Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,
together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that
you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Our love for the Lord our God is to be expressed by these four means-with our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength. Have you ever asked yourself “What does it mean to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?” Some answers to that question may be fairly obvious, while the understanding of others may be a little obscure. Having been commanded to love the Lord by these means, however, it warrants a prayerful search as to their understanding. It seems clear that to love Him with all our heart implies obedience. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21a) How does a person love with their soul? Perhaps the closest answer from scripture is the thought expressed in Psalm 25:1. “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.” We come closest to the thought of loving Him with our soul when we trust Him fully. And how do we love Him with our mind? Several scriptures speak of the relationship of our mind to our Lord. Ephesians 4:23 relates that we are “to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” Likewise, Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Philippians 2:5 states “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (KJV) Is it not, then, in the constant renewing of our minds, appropriating by faith the attitude and thoughts of Christ, that we can love Him with our mind? And finally, how do we love Him with our strength? Perhaps Romans 12:1 captures this most clearly. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” If we are to love Him with all our strength then, we need to make our lives available to Him for His use.
In addition to speaking to us in regard to our love for Him, our Lord also speaks to us regarding His love for us. He desires that we grasp the width, the length, the height and the depth of His love for us. He then states that His love for us will surpass our understanding! Have you ever taken the opportunity to consider the width of His love? The Lord has created a universe for us to enjoy and in which to find wonder in all that He is and has done. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning states in Aurora Leigh. “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.” The length of God’s love begins with Him, for He is love, and is expressed in Revelations 13:8. “The Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” The length of His love continues into the infinite ages to come, as described in Ephesians 3:21. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations. for ever and ever. There is no beginning and no end to the length of love that God has for us.
How can we best describe the height of His love? Romans 8:16 says that “we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory.” We are told in II Timothy 2:13 that “if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Ephesians 2:6-7 states “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” The heights, then, is expressed in reigning with Him in His glory, seated with Him, enjoying the incomparable riches of His grace. The depth of His love for us is surely expressed in His cross, where alone, our Savior bore the penalty for our sin, destroyed the works of the devil and with His resurrection granted us pardon, purity and power to live a new life in dependence upon Him. This is expressed in Colossians 1:22. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
The above passages, Mark 12:30 and Ephesians 3:17-19, are usually studied separately. Much can be learned, however, from merging the two in our thinking. If our Lord desires us to know the width, the length, the height and the depth of His love for us, surely He is desirous that we show our love for Him in the width, the length, the height and the depth of our lives as well. What would it look like, for example, to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength in the width of our lives? Are we obedient in all situations in which we find ourselves? Does our trust extend to full dependence upon Him to guide us wherever we go, regardless of who we are with and what we are doing? Is our mind renewed and are His attitudes expressed in dealing with a wide variety of situations? Are our lives made available to Him for His work in the lives of those we encounter during our travels? If we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, his love and life will be made visible to those with whom we interact in the width of our lives.
Consider also what it would mean to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength throughout the length of your life. There would never be a time when disobedience would be an option. Change occurs with aging and less areas of our lives are under our own control. Do we love hIm by trusting Him to see us through these days? Do we love Him with our minds by appropriating His attitudes in all our changing situations of life? Do we continue to make our lives available to Him for His work, even in our declining years of health and activity? It is during these years that we must “pay more careful attention therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1) If we steadfastly continue to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength we can say the following with Paul in II Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
How can we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength in the height of our lives? When everything seems to be going well for us, are we able to remain obedient in all His ways? Are we still following Him closely, or have our eyes turned to the pleasurable activities of life? Do we still maintain a trust in Him to guide all of our affairs, or have we subtly transferred our trust to ourselves? Do we trust His perspective and attitude toward all we have and do, or are we occupied with thoughts and actions which are not derived from Him? Do we remember to continually make our lives available to Him for His work when we are occupied with successfully achieving our material goals in life?
And finally we reach the depth of our lives, where health issues, financial challenges, work problems or relationships have become major problems in our lives. Are we tempted to cut corners in obedience in some areas of our life? Are we able to trust Him to see us through the dark days ahead? Is our hope steadfast in Him? Do we look to the renewal of our minds that comes from Him at these times? Are we able to let our lives be used by Christ in these days to those around us?
To love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the primary duty of our lives. It should be manifest in the width, length, height and depth of our lives. This should be the response in our lives as we consider the width, the length, the height and the depth of His love for us. It is this desire, and passion to show love for Him at all times, under any conditions, in everyplace we go that will bring Him glory honor and praise. It is this love for Him that accomplishes His work in us and through us. It is for this love that God is seeking. May your hearts be so attuned to His love for you, that the love you have for him may glorify Him in the width, the depth, the height and the depth of your life.
In Christ, Richard Spann