No matter how far we’ve wandered, Jesus invites us to return. That’s just the way He is. He longs for us to rediscover the love that once defined our experience with Him.
I know. There was a time in my life as a pastor when I shipwrecked my relationship with Jesus by allowing busyness to dominate. In one particular month, I remember 28 days with activities that kept me away from home. Living on the run was the pattern of my ministry.
Needless to say, I had ignored the biblical priority of relationship in the midst of activity. I was disconnected and prayerless. And I was losing the hearts of my children.
Thankfully, Jesus rebuked me during a Life Action Revival Summit at our church, and I was deeply broken over my pride and neglect. I sought forgiveness from Jesus, my family, and the congregation. Then I resigned from a number of commitments in order to make time for the ones that mattered most.
By God’s grace, I have a great relationship with my children today, and I am enjoying fruitful ministry. But there is no doubt that I owe all of that to Jesus’ severe mercy that turned me back to Him in personal revival so many years ago.
Here’s the important lesson I learned from that experience: When Jesus shows you a need for Him, you can either run, or you can return!
Jesus’ words to the lukewarm believers at Ephesus tell us what’s involved in recovering spiritual passion: “Consider [Remember] how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).
Remembering from where we’ve fallen means several things. It means taking an honest look back to discover how “small” compromises led us away. It means agreeing with God about the condition of our hearts rather than continuing to ignore or excuse our hardness. And it means being specific about the other loves that have taken Jesus’ place in our lives.
Perhaps you stopped gathering with other believers—you were too busy, or too bitter, or too proud—there could be a thousand reasons. As weeks went by without Jesus-focused interaction, fellowship, and worship, you lost your spiritual passion. The truth is that when we pull away from God’s family, we start pulling away from God Himself (Hebrews 10:19-25).
Perhaps you drifted from spiritual disciplines. You ceased praying as you once did; you chose to relax in your struggle against sin; you set the Bible aside for a while, preoccupied with life’s demands. Days became weeks, and weeks became months.
Perhaps you had an improper response to trials or suffering. You allowed a tragedy to jolt you away from your first love with the Lord, just at the moment when you needed Him most. Your love and spiritual interest grew cold.
But remembering is only the first step. Jesus also says that we must repent. It does no good to recognize a lack of love without an about-face! Repentance means turning from our sin while turning to Jesus. It involves choosing to leave the world behind and embrace Him.
And then Jesus gives one final command that is vital to completing the restoration process: “Do the things you did at first.”
What did you do when you first fell in love with Jesus? Didn’t you spend time talking to Him about everything, worshiping Him with your whole heart? Didn’t you share about Him with friends? Didn’t you give generously of your time and money, out of overflowing gratitude? Didn’t you devour your Bible, out of deep desire to learn from Him?
Making the choice to intentionally do these things again is a response of our will. When we start acting by faith like someone who loves Jesus, our feelings for Him will follow. Rekindled love for Jesus often follows careful attention to obey His Word.
Maybe you find yourself at a fork in the road of your devotion to Christ, much like I did. I pray that God would show you how much hangs in the balance. Jesus warned the Ephesian church that prolonged neglect of Him—a failure to remember and repent—would lead to their light going out: “I will . . . remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5).
Personally, I interpret Jesus’ words like this: “If you fail to return to Me, I will remove My power and presence from your life, leaving you an empty shell. You will lose your effectiveness, and your life will not accomplish anything of eternal value.”
No one wants to waste their life, to miss the big purpose. But the abundant life Jesus offers cannot be separated from Jesus Himself. All the treasures that come from God are literally found in Him (Colossians 2:2-3).
So how is your relationship with Jesus? Is it burning, passionate, evident in every area of your life? Or have you settled for something less?
To wanderers everywhere, Jesus still has one simple message: “Return to Me.”
Wilson Green pastored for 21 years in Virginia and Illinois, and today serves full time in Life Action. This article is from Life Action’s Revive magazine, Vol. 45, Issue 1, “The Love of Jesus,” published Spring 2014.