Faithlife Sermons

Love God

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The Great Commandment

  • Jesus was once asked, “Of all the commands, which is the most important? How would you sum everything up into one command?”
        • Can anybody tell me what he responded?
  • A: LOVE GOD – “Well duh”.
  • “I love …” can mean so many things in our language
        • I love Super Big Gulps
        • I love football
        • I love my guitar
        • I love my wife. I love my kids
        • I love humanity
  • “I love God” – What exactly does that mean? v  What does love actually look like?
  • Cf. Kids’ explanations of love[i]
        • What is love?
              • "Love is like an avalanche where you have to run for your life." -- John, age 9
              • "I think you're supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn't supposed to be so painful." -- Manuel, age 8
        • What most people are thinking when they say “I love you”
              • "The person is thinking: 'Yeah, I really do love him. But I hope he showers at least once a day.'" -- Michelle, age 9
              • "Some lovers might be real nervous, so they are glad that they finally got it out and said it, and now they can go eat." -- Dick, age 7
        • How do you make someone fall in love with you?
              • "Shake your hips and hope for the best." -- Camille, age 9
              • "Don't do things like have smelly, green sneakers. You might get attention, but attention ain't the same thing as love." -- Alonzo, age 9
        • Good advice on love
              • "Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck!" -- Ricky, age 7
              • "Don't forget your wife's name. That will mess up the love." -- Erin, age 8
        • Titles of Love Ballads You Can Sing To Your Loved One:
              • "'I Love Hamburgers, I Like You!'" -- Eddie, age 6
              • "'You Are My Darling Even Though You Also Know My Sister.'" -- Larry, age 8
              • "'I Am In Love With You Most of the Time, But Don't Bother Me When I'm With My Friends.'" -- Bob, age 9
              • "'How Do I Love Thee When You're Always Picking Your Nose?'" -- Arnold, age 10
              • "'Honey, I Got Your Curly Hair and Your Nintendo On My Mind.'" -- Sharon, age 9
              • "'Hey, Baby, I Don't Like Girls, But I'm Willing To Forget You Are One!'" -- Will, age 7
  • “Love God” – What does that mean? What does that look like?
        • Actually (as someone may have pointed out already), Jesus said more than simply “Love God”
  • Read Mark 12:28-31
        • Clarification: Jesus' point is more rhetorical than technical.
              • His goal is not to describe the different parts of the human person.
                    • There is some flexibility in the wording of this command throughout Scripture(cf. Dt. 6:5; Mt. 22:19; Lk. 10:27).
                    • Even the terms themselves are somewhat interchangeable in certain contexts.
              • His point is Love God with all you are - your whole being
        • At the same time, there is also an underlying consistency in the wording, which suggests that each term does offer a valuable perspective on what it means to love God.
              • Cf. the different ways in which a botanist, artist, and ecologist would all talk about the same tree but from different perspectives and with different emphases.
  • Keeping in mind the need for a holistic perspectve, let's examine how the four unique angles signified by the key words help us grasp the essence of this all-encompassing command: Love God


  • Heart = The fundamental core direction of your life.
          • Includes: Will, purpose, core drive
  • Loving God with all me heart is more than simply asking Jesus into my heart at some point, or warm fuzzy feelings towards God, or worshipful moments of prayer or song.
  • Loving God with all my heart is about a single fundamental question that we answer countless times every day:  My way, or God’s way?
  • I’m not mechanical, but my dad managed to impart two essentials about automobile maintenance.
        • 1) Always carry tools – someone might know how to use them.
        • 2) What is the most important part of an automobile? The nut holding the steering wheel
  • Fundamental heart question: Who gets to drive?
        • Cf. “God is my Co-pilot” – God isn’t anybody’s co-pilot.
        • Everything I do is an expression of a single, core decision: Who gets to drive?
        • Who sets the direction? Me (God’s along for the ride), or God (I will go where He wants, do what he wants)?


  • Most nebulous and elusive of the four terms.
  • Soul (aka “life” – not biological, but LIFE, “psyche”) = central coordinating essence of life and being.
        • Cf. Computer. Between the user's commands (heart) and the final product is a complex web of operations and functions that only matters when it malfunctions.
        • Likewise, between our intentions and our actions is a complex web of inner processes that orders and coordinates all the various factors of life into a central experience we call “living”.
        • It is where emotions, perspectives, desires, values, and priorities all intermingle.
        • Sometimes we only think about it when it malfunctions.
  • The Soul is where we answer questions like ...
        • What is success? Why am I here?
        • What are my priorities? Values? Goals? Passions?
        • What’s primary? What’s secondary?
  • Do you ever find yourself intending to spend time with God, grow in your faith, reach out to a neighbour, or take a step of obedience, but you never quite getting around to it? Life gets in the way.
        • It’s not a heart problem so much as a soul problem. It’s not a lack of intention, but a lack of life order. You want to, but somehow life keeps getting in the way.
  • Loving God with my soul means ordering my life in such a way that my intentions actually become my actions; that they don't get squeezed out by every other alternative use of time.
  • Cf. Big Rocks demo[ii] – [Note: can also be done with tennis balls, golf balls, marbles, and beads]
  • Every moment of your life is a trade-off   between one “yes” and a million “no’s”.
        • Loving God with all my Soul = knowing what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to.
        • Loving God with all my soul = ordering my life around “the big rocks”. Aligning life with what really matters.


  • Mind = thinking processes, understanding, reasoning, worldview
  • Mind is a powerful thing. Every action begins as a thought.
  • Your mind determines what you will focus your attention on in the 1st place. [PICK ONE!]
        • Cf. $2 to anyone who knows how many times I’ve said the word “LOVE” so far today. If your mind was focused on this, you’d know.
        • Cf. Eyeglass count – in 15 seconds who can count the most eyeglasses in the room? (pause) Now, without turning around, what is the person directly behind you wearing?
        • Cf. Basketball-gorilla experiment. Viewers shown video of people passing a basketball. Asked to count how many times the ball was passed.  In the middle of the clip, a man in a gorilla suit walked across the scene, stopping in the middle of the basketball players, turned to the camera, beat his chest; then slowly moved on out of the scene. About half never see the gorilla – they weren’t looking for it.
  • Your mind interprets your situation based on its understanding of truth and life.
        • Cf. 2 people look at same dog and have different reactions.
  • Your mind impacts your emotional response.
        • Our emotions are gauges that tell us whether life is proceeding as planned (positive) or not (negative)
        • How you respond emotionally depends on how that experience corresponds to your understanding of life.
  • Your mind determines your response.
  • Cycle can happen in a split-second … but that doesn’t mean it can’t be influenced
  • It is influenced - Romans 12:2 – by being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.
        • When you see life through a Christ-transformed mind
        • You notice things that Jesus would notice
        • You understand things like Jesus would understand them
        • You interpret reality like Jesus would interpret reality
        • You feel as Jesus would feel
        • You desire what Jesus would desire
        • You purpose as Jesus our purpose
  • When you love God through practices like study, reflection, thinking, learning, and seeking wisdom, the lens through which you view, understand, and respond to life is transformed.


  • Strength = Abilities, power, action, energies.
  • Reminds us that loving God is about actions, not just intentions.
  • Reminder that life is holistic, and our faith is lived out in a concrete world through this flesh and blood body.
  • Loving God with all my strength includes:
        • How I manage my body – which has legitimate needs and appetites, but can be whiny and demanding (like a child)
        • How I use my resources, abilities & gifts. Some Rabbis taught that “strength” in Deut. 6:5 (which Jesus is quoting here) meant “wealth”
        • How fully I invest my energies
  • “All your strength” implies fully-present intensity.
        • “Whatever you do, do it with all your might”
        • Your strength enables you to turn intention into action. Loving God with all your strength means making the most of every opportunity, investing action, resources, sweat, time, and practical application in concrete acts that demonstrate love for God.


  • Jesus adds a second command “like the first” – Love your neighbour as yourself. (Cited from Lev. 19:18)
  • Although loving your neighbour is not identical to loving God, they are interconnected.
  • 1 John 4:20 – “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
  • Cannot separate love from God with love for neighbour
  • Loving God by loving my neighbour means treating my neighbour in a way that
  • Loving God without loving those God loves is like wanting to be best friends with someone as long as you don’t have to be around their spouse and family.
        • Let’s be friends, but only when your wife’s not around (or husband)
  • If we truly love God, we will love those God loves.


  • “Loving God” is more than sweet thoughts, stirring songs, and warm feelings.
  • A prioritization of God that consumes
        • our heart (our fundamental life direction),
        • our soul (our values, priorities, and daily life management),
        • our mind (our worldview, how we understand life),
        • our strength (everything we put our body and energies into),
        • and our relationships.
  • Not as isolated compartments, in as an interwoven whole.
  • Trying to isolate the components of in this verse is like asking
        • “Which guitar string is most important?”
        • “Which family member is most important?”
        • “Which puzzle piece is the most important?”
        • All the pieces need to be in place for the picture to be complete.
  • It may be that …
        • An obedient heart will help you discipline your strength and body.
        • A focused soul can give God space to shape your heart.
        • An mind that comprehends truth may help you know how to best love your neighbour.
        • A disciplined body can help keep your mind true you’re your heart pure.
        • And so on.
  • So Jesus calls for our obedient hearts, our ordered souls, our active minds, our passionate strengths, and our relationships with one another to unite into a single mandate: Love God with everything you are. Bring it all.  Don’t leave any piece behind.
  • This, Jesus says, is how you love God.



[ii] Stephen Covey, First Things First

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