The Mind’s Focus is Love
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your…mind.” — Mark 12:30
Our first premise, we learned, is that our minds are not reliable, but have been corrupted from the womb by an inherited sin nature (see Genesis 3). We saw that we have been graciously given a chance (thus a choice) for remediation with a promise of blessing. We can accept the diagnosis and the free gift of cure, or we can reject that it is true and remain lost (whether we realize this to be the case or not) with all its consequences. But let’s say that we accept the reality of a faulty mind and we have prayed for God’s help. What does God say about where our mind should be focused?
Mark’s gospel shares Christ’s answer. Beginning in Mark 11, as Jesus comes into Jerusalem for his coronation as our King, his first act is to clear the Temple of abuse. The Jews question his authority to do this, and are stumped (ashamed) by his answer. Then in Mark 12, Jesus begins to illustrate for us what His Kingdom is in heaven, and what it should be on earth.At this time, a brilliant Jewish teacher asks the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?” If all these realities are true, he surmises, it seems logical to want to know our highest priorities in life in light of these realities. Jesus responded immediately:
“The most important one,” Jesus answered, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your [others] as [you love] yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 12:29-31
What does this mean, exactly? First, we must understand that it is a command. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and Leviticus 19:18 (God’s law). Psalm 119 comprises 176 verses dedicated to the glory and blessings of following God’s law.
The Rationale: God is One
Jesus began with the rationale: Our God, the one we call Lord, is ONE, there is no other. This matches up with the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of [slavery to sin], thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Ancient religions are popular today, with images of religious personages decorating homes as mini-shrines. I go into ethnic restaurants and see shrines with idols as decoration. But God means more than that. How does Mark 12:30 (quoting Deuteronomy 6:5) help us understand this?
The Command: To Love
The Greek word used for the active command verb ‘love’ is agapēseis, which is the highest form of love (agape). In both the Hebrew (Deut. 6:5) and the Greek (Mark 12:30), this love implies preference for God above all others, and also includes the consequential act of obedience (Deut 7:9; John 14:15). So our mind should be centered on preferring Him and obeying His commands. This is what Psalm 119 tells us, and this is what Jesus has affirmed as the highest priority for our mind.
Four Capacities for Loving God
To further understand this, Jesus tells us how, or with what capacities we are to fulfill this. Note the word “all” for each capacity listed. The Greek for that word is holē which means “whole”, entire. There can be no skeletons in the closet here. There can be no closed off rooms set aside for our own pleasure. Our pleasure is God’s pleasure and His pleasure is ours. Now, this is easy to parse, but harder to live out.
We have three capacities listed in Deuteronomy, while Mark further stresses a fourth. We are to prefer God and obey him with all of our heart (kardias), soul (psychēs, psuché), mind (dianoias), and with all our strength (ischyos). While these overlap in meaning, they are also distinct.
- The heart is the “center” or middle of one’s being, the capacity of choice or moral decision-making, the intention. It is “the affective center of our being” or desire. One can readily see “preference” in that definition; to choose God and His way above all others.
- The soul is the breath of life; that which gives you vitality. God is who has created us and given us life; it is only fitting that we give our “being” back to Him in worship. To live for Him.
- The mind is the reasoning power we have been given above all the other creatures. My mother used to quote scripture to me: “As a man thinks, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). It is our ability to parse truth, separating it from error. It is our ability to put two facts together to make an inference that holds true (“If this…and this….then thus….”).
- Strength is the power to overcome obstacles or resistance, according to this Greek word. It is moral power, not just physical power.
What do each of these have in common? They all require the will, or volition, or choice. When the scripture mentions one of these, the entire collection is implied together. I think about that when I read, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). God doesn’t give just moral power or physical endurance; He gives me my very breath, reasoning and affection! With all that we have available to us as living, breathing human beings, we are to respond back in grateful worship and choose God in preference over all calls from the world on our resources. Entirely, meticulously, always, forever.
Walking It Out
Does this mean I have to be thinking about God all the time? But I have to make supper for my family! I have to get the children educated, work to provide for the family, make a home, care for others’ needs! These take up my mind, too!
Yes, but how are we doing those things? What are our motives each moment? I find that I can have a sour attitude toward people or circumstances and fail to see God just there. I find I can waste precious time fulfilling my own desires instead of God’s mission of telling others of the greatness of God in Christ or thanking Him for His blessings.
Many things are lawful, but not all lawful things are profitable. When I sit down at the end of the day, how do I “relax”? Do I “vegetate”? Exercise is good but what are my motives? So I can be a responsible steward and be fit enough to “go and make disciples” to the uttermost ends of the earth without being unduly dependent upon my hearers? Or am I taking pride in the image I see in the mirror as I stack myself up against others’ appearance? Do I study the Bible to sit at Christ’s feet, or to prove myself superior in knowledge? Am I justifying my sorrows as my right to be heard, or God’s right to be heard in my life? Are my thoughts of “getting” and not “giving”? And do I give with sacrifice, or expecting a return on my investment? Am I a producer or a consumer of God’s resources?
From this, I can see that many good things I turn my mind to may not be as good as I think, if God is not at the center of my desire. That stings! That convicts and crushes. Were it not for the grace of God in Christ, I would not only not stack up, I would never stand at all.
When I look at the obedience part, that gets even stiffer. Loving the Lord with all my mind means getting up off my chair and doing what God says to do. C.S. Lewis once quipped that he was feeling rather satisfied in his prayer for a certain man, when he realized God was telling him to stop praying, get up and “visit the old bore”.
“It is much easier to pray for a bore than to go visit him.” — C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Love means action. Thinking must (and will) find its fruition in action. As my mother and Proverbs attest, we become what we think because we act out what we think, from the motives of our heart (will) forward. What changes in me? My motives and manner, my conversation, my choices of how I spend my time and resources, my relationships, my reading/viewing/listening material, my choices in the company I keep, where I go and what I am doing (and why). All these should reflect worship.
How do I measure up on this? Poorly. I am a long way from being characterized by such sacrificial love and obedience.
Just for today, Lent observance means to forego self-fulfillment and train my mind toward God in “simple, faithful devotion.”
Dear Heavenly Father, You are the God who searches my heart. You know every way in me, far better than I know myself. I agree with the psalmist who cries out to you to search me and know me and see if there be any sin in me (Ps. 139:23-24). Bring it to my attention, Lord, so I can make corrections, because I choose You. I am like Paul who wrestled with the fact that his mental heart desires are for You, but his flesh is weak. Lord, strengthen my soul so that I can ride herd over my desires. Keep me in Your love with Your Spirit’s keeping power. Show me the glory that awaits obedience so that I can rejoice in suffering, knowing that You take every obedience and flower it for good in its proper timing. Teach me today, Lord, mold me and change me into Your likeness for Your Name’s sake, and for the eternal benefit of others whom You also love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
© March 2019 by ReadPsalm119.com
The consequences of a darkened mind are given in Scripture: alienated from God, darkened (incomplete, ineffective, flawed) understanding, hardness of heart, ignorance– Ephesians 4:17-19; futility of thought, foolishness, given up to debasement– Romans 1:18-32. This is not God’s desire for us! He sent His Son to be our Light and our Redemption (John 1:1-34).
Parable of the Tenants (v1-12), The Matter of What is Owed to Whom (v13-17), and the Nature of the Resurrection (v18-27).
And to be sure we mean the same “God”, let us understand who God is. He has announced Himself as 1) Creator of the Universe and of mankind (Genesis 1-2); 2) the Self-Existent One which has no beginning and has no end (“I Am”, Exodus 3:13-14); 3) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the God of the ancient Hebrew nation, Exodus 3:15), 4) God the Father, God the Son, who is Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19); 5) the God of those who follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Hebrews 8:10-11). There can be no mixture of religions, no misunderstanding of who God is that we should obey Him.
 HELPS Word Studies, BibleHub.com
“Change My Heart, O God”by Eddie Espinosa, uploaded by Julz Ares, July 1, 2007. [YouTube; 2:26].
“Change my heart oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart oh God, may I be like You. You are the potter, I am the clay, mold me and make me, this is what I pray.”
LENT, its history and what the Bible says about this voluntary discipline, is aptly explained in this YouTube 2:32 minute video by Pastor Nelson of GotQuestions.org ministries. Also offered is the book, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, by John Piper, David Platt, and Francis Chan. FYI: Lent in 2019 is March 6 through April 18th; the season for self-evaluation and repentence, however, is “always”.
Take My Life and Let It Be, by Frances Ridley Havergal (1874). It was said of Miss Havergal that “Simply and sweetly she sang the love of God, and His way of salvation. To this end, and for this object, her whole life and all her powers were consecrated…The burden of her writings is a free and full salvation, through the Redeemer’s merits, for every sinner who will receive it, and her life was devoted to this truth by personal labours, literary efforts, and earnest interest in Foreign Missions.” (Rev. James Davidson, B.A., as quoted from “Frances R. Havergal”, hymnary.org). **A lovely, worshipful modern variation on these words is the song “Take My Life” by Matt Osgood, uploaded by RESOUNDworship, Jan 12, 2015 [YouTube; 3:30 min.].**
1 Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise,
let them flow in endless praise.
2 Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.
3 Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.
4 Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.
5 Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.
6 Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.