Following Jesus will always come with challenges
Following Jesus will always come with challenges. It always has, it always will. And in some cultures, the challenges are really obvious. If the government finds out you follow Jesus they’ll kill you. That’s pretty cut and dry. Pretty easy to understand. In cultures like ours, where 80% of people (including elected officials) self-identify as Christians, the challenge is a little more subtle.
Clearly, ONE of the challenges of being a Jesus follower in America is 2020, is that there are so many earthly institutions and causes that are fighting for your heart. This becomes especially obvious when we’re in an election year like we are now. Where you are in a constant state of being recruited. And the currency of recruitment by the way is almost always outrage.
And the primary issue is the affections of your heart. What’s the real driving force behind what you say and what you do.
I met with a young couple this past week who are engaged and are about the enter into our premarital program offered at the church.
There’s something so refreshing about young love, don’t you think?
And for you married people, can you remember what that was like? Those early years before you were weighed down with the responsibilities of adult life, where you couldn’t stop thinking about that other person. You’d wake up thinking about them, you’d go to sleep thinking about them.
I remember when I was dating Jordan, she had a curfew of 11:30. Which is quite generous, now that I’m a dad. But I remember I’d be with Jordan at her house maybe watching a movie or something, and I’d look up at the clock and it was 11:10pm or something and I’d think “Yes!!!! 20 more minutes together!!!”
Jordan and I have been together for 18 years now which is incredible.
And let just say that great marriages are sustained not by FEELINGS of love but a COMMITMENT to love.
Did you know that the Bible frequently uses marriage as a picture of the Christian life.
And just as the heart of a couple can grow cold, so too can the heart of a christian grow cold.
As Christians, I believe we must always be mindful of affections that would come and unseat the place in our hearts that is for God alone.
Talk to you about: Returning to your first love
Here Jesus says to John while he’s in exile on the isle of Patmos, to pick up his pen, he wants to dictate 7 letters to 7 churches.
I believe his words are prophetic for us today.
Here we are smack dab in the middle of a time that is certainly pivotal for us as a nation.
So Jesus comes to this church (and I believe he come to us) with 3 things:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. (Revelation 2:1)
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. (Revelation 2:2)
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. (Revelation 2:3)
So Jesus commends them.
So imagine you’re here in this church and you’re hearing these words. Imagine you’re sitting next to your wife and you nudge her and say “How about that! We’re doing good! Jesus is proud of us!”
What does he commend them for? 2 Things.
- Right Behavior “You’re working hard” “You’re not giving up” – Jesus here is clapping for them. “I’m commending you. You are acting right.”
- Right Beliefs – “You guys know the truth. And so you’re able to discern what is a lie.”
So here we have a church that is acting right and believing right. And so you might be thinking “Well what else is there? You believe right, you act right. What could possibly be wrong?”
Think about that. Doesn’t that cover all the bases?
Yet I hold this against you: (Revelation 2:4a)
So now, remember who’s talking here. This is not some frothing at the mouth preacher. JESUS is saying this. “You believe right, and you act right. But we do have a problem here.” And this is not some small issue. In fact, a couple verses down Jesus says that if this church doesn’t fix this issue, he will remove the church.
And so if you’re sitting there, you’re thinking “Wait a minute. We have right behavior, and we have right belief. What could possibly be the problem?”
Isn’t that amazing. Jesus comes and says “I, the one who forgave you, the one who redeemed you, the one who died on the cross and spilled my blood for you, I HAVE A PROBLEM AGAINST YOU.”
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. (Revelation 2:4)
The King James translation says it like this:
“You have left your first love.”
Now what does that mean, “First Love”
Well, in this context, it does not mean chronologically. In other words, he’s not talking about the sequence of events. What was the first thing you loved? No, that would probably be your mother. No, FIRST in this instance refers to priority. The one priority that all other priorities radiate from.
So for example, I love all of you. But my wife, comes before you. And my daughter comes before you.
So they have veto rights on my calendar. I might have an appointment with you this coming week, but if my wife needs me during that time, I’ll cancel on you.
Why? Because my wife comes first. When it comes to the people of this world.
So here Jesus is saying to this church “There was a time when I was the center for you. Where everything else radiated out from your relationship with me. Everything else was informed by me. But it’s not like that anymore. Because you left. Yeah you still believe the right things and you still do the right things, but your heart, it’s somewhere else.”
It’s doesn’t say you have LOST your first love. It says you have LEFT it.
If you lose something, you don’t know where it went. You lost your keys, you lost your hat.
But if you LEAVE something, you know where it is, but you walked away.
Bible College – Forgot Paper
Years ago, I attended bible college in Colorado Springs. And for about half of that time I lived in Denver. No great logic to that, it was just that I had a friend in Denver who said I could live with him so I did.
So to go to the school was about a 70 mile drive. So about an hour, nothing too crazy. Well at one point we had this big paper due, and it was due on a friday. And I remember I was just struggling to write this paper, I don’t even remember what it was about, I just remember struggling with it. And so I told my professor, man, I am struggling with this paper and I need an extra day. So would it be ok, if I dropped it off at his house first thing the following morning. (This was before submitting your papers online. You had to print them out and hand them in).
He agreed as long as it was to his house by 8am. So I thanked him and went home to write the paper. Wrote it, felt fine about it, woke up bright and early and drove to my professors house. Well around 7:45am I arrived at his house, and as soon as I pulled in to his driveway I realized something horrible. I had forgotten something. What do you think it was? The paper.
I had gotten distracted and I forgot the thing that was the whole reason for the trip.
God here is saying the same thing, you got so caught up that you left me.
And this will be my only political talk of the the night:
The past is the past. And we can leave it there. That’s fine, but I gotta tell you, going forward: Politics cannot be our new religion.
As one of your pastors. As one of the people God has placed in your life to lead you and be responsible for you, I’m instituting a new family rule. This starts tonight. Are you ready? :::
You are not allowed to think about Donald Trump more than you think about God.
And that’s both you who love him and those who can’t stand him.
You’re not allowed to think about him more than you think about God. And if you do, that’s breaking the rules.
And if you feel more aligned with your political allies than your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you have drifted.
“So are you saying I shouldn’t be concerned about politics at all?” – No that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that politics cannot be your first love.
I think John Wesley summed it up perfectly.
John Wesley – October 6, 1774 – British general election
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
- To vote for the person they judged most worthy
- To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
- To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
It’s your responsibility to take care of your own spirit and ensure you do not become overly sharp with your political opponents. That’s your responsability. Tonights the night for you to get real clear in your own heart.
Maybe if you’re being real honest, you know you’ve drifted. You know you got caught up in the nonsense.
And it’s not because you’re some horrible Christian who wants to spit on Jesus. No, you got distracted.
You underestimated the effect that following the news all day would have on your heart.
It happens gradually.
We see this happen in marriages. Don’t we? They gradually become cold.
I don’t have time to get into in, but Ephesus, the location of this church was truly a filthy place. And that filth had most certainly spilled into the church, they would bring prostitutes into the temple and perform lewd sex acts with prostitutes in the temple.
And here we have God coming and saying:
“Look at you” – You’re not doing that stuff anymore. Good. Good for you. You’re not cussing like you used to. Good. Good for you. Squeaky clean, right?
And wow, you’ve got your whole belief system all figured out. Your whole doctrinal framework and your eschatology, wow. It’s very good.
And wow, your political convictions. Boy are you on the right side. You voted for the right candidate. You rightly understand the policies and the proposals, wow.
“Where am I?”
That’s not what you want to hear.
God comes to you and says “You believe the right things and you are even doing the right things.” — “But you have drifted.”
You got distracted.
And I’ll be honest, I think most if not all of us in this room tonight are guilty of at least that. At least admit that.
You’ve got the right stuff in you, but it’s in the wrong place.
So that’s the commendation and the correction.
You believe right and you act right. Good for you. But you have left your first love. You got distracted by the cares of this world and let something slip into the seat at the center of your heart that is reserved for God alone.
Consider how far you have fallen! (Wow. Jesus is saying to do that.) Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:5)
You know, it’s hard to talk about repenting these days, because no one talks about sin anymore. I mean who wants to talk about sin? Especially when it’s your sin?
Jesus doesn’t tip toe around.
He looks you square in the eye and says “You have drifted.”
And it’s time for a change.
The word repent —> metanoó (MET-A-NOH) – literally means to change your mind.
“Do the things you did at first.”
See that’s what’s so amazing about Jesus.
Every moment is a new opportunity.
And God’s grace and mercy are available to you every second of every day.
And when you realize you’ve drifted, you don’t have to spend 5 hours wailing and lamenting and groveling, no just return back to your first love.
You just come to Jesus and so “Wow. I got really carried away there. Forgive me. This is the day that that ends. Tomorrow I’ll do better.
And so, if I was you, I’ll tell you what I’d do:
I would use tonight as an opportunity to put Jesus back in the center.
And something that I think is real practical that goes along with that: Forgiveness.
Some of you have had relationships literally tear apart because everyone just got so carried away.
And so in order to move forward, some of you need to consider 1 of 2 things, or perhaps both.
- Forgiving those who have wounded you with their words and their actions.
- Asking for forgiveness from those that YOU have wounded.
At it’s core, communion is a Christian practice that we’ve been taking part in for 2000 years.
- The bread that we eat symbolizes Christs body
- The cup – be it juice, – The cup symbolizes Christs blood.
And Jesus instructed his followers to use bread and the cup as a way of remembering him, and meeting with him.
You could say it like this: “Communion is you taking your seat at the Table of Jesus.
As we worship – 3 Questions
- Who is your Lord?
- Who is your true Family?
- Who is your true Enemy?