Over the years I have been giving more and more concerned thought to a number of issues within the American Church world specifically. There has been growing alarm in many circles (even many pastors/people in the Church community and leaders that I have personally spoken too in the non-profit world) over issue’s like the reality of Biblical illiteracy, lack of passion for the Great Commission, and all the cultural/social issues of our generation (breakdown of the family, abortion, increase of shootings, violence, suicide, political rhetoric etc).
While these factors are multi-faceted, at the core of them all and any issue conceivable, is a matter of the heart, sin and relationship (or lack-thereof) with God. We need a genuine revival, a turning of our hearts back or to God.
For the record, I don’t believe the answer is programs, services, crusades or conferences. I believe it’s simply a matter of turning our hearts to God, seeking him with our whole hearts, getting back into His Word, prayer and worship, being intentional about walking with Him, spending time with him and others seeking after him, becoming more like Jesus and above all else guarding our hearts from any other, and all other, influences that are of this world.
I recently preached two messages on this: The Heart of God and After Our Hearts. I believe those messages hold the keys of the real root issue. Do we know God’s heart towards us? Have we lost our first love? Do we need our passion for him rekindled?
I believe our hearts have grown hard and we have failed to diligently and faithfully guard our hearts, but have let so many other influences lead our hearts astray. We have not sought to love God with all our hearts. We have not set Jesus apart in our hearts as truly Lord of our lives. Our hearts have grown complacent and I believe we are experiencing a “Slum of the Soul” as I wrote about in the post prior to this one. We have ceased to hunger and thirst after righteousness. We have failed to seek first his kingdom above our own desires. We are not trembling at His word or living aware of or in light of his holiness and eternity (Click hear to listen to a message I recently shared on “Living in Light of Eternity“). We have lost the fear of the Lord and awe of the Lord. We have grown lukewarm.
So what do we do, if we are being convicted that this is true of us?
I believe it is as simple as getting back to the basics. To the church of Ephesus, whom Jesus said had forsaken their first love, he gave them two instructions. The first was this: Consider how far you have fallen!
We first have to get honest and acknowledge how far we have truly fallen. Jeremiah 2:2-3 is one of the most hauntingly sad passages I believe in all of Scripture. God says this about his people Israel:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
through a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the Lord…
Do you remember what it was like when you first got saved? Have you even ever truly been saved and in awe of God’s love for you and in love with him? Just like when two people fall in love with each other, they can’t get enough of just “being” and “belonging” to each other! Love makes you do crazy things!
The song my wife and I walked out too after we said our wedding vows was the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” One part goes like this:
Oh no darling
No wind, no rain
Or winters cold can stop me baby, na na baby
‘Cause you are my goal
If you’re ever in trouble
I’ll be there on the double
Just send for me, oh baby, ha
My love is alive
Way down in my heart
Although we are miles apart
If you ever need a helping hand
I’ll be there on the double
Just as fast as I can
Don’t you know that there
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe
First love! Nothing can stop you from being with each other…
Have you ever had that with God? Don’t think for a minute God doesn’t remember if you have and don’t think He doesn’t long for that if you haven’t. And don’t forget that God is not emotionless or distant. He is very engaged in our lives, actively seeking us out and drawing us to himself. When we lose our first love, it grieves and breaks his heart. He wants that back and He will do whatever it takes to win you back to himself! We must remember how far we have fallen.
Secondly, Jesus says to us: Repent and do the things you did at first.
It’s not enough to simply acknowledge how far we have fallen; we must turn around and do again the things we used to do when in love. We must come back to the basics, not as mere activities, but out of our passion for Him: Spending time in His presence. Worshiping. Praying. Reading his word with a heart eagerly anticipating and expecting to hear his voice with a willingness to walk in his ways and obey his commands. Having authentic fellowship with other believers that is based on the truth of God’s Word and genuine biblical love for one another. Serving others because we love Him. Going into all the world, because his heart is for the world. Caring for the orphan, widow, refugee and poor. Giving generously and cheerfully.
God is after our hearts. He is after your heart. He is looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. He is working to turn hearts to himself and back to himself. Can you sense Him drawing you? Can you discern him pursuing you? Is He creating a holy restlessness and spiritual discontent in you to seek Him? Is He working to convict you and soften your heart once more to Him?
If so, remember.
If so, repent.
If so, respond.
If so, return to your first love.
With all your heart.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. -Proverbs 4:23