To the Church at Ephesus the Lord commands, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5).
It is not easy to admit, but in the stress of life, we get distracted, spiritually distracted from the “first love,” our love for Jesus Christ. Let me outline four times and ways we are distracted and need to remember our first love:
#1 QUESTION: When do I need Spiritual Restoration?ANSWER: When your heart is dead, and you are going through the motions.
Frankenstein created a monster out of dead body parts. Apply that picture to the Christian life; creating a form of faith without real life. We become spiritual zombies, going through the motions without meaning. Here are characteristics of a person in need a spiritual restoration:
1. Heaping burdens on others without lifting a finger to help them.2. Applying the rules and tradition to the endangerment of Christian community.3. Persisting in a project or ritual so tenaciously that the movement of the spirit is missed.4. Becoming dry and dogmatic in faith.5. A bent toward perfectionism.
At such a time in your spiritual journey, you need restoration. It is only through the restoration of Jesus. Jesus will fill your inner storehouse again.
#2 QUESTION: When I need RenewalANSWER: When you have lost your priorities and your center.
Here is an image: Big Foot. We hear lots of reports, but no evidence. Take that to heart: The Christian who reports of having faith, but there is little evidence. Their lives are like locusts, going in all directions, eating up everything, but never being satisfied. The center of life, the priorities need to be renewed. Here are characteristics of a person in need of renewal:
• To be so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good.• To be so overly suspicious of rules and authority that you reject them without regard for consequences.• To inspire others to service and then become distracted by other possibilities.• To start a project or procedure with vigor and determination but never finish it.• To become easily hurt and defeated.
At these moments in our life in Christ, we need the renewal of the center of life in the priorities of the lifegiving Shepherd.
#3 QUESTION: When do I need to return to Jesus?ANSWER: When you ignore your troubled and fearful heart.
Again, let me suggest the images of a sea serpent and the Tar Baby. The sea serpent comes to the surface and then disappears, but no one wants to admit that something evil is lurking underneath (or inside) us. The Tar Baby is a picture of getting stuck in fear. You strike out (often a sign of fear) and you get stuck. One strike leads to another and you are stuck to your anger, your fear, or your need to please others. Here are characteristics of a life that needs to return to God:
• To focus on what pleases people rather than what pleases God.• To have difficulty obeying God if it means hurting someone’s feelings.• To make too many and too much of an allowance for a breach of rules.• To get lost in the everyday details of relationships so that you cannot hear the voice of God.• To give so much energy to serving others that you neglect your own spiritual care.
At moments like this, we need to return home to Christ and be reminded that we are deeply loved and cared for.
#4 QUESTION: When do I need revival?ANSWER: When the mission is more important than the Master and, as a result unresolved issues haunt you.
Let me give you two more images: a vampire and a ghost. The vampire looks for new blood. I have even heard folks speak that way about the mission of the church, “we need new blood around here.” The mission is more important than the Master. This is quickly followed by ghosts (not literal), disembodied feelings, brokenness, hurt relationships, and unresolved issues that haunt you. Here are characteristics of a need for revival:
• Moving ahead with mission and purpose, and then, you seek God’s blessing later.• Being insensitive to people and God’s spirit in the pursuit to accomplish the task.• To become critical in nature to the detriment of yourself and others.• To use the rules and structures in order to accomplish their goals.• To believe that God is dependent upon them.
At moments like this, we need, the church needs, revival.
Return to your first love, Jesus Christ. He has not wandered off. Stop, listen, hear, confess, repent, and find your first love again.
*I thank my friend and neighbor, Rob Still, for the picture from his website. You will want to check out his website, what a great musician! www.RobStill.com
Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.