Monday, March 3, 2014

Staying In Love With Jesus

"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; 
These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, 
who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: 
and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."
Revelation 2:1-4
(KJV)


There is something so precious...so strong....so powerful...
about first love.
That sweet honeymoon stage of a relationship when everything is new and so exciting.
That feeling you have when you have fallen with all your heart...
when you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you love someone else more than you love yourself.
Those emotions that compel you to a point of willingness to do anything for them,
to lay aside personal comfort, for the sake of their comfort.

First love is all-consuming.
It is overwhelming.
It takes over every, single thing about your life.
You live and breathe for someone else.
You don't count the cost...of anything it takes to please them.
You would literally lay down your life...for their sake...without flinching or giving it a second thought.

First love is deep.
There is nothing superficial about it.
It goes way beyond the surface....to a point inside yourself that you didn't even know existed.

First love is fearless.
It fills you with a sense of the reckless abandonment of your own will.
It drives you to points past your own limits.

First love is foremost.
It is the thing you focus on most.
Tending it, stoking its passion, is paramount.
If every other relationship is neglected, this one will not be.
It becomes all that matters to you.
It is most important.
It supersedes every other caring feeling in your heart.

First love is relentless.
It doesn't let go.
It doesn't give up.
It holds on tight, regardless.

In today's Scripture, Jesus was speaking to His disciple, John,
who was spending his last years in exile on the Isle of Patmos.
Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision that we now know as The Revelation,
which is the last and final book of our Bible.

Jesus told John to write to seven specific churches, 
located at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
They were letters...from Jesus Christ to the spiritual overseers of the individual churches.
In the letters, Jesus faithfully commended them for the things they were doing right.
He also admonished them for wrongdoing and told them what they needed to do 
to improve and come back in line with where they ought to be.

The church at Ephesus had a lot of things going for it.
They were full of good works.
They weren't lazy.
They were faithful to labor and toil for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
They were patient.  Jesus actually mentioned this twice...in His letter to them.
They had a deep abhorrence for evil and found it to be intolerable.
They weren't carried away by every wind of doctrine.  
(Ephesians 4:14)
They were discerning.
They knew what was true and real, so they could identify the false.
They didn't just take the word of those who professed to be apostles of Christ, 
but they carefully tried their spirits to see if indeed they were who they claimed to be.  
(I John 4:1)
They were long-suffering, bearing up to the trials that came their way, 
rising to the challenges with which they were faced.
They had worked for Him, tirelessly, without fainting,
and had not become weary in well-doing. (Galatians 6:9)

Pretty impressive stuff, huh?

If I were to one day walk to our mailbox,
reach my hand in and pull out an envelope addressed to me,
with the name Jesus Christ in the upper left-hand corner,
I would anxiously tear it open.
My hands would shake...severely....as I eagerly read His words,
and if He wrote to me, the praiseworthy words He wrote to the Ephesian church,
I would begin to relax, and the tension would ease, as I got into the first few lines.
I imagine I would be feeling pretty good about myself at this point.
I would be fighting the prideful feelings 
that were poking their ugly heads up and around my ego....
trying to resist the urge to give myself a huge pat on the back.

But then....as I read on....and got to the next part of the letter,
the words....His words!
How they would pierce deep.....and stop me in my tracks!
Every shred of pride would melt away.
If I weren't sitting down, I would more than likely find a place to sit....
mighty quickly....
to absorb the shock.

His words!
They would fall around my ears and heart....
like a bombshell.
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."

Another version of this reads...
"However, I have this against you: The love you had at first is gone."

How could this have happened?
This would be my first thought.
I thought I still loved Him!
I am doing this and this and this and all of this.....for Him!
Here, right here it is....in red letters.
He said I am patient, and I work hard.
He said I HATE evil, and I find it hard to tolerate those who perform it.
He said I am cautious, and I don't just listen to the advice of everyone who claims to be His apostle.
That I try their spirits, and if they aren't of God, I am not persuaded to follow them.
He said I am not easily moved from my belief in Him....
that I have not fainted, and I am faithful to labor for Him...even when it is hard.
So, how can it be?
How can I be doing all of this....
and no longer be in love with Jesus?

Have I become mechanical?
Robotic?
Am I doing what I'm doing from habit?
Just because I know I'm supposed to?
How did I lose that...that initial, first love I had for Him?
How did it leak out without me seeing it?
Why haven't I missed it....until now?

Suddenly, it would hit me...that He is exactly right.
Isn't He always?
Doesn't He know every, single thing about us?
His very words....there in His letter....
they are "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, 
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, 
and of the joints and marrow, 
and are a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12

He knows us.
Right down to the very intentions of why we do what we do.
Right down to the very factors of motivation.
He feels the distance when we have allowed it to come between us.
Even though we are still "living for Him", 
even though we go about minding Him, 
doing His bidding, tirelessly working...doing....going....always busy.
How is it that we keep fulfilling our "obligations" when it is not motivated by love for Him?

How did the church leader at Ephesus feel...when he opened and read that letter?
I can only imagine.
I try to picture that same letter...being sent to me...and how I would react.

The thing that would hurt me the most is to know that something...somewhere along the line...
had tripped me up and convinced me to leave my first, initial-intensity love for Him.


There is a big difference in loving someone 
and being in love with them.

Being "in love" with Jesus
and not deserting our "first love" means...
 retaining and maintaining that first, initial fire.
It means keeping sight of the old, rugged cross
and the passionate love that held Him there.
It means keeping Calvary at the forefront...
ever keeping in view what He accomplished there.


How can you think of the cross without falling 
and perpetually re-falling in love with Jesus, 
over and over and over again?

Have we lost our first love?
Have we been doing this for so long that it has become just a way of life for us?
Are we doing it for the right reasons?

Have you ever been around someone who is completely in love with Jesus?
Whose face lights up at the mere mention of His name?
Whose main purpose for getting out of bed in the morning is to spend time with Him,
follow Him, and stay as near to Him as is humanly possible?
Who can't wait to escape from everything else, just to spend cherished moments alone with Him?
Who has spent so much time with Him, that their resemblance to Him is astounding?
Who cries and whose face takes on a far-off tender look at the mere mention of Calvary?
Whose determination to defend Him is tireless and unrelenting?
Who would rather die than to grieve His heart?
Who is determined to please Him, even if the cost of doing so exhausts every available resource?
Whose passion and zeal is so contagious that it is impossible to be around them
without falling in love with Him....all over again.....yourself?

If you know someone like this, you know someone who has not left their first love.
You know someone who has done whatever it took to keep the flame alive...
and burning...inside the very depths of their soul.

It takes effort to stay close to Him and not to leave our first love.
But, it is oh, so worth whatever it takes.
Because He is precious.
He gave literally everything He had to show His love for us.
He couldn't have tried any harder.
He couldn't have given any more.

I know He doesn't write us individual letters,
as He wrote the seven Asian churches.
But, if He did write a letter to me, 
I pray I would never give Him reason to say such tragic words.
I don't ever want to leave my first love....
or lose the fire that burns within me.
I want my whole life to be an expression of that fire of love...burning deep inside.

It is real, my friend.
Do you feel it?
Do you still love Him as you did when you first met...
with that first love intensity?
Does it still thrill you to be with Him....
to pray...to read His Word...to be still enough to hear His voice?
Do you still hunger and thirst for His righteousness?
Is being with Him still the biggest thrill of your heart?
Do you pull yourself away from other things...and people...
to be alone with Him as often as possible?
Is He front and center of every, single thing you do?

First love can be lost...it can be left....for other things.
But, only if we allow it to happen.

Jesus went on to give the Ephesian church a remedy for their problem.
The antidote was to "repent, and do the first works".
In other words, come back to Him, as you did in the beginning.
Seek His face.
Turn away from whatever it is that caused you to leave your first love.
The International Standard Version states it this way,
"Repent and go back to what you were doing at first."
Turn loose of whatever you love more than Jesus.
Make a conscious choice to rekindle your "first love" for Him...whatever it takes.

If Jesus were to write you a letter, what would He say?
On what matters would He commend you?
On what matters would He condemn?
Would He tell you that you have left your first love?

I Corinthians 13:1 says,
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, 
I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; 
and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing."

The Ephesian church were rich in works.
They were doing the right things.
They were making the right sacrifices.
They were busy, patient, discerning, and against evil.
But, in all of their busyness, they had lost the love of God.
Love for Him was no longer their motivation.Therefore, Jesus had something "against them".
There was something standing in the way of perfect communion with Him.

Why do we do what we do?
What is our motivation?
Is it to be seen of men?
Is it to sooth our conscience?
Is it to give us bragging rights?
Is it to get something in return?

Or is it love...for Him Who died for us....
pure, unadulterated, untainted...by any other motivation?

I want to love Him more.
Last night, something happened that made me fall in love with Him all over again.
I wept from the depths of my soul,
as I, once again, considered His awful suffering.

I don't ever want to forget what He did for me.
I don't ever want to allow anything to lure me away from my first love for Jesus.
It is intense.
Real.
Genuine.
Sincere.
Full of passion.
Alive.
Dedicated.

If you find that you no longer feel that first love for Him,
if your relationship with Him has grown cold...void of passion....
don't be discouraged.
Don't give up.
Don't keep going in the same direction.
Make the choice to turn around.
Find a place alone with Him, and pray.
Pour out your heart to Him.
Ask Him to rekindle your first love.
Run back to His loving arms...
they are wide open now....
waiting...just for you.
He still feels the same toward you.

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, 
nor things present, nor things to come, 
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, 
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38,39


Our love for Him may change,
but His love for us never will.





4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reminder sister. Need those words.
    I am encouraged and inspired!

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    1. And you bless and encourage me! Love, Cheryl

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  2. Yes, we need to be reminded that Christ is our first love! Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving encouragement behind! God bless!

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