A Whole Heart for God

The Psalmist declared He would praise the Lord with his whole heart, a reference to the totality of his being: will, intellect, and emotions. “To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David. I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works” (Psalms 9:1).

The Psalmist vowed to praise the Lord with the totality of his heart in public to let others know of his faith, love, and devotion. “Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation” (Psalms 111:1).

I’ll tell the world, that I’m a Christian,
I’m not ashamed, His name to bear;
I’ll tell the world, that I’m a Christian,
I’ll take Him with me anywhere.

I’ll tell the world, how Jesus saved me,
and how He gave me a life brand new;
And I know that if you trust Him,
that all He gave me, He’ll give to you.

I’ll tell the world, that He’s my Saviour,
No other one, could love me so;
My life, my all is His forever,
and where He leads me I will go.

For when He comes, and life is over,
For those who love Him there’s more to be;
Eyes have never seen the wonders,
That He’s preparing, for you and me

Oh, tell the world, that you’re a Christian,
Be not ashamed, His name to bear;
Oh tell the world, that you’re a Christian,
And take Him with you anywhere.

—Baynard L. Fox

A blessing awaits the person who will keep the commandments of the Lord, and seek Him with their whole heart. “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Psalms 119:2).

While it is possible to seek the Lord with one’s whole heart, for a season, it is also possible for the heart to begin to gradually move away from the Lord by small acts of disobedience to His known will. “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments” (Psalms 119:10).

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love:
Take my heart, oh, take and seal it
With Thy Spirit from above.

Rescued thus from sin and danger,
Purchased by the Savior’s blood,
May I walk on earth a stranger,
As a son and heir of God.

—Robert Robinson

Prayer must be offered to the Lord for divine understanding in order to keep the commandments of God from the heart. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Psalms 119:34).

There is a pathos to prayer when asking for mercy and grace. “I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word” (Psalms 119:58).

Despite what others do, the heart of the child of God is committed to keeping the Law of the Lord with a whole heart. “The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart” (Psalms 119:69).

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

—Author Unknown

There are times in a person’s journey in grace when holiness of heart and sanctification of the body and soul is desperately desired. The Psalmist came to such a time and said, “I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes” (Psalms 119:145).

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.

Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee,
Whom in Heav’n but Thee.

—Fanny J. Crosby

It is important that a person leaves nothing in their heart for a false idol. “Rest assured, Christ will not live in the parlor of our hearts if we entertain the devil in the cellar of our thoughts” (Charles Spurgeon). “A Psalm of David. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee” (Psalms 138:1).

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

—James E. Orr

The tragedy of fallen humanity is that a person can give their whole heart to God, or to evil. So fully can the heart be given to wickedness that it will not respond to the severest forms of Divine discipline. “Why should ye be stricken anymore? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah 1:5). Consider the exceeding sinfulness of man by J. C. Ryle:

Let us mark what kind of Being the Redeemer of mankind must needs be, in order to provide eternal redemption for sinners. If no one less than the Eternal God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, could take away the sin of the world, sin must be a far more abominable thing in the sight of God than most men suppose.

Stop and think about that. If you are like me, you will tend to read or hear lists of sinful activities and think to yourself, “Well, I’ve never done that, or that, or that. I might have gotten close to that, but so-and-so has done far worse than I ever did, so I should be good.” Right? 

We read the list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and think, “I’m good.”

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

So far so good. Oh, but wait. What about Romans 1:29-31: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

Well, I didn’t fare so well on that list. How about you?

So, here’s the bottom line. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Did you find just one thing in either of those lists that you had to admit to? Then before God you are just as guilty as if you had committed every single one. Every single one.

But the good news is that we do have an Eternal God who chose to pay for all our sins and grant us His righteousness. 1 Corinthians 6 continues in verse 11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So, on the one hand, we are completely guilty of sin on the basis of failing at just one. But on the other hand, we are completely absolved—forgiven, pardoned—of all sin on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross, and His righteousness being credited to us. That, my friend, is the gospel—the Good News!”

—J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John

So hard can the human heart become that the hardship example of God’s judgment on others does not register on the conscience. In 721 BC, the Lord destroyed the nation of Israel consisting of the ten northern tribes. “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:10).

Nevertheless, where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. In 598 BC Nebuchadnezzar came to Judah to wage warfare. Rather than repent and turn to God, the people continued in sin to the point that God used Nebuchadnezzar to chastise Judah more. In 586 BC Jerusalem fell. The people were sent on a Death March. While they were in transit the Lord gave them hope through the prophet Jeremiah. “Jeremiah, tell my people that the day will come that I will give a new heart to know me, “that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

With His whole heart, God is more willing to show mercy and grace to sinners, and to forgive than sinners are to sin. Hear the voice of God say, by way of application, to your heart, “Yea, I will rejoice over you to do you good, and I will plant you in my land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?”

—Julia H. Johnston

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