When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. It seems easy to think about the heart as it relates to love. Hearts, as a universal symbol of love, can be found plastered on almost every Valentine’s Day card. Talk of the soul also comes up frequently when expressing love. A young man may describe his wife as his “soulmate.” However, it can be difficult for us as humans to think about loving someone with our minds, even more so, loving God with our minds. We may be quick to define loving God with the mind as simply thinking and learning about God, or “having God on the brain.” This definition, while not entirely wrong, is incomplete. The Bible makes it clear that demons, as well as unbelievers, know about God, yet God is not worshipped in their thinking. A mind that God loves is the mind that abides in the truth of His Word and grows in the knowledge of His love daily.
An Eternal Change of Mind
The desire to love God with our minds is not something that comes naturally for mankind. In fact, the Scripture makes it clear that before God saves us, we are in rebellion towards God (Colossians 1:21). Therefore, any thought or act of love towards Him is the supernatural work of God, not simply a decision we make on our own (Piper 2010, 87). When God regenerates the mind of the sinner, it is an eternal change of mind. Once we wanted nothing to do with God, but now we desire nothing greater than to know Him more for all eternity.
Sometimes when discussing the biblical command to love God with the mind, we fail to closely examine the life of the man who loved the Father perfectly with all His mind—Jesus Christ, the Son. As people who now have the mind of Christ, it is imperative we follow in His mental footsteps. Pastor and theologian John Piper argues, “If we did not use our minds to know and think about the fullest revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus, we would not know God” (2010, 91). It is foolish to think that we can know what it means to love God with our minds apart from Jesus’ example revealed to us in the Word of God.
What Was I Saying?
Obviously, we know that we do not love God perfectly with our minds as Jesus did. There is a constant struggle taking place within our minds between the flesh and the Spirit (Romans 8:5-9). Furthermore, we are not totally free from the effects of sin on our minds this side of heaven. We are prone to forget things, to become confused, and misunderstand. These are just some of the noetic effects of our sin. The reality is that our minds cannot fully comprehend just how distorted our thinking is because of the Fall (Mohler 2011, 54).
While our minds may be marred by sin, God shows us tremendous patience. Between our sinful thoughts, wrong decisions, and evil plans, God has every reason to strike down, but He doesn’t. Instead, He shows us mercy. On top of that mercy, He shows us grace. It is only by the grace of God that our minds can become clear and focused, discerning what is true. God loves the mind that acknowledges its perpetual need for grace. Our sin may cause us to forget many things, but it also reminds us, as Christians, that we are completely helpless without God.
Thinking Things Through
Knowing that God’s grace is sustaining and, at times, restraining our minds frees us up to use them to glorify Him. It is especially important that believers think about how to engage the culture around us with the Word of God, for it is the only hope for transforming the minds of men. Moreover, the Word of God is our primary resource, as Christians, for developing and renewing our minds to love God more (Gangel 1987, 69). We need to read it, meditate on it, memorize it, study it, teach it, preach it, conform to it, sing it, etc. The person who abides in God’s Word is one who will never have reason to doubt God’s love for him. This wonderful knowledge, in turn, makes us fall deeper in love with God every day. John Piper explained this relationship between love and knowledge of God quite well when he said:
[The] way thinking relates to loving God is to “awaken” and “express” love. The fires of love for God need fuel. And the fires of love for God drive the engines of thought and deed. There is a circle. Thinking feeds the fire, and the fire fuels more thinking and doing. I love God because I know Him. And I want to know Him more because I love Him (Piper 2010, 89).
To put it simply, there is no divorcing loving God from thinking about God. Some religions, such as Buddhism, teach that truth is obtained by emptying one’s mind, as if actively thinking is somehow unfruitful. Christianity argues that truth is only obtained by actively filling one’s mind with the truth of God’s Word. That is not to say that a Christian’s mind is smarter than an unbeliever’s, but it is a mind that has been awakened to think rightly about truth. God loves the mind that devotes itself to discovering and understanding truth in order that it might know, and consequently love, the Truth-Giver better.
Developing a Christian Worldview
We, as Christians, need to be intentional about developing a Christian worldview, or we will fall victim to the unbelief of our day (Gangel 1987, 62-65). Everything we encounter and know must be filtered through a biblical worldview that God might be glorified, and His commands obeyed. Undoubtedly, developing a Christian worldview requires faith. We know according to Hebrews 6:11 that without faith it is impossible to please God. And if our desire is to love God with our minds, then our thinking needs to be faith-filled. The late Martyn Lloyd-Jones defined faith like this: “It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense” (1987, 66).
It is important to note that our faith is not blind faith, it is married with reason. Even when the world throws its insults and slander at us we can trust the promises of God. We must remember that salvation and the things of God will always be foolish to the unregenerate mind (Mohler 2011, 55-56). Instead of retaliating with insults and slander of our own, we should show the world that we are reasonable people. Sadly, as Mohler notes, evangelicals are not always known as people who value thinking (2011, 47). But this does not have to be the case; in fact, it should not be the case. God has commanded us to grow and develop our minds, so we have no excuse to remain where we are (Gangel 1987, 61). God loves the mind that is not content with stagnancy but seeks to become more and more faithful.
Mind Your Head!
Finally, believers need to ask God to search and know not only our hearts, but our minds, as well. Sins, such as sloth, pride, and hatred, if left unchecked, will result in an unfaithful and unloving mind (Gangel 1987, 67). Our hearts should be soft to the correction of God that we might be ready and willing to repent of every impure thought that trespasses within our regenerate minds. It should be our goal to think rightly about God with every waking moment we are given. We cannot afford to let our minds wander. One day, when we stand before God, every thought we had will be laid bear before Him.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus gives us the sobering picture of people who did things is His name, yet He never knew them. These words should give a reason to pause and think hard about where we stand before God. This is especially true for those of us in vocational ministry or on the mission field. We cannot love someone that we do not know, neither can we love a God that we do not know (Piper 2010, 90). Loving God with our minds involves being painfully honest with ourselves. We need to till the soil of our minds so that the Word of God might take root. We must also surrender our minds to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit (Gangel 1987, 71). In doing so, we will become abundantly more aware of the depth of God’s love for us. This is the mind that we strive for daily because it is not only a mind that loves God, but also the mind that God loves.
Crossway Bibles. 2011. ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Bibles.
Gangel, Kenneth O. 1987. “Thinking Like a Christian: An Evangelical Analysis of Rationality.” Christian Education Journal.
Jr., R. Albert Mohler. 2011. “The Way the World Thinks: Meeting the Natural Mind in the Mirror and the Marketplace.” In Thinking. Loving. Doing., edited by John Piper and David Mathis. Crossway.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. 1987. Quoted in Kenneth O. Gangel. “Thinking Like a Christian: An Evangelical Analysis of Rationality.” Christian Education Journal.
Piper, John. 2010. “Love for God: Treasuring God with All Your Mind.” In Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper. Crossway.
 All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version.