In the song “Find Us Faithful”, it mentions “the fire of our devotion.” That phrase really struck a chord in me. It spoke to me of the fire, zeal and passion of our love for Jesus Christ. This fire and passion come from the Holy Spirit at work in us. Do we have fire in our devotion? Or have we lost our first love?
John was told to write to the church in Ephesus, “But I have this [charge] against you, that you have left your first love [you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me]. So remember the heights from which you have fallen, and repent [change your inner self…seek God’s will] and do the works you did at first [when you first knew Me].” (Revelation 2:4-5, Amplified Bible)
Do we still have that first love, or has it faded? From what heights have we fallen? If we think back to remember the works we did when we first knew Christ, we can clearly see the heights from which we have fallen. And from that vantage point we can gain insight on how to reach those heights again. So, what works did we do when we first knew Jesus?
We wanted to tell everyone about Jesus, and we wanted them to have what we had found. Our worship was free and spontaneous. We found it a joy to study the Word and worship with other believers. We were hungry and thirsty for more. Our passion was to follow Jesus wherever He led us. And we did it all with joy and freedom. Everything we did was out of love for Him. Not out of obligation or to satisfy a set of rules. We didn’t even know the rules yet! Our Christian service was not a form we subscribed to, but an extension of who we were. Jesus had changed us and we were free. So, how did we get so bogged down again? In parts of the world where life is simpler and there is not so much affluence, busyness and competition, people seem to embrace Jesus with a greater passion and simply take Him at His Word. They see tremendous results. Could it be we have allowed a wet blanket of obligations, cares of this life, worry, conformity to a system, unbelief and fear to snuff out the fire of our devotion?
Oh, to do those first works again! When we lose our first love, we lose our openness with God, our self-abandonment (the surrender we give freely), and the fullness of His Spirit. It is that love that compels us to keep Jesus’ commandments, not with a spirit of drudgery, but with joy. It draws us to Him wherever He may lead. We just want to be where He is. Without love, we can go through the motions, but we will accomplish nothing.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV) Many love “the work” with its accolades and the applause of men, but have become disengaged from the Lord. Many do “the work” without the Holy Spirit. But God wants us to do “His work”, and we cannot do it without the love, fire and anointing of the Holy Spirit within us. Only love for Jesus will fuel the fire of love for others.
A Pharisee who was a lawyer, (an expert in Mosaic Law) asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Then Jesus said, “The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 – Amplified Bible)
Jesus gave another commandment in John 13:34. He said, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.” That may sound like a repetition of the Law, but look closer. This new commandment bumps up loving others to a whole new dimension. It calls us to love even more deeply and more selflessly than loving others as we love ourselves. And the whole Gospel depends on this commandment just as the whole Law depends on the previous commandments. The concept of our love for God being connected together with keeping His commandments runs consistently through both the Old and New Covenants. One of many examples from the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy 7:9. “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.”
Then we have several more in the New Testament. Among them is 1 John 5:2-3. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
Jesus spoke privately with Peter after His resurrection. He asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Each time, Peter declared that he loved Jesus, a different declaration than the three times he had denied Jesus. But there was something more in that discourse. Each time Peter declared his love for Jesus in answer to Him, Jesus gave Him the charge to feed His sheep or lambs. Without a deep love for Jesus, Peter would not be able to feed His sheep. He would not be able to stay the course. Love is a necessary element in our service in the kingdom of God. If we don’t love Jesus, we cannot truly love one another, and our work is empty.
This new commandment to love others as Jesus loves us is monumental. We don’t want to miss it. How did Jesus love us? With agape love. Agape love is not just emotion, but pouring out our lives for the good of others even when we don’t feel like it. If the early disciples had not followed that commandment, the gospel would have died with them. But countless people have given their lives for it because of the love of God in their hearts. And 2000 years later, the gospel is thriving and has been delivered faithfully to our hearts. The question is this. Does our devotion have enough fire to carry it on? Not just performing the mechanics of church. That is useless without the fire of our love and devotion to Jesus. God’s work out of God’s love in our hearts will break chains in us and others. What are we willing to give to see it happen?
Jesus said, “No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.” (John 15:13 – Amplified Bible) That is how Jesus loves us. He gave everything for us! In His life and in His death, He was spent for us. What commitment are we willing to make for the work of His kingdom and for those who still don’t know the good news? How about our resources? How do we spend them? Our time? Our money? Our gifts and talents? Have we given them to Him to use for His glory instead of using them for our own? What about our property? Do we realize that all our property belongs to God? Are we willing to release it into His hand if it can advance His kingdom?
God doesn’t want just part of it. He wants it all. He doesn’t want just part of you. He wants all of you. God entrusts us with resources so we can channel them into the kingdom of God. When we do, He will never let us go lacking. He will keep pouring resources back in. If we use our resources for our own entertainment and material gain, we will have nothing to show for it in the end. If we place it all in God’s hands, He can work wonders with it and us. I am not talking about living in a commune and giving everything away so we can live in poverty and prove our humility. That actually puts the spotlight on us and our dead works. And I am not suggesting we be irresponsible, but open to how the Holy Spirit leads us to use our resources. God has given us what we have and will tell us how to best use it for the kingdom. But we have to trust Him and be willing to let go. He will teach us to spontaneously give out of our resources as we have opportunity and as Jesus speaks to our hearts. It is a matter of making everything we have and everything we are available to Him. Isn’t that how Jesus lived as one with the Father? We can, too, but first we must return to our first love.
I believe it’s time we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, realize we don’t have time to continue in dead works, lost love, apathy, complacency, selfishness and compromise. It is past time to reignite the dying embers of our first love and the fire of our devotion. Let’s renew our first love, the love that caused us to passionately follow Christ. Give ourselves and all that we have. If we love as we are loved, it will change the world…it already has! But the generations to come depend on you and me.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God,
looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”