Last week we began to see that Biblical love involves more than just emotion, and more than relationship. It involves service and we are even commanded to love God with the mind. And we gave a general overview of all four words last week, and then we began to look a little more deeply into the character of the first one – the heart. And we saw that when the Greek word "heart" is placed in contrast to mind, soul and strength, that it means especially the emotions, though it also includes any inward sense that is more intuitive. Not everyone will be as emotionally rich as some, but what we have, we must sanctify and devote entirely to God. And I shared with you how this has been a much more difficult quadrant of love for me to grow in. It was partly because of the experiences I had at boarding school. But really, everything to the right of that middle vertical line I have had to work hard at. And you may have your own areas of weakness that you need to focus on. God doesn't let us off the hook of loving with our minds just because our language of love is service. We are all responsible to devote each area to the Lord.
And last week we looked at the emotions. I think most of us recognize the dangers that come from emotionalism – where emotions are not exercised in the context of the other four quadrants and are not anchored to the Scripture. But we pointed out how any quadrant that we might park on can be dangerous if we isolate it from the other quadrants. A person who has hardened his emotions can become a psychopath. A person who is indifferent to the social arena can become a recluse who fails to serve. A person who turns off his brain can easily be sucked into heresy. God intended them to function together, and we saw how Jesus manifested all four forms of love in His life.
With our soul
But let me deal with the second area that I struggled with when I was growing up. Loving with my soul. Now, the words "soul" and "spirit" refer to the same inner non-material person, but they do have slightly different nuances. When God wants to communicate the idea of unique personality and social relations (which include longings, inclinations, loneliness or fellowship – things like that) the word "soul" tends to be used. So when He calls us to love God with all of our soul, it means that he is calling upon us to develop relationship with Him and relationship with His people. He is calling upon us to communicate more and to slow down enough to enjoy the quiet times of fellowship.
If you've ever studied the languages of love, you know how this has been a struggle for some people – even with their husbands or wives. I used to be triply hampered on this one because 1) it's not my language of love, 2) I'm not a right brain dominant person; and 3) thirdly, I grew up in such a bad situation in boarding school that I was unbelievably shy. You would not believe the agony I went through to fill in the four quadrants in the years before I became a pastor. Back in those days I could relate to 9 year old John who said, that love is "Like an avalanche where you have to run for your life." I ran. I avoided relationships until I recognized that I was being unbiblical. But as I've grown in pushing myself in this direction, it has actually become enjoyable to love by way of relationship. But I still have to be proactive and I still have to plan for it.
But this is an area that Jesus calls upon us to grow in. He doesn't take excuses. He doesn't say, "Phil Kayser's off the hook because of his difficult background. He can just love me with his mind and his service." No. God calls us to put our whole soul into it.
Now the funny thing about that is that as I have looked back on those years where I thought that I didn't need relationships, I was lonely. I showed that I needed relationship. I think God has built that right into us. And there are many false solutions that people use to deal with this loneliness.
False solutions to loneliness
I think the first false solution is busyness. "If I just stay busy enough, I won't have time to think about how lonely I am." But it's failing to love God and to love others with our soul.
Buying new things
Some have sought to fill the void in their hearts by buying new things, or through adultery. The thrill of a temporary relationship where you are accepted without questions is too strong for some to resist, because they are lonely. And yet as they get to know the new person, disillusionment sets in and they are on to another search. If you are lonely in your marriage, a change in your spouse will not help. Only the Lord can supply the help you need.
Drugs is the fourth substitute. One of the frequent reasons given for drug abuse is loneliness. It's a very interesting statistic, and it's obviously a false solution.
Single people will seek to answer loneliness with marriage, but if you have not solved your problem of loneliness as a single, you will carry your loneliness into the marriage. If we can learn to love God with our soul, this issue will be solved long before marriage comes.
The last substitute is wealth. Accumulating more money and possessions. Solomon can tell you how lonely you can feel when you try to find your satisfaction in anything but God Himself. He said, Emptiness of emptiness; all is emptiness. Howard Hughes said, "It's lonely at the top."
The true solution to loneliness
Of the four quadrants of love that are on your sheet, the only one that will fill the loneliness is the soul quadrant. Serving won't do it, even though serving is essential. Studying won't do it, even though studying is essential. Sanctifying your emotions won't do it, even though they are an aid. We must experience the relational side of love with God. I think we understand the relational side of love with man, but it is just as essential in our love for God. David prayed to God, as I want you to pray to Him, Turn yourself to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. He wanted the reality of God's presence. His worst cry was, My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me? in Psalm 22. David could not handle it when God withdrew the comfort of His face. He wanted to be in relationship. He wanted to love God with all His soul.
It settles fear, calms anxiety and gives boldness (Josh. 1:9; Psalm 31:20; Phil 4:4-9; Heb. 13:5-6)
Before I show you how to develop the sense of God's presence, and to open your soul in a soul to a soul relationship with Him, let me explain why obeying Christ's command here is worth while. First, it settles fear, calms anxiety and gives boldness.
Joshua 1:9 says, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. When you sense that God is with you, it takes away those fears. And keep in mind that we are talking about the right hand half of this diagram. This is not the mind quadrant. We are not talking about the knowledge of God's presence, but the very sense of God's presence – soul to soul. Joshua 1:9 says that it takes away fear and gives us courage.
It gives great joy (Psalm 16:11)
Another benefit of knowing God's presence is that it gives great joy. You might wonder how in the world Richard Wurmbrand could be almost overcome with joy and love in the midst of being tortured by the communists in Romania. It wasn't merely a knowledge that God was present. It was experiencing His presence; being overwhelmed with His presence. His soul was directly ministered to by the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 says, You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Are you lacking in joy in the Lord? It may be an indication that you are lacking His presence; that you don't sense His presence because you have not committed yourself to loving God with all your soul.
It helps us face death (Psalm 23:4)
Psalm 23:4 tells us that God's presence helps us to face death: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.
It helps us face betrayal (Psalm 27:10; 2 Tim 4:17 with vv. 9,10,16)
2 Timothy 4 shows how the presence of God strengthened Paul even when he was betrayed by friends and forsaken by all. He said, Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me... Paul is not denying the need for human companionship. Even with the perfect fellowship that Adam had with God in the Garden of Eden, God said, "It is not good that man should be alone." Right? I think we recognize that. Paul was genuinely hurt, but God ministered. And how did He minister? It wasn't just through doctrine. Verse 16 says: At my first defense no one stood by me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. [now here comes the solution] But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me... Psalm 27:10 says, When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.
It promotes godliness (2 Cor. 6:16-7:1)
I won't take the time to cover all the other points, but let me at least list them. Scriptures show that our soul's direct sense of God's presence promotes godliness (2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1), helps us to persevere (Hebrews 12), gives faith (Psalm 9:10), it gives contentment (Heb. 13:5) and confidence in evangelism (Matthew 28:20). Now I'm sure there are many other benefits, but those are the ones I could come up with.
It helps us to persevere (Heb. 12)
It gives faith (Psalm 9:10)
It gives contentment (Heb. 13:5)
It gives confidence in evangelism (Matt. 28:20)
How do we enter into the experience of God's abiding presence? (What Calvin called coram deo)
Be willing to be broken before the Lord (James 4:6-10; Is. 57:15; Psalm 34:18; 5:5; John 14:21; Heb. 10:22)
So it is important, and it's worthwhile. But let me take a few minutes to show how we can love God with our soul; how we can experience His abiding presence. The first step is, be willing to be broken to our self-sufficiency. Scripture says, The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart... He is near to them. James 4 says Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. If we want to experience the soul dimension of God's love to us and our love to God, we must seek it by drawing near and we must come with a heart broken to pride. The Bible says, The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart.
Claim the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:9-13; Gal. 3:5; Eph. 1:17; 2 Tim. 1:7)
A second step that may be lacking in our lives is that we may never have claimed the gift of the Holy Spirit. Turn with me to Luke 11. We often ask for the Spirit without faith, thinking that God wants to hold out on us. But He doesn't. He loves us, and He delights to give His Spirit to those who are of a humble heart. Luke 11:9-13. And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for break from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Of if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! How much more! I love that phrase. How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. God doesn't expect us to earn the Spirit's presence. He delights in causing us to enter into the enjoyment of the Spirit. Remember that "how much more." In Galatians 3:5 Paul says, Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Paul's point is that the Spirit's presence is there for the asking. Jesus said, "Drink of the waters of life freely." Claim His Holy Spirit.
Claim His promised manifestation (John 14:23; Rev. 3:20)
Third, claim His manifested presence. Revelation 3:20 shows how the church is invited to take Christ at His word as He knocks on the door of the church. To those who invite Him in, He comes to us and fellowships with us. John 14:23 is another promise: Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;. And My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He is talking about a personal presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Live in obedience to the things that God has already shown you (John 14:21)
Fourth, live in obedience to the things that God has already shown you. John 14:21 says, He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. Did you get that phrase? Manifest Myself to him. This is not just talking about the other three quadrants. Obviously it includes those. But this includes the relational quadrant of love. He comes to us; He manifests Himself to us.
Wait upon the Lord; Behold the Lord in the stillness & silence of solitude (. 80ff Luke 5:16; Psalm 46:10; 27:14; 37:7; 130:5,6; Is. 40:31; 30:21)
The fifth thing that may be lacking in our lives is waiting upon the Lord. I want to spend a bit more time on this one since we have a hard time waiting. Luke 5:16 summarizes a habit of life for Jesus. It says, So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. And there are other Gospel passages that speak of Him going to a quiet place or a deserted place to pray. Why this need for a prayer closet or a quiet place? I believe it is because we are so busy and so interrupted that we have lost the ability to listen to God and focus upon Him. Psalm 46:10 says, Be still, and know that I am God. The literal rendering is "cease striving and know that I am God." Even in our prayers we are often too busy - too striving. God wants us to begin to fill our thoughts and our soul with Him. One person commenting on this passage said,
"Get alone, get still, and get quiet before God. Don't ask God for anything; don't work on problems; think on his presence being with you and offer yourselves to him to be his temple. We have focused on ourselves, our needs, and our problems for so long that we have lost the reality of God. We need to learn to focus on him. God is a person who can be known in increasing degrees of intimate acquaintance as we take time to behold him." (pp. 81-82).
You know, the Puritan, John Owen, had developed this quadrant of his love so long that he said that he could discern the differences between Father, Son and Holy Spirit communing with him and ministering to him. I can't. But even though John Owen was a tremendous scholar who produced a massive amount of writings, he spent a lot of time in quiet communion with God. And we need to remember that God wants our soul, not just our busyness. We will get to the busyness quadrant in a bit. But when God sees us desiring Him more than we desire His gifts, He comes close. Psalm 130 is one of many passages that call us to wait for the Lord to come. It says, I wait for the LORD, my soul waits. And in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning - I say, more than those who watch for the morning. When you have that desire, God will reward it with Himself.
Begin practicing His presence
In your prayer life (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thes. 5:17)
But I think point F is the most important step. Begin throughout the day to practice the presence of the Lord. When I was at Trinity, Doug Meier gave me a good book called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. He was a simple kitchen worker near Paris who learned what it meant to experience God's presence in the most mundane tasks that he did. He said that he didn't want to so much as lift a straw from the ground without doing it out of love for God and with a consciousness of God's presence. Let me read you a short excerpt.
On a normal, working day, I would try to fill my waking mind with thoughts of God... The Bible often began my thinking, and prayer always filled this out and made it personal to me. So, by the time I set off to work, I had already been in God's presence for an hour or so - not just on my knees, you must understand, but while I had been shaving and eating my breakfast too. When I got to work I would check on all the days responsibilities. Then... I would briefly but deliberately commit it to God. I often used the same prayer, "O my God, you are always with me. Since I must now, in obedience to your will for me, apply my mind to my day's work, grant me the grace I shall need to continue through it in your presence. Help me to do this work to your glory. Receive it as a spiritual offering. And let my desire be only to please you.
Then, as the day's routine began, I would know that I was as near God, and he as near me, as if I could have seen him there with my physical eyes. At the end of the day I would stop to think about how it had gone. If things had gone well, both in my work and in my consciousness of God, I would give him thanks. If it had not gone well, I would ask his forgiveness and, without allowing myself to become discouraged by my failure, I would set my mind right again and turn once more to thinking of God as if I had never stopped. So I can honestly say that, through the years of practice, I have now come to a condition where it would be as difficult for me not to think of God, as it used to be to get into the habit of doing so.
He was simply obeying the command to pray without ceasing. We can't utter words all day (obviously) or we wouldn't be able to talk to others. But if prayer is also an attitude and a constant awareness of God, and an offering up of all we do before God, our very attitude will continually be prayer.
In your Scripture reading (Psalm 119:18; Rom. 10:6-8)
Second, interact with God when you read the Scriptures. Respond just as you would if a Person was audibly telling you these things face to face. When God promises peace, say in your head or even out loud, "Lord, I want that. It is missing in my life and I thank you for this promise. " When he confronts you with a sin, respond. Before you read, ask God to open your eyes to see Him, as Psalm 119:18 does. Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thine law.
In your worship (John. 4:23; Matt. 18:20)
Do the same in the worship services. Talk to God. Interact with my sermon. Respond to the Scripture. As you are singing, Colossians says that you must sing with grace in your heart unto the Lord. Practice a consciousness that God is always right beside you, and converse with Him. We can't be so preoccupied with what we are doing that we lose touch with the sense of His presence.
In your pursuit of holiness (2 Cor. 6:16-7:1) p. 77ff
In your relations to believers (Matt. 25:31-46)
The fifth tip is a very helpful one. I got it from the Puritan John Flavel. When you talk to fellow believers, keep before your mind's eye that Jesus is in them, and what you are saying to them you are saying to Jesus. In Matthew 25 Christ says that when you feed a Christian, you are feeding Christ; when you visit a Christian in prison, you are visiting Christ because of Christ's close union with believers. Now if you can lay hold of that truth and consciously serve Christ as you serve your brother; consciously speak to Christ as you are speaking to them, it will revolutionize your relations with others. I think the last verses of Matthew 25 are key to understanding why 1 John says that you can't claim to love God if you don't love your brothers. So you can practice the presence of God by thinking of Christ united to them.
Can you see how the right use of the mind affects how we love with the soul? All four quadrants rise and fall together.
If you remember, this commandment starts in verse 29: The first of all the commandments is, "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one…" Because God is a unity rather than being fragmented, we must not be fragmented in our love. Because God is one and is consistent, we must be consistent in our love. Our words should match our actions; our heart must match our mind.
In your reactions to Providence (Job 1:20-22)
But let me go on to the sixth tip for practicing the presence of God. I'll give a couple examples of how to practice God's presence in your reactions to Providence. First, pray the news. When you read in the paper that the government is legislating immorality, rather than just getting frustrated over it, share your thoughts with God. Offer up your sorrow to the Lord and tell Him that you are amazed at His patience, that you do not doubt His wisdom, or power. Ask Him to intervene and change things. You may put down the paper to do this (in what we consider formal prayer), but more often than not you will just be reading silently to the Lord, knowing His care for the situation, just imagining Him reading over your shoulder. You don't need to stop reading. Read it to the Lord who cares, just as you might read it to your spouse to get their reaction.
When you read about a shooting of a teenager in Omaha, ask God to be with the family. All it takes is an instant to offer that to the Lord. I had a brother who would laugh over something funny in a book and then be excited enough to read me what he was laughing over, or would shake his head over something and tell me the gist of what he had just read. We can do the same with God. Interacting with everything that we come in contact with as before the presence of God.
Another way we can do this is offering in our heads praise to God when the tire goes flat and telling God that you're looking forward to finding out what He has in store for you since you know He brought it for your good. Or as you watch your child play piano, be beaming inside not just to yourself, but to the Lord who also delights in the music of our children. See every providence as something from God's hand for our good.
Now at first, this practice may just make you more and more conscious of God's presence — in other words an increased knowledge. But as your faith grows, the overwhelming experience of God's presence will begin to perceptibly grow. And it is the experience of His presence that we want to achieve.
Be open to disturbing encounters with God (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; etc.
The final thing I want to challenge you with on loving God with your soul is that if you really want His presence, then you really need to be open to God sometimes bringing disturbing encounters into your lives. You look through the Bible and you will see that God is not tame, as C.S. Lewis worded it in the Narnia tales. In another chapter of the book, Susan asked if Aslan was safe. Mr. Beaver answered,
"Safe?" ... "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe. But he's good. he's the King, I tell you."
We have to receive God as He is, not a god of our own making who fits nicely into our system. People are sometimes afraid that if they begin to open themselves up to experience the kind of intimacy and experience of His presence that they want, God might make them do something foolish that others might criticize them for. We feel safe and comfortable in our theological bubble, and we want God to restrict Himself to what we can understand and what we can feel comfortable with. But God is bigger than our theology. He is bigger than us and all you have to do is look through the Scriptures and sometimes you will see God bringing comfort and other times knocking a Saul off His horse. God is God, and we receive Him as He is. But those who come close to God always say that they want to return time and time again, in spite of the fact that God is uncomfortable and sometimes unpredictable.
I think of the Narnia tale that had Jill first meeting Aslan. She wanted to drink from the brook, but was afraid to get close to Aslan. Let me read you that section because I think it is a parable of some of our hangups that keep us from entering into the joy of God's presence.
"Are you thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realize that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
"Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?" asked Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.
And that's what I want to say to you. There is no other stream. Christ gives no option to continue comfortably loving Him in just one or two quadrants. We must love Him with all our soul. As one man said in Lewis's The Last Battle, "It is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him." God has put into our hearts a yearning that cannot be satisfied by mere knowledge of God's presence. And I pray that none of you would settle for anything less than the full enjoyment of experiencing God's presence on a daily basis. We must love Him with our soul.
With our strength
We won't spend as much time on the last two quadrants. But Jesus says that we must love the Lord your God with all your strength. Remember all the quotes we gave from the misconceptions of children last week? Well, seven year old Glenn said, "If falling in love is anything like learning how to spell, I don't want to do it. It takes too long." Perhaps this quadrant was not his forte. But diligence, obedience, loyalty, patience, service is very much a part of how God defines love. We must be an activist church. To have a prophetic witness against the evils in society, but to do nothing about it is not enough.
This concept of strength includes the idea of our bodies being involved in the expression of love. You know, the bible has a lot to say about that. But it includes every energy that we exert. God did not make us to be dead pan expressionless lovers. And sometimes I think that our non-verbal body language does not match our words. And that may mean that we need to practice with our bodies. He did not create us to kneel in the spirit, but not kneel in body. We are so influenced by Greek rationalism (and I put myself in that camp) that we feel comfortable with thinking that we are dancing in our spirit, but not moving a muscle of our bodies. Just do me a favor, and do a study of the Bible sometime to examine what it has to say about our bodies. You'll be surprised. In worship, it calls for bodies that worship, not just souls. In dominion, it calls us to use our bodies to God's glory. We are called to take care of our bodies, to offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice. The body is critically important to loving God.
This of course involves service. Those whose language of love is service, love this quadrant. I say under the words "all your strength," that the activist church tends to see devotion to God in terms of service, action, achievements, energy and doing." Well, that's great. But what I want to tell you is that our church should be all four. It should be academic, activist, devotional and social. We must strive for balance. If we claim the emotion of love for God but disobey His commandments, then James and John tell us that our love is counterfeit.
With our mind
On the other hand (and this brings us to our last point), if we claim to know God with our soul, but we hold to theological heresy, then the Bible says that we have a counterfeit experience of love as well. 2 John 9 says, Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. There are some people who claim to experience God in the relational quadrant who have a heretical view of God. John says that their experience was counterfeit. There is a sense in which John is saying that the dominant love should be the love with our minds because our doctrine must judge the other three areas. But even though the mind should be dominant in a sense, it's also true that the other three quadrants are equally important in another sense or we are failing to love God with our minds, right? If doctrine says that we must have the other three, then we aren't loving God with our minds if we are neglecting the other three. So you can look at that different ways.
Nine year old Floyd said, "Love is foolish ... but I still might try it sometime." And we would say, "No. If it's foolish, it's probably not true. We may not be able to understand everything to the right of the line, but God does not contradict Himself since He is truth.
Loving with the mind might involve planning your wife's retirement, or it might involve doing research on providing a fun vacation for the family. Loving with the mind involves doctrine and study. You can't claim to love God if you aren't willing to study about Him. You can't claim to love His world if you don't study His world. The mind must be in gear. I would say this area of loving God with the mind is probably our strongest point as a church, so I won't spend a lot of time on it. But it definitely is nothing to be ashamed of. Some churches want to soft peddle doctrine and soft peddle thinking. It is contrary to love.
I mentioned last week that the tragedy that has happened in modern Protestantism is that people go to extremes by fellowshipping only with those in a similar quadrant. My analogy was kind of simplistic, but there is a tendency for those with the non-discursive gifts to go to Charismatic churches, for those with high social sensitivity to avoid emotionalism, intellectualism and activism by going to churches that focus on fellowships, home groups, discussions, etc. These tend to be the non-charismatic broadly evangelicals. Baptists, Mennonites and other activists feel comfortable in churches that emphasize doing. If you keep busy, you aren't too bothered by the things that are uncomfortable in the other three quadrants. And Presbyterians feel most comfortable in churches that only push them academically. But I think we need to be pushed in all three dimensions. We will probably always be dominant in the left side of this chart, and that's OK, so long as we don't neglect devoting our whole being to Him at the same time. We want to avoid the extremes of heretical pietism, practical irrelevance, humanistic or liberal activism or sterile orthodoxy. And the only way to avoid those extremes is to imitate God by refusing to be fragmented or reductionistic. This commandment of Jesus not only sums up the whole personality, but the whole of Scripture. Let's love God with body and soul, mind and heart; with the whole being. Amen.