Updated: Dec 29, 2022
The first of the greatest commands that Jesus gave was
37 … “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] Matthew 22:37
In essence, we are to love God with wholehearted devotion (a paraphrase of this command). But what does wholehearted devotion look like? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. Wholehearted devotion to Jesus looks like continual REPS!
R - RELATIONSHIP
You continually walk in Relationship with Jesus. Humanity was created to walk in a loving partnership with God. We enjoy God and solve the problems He gives us to handle (see Genesis 2, no one to tend to the garden), and God enjoys what He has created. We get to rule alongside God as lesser royalty (see Psalms 8), and God has the pleasure of walking with us as a good father enjoys walking with his children. Although our disobedience to God has separated us from Him, the death of Jesus has paid the debt that we incurred from our disobedience. As we live with Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the separation from God we experienced is removed because Jesus has paid our debt in full. With our debt paid and our separation from God bridged, we can now fulfill our calling to live in a real relationship with God. Jesus said in John 14:6-7
6 … “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
To know God, we must know and be submitted to Jesus. We have to walk in a relationship with Jesus. But how do we walk in relationship with Jesus? We can’t see him; He’s not physically present for us to talk to. How can we live in a relationship with Jesus? Well, Jesus shows us how in the Bible. In John 4:23, Jesus says
23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
The worship of the true and living God is expressed in truth and with all of our being (spirit). Since God is spirit, He is not bound by the physical limits of a physical relationship. Not only that, but God is present everywhere. David says in Psalms 139:8
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Paul says in Acts 17:26-28
26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being…]
I say all this to say, even though God may not be physically present with us in the same way that a mother or friend is, He is still very present. Thus, how we relate to Him will be different in some ways but the same in other ways. To walk in relationship with Jesus is to connect with Him on a personal level, in obedience, truth, and with all of your being. Practically speaking, we can do this by continually praying to Him and constantly reading our Bible to simply connect with Him.
In prayer, we connect to Jesus on a personal level. We learn about Him, we share ourselves with Him, we listen to Him, and He listens to us. Reading our Bible helps us know the boundaries of our relationship with God; it explains to us who God is and what He is like, it shows us what God likes and doesn’t like, and it gives God more opportunities to speak to and shape us.
If you want to get better at continually walking with Jesus, I encourage you to find time every day to read your Bible, pray, or do both. Even if you have to start with one Bible verse daily or five minutes of prayer daily, that's still movement in the right direction. If you would like to build skill in this area, check out the R.E.S.T. Bible study method, where I show you how to interact with the Bible and, thus, interact with God.
E - EXPAND
You continually Expand your wisdom, knowledge about God, and love for God. A one-time experience with someone does not make for a strong relationship. Several experiences usually don’t make for a strong relationship. Any relationship worth having should be worth investing in. Imagine a husband who never took the time to learn about all the amazing gifts and talents his wife possessed. What if he stopped learning about his wife the day they got married? How long would that relationship last? At what point would the relationship no longer be considered a functional, healthy relationship?
Imagine a mother who invested little to nothing into her child. Would you say she really cared about her child? How valuable is her relationship with her child? Any relationship worth having is a relationship worth investing in. Our relationship with God is no exception. And any relationship that has truly been invested in will grow. Any relationship that has truly been invested in will expand. When we invest in our relationship with God, our love for Him will expand, our knowledge of Him will expand, and we will become wiser.
But this doesn’t happen by accident. We have to work to expand these areas intentionally. As with any investment, it takes time, discipline, and intentional choices. One way you can expand these areas is simply by gathering more information in each of these areas. The more information you have about something, the more confidence you can have in engaging with that topic. You can learn about different important topics like the atonement or do a Biblical word study on the word redemption as a few suggestions.
Another way you can expand each of these areas is by building skills in each area. By building the appropriate skills, you will be able to relate to God better, know and understand Him better, and operate with more wisdom (to be wise is to be skillful; you know how to use the knowledge available to you). You can build skills in the area of prayer and learn how to pray more effectively or learn how to understand the Bible better. There are many skills you could focus on to expand your love and knowledge of God.
If you would like to expand your love and knowledge for God by building skills, check out our list of skills on our website. A few of my favorite skills to expand your love and knowledge of God are How to Build the Skill of Reading Biblical Poetry and How to Build the Skill of Reading Biblical Narrative.
P - PEOPLE
You continually maintain a People focus, both on yourself and others. Again, Jesus said that the greatest command is…
37 … “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second greatest command is …
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
While the R and the E help us love God, the P helps us focus on loving others as ourselves. Notice at that end that verse 39 says
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
In other words, the love you give others is proportional to the love you have for yourself. This doesn’t mean you elevate yourself above others or that you are always prioritizing yourself. It simply means that we need to love others and ourselves. We need to appreciate the gifts and talents of others and ourselves. We need to like others and like ourselves. When we focus on people (again, this includes ourselves), it’s about showing love and helping them become who God created them to be.
There are dozens of ways we can live with a focus on people. In this blog, I’ll list two.
One way we can do this is by showing others, and ourselves, honor. To honor someone, you have to identify a person’s value and then recognize their value either privately or publicly. There are many ways you can honor people, but a few ideas would be to
Congratulate someone on a great accomplishment
Write someone a note telling them how you feel about them or how much you appreciate them.
Remind yourself that God created you in His image and thank Him for making you.
Write a list of all of the gifts and talents God gave you, and thank him for them. Then ask Him how you can best use them to serve others.
Ask an older person in your life to share a good story with you and then thank them for sharing a part of themselves with you.
All of the above ideas are opportunities for you to identify something valuable in a person's life and then recognize that value in a meaningful way. A mindset that prioritizes honoring people is a mindset that will be people focused.
Another way we can have a people focus is to set goals. This is more for yourself, but a better you will positively impact the people around you. I know you’ve already heard a million times about the power and the benefits of goal setting, so I won’t bore you with repeating the same story with no new valuable information. Please think of this as an encouragement to continue to set goals and work hard to achieve them. Your future self and your future relationships with thank you!
S - SIN
You continually repent of and remove Sin from your life. To sin means to miss the mark. Human beings miss the mark by doing something contrary to what God wants us to do. Some sins are obvious, like murder and theft, while others aren’t so obvious, like worry and pride. Although the goal for Christians may seem like it’s to not sin, a clearer goal would be to remove any sin that becomes apparent to you and avoid sin at all costs.
Sadly, most of us are so wrapped up in our behaviors and preferences that we don’t even recognize when we sin against God. If we have a mindset that is opposed to sin and removes sin when it is uncovered, however, we will be able to walk in wholehearted devotion to Jesus.
The problem, sadly, is that many Christians would rather hold on to our current behaviors than trust God with the new behaviors that he desires to give us. Our way of living supersedes the way God would have us live. This way of thinking produces Christians with less than total devotion to Jesus. To walk in complete devotion to Jesus, we have to believe that He is Lord, that He is truth, and that He is good. When you believe this, you will be more likely to trust that any behavior He challenges you to change, whether visible or invisible, is for your good. He did not die for you because He thinks you are perfect just the way you are. He died so that you can be transformed into His image (Romans 8:28-29). You can’t be transformed into his image if you refuse to let him change you. Wholehearted devotion requires the removal of all known sin from your life. Col 3:5 says
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.
God wants to remove sin from your life so that you can live. Let’s put it to death so that we can live.
A few ways we can do this is to examine your beliefs and your integrity. Bad beliefs produce bad behaviors. Good beliefs produce good behaviors. When examining your beliefs, you can more readily identify areas where sin may be affecting you. If you take some time to improve your beliefs, your behaviors will follow.
Integrity is a measure of how well you keep your word and how well you take on the difficult but necessary things we have to do in this life. If there are areas in our lives where we are not keeping our word, or we are finding ways to get around the truth, we may be allowing sin to influence us. If you take a moment to look back over your week and see which commitments you didn’t keep and which hard things you purposely avoided, that will help you remove sin from your life.
The goal of this blog was not to say that it is easy to live fully devoted to Jesus or that it will always be fun living fully devoted to Jesus. Often it can be very difficult and challenging to follow Jesus. This blog is meant to give you a picture of what wholehearted devotion to Jesus looks like, practical ways to live out that devotion, and a roadmap to implement wholehearted devotion into your life. It is the responsibility of the Christian to fully devote themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 14:25-35). Devotion is not just a one-time big decision, but a lifetime of continual, intentional choices. In other words, a lot of REPS!
It’s one thing to know what wholehearted devotion to Jesus looks like, but it’s another thing to know why we should live with wholehearted devotion to Jesus. If you are interested in learning why we should live with wholehearted devotion to Jesus, check out my other blog, “Why Should We Strive for Wholehearted Devotion to Jesus.”
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