Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fresh Love

{I’ve stolen/borrowed this title, as you’ll see later – so I can’t take credit for it!}

This past Thursday evening, I hit a slump of discouragement. There are several probable factors that created it, but in the end God used it to once again remind me how constantly and desperately I need Him. He is all-sufficient, if only I would have the faith to trust and rely on Him rather than myself.

Since then, I have spent some time reading Nehemiah 8 and 9. Those two chapters focus on the reading of the law to the Jews who had returned after exile, and of their response to it. The people were grieved when the law was read and explained by the Levites – and though they were encouraged to not grieve because “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10), they later returned to pour their hearts out in confession before God.

During this gathering, the Levites stood up before the people and recounted the history of Israel poetically – but what I found most interesting as I read it this morning is that they started off by blessing God and worshipping Him. The tale they told was one of Israelite rebellion and unfaithfulness, but it was framed and laced throughout with the mercy of God and His worthiness to be obeyed and praised.

As I closed my Bible and prepared to get ready for church, a thought flitted through my mind; something about feeling as though I was just slogging through, trying to do what I knew I should, but often without my heart fully into it. Little did I know then how that very thought would tie into church.

I arrived at church a little early. While sitting there listening to the choir finishing their practice for the service, I watched as a couple of our church leaders brought out the elements for communion. Somehow, that simple sight awakened emotion in me, and a tear had to be wiped from my cheek.

A little later in the service, the Scripture passage for the day’s sermon was read, Revelations 2:1-7. The meat of those verses hit me right between the eyes. Christ, speaking to the church in Ephesus, says:
“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. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: have forsaken the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:2-4).

Yes, I thought. Yes, that’s exactly it. That could nearly just as well be speaking about me.

My mind flashed back to a recent group discussion in which I was simultaneously frustrated and prideful. I found myself unduly frustrated with others for not having a working understanding of theological principles which I’ve had something of a grasp on for almost as long as I can remember. And thus the pride came into play as well.

I try to work hard and perform well, often for the sake of giving glory to Christ. I make an effort to hold fast to Scripture, making it my foundation, learning so that I may I understand truth and discern the lie. I do my best to press through times of discouragement.

But where is the love in my heart?

Do I do all these things merely because I am supposed to? Or because my heart is on fire with a love and passion for God and His glory?

While I desire the latter, the former is often more accurate. Just trying to slog through life, to get through one more day.

I don’t want to live like that.

I want to return to the first love of Christ. The love that came, not because of anything I had done but because of what He did. The fresh love, as the preacher put it, that flows from Him through me—of which I am merely a channel, not a creator.

During the sermon, the pastor for the day clarified and reechoed many of these thoughts which had recently been swirling, half-formed, in my mind. In his conclusion, he read 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a. Reminding us that without love, we are nothing. Reminding us of just what kind of love Christ has for us.

As we took communion, our worship leader played a song that had really struck me in church a couple weeks ago. I munched my small square of bread and drank my small cup of juice, remembering what Christ has done for me; remembering that all is by grace.

And so a new day continues, a new hour lies before me. May it be filled with a fresh love for Christ and for others, by His grace.