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How do I love God?

“Whoever loves God is known by God...” —1 Corinthians 8:31

Asking "how do I love someone" is both simple and complicated, isn't it? Firstly, it can be hard to choose to love someone who doesn't have the same feelings for us. We may find it easier to love someone if they've expressed love for us first. With God, that's just the case! 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because [God] first loved us."

But why would anyone choose to love us first? Human beings are messy creatures with finicky feelings and all kinds of conditions on who we choose to love. We often need a good reason to love someone. With God, He already knows us through and through, and He has decided that we are people He wants to love. Romans 5:8 tells us that "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Jesus gave us some great instructions about how to love God in Matthew 22:37, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Heart, soul, and mind? That pretty much covers our whole being, doesn't it? Choosing to love God is the first and greatest commandment that Jesus gives us (Matthew 22:38). God desires our full devotion, though He still gives us a choice. We can choose to love Him or reject Him, and that choice will make all the difference in the world (John 3:16; Romans 8:1).

Loving God with Our Hearts

If you've ever fallen in love, you may understand how heart-wrenchingly powerful that emotion can be. That kind of love is deeply embedded in the heart. That kind of love can be so strong it hurts. It's this kind of unwavering adoration that God truly desires from us. We find this kind of heartfelt love in King David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). He begins Psalm 42 with, "As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2, NLT).

Even so, our hearts can fail and resort to that finicky nature. When our affections waver, that doesn't make God love us any less. We can still turn to Him, just as David did: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25-26). Our Heavenly Father longs for us to be at His side in Heaven, and so should we long for His presence—both in this life and in eternity. (See Luke 15.)

Loving God with Our Minds

The Bible teaches us about God's will and how to live a healthy, joyful life (2 Timothy 3:16). This wisdom is from God, and mindfully trusting in the truth of this knowledge is another way of loving Him. Jesus made it very clear that obeying God is the same as loving Him when He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15) and, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 11:28).

When we obey God's commands, we're showing our love for Him in very tangible ways (John 14:23; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6; Psalm 40:8). Learning more about God, His character, and His story throughout time will help us know Him better and love Him more.

Loving God with Our Souls

Worship begins deep within the soul and comes out through our hearts. To worship God is to consider Him higher than anything else and live our lives according to that truth (Hebrews 13:15). When we worship God, we express our love for Him (Romans 12:1). Our loving worship is like "a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2).

The Psalms are filled with words of worship that reflect a deep, sacrificial, aching love for God. "My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God" (Psalm 84:2). (Also see Psalm 95:1-6; Psalm 43:4; Psalm 122:1.) When we lovingly worship God with all our soul, we give Him proper reverence and awe for the mighty inferno of power He is (Psalm 95:1-6).

Loving God by Loving Others

Remember how the first commandment Jesus gave us was to love God? The second one is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Humans have a natural tendency to love and value themselves by seeing to their own needs, and what Jesus is saying is that we ought to love and value others in the same way. Extending love to the people in our lives is another part of loving God.

That's why 1 John 4:7-11 instructs us, "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 . . . as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

A Story of True Love

Perhaps one of the purest examples of loving God can be found at the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50. A woman, who was known by all in the city to be a sinner, heard that Jesus would be at the house of Simon, a Pharisee. She picked up a precious bottle of expensive perfume and went to Him. As she knelt behind Jesus, feeling unworthy to even be seen by Him, she wept. Then "she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment" (v. 38).

While Simon expressed his disgust, Jesus rebuked him with a lesson, concluding, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Luke 7:44-47). The woman showed Jesus her love with everything she had to offer.

God loves us deeply and desires the same affection from us—His sons and daughters. He does not demand our love, rather, He draws us close with gentleness and kindness (1 John 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God has been chasing our hearts since the first sin separated humanity from Him (Ephesians 1:3-10). "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

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TL;DR

Jesus gave us some great instructions about how to love God in Matthew 22:37, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." We can choose to love Him or reject Him, and that choice will make all the difference in the world (John 3:16; Romans 8:1). God loves us deeply and desires the same affection from us—His sons and daughters. He does not demand our love, rather, He draws us close with gentleness and kindness (1 John 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God has been chasing our hearts since the first sin separated humanity from Him (Ephesians 1:3-10).

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two teenage kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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