It’s that time of year that you’re either planning a warm, sunny vacation, enjoying one, or dreaming about one. Unfortunately, I’m in the last category. Seriously though, the bleakness of winter can accentuate our personal struggles. For me, it’s been a season of taking a long, hard look at some of my relational and emotional deficiencies that have been exposed under the spotlight of ‘conflict’.
Right when we think we’ve got a spiritual truth down is when we get blasted with the cold hard reality of our ‘lack’. But thankfully, the Lord sees our desire to be like Him and brings His Word to the rescue. He’s always eager for us to accept His invitation to a deeper, richer intimacy with Him.
This being the ‘LOVE’ month has brought the words of Jesus from Revelation 2 to a gripping climax in my heart. This is how I heard them spoken to me. “Remember your first love”.
Do you remember your first Love? When you first came to Jesus? The realization of just how loved you were by God? That place of joy, excitement, freedom, and purpose? Like many of us, perhaps you need to return to the place where you began your LOVE journey.
Losing Your First Love
We can lose sight of our ‘First Love’ by allowing ourselves to become distracted by the tasks of everyday life, the conflicts, or even the blessings. This is when we gradually lose the passion we once had and begin to overlook and forget the original joy, purpose, and pleasure that this LOVE brought us.
In Revelation 2: 1-7, Jesus affirms the church of Ephesus for its integrity and discernment to sound doctrine along with persevering through adversity but faulted them for “losing their first Love.”
Jesus is saying that because they lost their passion and zeal for Him,
they began to “go through the motions.” Their works were no longer motivated by their Love for Him but became empty religion instead of the love relationship it started out as.
As I read the verses in Revelation 2 along with John 15, I clearly see four steps Jesus maps out for us to regain that ‘first love.’ Number one is to remember.
I remember when I first encountered God’s Love for me. I could not get enough of His Word. It was and still is, His Love letter to me.
I melted in His Divine Affection when I realized that He chose me and secured my future for all eternity on the Cross. Feeling so secure and loved, I wanted to shout on the street corners that the God of this universe loved me, even at my worst. I felt so alive. So full. Nothing bothered me.
I became fully alive because He first loved me, although I didn’t deserve it.
This Love humbled me, flooded me with joy and gratitude, and compelled me to spend time in His presence. This same passion spilled into other areas of my life. I wanted to demonstrate my love for Him in my family, experiences, and relationships, along with showing others how much He loved them.
Remembering Human Love
I remember when Joe and I first fell in Love. I couldn’t wait till the next time we were together. I’d lay in bed at night and anticipate the next time I’d hear his voice or see his face. Thoughts of him consumed my mind.
I would read and re-read the sweet, little love notes he’d leave for me. All I desired to do was to spend time with him.
After becoming engaged, I wanted the world to know. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that someone loved me so much to want to spend the rest of their life with me!
Sad to say, there have been times in our marriage where we’ve just “gone through the motions” doing our wife and husband duties. Very little expressed love, communication, passion, or joy. Just duty. Forgetting our ‘first love.’ Life only functioning out of duty. Does that sound familiar to you as well?
Fortunately, our lifeless relationships with God or our spouse are not doomed to remain cold and apathetic. Jesus tells us in Revelation 2, that after we remember, we can repent.
To repent means to turn and to change your mind and actions.
I was recently reading something by Tim Keller on repentance that, to me, was quite profound. He said,
“It is important to consider how the gospel affects and transforms the act of repentance. In ‘religion,’ the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so he will continue to bless you and answer your prayers. This means that ‘religious repentance’ is a) selfish, b) self-righteous, c) and bitter all the way to the bottom. But in the gospel, the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart.”1
If we trust and believe that God’s heart for us is LOVE, we will not want to do anything contrary to His heart. True repentance requires humility and a desire for a restored, deep, burning love relationship.
What would you say to your spouse when your heart breaks under the conviction of putting your own interests before him? Hopefully, you would humbly and honestly say, “please forgive me! I’ve put other loves before you.”
Your motivation for repenting is the desire for renewed Love and intimacy, not to score points in order to get treated better.
Jesus gives us the final step in this process of renewing our ‘first love.’ It is to return or to go back to the beginning and do the things we did when we first received His Love.
Love is not just something we feel—it’s something we do. The works Jesus is speaking of here refer to the returning to our first Love of knowing Him.
To know someone you have to draw near to them. When we draw near to someone, we also begin to be like them. That becomes a deep desire in the heart of every lover of God. We want Christ’s character formed in us so we can love others in the same way He loves us. But it takes time, it takes effort, and it takes purposeful intention to seek His kingdom and His righteousness. (Matt. 6:33). It may be Bible study, worship, prayer, fellowship with other lovers of God, or perhaps going out of your way for someone else.
Whether meditating on His Word, soaking in the beauty of His creation, worshipping Him, or reaching out to someone in need, you have to be purposeful.
I pondered why Jesus would require us to remember our first Love. I concluded that His Love is too strong to see us live empty, lifeless lives, going through the motions, just surviving. He wants nothing less than for us to live abundant lives. He calls us to remain in His Love, so His joy will be in us, and our joy will be complete.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my Love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my Love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his Love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11).
His desire for us is to not only have a vibrant, life-giving relationship with Him but with others as well. But we cannot love well without being like Him. And to be like Him, we have to be grounded in a deep, intimate love for and with Him.
God is commanding us to draw near to Him and to seek His presence because intimacy with Him is the only way to truly love and be loved. God’s Love covers it all because it is the most powerful force in the universe.
In conclusion… we remember, repent, return, and remain.
Remember when you first encountered God’s Love. Repent of anything keeping you from His heart. Return to your first love and do the things you did in the beginning. And Remain in the joy of HIS LOVE.
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Remember there will be no end to God’s love for you!