How can I know if I really love God? (Part 1)

Have you ever met a person who is living a flagrantly sinful life who says they love God? Whether it’s the person raised in the church but is sinking in sin or the self-righteous lifelong pew dweller who has heard thousands of sermons but still has a heart of stone. Claiming to love God is an easy enough thing to say…but how can we know if our claim is true?

Is there a way to know if we really do love God or not? Jesus taught that a tree is known by its fruit (Mt 7: 15-18; Lk 6:43-44). So the question is, “What fruit should be looking for? The Apostle John wrote, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18). Below are two truths that can be used to assess whether we truly love God or not.

1. You will keep God’s commands

Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). In the New Testament alone there are over 1,000 explicit commands given to us. Does Jesus realistically expect us to keep them all perfectly? And if we are unable, does that mean that we don’t love him? Fortunately, the answer is no.

What Jesus is getting at is that the inner disposition of a person that really loves him is to do all that he can to keep the commands of Scripture. This is something that a person who loves God should WANT to do. Despite our human frailty, Jesus can see our innermost motivations and desires. Remember his words in the garden of Gethsemane to his sleepy disciples, “…the spirit is willing…” He knew that they inwardly wanted to obey his command to pray but they did not. This inward desire to keep all the commands of God is present in all who love him. [To read Paul’s treatment on this subject read Rom 7:14-24.]

Question: Are keeping the commands of God something that brings you joy?

Reflection: Psalm 119:47-48,127

2. You’re serious about sanctification

What greater respect can a son pay to his father than to say, “Dad, I want to be just like you when I grow up!” To express this sentiment to God is to say, “Father I want to be holy just like you are!” This is what the Bible calls sanctification.

Sanctification is the process of God making us holy through ordinary means. Few texts are clearer in addressing this than this one from the Apostle Paul, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Truly loving God requires action. This entails putting away our sin, killing it, and hating any remaining strongholds it has in our lives.

God’s role in our sanctification is critical but it’s often overlooked that we have our part to play as well in sanctification. Consider 1 Peter 1:15-16 which says, “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all [your] conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Likewise the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Cor 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Really loving God means we are serious about our sanctification. Though we are, and will always be carnal in some measure, the label “carnal Christian” is not one we should feel any level of comfort adopting.

We know that our love for God is true because we inwardly want to obey his commands and do so outwardly. Our desire is to be like Him, holy, and apart from sin. These attributes are found in all of God’s true children.

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