“An expert in the law put a question to him, testing him, and saying,
‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’
Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
This is the first and great commandment.”
“Unite my heart to fear your name!
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name for evermore.”
When we read the Bible’s commandment to love and serve God “with all your heart”, it is easy for us to understand what it means; to wit, we must love and serve God with all our heart, not just a portion of it. But since that commandment is so simple and easy to understand, why did God’s people in the Old Testament almost never keep it? Although knowing perfectly well that God must be served with the whole heart, God’s Old Testament people, according to their own scriptures and their own prophets, almost never served God that way. Have you ever wondered why?
The reason is simple; namely, God’s people did not understand how His command to love Him with all the heart was broken. In other words, they never understood what it is that makes a soul guilty of loving God with only a portion of the heart. Moses warned Israel shortly before he died not to add anything, or leave off anything, from the law that God had given them (Dt. 4:2) Moses knew that loving God with all the heart meant to serve Him as He says to serve Him, adding nothing and omitting nothing from His will. They did not understand that to add holy days beyond the ones God commanded, or to fail to observe the ones He did, was to fail to love God with the whole heart. They did not understand that to add sacrifices to those ordained in the law, or to fail to make the sacrifices that the law required, was to fail to love God with the whole heart.
Israel was a pattern for the New Testament people of God, the body of Christ on earth. And just like Israel, the body of Christ has almost never loved the Lord with their whole heart. Paul tried to persuade them to. He labored to convince them that Jesus was sufficient for their salvation. But the people of God under this covenant of grace, like Israel under the law, have steadfastly been determined to add to the grace of God in Christ, and to leave off some of what is in that grace.
To love God with all your heart means to be completely satisfied with His way, so satisfied that no other way even appeals to you. And in this covenant, God’s way is in the Spirit! In this covenant, no one loves God and His Son with all the heart who adds a fleshly, water baptism to Jesus’ baptism of the holy Spirit. And no one loves God with all the heart who adds a holy day, a Sabbath, to God’s Sabbath of rest that He gives in the Spirit. And no one loves God with the whole heart who adds special robes for worship to the robes of righteousness with which the Spirit clothes God’s children, or who adds a fleshly communion of grape juice and crackers to the “communion of the holy Ghost”. This is why Paul, so hurt and grieved, scolded the saints who added fleshly ceremony to the way of the Spirit, and warned them that they were endangering their souls by doing so:
1. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth – before whose eyes Jesus Christ, crucified, was openly displayed among you?
2. This only would I learn of you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
3. Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?
4. You are severed from Christ, you who are justified by the law! You have fallen from grace!
5. For by faith in the Spirit, we await the hope of righteousness.
Under the law, the only people who loved God with the whole heart were the ones who trusted His law completely to make them worthy to be saved from the coming wrath of God. Theirs were the only hearts in Israel that were not divided between faith in God and faith in something else. And under this covenant of grace, the only people who love God with the whole heart are the ones who trust His Son, by the Spirit, completely to make them worthy to be saved from the coming wrath of God. Theirs are the only hearts in the body of Christ that are not divided between faith in God and faith in something else.
David was wise to pray that God would unite his heart to love and serve Him only. May God give us the wisdom to do the same, and be delivered from the temptation to add the rites and traditions of Christianity to the perfect, holy way of the Spirit of Christ.