How we are commanded to love God.
Loving God With The Heart
What is the heart? When the bible talks about the heart in the New Testament it is not talking about your physical heart that pumps blood, but rather about the very center of your being, the core of who you are, your spirit. You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body.
Your spirit and soul are forever tied together and will go on into eternity when your body dies. In fact as you look through the New Testament you will find the words for heart and soul are used almost interchangeably. Instead of trying to separate the two just understand that both soul and spirit are descriptive of the inner man.
The inner man is the eternal part of our being that will live forever. It is the most important part of our makeup and we should be mindful to guard our heart and protect it from evil influence, while at the same time, nourish it with Gods word. Proverbs tells us to be diligent about guarding our heart.
23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
What does it mean to “keep” your heart? The word for keep in Hebrew is “natsar”, and it means to protect, preserve, and obey. Maintaining sensitivity by obeying your heart is one way to keep your heart.
The Israelites perished in the wilderness because they were hard hearted. The reason for their hardness of heart is because they let go of their hope. This is one of the most damaging things that you can let happen. Lets look at why this is so important.
12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
The word “deferred” means to draw away or remove. The word “sick” literally means to bore into and break open as with an opening wedge. I get the picture of a fellow splitting wood, he places a wedge in a crack and drives in with a sledgehammer until it breaks apart.
Israel put their faith in God to ultimately deliver them out of bondage and into the promise land, but we see time and again that their hope was deferred. One day they are gung ho for God and the next they are complaining and doubting. God was so fed up with it at one point that He was going to allow them all to be wiped out and start over. This is obviously a serious issue with God.
Hope is an earnest expectation for what you are believing for. Hope is the picture of what you have faith for. Hope is what keeps us in faith. When you have hope, that means that you have confidence and fully expect that what you believe for will surely come to pass.
If you put your faith and your hope in something and then change your mind, lose hope and decide to believe and hope for something else, your hope has just been deferred. If you do this your heart gets wounded. Your heart is the part that you believe with. If your believer is damaged then your faith can not be strong. If you let your hope be deferred enough you reach the point that you are unable to believe for anything. It keeps your faith weak and prevents you from growing in faith.
That is why it is so important not to be careless about putting your faith on just anything. If you pray and believe for something and it does not come to pass, it hurts your faith. If you choose to put your faith on something, first be sure that you can commit to standing in faith for however long it takes and that you can keep your hope anchored until it comes to pass.
I remember ministering to a person years ago who was struggling in their faith. As I prayed for this person and laid hands on them the Lord showed me the shape of a heart that was all scabbed over. I knew that this was a vision of this persons spirit. The only way I know how to describe it is that it looked like the crust on extra crispy fried chicken. Their heart was scabbed over and hard. There was not a tender, fleshy part showing anywhere.
I had a revelation that day of what it meant to be hard hearted. The Lord showed me that this person had been hurt repeatedly by unforgiveness and being careless with their faith. As the Holy Spirit began to minister to that person I saw that heart become soft and fleshy again.
God had mercy on this individual and helped to restore in a few minutes what had probably taken years mess up. This person made the mistake of not guarding their heart. Lets compare these two previous verses and look why it is so important to keep your heart,
23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
In both of these verse we see that life comes out of the heart, but notice in Proverbs 13:12 that it is when the desire comes that you see life. There is nothing that will encourage you more than to see something that you have believed for finally come to pass. It gives life to every part of your being. I remember when my wife and I finally got out of debt after standing in faith for over six years. After tackling that monster nothing seemed to big. It gave such encouragement and life to our faith that some of the things that seemed a real stretch for our faith did not seem so big anymore.
I can remember when my right arm was damaged from freak accident, a gunshot from a large caliber handgun that traveled up my forearm. After two surgeries and nine months, the doctor told me I would be permanently disabled with only 40% use of my arm and hand.
I left that doctors office crying. I got in my car and then I got mad! I had been standing in faith for my healing for nine months and I was not about to cast away my hope and confidence. I continued standing in faith and my hope was for full restoration and healing.
Within two weeks my right arm was fully recovered by the grace of God. If I had believed that doctor’s report and allowed my hope to be deferred, I would be permanently disabled today. But I held on to my desire and when it came to pass it gave me life!
The Cluttered Heart
The main way that God speaks to you and leads you, other than His Word, is by speaking directly to your heart. God does this in three different ways that we see in scripture. By the inward voice, the inward witness, and by the leading of peace. The inward voice is a stronger, more distinct leading, while the inward witness and the leading of peace are subtler.
Our heart must stay in a condition that is conducive to recognizing these leadings of the Lord. I have found that God deals with people more by peace and the inward witness rather than the stronger more distinct, inward voice. This being the case, the main issue is to maintain a greater sensitivity in our spirits in order to recognize and act on these subtle leadings.
A lot of Christians suffer from what I call a “cluttered heart”. A cluttered heart is full of all kinds of junk that should not be there. Stuff like; resentment, bitterness, jealousy, strife, unrepented sin, procrastination, and disobedience. These are just some of the things can clutter up your heart. A cluttered heart or cluttered spirit is very much like a cluttered desk or a cluttered garage that has too much stuff and is out of order.
I have a friend in the piano business I used to work for and he has parts from pianos of every make and model on the planet. I can’t count the number of times we have been looking for a certain part that we both knew full well that we had, but because things were cluttered or not in there proper place, we could not find it. We knew it was there, and sometimes we knew that we had several of those parts, but ended up buying new ones because we could not put our hands on it.
People’s hearts are that way. When people are trying to hear from God they are looking down on the inside, they know the answer from God is there, but because of so much clutter, they can’t get clear, they can’t put there hand on a definite answer.
Your heart is the vessel, or conduit from which the life of God springs forth. If that vessel is cluttered and contaminated, then what flows out of it is contaminated also. It is imperative that we maintain a pure, clean heart.
We have to guard ourselves from letting the wrong things in our heart, and if we do let the wrong thing in we can’t let it stay there. Your own conscience will tell you when things are not right, and it is important that you respond immediately and take care of it.
So many Christians sear their conscience, making it less sensitive, by not obeying their conscience in the little things. Have you ever taken a drink of a hot beverage and burnt your tongue? Your tongue gets seared and you can’t taste the way you used to. Your tongue is not as sensitive. Your conscience can get the same way. Your conscience is the voice of your spirit and the more you ignore that voice, the harder it gets to hear it clearly.
Something that may seem small and insignificant in the natural may have great spiritual importance. I recall a story of a minister who had come to a new town to take over a church that had lost their pastor. As he was taking the bus across town, he noticed that the driver had given him a quarter too much in change. He thought about taking it back to the driver, but then he reasoned that it was only a quarter, and in the grand scheme of things it would not really make that much difference.
In the end, as he was getting off the bus he returned the quarter to the driver and explained that he had given him to much change. The driver smiled and said, “you’re the new preacher in town aren’t you”? The replied “yes I am”. The driver said, “I have been looking for a good church to attend, and I wanted to see what you would do if I gave you to much change, I‘ll see you on Sunday“. As the minister got off the bus, he looked to God and gave thanks for preventing him from selling his son for a quarter. Thank God he didn’t ignore his conscience.
If you make a habit of ignoring or overriding your conscience in the little things, you become dull spiritually, you loose sensitivity and it makes it harder to be clear on the big things. A good conscience is a clear conscience, and one that can easily hear from God.
Four times the apostle Paul makes reference to having a clear conscience. Obviously this must be important. Not only should we have a clear conscience toward God, but also toward men.
16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
Notice that Paul said “he exercised himself, to always have a good conscience.” I know exercise is a four-letter word to a lot of folks, but the reality is, it takes some effort and commitment to maintain a clear conscience. Sometimes it is not easy to do the right thing. It gets even harder to make things right after you have violated your conscience.
I remember not long ago a friend of mine asked my opinion on a certain TV minister and the doctrine he was preaching. I said nothing directly wrong about this minister, but I alluded to the fact that I would not watch his program. After doing that, my conscience began to bother me. I knew that this friend of mine respected my opinion and in a subtle way, I had given this certain minister a bad review.
I had judged that minister, and to be honest, I had never sat down and really watched one of his programs. So that's what I did, and found out that I had made a big mistake. I called my friend and repented for what I had said, explaining to him that I was wrong. My conscience was clear again.
It is the seemingly, little things like this that in reality are really big issues. If it has to do with you keeping a clear conscience you need to treat it like the biggest issue in your life and take care of it no matter what it takes. Keep your conscience pure at all costs and let nothing stay that doesn’t belong. Again, you have to fill our heart with the Word of God and continue in it. It is the Word that will wash it like water and keep it pure, helping you to recognize what belongs and what does not. If your heart is void of the Word it creates a vacuum effect that will pull in things that are not of God. Look at this verse in Matthew.
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
Can you see the mistake this fellow made? The unclean spirit went out, but he came back and found it EMPTY! So what did he do? He brought seven of his buddies that were worse than him.
What would have happened if Mr. devil came back and peeked in door and saw that it was all filled up with the Word of God? NO VACANCY! We have to live with no vacancy in our heart, keeping ourselves full of God’s Word. A well-kept heart is a heart full of God’s Word and it is the foundation of loving God with the heart.
Loving with the heart is such a vague and misused statement. Keep in mind what we covered in chapter one. Love gives, love commits and devotes something, in this case the heart. We have all heard the phrase “I love you with all my heart,” In fact most of us have used it at one time or another. The fact is, it’s an empty statement most of the time. The Greek word for heart used in Mark 12:30 is “kardia”. This word is very descriptive of the inner man.
kardia ( kar-dee’-ah ) The center of spiritual life. The fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors of understanding, the seat of the will and character.
As we see by this definition the heart is the core and very essence of our being. It’s the part of us that the life of God flows into, and out of. So when you say to someone “I love you with all of my heart“, you are saying a mouth full. You are saying that I commit and devote my inner man, the center and seat of my spiritual life to you. You declare that I have committed and devoted my thoughts, my passions, my desires, my affections, my purpose, the endeavors of my understanding and my will and character to you. I had to admit that, in the past, when I had made that statement to the Lord. That very little of that was true.
As time progressed and my understanding of love grew, I realized that only one person is worthy of this kind of love. God the Father. In fact you see no place in the bible where we are commanded to love people with all of our heart. That kind of complete devotion and commitment God has reserved for Himself alone.
We need to be aware of what we are saying and to whom we are saying it. If you make that statement (“I love you with all of my heart”) to anyone other than God, you have made a wrong statement and a bad confession. This may sound a little extreme for most people’s theology but search the scriptures for yourself, you’ll find it to be true. God did not set it up this way because He was insecure or selfish. He set it up this way for our benefit.
We see over and over in the bible the blessing that accompanies this complete love and devotion to God. I began to see a divine order in love, and as I took inventory of my life I had to admit that my love life was out of order. With a beautiful wife and two wonderful children it was easy to get caught up in showing them the greatest part of my love.
Our God is a jealous God and He expects us to give Him the highest level and the greatest portion of our love. After all he is the one who created us. He’s the one who gives us our next breath. Sharing that place with any other person, even your wife and children is dangerous and destructive to all other relationships in your life, especially your relationship with God.
God wants us to live on a higher level than the world around us and for us to live on that higher level we must have our love properly placed in Gods divine order. We can not put people, our church or our families in that highest and most honorable place. If we do, our entire lives are out of order and our relationships are only a shadow of what God has designed them to be.
He wants the world to see how wonderful our relationships are. The contrast between our relationships and the world’s relationships should be so great that they get jealous of what we have. If they see how good we treat each other and how committed we are to each other, we won’t have to invite them to come to church, they will be knocking at the door. We won’t have to find a way to tell them about Jesus, they will ask. In order to get to that place we need to be ever mindful of what part of us and how much of us we are committing and devoting to God. We must place a higher value on that relationship and give it the honor it deserves.
We should have more invested in loving God than anything else in life. What we value determines our values. You will tend to value what you have the most investment in.
Lets look at this definition of heart and focus on the main aspects of it. We saw in Chapter one that love actively commits and devotes, it’s the highest form of giving. So lets see how we can give our heart to Him. I’ve broken this down into two parts to simplify it.
Lets deal first with the part of our heart that is the center and seat of spiritual life, the spirit. Your spirit, much like your body, needs regular diet and exercise. God has provided all the tools you need to nourish and strengthen your spirit.
There are a lot of Christians that don’t understand the necessary supply of the spirit and therefore they don’t get all the right nourishment they need to develop and grow spiritually. The first form of nourishment you need is reading your bible DAILY! It is the foundation of your life and its importance can not be over stressed.
It was not until my wife and I realized the importance of the Word that our lives began to change noticeably. It is now the basis of our life and ministry and shall continue to be while we remain on this earth.
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
The word “quickeneth” means to make alive. Gods Word contains spiritual life and you need that life to grow spiritually. If it sounds like I am being redundant about reading your bible, I am. The Word must be first place in your life. One of the best ways you can show your love to God is to commit and devote yourself to His Word.
The Supply Of The Spirit
There is another form of supply that you need that is vitally important. This is the supply that you receive from other believers. We see this in Ephesians 4.
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
If you are a member of the body of Christ, you have a supply to contribute to others. In turn, there are others in the body that have a supply that you need. Without this supply it is impossible to receive all that God has for you. You will be spiritually malnourished and hindered from reaching your full strength and stature in Christ.
If you look at verse 16 you see that when every part is working and every joint supplying, it brings increase to the body and builds us up in love. When God made your body, He had a specific place for everything. He didn’t just stick your toes anywhere, he put them on your feet to help you balance the rest of your body. If he would have stuck the toes on your forehead, not only would they look ridiculous but they would be useless. You could gain no benefit from your toes being out of place. In fact when a body part is out of place it causes harm to the body. God set the body of Christ up the same way. When every part is in its proper place it benefits the rest of the body. You have a specific place that you need to be and it is your responsibility to find out where it is.
You need to be hooked up with other believers to grow in love, and not just anybody but the people that God has specifically purposed to be in your life. True fellowship only happens when you are with the right fellows in the right ship.
It is a real problem for people who hop around from church to church and never put down any roots. No roots, no fruit. It is imperative that you find out from God where you are supposed to be planted and what local body or ministry you are to be hooked up with. Once you are in your right place you should find out where you should work and serve. Its the effectual working in the measure of every part that brings increase and edification. So many Christians miss it in this area. They either haven’t found their right place, or they are in the right place, but they are not working. Either way, they are not bringing their supply to the body. They go to church but they don’t get involved in any thing, in essence they’re dead weight.
Have you ever had your foot fall asleep and not be able to stand on it? You have to wait until that thing wakes up again before you can move around. Some folks are in their right place but they are asleep. They are keeping the rest of the body from moving forward in the things of God like they are supposed to. Being in your right place and not working to bring your supply is still being out of place.
I heard a brother say this and it stuck with me. “If you’re out of your place, you’re out of your grace, and you’ll fall flat on your face.” That is so true. This applies, not only to your church, but also your job and where you live. I have experienced some of this for myself. Proverbs gives us a good comparison that I would like to share with you.
8 As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
Have you ever seen a young bird that wandered from the nest? We had a little bird, a house wren, make a nest just outside our living room window one year. She was a busy little bird and my family took great pleasure in watching this industrious little creature build her nest at what seemed to us to be light speed.
The bird laid three eggs and we saw the baby chicks hatch and develop until they were almost as big as the mother bird. finally one chick climbed out of the nest and sat out on the limb. the next day they were all outside the nest.
Finally one chick jumped down to the ground away from the nest. The little bird was fluttering about nervously as it seemed to realize that it had left the comfort and safety of the nest and it didn’t have that “flying thing” down yet. We lived in the country and there were birds of prey everywhere: red tailed hawks, owls, bald eagles and ospreys. You can imagine what happened. When you wander from where God has placed you, or worse yet, never find your place, you are weak and easy prey for the enemy. You never receive your full supply of the spirit. You miss out on opportunities and financial blessings. You wind up sowing seed in the wrong field and therefore you do not have a right to your full harvest.
I remember quitting a job one time that God led me to supernaturally. While I was at that job Gods hand was evident. My employer, his wife and children and some of his friends were either saved or rededicated their lives to God. I had great favor with my schedule that freed me up to help in the ministry and I also had some financial blessing too.
I was in the right place and the fruit was obvious. But I began to feel a little pressure from my boss and things were not running as smooth as I thought they should. I started to feel some tension at the work place so I up and quit. I did not ask Gods permission I didn’t pray about it. I just put in my notice and left. God placed me there supernaturally and I left in the flesh with out God’s release.
I spent the next few years hopping around from job to job, never satisfied, always struggling and not able to serve in the church the way I wanted. Two of the businesses I worked for closed down suddenly. One paid about half of what I was making and another was over an hour away from my home with a mandatory 6 day work week and work every holiday. I was miserable, I was confused and I was unstable. Kind of like that bird that wandered from the nest too soon. All because I didn’t take time to ask God what He wanted me to do.
Meanwhile the job that I left flourished and prospered. Gods blessing was on that business. I went from a place that was blessed to a place that was a mess!
When you are in the place that God has for you, there is a grace that you enjoy that can be found no where else on the planet. Your blessing and provision are there. You will never enjoy peace like you are supposed to unless you are in your predestined place. We do our children an injustice by letting them choose what they want to be when they grow up. That has already been decided. We should help guide them in discovering their God ordained purpose and then support them on their journey to fulfill it.
You must give yourself to finding Gods will for your life and finding your proper place. Once you find it, commit to it and devote yourself to it. Don’t get mad and leave like I did, in fact don’t make any move at all without first checking with God.
I did go back to that job and apologized to the owner. I had to eat a double portion of crow but I did it. The owner of the business hired me back at 50% more than I was making when I left and we are good friends to this day. I worked there until God released me and called me to the ministry in another state. It pays to obey and its never to late to make amends. Also, crow doesn’t taste that bad if you eat it fast.
Will And Character
My dad left my mother and I when I was an infant. I found out later in life that he was a pimp, a drug dealer, a thief and a con man. He eventually did two terms in prison of a year each. I saw him the first time when I was 5 years old for about five minutes and didn‘t see him again until I was 12.
He was a stranger to me until I was 19 years old. At that time we started to develop somewhat of a relationship. I was out of work and he hired me as an apprentice in the demolition business. We traveled all over the country dismantling water towers. This was all very exciting to a 19 year old. Dangerous work, living out of motels, eating in restaurants, dealing with high ranking city officials, and making headlines in the local newspaper every where we went.
My dad and I never really developed a father son relationship. We became more like friends, but the more I got to know my dad, the less I liked him. He would apologize over and over for not being there when I was young. I would always tell him “don’t worry about it, no big deal, I grew up just fine”. But it was a big deal.
I didn’t know it, but I resented him for not being there when I was growing up. I didn't realize how much that lack of relationship effected me until I was almost 27 years old when suppressed feelings of anger and hatred rose to the surface. What made it worse was that I had turned out just like the man I resented. I had become a drug dealer and a con just like him. I was addicted to drugs, I was a thief, a liar, a manipulator....and those were just my better points!
I worked for him for several years and became an expert in the demolition field. It got to the point where I was teaching my dad more about the business than he was teaching me. The hatred and resentment I had for him drove me to be better than he was at his own profession. I had always had a knack for problem solving and understanding physics so it did not take me long to reach his level of expertise. Once my knowledge and skills surpassed his, it made me resent him even more. I thought less and less of my dad as time went by. It got to the point that I could not stand to be around him. And then it happened, I met the Lord.
I had followed this girl that I was interested in to a bible study, she said that if I didn’t get born again that she would have to stop seeing me, so my motives in going to this bible study were shady at best. So when I arrived I took a seat away from the others next to a big bearded fellow and I kind of poked him and said “hey man, can you get me born again”? He looked at me as if he knew what I was up to and said “I can pray the prayer with you, but if you don’t mean it, it won’t do you a lick of good. I felt challenged! I looked at him and said “pal, you just pray the prayer and let me worry about meaning it”.
I look back at that day and realize how cocky and ignorant I was and I realize that God was extra merciful to me.
He led me in the prayer, but first he gave me some wonderful instructions that I still use to this day when I am leading folks in the prayer of salvation. He told me to close my eyes and whatever you think Jesus looks like, picture Him in your mind and just focus your attention on Him and pray these words to Him. I did what he said and I was instantly changed! The old Jack Coley had just died and a new man was born. Even the dozen or so people at the bible study said I looked different.
Over the course of the next few weeks the Lord manifested Himself to me in some glorious ways. I no longer believed that God was real, I knew it for sure! At that point my feelings toward my dad began to change, more out of obedience to God rather than willingness. I found out later that God requires both.
After a few months went by, the Lord spoke to me as I was driving down the road in my old truck and said "you are neglecting your father". I was almost offended! How dare God tell me I was neglecting him! He never did anything for me! I’m the one that has been neglected! But after I had a few minutes to cool down I realized that God was right, and now I had to make it right.
I hadn't been saved long but I knew true love now, a love that I had never thought existed, Gods love, and I knew that it was unfair for anyone to be without it, including my dad. It took me a few days, to get past my feelings, and I had to force myself to do it, but I began to witness to my dad, what's more important, is that he saw the change in my life.
I was delivered from a four year amphetamine addiction. I had smoked marijuana virtually every day since I was 12 years old, I used to have a foul mouth and drank alcohol on a regular basis. When I got born again I stopped it all by the grace of God. Finally, he prayed the prayer of salvation with me and I was the happiest man on the planet! This was a big hurtle for me.
After he got saved it took several hours for me to convince him that he needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. He finally received the baptism at about 2am in a motel room in some town I can‘t even remember. I was exhausted from witnessing to him and struggling to teach him about the Holy Spirit with my limited understanding so I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning and he was sitting in his bed. the ash tray was lined with rows of Pall Mall cigarettes. He looked at me and said "what did you do to me? I've been up all night with some crazy stuff going through my head, like a foreign language!” He asked me, with this big eyed, overwhelmed look on his face, what a certain phrase in tongues meant. I laughed and I told him I didn’t know, but that he could pray for the interpretation. I was excited for my dad, he had a genuine experience with God and no one could take that away from him. My natural father had just become my brother.
Even as I write this book, a few weeks ago my father died at the age of 66. He died suddenly, alone at his home and he did not suffer.
Years went by before he actually began to grow spiritually. For the last two years he read his bible every day. Even his pastor noticed how he was gradually removing himself from the world and the worlds ways. The Word of God had a tremendous effect on his life. He talked about the Lord to other people and shared his faith. He never grew enough spiritually to live victoriously in this life, but I am sure he is shouting now.
I came to love my dad later in life. That would not have happened if I had not obeyed the Lord and made a decision to love him. I chose the higher way, the way of love, and I was able to give him what God gave me. A chance at eternal life. Now my dad is in heaven because of that decision. It was an act of my will, a giving of my heart to a person that I didn’t think deserved it. I was trying to show some character to a person who WAS a character! It saved his life. Don’t allow bitterness toward another person to keep you from growing in your love for God. No one is worth that price.
Exercising your will to do what is right, even if it is difficult, will help you develop the kind of character that will make you strong in the things of God.