Amidst endless speculation about resets and shifts, both natural and spiritual, the message that resonates most with me is simple:
It is back to the basics. It is making the main thing the main thing.
It is returning to our first love for the Lord.
With that in place, everything else will fall into place.
- When we walk in our first love, we are passionate about the Lord.
- We long to spend quality time in His presence.
- We love to pray and study the Word. We love to share our faith. We love to worship and sing God’s praises.
- We are quick to humble ourselves and apologize. We are quick to forgive others, being so conscious of how greatly the Lord has forgiven us.
- We find it easy to believe, easy to trust, easy to obey.
We have been redeemed and transformed. We are living brand new lives. And as real as our troubles and tests may be, God is even more real.
That is the beauty of our first love relationship with the Lord.
The words of the old hymns (or the contemporary songs of worship, whichever are special to us) become our own words, words of adoration and awe and amazement.
Nothing is more precious to us than the cross, nothing more profound, nothing more glorious.
In the words of one of those old hymns, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”
When I came to faith in Jesus in late 1971, everything was foreign to me.
As a Jewish teenager, I had never been in church before.
As a rock drummer and rock music lover, the hymns sounded old-fashioned. (Compare “Make Me a Blessing” to Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.”
As for the words of those hymns, why on earth were we singing so much about blood? And what on earth was Calvary? (A young man I helped lead to the Lord in high school kept wondering about why we were singing about the cavalry. What did the cavalry have to do with the forgiveness of our sins?)
The people in the church were, for the most part, much older than me. And culturally, we had virtually nothing in common.
But when God’s love transformed my life, those people became my family.
As for those hymns, I literally experienced what Peter referred to as an “inexpressible and glorious joy” (or, in the words of the King James, “joy unspeakable and full of glory”).
Soon enough, I had an insatiable desire for God’s Word, an insatiable desire to pray. And I wanted to tell everyone I met about Jesus. The whole world had to know!
Of course, there was lots of immaturity joined together with all the zeal – not to mention a conspicuous lack of wisdom.
But all I wanted to do was honor and please God, regardless of cost or consequence.
That’s what “first love” was like for me.
And that’s why, over the decades, I am continually called back to that first love.
- It’s all too easy to become distracted by the busyness of life and the endless entertainment options at our fingertips.
- It’s all too easy to become professional in our faith, doing things by rote and religious habit.
- It’s all too easy to become hypocritical, judging others for their failures and shortcomings while excusing our own sinful ways.
- It’s all too easy to become cynical, having experienced one too many church splits, one too many scandals, one too many disappointments.
- It’s all too easy to become flaky, pursuing the latest spiritual fad and finding the meat and potatoes of the faith boring.
- It’s all too easy to become proud, boasting of our loyalty and orthodoxy and integrity.
- It’s all too easy to become lazy, finding it far easier to do God’s will tomorrow rather than today.
- It’s all too easy to become bitter, blaming others for the struggles in our lives and holding on to grudges rather than forgiving.
- It’s all too easy to become carnal, with our attitudes dominated by anger or lust or materialism or greed or jealousy.
But everything changes when we encounter God afresh, weeping over the depth of His mercy and experiencing afresh the beauty of His holiness.
Our hard hearts become softened and our cold hearts become ablaze.
Indifference gives way to passion and unbelief to faith.
And suddenly, we are not just experiencing fresh love for God. We are experiencing fresh love for others – for our spouses and children; for our fellow-congregants and fellow-workers; for our neighbors; even for our enemies.
That’s why I say that nothing is more important than returning to our first love for the Lord.
Cry out to Him day and night and, in the words of Jesus, do the things you did at first (Revelation 2:5). Do the things you did in those early days, and you will find that, as you draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
And if you have never experienced “first love” in the Lord, I encourage you to ask God to reveal His goodness and grace to you, continuing to ask and seek until your eyes are open and you see Him for who He really is.
Do it earnestly, and even with desperation.
What you behold will change you forever.