“HOW MUCH DO I REALLY LOVE GOD?” This is a question that’s been on my mind over the last two years. In any relationship, love must be something that is both received and given. It won’t work if it’s only going one way. And over and over again growing up, I’ve heard from ministers and have read in the Bible that God loves me, He loves each of us, but the question I found myself repeatedly asking is, “Do I really love God? And how do I know?”
TAKING A HARD LOOK AT MY LOVE FOR GOD
I grew up going to church, and singing hymns, choruses and songs to God during worship, and I’ve written songs expressing my love for Him. But during the week, Monday through Saturday, do I love God with the same intensity, the same emotions that I do when I am standing in church? It’s easy to say I love God when things are going well, or when I get a raise or a bonus, or when everyone in my family is healthy, but what about when things are not going well, when I am sick or someone I love is sick, or when a tragedy happens? Do I love God still, or do I turn on Him, and begin to blame Him for everything wrong in my life?
FACING THE REALITY
I wish I could say that I’ve always loved God, even in the darkest of moments, but the truth is that there’s been many times when I’ve gotten plenty angry when I’ve prayed for things and they didn’t happen, or when a tragedy happened, I’ve turned around and blamed God for my circumstance. Over the last few years, I’ve had to really look hard at myself, and I’ve discovered things about myself and my relationship with God that I’m not proud of. My relationship with God has been more superficial, on the surface, but over the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been really trying to work on putting more real “substance” into my relationship with Him. Not just love Him in church with words, but with my words and actions all seven days of the week.
I remember many years ago, there was a song written and performed by Gary S. Paxton called, “I Wonder If God Cries.” As a teen, it was a song that made me begin to think differently about God. I had forgotten about the song after I got married and started having a family of my own, but recently, God has brought it back to my remembrance. The lyrics of the song are the following:
I wonder if God cries / when we do the things we do /
do love drops fill His eyes / cause He loves us, oh, so true? /
Sometimes I feel such hurt / when I try to realize /
that even though He’s God / I wonder if God cries. /
I wonder if God cries / is His heart filled with pain /
Does He bow and weep / when we damn His holy name? /
I wish I could see Him / and for the world apologize /
when we stumble so / I wonder if God cries. /
Maybe time will tell / when we reach that distant shore /
with all His children home / maybe God will cry no more. /
Even though He’s God / I wonder if God cries.
How many times do we stop to consider how what we say or do makes God feel? I know I don’t stop to think about this nearly enough.
DO WE REALLY “LOVE” GOD?
Do we really “LOVE God,” or do we love what He does for us? Do we seek His Face, His Presence, or are we after His hand, what He can do for us? Do we love Him as a person? Do we love His personality, the way He thinks or feels? Do we ever stop and wonder what makes Him smile, laugh, or cry? Do we only want enough of God to keep us out of Hell, or do we want all of God that we can get?
I have wondered, maybe, we like having God around in our lives so that when we are sick or in need, He will heal us and provide for us, but how often after we have received that, do we then go our own way and focus on living our own lives, our own goals, our own wants? How often do we not give God any other thought until we need Him again? But I have to ask myself, Is treating someone like this “LOVE”??
When we love someone, aren’t we supposed to care about him as a person? Care about what he likes or doesn’t like? Care about what makes him smile or laugh, or even what makes him cry? And yet, it’s so easy to get so focused on “my wants,” “my needs,” my health,” “my financial breakthroughs,” that we don’t ever stop to actually think about God, His needs or His wants. And yes, God does have “needs” and “wants.” Not for Himself, but in wanting to bring more people into His Kingdom, as well as meet the needs of those inside and outside of His Kingdom.
But again, are we only trying to get what we can from God and our relationship with Him, or are we contributing to this relationship as well? Are we spending time “wooing after God,” in the same way that He “woos after us”? Are we being faithful to Him, as He is to us?” Are we giving “grace” to God, as He gives “grace” to us? Remember, a real relationship is two-sided, not one. I can’t just receive from God, I must also give to Him, if the relationship is real. God gave us His all, including the life of His only begotten Son, am I giving Him my all in return?
In looking at this issue further, here are six (6) basic ways we can use to begin to measure our love and passion for God:
DO WE PRAY?
Do we spend time each day in prayer with God? When we really love or care about someone, we like to spend time with them, speaking with them, sharing our day with them. But if we don’t have a desire to spend time with someone, or even have a desire to speak with them, then we would have to question our claim that we actually do love or care about them.
Although I do pray, I don’t spend as much time in prayer as I should. I need to work on developing that part of my relationship with God more. I admire people, like David and Daniel, who prayed three times a day. I would like to develop that kind of daily prayer life. But the fact is, what is really important to us is seen not in what we say is important to us, but in what we do. And I know that this is an area I need to develop more in my relationship with Him.
DO WE STUDY THE BIBLE?
Do we spend time reading and studying the Bible? There are many American Christians who say they love God, but they don’t spend any time during the week reading or studying the Bible. How can we say we love someone, but then not have any curiosity to find out who they are, what they are like, or what they want from us as His partner in the relationship? This is another place where we fail to live up to our confessions of love.
This is apparent that we are not loving God in this area since several studies and articles have been written about the growing biblical illiteracy in America. For example, in the online article “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches” (July 6, 2015), by Ed Stetzer,
A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers [almost 20%] say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.
Regularly spending time in the Word is what strengthens us spiritually, so obviously if almost 60% of American Christians do not spend a regular time in the Word, then they would be spiritually weak and open to attacks from the enemy. In a more recent survey, published on April 25, 2017, called “Americans are Fond of the Bible, Don’t Actually Read It,” the Lifeway Research study discovered that the majority of American Christians have not read through the Bible even once. Of that 80%, 23% have either not read it or just a few sentences. Only 20% of people sitting in a church have actually read through the Bible from cover-to-cover at least once.
Obviously, if we’re not reading the Bible, then how can we know who God is, what He is like and what’s He’s not like, or even what He expects of us as His people? If we are not reading the Bible, then how can we expect God to transform our lives? How can we “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) if we are not reading the Bible? How is God supposed to believe that we sincerely love Him, if we are not even willing to open the Bible at home to read about Him? How can we say that we would rather die than give up our faith when we won’t even crack a Bible during the week?
DO WE OBEY GOD?
Obviously, if we are not even reading the Bible, then how can we obey Him? How can we say that we are obeying Him if we don’t even know what it is that He wants us to do? Without a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, there’s no way any of us can really be living our lives in obedience to God. In fact, over and over again, throughout the Scriptures, God repeatedly says, “IF YOU LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.” But how do we do that if we don’t even know what it is He has commanded?
James says that if our faith does not result in corresponding actions, then our faith is dead (James 2:17, 26). In fact, he says,
But be ye doers of the word, and NOT HEARERS ONLY, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22; Emphasis mine)
If all you do is listen to the words of the Bible, but you don’t make it a part of your life by putting it into action in how you live each day, then you are only “deceiving” yourself into believing you have a relationship with God when you don’t. Even if you get emotionally moved during the sermon, jumping up and down or running around, but you do not obey God’s word outside of church, in your day-to-day life, then your faith is dead, and you are only deceiving yourself. The sad reality is that a dead faith will ultimately get you the same eternal destination as no faith at all. It’s time to wake up and to put life into your faith – BEFORE it’s too late!
DO WE GO TO CHURCH?
Another area where many Christians are failing when it comes to loving God is going to church. More and more churches in America are being forced to close their doors due to non-attendance. In fact, among those who are still open, many of them no longer have any services on Sunday nights because there’s not enough people coming to warrant keeping the electricity on during those few hours.
How is God to feel about our alleged love and devotion to Him when we won’t even come to church to worship Him? Do you really think God believes we love Him when we would rather watch a football game on Sunday night than go to church? C’mon, really? We are not fooling God by our claims of love while failing to demonstrate our love for Him in our lives. The only person we are fooling is ourselves.
DO WE TELL OTHERS ABOUT JESUS?
When we fall in love with someone, we can’t wait to tell all of our family and friends about him or her. But when it comes to Jesus, do we feel at least the same level of passion towards Him? Are we sharing Him with our family and friends? How about our co-workers at our job, or do we keep our relationship with Jesus a secret, hidden away, because we’re afraid that if we tell them about Jesus, then we’ll be mocked, made fun of, or even lose friends?
If you kept your boyfriend or girlfriend a secret from your family and friends, afraid to mention him or her to anyone, don’t you think they would believe that you were ashamed of them, of even being seen with them? If that’s true of how they would feel, how much more do you think Jesus feels when we are afraid to mention His name, or our relationship with Him, to our family, friends and co-workers? In fact, Jesus even said,
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him [or her] also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38; a similar statement is made by Jesus in Luke 9:26)
Are you ashamed of Him? A great article to read with 13 examples of ways to test whether you are ashamed of Him is an article written by an Australian Christian: Steven Kryger’s “Are You Ashamed of Jesus? Consider These 13 Examples.”
DO WE MINISTER TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS?
Finally, do we minister to the needs of others? All that Jesus died to do was not just for you to keep for yourself, but it was so that you could share Him with others, as well as to minister to their needs. How are people to know that there’s more to the gospel than a bunch of words, if we are not willing to put ourselves out there and demonstrate the power of His name and the gospel message by ministering to others? When you see someone in need, do you like the priest and levite, just walk or drive past him, or do you follow the example of the “good Samaritan,” and stop and help? Yes, it can be scary at first to put yourself out there, but our love for Jesus demands that we do so.
A WAKE-UP CALL – NOT A CONDEMNATION!
Please do not take this article as if I am trying to condemn you, I am not. I am trying to give you the same wake-up call that God gave to me. The result of His call is that it changed my life, and I am hoping that the effect of this article on others will be the same.
There will be those who will try to argue that I am teaching “works righteousness,” but I am not. I am teaching that we need to do more than simply say, “I love Jesus,” we need to demonstrate that love by what we say and do not only in the church, but also outside of the church Monday through Saturday. In fact, I believe that what we say and do outside of the church is, in fact, even more important than what we say or do inside the church, because the true test of our love for Christ will happen when we leave the church doors, not when we enter them.
But yes, we should enter them. God says in His word that –
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and SO MUCH THE MORE, AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING. (Hebrews 10:23-25; Emphasis mine)
First of all, we are told that we are “NOT” to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together.” This means that if we regularly stay home and do not go to church, even though we are able to do so, then we are in violation of Scripture. Also, notice that we are supposed to be meeting MORE OFTEN the closer it gets to the day of the Lord’s return. But instead of gathering more often, American Christians are gathering less often, in contradiction to the teachings of the Scriptures.
If you have not found one already, please find a church that teaches the whole Word of God, not just the New Testament, but all of it. You want a minister who believes that it is his or her duty to teach “the whole counsel of God,” from cover to cover. And you also want a minister who believes in interpreting the Bible literally, unless it’s obvious that what is being said is not to be taken literally. For example, when the Bible refers to us as “His sheep” or when Jesus says, “He is the door,” these are obviously passages that are not to be taken literally. But any other references should be taken literally.
We need to love God, and not just with our words, but in our actions as well. LOVE Him with all that you are, all that you have, and with all the resources you have available to you. Love Him 24-7, not just for a few hours a week on Sunday mornings. And when you begin to love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, beginning with these six (s) simple ways, you will begin to see God transform your life, just as He has transformed mine.