So where do you start? How do you move toward a continuous “conversation,” or communion, with God?
How do you “exercise your faith” as Brother Lawrence said to do? How do you even begin to live out obedience to that first, and greatest, and most basic commandment to “Love the LORD your God” with all your being—in a world that pulls you every which way but up towards Him?
Should we, just possibly, begin with the part of us that greatest commandment mentions first?
Just as the collage above is incomplete, lacks definition, energy, and clarity, so is every spiritual growth plan without a clear imprinting of heart.
Heart comes first in the Greatest Commandment–before soul, mind, or strength. Always. Consistently. Any time it appears in scripture.
Then why do we so often–maybe even consistently–try to approach God exactly backwards, in reverse of that order?
Do we not too often start trying to “love God” by the strength of our fleshly efforts and our intellect, perhaps along with the help of man, and lose sight of our own heart as the receiving-and-sending mechanism it is, and the need for God’s Spirit to lead, empower, and energize that heart? In this backwards approach do we not do just what Paul told the Galatians not to do? (Gal 3:3)
As I took a few Caran D’ache Neo Color II water soluble crayons (love those things!), some stencils, and a wet paint brush, and imprinted heart in the above collage, I began at last to see some form and definition arise in its composition. Amid the process, scriptures began to come to me. Like… “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (Rom 10:10 NIV). For it is out of the heart that all the issues and actions of life arise (Prov 4:23 NIV, Lk 6:45)… The heart is central, primary in these matters.
But the human heart can’t do the work alone, either! Our hearts are deceptive, and wayward, and needy, and inadequate, and often broken and bruised and damaged.
Brother Lawrence recognized this. He well knew his crucial need for God to do the guiding, energizing, helping work within him. His frequent prayer was, “Lord, I cannot do this unless You enable me.”
When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.”
The essence of Jesus’ teaching was “Follow me,” “Come to me… learn of me… for I am meek and lowly of … heart… and you shall find rest for your souls. He also instructed His disciples to “keep on seeking, … knocking, … asking” for His Holy Spirit, who would be their Helper.
Paul acknowledged that it was God powerfully at work in and through him in his ministry (Eph 3:7) and prayed for those Ephesians to whom he wrote that God would enable them to realize how powerfully God could work in them, too (Eph 1:19). And when he instructed the Philippian believers to “work…,” in the same sentence he declared that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Ph 2:12-13).