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Christian Union
February 16, 2016

With Our Whole Heart, Soul, and Mind

by Justin Mills

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).

The Bible is full of such promises as this one in Deuteronomy 4:29, with a straightforward equation for intimacy with God. Unsurprisingly, these promises of seeking the Lord and finding Him include conditionality, such as the requirement that you seek after Him with all your heart and soul.

We know of God's holiness and the need, as the preacher says, to guard our steps when we go to the house of God (Ecclesiastes 5:1). This might even appeal to our sense of piety and undergoing the necessary rituals to ready our hearts to seek Him. However, I would argue that more than being conditional, these passages present the situational requirements for seeking God, making the pursuit of God more dependent on realizing our circumstances than in anything we can do or say.

Perhaps the best example of this is associated with the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11. After the encouragement about the Lord's "plans for welfare and not for evil, to bring you a hope and a future," a similar promise of seeking God follows in verse 13: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Divorced from its context, we can begin to think that our Christian lives will be characterized by prosperity, hope, and a carefree future. It is just as easy to convince ourselves that sufficient posturing can ready our hearts to seek God. Yet, this promise was given in the midst of one of the darkest chapters in Israel's history – the exile to Babylon following the southern kingdom's deterioration into idolatry. In fact, the "hope and a future" spoken of in Jeremiah 29:11 wouldn't be realized for a full 70 years! In a way, this dark episode occurred precisely because they did not seek the Lord during their time in the Promised Land, except sporadically under a few righteous kings. Spoken by Moses, the call to seek God from Deuteronomy was given by way of reminder after 40 years of desert wanderings. In both cases, it was only in view of the fresh reality of their corporate sin and need that these promises made any sense.

In summary, the desire to seek God must rest firmly in the untrammeled desperation of man and the boundless loving-kindness of God. In Joel 2:12-13, returning to the Lord with "all your heart" includes the desperate measures of fasting, weeping, mourning, and heart-rending. These are all done in view of the character of God: "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster." We, who are to "seek the Lord ...with all our heart," should know both the state of our heart and the character of the Lord.

Jesus praised a man for summing up the commandments as such: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Yet, this same man immediately proceeded to justify himself (Luke 10:27-29). 

justin-millsWe who are in Christ know our need and the sufficient depth of God's love for us to reconcile us to Him in Christ. We have gone through spiritual exile, being enemies of God. We have gone through captivity, being slaves to sin. We have known the extent of our brokenness and our need for redemption, being corrupted in our flesh. And it is precisely in this place, and only in this place, where we can seek God with our whole heart, soul, and mind.

Justin Mills is Christian Union's ministry director at the University of Pennsylvania.
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