How do you get back your first love for Christ?
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30)
In any relationship, the most important element is time. If we want to love someone, then we have to know them first, and the best way to do this is to simply take the time to build a friendship. Quiet personal time with Jesus throughout the day is needful. On several occasions throughout the Gospels, we read that Jesus "went up into a mountain to pray" (Luke 9:28 & Mark 6:46 are two examples). In His relationship with the Father, Christ set a pattern for us to follow (John 15:10).
David said in Psalm 55:77 "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." I found in my personal experience, that when I can spend time in the morning with Jesus in prayer and in His Word, and then a few minutes at noon, and again in the evening, my personal experience with Christ and my love for Him grows exceedingly!! Although everyday doesn't always work out like that because of unexpected events, it is my desire and goal to set aside regular time with Jesus. "When You said, Seek My face, my heart said to You, Your face, Lord, I will seek." (Psalm 27:8) Ask the Lord to place this same longing and desire in your heart. "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land." (Psalm 143:6)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6) Even though you may have lost this thirst and passion for God, the Lord can rekindle that flame within you, so talk to Him about this in prayer: "I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Luke 11:9-10)
But how do we leave our "first love" of Christ and how can we prevent this from happening?
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent." (Revelation 2:4-5)
In these verses, we find Jesus addressing the Christians in Ephesus. Apparently they had been very devoted in their service for Christ (verses 2-3), but their love for the Lord had grown cold. The fire in their lampstand was faltering, although they were still "going through the motions" of Christianity. Like 2 Timothy 3:5, they had a "form of godliness", but no power.
On the outside, the Ephesians may have looked and acted like the other churches; many of the members were probably preachers and evangelists; their doctrines were pure; but Jesus could see through the outer shell. "He who searches the minds and hearts" could see past the exterior facade (Revelation 2:23). The Ephesians could fool their fellow Christians, but they couldn't fool God: Christ knew that they had left their first love. The Lord doesn't want a lukewarm type of affection from His followers; He desires a fervent love that continues to grow as time goes on (Revelation 3:15-16).
Let's not make the same mistake as the church in Ephesus: Increasing our work for the Lord doesn't necessarily increase our love for Him or improve our relationship with Jesus. In fact, overworking and taking on too many church offices may result in just the opposite. We can overextend ourselves and get so busy in Christian service that we forget why we're doing it in the first place!
If you want to grow delicious apples then you have to prune away some of the branches. This means that you'll end up with less apples, but those apples will be healthier and more desirable because they received more nourishment and sunlight. In our Christian life, we may need to prune away certain activities so that we can focus more intently on our personal walk with the Savior. I'm not suggesting that ministering for Christ is bad, but it is important to refine your work so that you have plenty of time to spend with Jesus on a personal level. This is one of the ways that we can apply John 15:2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
When our service is motivated by a sincere love for God and a desire to do what is pleasing in His sight, then it will bless the lives of others and strengthen our own connection with Jesus, as we become fully dependent upon the Lord for success and ability.
Notice the advice that Jesus offered to the church in Ephesus: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen!" (Revelation 2:5) It appears that the Ephesians had forgotten how God had led them in the past. One of our greatest dangers is to forget just how much we need Jesus! It's in our human nature to trust in ourselves and do things our own way, which will lead to a prideful separation from God (James 4:6 & Proverbs 16:18). We must always keep in mind that we are nothing apart from Jesus (John 15:5). As Paul said, "It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God." (2 Corinthians 3:5 NLT)
"Remember therefore from where you have fallen!" Go back in time to when you first accepted Jesus as your Savior and friend. Reflect upon how He has transformed you and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the blessings that have flowed into your life because of God's love working for you (Perhaps you should make a list and keep it in your Bible). Make this a regular habit and tell others about how good the Lord has been to you! When we focus on how loving God is toward us, it makes it easy to return that love, so let the mercy of God and the reality of the cross be your meditation.
Compare your life now with the way it was before you became a Christian. Then compare your life now with what it was like one year ago. Have you grown closer to the Lord or have you slipped further away from Him? Have you overcome certain sins or have the sins overcome you? Don't be discouraged, but instead use this as an incentive to climb higher in your relationship with Christ. Ask the Lord to help you grow in His love so that you can look back a year from now and be able to praise God for the positive changes that have taken place. But if your past has been full of backsliding and sin, then leave it in the past, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13 & 14)
Just like in marriage, reviving your first love is as easy as going back to the way you used to do things when you first fell in love, like spending quality time together. In our Christian life, we need to continually go "back to the basics" in order to keep our love for Christ growing. This means that that spending time in prayer and in God's Word is vitally essential. If we are going to have a life changing love for Christ, then we really need to know Him more personally and keep that level of a closeness constant. Our God is a very personal God and He wants a very personal relationship with us. So we must take the time to walk with Him and talk with Him throughout our whole day. When we start applying God's word to our daily lives and claiming His promises, He becomes more alive to us and we become more excited about Him! Once again, quiet time alone with Jesus is an important key in loving Him. If you find that this isn't as easy as it used to be, then ask God for help and consistency (Psalm 51:10). He understands our weaknesses and He is able to help us in overcoming them (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our relationship and love for Christ can be restored! (Psalm 51:12)
The Lord continues His admonition to the Ephesians: "repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent." (Revelation 2:5) One of the signs that your love for Christ is growing cold is that sin doesn't bother you as much as it used to; things that were once offensive to you are now "no big deal". Sins that you used to confess to God are now "not that bad". If this is the case, then you need to pray that God will send the Spirit to point out your sin and give you the ability to repent. Jesus said that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to "convict the world of sin". (John 16:8) Christ also said that He came to call "sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32) If we're open to His leading, Jesus will show us the things in our lives that need to change. A real love for the Lord involves a willingness to surrender or forsake anything that is displeasing to Him. If we're intentionally putting our selves first and doing the things that bring us pleasure instead of doing what is pleasing to God, then we'll begin to love ourselves more than we love Christ.
In a way, it's true that either Christ will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from Christ. God loves you no matter how much you sin, but sinful actions and thoughts will make you less inclined to seek God through prayer and His Word. The deeper you go into sin, the harder it will be to turn back to God because of the enticing nature of evil, but don't despair! Make a YOU-turn in your spiritual life right now. That means that YOU need to turn to God and allow His power to give you victory. "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27) There is no spiritual trial or sin that God can't help you with or cleanse away. "Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday." (Psalm 37:5)
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