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How Do We Know That We Love God?

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How do we know we genuinely love God? That probably seems like an odd question to most of us. Of course, we love God, and we just know that we love Him.

But is that good enough? Is it enough to just know and feel that we love God? Is anything else involved?

Actually, the Bible-God's inspired Word-is clear about how we show love to God. It is specific about what we are to do to demonstrate that love.

God created people to have a loving relationship with Him. God reveals Himself to us as our heavenly Father and calls us His sons and daughters, His very children. God desires a family relationship with us, with His showing love to us and our showing love to Him.

God is in the process of “bringing many sons to glory” so that He and mankind can ultimately be “of the same family” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
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, 11, New International Version).

Mutually exclusive testaments?

Most people view this close, loving God-mankind relationship as an exclusively New Testament concept and think of the Old Testament as strictly a relationship of law and enforced obedience. But is this view accurate? Are love and obedience really two mutually exclusive concepts, as many seem to think?

To answer these questions we need to ask ourselves what kind of relationship has God always wanted with mankind.

A lawyer asked Jesus Christ a vital question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Christ said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

The lawyer quoted from the Ten Commandments: “'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'”

Jesus replied to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28 Luke 10:25-28 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the law? how read you? 27 And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 And he said to him, You have answered right: this do, and you shall live.
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).

As we just read, the man asked Jesus Christ, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life? ” Eternal life was the issue. The man quoted two Old Testament scriptures, found in Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
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and Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
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. Christ's response may be surprising to some: He assured the man that he had given the correct answer and added, “Do this and you will live.”

So, to gain eternal life, it is clear that we must love God. But what does that mean? Is love just a warm, nice feeling toward God, or is there more to it?

Love loves

Love can be a noun or a verb. I like to think of love as a verb, because love as an action word implies that something is happening, something is being done.

Love (the noun) requires that someone love (the verb). For example, if we love someone, we demonstrate our love by spending time with our loved one. We do things with and for that person. We visit him or her, go places together, talk to each other. We may make or buy gifts to demonstrate that we love and value that person. We show our love by our actions.

Since love requires action, by what action does God want us to demonstrate our love for Him? What does the Bible say about this? Some believe that in the Old Testament God focused only on obedience and law, but in the New Testament we are “under grace” and have only to “love God” in some vague way, supposing that obedience and love are mutually exclusive concepts. But can this be true?

In both Exodus 20:2 Exodus 20:2I am the LORD your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
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and Deuteronomy 5:6 Deuteronomy 5:6I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
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, God prefaces the Ten Commandments with a statement that demonstrates grace: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” He said.

God focuses us on His loving act of undeserved mercy, deliverance, favor and pardon in His freeing the Israelites from slavery and establishing them as a new nation. He extended grace to them, doing something wonderful for them that they did not deserve.

In verses 9 and 10 of Deuteronomy 5, God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . . showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (emphasis added throughout). Here we see another example of grace, with God promising “mercy to thousands.” We see that grace is built into the Ten Commandments.

Biblical theme of obedience

These passages begin a thread that is woven throughout the Bible. The Scriptures show repeatedly that loving God and keeping His commandments are inextricably connected; one describes the other. God says that we show love for Him by obedience, by keeping His commandments .

Let's notice some of the many examples that show the connection between love and commandment-keeping. In Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
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, 6, God says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today [referring to the Ten Commandments, given in the previous chapter] shall be in your heart.”

This is the verse the lawyer quoted to Christ that we referred to earlier. It says we love God with all our heart, soul and might by keeping “these words, which I command you.” Those specific words were God's Ten Commandments. These words from the Bible clearly define loving God as obeying His commandments.

Deuteronomy 10:12 Deuteronomy 10:12And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
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, 13 summarizes the response God expects from Israel and all mankind. “. . . What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? “

This tells us clearly that we love God and serve Him by keeping His commandments, which He gave us for our benefit.

Deuteronomy 11:1 Deuteronomy 11:1Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, always.
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says, “Therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.” We love God by keeping His charge, His statutes, His judgments and His commandments.

The theme of loving God by keeping His commandments continues in verses 13 and 22. God says we are to “earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” We love Him when we “carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do -to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him . . .”

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 Deuteronomy 13:1-4 1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke to you, saying, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them; 3 You shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proves you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and you shall serve him, and join to him.
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warns us about false prophets. Even if they can predict something that comes to pass, if they say we can disobey God and ignore His law, then God's people are to pay no attention to them. God says He proves and tests us “to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (verse 3).

How do we prove to God that we love Him? Continuing in the very next verse: “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him” (verse 4).

Love is expressed by doing what God says

Deuteronomy 30:6 Deuteronomy 30:6And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.
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, 8 continues this theme of showing love by obedience to the commandments: “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart [a prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit] and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . . And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and do all His commandments which I command you today.”

Circumcising the heart (conversion of the mind as described in Romans 2:29 Romans 2:29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
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), loving God and returning to God are evinced by keeping His commandments.

God says He will “rejoice over you . . . if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . .” (Deuteronomy 30:9 Deuteronomy 30:9And the LORD your God will make you plenteous in every work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, as he rejoiced over your fathers:
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, 10). “Turn[ing] to the LORD” is shown by keeping His commandments.

“. . . I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess” (verse 16). God tells us we are to love Him by keeping His commandments, and God promises blessings for our obedience.

The theme continues in the book of Joshua, where God tells His people to “take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5 Joshua 22:5But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to hold to him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
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).

Love flows both ways

Any healthy relationship of love is a two-way street, with love flowing both ways. In 1 John 4:19 1 John 4:19We love him, because he first loved us.
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we find why we should love God: “We love Him because He first loved us.” John had earlier explained what he meant by God's earlier love for us: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11 1 John 4:9-11 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
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).

Romans 5:8 Romans 5:8But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
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gives other examples of ways God has proved His deep love for us: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to prove God's love for us, long before we were capable of returning that love in any way.

The familiar passage in John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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tells us: “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.”

But belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God means much more than just academic agreement. Belief (Greek pisteuo ) means acting on knowledge: living one's life by faith, unswerving devotion and total obedience in the light of that knowledge.

Our God, His people

Jeremiah 31:3 Jeremiah 31:3The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you.
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talks of God's deep love for mankind: “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.'” God has always had as His plan for human beings a loving relationship within His family. He describes it in eternal terms as “an everlasting love.”

Verse 33 says that, in this loving family relationship, “I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” His law is permanently planted in our hearts and minds to show us how to love Him as well as how to love each other.

We see this same theme of loving God and keeping His words continuing in the New Testament. John 14:21 John 14:21He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
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, 23 makes this clear: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me . . . If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word . . .”

The New Testament defines love for God the same way as does the Old: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
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). God's law is not heavy, oppressive and burdensome. As we read earlier, it was given for the benefit of humankind.

God tells us repeatedly and clearly that we demonstrate our love for Him by keeping His commandments, and that has been His intent from the beginning. The commandments John discussed were not “new,” but were “the word which you heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7 1 John 2:7Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard from the beginning.
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). God's law has been a law of love from the very beginning-from the creation (1 John 3:11 1 John 3:11For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
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).

Many other scriptures make it clear that keeping God's commandments is not something we can do by ourselves. As we repent and yield to Jesus Christ, God's Spirit enables us to allow Jesus Christ to live in us (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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), giving us the desire and capacity to love God and our neighbor.

In Luke 10:25-30 Luke 10:25-30 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said to him, What is written in the law? how read you? 27 And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 And he said to him, You have answered right: this do, and you shall live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
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, quoted earlier, a man asked Christ what he should do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him the correct answer is “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”

Love requires action, not just feelings. How do we know we love God? The consistent, clear, biblical answer is that we love God by keeping His commandments. GN

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    Comments

  • SOFOLAHAN

    ONLY TTHROUGH PROMPT OBEDIENCE TO GOD.JESUS IS A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IN TOTAL OBEDIENCE.THANKS.GOD WILL CONTINUE TO STRENGHEN THE MINISTRY THE MORE.

  • sa

    I never understood what love really meant until God revealed it to me. For a long time, Love was not what I thought it to be. Coming out of the “world”, Love now has a different, clear, clean way about it that it can be broadened into so many areas, in the way that we imagine God loving all mankind. AH I understand now. Thanks be to our Loving Father!!!! WOW!!!!!!!

  • asdaylia

    This was a question I had struggled with before. someone had asked me if I loved God and I didn’t know how to answer..because I didn’t know if I did or how to. I didn’t have a mushy lovey feeling and didn’t know how to love Him. I had the fear of God, but showing Him love?..I was lost on that. This knowledge brought better understanding on the subject. It’s been so neat to learn and understand what had once been confusing. ^_^ (sorry if this sounds silly, I’m not good with words)

  • Tammy Vaught
    Yes I have found that loving God is a two way street and to me it embodies His Biblical love reciprocal relationships beginning with Abel, and down to our powerful examples of the children of Israel, I feel knowing how God interelated with them, gives us meaning for our lives knowing that His same love for them is reciprocated to mankind, to all who will accept the God of Israel today. I accept THEM, and am happy to know THEIR love is so powerful for Israel and mankind. :)

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