Reflections and Snippets

The Great Commandment

Extracted from a letter from Dean VanDruff to Hanokh Ben Qeshet

Lately, I have been meditating on the words of Yeshua for us to:

Mark 12:30 (NIV) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
What the Holy Spirit has shown me is that in each of these four categories, I have no hope whatsoever outside of the resurrection life of Christ.

Part of my thinking has been to group the four elements into two dynamics, the heart-mind and the soul-strength. These are often played against each other in scripture and experience. It also seems to me that these groupings form a continuum of fleshly confidence at one end to the expense of the other, but perhaps this will be more clear as we proceed.

For example, Christian thinkers and intellectuals have long pointed out that:

Jer 17:9 (NIV) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure...
I take "the heart" in scripture to mean the emotions or feelings. We cannot trust the unregenerate heart, even though we all know from scripture (if not intuitively) that from the "emotions" flow the very issues of life. As many others have pointed out--to get an A on a seminary exam you answer that the heart = "the mind, will, and emotions" (in Hebrew, in some isolated cases, heart can drift into will and thought a bit, but such poetic or "fringe" use does not a good definition make). However, to understand scripture (or literature in any language) the heart is generally understood as the emotions, the feelings. And so I take it, thus, in its plain-sense meaning.

If this is new to you, try it on for size. As you read scripture, substitute the words "emotion" or "feeling" when you see "heart", and see if the meaning doesn't jump out at you. If I feel anything, I will have thoughts as well, and vice versa, but we all know the difference, one hopes. And while I may refer to one with the opposite metaphor, as in "I think I am angry with you," or "I feel you are wrong here," the two are still distinct, no?

But back to the great commandment, was our Lord being redundant when he said:

Luke 10:27 (NIV) He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'..."

As Yeshua correctly points out, these are separate aspects of us. Often they are pitted against each other in carnal man. They each need "treatment".

Smart people seem all too ready to agree that emotions are untrustworthy. But what is often overlooked concerning our deformed, inconsistent feelings and emotions (especially for emotionally stilted intellectuals) is that:

Eze 36:26 (NIV) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Isa 60:5 (NIV) Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy...

What this means for me is that I can be so bold as to hope that God can heal and make perfect my emotions and feelings, consecrating them to himself for his purposes. I can believe in faith that I can feel the very feelings of God, as I am included more fully in Christ. The old heart was/is unreliable and untrustworthy, the new is of God and is real and permanent. Intense joy and pain are what come to mind.

And now comes the rub. While theologians, intellectuals, and other smart people have easily recognized the corrupted, perverted, the nature of the heart being fallen from the image of God, and soul, and strength, they exempt the mind. It gets special treatment somehow, lest we "teachers" have to take our own medicine.

In his earlier years, C.S. Lewis was judged to have lost only one debate at the Socratic Club on this very subject, that "rational thinking" was "proof of the image of God". You see, it is our only hope, our only exempted attribute. The only trustworthy thing to which all else must bow. While this justifies us smart ones nicely, unfortunately it is a grand lie. God skewers the mind as well as the heart...

Ps 94:11 (NIV) The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.
And so on and so on. There are as many scriptures lambasting the thinking of man as well as his emotions (Rom 3:11!). And yet, with the mind as with the other three attributes mentioned, there is hope if we recognize our weakness and folly:

1 Cor 2:16 (NIV) "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
So, thinking must be justified as well. The thought of this irritates those who have put their trust in their minds, especially if they have good minds, as much as the Pharisees were confident of their excellent actions, or those who think their souls can commune with God without being pierced first, or those who are sure they can "feel" God accurately with their carnal, unredeemed emotions.

What I have gotten out of all this is the realization that our minds are at the same level as our hearts, our actions, or our souls. Thinking is no reliable guide, but a false hope. If God uses our minds at all when they are exalted as idols against the gospel, it is only by his mercy. And he would eventually like us to catch on to our handicap, our leprosy, our blindness. He is not shy in telling us how useless our own efforts are, or how if we ever do get it right that it was God's doing, even his "secret". In Christ, all of these will be healed from their perversions, if we can come to the place of acknowledging our need.

1 Jn 3:5 (NIV) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin... anything--heart, mind, soul or strength. We can even hope to have our minds renewed if we will not exalt them as idols in his presence.

When our emotions fail us, we rely on our minds to discern without much difficulty. But where our minds fail us, can we not trust the feelings of the Spirit as we have learned to recognize them? If we have new "hearts", are we are not commanded to let "peace rule" them? What do you think?

Using "the great commandment" as our guide, we now turn to strength, or hands, or deeds. These--our efforts--scripture condemns:

Rom 3:10,12 (NIV) As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one... All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
This, as with the others, leads to despair and condemnation. But then again, in Messiah our deformed, inconsistent, corrupted actions are made new in accordance with the gospel.

2 Cor 9:8 (NIV) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
And so we have hope that in Christ we can do works that will last.

As to the soul, I take this to principally mean the will. I am not so sure about this, but it is honestly what I have concluded. I would like to see if this rings true with your reading of scripture as well. While this is not as clear as the other two, I have come to see this as a continuum of works (dead or alive) on one end and will (empty, hypocritical boasts or righteous resolve) on the other. It is the difference between what we say and what we do. For doing is not enough; if not from the born again life of Christ in us, then it is just a filthy rag. And willing is not enough; it must be God's will in us.

Given my notion, consider how our flawed souls (wills) irritate the Lord. "Why do you call me Lord, and not do..." and " 'I will, sir,' but he did not go," in the parable of the two sons, and so on and so on.

Much like the mind, our wills have been exempted from redemption by popular theology. After all, we must have that as free and pure!

As you know, I have repented from the doctrine of "free will" as I now see it as original delusion--Satan was the first to think of this even before Adam and the tree. Free will is an illusion that God would like us to grow out of. Our wills are either aligned with Satan or with God. There is no middle, or "free", ground in the universe. But don't tell this to those who would still like to strut in their own strength (limited to the will, mind you) before God, saying "I chose you".

John 15:5 (NKJ) "... for without Me you can do nothing."
This does not mean an absence of activity, even religious activity. But if done from our own resources, then...

John 6:63 (NIV) "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing..."
So we make up for our soulish (willful, in the sense I mean) duplicity and inconsistency by emphasizing strength and action. Or, if our nature is such, we take heart in our inner resolve and imaginary commitment... and do nothing. Both are a depravity that takes stock in a fading residual glory and seeks to "save" itself from the solution of the cross. But God has other plans and other commands.

John 3:6-7 (NAS) "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'"
His plan is the gospel. Death first, then new, eternal life. First our strength must fail before we believe that it really deserved the condemnation that God has pronounced. C.S. Lewis said "A man will never know how bad he is until he has tried his hardest to be good." But our wills--our very souls--must also be offered up.

Rom 8:12-13 (NAS) So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
God speaks to us where we are, as if it were up to us, and then tells us the secret:

John 15:16 (NIV) "You did not choose me, but I chose you... and appointed you to go and bear fruit..."
If we are to love God with our souls or strength, it will never work unless they are resurrected from the fallen state they are in. As this becomes clearer by scripture and experience, we despair of life. But Jesus says to us from the cross: "Follow me!", and we are "believers" as we commit our soiled and bent selves--in all regards--into his keeping. He did not say it would not hurt, but he did prove that it works.

God vindicated Yeshua, and will vindicate us as well when we lose our lives in these specific regards.

Gal 2:20 (NIV) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me...
In this we hope, persevere, and believe:

Phil 2:12-13 (NIV) ...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
The second half of the Shema has come to me to be an outline of the whole of God's saving us in the "highest way". And this is worth "hearing" again and again.

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