“Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.” —St. Francis of Assisi
Lately, I have been committing more of my devotional time to soak in Jesus’ words: “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 12:29-30). I have pondered my own historical interaction and application of this command. I sense there is room for growth. As a disciple, do I genuinely understand this divine expectation upon my life? What is the source of ‘all-in’ godly living? What does living wholeheartedly (“all” of my heart, soul, mind and strength) look like? Does Scripture speak to the opposite of wholehearted discipleship and its consequences?
I am convinced that being a wholehearted disciple is a posture, a bearing, an attitude. It involves the way you understand, and respond to, God. It is both devotion and dedication. It is dynamic, organic and living. It requires an equal degree of saying yes and saying no — yes to those things that foster deeper adoration and commitment, and no to those things that undermine it.
Experience has taught me that people who live wholehearted lives as disciples of Jesus are difference-makers. Disciples that make an impact in their settings are all-in when it comes to their walk with Jesus and in their obedience to Him. They are not on the bench, but in the game, so-to-speak. They may not be charismatic or particularly skilled or even erudite, but they show up, speak up and stand up for their faith. They are first in line to serve, believing that we are actually to walk as Jesus walked. Although they are often in the background, they are the banner bearers, flag wavers, cheerleaders, the sold-out ones.
So where then does wholehearted living originate? I am persuaded that true wholehearted living for God arises from our identity in Christ as being the beloved. Author Kyle Idleman in his book Not A Fan writes, “One of the greatest motivations of our love and passionate pursuit of Jesus is a better understanding of how great his love is for us. Being loved causes us to love.” Being wholehearted is a response to our grace status as adopted daughters and sons of the King, heirs to the promises of God. Scripture informs us that the love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), the sacrifice of Christ sets us on a new life path (Galatians 2:20) and the presence of the Holy Spirit sanctifies and empowers us on this sojourn (Romans 15:16). In short, genuine wholehearted living for God springs not from any religious efforts at appeasing Him, but from a recognition of, and response to, the gospel. It because of God that we are redeemed, it is out of our gratitude for our redemption that we live as wholehearted disciples.
Is there an example of a believer who loved God wholeheartedly? For me, David comes to mind. God is recorded as saying of him: “I have found David, son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do”
(Acts 13:22).” We all know that David’s story is one of great successes and colossal moral failures. His transgressions resulted in adultery and murder. And yet, David remains an example of wholehearted devotion to God. Why? The answer appears within David’s life narrative and embedded in his psalms:
- David had genuine faith in God
- David acted courageously out of his trust in God’s sovereignty
- David brought glory to God and honour to God’s people
- David worshipped God with authenticity
- David loved God’s law
- David was humble before God
- David was thankful to God
- David confessed and repented of his sins
David was not without flaws and failures; however, his whole heart was God-oriented. And so, from David’s narrative we can perhaps surmise that a person who is wholehearted in his love for God may be deeply flawed, but even in times of failure, wholly God-oriented.
The Scripture speaks unflatteringly of those who choose not to live for Jesus in a manner that is wholehearted. For example, Revelation speaks of the believers at Laodicea as being lukewarm. They were described as being neither hot nor cold when it came to the person and purposes of God (Rev. 3:14ff). These tepid posers are ceremoniously spit out by God. Does a disciple of Jesus want to be known as a fan of the faith rather than a faithful follower, a half-hearted tag-along rather than a devoted, all-in for Jesus and His call, believer? The seduction to lukewarm living is very real. In his book, The Way Of The Heart, author Henri Nouwen writes, “It is not difficult to see that in this fearful and painful period of our history we are having a difficult time fulfilling our task of making the light of Christ shine into the darkness. Many of us have adapted ourselves too well to the general mood of lethargy.” Nouwen’s sentiments are sobering. We must heed the counsel of Paul, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). In other words, remain wholehearted.
We must be more than enthusiastic admirers of Jesus. We must be about more than ending our tweets with #blessed or attaching WWJD stickers on our car windows. We must be about more than wearing a cross on a necklace or bearing a catchy Christian motto on a T-shirt. We must be deeper, louder and bolder for Jesus, not because of religious duty or aspirations of earning favour with God, but as a tangible response to His unfathomable love and grace. He loved us wholeheartedly, can we respond in kind?