Augustine observed, “There can only be two basic loves, the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self; or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God.”
From that it might then be asked, “whom do you love supremely? God or yourself?”
Now we all know what the answer should be — we should love God supremely and preeminently. But do we? And since our hearts are prone to self-deception, how can we be sure that we love the Lord? How do we know with certainty that He is our greatest treasure and desire? Like a young woman wrestling with her affections for a young man, we do well to ask, “Do I really love Him?”
And John offers a simple and helpful tool to evaluate whether we really do love God:
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2–3; NASB)
So from the disciples pen it is clear that a simple test of our love for God is whether we are obedient to Him. Do we, as an habitual pattern of our life obey the Word of God? Do we submit to Him and joyfully follow His leadership?
Now we might push against that statement and say, “but that’s impossible — no one can completely obey Christ.…It’s too hard.…No one can do that.…We’ll never make it.”
Yes, it is true that no one can obey God in every way in every circumstance; no one can resist every temptation to sin. Yet, as a believer in Christ, it is possible to please God (2 Cor. 5:9, 14-17). As a person redeemed from sin, it is now possible not to sin. It is possible through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to obey God. Jesus Himself says that this is the test of our love for Him (Jn. 14:15, 21-24).
And in the verses quoted above, John also affirms that for the one who loves God, these commands are not only achievable, but they are not burdensome to the believer. That is, the believer would rather obey God than indulge His flesh. It is a greater pleasure to Him to live to please His heavenly Father than please his nagging fleshly temptations. That does not mean there will not ever be wrestling. But it does mean that the wrestling is a joy to his soul as he contemplates the supremacy of living for the Lord.
So love God by obeying God.
Two statements by Thomas Watson are helpful summaries of this pursuit:
Make it your earnest request to God, that He will give you a heart to love Him. This is an acceptable request, surely God will not deny it. [All Things for Good]
The more violence [effort, persistence] we have used for heaven, the sweeter heaven will be when we come there. As when a man has been grafting trees or setting flowers in his garden, it is pleasant to review and look over his labors, so it shall be in heaven when we shall remember our former zeal and activity for the kingdom. It will enhance heaven and add to the joy of it. For a Christian to think, ‘Such a day I spent in examining my heart; such a day I was weeping for sin; when others were at their sport, I was at my prayers; and now, have I lost anything by this violence? My tears are wiped away and the wine of Paradise cheers my heart. I now enjoy Him whom my soul loves; I now have the crown and white robes I so longed for.’ [Heaven Taken by Storm]