Saturday, May 05, 2007


One of the strongest messages of the Old Testament prophets was the declaration, the command of God through these men of God which stated, “Return to me Last month we determined that God is not a God who changes. Unfortunately, we as frail sinful humans do, and we tend to stray further and further away from God. Israel had that same problem. God told Israel through Jeremiah “you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me,'' says the Lord.”(3:1) God continues to call us back to Himself, not through the prophets as in the books of Jeremiah and Nehemiah and Malachi, but through the tug of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He is pleading with the ‘church’, the bride of Christ, to come back…to return to our first love.
Return to your First Love
The church in Ephesus had strayed from the message that had first been preached to them… and in Revelations 2: 4,5 John related this message to the church: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.” Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily routines, our times of pleasure and our programs that we fail to notice we are slowly drifting further and further away from our moorings. Soon there is distance, and the intimacy is gone. Communication becomes shallow and even sarcastic. I have seen it in people, in churches, in ministries and in America. God is speaking a warning message to all: Remember where you have fallen from… and repent! In other words, we are to recognize that drifting has occurred, and we need to turn around, change, go back, return to our first love. Thinking about it is not enough. Reading about it is insufficient. Praying about it is not enough either. It calls for change—-action—-sacrifice—determination—dedication—commitment! These are words our society does not like. They fail the grade when it comes to making lasting commitments. A slight breeze just pushes them in whatever direction the wind is blowing. “Whatever is convenient—just do it…. Don’t ask me to make sacrifices.” We do not like to hear the truth. We put our feet into the pews where the pastor will make us feel good, tell us it’s all OK. Pastors balk at calling sin by it’s real name because sin offends. We gather folks around us who think just like everyone else. We don’t get into the Word and read the truth where the Holy Spirit might convict us of our wandering souls. Yet the Word has always laid the message out strong and clear for all to read. Return—or be removed…
How do we Return?
Remember when you first realized you were a sinner? You came to Jesus and He cleansed you from your sin and in that moment you fell deeply in love. You wanted to tell everyone! In your childish exuberance, you were not ashamed or embarrassed about the new love in your life. You were bold. You were excited—-and you were forgiven and free!
It’s springtime, and love is in the air once again. It’s amusing to watch young couples who have just fallen in love. You see them standing together, looking longingly into each others eyes, holding hands, touching, kissing, not caring who sees. He brings her flowers for no reason. She bakes him brownies and splashes on cologne. They can hardly wait to get off work, out of school, or for a moment when the two of them can get alone, just to talk, or even hear the sound of their first love—breathing on the phone. Remember? Perhaps it seems too long ago for you to remember when you first fell in love with Jesus. But if you want to return… you have to go back to doing those same things you did when you first fell in love. It means spending lots of time with your lover. It means intimacy without distractions. It means setting aside all other ‘stuff’ just to be with Him. Have you sent Him ‘flowers’ of praise lately? Are you really ‘in love’??? Make it your business to please the One you love! Make the time and take the time! But you may discover that the closer you get to the Holy Lover of your soul, the more unholy you feel. Sin has crept in, to hide in places you did not notice.
There is need for Repentance
When I turned 40, I noticed some changes in my life. My joints started to ache in places they had never ached before. My Bible seemed blurry when I tried to read it. I just could not read that tiny print on the vitamin bottles anymore. I found I needed reading glasses. But when I took those reading glasses off, I was no longer seeing some things that I used to see. The dust sometimes piled up, and the floors sometimes needed cleaning. But because I could not see the dust or the dirt, I never knew it was there. I learned that I needed to be diligent about doing some things, even if at first glance it appeared all was well. Our hearts are sometimes like that. Sin creeps in and sits there unnoticed. Soon, if left unattended, it invites more sludge to join in...until soon the ‘house’ is so filled with junk and dirt that we don’t know how to manage. It’s hard to admit we are wrong. We don’t like to say “I’m sorry. Forgive me” We don’t like the work it takes to clean up the mess we allowed. So we hide it in a closet or under a rug. We think no one will notice….’til our Love comes in the door… “repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent” To repent means to change our direction 180o, to return the way we came and not go back again to the old ways. We need to see through the ‘eyes’ of the Spirit—to see our hearts and lives as He sees them. When we do, we will see the accumulated filth and be appalled that we allowed that to happen in our lives.
An Extreme Makeover
A remodel job just won’t do. Our spiritual houses are falling down rotten. Termites and mold have invaded where we failed to maintain our spiritual standards. If our children are wandering from God, perhaps we need to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see the hypocrisy He sees in our hidden foundations. It’s time to do a knockdown demolition of all the stuff satan has slyly pulled into the ‘house.’ We may like the comfort of the old ‘house,’ or the memories that came with all the time spent there, but it will not compare to the fresh new construction that the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. It will be beyond our expectations and imaginations. It will exceed our wildest dreams. You see He still loves us just the way He always did. He did not change. He has the very best waiting for us. If He could ship us out of town while He took over the old premises, He too would call in the heaven’s wrecking ball, the contractors and those who know how to change things. The Carpenter would start with a new foundation and build it up all over again to meet today’s needs. He wants to give us ‘new’ when we are satisfied with the ‘old.’ He wants to fill us to overflowing with new wine, new oil, new Life, new joy, and a new mind. He wants to make us a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor 5:17) The old just won’t do! I like the way The Message bible paraphrases Ephesians 4:24-32 Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.28Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work.29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.30 Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. So what now…? The choice is up to you. Will you return? Will you come back to the One who loves you? Will you be willing to yield everything into His hands? Will you give Him the key? Will you return? He is standing waiting for you to come. His arms are open wide and there is no sermon—no rejection—-no qualifications….just come. Come as you are. Come with the rags of your past, the problems of your present, and your hope for change. He will not disappoint you! You long for renewed intimacy. You long to feel His touch once again. You long to hear Him whisper in your ear. “I love you—and I forgive you.”
Return and Revive...
Genuine revival begins with one repentant heart that returns to the Lord. You can begin that revival! Just return! You may need to return to the call God placed on your hearts as a young person. It may mean you need to return to the closet of prayer or return to the ‘tent of meeting’ where you first saw God for who He really was. Revival means bringing back to life something that has died. As we return to the One who has Life… death and complacency will have to go. Pray from your heart….
"Lord, I return to you, I repent of my sin and complacency. I choose to love You again with my whole heart. Refresh that first love again. Thank you for filling me with Your Holy Spirit. I yield all that I am to you. Do what you want with my spiritual house. Amen” J. Johnson

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