One of my favorite books is called I Dare You by William Danforth, and in it, he challenges his readers to live what he calls “the four-square life.” Following Jesus’ example in Luke 2:52, he dares us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.
And Jesus increased in wisdom (mentally) and stature (physically), and in favor with God (spiritually) and men (socially). (NKJV, parenthesis added)
The other day, I was reading Mark 12:30 and realized that we are not only to grow in those key areas of our lives, but we’re also supposed to love God with four related areas.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (emotional/volitional), with all your soul (wholehearted), with all your mind (mental), and with all your strength (physical).’ This is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30 NKJV, parenthesis added)
Coincidence? I don’t think so! God wants us to live for him and love him with all that we are. What does that look like? Let’s dive a little deeper into these four areas and see what Scripture has to say.
Love God Volitionally
When we typically think of our “heart,” we usually think about our emotions. Although our emotions are part of the idea here, “heart” goes far beyond them to include the will.[i]
In other words, love is more than a feeling but a choice, and we must exercise that choice in our relationship with God. He didn’t make us mindless robots, pre-programmed to love him. Instead, he gave us the privilege of deciding to love him and made it possible by loving us first.
In the educational world, we call that “modeling.” It means showing someone how to do something before expecting them to try. God modeled perfect love when he gave his own Son to mend the broken relationship between us and God, caused by man’s first and all consequential disobedience. By doing so, he offers restoration and the ability to love him back, “because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).
Wow! So how do we reciprocate? We can love God volitionally when we:
- Choose to accept his salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).
- Choose to praise him when circumstances don’t go our way (I Thessalonians 5:18).
- Choose holiness over what the world tells us is acceptable (I Thessalonians 4:3-7).
- Choose an attitude of truth over how we feel at the time (Philippians 4:4-7).
Love God Wholeheartedly
The second way to love God is with our “soul.” Wait, aren’t the heart and soul similar? Isn’t “heart and soul” an expression to mean “all of me”? Or what’s the difference? I’m no Bible scholar, so I did some digging.
When I graduated from high school, my aunt gifted me with a copy of Strong’s exhaustive concordance which has been a priceless reference for me. Strong’s reveals that “soul” comes from the Greek word “psuche,” from which we get our modern word “psyche.” According to dictionary.com, the word’s origin literally means “breath” or “to breathe, blow, hence, live.”
Okay, stay with me. Strong’s further clarifies that the related Hebrew word means “heart (+ily), life, mind, soul …”
I paused on the word heartily, because it instantly reminded me of Colossians 3:23.
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men …” (NKJV)
In other words, we’re supposed to love God with everything we’ve got, or, as my friend and author Ashley L. Jones often reminds us, with gusto!
Can you think of some ways we can do that? What might loving God with gusto look like for you on an everyday basis?
[i] Faith Bible Ministries Blog does an excellent job of breaking down the biblical meaning of heart if you’d like more information.
Four Ways to Love God with Gusto – @BigSisterTweets & @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)