I’m currently reading Fan the Flame, by Joseph Stowell. It’s my second time through it, and I’m reading slowly and thoughtfully because Stowell makes some points I want to turn over a few more times in my thinking. He’s perceptive, and I appreciate that.
If you have half an hour to read, read fifteen and think fifteen. You’ll get more out of it.
—Dr. Howard Hendricks
That’s how I’m reading Fan the Flame this time.
For example, Stowell makes the point early-on that when God tells the church at Ephesus they’ve lost their first love He’s speaking from a priority perspective. The church in that city had things right for quite a while. Timothy was their pastor, remember, and the apostle Paul mentored him. But over time something else grew to become more important than their personal love-based relationship with God. They apparently still did all the right things, but without the love-motivation that once characterized them.
It’s easy for us to think chronologically about the term “first love“, isn’t it? Especially a guy like me; I’ve known the Lord almost as long as I can remember.
When I look at our daughter, I see an illustration of what Stowell means about love as a priority; as coming first. Her love for a certain someone is growing. As it does, she learns about what he likes and finds ways to do those things more. I’ve seen her learn of things he doesn’t like and watched her love for him motivate her to do those things less – or stop completely. He’s becoming increasingly important to her; their relationship is a priority. First.
We’re to be the same way as believers in love with our Redeemer, only more so. What do you like, Lord? What do you honor? I’ll do those things. What irritates you? What do you find deplorable? Now that I know … no more. BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, GOD, FIRST AND FOREMOST.
Sadly, we’re just not that devoted; not collectively anyway.
When what people think matters more to us than what God thinks – they’re the priority-love; the first love. He isn’t.
When my pleasure comes before His – I’m the priority. And I can tell you first-hand, a guy wrapped up in himself is one small package.
When we want what we want more than what God wants – we’re living life me-first, and He’s not our first-love. His carefully written letter to us all tells us what He values, what He expects, and what He hates. Why are so many of us unwilling to go find out what’s important to Him? (You’re right – I’m talking about the Bible). My guess is many of us would rather not know. Ignorance is bliss. (No, ignorance is expensive!!) We like how things are, and would just as soon not have to decide if we’ll comply or not. Self-love is the first-love of too many Christians and our churches will be less than vibrant as long as that is so.
So what do I recommend?
The hardest yet simplest thing in the world.
If you don’t know for sure that Jesus Christ is the one who paid for your wrong-doings, and wants you to be in right relationship with Him – that’s the place to start. If you’re a believer with skewed priorities right now, remind yourself that God wants you back more than anyone – even you. Heaven celebrates every time someone comes back to Him – honest! Take a minute and read about it here. Notice what happens right after the word “found” each time.
God wants our joy to be full (Jn. 15.11). He knows we can’t live life well on our own, I’ve proven I can’t. I bet you have too. But when I let HIM do the living through me and I get out of His way (by remembering He loves me even more than I love me, trusting He knows what He’s doing, and then obeying His directives) – my how things change!
To comply means I have to –ahem– give in. All the time. That can be tough, especially when the world says “You can do it! Invent your own future! Write your own destiny! C’mon, don’t be a pansy… repeat after me: I think I can I think I can I think I can.”
Sorry – no. The answer’s Give IN. When my relationship with God is priority – my first love – it’s not a problem anymore.
The hard part is getting to the place where I’m ready to surrender to Him. When my relationship with God is more important than anything else, doing what He wants becomes the easiest and most rewarding thing I can do, unanswered questions and all. When the next opportunity to give in arrives, I remember His faithfulness to me, and obey. Over time it becomes easier, my faith growing stronger each time.
Want to be God’s friend? Literally? Jesus told His followers how to be His friends in His own words. They’re in John 15.14-15. Find out what He says and do it — because He’s your first love.
Think about it (Selah) —