14 Feb A Path Back to Passion
While we may listen to songs that tell the story of “losing that loving feeling,” few words are more hurtful than “I don’t love you anymore.” Some of us have felt the sting of those words from someone we’ve dated, and others have felt the crushing weight of those words from a spouse.
While this takes place in our horizontal relationships with others, it also takes place in our vertical relationship with God. The Bible consistently parallels the relationship we share with God to that of a bride to her groom, a wife to her husband and the lover of our souls. But there are times in all our lives when, as the old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” says, our hearts are prone to wander and leave the God we’ve loved.
The church in Ephesus was in that position when Jesus wrote to her in the second chapter of Revelation. While any denomination, church planting organization or missionary-sending agency would have been thrilled to call the church at Ephesus one of their own because of their doctrinal precision, their moral practices and their faithful perseverance, they had lost their relational passion. Jesus lovingly points this out and graciously gives them a path back to passion.
If you find that your passion for God has dwindled over time, Jesus’ path is the way back.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. (Rev. 2:5)
The first thing Jesus says is remember. While the command to remember does involve recalling information, it goes beyond the mere recall of facts. The command to remember involves the recall of intimacy. This recalling of intimacy we once shared with Jesus is something that we are commanded to do presently, continually, persistently and daily. In other words, never forget what it was like at first. Is that missing from your life right now?
One sign that we have forgotten what it was like at first is that we find ourselves in the position of having an active past but an apathetic present. If we fail to “remember,” we end up sitting around with other “retired Christians,” listening to Bruce Springsteen sing about the “glory days” and reminiscing about what we used to do. We say things like, “I used to pray regularly, I used to regularly invest time in the Scriptures, I used to share the gospel with others, I used to be involved in shaping other disciples, I used to live a “sent” kind of life on mission in my community, serve in ministry in my local church and participate in what God was doing globally.”
There is a difference between remembering and reminiscing: the former leads to action in the present, while the latter fails to shake us out of our apathy.
We need to regularly remember what “wooed us” to Christ in the first place. We need to continually recall what it was about Jesus that captured our affections at first. We need constant exposure to the Gospel of grace. We need to remember what it was like when we first heard that the God who made all things, including you, had a heart that beat with love for all that He has made—including you.
We need to recall what it was like when we were first told about the love of the Father in sending his Son to live and die in our place. We need to recall his blood shed for our sins, his victorious resurrection from the grave defeating Satan, sin and death, and the sending of the Holy Spirit to indwell our hearts with the love of God as an adopted son or daughter. We need to regularly recall that we are no longer slaves to sin and no longer estranged from our Maker as an object of wrath, but now a child of the Father who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The second thing Jesus says is repent. This repentance is not only a turning away from certain actions but from competing affections.
The reason our passion and affection for Jesus grows cold is because someone or something else has captivated our hearts.
As a result, our loves become disordered.
For instance, if your passion for sports exceeds your passion for your spouse, then you have a disordered love. If our love for our hobbies surpasses our love for our children, then we have disordered loves. When anything rises to a place where it thrills and moves our heart and secures our affections above, before or in the place of Jesus, then we have disordered loves.
There is nothing inherently wrong with loving people or things. It is not sinful to love our spouse or our kids, and it is not wicked to be passionate about our careers, our homes or hobbies. The problem is when our loves for those things become disordered.
The word “repent” literally means “to change one’s mind” and agree with God about our sin. So, the kind of repentance called for when our loves become disordered is a repentance that admits nothing and no one loves, fulfills and satisfies you like Jesus does.
If you are single and looking/longing for a spouse, you have to turn from believing that another imperfect human being will ever love, fulfill or satisfy you like Jesus does. If you are married and struggling with expectations in your relationship with your spouse, it may be because you have a disordered love and need to admit that your spouse will never love, fulfill or satisfy you like Jesus does. Only then can your expectations normalize. If you are a mom or dad whose love for Jesus has waned, it may be that you have been looking to your kids to provide your identity as a rock-star dad or all-star mom.
The path back to passion for you is to change your mind about where your identity lies and admit that no matter how well adjusted your kids turn out, they will never love, fulfill and satisfy you like Jesus does. The same is true for our houses and hobbies and even our ministry and mission activity.
The third thing Jesus says is return. This is a call to return to the things we did at first—those things that you naturally gave yourself to early in your walk with God. Notice Jesus does not say “feel your first feelings” but “return to your first works.” Return to those things that help you remember.
- At first, we regularly read the Scriptures and by grace through faith began to do what they said. One of the things that will quickly quench our passion for God is when we fail to heed what we hear. When the Holy Spirit presses on areas of our lives that need to be conformed to the image of Christ through the reading and teaching of the Scriptures, and we fail to heed what we hear, our love for God dwindles.
- At first, we wanted to talk to the One our hearts were filled with love for just to tell Him how lovely we found Him. We spent time communing with God in prayer and watched him answer simple heartfelt prayers in our lives. Before we could pray with theological precision or an impressive vocabulary, we just asked God to do things in our lives as a child petitions his parents. And we saw that he delighted to answer our prayers. We lived in conscious dependence upon God throughout the day and experienced peace and joy that fueled our passion for God.
- At first, we wanted to be with other Christians in worship to sing true things about God, fill our hearts with a song and express our devotion to Him. We wanted to be under the teaching of the Word and talk about the Bible with our church community because no matter how quirky they were… they were family. We wanted to serve in ministry to see God impact the lives of others in the same way he had impacted us.
At first we did all these things. Then, someone in the church hurt us, our lives got busy and we got tired, or we came to believe that we had arrived or done our time. So we stopped showing up for worship, stopped positioning ourselves to regularly be in and under the Word, stopped seeking God in prayer, stopped putting ourselves around Christian community and retired from serving in ministry and mission. As our passion for God waned, we began to wonder why we don’t sense the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit in our lives anymore and why our affections for God had dwindled. Here’s the reason: we stopped adding logs to the fire.
But Jesus says, return to your first works.
This is Jesus’ path back to passion. Remember. Repent. Return. Take Jesus at his word every day and watch as the cold coals in your heart are rekindled over time.