How can I know if I really love God?

Have you ever met a person who is living a flagrantly sinful life who says they love God? Whether it’s the moralistic “good person” who lives a pretty clean and altruistic life but has no regard for God or the drunkard stumbling on the street shouting his love for God with slurred speech or the self-righteous life long pew dweller who has heard thousands of sermons but still has a heart of stone.

However authentic a place this sentiment may come from, is there a way to know if a person really does love God or not? The heart behind this question is not to produce sin-sniffing, critical people. Rather the question is posed in the hope that none of us want people under the illusion that all is well between them and God when in fact they could be in eternal peril.

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 we 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 four fruits borne out of a heart that truly loves God.

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.]

2. You’re serious about sanctification

Paul wrote, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Sanctification is the life long process in the life of a Christian that fills the space between justification and glorification. It is when, through the power of the Spirit and the ordinary means of grace [church, Lord’s Supper, prayer, fellowship] a Christian is increasingly being conformed to the image [character, behavior, purpose] of Jesus Christ.

One of the chief revelations about God that the Bible gives us is that he is holy and one of the chief commands related to that revelation is that we are also to be holy [Lev 11:45, 19:2, 20:26, 22:32; Num 15:40; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 1: 14-16]. This means that if you are serious about loving God, you must also be serious about your sanctification.

True love for God will value and pursue personal piety both in your own life and in the lives of others. A church should be sought out which esteems this value as well. You will not play fast and loose with sin nor keep the company of those who do. You will hate your sin, mourn over your flesh and seek to put it to death so that you might live more for God each day [Rom 8:13; Col 3:5].

3. You will hate the world

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15). This verse from the Apostle John is about as clear as they come. We are morally commanded not to love the world that is fallen, passing away and marked for final destruction [1 Jn 2:17; Rev 14:8-12]. This does not mean that we should be angry or bitter towards the world and its people but rather that we should not have our hopes, purposes, and joy-giving desires based in this world and its many systems.

Our attitude and alignment with the world is a telling sign of whether we love God or not. John finishes his verse, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” indicating a clear line of division between the two clauses. It goes like this: if you love the world then you do not love the Father, and if you do not love the world then you do love the Father. Both clauses cannot be true at the same time. You cannot love the world and love the Father. Jesus said it this way, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Mt 6:24).

4. You will love your Christian family

We all love our families. Sure, they can annoy, irritate and drive us crazy but in the end, all those things have a way of making us love them more. After all, they are family and that means something. Jesus loved his family very much, even to the point of ensuring his mother was taken care of while he was on the cross [Jn 19:25-27]. In addition, Jesus also pointed out that all of his followers had another family to love and be concerned with, the spiritual family [Mt 12:46-49].

Again the Apostle John writes, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 Jn 5:1). And so we have another connection to determine whether we truly love God, namely whether we love our spiritual family (other Christians) well. Statements like “I love God but I hate Christians” or “I love God but I hate church” would seem to be sentiments if held firmly would bankrupt a persons claim that they love God truly.

Remember, Paul (then Saul) thought he loved God and that led him to hunt, arrest, and even kill God’s people. Ironically it was in this very act of what Saul thought was service to God done out of love for God that he was stopped by God, regenerated, and repurposed. Once he was brought into a true love for God, the results led him to spend the rest of his life in service to God’s people.

True love for God will bear fruit. Fruit that will endeavor to keep God’s commands, pursue sanctification, divorce ourselves from the love of this world and embrace Christ and his family. If your life, or any life, bears this fruit the light will be obvious to all.

Take a second to support Nathan on Patreon!