ASK ANY PROFESSED Christian if he loves God and his answer would most likely be in the affirmative. Then ask him how he proves it, and you could get responses that range from the most profound to the most trivial.
“I go to church on a regular basis, pray at every opportune time, and give my generous contributions,” one may retort. “I simply follow the golden rule—‘Do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you’,” is a common reply. “I am a devotee of a patron saint, and I never fail to perform religious rituals in his honor,” declares another. Others, while admitting that they do not attend church nor they are affiliated with any organized religion, maintain that God is constantly in their minds and hearts, and for them, that’s all that matters.
The unmistakable proof
According to the Scriptures, how can those who truly love God, be identified? Apostle John provides us this answer:
“But those who obey God’s word really do love him. That is the way to know whether or not we live in Him.” (I John 2:5 New Living Translation)
Obeying God’s word or teaching is the way to prove one’s love for Him. One may say “I love God” a million times but those words are shallow and meaningless unless he keeps the commandments of God. It must also be emphasized that it is God’s teachings—and not man’s—that should be followed, inasmuch as man-made doctrines will render one’s service to God useless (Matt. 15:9).
What kind of love—and obedience to His words for that matter—does God seek from His servants? The Bible has this to say:
“Because the LORD your God is like a flaming fire; he tolerates no rivals.” (Deut. 4:24 Good News Bible)
The absolute one God does not want divided loyalty, “exacting exclusive devotion” (Deut. 4:24 New World Translation) from His people.
What is an example of disloyalty to God which He will not tolerate? In Exodus 20:3-5, God declares the following:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (New King James Version)
The worship of graven images or idols is an act of betrayal against God. For how can someone claim that he loves God Who is Spirit in nature (John 4:24) and invisible (I Tim. 1:17), and at the same time pay homage and bow down before an image made of ‘gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29 NKJV). God calls such idols as “other gods” and describes those who worship them as people “who hate Me.”
Refusal to fulfill God’s will
“That’s the very reason we left that church that practices idol worship,” some people may aver. But what is the will of God that many people today not only have failed to understand but refuse to obey as well? Apostle Paul made this revelation:
“God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.” (Eph. 1:9-10 GNB)
Those who claim to love God should make every effort to fulfill His plan, that all men be brought together or gathered—and not scattered in various sects and denominations—with the Lord Jesus Christ as head. How can this plan of God be executed? When men shall have become parts or members of the one body in Christ (Rom. 12:4-5). The body being referred to is the Church (Col. 1:18), the name of which is the Church Of Christ (Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation).
For those who dismiss the importance of membership in the true Church and embrace the faith-alone concept of salvation, that is, simply believing in God and in Christ and accepting the Latter as one’s personal savior is enough to attain salvation, their so-called love for God is empty and plain lip service.
The true recipients of God’s love
“And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” (I John 4:9-10 GNB)
John the apostle, one of the pillars of the first-century Church Of Christ, articulated how by sending God’s only Son into the world, “God had showed his love for us.” The word “us”, a pronoun that signifies plurality could be the most popular part of speech in that particular verse, given the number of people claiming to be its antecedents. Plainly put, there are multitudes that think and claim that they are recipients of God’s love and therefore, the ones whose sins are forgiven.
“How can a loving, compassionate God not love every human being He has created? It is unimaginable that a benevolent God would limit His love to a single group of people, and consign the rest to eternal perdition”, some people would say.
Such mentality clearly illustrates how many have confused love with condoning iniquity, as if it were cruelty on the part of the Creator if He would punish the guilty for their non-compliance to His will.
Those who received God’s love
“And that this hope never disappoints, because God’s love for us floods our hearts through the holy Spirit who has been given to us … But God gives proof of His love to us in Christ’s dying for us while we were still sinners. Much more, then, now that we have been acquitted by His blood, shall we be delivered from God’s anger through Him.” (Rom. 5:5, 8-9 Weymouth New Testament)
Those who receive God’s love are the ones pronounced guilt-free or forgiven of their sins after having benefited from the sacrificial death of Christ. And whom does the Bible testify as having been redeemed or purchased with Christ’s precious blood? None other than the Church Of Christ:
“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28 Lamsa)
God’s everlasting love
Inasmuch as they are the ones who have heeded God’s call and thereby have proved their true love for Him, the true members of the Church Of Christ are assured of God’s unending love:
“The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end; I will keep forever my promise of peace,’ so says the LORD who loves you.” (Isa. 54:10 GNB)
Love, indeed, begets love. And no love is greater than that of God.
This article was originally published in the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine, September 2011 issue.