In the Gospel of Mark chapter 12, the evangelist recorded a conversation between a scribe and the Lord Jesus, in which that man asked Him which was the first commandment of all. Jesus answered him:
“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:29-30, King James Version – KJV).
Here are 20 things we need to do to obey this commandment of Jesus.
1. Understand What Love Is from a Biblical Perspective
The word “love” has several meanings and, as such, can be applied to different situations. For example, there is the kind of love between a mother and her child, between friends, the romantic love between a man and a woman, etc.
When we talk about the great love that Jesus referred to, some Scripture references translate it as “steadfast love.” It is also called “perfect love,” “covenant love,” “authentic love,” and “unconditional love.”
Note that biblical love is not only a feeling because feelings come and go. Such love comes from who God is (1 John 4:8), and it is practical (1 John 3:1, 4:9-10). So, biblical love is a decision to act that comes from a deep affection towards God.
2. Acknowledge Our Dependence on the Holy Spirit
We need to admit our inability to fulfill the great commandment of loving God by ourselves. The sinful nature of human beings makes it impossible for any of us to love like that. We depend on God to be able to love because He is love (1 John 4:8). We can only love Him because he loved us first (1 John 4:19).
Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), so only through the Holy Spirit can we truly love God and our neighbor as the Word of God commands us to (Mark 12:29-31). Therefore, we need to pray and ask His help to develop His love in our lives.
3. Love God with All Our Heart
Jesus’s words from the good answer He gave to the scribe about the great commandment are a quote from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. It starts by telling us to love God with our whole hearts. Our contemporary culture understands the “heart” as the center of emotions, but the Jewish culture in Jesus’s times understood it as more than that. For them, the heart of man was the center of the will (Proverbs 4:23).
We can think of the heart as the place of our spiritual life, thoughts, feelings, motivations, reason, and understanding. Our decisions, our morals, and our will come from it. So, loving God with all our heart is to have a strong desire and will towards Him.
4. Love God with All Our Soul
God’s Word also tells us to love our Heavenly Father with our whole soul. The Hebrew word for “soul” gives the idea of the breath of life. The Greek word gives a more global idea of the inner self, the individual, the mind (in the sense of our deep thoughts). We can say that it is the non-physical part of the human being (Psalm 16:10; Ezekiel 18:4).
It is what defines our personhood, who we are. So, loving God with our whole soul is to love Him with everything we are, is to find our inner self inclined to Him, seeking Him, having Him at the center of our affections.
5. Love God with All Our Mind
God’s people must also love Him with their whole minds. The biblical meaning of “mind” is the intellect. The original Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 doesn’t include “mind,” it was considered by the Jewish culture as part of the soul.
This part of the great commandment shows how important it is that our intelligence is submitted to God and finds satisfaction in obeying Him. Romans 12:2 reminds us that we need to be transformed by the renewal of our minds to be able to test and approve God’s will – that is how we can love God with our whole minds.
6. Love God with All Our Strength
Jesus Christ also told us to love our God with our whole strength. We find the word “strength” in the Bible a lot of times, and most of them refer to the power of God. Strength refers to the physical aspect of loving God. It is how we show that we love Him and do everything we can to put our love for God into action. If our inner motivation and desire are to love God, our actions (the strength of our bodies) will show it.
7. Love Jesus above Everyone and Everything Else
Christ Jesus told His disciples that anyone who wants to follow Him must love Him more than everything and everyone else (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26). It doesn’t mean that we won’t love other people, on the contrary. Only by loving Him can we truly love others. But if we love something or someone more than God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), it is idolatry.
The Bible says that the Lord is a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 4:24), which means that He requires that our affections be placed correctly, that is, on Him. Nothing should have a higher place in our affections than God.
8. Love God with Practical Actions
We must keep in mind that biblical love is not only about feelings. When we read how God expressed His love for us in the well-known verse of John 3:16, we see that God did something for us – He gave His Son to die for us so we could have eternal life. There is no greater love than that (John 15:13). So, when we love someone, we do something about it. Biblical love is action, not only feelings. Therefore, we need to learn how to put our love for God into practice. We do that by obeying His commands.
9. Obey God’s Commands
In a short definition, we can say that loving God is to obey His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3). The Lord Jesus questioned the people who called Him “Lord” but didn’t do what He had told them to do (Luke 6:46). If He is the Lord of our lives, it means that He has ultimate authority over us, so we do what He tells us to do. It is simple, but it is not easy because our sinful nature fights against it (the apostle Paul explained how that works in Romans 7:14-25). That’s why we need His help to obey Him and make Him the Lord of our lives.
10. Love Our Neighbor
When Jesus said that we must love God with our whole being, He added that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31, quoting from Leviticus 19:18). The apostle Paul wrote that this commandment fulfills the whole Law of God from the Old Testament (Galatians 5:14).
God shows grace and expresses His love for the creation by giving good things to everyone every single day, no matter if they are evil or good (Matthew 5:43-46; James 1:17). As children of God, we should do the same. We express our love for God by obeying and imitating Him. So, we must love other people, even if they don’t deserve it – that’s what God does for every single person every day. In practical terms, we love others by doing to them what we would have them do to us, even if they don’t (Matthew 7:12).
11. Develop a Daily Bible Reading Habit
We need the knowledge of God to be able to love Him and obey Him. To do that, we need to know Him, know what He did, and know His commandments. That’s why we need to have daily Bible reading as part of our routine. We need a moment when we stop and focus on God and hear His voice from Scripture.
Here are some suggestions to help you create a daily Bible reading habit:
- Schedule a quiet alone time, preferably the first thing in the morning.
- Choose a Bible format that works best for you (digital or paper, translation). Don’t be afraid to test many options or to change them after a while.
- Choose a reading plan to guide you. Start with topical reading plans that have shorter daily readings. Or, if you prefer, read one chapter a day, starting with the New Testament.
- Write down at least one thing you learned from that reading.
12. Develop a Daily Prayer Habit
Along with daily Bible reading, God’s people need to engage in daily prayer to God to mature in their personal relationship with Him. The more we know about God from the Bible (by reading and studying it), the more we learn to love Him. And the more we talk to Him in prayer, the more our relationship deepens. And the love we have for Him is strengthened by prayer.
You don’t need to limit yourself to one single prayer time in the day. The Bible tells us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so feel free to pray whenever you need or feel like it. But make sure to have specific prayer moments every day. Keep in mind that those are the times when you meet your Beloved.
Here are some suggestions to get you started or to improve your prayer time:
- Set aside 15 minutes to pray in the morning, after waking up, and at the end of the day, before going to bed.
- Choose a quiet place (Matthew 6:5-6).
- Have a conversational tone.
- After praying, be silent for a few minutes and listen. Let God talk to you.
- Make a prayer list so you can remember what you need to pray. Also, write down how God answered those prayers.
- Study examples of prayers from the Bible (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 22:41-42; the Psalms).
- Pray in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14), which means, pray by His authority, so His will be done, not yours (1 John 5:14-15).
13. Study the Bible Diligently
You already know that you need to read the Bible and meditate on it daily. But you can go further if you want to pursue more profound spiritual growth, and that’s through Bible study.
Here are some suggestions to do it:
- Use resources to help you explore the text better, like Study Bibles, dictionaries, Bible commentaries, etc.
- Study with a partner or in small groups.
- Attend Bible classes in your local church.
- Attend Bible classes from reputable institutions.
- Pay attention to the sermons and study the biblical text further by yourself.
14. Praise and Worship the Lord
When we talk about praising and worshipping the Lord God, the first thing that comes to our minds is usually singing songs. It is a good and biblical way to do it, but it is not the only way. So, we need to understand what praise and worship mean, so they can help us love God more.
To praise the Lord is to exalt who He is and what He has done (Psalm 150:2) and be thankful for that. It is not about us – it is completely about Him. Praising Him leads us to worship Him, which is to adore and honor Him. It is an act of reverence. Praise and worship are powerful expressions of our love and admiration for the Lord.
15. Express Gratitude to God
The more we seek reasons to express our gratitude for what God has done for us, the more we love Him. The Bible says that everything good comes from Him (James 1:17). Thus, we need to pay attention to the good things we have and intentionally thank God for them. That’s when we see the grace of God in our lives, and we learn to love Him more (Luke 7:36-50).
16. Spread the Message of the Gospel
Jesus told his disciples (including us) to preach the Gospel to everyone in the world (Mark 16:15). Loving is obeying, so we need to do what He told us to do. We must start by preaching to people around us.
You don’t have to be a preacher or a missionary to engage in telling people about the good news of Jesus Christ. Whether or not you have the calling to go to a specific place to do it, you need to do your best to fulfill this mission that the Lord assigned to all of us.
17. Be Involved in Discipleship
Jesus commanded us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). To obey His command, we need to be discipled by a more mature believer and, as we grow in faith, start discipling newer Christians. Keep in mind that we must make disciples for Christ Jesus, not for ourselves. We should teach people to obey what the Lord has taught us (Matthew 28:20) and follow Him. This is done by example, not only by speech. We must live as Jesus wants us to, so others will learn (1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1).
18. Be Involved in Missions
Christians are called to be witnesses of Jesus and preach the Gospel in our local cities and unto the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). However, not everyone has the calling to go to other nations. Even if you don’t, you can still do something to advance the Gospel throughout the world.
Here are some suggestions:
- Pray for the missionaries.
- Spread the word about missions in your local community.
- Talk to your local church leaders about adopting a missionary.
- Support Bible translation organizations.
- Be a local volunteer for a missionary organization.
- Volunteer for a local refugee ministry.
- Serve on a short-term mission trip.
19. Express the Love of God by Serving Others
Jesus said that He didn’t come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). He expects us, his followers, to do the same to others. Serving those around us is another way to express our love for God and to care about the things He cares about. See some practical examples in James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 82:3, Matthew 25:31-46.
20. Be Active in Your Local Church
Loving others begins in the church but is not limited to it (Galatians 6:10). So, don’t just be a mere churchgoer. Get involved with the beloved brothers and sisters in your community. It is not only about taking tasks inside the church building but also about serving your community with what you have to offer (talents, time, resources, etc.). Create and nurture relationships. By doing this, not only will you obey many commandments (Galatians 5:13; John 13:34, 15:12; Romans 12:10; 1 John 3:18, 4:11,20), but you will also express your love for God’s own beloved children.
The greatest commandment of all time teaches us that the first thing we need to learn in our Christian life is to love God with our whole being. This important commandment of God requires total commitment to Him and a decision of the will from the children of God to accomplish it. Follow the suggestions in this post to seek a more intimate relationship with God, and you will learn to love Him more and more.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.