Updated: Nov 1, 2021
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” (Jesus-from Revelation 2:4-5a)
In my last blog I wrote I talked about becoming “lukewarm” in my relationship with Jesus. How did I get there? How do any of us get there? It happens slowly, like the proverbial “frog in the kettle.” A friend of mine used to say, “we move away from Christ one degree at a time and before you know it, you are walking 180 degrees in the opposite direction!” So how do we get ourselves back to this “first love” relationship we once had with Jesus? We don’t need to guess. He has told us how in His word. Before we look at that, it’s helpful first to consider what He did NOT say.
Escape the present by dreaming of the nostalgic past, those “good ole’ days” that will never return. The future is a downward pathway to old age and death. The best you can do is “run out the clock” or just “grind it out.” Adjust your expectations to this reality and take comfort in the past.
Find the latest trend and follow the crowd. The latest celebrity author or pastor has found the key. You are just a book, a seminar, a church or a religious experience away from finding that “It” that is missing. Get that missing piece or get left behind…and be a second-class Christian.
Move beyond Christ now with your greater worldly wisdom. Realize that you were younger, less sophisticated back then. You have matured and gained more real-life experience now. Don’t put all your eggs in that one small, narrow-minded basket. Diversify. Become more open and inclusive. You will be accepted and even applauded by others if you do!
So, if these are NOT the way back to a “first love” relationship with Jesus what has Jesus Himself told us to be the way back?
1. “Turn back to me.” The Apostle Paul lamented in writing to the Corinthian church, “I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) How do I turn back to Him? I need to remember what it was like when I had newly turned to Him and confess that I have turned gradually more back onto myself. When my relationship with Jesus was new it was like a new romance when I felt the great joy of being loved and loving that person. In the case of my love for Jesus I had abruptly turned away from self onto Him. I felt great relief that I had actually died with Christ and had been raised up with Him, joined to His life. (Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:4-6) What relief that I no longer needed to consume all that energy trying to protect my fragile adolescent ego! This was a genuine conversion! Up until that time I had only wanted His help with MY self-serving agendas. This turning to Him, becoming yoked to Him, was the promised light burden that brought REST to my SOUL! (Matthew 11:28-30)
2. “Do the works you did at first.” It is not enough to confess that I have turned from my Lord and His heart for others. I need to repent with genuine, heart-motivated acts of repentance. Three “works” I remember that were habits in my young faith were…spending time alone with Him in the Bible and child-like prayer. (Quiet Times), Learning from/fellowshipping with other Christians (church and small groups) and not being ashamed of Him and His message around non-believers. (my witness) Why has my practice of these things lacked the joyful commitment I once had? Simple. Then I saw all of these habits as “a means to the end” of knowing Jesus more, of growing closer to Him. I gladly grabbed a hold of these divinely provided tools to keep me turning to Him, to others AND away from “self.” But as my purpose gradually and imperceptibly became more self-centered, these activities became less attractive to hold onto. My growing self-centeredness, gradually and imperceptibly, led me to a half-hearted love for Jesus.
Please forgive me for allowing the self, that died with you, to re-emerge and become something I have needed to nurture, rather than put upon the cross in faith. I turn back to You and choose to do the deeds I did at first turning my eyes away from self and onto You. I want to know You more, to love You more and serve You more. I rest in who I am, whose I am and where You are leading me to go. And Father, As my 7-year-old grandson said before he was baptized at the beach in Florida, “Let’s do this!”
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org