“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
John 14:15, 21, 23-24
Let’s say that a survey taker decided to make it his goal to stand outside of every church building in America each Sunday and ask every person who left the building if they loved God. How many do you think would answer in the negative? My guess would be that the overwhelming majority of churchgoers would gladly and sincerely profess their love for God, and I am thankful for that. It is due to our love of God that we go to church in the first place. It’s because of our love of God that we own a Bible and look through it from time to time. Our love of God is a major reason why we love others and help them in their time of need. Professing a love of God is an important first step.
“‘First step’?” you might ask. “What do you mean, ‘first step’? I thought loving God is the ultimate, the pinnacle, the highest we can achieve!” True, but consider this. We say that we love God…but does God agree? Does God define us loving Him the same way that we define loving Him?
We might be tempted to assume that He does, but the Bible suggests otherwise. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). In fact, Jesus said that there would be religious people who call him “Lord” and are involved in many good works who would still be condemned to hell at judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). Obviously, those who call Jesus “Lord” and do many good things in His name would also gladly say that they love Him. So why would God still condemn them for all eternity?
The answer lies in finding out how God defines our love for Him, and the way to do that is to go to His Word, the Bible. The more we come to know God through the Bible, the more we will love Him…especially when we grow in our understanding of just how much He loves us! The apostle John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), and, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us…” (1 John 3:16). As we grow to better comprehend what is implied in those statements, we will come to love God more and more.
So how do we come to know God? Again, the only way that will happen is by continually meditating upon and studying the Scriptures which were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). In them, we will see just how God defines loving Him. Over and over again, the Bible correlates love of God with obeying God. Jesus said so in the verses cited above (John 14:15, 21, 23-24). In fact, obeying God is how we come to know Him as well as love Him. “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 John 2:3-5).
If we obey God, we love Him. If we choose to unrepentantly disobey God, we don’t love Him. It’s that simple.