Of course, you love Jesus. I shouldn’t even have to ask. You’re at church every Sunday morning and maybe even an intense Bible study through the week. You pray every morning and spend time reading the Bible on a regular basis. Be careful with that right there. We’ll come back to that later.
Yes, you love Jesus. You even post about Him on Facebook and Twitter every now and then, making sure all your friends know where your heart is. You’re the first one to drop a few dollars on the plate when it’s being passed. Even your friends ask you to say the prayer at the gathering because they know how important God is in your life.
Ok ok. You get the point. Maybe you don’t tithe every week but yes, you love Jesus. I have a question for you though. Is that love still as intense as when it first formed or is it slowly starting to wither a little? As Christians, especially Christian men, this is something we have to be prepared against. It’s more common than you may think. Jesus even addresses it Himself in the Scriptures.
Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
This verse seems to come out of nowhere. Jesus is telling John what to write the angel of the church in Ephesus. The previous two verses commend the church for everything they are doing, exactly the way they have been taught. They have great works and toil. The believers there are enduring patiently. They cannot bear evil people and go out of their way to test people who make the false claim of being an apostle. These Christians are not growing weary in what they are doing. Still, Jesus wants them to know, they have abandoned the love they had at first.
I’m recently coming out of a very dry season spiritually. That’s putting it lightly. This is something I have experienced a few times since 2012 when loving Jesus first became important in my life. For me, once these seasons end, I spend a great deal of time reviewing the journal entries I’d written during the time. I like to see what I could have been doing differently. When did hitting the snooze button first become more important than an extra 10 minutes of prayer? At what point did I begin reading my Bible instead of studying God’s Word?
I don’t know about you, but these “dry seasons” have a nasty effect on me. They change the way I think. My wife tells me the vocabulary I use even changes. That doesn’t mean I have a potty mouth when Jesus feels distant in my life. It means I don’t put as much thought into what I’m saying. I’m a writer. Words are important. For those closest to me, the way I speak is often the first sign that my heart’s not where it should be.
My actions and the way I respond to them become different. Yes, life becomes hellish enough that as these seasons come to an end, I spend time reviewing my journal to begin making preparations for the next dry season before it gets here. Enough about me, though. You didn’t click on the link to read my bio.
I’ve put together a few thoughts and ideas of signs that may be pointing to us slowly falling out of love with Jesus. If something I write creates a stir inside of you, that could be a sign something desperately needs to be addressed in your life. I’ve already shared about not spending as much time in prayer or with our nose in the Bible. When we’re honest, those are a couple of signs pretty simple to identify. I want to touch on a few that may not be as glaring.
Church becomes routine
If you already know before bed on Saturday night the events that will happen from the time you leave for the church until you return home, there’s a chance church might be starting to become too much of a routine. Before we go any further, I’m the proud daddy of a four-year-old little girl. I know the importance of order and staying on schedule.
That being said, have you allowed Sunday morning to become a routine that happens, again and again, week after week? Do you know where you’re going to park and exactly where you’re going to sit? Will you shake hands and make small talk with the same exact people you go out of your way to look for every Sunday?
People don’t realize exactly how small of a box this puts God in. You’re not giving yourself an opportunity to be surprised or taken out of the norm. Routines are meant for the world, not the time you spend with Jesus. Again, I know. There needs to order and a specific way to go about things. All I’m saying is don’t allow your routine to become so strict that God’s unable to get your attention. It can happen.
A list of what could have been better
I struggle with this at times. When Jesus first became important in my life, I was part of an amazing church in Jacksonville, Florida. I still listen to Pastor Joby’s sermons online every Monday night. No, the church was by no means perfect. That being said, it was exactly what I needed at that time in life. So much of who I am today began back then with The Church of 1122.
Let’s just say, I was well on my way to Tarshish. I had paid the fee and was running as far as I could. I was swallowed up and spit out at a faith-based recovery home for men suffering from alcohol and drug addiction in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. For the record, I’m from northern Indiana. I still have a very foggy reflection of the 12 months that led to me living in Florida.
My first day at “The Refuge” was a Thursday. That meant, we went to the Thursday night service at COE22. Within the next few weeks, I discovered my passion for not only the Bible but writing about how Scripture can subjectively be applied to our daily lives. A blog post I had written for The Refuge played a huge role in me receiving a full-ride scholarship to study theology at Aidan University where I am still studying for another degree. The Church of 1122 played a tremendous part in the man God is leading me to become.
So, it’s not hard for me to come up with mistakes and miscues that happen at the much smaller church I attend now. I’ve even allowed this to lead me to look for a new church a few times. There was nothing doctrinally wrong with what was being taught or the interpretation of the Bible being delivered. I love expository preaching and that is what led me to the church when I returned to Indiana in 2017. The pastor is one of the greatest preachers I’ve ever heard.
But, when Jesus begins to lose His place in my life, I become too quick to point out not exactly what is wrong, but what I wish was different. Like the entire service centers around my feelings and comfort. Here’s a free one. Christians aren’t called to comfort. We’re led to the cross.
When you’re more focused on the performance of the staff at church instead of the movement of the Holy Spirit, there’s a good chance some rearranging needs to happen in your heart.
Impressing religious people
I went out of my way to save this one for last. That’s short for this is by far one of my biggest struggles in life. Again, it would require others to be honest, but I don’t think I am the only one reading this with the problem.
As I mentioned, not too long ago, my family moved back to Indiana and there was a new church. So, the big shot that I am, I needed to make an appointment to go meet Pastor Ryan, the leader of the church we’d be attending. He didn’t, but I can look back and see where he must have wanted to laugh at the conversation.
No, it wasn’t my introduction, but by the time we were finished talking, I made sure he knew that I was the founder of the Gospel Grammar and write for a few Christian websites. I had earned a degree already and was still pursuing an education in theology at the university level. I’d signed contracts with more than one publisher on books that I was writing. I was going to start attending his church because expository preaching is how I best connect with God and hopefully he wouldn’t screw that up for me.
I don’t think the words “I love Jesus” ever came out of my mouth during the entire conversation. It wasn’t important that I am a sinner saved by grace, that sanctification is a lifelong process I will never be able to accomplish through my own doing. My need for penal-substitutionary atonement had nothing to do with what I wanted to say about myself. I simply needed my new pastor to know what all I had accomplished and that I would be one of the “better Christians” in his congregation because of what I had learned about God.
Again, I need to ask you something. Are you more concerned with religion and how Jesus is useful, or are you intensely driven by the gospel that you find Him so beautiful, you become seized by the Power of a great affection? Are you still in desperate need of Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross? Or, are you one of us who too often find Jesus saying, with everything that you do and have accomplished, I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first?
Jeffrey has a degree in theology from Aidan University and is the founder of Gospel Grammar in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. His goal is to inspire others to seek a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.