Happily for us, the Apostle John is never afraid to hammer a theme, nor does he fear being accused of redundancy as the following quotations will attest.
“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
“You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.
(John 14:21-24, 15; 15:14; I John 5:3; II John 6)
I say happily because few biblical truths are less understood by real saints than is the concept of biblical love. Those of us living today have so identified the idea of love with some emotion-based feeling that it has become nearly impossible to recover a biblical view of love. But with perfect omniscience, God has provided through these and other texts what He means by the term love. And as we read the quotations above, we discover that it has nothing to do with feelings and emotions. Certainly, the entire being (including feelings and emotions, but also the will, desires, thoughts, and energy) will be engulfed in the experience and expression of love. However, we must note that, by using the term love, God intends to convey the idea of obedience to His will, of keeping His commandments, and of doing so, not by constraint but from a genuine desire to please the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.
When the question is posed, then—“Do I love God?”—the right answer will not come in terms of warm feelings or happy, positive emotions. For the most part, only atheists and bitter, hardened sinners have completely negative thoughts about God. Most people find the idea of God to be a comforting concept and tend to think happy thoughts about Him, if for no other reason than a false belief that such thoughts will tend to put them in good stead with Him. (Again, not that emotion will be absent, but emotion is not “love” in the biblical sense in which God uses the term.)
So we might get a more accurate answer (if we are honest) if instead we asked: “Am I doing God’s will?” or, “Am I obeying God’s Word?” It would not be far off the mark to suggest that obedience is a synonym for love, or, more precisely, that doing God’s will in the power of His Spirit, and rejoicing to do so, is love. This, too, is different from keeping rituals, whether they involve attending church, reading the Bible, saying prayers, or other routine religious acts. No, to love God is to do His will, not in a ritualistic way in order to fulfill some religious obligation, but from a heart that is thankful for salvation and a will that wishes to glorify the Lord. Certainly, the psalms are filled with examples of emotional expressions (love does not preclude such any more than it includes them as an essential part of the definition). But genuine God-honoring, Spirit-precipitated emotions follow from love-obedience: emotion is not the manifestation, demonstration, or proof of sincere love. What we do and don’t do and our motivation for doing so is the test of our genuine love for God. Do I do what God tells me to do in His Word? Do I love Him?
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