As Christians, we know that God loves us, but what does the bible say about loving God? 

Many people claim to “love” God.  But what exactly does it mean to love God?  And how can we know if we really love Him? 

Recently, I have encountered so many unbiblical answers to these questions online, on social media, and in personal conversations. So, in this post, we will dive into Scripture to see what it really means to love God and how to demonstrate our love for Him.

woman holding bible and loving god

What Loving God is NOT

In order to understand what loving God is, we must first look at what the Bible says is NOT what it means to love God. Many people (including some Christians) have four common misconceptions about what it means to love God.

Generally speaking, love is an emotion that the Webster’s dictionary defines as:

  • a strong or deep affection for
  • to like or enjoy very much
  • to hold dear or cherish

Love as an emotion can be relative and come in many different forms.  There is the love you might have for a relative, a friend, a lover, a famous person you admire, a mentor, a hobby, a sport, a food, a place, etc.  

Love as an emotion can also be very fickle.  Which is why loving God is NOT an emotion.  Yes, our love for God will often be accompanied by feelings, but emotion is not the basis of it.  If we are being honest, we don’t always feel a deep affection for God.  In fact, we may sometimes feel the exact opposite.  But loving God is something we are called to do regardless of how we feel.

Asaph said it best:

In heaven I have only you, and on this earth you are all I want.  My body and mind may fail, but you are my strength and my choice forever. 

Psalm 73:25-26 CEV

The statement “I love God” gets casually tossed around more often than you might think, even by people who don’t profess to be Christians.

Expressing our love to God in words is never wrong.  In fact, just like our emotions, our words can be an accompaniment to our love for God.

I love you, Lord God, and you make me strong. You are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector, the rock where I am safe, my shield, my powerful weapon, and my place of shelter. 

Psalm 18:1-2 CEV

But loving God in and of itself is NOT lip service.  Simply saying that you love God doesn’t make it so.  Lip service may fool people, but it has NEVER fooled God:

  • You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.  Matthew 15:7-8 NIV
  • They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.
    But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.  Psalm 78:35-37 NIV

Because God looks at our hearts, He sees past our words.  And only He knows if the outward expression of our words lines up with a heart that actually does love Him.

Another common way in which people define love for God is by doing a ton of good deeds or works.  Doing good deeds for the kingdom of God is indeed something God has called Christians to do.  However, good deeds should never be done as a means of attaining salvation or of gaining blessings post-salvation.

  • For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.   Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
  • At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’ But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.’  Matthew 7:22-23 TLB

Once again, we have a heart issue.  God sees past so called “good deeds” that on the surface might say ‘I love God’, but at the heart level may reveal something else.

It’s easy for anyone to claim a love for God when good things are happening to them (getting a raise, a gift, good news from a friend, celebrating a milestone, etc).  And again, it’s not wrong to express love to God for His blessings in your life.  The problem is when we equate loving the blessings with loving the blesser (God).

Shortly after Jesus miraculously fed the crowd of 5,000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, they followed him to the other side of the lake:

When they arrived and found him, they said, “Sir, how did you get here?” Jesus replied, “The truth of the matter is that you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you believe in me. But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. No, spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Messiah, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for this very purpose.” 

John 6:25-27 TLB

Jesus goes on to talk with them further about accepting Him as Lord, living for God, and what the Christian life would look like.  Their response afterward was as follows:

Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you?”  At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.

John 6:60-61, 66 NLT

It says “many” of his disciples turned away.  They had been following Jesus all around town, observing miracles, and even reaping the blessings from them, but at the end of the day they ONLY wanted his blessings.  They didn’t want Him.  They didn’t love Him. 

Only those who truly love Him can and will respond as Peter (a true disciple) did:

Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” 

John 6:67-69 NLT

So, if loving God is NOT emotions, lip service, good deeds to win His favor, or simply loving His blessings, then what is it?  What does it look like in everyday life? Let’s dig into the Bible and see.

What Does the Bible Say About Loving God?

Although we could probably come up with a hundred different meanings of what loving God is or ways to love God, essentially, there are 5 keys things that the bible teaches about loving God.

1. Loving God is the Greatest Commandment

When asked point blank, ‘What is the greatest commandment,’ Jesus was very clear:

‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’  

Matthew 22:36-38 NIV

Above everything else, loving God is the absolute, first and foremost, top of the list, most important, number one priority, and greatest commandment there is for every true Christian. 

When we understand the importance that God places on this, that should really drive us to better learn and understand what it means to love Him.  And the answer to that question is within the same verse.

2. Loving God is a Heart Posture of Commitment

Jesus doesn’t just say ‘love God’.  He tells us how to love God – with all our heart, soul, and mind! 

Some bible teachers will describe heart, soul, and mind as three separate things.  However, Scripture actually uses the words interchangeably to denote the same thing.  In fact, the original Hebrew word for heart in Scripture is lêb, which means the inner person, the seat of thought and emotion, the conscience, the mind, and our understanding. 

Our hearts are who we are at the very core. When you see the three words used together like this, it is meant to place emphasis. 

The Greek word for love in the passage is agapao which means to give ourselves over to completely.  This love has nothing to do with the warm fuzzies or even intense feelings.  It’s about fully committing to God from our core being and putting him first in every area of our lives.  It’s a heart posture of devotion and commitment.  After all, that’s what it means to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.  That’s what you agree to when you say ‘yes’ to Christianity.

Unfortunately, like the disciples we read about who turned away from Jesus, many people are saying ‘yes’, but their hearts aren’t really committed.  And God could care less about what we say because He is ONLY concerned with what is in our hearts:

  • But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7 NIV
  • A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2 NIV
  • O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.  You know everything I do.  You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.  Psalm 139:1-4 NLT

The good news is that God equips all true Christians with the capability to love Him in the way He requires.

3. The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Love God

We must always remember what the Bible teaches about love:  God Himself is the definition and epitome of love, the creator and source of it, and the ultimate demonstrator of love! 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

1 John 4:7-10 NIV

Our love for God starts by encountering His amazing, sacrificial, and overwhelming love for us.

And it is ONLY by the power of the Holy Spirit living within us that we have the capability to love in the way that God requires us to.  We CANNOT truly love God, others, or even ourselves, on our own. 

  • We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19 NIV
  • But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
  • For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

Because the Holy Spirit equips us to love God, we are therefore empowered to demonstrate that love.  And the bible gives us a clear answer to what that looks like on a daily basis.

4. Love for God is Demonstrated by Obedience to His Word

I love how practical and clear Jesus made it for his followers when it comes to loving God.  He had already told them that loving God was the greatest commandment and that it was something to be exhibited from a heart level.  To make sure they completely understood what that should look like in everyday Christian living, he made the following statement:

Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command.

John 14:15 CEV

It doesn’t get any plainer than that.  If we truly love God, we will obey His Word! 

When we understand that Jesus was God and that he was the Word made flesh, we understand that Jesus and His Word are one and the same. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

John 1:1, 14 NIV

Do we realize that we can’t love God but NOT love His Word?

Remember, loving God is a heart posture of commitment.  And because God is His Word, we should have that same heart posture of commitment towards His Word as well.  When this is the case, obedience results naturally.

The question is, what is your heart posture toward the Word of God?  Do you love spending time reading your bible? Do you enjoy devotional time?  Or is it a non-existent priority in your life? 

Do you find yourself with no desire or interest in the bible?  Or maybe you question its reliability and divine authority.  Are you afraid to be confronted with the truth?  Or maybe you could care less about what the bible says.

Whatever the case, it is vital for every Christian to honestly assess and acknowledge his/her attitude toward Scripture because again, the Bible is clear:

  • In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.  1 John 5:3 NIV
  • And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.  2 John 6 NIV

This doesn’t mean if you don’t perfectly obey God all the time then you don’t love God.  That’s impossible on this side of heaven.  What it does mean is that if we want to love God better, we need to develop a love for His Word.

Just like cultivating any other relationship requires spending time with the other person, so it is with God. God’s Word teaches us about His character and His kingdom. The more time we spend with Him in His Word and in prayer, the more we will get to know Him. And, as our relationship with God grows, the more we will begin to naturally desire to know Him better and to please Him by obeying His Word.

I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. 

Psalm 40:8 NLT

As Christians, we have two opposing mindsets that are always at war with each other (our natural sinful mindset and our spiritual mindset):

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 

Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

Our natural, sinful mindset wants nothing to do with God or His Word.  This is why we have to intentionally choose to walk in the Spirit daily to love God and obey His Word.

Let us not be like our non-Christian counterparts or other “fake” Christians who want nothing to do with God’s Word.  Jesus called out this type of heart posture often:

  • I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.  John 8:37 NIV
  • So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? Luke 6:46 NLT

Remember, at the end of the day, our emotions, lip service, and good works can and should accompany our love for God.   But God has made it very clear, even from Old Testament times, that the absolute best demonstration of our love for Him is obedience to His Word:

  • Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.  Deuteronomy 11:1 NIV
  • But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Joshua 22:5 NIV
  • But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”  1 Samuel 15:22 NLT
  • Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV

And Jesus doesn’t tell us anything to do that He didn’t model for us Himself:

When you obey me you are living in my love, just as I obey my Father and live in his love.

John 15:10 TLB

5. We Can’t Love God and Love the World

We have already seen in Scripture that loving God is the greatest commandment and a heart posture of commitment towards Him.  Because that is the case, it is important that we realize that our love for God must be exclusively above all other things and beings. Lukewarm, half-hearted, or apathetic fondness for God won’t do. Our heart posture of commitment must be one of total allegiance.  

The main reason for this is because God knows that so many other things will be competing for the same affection and place that He has in our lives.  And the bible is clear that nothing and no one else is worthy of the love and worship that belong specifically and solely to God.

  • You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.  Exodus 20:3-5 NLT
  • Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.  1 John 5:21 NLT

Our biggest obstacle to our love for God is love for this world and the things it has to offer.  When we love things other than God, we work against His desires for us:

  • Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God; for all these worldly things, these evil desires—the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance—these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself. And this world is fading away, and these evil, forbidden things will go with it, but whoever keeps doing the will of God will live forever.  1 John 2:15-17 TLB
  • No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].  Matthew 6:24 AMP

Even when it comes to the people in our lives that we are supposed to love, our love for God should be prioritized and superior to our love for them.  Check out Jesus’ words below:

  • If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.  Matthew 10:37 NLT
  • If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26 NLT

Our love for God should be placed at such a high level that, by comparison, our love for our loved ones and even ourselves should seem like hate.  Wow!

I don’t know about you, but are you starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, you don’t love God as much as you think you do?

The good news is we can all grow in our love for God. 

Heaven is not for people who are afraid of hell.  It’s for people who love God.  If you don’t love Him here on earth, you wouldn’t enjoy heaven anyway.

Pray to Love God More and More

We have seen clearly from Scripture, that as Christians, the greatest commandment we are called to obey is to love God.  And loving God is a heart posture of commitment towards Him, simply because of who He as our Lord and Savior. 

He has graciously and fully equipped us to love Him through the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us.  So, there are no excuses on our part.

Our love for God is demonstrated in our daily lives by our attitude and obedience to His Word.  Although we will never love God perfectly on this side of heaven, it should be our primary goal to love God more and more every day.

The more we spend time with God in His Word, the more we will get to know Him, and the easier it will be to love Him.  Let us all pray to love God more.  Pray for a desire to spend more time with Him.  Pray for a renewed heart posture toward His Word.  Pray for obedience.

Let’s stop letting our love for God simply be just an emotion we experience when something good happens to us or just casual lip service on special occasions.

Don’t let our love for God just be showing up at church occasionally, giving a big offering once a year, or volunteering in our community once a month.  Let’s stop only loving all the blessings in our lives and neglecting to spend time with the blesser.

Let’s not even make it a comparison game or a question of who loves God more.  When we go before the judgment throne, there will be no comparisons, just one-on-one with God.  And each of us has to make sure our own heart posture is right before Him.

Let us love God even when we don’t feel like it, when we’re having a bad day, or when we don’t see any blessings. 

Let us love God every single day, simply because He is God and because He alone deserves our praise.
  • As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  Psalm 46:1 NLT
  • I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.  With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.  Psalm 84:2 NLT
  • “Who is like you among the gods, O Lord— glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?  Exodus 15:11 NLT
  • “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.  For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”  Revelation 4:11 NLT

And lastly, like the psalmist, let us pray for a heart posture of commitment to obeying God’s Word:

Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.  Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.  Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.

Psalm 119:33-37 NLT

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Demetra is a busy, self-employed, single mom who loves Jesus and is a fanatic about prioritizing her time with God!  She created In the Mirror of God to help other Christian women learn how regularly looking into our spiritual mirror (the Bible) equips us to cultivate a deeper relationship with God, think biblically about everything, conquer the challenges of everyday life, and truly enjoy life to the fullest, the way God intended.  Go here to learn more about her story, or visit her contact page to send a quick message.

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What Does it Really Mean to Love God?

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