Return To Your First Love

With the dawn of a new year, many determine to make changes, if only we can work harder than we did last year. Some want to lose weight, others hope for a promotion, and many just want a fresh start. Goals set and meals prepped, we begin forging our way to a better life. But will that make us truly happy? While all of these things are inherently good, Scripture shows that we cannot work our way to true happiness. It is only found in an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Journal: What is a goal or change you have made going into this new year?

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your labor and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people, and you have put those who call themselves apostles to the test, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured on account of My name, and have not become weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But you have this, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.’—Revelation 2:1-7 NASB

Jesus desired an intimate relationship with the church at Ephesus. He wasn’t impressed with their good deeds. They had left their First Love (Jesus) in pursuit of the accomplishments their works might bring. The motivation was all wrong.

God has called us into an intimate relationship with Him. We often lose sight of this in our efforts to do good things. We justify our actions by telling ourselves we’re doing it for Jesus, but that’s not what He asked us to do. When we spend time with Jesus, take time to pray, and operate from a repentant heart, we grow in our relationship with Him; and from that intimacy, we can go on to do great things for God.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’—Matthew 7:21-23 NASB

Journal: Is there an area of service or a religious practice that is taking the place of an intimate relationship with Jesus instead of flowing from an intimate relationship with Him?
Have you ever been in love? In the beginning, it’s pure bliss as new love often is. Both do nice things for each other, spend time talking for hours on end, and can’t stand to be apart for more than a few minutes. It’s an intimate relationship that grows by the day. When they buy each other gifts, it’s because of their love, not obligation. Opening car doors, pulling out chairs - all done because they are smitten. Each beautiful gesture flows from the intimacy of their love.

But what happens as time progresses? Seasons change and life often gets in the way; couples have to work harder to find time to connect. With long hours at the office and children tugging at them as soon as they walk through the door, days may go by before they can have a decent conversation, and some may find themselves drifting apart. Everything they’re doing is good! Working to provide a comfortable life, taking care of the kids - but they’ve unintentionally neglected their first love in the process.

Jesus is our First Love. In the beginning, we were smitten. We loved spending time in His presence and always longed for more. Everything we did for Him flowed from the intimacy of our relationship, and it was good.

Come close to God and He will come close to you.—James 4:8 NASB

Maybe you are still new to your relationship with Him, and it’s still fresh. Or maybe you have felt yourself drifting away. Let’s determine to return to our First Love this year and cultivate a lasting, intimate relationship with Him.

Journal: Where are you in your relationship with Jesus and how would you like it to change in 2023?

Activation: Implement some of these ways to grow in your relationship with God each day:
  • Spend time reading God’s Word. (The Opendoor Bible Reading Plan is great place to start!)
  • Take time to worship. (in your car, at home, in your office, etc.)
  • Talk to God through prayer. (This can be anywhere!)
  • Journal your thoughts, prayers, and growth. (Be honest and transparent. This is only for you to read!)

God, Thank You for loving me even when I drift away. I often get caught in what I’m doing instead of for Whom I’m doing it. Help me to grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with You this year. Remove distractions and align my heart with Yours. Thank You for Your infinite patience and grace. Amen
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