“Who will deny that true [faith] consists, in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart? That [faith] which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless, wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference. ” ― Jonathan Edwards
“And you… my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
A true knowledge of God, the exercise of our thinking (head), inevitably affects our emotions (hearts).
I believe an example or two might be helpful. Once I observed, and comprehended, that my adored Tennessee Volunteers had actually won a BCS national football championship (OK, Vol haters, it’s been over a decade ago…I know) I was in sheer ecstasy. I couldn’t control myself. And, yes, this grown man did cry (I also said, “I’m ready to go to Heaven. My life is now complete.”).
Let’s try a better one. For those who’ve been in love, do you understand and have you experienced the connection between your head, what you know about the object of your affection, and your heart, what you feel about your beloved? Haven’t you come to believe the adage “to know them is to love them” is true?
It is possible to know about God and remain stoic. However, it is impossible to know God in a personal, intimate way and your affections remain dormant. Using the second (and clearly best) example above, our relationship with Christ is symbolically viewed as a marriage. He is the Groom and His church is His Bride. Any true marriage is an affair of the heart. There is no such thing, in this biblical picture, of a passionless romance. God is love and God loves us. And as we embrace His love for us we love Him in return and are moved to love others.
As we read the words of John, which so aptly describe this dynamic, notice that our believing (thinking) leads to our loving:
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:16-16).
This is critical. I’m convinced that knowing God in a personal sense necessarily prompts our hearts to be engaged – we are compelled to love. And the more we know of Him, the more we love Him and others. Because of His initiatory love, most clearly demonstrated in the sending and sacrificing of His Son for us, our souls are moved in passion and desire for Him. As the Psalmist so poignantly expresses: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
To know God is to love Him - to adore Him in a way that transcends ordinary human experience. The more I know of Jesus the more precious He becomes. The more precious He becomes, the more my heart is prompted to feel and demonstrate love. Towards Him and my fellow-man.
So far we’ve seen in this series that our heads (thinking) affects our hearts (loving). The next post in this series will show how to motivate our hands (doing) to good deeds – which is our head and heart in action.
*This is the 2nd post in a series of 4 designed to explain how following Christ affects our thinking, loving, and doing (head, heart, and hands).