Note: these are devotional posts based on John Piper’s new book What Jesus Demands from the World.
Demand #9 — Love God with All your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
Jesus answered, “The most important [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:29-30)
Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42)
But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. (John 5:42-43)
As I am progressing through the book, I am painfully aware that posting about each chapter slows my reading down. But on the other hand, it causes me to meditate and think on each chapter twice. So I am determined to continue blogging through the demands of Jesus. While I am talking about this series, I should mention that these posts are more than just a summary of Piper. They include some reflection and some rearranging of material for my own benefit. For instance, the alliteration below is not Piper’s. All that is to say you really should get the book, or at least read it online.
The End of Love
This seems a simple point: we are required to love God. But I think it is important. Piper writes:
To love God we must know him. God would not be honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point in calling it love for God….
Since love is directed to God and depends upon a knowledge of God, the fact that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God (cf. Jn. 14:7-9, Matt. 11:27) becomes important. As the John 5 passage above indicates, one cannot love God and reject Jesus. Further, the revelation of Jesus will enhance our love for God.
A practical application of this point would be that as our understanding and knowledge of God grows, our capacity to love God more also increases. Thus doctrine is not a hindrance to love, but rather it should increase our love.
The Emotion of Love
Piper states that Jesus “changes our hearts to know God so that we see him as compellingly beautiful.” That phrase “compellingly beautiful” is an attempt to stress the fact that love is inherently emotional. It is not a mere decision. You can’t turn it off and on like a light bulb. You can’t just love spinach, for instance. Something must change inside of you to make you love it. Similarly, you don’t just love baseball, it must be something wondeful to you before you can love it.
More than just a decision, many people talk of love for God in strictly “duty” terms. Verses like John 14:15, 21 are used to emphasize that love is more an action not just a feeling. Some argue that the essence of love for God is love for your neighbors. But as Piper points out, Jesus distinguishes between love for God and love for neighbors when he lists the two most important commandments. So, love for God cannot be defined by love for neighbor. This is not to say they are not connected, however.
Two verses reveal that “love for God is most essentially an experience of the affections, not behavior.” First, Mk. 7:6-7 talks of people who “[honor God] with their lips, but their heart is far from [Him]…”. The external actions that the Pharisees rigorously observed did not make their worship acceptable to God. God expected worship to come from a heart of love. [On the New Pauline Perspective, and its view of the Pharisees, see this recent post.] Second, Matt. 6:24 states “…either he will hate the one and love the other…”, from which we can rightly infer that the opposite of love is hate. The word “despise” is also used in that verse. Both “despise” and “hate” are “strong emotional words”. So in contrast, “loving God is a strong inward emotion, not a mere outward action.”
It is the above reasons, supported by many other verses, which lead Piper to conclude that loving God happens when, “we begin to prefer above all else to know him and see him and be with him and be like him.” In short, “God’s glory becomes our supreme pleasure.”
The Extent of Love
On this point, I am referring to the command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let me just quote Piper’s conclusion here:
When Jesus demands that we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he means that every faculty and every capacity of our being should express the fullness of our affection for God—the fullness of all the ways we treasure him…. “Heart” highlights the center of our volitional and emotional life without excluding thought (Luke 1:51). “Soul” highlights our life as a whole, though sometimes distinguished from the body (Matt. 10:28). “Mind” highlights our thinking capacity. And “strength” highlights the capacity to make vigorous efforts both bodily and mentally (Mark 5:4; Luke 21:36).”…. the point is that every faculty and capacity that we have should display at every moment that God is our supreme treasure.
The Essence of Love
Quote: “Loving God is most essentially treasuring God.”
The Endurance of Love
Piper ends with a warning from Matt. 24:12. In the last days, many people will see their love “grow cold” (cf. Matt. 24:12 NASB). To ensure that our love remains fervent, to ensure that all of our faculties continue to treasure God, we need to “look steadily at Jesus and pray that he would reveal God as compellingly beautiful.” Since Jesus reveals God fully (Jn. 14:9), studying Jesus as revealed in Scripture should help us know God more and love Him more.
To conclude, let us be reminded afresh that love for God is a feeling. And that God is not pleased with mere external worship—He wants our hearts to be fervent towards Him. Let us look to Jesus and trust Him to make God compellingly beautiful to us. Let us ask that God pour His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
—See all posts on, the Demands of Jesus
âˆ¼striving for the unity of the faith for the glory of Godâˆ¼ Eph. 4:3,13 \”¢ Rom. 15:5-7