A picture of Bev and me sits on a side table in my living room, two kids in 1974 with love in their eyes. When I look at it, nostalgia takes over. “Wouldn’t it be great to relive that ‘first love’ of that Summer?” Those were days when evening dates couldn’t come soon enough. (Remember we didn’t have 24/7 contact on cell phones and texts!) We talked about everything and nothing – just ‘in love.’
From those days I can do a fast flyover of 41 years of marriage. Like most couples, once we married life took on a kind of routine. Kids came, responsibilities increased. Ours was a solid and loving marriage but not perfect. Seasons came when life intruded, when we forgot to prioritize our relationship, and love was tested. Then came those last two years together when the foundations of life were put to the test. A love emerged unlike any we had known, even in that first Summer: a deep and profound “I trust you with my life” kind of love that was bright and beautiful in the middle of the darkness.
On this Monday morning, the Spirit asks me (and you) about our love for our God. Go with me to John’s words to the church of Ephesus, from the 2nd chapter of the Revelation. “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands (Jesus Christ): I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:1-4, NIV)
Jesus’ complaint is that His bride has let responsibility diminish love. This church was doing good things, preached sound doctrine, and had stayed faithful in hard times, BUT they had lost the fire of their love.
I let this line shape my meditation, my prayers this morning. “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:4, NIV) I encourage you to do the same.
Are you growing in your love for the Lord or have you settled for doing things for Him, keeping up the routines while losing the heart of it all? Jesus appeal to that church and to us is this: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5, NIV) Two verbs are His commands.
Keep the memory of His saving grace alive. One of the shared practices of Christians from all ages, in every liturgical tradition, is Communion. Week by week, in our worship, we follow Jesus’ command to ‘eat this bread’ and ‘drink this cup.’ Why? We remember Him, going back to the foundation of our hope, that He came to us, God become human, the Bread of Life; and that He gave His very life to create a covenant, the assurance that we can know and be known of God. In the middle of the good things of your religion, do you remember Him, with devotion?
“Turn around and look me in the eyes,” Jesus says. In various ways we are reminded as Christians that our Lord seeks our fidelity. We cannot let our affections be stolen by other loves. There are so many things that can come between us, not all of them terrible or evil. Love of family, love of tradition, love of comfort … are just a few of those things that could replace Jesus at the center of life. He wants to own us, to be at the core of our affections – all other relationships secondary. Is He? That isn’t a question that yields an easy answer for our hearts are quick to justify the loves that govern them. If we find other ‘loves’ have come between us, the answer is to repent, to turn around and leave them to pursue Him.
Jesus defines the love He desires from us. It goes beyond praise songs, beyond our emotions that are fickle. Real love for Jesus, like any genuine affection, is demonstrated by priority of commitment. He says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15, NIV) “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:24, NIV) He warns that there will be people who stand at the Last Judgment claiming that He was their love, but He will say, “I never knew you!”
On this Monday morning, take some time to meditate, to reflect on how you love Him. Let’s be like Peter who saw some leaving Jesus when His words became difficult to accept. When asked if he would leave too, he says what I hope each of us can say. “Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life.” (John 6:68, NLT)
(worship with this song about His love)
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains
Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me
On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
One thing remains
In death in life I’m confident and
Cover’d by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love
Brian Johnson | Christa Black Gifford | Jeremy Riddle © 2010 ChristaJoy Music Publishing (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA) Bethel Music Publishing
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