And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40)
These verses are familiar to us, but that doesn’t make them easy to follow. We’ve all failed to love God with all our heart and soul and mind. Our sin is always going to keep us from obeying God’s commands perfectly, but we’re also hindered by not fully understanding what this means.
That’s what A. Craig Troxel addresses in his new book, With All Your Heart: Orienting Your Mind, Desires, and Will toward Christ. He writes of the Great Commandment: “If this is as important as he says it is— and it is beyond what we could ever imagine— then we need clarity about what he meant, so that we will have greater clarity in how to obey.”
Troxel structures his book around three aspects of what “heart” means in the Bible: our thoughts, desires, and will. He shows how the threefold office of Jesus (prophet, priest, and king) gives us the grace we need when we stray in these areas. The book concludes with a section on keeping the heart. Troxel explores how we should bend every aspect of our heart towards God—or, more accurately, how God is the one doing the shaping.
As you read this book, you’ll discover how often and earnestly the Bible addresses the issue of our hearts. Troxel proves the primacy of the heart: “It’s the helm of the ship.” Seeing how important it is that our hearts are oriented rightly towards God, I’m surprised at how little attention this theme receives among Christian books today.
It hasn’t always been this way. Troxel has clearly been deeply influenced by reading the Puritans. He admits this himself in the introduction:
This threefold scheme of the heart (mind, desires, will) that provides the structure to this book is by no means original. It is the lifeblood of Puritan theology. The Puritans understood, perhaps better than most, the importance of aiming for the heart.
The whole theme of our affections is Puritan through and through. Familiar Puritan names pepper the footnotes, including Richard Sibbes, whose influence permeates Troxel’s writing, both in his subject matter and the way he emphasises the gentleness of Jesus.
So Troxel skilfully builds on the work that great writers have done before him. I’m not surprised that the first two glowing reviews on the endorsements page are from fellow Puritan-lovers Sinclair Ferguson and Joel Beeke. They recognise, as I do, what an important resource this is for the church. As much as I advocate that everyone reads the Puritans themselves, perhaps this book is a more accessible step for those who are intimidated by the thought.
Another thing I loved about this book is that it majors on Scripture and grace. The text is constantly dotted with Bible references which help us trust Troxel’s words. The length of the index proves just how saturated this book is with Scripture. I read the Kindle version, and a full half of the page count was taken up by the index. Troxel isn’t grabbing for worldly wisdom or trying to convince us of his own ideas—rather, he is opening up the riches of the Bible for us to marvel at. And most of all, he wants us to see the grace of God towards us in Jesus Christ.
Lest we think after reading this book that we need to go and fix our own hearts, Troxel is clear about where the power comes from: “You seek to love Christ faithfully with all your heart’s knowing, desiring, and choosing. But your deeper confidence is in Christ’s love for you and his keeping, preserving, and protecting you.” Our justification was a gift from God, and so is our sanctification. We must rely on the Father, Son, and Spirit to change us, even while we do the work of assessing and training our hearts. I came away from this book with a deeper affection for God—only he is worthy of having my whole heart.
Crossway provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. I’m under no obligation to post a positive review.