Listen to Nancy answer this question on Moody Radio with Kelli and Steve.

The Old and New Testaments find God’s command that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. 

Deuteronomy 11:4-9 is included in the Shema prayer, which was spoken daily in the Jewish tradition:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The Shema prayer was so influential and important that Jesus used it when He responded to a debate. “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” 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.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28–31).

In our natural fallen state, it is impossible to obey this command. God alone is Holy, and human beings are born sinners in need of a Savior. We were guilty of breaking God’s holy laws (Romans 3:9–20, 23). We were enemies of God (Romans 5:6), deserving of death (Romans 6:23a). We were unrighteous (Romans 3:10) and without means of justifying ourselves (Romans 3:20). Our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) No human being with a fallen nature can continually love God with all his heart, soul, and strength. It’s humanly impossible. 

Jesus continually reminded the Jews, especially the Pharisees, of their inability of being able to keep God’s law. With this command, Jesus was trying to get them to see their spiritual demise and their need for a Savior. No matter how hard they tried, their abilities would never be enough to save them. They desperately needed forgiveness of their sin, which can only come through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Without the cleansing of sin that He provides and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, who lives in the hearts of the redeemed, loving God to any degree is impossible. 

For all of us who place our faith in Jesus, we know that we need to make significant changes that will come through time. Breaking the chains of habitual sin involves knowing the scriptures and relying on the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us through the complex process of heart change. 

Paul writes, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). When Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin,” he is telling us to remember that, in coming to Christ, the power of sin has been broken in our lives. He uses the metaphor of slavery to make this point. We were at one time slaves to sin, but now we are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:17–18).

Paul struggled with the problem of loving the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength 24 hours a day.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:13-25).

The Christian’s struggle against sin is one in which our ability does not match our desire. That is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. Paul later says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

God’s command to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength is not a checklist of things God wants us to do. When we believe in Christ, we are a new creation with a desire to know God and follow Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come :the old has gone, the new is here!”Instead of living for ourselves, we embrace a life of living out our faith by loving and serving others. Yes, we sin, but our desire is to spend time with God and carry out His will for our lives. Because God gave us the gift of His grace and a position of righteousness, we can be a light to many who live in darkness. It is through Jesus alone, that we can love with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:7-11)