Heart, Mind, Strength
Loving God with All You've Got
Christian Publications, Inc, 2003, 208 pp., ISBN 0-87509-995-5
Rev. Sunder Krishnan is the senior pastor at Rexdale Alliance Church in Toronto, Canada. He was born into an orthodox Hindu family in India and became a Christian through the ministry of Youth for Christ in New Delhi during his first year of college. He is the author of several other books including World Christians: Living on the Wavelength of the Great Commission.
These writings are intended to "bring the reader into God's presence and give specific contours to the outpouring of their hearts, longing for a fresh revelation of His beauty and majesty, so that they may indeed love Him more and stretch themselves deliberately for the lasting good of others in ways that are consistent with their unique dispositions, gifts and temperaments." (Preface)
What does it mean to love God with all of our hearts? In the Bible the 'heart' represents our personality, our mind, our will and our feelings--the very core of our being. (2)
The number one test of whether we love God with all our hearts is the extent to which we have followed other gods, in other words, idolatry. Idolatry is a description of the sinful imagination of our hearts, the most basic shape in which sin comes in the world. (3)
"Sin changed dominion over creation to the domination of creation--including domination of one another. It turned dependence on God to independence of God and dependence instead upon the creation for meaning." (4) Our gods today include power, possessions, popularity, money, our bodies, and self-esteem. (5) Then we have religious idols of legalism that give some control over others. (7)
Some Christians reduce God to rules, whereby they can maintain control. Or they keep God far away, where he gives meaning but does not interfere in their lifestyle. Both are idolatry. (7-8)
"Idols are lies, and they deceive us." "The very idols that you create to increase your control over creation end up enslaving you." "Those who worship idols become like them. We become like what we worship." "We become a…people not able to communicate life-giving words. "We cannot see reality, hear reality, smell reality or taste reality; so we cannot communicate reality to people." (11-12)
"To love God with all your heart inevitably means to love His commandments or His law with all of your heart as well." (15) "One of the essential marks of a regenerated heart is that it has impressed on it both the love of God and the law of God." (John 14:21) (16)
"When we look in the Psalms, Israel's worship manual, it is immediately obvious that there is a serious flaw in our instinctive pitting of law against love and grace." (16) "…pulsating through the entire book is an attitude to the law of the Lord that is totally different from our customary reaction to God's law…" "But his delight is in the law of the Lord…" (Psalm 1:2) (17)
The Law has a moral beauty. It can provide order in our lives. The psalmist says God's law "penetrates every nook and cranny of my life and reveals my flaws…." (19) The psalmist both fears and loves God's law. God is gracious through his unchanging law. (20)
We live in an age where words have been twisted until it is difficult to communicate clearly. "But when words lose their meaning, it is nearly impossible for the word of God to be received." (21) "I encourage you to start reading and keep reading the Word of God until you learn a whole new vocabulary--without redefining what God has said." (22) Visualize what is being said. It puts you in the place of hearer and the Word becomes personalized. (23)
"…the most appropriate response of the creator to the Creator is that of ascribing worth, or worship." "In the Garden of Eden the focus was shifted from God to ourselves. We became worshipers of ourselves and of created things. The rest of the Bible is the story of redemption….restoring us to our initial function as worshipers." (30)
"What do we see in heaven? We see people from every nation, tribe, people and language ascribing worth and honor and glory to God the Father and God the Son (Revelation 7:9-12). From beginning to end, it is very clear that we were made to worship…." (31) "That is why failing to praise God is the first step toward idolatry." (32)
"Every now and then we need to let the hours be silent so the centuries can speak." (42) "It's incredible presumption on our part to dismiss as irrelevant what God has chosen to preserve for centuries…."(43) "…an open Bible and an open hymnal are two of the most powerful tools that I have found to help me to learn to love God with all of my heart and to love His law as well." (44)
"An integrated life is an essential aspect of loving God with all your heart." "…that means the center of our lives--the essence of who we are--is one. With an undivided heart, life will naturally be much more integrated." "…living an integrated life is both God's work and our work." (48) "God has done what only God can do…. But there is a response on our part: to engage cooperatively with God…." (49)
Three fundamentals for an integrated life from Os Guinness:
"1. The kingdom of God is God's here-and-now rule that orders and reorders our life's priorities and perspectives.
2. Discipleship is a lifelong apprenticeship under Jesus that teaches us to live as He would live if He were us.
3. Calling is the compelling source of vision, discipline and accountability for every sphere of life." (49)
"Jesus doesn't take sides; He takes over." (50) He loves us the way we are, but he doesn't leave us that way. He makes a lot of demands and we must be willing to let Him probe our priorities. (51)
"The goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus Christ." We were saved to be conformed to his likeness (Romans 8:29). (52) This involves following him in serenity, listening, and self-sacrifice. (53)
"Calling is a compelling source of vision, discipline and accountability for every sphere of life." (56) "Calling often comes out of a broken…heart--a heart that God is beginning to squeeze a little, so that we hurt with the things that 'hurt' Him." "This kind of calling becomes a source of vision, discipline and accountability." "…God gradually develops that vision in our lives. It starts in skeletal form and then gets 'fleshed out' over the years." (58)
"The test of our work is not the profit we gain from it…. God gives us work--not to further our ambition or to feather our nest but to deepen creation and sanctify society." (quoting Eugene Peterson) (60)
"There are three areas that must be cultivated if any faith is to be a living faith: the inner life of devotion, the intellectual life of rational thought, and the outer life of human service." (quoting Elton Trueblood) Loving God with our hearts is the inner life. Loving God with our minds is the intellectual life. And loving our neighbor is the outer life of service. (63)
"…all of us need to develop our intellectual lives to the glory of God." (64) Set your minds on things above. (Col 3:2) Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom 12:2) "That's our job--to take renewable minds and make them progressively new." "Satan's fundamental strategy, his most insidious moves against us, are in the realm of our minds." (65)
Habitual rationalizations by which we excuse our disobedience and maintain ungodly ways of thinking are strongholds that we must identify and destroy. (67)
"…whether it's double-mindedness, a corrupt mind or an unspiritual mind, the solution in every case seems to be the same: a love for the law of the Lord, for doctrine and for truth…that integrates the mind." (71) "We should be systematically training our minds to be integrated by all of the law of the Lord." (73)
"…in the light of the certainty of Christ's coming, and the uncertainty of the time of His coming, we need to be clear-minded people who can think straight. …so we can, like Paul, press on toward the heavenly prize that awaits us." (75)
"The natural mind is darkened, futile and ignorant. God has regenerated that mind to make it capable of being progressively renewed in knowledge, righteousness and holiness by the law of God." (76)
To love God with all our minds we need to become theologians, sociologists and philosophers. We must understand our culture and not be seduced by the current philosophies promoted by the cultural gatekeepers through the media. In modernity, the prevailing philosophy is that God no longer initiates and controls the universe; human beings do.
"In summary, here's the history of ideas: before the eighteenth century, God was alive and involved in human affairs; in the eighteenth century, the Bible was killed and a clear picture of God discarded; in the nineteenth century, God Himself was killed; and in the twentieth century, more humans have been killed by other humans than in all previous recorded history. This is the philosophical impetus behind modernity." (83)
Christians are to be in the world but not of the world. We tend to go either toward isolation or compromise. Today the major danger is clearly compromise. (86)
"Informed opinion in America has become the replay of yesterday's talk show." (91)
Deconstructionism reinterprets all past information to conform to today's politically correct values. This becomes part of our cultural fabric through the media. It is important because "history is the greatest antidote to the disease of modernity." "If we are going to love God with all our minds…we need …to develop a love for its greatest antidote--history." (96)
"We must nourish faith and deepen gratitude through appreciation of the great centuries of vital orthodoxy…." "If we are not to be victims of fashionableness, superficiality and hysteria, we need the antidote of a collective memory." (quoting Os Guinness) (97)
"C. S. Lewis suggested that for every new book we read, we should read an old book. Why? Because every age his its blind spot and if we only read books written in our own age, we are reading with the same blind spot as the authors. But when we read a book written from another age, even though it ha blind spots, they are different from ours, so they can speak to our blind spots." (101)
"A grasp of history leads to a renewal, not only of faith, but of hope and desire." (102)
"Once hesitant to trust anyone over thirty, now I hesitate to trust anyone under 'three hundred.'" (103, quoting Thomas Oden)
Some of the classics are hard to read. So, if they are too difficult, read modern authors who have soaked themselves in the classics. (104)
To resist being shaped by current faddish thinking, read books that break us, books that integrate us, and books that motivate us. He gives examples on pp. 105-107. "We have to become readers." (111)
"Throughout the centuries, the Lord Jesus Christ has been in the business of opening the minds of His followers." (112)
1. Make a brief summary of every chapter as you read.
2. Write the most powerful passages in your journal. (He keeps his journal in four categories: personal, prayer, family, and ministry.)
3. Review the journal on a regular basis.
4. Make appointments with the author; i.e. read on a regular basis. (122-23)
Loving God with all your strength means giving it all you've got. (125) Josiah is the biblical prototype. (1 Kings 23:25) He took seriously the warning of impending judgment. (127) He took advantage of the "kairos" moment in his life and did a radical cleansing of the country. (131,134) And he was motivated by the awareness of a real battle with an unrelenting and crafty opponent. We can be motivated by these three things as well. (135)
"…until we begin to see the Church of Jesus Christ, not as a Sunday school picnic, but as a cause that we join as soldiers who conquer, we will not have the necessary ingredients to make it." (137)
"Soldiers do become wounded, and it is right and good to expect the Church to function like a hospital. However, it is supposed to function like a military hospital that gets you ready to go back to the front lines." (138)
"Imagine that you are the vice president of sales for a company that manufactures and markets a product you really believe in. You are on your way to meet the regional sales manager for a city of a million people. About a year ago, you had met with this sales manager and mapped out a strategy for impacting that city with your product. Research had revealed the following:
● The northeastern part of the city had 250,000 people who were unaware of the product and had no contact with anyone who owned it.
● The northwestern side had 375,000 people with only a marginal awareness of your product (and therefore a distorted understanding of it and so few actual owners of the product that there was little chance of contact with them.
● The southwest section had 250,000 people with a moderate awareness of your product and a fair possibility of contact with owners of the product.
● The southeast section had 125,000 people, many of whom actually owned this product. On your last visit, you and the sales manager had recruited 200 people who were so happy with this product that they wanted to be promoters and distributors.
When you meet with the sales manage a year later, this is what you find: he has taken 190 of those 200 people and--believe it or not--made them work in the southeast, with people who already own the product! Is this guy out of his mind?
He's taken eight of the remaining ten distributors and put them to work in the region of the city with people who already have a moderate awareness of the product and moderate contact with owners. He's only assigned tow distributors to the section where people have a marginal and distorted understanding of your product and almost zero contact with owners. That leaves no one to work in that huge potential market sector of 250,000 people with no awareness of the product and no contact with those who own it. Aren't you tempted to fire the guy on the spot?
When you return to your office, you decide to see how the regional sales managers in other cities are doing. And to your horror, everywhere you find the same kind of foolish practice. One could hardly dignify it with the word strategy."
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"Love is the deliberate stretching of ourselves for the lasting good (be it spiritual, physical or emotional) of another person." (146)
"The ultimate motive for learning to love our distant neighbors--or anybody else, for that matter--is 'for His name's sake.' More than their lostness, it is the glory of God's name that is at stake." (148)
"We cannot love God and not love the mission that is closest to His heart." (149)
"The only cure for pessimism is faith, and the only thing that builds faith is the Word of God." (150)
Book suggestion: World Christians: Living on the Wavelength of the Great Commission, Sundar Krishnan
"It's a simple commandment; it's not hard to understand. Your neighbor is anybody in need and to love him is to minister to that need." If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, the first thing we have to do is to see people the way Jesus saw them." (158-59)
"One of my many pleasurable pastoral responsibilities is officiating at weddings. Most weddings have two stages: the rehearsal and then the real thing, usually the day after. If you were to drop in during a rehearsal and you didn't know the bridal party, it is not likely that you would be able to pick out the bride. She's far from the resplendent beauty she will be the next day. She is very ordinary--dressed in street clothes, her hair not done up the way it will be the next day. She is probably somewhat frazzled and nervous; maybe one of the bridesmaids is late, or the groom, as usual, has forgotten something he was supposed to do. And all of these things are written large upon her face.
But the next day is completely different. Everyone knows who the bride is; all eyes are upon her. I love to watch the bridegroom when he catches sight of her for the firs time, decked out in her bridal glory. And as she comes close enough for their eyes to meet, the intensity of the emotion they feel is palpable, and I often find myself swallowing an unexpected lump in my throat.
This oft-repeated scene is a powerful metaphor for another wedding--the one between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church. The difference with that wedding is that we've only seen the Bride at the rehearsal, and can't even begin to comprehend the resplendence of her glory on the wedding day. ..we have tragically forgotten, if we ever remembered, the … need to see ourselves collectively as His Bride, the Church." (171-72) "The bride will be beautiful because Jesus Christ will have made her beautiful, through His death and through His life." (175)
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We have experienced the triumph of the theapeutic. "America has six percent of the world's populaton, but thirty-three percent of its psychiatrist and over fifty percent of its clinical psychologists." (185)
In Leviticus we are told to love your neighbor as yourself. The Pharisees had twisted it to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. The therapeutic has twisted it to love yourself. First develop self-esteem and then, when you really love yourself, you can love your neighbor.
However, "the plain meaning is very clear; Jesus simply said, 'love your neighbor as you already love yourself.'" "The emphasis is not on learning to love ourselves, but on recognizing that we already love ourselves, and so loving others in the same way." This applies to both functional and dysfunctional people. (187-88)
Community provides a means for discovering ourselves and learning to yield ourselves to God to love others. It also provides a safe place for confession. "The refusal to make ourselves vulnerable to a community of people may be one of the greatest obstacles to truly discovering ourselves." (195) A loving community provides affirmation and accountability. In such a community we can learn to love others and by doing we can truly love ourselves. (196-97)
"…to love God with all of my heart, mind and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself, requires the making or renewal of three commitments: (1) a commitment to renewing my heart through a life of prayer and worship by the use of Scripture, poetry and music regularly; (2) a commitment to renewing my mind through a life of reading theology, history and literature; and (3) a commitment to renewing relationships in a larger worshiping community and a smaller caring community, where I can practice vulnerability and accountability." (100)
"To glorify God, of course, means to value, to acknowledge, to treasure and to take pleasure in His glory--who He is and what His goals are in the world." (202)
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