You Are What You Want

Bible Insights in 500 words


Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.

  • The professor teaches, “You are what you know.”
  • The politician responds, “You are who you know.”
  • The top one percent concludes, “You are what you own.”
  • Type A-Personalities insist, “You are what you accomplish.”
  • Angry bigots snarl, “You are who you hate.”

Yet, the God who created humankind graciously whispers, “You are what you love.”

The opening chapter of John is a cosmic display of heaven and earth, darkness and light, and the Word becomes flesh, full of grace and glory. John the Baptist introduces the God-Man with the words, “Look, the Lamb of God!” And, Jesus speaks his first words in the Gospel, a question, “What do you want” (John 1:36, 38)?

Jesus moves past our learning, our accomplishments, and our personality types. He goes for the heart, for passion, and desire, “What do you want?”

John’s Gospel concludes with a question that implies the proper answer. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me” (John 21:15-17).   We are what we want, what we love. Scripture councils, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

Holiness is not so much a matter of knowing and believing, but of hungering and thirsting. You are what you love.

You are not “a brain on a stick”; you are loving and passionate. You cannot think your way into holiness. Sanctification is not a transfer of information or a restructuring of beliefs as important as these are. Holiness transforms the heart.

Paul insists that love leads to transforming knowledge that opens us to embracing and doing the will of God. Here are four examples from Paul’s letters.


And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best . . .  filled with the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:9–11).


Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God [an expression of love] . . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is (Romans 12:1-2).


And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power . . . to grasp . . . the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).


If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels,. . .  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains. . . If I give all I possess . . . but do not have love, I gain nothing (I Corinthians 13:1-3).


You have made us for yourself
and our heart is restless
until it rests in you.


*I am indebted to James Smith and his book You Are What You Love, Brazos Press (Baker), 2016. I reccomend the book to you.

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