JESUS – OUR FIRST LOVE
Rev.2: 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Phil.3: 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Is Christianity a set of doctrines or is it a pursuit based upon doctrinal truths? If you arrive at an orthodox theology, and if you arrange them into an organized statement of faith, then are you a Biblical believer? Is the pursuit of knowing Christ an elective or is it an indispensible core of what it means to be a believer? But, Brother Rick, you seem to harp on this topic a lot. Yes, and why do you believe that is so? Could it be that we have been so misled and so deceived by the culture and the church that it will take time for all of us to return to our first love? Let’s be honest with each other, we always need to be challenged to embrace our Wonderful Lord and Savior. As Pastor Robinson wrote in his hymn, “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I Love”.
And those words strip us all of any pretence and haughtiness since we all feel that same sense of inward warfare. But oh the matchless grace of our Mighty Lord! Without His grace we would still be dead men walking with no hope in this world. But while we were yet sinners and joyfully living on a dunghill, the grace of our Lord and Savior wooed us to a place we had heard in passing called Calvary, but suddenly we saw Him. You see we had heard His story. We knew His name. We have seen thousands of crosses and some with Him hanging on them. In reality we had been saturated by Jesus.
But at one particular moment in time we saw Him for the very first time as he was, and is, and always will be. We did not just see a Savior. We saw our Savior. And at that moment our hearts were empowered by God’s Spirit and we believed. Oh glorious moment! Oh glorious thought! Oh glorious Savior and Lord! And yes we loved our mothers and fathers, and yes we loved our spouse and our children, but when we believed on the Lord Jesus we were overwhelmed by a love which was not of this world. In the spirit realm it was our first love.
It cannot really be described to one who still walks in darkness. To them it is some kind of religious folklore or an emotional crutch. When you tell people you love Jesus they look at you as if you were mentally unstable. But inside your heart, your being, something has changed. It is emotion to be sure, but it is much deeper and greater than just emotion. Last week you had no idea about spiritual truths and you weren’t even interested in eternal things. And yet now your heart is flooded with thoughts that soar way above your complete understanding, and this Person called Jesus has taken on an aura and is now alive within your inner spirit. You cannot comprehend all the doctrinal tenants, but two things you do know. You know that once you were blind but now you see. And you know that the love of God has been shed abroad in your heart because you stand fully in love with Christ.
Paul who was accomplished in the Torah and the study of the Old Testament has one encounter with the Risen Christ on a dusty road to Damascus and now he says he counts all his learning and all his honors and all the accolades associated with being a Pharisee as dung. It is absolutely amazing that the Spirit through this apostle uses such a word to startle and amplify and emblazon just how incomparable the knowledge of Christ is with anything else in this world! This was the man who sought the loves of those who followed Jesus and now he openly rejects all his accomplishments so that he may know Christ. What passion! What love! And as much theology that the Spirit has revealed to Paul concerning the church and communion and fellowship and grace and many other wonderful truths, Paul still is consumed with knowing Jesus!
And therein lies the monstrous betrayal of the modern church. We “orthodoxians” can prove the deity of Christ. We can show in Scripture His many miracles. We can prove He was virgin born. We can trace His Jewish lineage. We can point out He had brothers and sisters. We can catalogue many things about Him and His ministry. But do we know Him intimately, and are we desperate to know Him much deeper and more intimately? You see the word “know” in the Greek in Phil.3:10 is the same word “know in Matt.1:25 where the Scriptures reveal that Joseph “knew her (Mary) not” until Jesus was born. What sacred intimacy!
But there are many obstacles to having Jesus be the very center of your life, or as I have said, be your life. There are the cares of this world which even though can be necessary often demand our attention and time. There are the things which demand us to worry. There are the things which entice us and pull us into their circle. There are the activities within the church which may or not be edifying to the spirit but which have little to do with Jesus. There are the things concerning America which have muscled their way into the church realm and steal that which should be Christ’s alone.
Do we really understand the strength and passion of our own flesh? The flesh, or the fallen nature, is consumed with itself and it will stop at nothing to have its own way and fulfill its own lusts. And if it cannot keep Jesus completely out of the picture, it will change and dilute our image of Christ and present us with its own caricature of the Savior. And then the flesh will worship that caricature and tell us that we are truly worshiping Jesus. In an amazing feat of deception the flesh can construct an entire false religious system complete with all the spiritual words and call it Christianity. And millions will feel very content and satisfied with practicing that false construct.
But truly following Jesus and having your life be His is a sacred battle which rages every single day.
Throughout the centuries the church has taken the pure and simple faith and made it a complex labyrinth of all kinds of twists and turns of doctrinal academia and in so doing the simplicity which can be found in the Lord Jesus has been obscured. Men of earthly renown sit and exhibit their doctrinal prowess and answer questions posed to them by the ecclesiastical Proletariat. Never would we see these men kneeling and weeping alongside their chairs in brokenness and contrition. You see, they have original language credentials and they have well organized patterns of Biblical interpretation which are admired by the common folk.
But amidst all the modern preacher/teacher worship is a dearth of observable passion for Jesus which can only find life through a hunger and thirst for a humility which sees one’s own intellect as profoundly disgusting, and which spiritually recoils at the slightest hint of people’s admiration. You see, when you are praised and held up as a model then you have become an obstacle rather than a prism through which Jesus alone is exalted. It is a delicate path set before us, but when we remake the path to be more human than divine we are no longer following Jesus.
But in all the hustle and bustle of this western lifestyle the church has gotten caught up with all kinds of offshoots and doctrinal disputes and moral crusades and in the dust of those battle we have lost sight of the Lord Jesus. I have noticed something quite disturbing on this blog which began in April of 2006. Even if I post an essay which is completely devotional and delves almost exclusively about heaven or God’s love or some other topic about which it would seem no one could find an argument, many times someone uses the comment thread to press forward some agenda or point of view which has nothing to do with the post. But because we have become experts and arguing over any and all topics the urge to press forward our opinion is irresistible. And so it is with Jesus.
Our minds and hearts are so cluttered with all kinds of perspectives - political and moral and financial and some finer points of doctrine - that we cannot even completely rest while basking in the glory of the knowledge of Him. There are times to discuss every Biblical subject, however where are the times when we receive the glorious simplicity that is in Christ and allow the Spirit to once again impress that image upon our hearts and minds. I was once sharing my testimony and I used the phrase “I placed my faith upon Jesus” and afterwards a woman came up to me and said that phrase was unbiblical. Why? Because she was a Calvinist. I said that after hearing what the Lord had done in my life that was what she heard most and could not wait to tell me?
But I cannot change anyone. That is the work of the Spirit. But I exhort you to do some inventory of the heart and see just how much unneeded furniture has found a home there. It has become commonplace to compartmentalize Jesus into a Sunday morning celebrity and a theological curiosity rather than the consuming passion of our everyday lives. But because we have very few models of what that would look like in this hedonistic culture ours is a journey of faith. And as we proceed, sins and weights and compromises must be uncovered, addressed, and rejected if we hope to follow Jesus as the Lord of our life. It is one thing to believe in Jesus. It is another thing to follow Jesus. But it is quite another thing altogether to be consumed with Jesus.
But if that journey proves to be too difficult and too unreasonable and too costly then we can all just stoke the campfire and tell each other how great it is to live with so many of God’s blessings. Jesus can wait for a more convenient day.