What does it mean to be a “whole hearted” Christian? Is it even possible? How does it effect my salvation? These are a few of the questions you may have asked yourself over the years, months, or weeks of your walk with God. This series of articles is endeavoring to provide some biblical answers to those questions.
As we saw in the first article, the ultimate answer is and always will be Jesus. But “What does that look like in my life?” is the practical question we all must face.
We also found that the first two “whole hearted” admonitions from the Lord are to seek Him and love Him will our whole heart. He must be first, last, and best in our lives for any other whole heartedness to happen.
This week we explore three more whole-hearted facets of the Christian life.
Serve the Lord
As I mentioned in the first part of this series, Deuteronomy is filled with these “whole hearted” commands. There are 20 of these passages in the NKJV of the Bible, and we’ve looked at 4 already. The next one comes from Deuteronomy 10:12
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord you God will all your heart and with all your soul. . .
Some might argue that this passage is about more than just service, and I would agree. But service is the new element.
Some might also argue that this applies only to the Jews regrading the Temple and sacrificial services. And on that point I would disagree. The Temple and sacrificial services prescribed by God were never an arbitrary set of regulations just to keep the Jews busy. Each item and service was symbolic of part of the plan of salvation.
Therefore, I don’t see this whole-hearted service command as applying specifically to the sacrificial service.
Samuel repeated this admonition to the Israelites after they rejected God and asked for a king.
Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. (1 Sam. 12:20)
Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Sam. 12:24)
So how you serve the Lord with all your heart?
Let me tell you a story.
A few weeks ago I went in to a local gym to check on what a membership would cost. Except for the lady in the office, the gym was empty. I entered the office and smiling, asked what a membership would cost. She proceeded to tell me that she wasn’t sure.
She was in the middle of selling the gym, but the sale would not be finalized till the following month. I could have access for the current month for a specific amount though.
I had sat down. The lady seemed overwhelmed. I asked how long she had owned the gym. Seven years. Wow, that was a big transition. Yes, it was. Plus, the next day she was to take her realtor exam, and one of her two special-needs foster children was to have surgery in a week.
By this time, the lady was on the verge of tears. Then I did something that I’ve always wanted to do but have always pulled back from doing. I asked if I could pray for her. With eyes swimming in tears, she said yes. My prayer was simple and entirely focused on the three big things she had mentioned. When I finished I gave her a hug.
I said I would check back the next month, as I was pretty busy at the moment and would probably not be able to utilize the gym until then. But I left knowing that I had served not only the lady but God.
Service to God is much easier, but at the same time, much harder than a prescribed set of rituals.
Love and Serve the Lord
The next group of passages I would like to explore is a mixture of two previous facets: love and service.
And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments with I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, . . . (Deut. 11:13)
I love this combination because we clearly see the link between love and service. You can’t really love if you don’t keep it alive by service. You can’t really serve if you don’t love. Yet, we see people all the time trying to do one or the other of these. They try to love but not serve or serve without loving.
God commanded the nation of Israel to do both. Just image what a nation founded on these two principles would be like. That would be the closest thing to heaven we could get to on this earth.
But we don’t have to bemoan the fact that it is not a reality in our world. It can be a reality in our lives and in our homes. Just image the impact a life lived this way could have. Imagine the healing such a family could bring to others.
This is so important that Joshua repeated this advice when he was at the end of his life.
But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandants, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Jos. 22:5)
Because of the effects of sin, we are selfish. Only God’s grace can make this change a reality in our lives. That is one reason, I think, that God gave these commands. They go so against our natural inclination that we are forced to seek God in order to fulfill them in our lives.
Obey the Lord
This week’s last whole-hearted facet comes from Deuteronomy 26:16
This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statues and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. (26:16)
This might be where many of you thought the “whole hearted” Christian living would begin in Deuteronomy. But we have no idea what to obey, much less an inclination to obey until we seek, love, and serve. It is only then that we realize the value of obedience.
Some people get themselves into a lather over the thought of obedience. Yet, I was taught that the commands my parents gave me were for my best good and protection. I was taught to think for myself and to ask questions. I could ask questions of my parents about their requests and commands and expect an answer.
God also invites us to reason with Him. Are you confused as to one of God’s commands for you, talk to Him about it with an open heart and mind, realizing that He is God and knows far more that you do.
Four chapters later in Deuteronomy, Moses repeats this admonition:
. . . and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, , , , ( 30:2)
If we want a peaceful life, we really must accept the fact that we don’t and can’t know everything. We must accept some things on faith. We do this every day, so why not trust God in the same way you trust the power company that your lights will come on when you flip a switch?
All Your Soul
You’ve probably noticed that all the passages from Deuteronomy have “and all your soul” at the end. We can wrap our minds around “all our heart” — all our affections, but what is “whole souled” living?
Well, the Hebrew word that has been translated as “soul” can indicated several things. But in the Complete Jewish Bible the author has chosen “being” rather than “soul”. So the thought: “all your heart and all your soul” would indicated a complete, total, undivided devotion.
Now some might think that is a bit extreme. After all wouldn’t that mean every Christian would have to be a monk or nun or something? No. Jesus walked among men seeking to do them good. Do we live our lives that way? To be completely devoted to God opens us to love others and seek their best good in a way impossible before. You can love your family to a depth that you might never have imagined. You will not love others less but more when you make God first, last, and best in your life.
I encourage you to try it and see for yourself.