The concept of wholeheartedness has hit me like a ton of bricks recently. It has been swirling around in my mind for a long time, but over the past couple of weeks God has brought it in front of me over and over again. As I began to study for this lesson, there were more than a few times I was completely blown away; and truly, the entire lesson could be summarized in this one thought:
God wholeheartedly wants our whole heart.
Human hearts astray have grieved God’s heart from the very beginning. As far back as Noah we see how the heart of God was grieved by the heart of mankind:
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
Years later, just after Moses gathered the Israelites together to receive the Ten Commandments, God spoke these things as the ultimate cry of His heart:
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
This is the cry of the heart of God - that man would love Him with their whole heart. In fact, this last command in Deuteronomy 6:5 was repeated by Jesus in the New Testament as THE greatest commandment:
“The most important one [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Most of us have heard these verses many times, but there was something new that struck me when I read them recently. Did you notice the little adjective included in these verses?
God doesn’t simply say to love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He doesn’t say to love Him with some or most of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He says to love Him with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind, and ALL our strength.
In Scripture, our heart is symbolic of our innermost being, which includes our mind, will, intellect, etc. So if we love God with all our heart, this will encompass all of who we are.
When God decided to take the kingdom of Israel away from it’s first earthly king, Saul, He spoke these words to Saul through the prophet Samuel:
But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command."
That man after God’s own heart was David. Can you imagine that?! I can’t think of anything I could desire more than God saying of me, she is a woman after my own heart. And what’s so awesome about Scripture is that because David authored many of the Psalms, we are able to get a glimpse into his heart. David prayed things like this:
Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults. Keep Your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
One thing we can see about David through his prayers is that he was purposeful about keeping his heart for God in tact, keeping his devotion to God wholehearted. This is what set him apart from those who came after him.
Solomon was David’s son who ruled as king after David. Before David died, he spoke to his son and the leaders of Israel:
1 Chronicles 28:9a
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.
Later, we get a glimpse into the heart of Solomon when he dedicates the temple. He closes a beautiful prayer with these words:
1 Kings 8:61
And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.
In the beginning of Solomon’s reign, he values wholeheartedness. However, if you fast forward a couple of chapters, this is what we see by the end of Solomon’s reign:
1 Kings 11:1-6, 9
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
This begins a pattern we see repeated throughout the chronicles of the kings that followed. Some were evil-hearted from the very beginning. Others started out following God, but very few followed Him wholeheartedly until their death.
As the hearts of Israel’s leaders were divided, so were the hearts of Israel’s people. This led God to eventually take drastic action against Israel. He allowed Israel to be taken into captivity, but not because He is a mean or unjust God. God chose this method of action in order to bring His people’s hearts back to Himself:
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
There’s that little word again - ALL. UNDIVIDED.
If we want to live out the WHOLE plan God has for our lives, then we must allow God access to our WHOLE heart.
I believe for the most part we don’t purposely withhold pieces of our heart from God. However, I think we are also not purposely asking God to show us if we ARE withholding pieces of our heart from Him.
Like David did.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God.”
“Teach me Your way, Lord, and give me an undivided heart.”
“Cleanse me from my hidden faults. Keep me also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.”
KEEPING an undivided heart happens on purpose. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “guard our heart”. The word “guard” also means “to preserve, to keep.”
It requires vulnerability.
It requires humility.
In the Old Testament usually idolatry and/or pride are identified as the culprits which divide the hearts of God’s people. But here’s the thing - pride IS a form of idolatry. To idolize something is “to worship as a god; to love or admire to excess.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/idolize)
Pride is idolizing self above God.
Pride is holding tightly to MY priorities, MY rights, MY ideals, MY opinions, MY dreams, MY work, MY pleasures, MY plans - MY pains - rather than humbly giving God access to those things in our hearts and allowing Him to have His way.
Even our broken-heartedness.
God wants into our brokenness too. If our heart is not whole because pieces of it are broken, then God is the only One who can mend it back to wholeness:
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
There’s one last thing I have to include here. I was praying about how to close this lesson, when God dropped this truth bomb right into my lap. Three days before this was going to post, God revealed something HUGE while I was listening to a sermon.
The preacher said the word anxiety means “divided.” It struck me because I was preparing to post this lesson about an UNdivided heart. I immediately went to the Word to look it up, and this is where God led me:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Did you notice that little phrase again - guard your hearts.
The word anxious is used in this verse as a verb. It says do not BE anxious. The definition of the noun form of this word is “care, worry, anxiety.” Ok, hang with me because this is where I was blown away. This word is derived from the Greek word “merízō”, which means this:
divide – properly, a part, separated from the whole; (figuratively) worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person's being into parts. (https://biblehub.com/greek/3308.htm)
Dividing and fracturing a person's being into parts.
I was absolutely in awe when I read this. Anxiety is something that is being discussed more and more and has affected so many people I know and love. I’m sure there’s not a single one of us that has never had at least a season in which we feel we’ve battled anxiety. In fact, the topic of anxiety and depression is pounding in the hearts of the APM team right now. Maybe anxiety is dividing your heart. If it is, please know that I am filled with compassion for you. I am well aware that this is a complicated issue, and by no means am I against therapy and medication. So it is with much humility and love that I state this truth I believe God brought in front of me just a few days before this lesson was set to post:
There is only one thing that can TRANSCEND (“to be superior to”) your anxiety, and that is God’s peace. God wants to TRANSCEND what is fracturing your being ito parts with HIS PEACE, a peace that will GUARD (KEEP) your heart.
In Proverbs we are told to “guard our heart.” In Philippians, we are told how.
Or, rather, WHO.
I want to close by saying that if the words of this lesson bring up within you a reluctance, that is ok! It feels vulnerable to expose our heart, especially in the beginning. There is a quote in Pursuing Purity that our awesome graphic designer made a graphic out of which seemed to resonate with a lot of people when we posted it on social media. It said Your heart is safe with the one who created it.
Let God show Himself faithful to you. I can tell you from experience that although at times the process can be painful, the more you practice this truth, the more that reluctancy will fade. In fact, one day you’ll realize that what was once met with reluctance will eventually be met with anticipation and expectancy. You will become eager for God to expose areas of your heart that are still broken or divided because the faithfulness, freedom, and purpose you’ve experienced will so change your life that you’ll WHOLEHEARTEDLY desire more of it;)!
Oh God, KEEP my heart. Give me a willing spirit to seek wholeheartedness and whatever that entails. Give me the courage to embrace any pain involved in You exposing areas of my heart that are broken, divided, or withheld from you. Reveal to me if I am prioritizing or valuing anything in my heart above You. Keep my heart pure, keep my heart humble, and keep my heart whole. In Jesus name, Amen!!