearts to love God above all other loves. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

The goal of the God-man Jesus is to choose faithful followers who would be consumed with a passion for God and love for others. Love as this is beyond the capability of humanity. If that were not so, God would not have to come in the likeness of man and live a perfectly righteous life, sacrifice Himself on a cross, and rise from the grave in a resurrection to eternal life. Humanity can only achieve a likeness to their Savior by His Spirit abiding in them and their spirit abiding with His. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

In our Christian life, we hear much about bearing fruit. Soul-winning is a significant theme in the Christian walk, but no man has ever saved a soul. Saving souls is God’s work by the wooing of the spirit. Bearing fruit is displaying the Spirit’s fruit by our words and deeds in the power of His Holy Spirit abiding within us. It is the Holy Spirit’s fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

All Christians want to see spiritual fruit in their lives. The way to receive it is to not focus on the fruit, but focus on Jesus, who has accepted you as a gift of His grace. If you focus only on the fruit, you may become frustrated and become despaired. You will produce spiritual fruit when led by the Spirit. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

God is love. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) As followers of Christ, we share the love He has given us to all. God works in the context of His love, and we in the same context of His love. If what we do does not flow from a heart of love, if we do not truly desire to do them, then our works are of no worth to God. “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2–3)

The gospel message of Jesus also produces obedience to God’s will, but obedience is powered by our hearts’ desire. The obedience of the faithful Christian is pleasing to God, and it is delightful to the Christian. Our pleasing and delightful obedience is proof of the Love we have for our Lord and Savior Jesus. True love cannot be by command. It has to come by passion and joined will with the Father. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

As Helen H. Lemmel wrote in 1922. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 9, 2021

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