The moment Elijah appeared on the scene, God affirmed what Elijah testified: this one stood before the face of the LORD. From that place of holy intimacy, everything else in Elijahâ€™s life flowed.
You, too, be blessed to â€ślove the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strengthâ€ť (Deut. 6:5). That is the key to everything else.
Did you ever try to use a key that should work, but didnâ€™t? That often happens with a copy of the original. To the eye, it seems a match. But the copy key is off just enough that it doesnâ€™t open what it should fling wide.
Did you ever try to love the Lord with all your heart â€“ but it didnâ€™t seem to work? Try as you might, you couldnâ€™t make it click.
That often happens when we unwittingly use a copy key. We make an honest effort, but come up empty, because weâ€™ve put our own spin on the words â€śloveâ€ť and â€śheart.â€ť
To our thinking, we feel with our heart, and think with our mind â€“ and, together, heart and mind comprise the sum total of the â€śinner person,â€ť the soul. Scripture paints a different picture, one much more complex. Together, the Word and the Spirit reveal us as three-part beings, not just body and soul.
For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says that holiness involves our entire â€śspirit, soul and body.â€ť Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength. The two lists seem to correlate. The third item in each list â€“ â€śbody,â€ť â€śstrengthâ€ť â€“ speaks of our physical nature. â€śSoul,â€ť in both lists, does seem to encompass the mind and emotions. But what about the first item on each list â€“ â€śspiritâ€ť and â€śheartâ€ť?
Iâ€™d suggest: Theyâ€™re parallel too. When we see the word â€śheartâ€ť in Scripture, it can mean the sum total of our person. It can also mean soul and spirit â€“ all the intangible self. Or it can reference the soul alone, or the human spirit alone. Complex, like I said. But here, â€śheartâ€ť refers to something distinct from â€śsoulâ€ť and from â€śstrengthâ€ť (body). Itâ€™s the term for the purest essence of who we are. Other verses call that essence, spirit.
God calls his people to love him with our soul and strength. But we canâ€™t do either until we love him from our spirit first. In 1 Corinthians 6:17, Paul said, â€śthe one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Himâ€ť (NASU). Weâ€™re not â€śone soulâ€ť with God; our spirit is joined to his.
When God calls us to love him with all our heart, heâ€™s talking about a singleness in yearning toward him that springs from the depths of our innermost being, the part that is one with him. We read those words and think theyâ€™re commanding a feeling.
And so, we try to love the Lord from our souls. Mentally, we try to figure out how to do it. Emotionally, we try to summon up an â€śall our heartâ€ť feeling, an over-the-top fireworks kind of love.
But we cannot do it. We cannot conjure up such a feeling. We certainly canâ€™t sustain it. The key will not turn in the lock.
So letâ€™s throw away the copy key.
Instead of trying to conjure up an emotion, ask God to teach you to respond to him from the deepest essence of who you are. Day after day, stand before his face, and open yourself to him, as fully as you know how. Pray to know him and to honor him â€“ and ask for grace to walk whatever path he takes you in order to accomplish both.
As your spirit learns to respond freely to Christâ€™s Spirit, youâ€™ll find yourself impelled by something stronger than emotion and more certain than intellect. The asking will become yearning â€“ a hunger deep in your spirit to know him, a thirst for his name to be hallowed and his kingdom to come.
Then, to your amazement, your soul will join in. It will echo your spirit-yearnings. Your mind and emotions will participate joyfully in what they could not start. And even when God takes you places that make no sense and where your emotions scream not to go, your spirit will recognize Godâ€™s voice, your soul will surrender â€“ and all of you will go with God.
Be blessed to learn from the One who is love what it means to love him with all your heart and soul and strength.