His Without Reserve

Several years ago a graduate student in journalism set out to measure how close church members feel to their denomination. Using tools of communication theory, he prepared a church-relatedness attitude scale. He found that a fairly high correlation existed between "church-relatedness" and (a) giving offerings and (b) reading the denominations's weekly journal. (1) Wouldn't it be interesting to see the results if we could create a Christ-relatedness scale? What would it reveal? Even casual observation suggests that there are many church members who would score high in having a vibrant relationship with Jesus and many who would not.

Perhaps a Christ-relatedness test can be found in the Lord's command "'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 12:30). Although no one knows the heart except God, our pastors would tell us that only a few church-goers appear to love God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength in the sense that Christ meant it.

For some members, the only connections with God occur at church. For others, God is a constant companion.

For some, the knowledge of God consists of Bible stories, the Ten Commandments, and John 3:16. For others, gaining Bible knowledge becomes a lifetime educational experience.

For some, interest in their spiritual life is fitful. For others, spiritual development is their highest goal.

Two Maladies: Half-heartedness and Double-mindedness

Half-hearted believers are weak. Judas was a weak Christian. Ananias and Sapphira were weak Christians. Demas was a weak Christian. Why? They had mixed interests. They took hold of Christ with one hand, but did not let go of what was in their other hand. Judas didn't let go of the idea that he knew what was best for Jesus and His kingdom. When Ananias and Sapphira took hold of the gospel, they didn't let go of security and prosperity. They feared uncertainty. Demas didn't let go of "this present world." All were weak Christians. All were half-hearted.

Believers who do not grow stronger year by year are unable to give of their best to the Master. If they do not seek nourishment in the Word of God, they will remain immature. They may draw strength away from the body of believers instead of adding strength. Each of these early disciples-Judas, Annanias and Sapphira, and Demas-- not only failed to contribute to the growth of Christ's kingdom; they detracted from it!

Why, after entering the family of God by being born again, do we fail to grow? Here's the answer.

The love of the Savior attracts us, but many other things attract us too. This is double-mindedness. Our love for Him is mingled with concern about our own personal situation and with control of our own life. We divide our attention and our time between our still undeveloped spiritual nature and our deeply rooted carnal nature. Our relationship with our Father is half-hearted. Let's admit it.

Referring to our inborn love of money, Jesus said, "No slave can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and wealth" (Luke 16:13). Growing in Christ requires singleness of purpose. We call this singleness of purpose wholeheartedness.

Let's Listen to the Scriptures' Appeal

To starve our sinful natures and feed our spiritual natures requires a major change in thinking. Not behavior. Thinking. (Christlike behavior is the fruit of Christlike thinking.) Love for God is not just one of many loves. Service for God is not just one of many activities. This truth appears in two key settings in Scripture: The first commandment requires "no other gods besides me" (Ex. 20:3, margin). And Christ's summation of the Ten Commandments includes these words that we have already shared: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind'" (Luke 10:27).

The word "heart" can mean the seat of emotions, but in the Scriptures it means more than that. It takes in the total inner self: beliefs, ideas, attitudes, purposes, and emotions. It serves as the center for decision-making; and it's the command center for carrying out our decisions. To love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength means to be eager to choose His ways 100%.

This is asking a lot. It's natural to love God but not that much. It's easy to love God along with loving other persons or things. But to love God, to serve God, undividedly, wholeheartedly is, yes, asking a lot..

Why Become Wholehearted for God?

The ongoing process of becoming wholehearted for God is not founded on simply finding more religious things to do. Christlike deeds will come to heart and mind naturally as a part of growth. Rather, it is founded on subordinating everything, yes, everything, to the Lordship of Christ. After all, who can manage our lives better, we or our Guide and Comforter?

Wholeheartedness is not simply a spasm of devotion. It is a way of life. To crucify the carnal nature and provide a home for the Holy Spirit, wholeheartedness is essential. To grow stronger in faith and resistance to sin, it is essential. To develop confidence in using the Christian graces, it is essential. For peace that passes all understanding, it is essential.

A gifted hymn writer of years past wrote of his personal wholehearted dedication to Jesus Christ, closing with these words:

"Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all." (2)

What an expression of total self-denial!

The title of Isaac Watts' hymn is "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." He wrote of the event at the close of Christ's life that led him to surrender himself without reservation to his Lord. It was the cross of Calvary.

Now, as we speak of wholeheartedness, we are echoing this same theme, this same experience. Throughout our entire walk with Christ we must always look to the cross as Isaac Watts did. As our response to His sacrifice we willingly and lovingly give ourselves to Him without reservation.

When in our human frailty we ask, "Why should I give myself completely to Jesus Christ?" we can do no better than to read aloud Isaac Watts' hymn. In it is the answer:

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ, my God;

All the vain things that charm me most-

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all. (2)

Have We Been Letting Down?

Every spring something comes over at least half the population, causing a desire go to the park instead of to work. It's called "spring fever." A special variety of spring fever, it seems, strikes high school and college seniors. This variety is called "senioritis." It's not listed in WebMD's Internet medical listing, but it's real, just the same. Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary defines it as "an ebbing of motivation and effort by school seniors as evidenced by tardiness, absences, and lower grades." Its first known use occurred in 1957. (3) It's especially distressing to parents because this let-down threatens graduation as well as acceptance into the next higher level of education, including grants and state scholarships.

Not many Christians disappoint God intentionally, but many of us know that while we are pursuing our own goals, we have let Him down. We have become fatigued as we run the race that has been set before us. But we are urged to "consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart" (Heb. 12:3).

"Lose heart." That is saying a divided mind, a distracted soul, an ebbing spirit. Where did those seniors' hearts go? Where do our Christian hearts go so near to "graduation"?

All through the ages Jesus has called His followers to Go, Heal, Pray, Give, Teach, Preach, Act. These essential Christian activities address God's goal of kingdom growth. But when Jesus singled out the foremost commandment, He said: "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 12:30). He didn't say: "Work for your God with all your heart," but "love your God with all your heart."

This love is agape love. It's caring-by-principle. In the setting of Jesus' great commandment, it's having a positive attitude toward our heavenly Father whether you feel like it or not. It's praying with a sense of commitment that God's work of redemption will prosper in your hands, no matter what may be the personal inconvenience or loss. It's finding ways to benefit Him at your own expense. (Read Rom. 15:1, 2.)

To love God supremely means to give of oneself to help Him achieve His goals. Is this a Biblical idea? Is it asking too much?

How Can It Be?

As we invite the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to dwell in our inmost personal temples, we hold onto this promise of divine assistance: "I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God" (Jer. 24:7, NASB).

Then we nurture our choice by thinking deeply on these descriptions of our newly dedicated inner self:

Wholeheartedness is a choice, not an accomplishment.

Wholeheartedness is not a spasm of devotion; it is a way of life..

Wholeheartedness is the decision to relinquish our cherished agendas.

Wholeheartedness is to have no goals but God's goals.

Now our love for our Savior and Friend "compels" us to hold back no more (2 Cor. 5:14, NIV). Because we want to make room in our hearts, our souls, and our minds for the new Occupants, we discover that wholeheartedness is empty-heartedness, that is, hearts emptied of self. Now, perhaps for the first time in our lives, we are helping God with His work, rather than merely asking Him to help us with our work.