August 2017 Prayer Letter (originally printed February 2013)
Returning To Your First Love
Dear Firefighters For Christ,
When asked which is the greatest commandment, He replied: “‘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. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Like the church in Ephesus, Jesus is pleased with our accomplishments. But in Revelation 2:4-5 He tells us what troubles Him deeply. “I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.”
Jesus is saying, “Come back to Me.” Take hold of my love which I poured out on you through My Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5) Through prayer your can use your mind, heart, soul and strength to bring you into His presence. Jesus wants all of you so that you may experience all of Him. This takes time so don’t be in a hurry. Live in a constant spirit of prayer. (1Thessalonians 5:17)
With your mind, remember the height from which you have fallen. Reflect on the pain of being apart from Him. With your heart, experience remorse over the place your wandering has brought you. From your soul, repent of the sin that ensnared you and stifled your first love. Renounce the things that have come between you and God. With your strength, enabled by the Holy Spirit, return to your first love.
Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
The Christian life is not what we do for Christ but what He does in and through us. It is in Him that we live, move and exist. (Acts 17:28) “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” (1 John 4:16,17a) Jesus called this abiding or remaining in Him. “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you,” He tells us. “For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from Me.” (John 15:4)
This is the deepest meaning of maintaining your first love. As you remain in Jesus with every part of your being, you are as fully dependent upon Him as a branch is upon a tree or vine. If you remain, you grow healthier and begin to bear fruit. Your relationships become richer. Your work becomes more excellent. And others come to know the Lord because they see the evidence of God in you.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) It all begins with Him. Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh (John 1:1), was and is the personification of love—love incarnate. “Anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love. God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:8-10)
Believe Jesus’ promise to you in John 14:12-14 when He says, “The truth is, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with my Father. You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in My name, and I will do it!”
If you sincerely desire to return to your first love for God, this prayer can be prayed regularly the rest of your life. “Father in heaven, I sincerely desire to love you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And I want to love my family, my neighbors and friends, even my enemies. I realize that I am incapable of loving you and others in my own strength. So on the authority of your command to love and your promise to hear and answer this prayer; I claim by faith that in the mighty name of Jesus, You will answer my prayer.” (written by Bill Bright)
“Be confident that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6