Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 6: loving God with our soul

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "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; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (Luke 10:25-28 NASB)

In the previous post, we looked at loving the Lord with all our heart. (You can click on the link to read it.) Today, we consider loving the Lord with all our soul. 

The word translated as "soul" is psychÄ“, and is used here to indicate "the seat of the feelings, desires, and affections". (BLB) The soul is the part of us that is eternal and cannot be destroyed. To love God with all our feelings, our desires, and our affections is not a whimsical kind of love. It requires the kind of "taking every thought captive" that Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 10:5. We cannot love God with feelings that are sinful, with desires that are perverse, with affections that are ungodly. Loving God requires us to take ungodly thoughts, feelings, desires, affections captive and sacrifice our desires to His. 

When we read the words of the Psalmist, we assume God will give us what we want. Look again at those words.

Delight yourself in the Lord; 
And He will give you the desires of your heart. 
Psalm 37:4 NASB

The promise is not that God will give us whatever we desire. The promise is that He will give us new desires. He will give us His desires as our own, and when He does, that seat of desire, our soul, can love Him more fully, more completely. In fact, in this place deep in our hearts, we  cannot love as we ought unless the Lord Himself places His desires in our hearts. That placing happens when we take delight in Him. As we love, He equips us to love more. 

Perhaps that sounds as if we are impotent bystanders, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a constant work of submission to wrestle the seat of our feelings, desires, and affections into submission to God, but when we forge ahead in that work which must be done, we find a love that is greater and more complete than any other. 

We are not to be ruled by feelings; instead, we are to act our way into new feelings. Do we feel cranky and irritable? Perhaps. Instead of acting out on that irritability, however, we must, with God's help, choose love instead. By responding in love rather than reacting in irritability, we love God with our feelings. 

When we want the things of the world, we must relinquish our desire for what tantalizes and choose the things of God instead. By relinquishing our desires, we love God with our desires. It is the same with affections. Do our relationships, our affection for the things of this world help us love God more or draw us away? We must choose to place our affections on "things above", loving the things God loves, the people God loves. In loving what God loves, in loving those whom God loves, we love Him with "all our soul". This loving those whom God loves may be the hardest part, but it is worth it! When we love the unlovely, we love as God has loved us, for who could be more unlovely that we ourselves? 

Oh dear ones, all this relinquishing and submitting sounds like a dreadful job and a devastating loss, but it brings the sweetest joy imaginable. Let us not forget that it is in loving God with every fiber of our being, Christ said, that we live, both now and in eternity. It is a radical, unpopular love, but therein is life. Love Him, friends, love Him with all the feelings, desires, and affections in your heart and you will find joy immeasurable and hope overflowing.