Here in the so-called Bible Belt, I’m guessing that the numbers would be well over 90% in the affirmative. Everybody believes in God and loves Him, allegedly. But for all the numbers of people who talk about their love for God, I am always astounded by the percentage that move seamlessly from profession of that love to the spouting of filth, rebellion, and hatred for others.
These things are incompatible with a love for God, because love is not just warm feelings toward Him. If we want to know whether or not we really love God, the apostle John points out three tests in I John 5:1-3.
1. We cannot separate our love for the Father from our love for the Son.
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (I John 5:1).
We can’t claim to love Jesus, but hate God the Father. But we also cannot love God the Father unless we come to Him through Jesus Christ. John connects our love for the Father with our love for Jesus Christ, and also says that no one can even approach the Father unless it’s by Jesus Christ (John 14:6). If you claim to love God, but you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior and been “born of God” (I John 5:1), then your love for God is incomplete. Do we love the Son of God for Who He is and what He did, or do we act as though we’re acceptable to God apart from Christ?
2. We cannot separate our love for God from our love for His people.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments” (I John 5:2).
John connects our love for God with our love for His people. I’m tired of seeing the billboards that say things like Love God but hate church? in order to advertize their congregations. The local church is the bride of Christ, the people of God. While there are churches that have hurt people with their attitudes and actions, and they are wrong for doing so, it is wrong for other churches to teach their attendees to respond by hating traditional churches or the people in them. In the verse above, we are told that if we love God, we’ll love His people. In the previous chapter, we’re told that those who profess to love God while failing to love their Christian brothers and sisters are lying about loving God (I John 4:20). Do we love God’s people, or do we harbor bitterness and hatred toward fellow Christians?
3. We cannot separate our love for God from our obedience toward Him.
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).
This is a simple principle: If we love God, we ought to act like it. John tells us that loving God means keeping His commandments. Christians, if we claim to love God, but our actions show that we love to wallow in the filth of the world, then we’re deceiving ourselves. We cannot love God and love sin, because sin is rebellion against God. (To be clear, we do good works, not to get saved, but because we’re saved.) Do we demonstrate our love through obedience, or do we delude ourselves and pretend that we can serve two masters?
If we can’t pass these three tests, we have two options: 1) quit pretending we love God while giving Christianity a bad name; or, 2) we confess our sin, and seek the help of the Holy Spirit in loving and serving God as we should.