Full-Orbed Love, Part 1


In this sermon series we have been looking at the things that drive our vision and make us different. In a sense you could say that they are our selling points. And so far, we have looked at how our view of eschatology drives us and motivates us; how our view of God's sovereign, conquering grace impacts our lives; God's blueprints for society, our view of apologetics, and our view of a family integrated church And on that last one, I deliberately picked a passage that describes a family that wasn't put together very well, and that was a single parent home, where some of the children were disobedient, so that we could see how the typical families in America would be incorporated into the church.

The meaning of the terms "heart," "soul," "strength," and "mind"

Today I want to bring up another foundation. And it's the biblical conception of love. I couldn't come up with a great title, and I don't care what this foundation is called, so long as you insist that God deserves better than just part of us, and that we were designed by God to use our emotions, our social side, our bodies and our minds. And as we get into this text, I think you will see how this is very practical, and how this affects our view of worship, taking dominion in culture, family, studying in school and really every area of life. Our whole being must be held captive to Jesus. One of our theme statements is 2 Corinthians 10:5 "bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Originally I was going to divide this sermon into four sermons, and I was going to call the sermon that dealt with the mind side, "Let My People Think." As Christians we must be taught to think to the glory of God. Or as this text words it, we must love God with all of our mind. But I decided that dragging these concepts out into four sermons would make our series a little bit too long, so I have chosen this fabulous text which brings all four dimensions together, and I am going to try to finish it in two weeks. Jesus said, And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. What does it mean to love God with your soul? If you don't know, it's going to be pretty hard to obey this commandment. What does it mean to love God with your mind? What's the difference between mind, heart and soul? So we are going to dig into the text to see if we can discover the answer to those questions.

And a great place to start is the context. Notice that the first commandment doesn't start with what we are to do. It starts with who God is in verse 29. And Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.'" and then he goes on to give the rest of the commandment. Because God is one; because He is not fragmented, we may not be fragmented in the way in which we love. God is one; he is consistent in His being, and God calls us to be one in our being; to be consistent in our love. Our tendency is to focus on one side or another of this square that you have in your handout. Some people park almost all the time on loving God with our strength. And you will find entire churches that tend to be activist churches. They see devotion to God in terms of service, action, achievements, energy and doing.

And I have to confess, that when I do err, I tend to err by parking to the left of that up and down line. And I hadn't even thought about it when I made the chart, but those are things that left brain dominant people tend to focus on, and the things to the right of that arrow are things that right brain dominant people tend to focus on.. So maybe that's another feature you can add to help you to understand the diagram a little bit better. So what might be a challenge to me: the two right hand quadrants, are still areas that I need to work on. God doesn't give us excuses that if your dominant language of love is service, then you are excused from putting your mind into gear, or opening up your emotions to God and to others. God wants us to serve Him in the world by having emotions, soul, body and mind devoted to Him. And I hope I can in a practical way develop each of those four areas of love.

But first, let me illustrate not only some of the mixed up thinking that we can have on love, but how our society illustrates how you cannot get away from these four quadrants whether you distort them selfishly or whether you follow God wholeheartedly. I mentioned that I am most comfortable in the left two quadrants of the chart. But some crazy member of this congregation sent me a bunch of quotes from children who were asked their opinions on love and what it means. I divided the quotes up into these four areas and found that there were plenty of representatives for each.

First, the emotional quadrant: Ten year old Arnold was asked how people in love typically behave. His immediate response was, "Mooshy ... like puppy dogs ... except puppy dogs don't wag their tails nearly as much." Bart said, "Lovers will just be staring at each other and their food will get cold. Other people care more about the food." Now that's typical fare for Hollywood, right? That love is an emotion.

*Serving love

But there are other views out there. Nine year old Bobby strongly disagreed with this emotional view. He probably parks in the loving others with your service quadrant, because when asked how you can tell if two people eating in a restaurant are in love, he disagreed with the idea that lovers will stare at each other and let their food grow cold. He said without hesitation: "Just see if the man picks up the check. That's how you can tell if he's in love." Christine agreed. She said, "Beauty is skin deep. But how rich you are can last a long time." Now there's a practical gal, right? Ava added her eight year old wisdom by saying, "One of you should know how to write a check. Because, even if you have tons of love, there is still going to be a lot of bills."

But what about Relational love?

Some of the children showed signs of real social sensitivity. Alonzo, age 10 said, "Don't do things like hav[ing] smelly, green sneakers. You might get attention, but attention ain't the same thing as love." So he's parking on the bottom right quadrant and is aware of how others think.

Using your heads

I won't bore you with other socially sensitive comments because I loved the kids who were using their heads. OK? That's my quadrant.

Asked how lovers learn to kiss, seven year old Julia said, "You can have a big rehearsal with your Barbie and Ken dolls." Let's not do any of this spontaneous stuff. Love has got to be thought through, practiced and under control. OK? She's my type of girl.

Erin knows that it doesn't matter how good you are at the other four quadrants, if you forget, you're in trouble. He said, "Don't forget your wife's name ... That will mess up the love."

Natalie added, "Don't say you love somebody and then change your mind ... Love isn't like picking what movie you want to watch." Amen, Natalie! Preach it sister.

This next youngster was using his head when he said, "I look at kissing like this: Kissing is fine if you like it, but it's a free country and nobody should be forced to do it."

When asked what most people are thinking when someone says, "I love you," nine year old Michelle said, "The person is thinking: Yeah, I really do love him. But I hope he showers at least once a day."

Seriously though, I think we do need to meditate on all four quadrants of love on your chart. We all have areas of comfort level, but Jesus wants us loving God with our whole being – all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But the first thing that I need to do is to demonstrate that the word "heart" does indeed mean emotions in this verse. I could quote commentaries to that effect, but since I'm never impressed with counting noses of experts, let's dig into the text itself and see if there are any hints that we can draw out. The first thing that helps us to define terms is the fact that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. Specifically, He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Sometimes if a Greek word is not clear, you can look up the Hebrew word and resolve a difficulty. Sometimes it is the reverse case. And so a simple look at the Hebrew might open up our understanding. The problem is, the Hebrew word can mean three or four different things. And if you look at the middle of the page, you will see some definitions. I'm not going to read everything in those definitions. But look at the definition for the word heart. There is a quote that starts right in the middle of the first line:

This is a quote from G. K. Beale. He says, "In the OT leœb ("heart") may denote intellectual activity (204 times) emotional activity (166 times), volitional activities (195 times) and personality or character." So - it's not enough to look at the meaning of a word in one passage and impose it on this verse. Language is fluid. For example, you can look up most English words in the dictionary and usually you will find more than one definition. What it means depends upon the context. There is a tendancy among some Reformed people to quote Proverbs 23:7 which says, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he, and to conclude that the heart is the same as the mind, period. But linguistic evidence just does not bear that out, and as Beale points out, sometimes it means mind, sometimes emotions, sometimes man's will, and sometimes his character. How do you tell? Well, in this verse there are two ways that you can tell: First, Jesus contrasts "heart" with mind in this verse. If all your heart includes the mind in Jesus' thinking, then there would be no need to say, and with all your mind. Obviously, the mind and the heart are being defined in two different ways in this verse. So in the definition in the bold print I say, "In contexts where the heart is contrasted with the mind, soul and will (as here), it is the emotions that are being highlighted."

But then comes the second reason. Jesus adds an extra Greek word to his translation of Deuteronomy 6:5, and it was needed to avoid misunderstanding for the Greeks (who tended to be rationalistic; who tended to think only of the intellect and to put down the emotions). The word "heart" in the Hebrew carried with it two meanings not found in the other words: and the two meanings are emotions and mind. Jesus uses both to clarify the meaning when he translates into the Greek. I quote from Bock at the bottom of the page where these two reasons force him to conclude that "heart" carries the meaning of emotions for Jesus. And there are many New Testament passages where heart refers to the emotions. Jesus said, sorrow has filled your hearts. He speaks of joy of heart. Paul speaks of sorrow of heart, anguish of heart, joy of heart. And since mind, strength and soul are seen by Jesus as being distinct ways to love God, there is only one meaning left for heart in context: it is emotions.

Now that may give some of you left hemisphere dominant people like me - heart burn, because you feel uncomfortable with how the right side quadrants tend not to be as neat, tidy and in control as the left two quadrants are. But the fact that you have heartburn means there is hope for you. Your emotions are already in gear when you hear me talk about emotions. All you need to do is to nudge them in the direction of being sanctified and in the service of God. Your very reaction to this shows that you are indeed an emotional person, but may need to sanctify those emotions.

The word "soul" too can have a range of meanings in both Hebrew and Greek, but when the other three words are put into contrast with it, the definition shows the word "soul" relates to the social dimension in man. In other words, it is speaking of love in regard to our relationships with God and our relationship with other people. Friendship or enmity, fellowship or breaking of fellowship; hospitality or refusing hospitality - they all need to be regulated by God's word if we are to love God in that dimension fully. You will see on the arrow that the things to the right of the middle vertical line tend to be things that are non-measurable and tend to be unclear. When you are in a university, studies in this area are called the "social sciences." They are definitely not exact sciences.

To the left of that vertical line are ways of loving or taking dominion that are measurable and are more clear. Even the inward quadrant of the mind is measurable and more clear because it deals with such things as logic, analysis, deduction, etc. If you were to study these areas, they would be called the hard sciences. Left brained people like these things: they can involve logic, mathematics, physics, measurements, and just plan hard work. You can throw in anything that relates to physical labor there (in the bottom left quadrant). They are tangible. I love the two left hand quadrants.

Loving God with the strength involves physical and spiritual strength, but the focus would probably be on the physical. It involves service, obedience, skills and anything that flows from a decision of the will or the use of the body. Most of our jobs fall into this category.

The last area is loving God with your mind. The word for mind can mean anything rational. It deals with planning. If you were loving your wife with your mind, it might involve planning a birthday party for her, planning her retirement. But Liddell and Scott say that it especially focuses on discursive thought. Now, the difference between discursive and non-discursive is this. Discursive uses logic to deduce things and come to conclusions. Non-Discursive uses intuition and it tends to be off-the cuff. We saw in our class on emotional leadership that God frequently bypasses the logical processes of the mind and directly impacts us through our emotions. Perhaps we instantly have a heavy heart and our emotions are troubled and guilty after we have talked with somebody. And we are trying to evaluate why we feel guilty. We go back to the person whom we have talked to to see if we have said something wrong. And sure enough, we discover that they were upset with us because they had misunderstood something we said. Maybe our mind couldn't place what was wrong, but our emotions and the intuitive side of us was used by God to move us. And it was almost intuitive.

John Calvin and other commentators have pointed out that those four areas of verse 30 cover all of what we do in life. And they say that verse 31 isn't added as if loving our neighbor is a new category. Instead, Jesus adds verse 31 to make sure that we do not think that we can exclude our love to our neighbor just because we think we have given all our love to God. Verse 30 says that all of our life and our very being must be offered up in love to God. Verse 31 says that we need to love our neighbor with that same life. Bock in his commentary on the parallel passage in Luke, says, "devotion to God is expressed by devotion to others, so that there is no distinction between devotion to God and treatment of people. They go together. Jesus encourages total love for God and humankind." So everything mentioned in verse 30 can describe our love for our neighbor. Verse 31 is just a clarification, not a totally different subject. And the book of 1 John amplifies on that. It says that your love for God is demonstrated by your love for the brethren, and if you claim to love God and don't love your brother you are a liar.

So that's the general overview of the different words, and I have included more material that you can study on your own in the chart. But what I want to do in the remainder of this sermon is to go through each of these four areas and challenge you to devote them to the Lord. And because most of us tend to be weak on the right hand two quadrants, I will probably spend most of my time there.

How to love God with everything we have

With our emotions

First of all, Jesus calls upon us to love the Lord with all our heart. We have seen that this means (in context) that we must love God with all our emotions. Six year old Jill said, "I'm in favor of love as long as it doesn't happen when 'Dinosaurs' is on television." She's probably a practical soul who is presently parked in a different quadrant than emotions. And I suspect that when it comes to love for God, a lot of us get nervous about the emotions.

But according to the bible, it is possible to love God with the whole range of God-given emotions. Even hate: Psalm 97:10 says, You who love the LORD, hate evil! He says that our love for God is demonstrated by our hatred for evil. We should never be emotionally indifferent to evil. To the degree that our emotions are not in line with God's Word, they are not sanctified. Do you hate evil? We should be indifferent about the things that are unimportant to God and be passionate about the things that He is passionate about. That's loving God with your emotions.

In fact, when we fail to devote and sanctify our emotions to the Lord, they are automatically used by either the flesh, or more scary, by the demonic. It is inescapable that our emotions will be dominated by something – by God, by the flesh, by Satan, by what other's think, etc. And let's think about that for a minute. Our emotions can be played upon by human manipulation or by demonic manipulation if they are not disciplined for the use of the Master. In fact, one of the reasons we Reformed people tend to be so distrustful of the emotions is that we have witnessed leaders manipulating people through their emotions, we have witnessed emotions unanchored by any of the other quadrants. And when that happens, you have what we call emotionalism. And that is dangerous. But any quadrant unanchored by the other three quadrants is dangerous.

As Greg Bahnsen has pointed out so well, the solution to emotionalism is not neglect of the emotions. No. We need to take this command to love God with all of our emotions very seriously. James 3 speaks of emotions which he calls earthly, sensual, demonic, and he gives an example of one: having "bitter envy" in our hearts. He is saying that because those emotions were not sanctified by the wisdom that comes from above, the demonic can easily manipulate them. To what degree has the wisdom of Scripture sanctified your emotions? James gives the alternative that a wisdom from below will influence the emotions. Other poisonous emotions that he lists in the next chapter are desires for fighting, desires for pleasure, lust, murder, coveting and adulterous emotions aroused by sexual seduction.

His point is that there are only two control points for emotions, and one is from above and the other is from below. There can be no neutrality in the emotions. If our emotions are not being deliberately used in the service of King Jesus, they are automatically going to be used in disservice. We can't just ignore the emotions by reacting against emotions run amok in some charismatic circles. And it's actually downright scary to see some of that irrational emotionalism. The answer for abuse is not abandonment. That's a sure way to have our next generation overreact again in the other direction. The solution to the abuse of emotions or emotionalism is the right use of emotions. We are not imitating God when we neglect the emotions.

Now maybe I'm just preaching to the choir and it's just my problem because I was brought up to be stoic. But I doubt that I am preaching to the choir. You laughed a few Sundays ago when I read the expert on child rearing, Watson, who said to never hug a child – to shake his hand. Well, that's all that I received as a child. I grew up in boarding school and faced so much abuse and hurts that I closed off all my emotions so that I would not be as easily hurt. I refused to cry no matter how badly I felt. And it wasn't until later years that I began to see a terrible disjunction between my emotions and what the Scriptures spoke about. And it took awhile for me to open my heart up in this area. I was fearful of emotion. I was fearful of crying. The first time I cried was like a dam had burst and I couldn't stop it. But over time I learned to sanctify and control my emotions, and based on new reading that I introduced to some of you men, I have seen whole new areas where emotions can be sanctified into godly leadership. And so I want to grow in that area too. But God gradually brought healing to me as I practiced the normal range of emotions that Scripture gave to Christ and to the saints. And I suspect that some of you are just as closed to emotions as I was. But Jesus said that we must love God with all our emotions.

Let's just think of some concrete examples of how emotions were used positively in Christ's life. I'm going to read a couple of Scriptures, and I want you to think (and if you want, you can think out loud) about whether Jesus was being driven by emotions, soul, mind or strength or all four in the following Scriptures?:

Matthew 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. What is it in this verse that was motivating Him? It says, "His compassion." The Greek word for compassion refers to the feelings in the intestines. Splanknizo is the Greek word for guts. It could not be a more clear reference to the emotions or feelings of Christ. And the passage says that these feelings of compassion or empathy moved him to ministry. But if he ministered, then he is loving God with his strength as well, right? And if it moved Him to teach, then He is loving with His mind. And if his sympathies for them moved him to relate to them, then the relational side was in gear. You see, Biblically, these four should never be separated.

Matthew 14:14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.**

Mark 1:41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."

Was the mind in gear? Yes. Was the will in action? Yes. He was willing. Jesus showed a balance in all four areas. He was a man of sorrows. But He showed the whole range of emotions. He even told wry jokes.

You see, a Star Trek "Spock" approach to emotion is not the model that Jesus gave to us where mind alone governs all. In fact, the psychopath person on TV that can do horrible things with absolutely no emotion is a scary figure that we can't relate to very well. Can you imagine Spock in the Song of Solomon? I can't. I think most of us recognize that emotions have far more influence on our decision making than most of us would want to give them credit for. And we need to ask ourselves, "Are my emotions sanctified and devoted to God completely, or do I still have some work to do to love God with all my emotions? With all my heart?"

And by the way, what you do with your mind, emotions, body and relationships affects your emotions. To sanctify our emotions, we need to be willing to practice certain things with our bodies. For example, kneeling in prayer beside your bed affects your emotional state differently than standing or sitting. Likewise, being in the presence of an emotionally intelligent person can positively affect the way our emotions are trained. So as you strategize on how to sanctify your emotions, and as you read the book I sent to each of you on Biblical EQ, you will see that you have to work on all four quadrants at the same time. They impact each other.

The Scriptures are full of references to how we can motivate ourselves, motivate others, change the environment around us and please God with our emotions. For example, Proverbs 17:22 says, A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. We can bring emotional medicine to a hurting family through well timed humor. On the other hand, the ability to weep with those who weep is critical if we are to use our emotions as God intended. The Scripture commands us, rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Rom. 12:15)

God is glorified by the full, robust, but under control expression of emotion in worship. Our emotions must not be governed by reaction against misuse we have seen in others. Our emotions should be governed by the Word of God who calls upon us to display the full range of emotions for various situations.

For example, if we cannot get angry over the things that Jesus got angry over, we do not yet have emotions that are in line with this verse. I think abortion needs to anger us.

Now on the other hand, fulfillment of the spirit of this commandment does not call for letting it all hang out in a sort of emotionally jarring state that leaves people frayed. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; [which means what? Sometimes it's inappropriate to weep. If love is the keeping of God's commandments, that means that our emotions need to be instructed by the Word of God as to how and when they should best be displayed. Right? Well, to know that, you've got to study. I really encourage you to read that book. Anyway, Ecclesiastes goes on to say] a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing… a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace. And it is sensitivity to God on those issues of emotions that enables us to love Him as we ought. Which means we need to develop our sensitivities to God.

For example, in a marvelous essay on guidance, John Murray points out that God's Spirit moves us in ways that we don't always immediately understand, but He does so through the Word, and He does so in a way that anchors all four quadrants together. But Murray points out that this guidance is often intuitive. Let me quote from John Murray, who was a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary many years ago. He said:

It needs also to be recognized that, as we are the subjects of this illumination and are responsive to it, and as the Holy Spirit is operative in us to the doing of God's will, we shall have feelings, impressions, convictions, urges, inhibitions, impulses, burdens, resolutions. [Let me just stop for a moment and point out that those are all things that happen in the quadrant of the heart. They are non-measurable, unclear and non-discursive. Anyway, Murray says, "we shall have feelings, impressions, convictions, urges, inhibitions, impulses, burdens, resolutions."] Illumination and direction by the Spirit through the Word of God will focus themselves in our consciousness in these ways. We are not automata. And we are finite. We must not think, therefore, that a strong, or overwhelming feeling or impression or conviction, which we may not be able at a particular time to explain to ourselves or others, is necessarily irrational or fanatically mystical. Since we are human and finite and not always able to view all the factors or considerations in their relations to one another, the sum total of these factors and considerations bearing upon a particular situation may focus themselves in our consciousness in what we may describe as a strong feeling or impression. In many cases such a feeling or impression is highly rational and is the only way in which our consciousness, at a particular juncture, can take in or react to a complex manifold of thoroughly proper considerations. In certain instances it may take us a long time to understand the meaning or implications of that impression

I like the way in which he links everything to the Word, and links it to the other quadrants. We get into error if we allow what he calls "feelings, impressions, convictions, urges, inhibitions, impulses, burdens, resolutions" to be the only thing that directs us. Some church traditions that focus on the heart quadrant ask you to forget logic, Bible study and use of the brain. And they end up with some of the worst charismatic errors. Other church traditions are so focused on the left two quadrants that they become imbalanced and insensitive to God's leading through the Word.

I think that the tragedy that has happened in modern Protestantism is that people with discursive gifts (in other words, gifts that use research, logic, deduction, study) have tended to go to Presbyterian churches, people with volitional gifts have tended to go to Baptist churches, people with non-discursive gifts have drifted to charismatic churches, and people with relational gifts have tended to go to the broadly evangelical churches. And all of them are impoverished as a result. Charismatics frequently embrace heresy and tend to go to extremes in their use and abuse of non-discursive gifts. They don't even understand what they are experiencing, and that in itself gets them into trouble. Instead of seeing these subjective impressions, impulses, burdens, etc as being exactly that, they put them on a par with Scripture. Well, there isn't anything in any of these four quadrants that is on a par with Scripture. They are all subject to Scripture. When you interpret a very fallible, subjective impression out of sync with the other three quadrants and out of sync with Scripture, you have a breeding ground for cultic Christianity. When you reduce Christianity to the mind, you have a breeding ground for a sterile, legalistic Christianity. I think that Richard Sibbes gave tremendous balance in this area. He was a Puritan who I think exemplified all four areas of love to a high degree. And I encourage you to read the handout that helps you to evaluate Biblically these subjective, intuitive experiences in this area of the heart.

Lord willing, next week we will finish looking at the other two quadrants of love. My vision for Dominion is a church where all four quadrants are held in balance. Actually, I hate the word balance, because that implies compromise somewhere in the middle. I don't want to compromise anything in any quadrant. I think the Bible warns us not to put our mind's in a bag. I want a church that loves God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their strength and with all their mind. And may God receive the glory as we seek to obey this command.. Amen.

Full-Orbed Love, Part 1 is part of the Foundations series published on March 16, 2003

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