I am going to ask you a question and I want you to answer it truthfully. Here it is: Do you love God? Surely your answer was yes, but do you really mean it? “Of course!” you say? Now hold on, stay with me… the question may not be as irrelevant to yourself as you think. William Wilberforce once said, “Mankind are apt to be the dupes of misapplied terms;” and this is certainly the case with the word “love”. If you are like the majority of Americans you probably love God, love your family, and love pizza… really? It is no longer enough for us to like a meal, or a color, or a book; we have to love it! If you are given a gift and fail to say that you absolutely love it, the giver is very likely to walk away thinking that you didn’t care much for it.
So, is it wrong to say that you love pizza? After all, a man may tell his wife that he loves her then after supper exclaim that he loved the meal and she will understand that he means two very different things. It would be plain silly if she were offended and burst out saying, “You loved the meal? But I thought you loved me!” God understands what we mean to say, the important thing is that we love him the way he wants us to love him. When I say something such as, “I love chocolate!” what I really mean is, “I enjoy chocolate, it makes me feel good!” Here lies the issue, because this is the definition of the love people generally refer to: is this the kind of love you have for God? Do you love God the way he deserves to be loved or do you really just enjoy what he does for you? We need to be careful that we aren’t using the wrong definition of love in reference to God, the way we ought to love him is above any other love. 1 John 5:3 says,
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:”
The way we love God is through obedience to his commands! (John 14:15) A person who truly loves God will be always striving to obey him: not to earn God’s love for him but to prove his love for God. This is a hard task, too hard for someone who does not truly love God.
“Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us.”
When you commit your life to God, you are committing to love and obey him for the rest of your life. If you are not sincere in your commitment, it will show in your lack of obedience. This is not to say that you will always obey perfectly because you most assuredly will not. There are times that a Christian will do wrong and times that an unbeliever will do right; just because the Christian makes a mistake doesn’t mean he isn’t saved and just because the unbeliever does something good doesn’t make him a Christian: it is the heart that matters. Ah, we delve a little deeper! The heart, the motives: this is where God judges. He says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;” (Matthew 7:21) He is listening to your heart not your words, the mouth can lie the heart cannot! If my heart is not right with God, nothing I say or do matters!
Read Isaiah chapter one. The children of Israel were doing everything God told them to do. They were following his commands for burnt offerings, incense, new moons, Sabbaths, calling of assemblies, etc. They had obedience in actions but rebellion in heart. God could see right through their formalism. He says, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? …Bring no more vain oblations; …when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:” They were following God’s commands and these were still things he wanted them to do but their hearts needed to be in the right place first. God is more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the actions; he is still concerned with our actions but the heart must come first!
It would be good for us to ask ourselves routinely if we truly love God. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (John 21:15-17) Jesus surely did not do this for his own benefit, he knew Peter’s heart. He asked for Peter’s sake. Each time Peter answered that he did love him, Jesus gave him a work to do, he said, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus had known from the beginning that Peter would deny him, but he also knew that one day he would become one of the boldest preachers in the New Testament, he knew about all the times he would be beaten and imprisoned, and he knew that one day Peter would himself be put to death for his faith. Jesus saw all of this when he looked at Peter and in essence he was saying, “Peter, if you really love me, go prove it.” and he did.
God knows your heart but still he asks, “Do you love me?” We need to prove our love for him just as he said in John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This ought to be our hearts’ desire, to live a life that radiates a love for Jesus! Not a selfish love that only enjoys the good things, but a self-sacrificing love that knows it is worth it to give all for him. May we have the same love for God that Peter did: a love that makes mistakes but never gives up, a love that is tested yet stands firm to the end.