a publication of Life Action Ministries
Winter 2010 Volume 40, Issue 4 www.LifeAction.org/revive
CONTENTS COLUMNS 3
Spirit of Revival
Jesus Knocks by Byron Paulus
Pay Attention! by Del Fehsenfeld
13 From the Heart
Love Jesus First by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
31 Next Step
Jesus in the Face of Others by Daniel W. Jarvis
4 Interact Feedback from our readers
Interview with Dr. Dennis Kinlaw
21 Looking Back Do You Love Me?
22 Hard Questions
24 Real World
Why Does Jesus Scare Us?
A believer who has been in love with
the world wants to change
10 Is the Real Jesus Your Savior?
Tools to help you go deeper
27 Making It Personal
Jesus: Mascot or Monarch?
Apply the principles discussed in this issue
14 Return to Me Wilson Green
18 Choosing Jesus Bill Elliff
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Assistant Editor: Kim Gwin Creative Directors: Aaron Paulus, Tim Ritter Senior Graphic Designer: Thomas A. Jones Production: Wayne Lake Volume 40, Issue 4 Copyright © 2009 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved. Suggested donation $4.95
Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers.We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations. To purchase additional copies of this issue, to be placed on our free mailing list, or to contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org • www.LifeAction.org/revive
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL
recent Northwest flight carrying 144 passengers from San Diego to Minneapolis overflew the airport by 150 miles. The pilots remained unresponsive to air traffic controllers and airline officials who were desperately trying to make contact. White House officials were closely monitoring the event, and four fighter jets were preparing to intercept the aircraft. The plane finally turned around after a stewardess got the pilots’ attention by pounding on the cockpit door. What went wrong? The seasoned pilots had apparently become so absorbed with a new software program on their laptops that they had lost track of their destination! The same thing can happen to us in our Christian walk. It’s possible to become so passionate about other things that our passion for Jesus is crowded out. Often we don’t even notice until someone or something demands that we stop and realize we’re way off course. It happened to the believers in Asia Minor in the first century. Distractions were plentiful: bustling markets, elegant buildings, stylish theaters. And with those came pride and perversity—sprawling brothels, cultic shrines, and innumerable deities. Evil ran rampant. Then revival came. All the signs of an authentic move of God are found in Acts 19:
• • • •
Fear fell on them all. The name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Conviction, honesty, humility, and repentance led to public denunciation of sinful practices. The Word of God grew and prevailed mightily.
But thirty years later, the passion had died down. While still remarkable churches in many ways, they had lost their focus and once again needed revival. Jesus appeared to the Apostle John with a fresh word for them. They had left their first love (Rev. 2:4). And Jesus said He found Himself locked outside the church that bore His name, knocking on the door (Rev. 3:20)! Notice that Jesus didn’t say they had “lost” their first love. No, they left it. It was a choice, not an accident—or at least the accumulation of hundreds of daily choices to put something else ahead of the Savior. Contrary to popular opinion, people don’t “fall” out of love. In reality, their love cools as other things gradually take priority and focus. Then one day they realize that there’s no real connection, no real relationship that feels worth preserving. So what about you? Have you left your first love for Jesus? Are you making daily choices that are leading you away from intimacy with Him? This issue of Revive is a knock at the door of our hearts—an invitation to return to passionate love for Jesus. Because when all is said and done, revival is about Christians falling in love with Jesus all over again. n
It’s possible to become so
passionate about other things that our passion for Jesus is crowded out.
Byron Paulus Executive Director
In other words, as Paul preached, many encountered Jesus. The church was growing and madly in love with their Savior. The love of Christ was spread throughout the entire region.
.com Resource To read more from Byron Paulus, connect to his blog at LifeAction.org/blog.
INTERACT Do you have comments or questions about this issue of Revive? Has God changed your life as a result of the truth presented? We enjoy publishing questions, responses, encouraging stories, and even critiques from our readers. Send us your thoughts. Write to Revive Editor, Life Action Ministries, P.O. Box 31, Buchanan, MI 49107, or e-mail us at revive@LifeAction.org. (We do edit letters for length and clarity. Please include your city and state.)
We received great feedback on the last issue of Revive. When I came across the following piece, I wanted to share it with you because it’s the perfect bridge between the last issue on Bible study and this issue on loving Jesus. Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us. Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood that cries out, not for our condemnation but for acquittal. Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void to create a new people of God. Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by His Father on the mount, but was truly sacrificed for us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the King, forgives those who betrayed and sold Him, and uses His new power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and God, and who mediates a new covenant. Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves His foolish friends. Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes His people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves. Taken from Tim Keller’s message “Preaching the Gospel” 4 LifeAction.org/revive
Jesus is the true and better Esther who left His ultimate and heavenly palace, and who didn’t just risk His life but gave it to save His people. Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in. Jesus is the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.
Reader Feedback: This issue did the best job I’ve ever seen in one issue of a journal in helping people see how to study the Bible the way it was meant to be studied. It also addressed my concern about revival that we sometimes are in danger of putting so much focus on what has happened in the past that we forget that God may want to do something different in the present. The focus on this kind of Bible study and prayer frees God’s people to be open to whatever change He wants to bring in us, even if it breaks away some of our cherished traditions but allows the Spirit to move in a new day. – Pastor John, Louisiana Your Revive magazine is always a huge blessing. We save them all for future reference and counseling. – Ann, Indiana New to Revive? If you missed our last issue of Revive magazine, you can purchase a back copy from our online store or freely print off the articles from our website at your convenience. Just log on to www.LifeAction.org/Revive or call 800-321-1538.
am notorious at my house for being physically present but hopelessly lost in thought. It’s so bad that my young son once jokingly asked me if he could drive my car . . . and I absentmindedly gave him the keys! Fortunately, my wife and kids can usually laugh with me (and at me!) about my tendency to “zone out.” But habitual inattentiveness is no laughing matter, because attention is a critical building block for any relationship, including our relationship with God. What about you? Do you pay attention to Jesus? Does He occupy your thoughts and fuel your passions? Can your discipleship be summed up by the things you know about Jesus and the things you do for Him? Or is it based on attentiveness to Jesus Himself? These questions are important for serious-minded believers, because focusing on “not sinning” is not the same as pursuing intimacy with Jesus. I’m discovering this revolutionary truth: Real change is accomplished by Jesus as I am with Jesus (John 15:3-4). The essence of a Jesus-focused life is attentiveness to Jesus in every moment. And since connection to Jesus is the key to transformation, learning the rhythms of being with Him are the most important lessons in life. A careful look at Jesus’ life and those who have followed Him closely reveals practices that help us learn to stay connected to God—for example, Bible reading and prayer, silence and solitude, confession and accountability, giving and service, fasting and meditation, thanksgiving and celebration. And while these practices in themselves have no power or merit with God, they can bring us continually before Jesus to be changed by Him. An ordinary farmer named Brother Lawrence gave us an extraordinary example of this kind of life. After his conversion in midlife, he joined a monastery, hoping to
cultivate his relationship with Jesus. Instead, he was assigned to permanent dish duty in the kitchen. Although initially discouraged because of having no time to observe religious rites, Brother Lawrence began experimenting with “practicing the presence of Christ” as he washed pots and pans. Much to his joy, he soon discovered that it was possible to retain a conscious awareness of Jesus even as he worked. He found that the sweat and activity of daily life were not impediments to true worship. Whenever his mind drifted from Jesus, he would simply return his attention to Him and begin communion afresh. Soon, Brother Lawrence was radiating the presence of Jesus to such a degree that monks were lining up at the dish room door to learn his secret of the Christian life! Brother Lawrence is but one example of thousands of ordinary people who have found the extraordinary power of living life with Jesus. When the goal of the Christian life changes from right behaviors to cultivating a right relationship with Jesus, every moment of our lives can become a pathway to the kind of freedom Jesus promised. Maybe our choice to love Jesus above all else needs to begin with a reintroduction to the One we love. As we quiet our souls and set aside competing passions in order to focus on Jesus, we’ll rediscover the joy and power of relationship with Him. n
The essence of a Jesus-focused life is attentiveness to Jesus in every moment.
Del Fehsenfeld III Senior Editor
.com Resource To learn more about practices that can bring us continually before Jesus, visit LifeAction.org/FirstLove.
JESUS : MA MON David Bryant
attended a high school that is football-crazy. It boasted a stadium seating 20,000 and produced nearly twenty-five state championship
teams. The team is called the Massillon Tigers. Our mascot requires a taller student to dress up like a tigerâ€”I mean, wearing a real tiger skin! He inherits a name of affection: Obie the Tiger. Here's how a mascot works. At times in the midst of a game,
SCOT OR ARCH?
if we’re falling behind, the coach signals time-out. Because the crowd needs to be stirred to cheer more enthusiastically for the team’s victory, the uniformed tiger runs his stripes onto the field. Seeing Obie doubles the crowd’s determination to celebrate the champions we hope to be. After all, we are the Massillon Tigers!
ut at each appearance, interestingly, Obie’s performance is very brief. Then he disappears again, sent to the sidelines, put on hold until the next setback. He has served his useful purpose well. Still, in the final analysis, the tiger never really gets involved beyond reigniting cries of confidence, other than giving us an identity to boast about. To be sure, Obie stirs up a certain kind of passion. But it’s not really about him. It’s really about the team, and even more about the fans. The team designs the plays, runs the patterns, throws the blocks, reaches the goal, claims the credit. The fans jump with joy, declare their superior identity over the losers, and boast that they are “the Massillon Tigers.” Then we all go home satisfied. Now, here’s the kicker: What happens the moment our team hits a losing season? What good is the mascot then? The zeal it inspires suddenly feels hollow, even foolish. We are left with little else but embarrassing thoughts of our team’s helplessness and hopelessness. Then, how quickly passion heads south—for Obie, for our team, for our future, for the game itself. In so many of our churches, I fear, Jesus is regularly deployed as our mascot. On Sunday we “trot Him out” to cheer us up, to give us new vigor and vision, to reassure us that we are “somebodies.” We invite Him to reinforce for us the great things we want to do for God. We look to Him to reinvigorate our celebration of victories we think we’re destined to win. He lifts our spirits. He resuscitates our souls. He rebuilds our confidence. He gives us reasons to cheer. But then, for the rest of the week, He is pretty much relegated to the sidelines. For all practical purposes, we are the ones who call the shots. We implement the plays, scramble for first downs, and improvise in a pinch. Even if we do it in His name, we do it with little reliance on His person. There’s scant evidence that we think of ourselves as somehow utterly incapable of doing anything of eternal consequence apart from Jesus. Our promises to Him leave our daily discipleship unfazed. There is little desperation for increased manifestations of His majesty among us. As contradictory as it may seem, many of us have redefined Jesus into someone we can both admire and ignore at the same time! To make Him a good mascot, we’ve redesigned Him to be reasonably convenient—someone praiseworthy, to be sure, but overall kept in reserve, useful, “on call” as required. The truth is, Jesus’ claims to the monarchy make Him the opposite of an Obie character. Instead, He encompasses
in Himself the coach, quarterback, playbook, team, uniforms, cheerleader, goal post, and final championship—the “whole nine yards” (as we say)—wrapped up in one person alone. Does this vision of His lordship take on such exalted dimensions in your life? Does it promote an exclusive love for Him—a zeal for His glory evident in your daily routines as much as in your church attendance on Sundays? I suspect many of us have found far more fascination with the game of Christianity—with how we are playing it and whether we are winning—than we have with the One in whose name and for whose sake the “game” exists at all. Which may explain the reports: The membership in 80% of U.S. churches is either stagnant or dying. Tens of thousands of congregations are wrestling with a leveling off of financial giving, a growing shortfall of laborers, and an atmosphere of apathy toward evangelism, compassion ministries, and the global mission of Christ’s kingdom that seems endemic. Without an adequate view of the incomparable majesty of Jesus as King, Christians quickly revert to the role of spiritual “couch potatoes.” We get involved with God’s purposes in Christ at arm’s length, at best. For many of us, “amazing grace” has ceased to be genuinely amazing because our vision of God’s Son is no longer genuinely amazing. George Barna, respected demographer of American Christianity, concluded extensive research a short time back with this troubling summary: “Overall, Christian ministry is stuck in a deep rut. . . . Too many Christians and churches in America have traded in spiritual passion for empty rituals, clever methods and mindless practices. The challenge to today’s Church is not methodological. It is a challenge to resuscitate the spiritual passion and fervor of the nation’s Christians.” The time has come to pray for the Holy Spirit to restore to the Church a “Person-driven” walk with the everlasting Son of the Father. The good news is this: If we turn back to exult once again in our Savior as the Monarch He is—if we spread this grander message about God’s Son to God’s people, inviting them to rediscover in His reign all the hope we are meant to have—we can create a life-saving paradigm shift in our lives and inside the Church. We can trigger a reignition of our passion for Him as Lord of all. n
Seeing & Savoring Jesus The Superlative One You will forever defy all human categories. No analysis can fully record all the roles You must play to advance God’s ever-expanding kingdom (1 Pet. 1).
The Incomparable One You will forever remain in a class by Yourself—no duplicates, no clones. Your importance will continue to eclipse all others, outranking every other being in heaven, earth, or hell. You will reign “world without end” (2 Thess. 1).
The Exalted One For eternity, You will hold the primary focus of our praises, a position of unrivaled distinction, prestige, and majesty in the universe. You will be the joy of all peoples, worthy to receive every treasure, every dominion, and every ounce of praise (Rev. 5).
The Preeminent One As You held the primacy at the beginning (“firstborn of creation”), so You will at the End (“firstborn from among the dead”). All things to come are Your possession, to do with as Your Father pleases (Col. 1).
The Sufficient One Nothing will ever exhaust Your power and resources. You require no outsourcing. You will forever prove completely adequate for all our longings, needs, and heart cries. You are the final inheritance of each of God’s children (Phil. 3).
The Triumphant One None of Your enemies will prevail. You will defeat all foes unconditionally—both human and demonic—to emerge forever unthreatened, unhindered, and victorious over all opposition. You are the everlasting Overcomer (Rev. 17).
The Unifying One In the Consummation, all creation, as well as the Church itself, will be held together in perfect harmony by Your irrevocable decrees and Your indestructible might (Heb. 1).
David Bryant is founder of PROCLAIM HOPE! (www.ProclaimHope.com) and author of many books, including his latest, Christ Is All!, from which this article was excerpted (see www.ChristIsAllBook.com).
.com Resource Watch the video by Dr. S. M. Lockridge entitled “That’s My King” as he speaks about the greatness of our Lord. Find it at LifeAction.org/FirstLove.
Is the Real Jesus
hile rehearsing for a surge of fifty concerts this summer, rock star Michael Jackson collapsed and was pronounced dead at the age of 50. Counseling hotlines were overwhelmed with despondent fans. At least twelve suicides were directly linked to hysteria over Jackson’s death. Their idol was dead, and for many, life lost its meaning. As misguided as it may seem to put hope in an aging rock star, each of us is wired to invest time, energy, and passion in what we believe will truly satisfy our hearts. Put another way, we all choose “saviors” in life— the things, experiences, or people we believe are capable of delivering us from the uncertainties and insecurities we face. That’s why the Bible warns us repeatedly against idolatry (1 John 5:21). An idol is created anytime we place our hope and trust in something other than Jesus to meet our needs or satisfy our desires. An idol is a substitute for the only true Savior—a sort of functional savior. When we rank other things as more important in our hearts than Jesus, or when we turn to them first for deliverance, we commit the sin of idolatry. These “functional saviors” aren’t so difficult to identify—just ask yourself, “What are my greatest fears? What am I unwilling to live without? What makes me angry? What do I talk about most with others?” These questions penetrate to the heart of idolatry by revealing how we define “hell on earth” and, more importantly, what we believe will ultimately deliver us from it. For example, if hell for me is remaining unmarried the rest of my life, then I’m tempted to pursue a mate to “save” me. If financial instability is hell for me,
then a high-paying job is an appealing savior. If denial of self is hell for me, then indulging my cravings will be my salvation. While there are countless ways we are tempted to sin, at its core sin is always more than a wrong behavior— it is a worship issue. Sin is an outward manifestation of misplaced inner allegiance. Jesus rightly pointed out that the commandment to love God first actually sums up the whole of God’s law. If we can get our heart priorities in the right place, our behaviors will follow. The alarming spiritual reality is that it is possible to be trusting Jesus to save us when we die, while acting as if He is inadequate to save us today. When we believe the false promises of idols, we become blind to the truth that only Jesus can save. My experience in pastoral ministry has convinced me that most of us are very slow to identify our own idolatry. Our tendency is to deal with the fruit of our sin while remaining woefully ignorant of the deadly root of our misplaced affections. Until something is taken away—until the divorce papers are signed, a child goes astray, or a financial investment sours—we fail to grasp our lack of dependence on Jesus. The only antidote for idolatry and false dependence is the gospel. The good news of the gospel reminds us that the work of Jesus is completely sufficient to save. Nothing can be added to or taken away from what He has provided. Through Him alone we receive God’s open invitation to real intimacy and satisfaction. Is Jesus really your Savior? n
COUNTERFEIT SAVIORS sports, money, fame, approval, food, alcohol, pain killers, education, possessions, career, pornography, fitness, people, entertainment, accomplishments, hobbies, Facebook, shopping “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (1 John 5:21 nlt ).
Nate is the Pastor for Discipleship and Leadership Development at Christ’s Covenant Church in Winona Lake, IN.
.com Resource Listen to a recent interview with Nathan McLauren as he talks about our allegiances at LifeAction.org/FirstLove.
Meet Pastor Scott He has the same challenges other pastors do . . . How can I relieve the stress of ministry on my family? What can be done to stop or slow the moral decay in our church and community? What can be done for our church families that are falling apart? How can I develop a culture of intentional unity in our church? How can I increase giving in our church? How can I deepen staff relationships?
Pastor Scott still thinks about all these things, just not as much. Thatâ€™s because he scheduled a Life Action summit in his church, and their Christ-centered message resulted in reconciled relationships, healed marriages, increased giving and volunteering, a spirit of love and unity, moral purity, forgiveness, and Spirit-filled evangelism.
To read Pastor Scottâ€™s testimony or to learn more about Life Action summits, visit www.LifeAction.org/summit or call 800-321-1538.
FROM THE HEART
Love Jesus First
here is a simplicity and purity about devotion to Christ that can easily be lost as we become more “sophisticated” in our faith. We know more about Jesus, and we’re doing more for Him; but in the process, we often leave Jesus Himself behind. Jesus has a simple but earnest message for us, as He did for the first-century church in Ephesus: “You have forsaken your first love” (Rev. 2:4). Jesus says in effect, “Your theology is straight. You are busy serving Me. You have lots of activity going on. But you’re missing the pulse. You’re neglecting the one thing that matters most—your love relationship with Me.” He appeals to His people to repent and return to their first love. In Ephesians 5 and elsewhere, the Bible uses marriage imagery to describe our relationship with Christ. As Christians, we are His bride. So when Christ says, “You have forsaken your first love,” He’s not just speaking as a journalist reporting on the facts. He’s not speaking as an employer giving a performance review. He’s speaking as a wounded lover. He’s saying, “I remember what it was like when you first knew Me—when you were so grateful, so tenderhearted, so devoted to Me. I mattered more to you than anything or anyone else. But all that has changed now. You don’t love Me as you once did.” When our love for Jesus grows cold and we grow distant, He is grieved. He’s heartbroken. It’s as if He is saying, “What happened to My bride? Where did you go? What happened to your heart?” Sadly, I have known the experience, as perhaps have you, of going through the motions of living the Christian life—doing all the right things, serving in ministry, but doing it without passion for Christ. When our relationship with Christ suffers, completing ministry tasks becomes more important to us
.com Resource Adapted from Nancy’s radio series on Revelation. To listen to this series online, visit LifeAction.org/FirstLove.
than the people we are serving. Why? Because our love for others ultimately flows out of our love for Christ. People are not impressed by our religious activity or theological correctness. They care about our love. I’ve attended many funerals over the years, including some for well known Christian leaders. As I look back, the most meaningful ones have not been those where people praised the departed one for their impressive achievements or tireless efforts, but those where what stands out is the person’s heart, as seen in their love for Christ and others. When all is said and done, I don’t want to be remembered for the books I wrote, the messages I gave, or the ministry I led. I don’t want to be remembered primarily for my doctrinal precision or my tireless activity. I want to be remembered as a lover of Christ and His people. As Steve Green reminds us in the song “The Mission,”
I want to be remembered as a lover of Christ and His people.
To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission, The spring from which our service overflows.* How is your love life with Jesus? Are you lacking spiritual intimacy, warmth, vitality, and power? Has your service for Him become mechanical? Jesus counsels us to remember what it was like when we loved Him with all our hearts, to turn from any competing loves (repent), and to return to those expressions of devotion that once characterized our relationship with Him. n
Nancy Leigh DeMoss Revive Our Hearts radio host
Words and music by Jon Mohr and Randall Dennis, © 1989.
Return to Me by W i l s on G reen
o 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: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 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 (Heb. 10:24-25). 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 awhile, 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 relationship with the Lord, just at the moment when
“Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5).
When Jesus shows you a need for Him, you can either run, or you can return!
you needed Him most. Your love and spiritual interest have grown 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 complete 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? And 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 Ephesians that prolonged neglect of Him—a failure to remember, repent, and return—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.” n Wilson Green pastored for 21 years in Virginia and Illinois before joining Life Action in 1999. He currently co-leads a Life Action summit team.
ViewPoint God's Love in Us
One of the best ways to get to know Jesus better is to ask someone who already knows Jesus well. Dennis Kinlaw certainly fits that category. He has joyfully radiated passionate love for the King for decades, and his lifetime of scholarly work has focused on Jesus as the center of biblical theology. Revive had the chance to sit down with Dr. Kinlaw and ask him about the ingredients of white-hot love for Jesus.
Dr. Dennis Kinlaw Who is Jesus?
Dr. Kinlaw: There are two watershed events in human history. One was Moses’ experience with God at the burning bush, when God told us His name: I AM. The second was Bethlehem, when God came to earth as a human, Jesus Christ. When you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen all there is to see of God. Now, of course there are parts of God that cannot be seen, but everything we can see of God has been revealed in Jesus. Jesus said it Himself: “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” That’s why the four gospels are so critical. You’ve been a Christian for nearly 75 years. How have you kept your love for Jesus alive for so long?
Dr. Kinlaw: The greatest gift God has ever given me is a hunger for Him. I want Him. I can’t live without His presence. The most important thing in my life is to feed that hunger for Jesus so it never goes away. If it diminishes, I replenish it as quickly as I can. He wants to be present in my life. In John
13–17, the preposition “in” occurs sixty-six times. He wants to be “in” me, just like He wanted to be “in” His people from the beginning. The other thing I would say, looking across the years, is that I can’t live without Scripture. I’ve been in the academic world; I’ve spent years in graduate school writing papers, dissertations, etc.; I’ve read devotional and theological books. But when I read them, it’s like I’m living off of potato chips—I need the meat of Scripture itself! Every time I go to the Scriptures, I find Him there. What’s interesting is that the more you know Him, the more you want Him and the more you love Him. How do you display your love for Jesus?
Dr. Kinlaw: Well, let’s start with the grammar of your question. For a long time, I wanted Him to perfect my love so that I could love Him better. I wanted God to fix me up so I could be holy. Then one day, Jesus said, “That’s not the way it works, Kinlaw.” He showed me that what I need is not perfected human love. I need God’s love within me—the
same love that binds the Trinity together. I need a divine gift from God, not a perfected human work. So I’ve learned to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in my life. He’s the one that births the divine love within me, and I must be careful not to grieve or offend Him so that a chasm develops between us. Romans 5:5 is one of the most important verses in the Bible. We think it says that “God helps us love Him,” but what it actually says is that we need the Spirit to produce God’s love in us. Many believers would say that they have a “personal relationship with Jesus,” but He doesn’t seem to be a priority in their daily lives. What should we make of this?
Finally, get as close to people who know God intimately as you can get; look for them and “saddle up” to them. Everything good in my own life has come as a gift from somebody, somewhere; nobody makes it alone. Look for the people who will inspire you and challenge you. n
Dr. Dennis Kinlaw is the founder of The Francis Asbury Society and former president of Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. Dr. Kinlaw is a widely respected scholar whose books include Let’s Start with Jesus, This Day with the Master, and We Live As Christ. To learn more about this great man’s life and work, visit www.FrancisAsburySociety.com/kinlaw.htm.
Dr. Kinlaw: Salvation isn’t a gift that I can get, then I’ve got it and I’m fixed. Salvation is a byproduct of my relationship with Jesus. You can’t get the life of God in you and put it on reserve until Judgment Day. Personal relationships can’t be frozen, and they aren’t past tense. God’s name is I AM, and I’ve got to be in a present tense relationship with Him. Perhaps on this point we have misled people by emphasizing that they can “make a decision for Jesus,” and they’ll be fixed from then on. But we need Jesus now if we are to know His saving grace now. If you were advising a new believer on how to set the stage for a lifelong, dynamic relationship with Jesus, what would you tell them?
Dr. Kinlaw: Live in the Word. Live in the Word. Live in the Word. And keep living in the Word. I also think that about every six weeks, a person ought to read the biography of someone who walked intimately with God. There’s a stack of them out there—Martin Luther, John Wesley, D. L. Moody, C. T. Studd, A. B. Simpson. When you see how God worked in someone else’s life, you get a clue as to what He can do in your own.
Let's Start with Jesus This book presents a Christ-centered way of doing theology. Instead of starting with the usual philosophical arguments for the existence and nature of God, Dennis Kinlaw shows what it looks like to form our understanding of God by starting with Jesus as the foundation. Let’s Start with Jesus is a brilliant attempt to rescue theology from dry intellectual categories by showing how everything about God is relational.
A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 Dr. Kinlaw was president of Asbury College when revival swept the campus in 1970. View his inspiring eyewitness account of this remarkable move of the Holy Spirit, of interest to any student of revival. This DVD is certain to challenge you to pray for full-scale revival. Original news footage and private footage is included in the production.
Choosing JESUS WHAT IF YOU COULD TURN A CORNER and find a million dollars? Or a new house or car? If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait to make that turn! But here’s a staggering spiritual truth: Jesus is the way that leads us into the presence of God. In Him we find wisdom and knowledge . . . supply for every need . . . love that fills our deepest heart-longings . . . perspective that gives meaning to every circumstance . . . adventure that takes us places we could never go on our own. Everything worth having flows from Him. That’s why there is nothing more important than our relationship with Jesus. So how intimate are you with Jesus right now? More importantly, how intimate would Jesus say you are with Him?
A Tale of Tragic DISTRACTION Mary and Martha were sisters, and good friends of Jesus. But one experienced a far deeper relationship with Jesus than the other: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). The difference was that Martha had been “drawn away” and distracted from relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t terribly evil things that pulled her aside, just the tyranny of the urgent—the routine intrusions of common days. Ian Thomas warned that we should “beware the barrenness of a busy life.” It’s easy to reach a place where we are busy with tasks for Jesus but short on relationship with Him. Intimacy can be lost. And Martha was showing all the signs of a lack of genuine intimacy. Do you have any of her symptoms? • Are you worried? Jesus told Martha that she was “worried” about many things. Worry is often an indication of fear that comes from unawareness of Christ’s love and grace, for His “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). • Are you frustrated? Martha was “upset” by small things. She had lost the broad perspective that comes from being in the presence of a big God. • Are you angry? Martha’s anger controlled her, even causing her to order Jesus around! Anger is usually an indication of pride that claims rights and is irritated at personal injustices—things that are resolved in Christ’s presence. • Are you whining? Martha’s dissatisfaction caused her to complain. Whining usually indicates a loss of gratitude and humility, both of which are immediate responses when you really encounter Christ.
.com Resource Listen to a message from Bill Elliff entitled “The Door to Intimacy” at LifeAction.org/FirstLove.
The Vital CHOICE Jesus’ evaluation of Mary’s life is inspiring. Although she was just an ordinary woman, Jesus said she had chosen “what is better,” something that could never be taken away from her. Our hearts were made for this kind of intimacy. The truth is that we will be intimate with something or someone. If we do not drink deeply of Jesus, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers. But substitutes can never fulfill the longings of our soul. So what will we choose? “We are now and will be in the future only as close to Christ as we really choose to be” wrote J. Oswald Sanders. Jesus is waiting for you. And everything you need is there. Everything. n
10 Tips for Intimacy with Jesus
Value relationship. Recognize the importance of intimacy with Jesus every moment of the day. Practice continuous communion. See the entire day as a running conversation with Jesus. Invite His presence. Enter every conversation and meeting with a silent (or spoken) prayer. Clear your conscience. Quickly deal with everything that is quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit. Set daily appointments. Set a specific time for concentrated reading of the Word and prayer. Embrace spontaneous conversations. If you wake up at an odd hour, or a thought or person comes to your mind, view it as Jesus’ invitation for fellowship. Cultivate true devotion. Approach devotional times as a conversation with Jesus, not a duty. Journal. Record your thoughts during times of prayer, meditation, or Bible reading. Exercise your soul. Take one day a month away with God. Get into nature with your Bible, and read whole books of the Bible in one sitting. Focus through fasting. Practice regular fasting for the sole purpose of giving focused attention to Jesus. Bill Elliff is the Directional Pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, AR. He is a conference speaker, writer, and consultant to churches, with over 40 years in ministry.
The Lodge is a place for pastors and leaders to take a break from the demands of ministry and find spiritual renewal and physical relaxation. Discover the many retreats at The Lodge by visiting
www.RetreatAtTheLodge.org The Lodge is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
Do you love me? The teenager was on a tour of European cities when he happened to visit the art gallery at Dusseldorf, where he noticed a portrait that would transform his life. The year was 1719, and having spent some years at Wittenberg University, the young man was still undecided on his life’s calling. Born into an aristocratic family, Count Zinzendorf had the influence of a godly grandmother, who herself had been influenced by the new Pietist movement. She passed on to her grandson a desire for a devotional and experiential walk with God. After 200 years, Lutheranism had remained orthodox, yet its orthodoxy of belief could not make up for the growing dryness and academic dustiness of many believers. The Pietists reacted against this coldness, and they emphasized that Christ wasn’t just to be explained doctrinally but to be followed practically. In this pietistic atmosphere, Zinzendorf developed his relationship with Christ—one that was so real to him as a child that he would often write notes to his Savior, throwing them out of the castle window in the hope that Jesus would find them. This naivety in devotion soon matured into a lifelong dedication to the imitation of Christ and to communion with Him in extended prayer and costly service. Zinzendorf is remembered today for a number of spiritual breakthroughs. Providing shelter for persecuted Christian refugees from Moravia, he founded a Christian community at Herrnhut, which later became the center for the eighteenth-century Moravian Movement. It was in response to an outpouring of the Spirit there in 1727 that a prayer meeting was started which continued unabated for over one hundred years, the community sharing the responsibility to call on the Lord night and day throughout that period. Out of this great prayer came a great mission. Up to this time, taking the gospel overseas had not been a priority for the Protestant churches. This began to change as
the Moravians began to send missionaries to all parts of the globe, Zinzendorf himself visiting America, Britain, and the West Indies. Zinzendorf’s motivation for this international expansion can be traced back to the painting he saw as a teenager at Dusseldorf, by seventeenth-century painter Domenico Feti. It was a portrait of Christ wearing the crown of thorns, under which was a Latin inscription: THIS I HAVE SUFFERED FOR YOU, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME? Immediately he knew that orthodoxy of belief must be accompanied by orthodoxy of discipleship and service. The Moravian Revival was a revival of the centrality of Christ in the church’s devotion and service. Preaching in London in 1746 on John 21:16, he proclaimed: The character of a Christian, the entrance into this state and the entire progress in it as well are based on the text I have read, “Do you love me?” By his life and legacy, it is clear that Zinzendorf’s answer was an unqualified YES. n
Kevin Adams was born in South Wales and has authored two books and a film on Welsh revival history. He is the senior pastor of East Baptist Church in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Dr. Richard Fisher
Questions Why Does Jesus Scare Us?
Would the Lord Jesus actually remove the lampstand of one of His churches? Or fight against them as if they were an enemy? Or blot someone’s name from the book of Life? How should the warnings of Jesus be understood by those of us who have put our confidence in His grace and mercy? First, the warnings of Jesus get to the heart of what we mean when we say that Jesus is “Lord.” When many of us think of Jesus, the picture that rightly comes to mind is of a loving Savior who died for our sins. Yet Jesus is also the creator and ruler over all creation (Col. 1:15-19) and the One before whom every knee will bow (Phil. 2:1-16). I’m comfortable with Jesus Christ being my Savior, forgiving me of my sin and setting me free from the clutches of Satan and death. This is the sweet part of saving grace. But I recoil from the revelation of His awesome power and sovereign rule. Here are some of the reasons why: • Because
if Jesus is Lord, I am accountable for my selfish actions. • Because if Jesus is Lord, I will have to give up my claims on “my” life and my self-centered agendas. • Because if Jesus is Lord, I can’t simply do whatever I want. In short, Jesus’ lordship demands my loyalty, my submission, and my obedience. It means that I must choose between my allegiance to Jesus and all other competitors for first place in my life. And it confronts me with the fact that my response to Jesus’ authority has serious eternal consequences.
Second, the warnings of Jesus demonstrate His righteous integrity. The alternative to Jesus exercising his role as Judge would be for Him to do nothing in the face of evil. We expect countries to execute traitors whose disloyalties work to bring a nation to ruin. We expect a boss to fire an employee whose misconduct robs productivity or resources. And we expect leaders to enforce the law and punish evildoers. How then do we expect our Lord Jesus to respond when His self-proclaimed followers make the devil or world system their ultimate choice, or when they unrepentantly undermine the work of salvation and lead others to destruction? A failure to judge what is evil in these cases would really be an abdication of what is good. The warnings of Jesus reflect His engagement with evil, and His fierce commitment to what is right. Finally, the warnings of Jesus are not meant to paralyze us with fear or condemnation, but rather to spur us on to faithfulness. Jesus speaks these words to keep us on the pathway of truth, to keep us accountable to our calling, and to make our lives instruments of His power. While the warnings of Revelation 2–3 are to be taken seriously, they are also to be understood as coming from the heart of Jesus—the One who gave His own life for our good. A close examination of the warnings of Rev. 2–3 reveals how the warnings of Jesus—when properly received—work to spur us on to faith and perseverance:
1. I will . . . remove your lampstand from its place (Rev. 2:5). When the light in the lighthouse goes out, vessels below in the treacherous seas are in dire peril. Likewise, churches that no longer speak and act in the power of the Spirit of God may promise rescue but have no power to save. In this case, goodness and kindness demand that the light be re-lit or removed. This realization recommissions true believers to shine with the power of God. 2. I will fight against you (Rev. 2:16). If you dress like the enemy, develop the tastes of the enemy, share the opinions of the enemy, and act like the enemy—watch out, you may become the enemy! Habakkuk 1:5-6 speaks of God fighting against Israel because of her adulterous and idolatrous ways. But once Habakkuk understood God’s ways, it spurred him to commit himself to the hope found in the Lord (Hab. 3:18-19). True believers will have the same response.
to overcome would be removal from eternal life. And Jesus had just finished saying that many who claimed to be alive were actually “dead,” and that the rest were “about to die”! However, the point of Jesus’ warning is not condemnation, but rather to awaken true believers so that they would not die. Thus the warning would have a saving effect on all who would take it seriously and “wake up.” When we read the warnings of our Lord, we are often tempted to think the worst and cower in fear. But the intentions of God to us in Jesus are clear: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:19). Jesus wants the church to experience the fullness of His salvation, so He warns her, thereby giving her guidance and strength to overcome. n Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
3. He who overcomes . . . I will never blot out his name from the book of life (Rev. 3:5). This warning is the most unsettling because it implies that the consequences of failing
More Warnings Matthew 13:1-23 1 Corinthians 9:24–10:12 2 Corinthians 13:5 Colossians 1:21-23 Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:7–14; 6:1-12; 10:26-31; 12:13-29
2 Peter 1:3-11 2 Peter 2 Revelation 21:5-8 Revelation 22:18-19
The Bible assures us that we who are heirs of the promise will surely receive what God has promised. Yet the Bible sternly admonishes us lest we fall short of the grace of God (Heb. 12:15). What is the function of biblical admonitions and warnings? Should believers take seriously biblical cautions against apostasy and eternal destruction? If we should, how do we do this and, at the same time, retain assurance of salvation? We believe that God’s promises of assured salvation have their proper function to ground our faith in God and to assure us that God faithfully keeps his promises to his children. We also believe that God’s admonitions and warnings have their distinctive function to evoke faith that perseveres in holy devotion to God’s heavenly call on us in Christ Jesus. Thus, God’s warnings do not conflict with God’s promises. His warnings serve his promises, for his warnings elicit belief and confidence in God’s promises. Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday, The Race Set Before Us, pp. 145, 143
R e a l
W o r l d In and Out of Love I’ve traveled this road before. Sin, repent, change. Sin, repent, change. Love God, love the world. Love God, love the world. Why will this time be any different?
The Scenario It’s been way too long since I’ve said this, God: I love You. Yeah, I know it doesn’t seem like it. Honestly, I’ve let You get out of sight, and as a result You’ve been out of mind for quite some time. Now that I’m in need, I’m coming back. But You see right through that, don’t You? I want to think that You’ll hear my prayers and believe me this time—believe me when I say I’m here to stay; that my love for You is more than words, more than me just trying to get something out of You. But You know better than anyone else how quick I’ve been to desert You, to promise so much and then walk away, back to the world. Maybe that means we didn’t have a real relationship to begin with, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t even know how to love You. I feel like my vision of Jesus is so clouded, and I focus on a thousand lesser things. Before long, I’m right back where I started, asking You for another chance, another fresh start, another revival. Do I actually love You? Is any of this real? Do You even believe me when I say that I want to get right, to get back on track, and that somehow things will be different this time?
You’ve discovered the #1 threat to any relationship—it’s called “relational drift.” The same thing happens in marriage. Couples start out so in love, but the constant and increasing demands of work, kids, and household chores steal their focus. Neither spouse intends to stop investing in their marriage relationship. They just get preoccupied with other things. But the result is the same . . . a drift into isolation and disconnectedness. Here are a few suggestions to check drift in your relationship with Jesus: Mornings and Evenings – Set aside some time at the beginning of your day to tell Jesus you love Him and to discover what He cares about by reading the Bible and praying. Then honor your commitment to focus on Jesus throughout the day by taking a few moments at night to learn from what went well and what didn’t. Minute Retreats – Set your phone to beep at intervals to remind yourself of Jesus; or pick an object you pass regularly to jar your memory. By “interrupting” yourself to focus on Jesus, you will begin to cultivate habits of communion with Him. Keep the Sabbath – Jesus said (Mark 2:27) that the Sabbath was made for us! Besides physical and emotional replenishment, the process of evaluating your life and recommitting yourself to a Jesus-focused life in the week to come will keep you from drifting for more than a week at a time. Del Fehsenfeld was trained as a family counselor and is the Senior Editor for Life Action Ministries.
Wilson Green In your honest and pained prayer to the Lord, you seem so conflicted. I have rarely met a person more miserable than someone professing to be a follower of Christ, yet because they don’t know him as Savior and Lord they try to manufacture the relationship they say they enjoy. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying your relationship with Christ isn’t real—only you and the Lord can know that. But in your prayer you admit, “I don’t know.” The letter of 1 John was written specifically to people who weren’t sure about their faith, and who needed to verify their love for God. First John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” The author presents some practical “tests” of faith and love so that you can evaluate your relationship status with God. Let me encourage you to read 1 John. If you have a genuine, eternal relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit within will confirm your faith and challenge you to a renewed love for God. And if you’ve missed something critical along the way, He’ll make that plain to you as well. Wilson Green pastored for 21 years in Virginia and Illinois before joining Life Action in 1999. He currently co-leads a Life Action summit team.
Elyse Fitzpatrick When our Christianity becomes about us—what we’re supposed to do—then every part of it will be burdensome. On the days we think we’ve done well (when we’ve “remembered” the Lord, avoided those pesky sins, and read our Bible), we’ll think that God really loves us, and we’ll fall into pride. Then on the days we fail (when we’ve “forgotten” the Lord, lost our temper, and can’t find our Bible), we’ll think that God doesn’t love us and that He’s sitting up in heaven tapping His celestial toe and waiting for us to get our act together. We fall into despair.
When my relationship with God depends on me rather than on what Jesus Christ has already done for me, then I measure my spiritual life by how well I’m loving Him rather than by what He’s done in loving me. We all sense the need to love God more, but the pathway to love for God is soaking our souls in the realities of how He’s loved us. That’s why John writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). When we remember how He’s loved us, and we think of His cross, our hearts are melted once again to strive against our sin. We strive, not because we hope to win His approval, but because we know we already have it. And it’s in that rest, that peace and rejoicing, that we find the joy of the Lord that is our strength. Elyse Fitzpatrick has been a counselor since 1989. She is the author of over a dozen books, including Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety (Harvest House, 2001).
Advice Memorize Matthew 22:36-40. Loving God is a choice— a matter of obedience, not just a feeling. Read The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer. This Christian classic delves into the riches of God’s character and attributes. The more you know God, the more your love and passion for Him can grow. Start volunteering to serve others. Jesus taught that our acts of service for those in need are really our way of expressing love and care for Him (Matthew 25:34-40). Serving others takes the focus off of ourselves and keeps it in the right place. Plan a spiritual getaway. If your life is too crowded for your relationship with God, get away from it all! For a few hours or even a few days, leave the house, the office, and the family, and get alone with your Savior. (Visit www.LifeAction.org and search keyword pause to access articles and testimonies on making time for God.)
Build some accountability into your life. Joining a small group Bible study or service team at your church will help you maintain spiritual friendships, which in turn will provide you with ongoing accountability to stay on track.
Resources Seeking Him Workbook (Recently Rereleased) Are you tired of trying to be a good Christian? Are you overloaded and worn out with church activities? Do you sometimes feel like you’re just going through the motions of the Christian life? Do you experience shame or heaviness more than joy and freedom in your Christian life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then perhaps God is calling you to something deeper. Maybe you’re ready to experience personal revival! Price: $15.00 (reg. $19.99) Product #56931
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P R AY E R S F O R C H A N G E
Daniel Henderson Writing a Love Letter to Jesus The love of Jesus is one of the most amazing themes of the Bible. In fact, Scripture tells us, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). But have you ever wondered how we could possibly express to the Lord how much we love Him in response? In a recent prayer summit where I led 120 men at a beautiful camp 6,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I asked, “If the Lord were to write a personal letter to you today, recounting His amazing love throughout your earthly journey, what would that letter say? What details might He share? What incidents would He recount? Write that letter first. Then write a letter back to Him in specific response to His amazing love to you.”
The more our hearts reflect on
An Experience of Expressed Love
souls receive and our minds
Each of those 120 men found a quiet place around this lakeside retreat center and began to write. The Spirit of God moved powerfully in each heart as men recounted the story of God’s love for them because of the cross. All were moved deeply by this exercise of thinking intently and specifically of the Lord’s love for them.
contemplate His love—the more
The more our hearts reflect on the love of Jesus—the more our souls receive and our minds contemplate His love—the more completely we can respond with a deep desire to obey and honor Him . . . and the more our love for Him overflows. Why not take some time to chronicle the story of Jesus’ love for you? Be creative and thoughtful as you imagine and record the letter He might write to you, recalling His bountiful provision every step along the way. Review the details of that letter and all it reveals to you about Jesus’ care, character, and cross.
the love of Jesus—the more our
completely we can respond with a deep desire to obey and honor Him . . . and the more our love for Him overflows.
Then, in specific terms, write your own letter back to Jesus. Tell Him why you love Him. Express the ways you want to demonstrate that love. It was a life-changing exercise for 120 men, and I am certain it will draw your heart closer to Jesus in intimate and adoring worship.
Daniel Henderson is president of Strategic Renewal, which exists to ignite personal renewal, congregational revival, and leadership restoration for Christ’s glory.
Making It How CLOSE are you to Jesus? “I want to know Christ!” The Apostle Paul’s heart cry in Philippians 3:10 is one of the most poignant expressions of the goal of the Christian life. Everything else—our heritage, our accomplishments, our possessions, our reputation—is secondary to being close to Jesus. The first step to deepening our intimacy with Jesus is to be honest about His place in our lives right now. The following exercise is designed as a barometer of your closeness to Jesus. In each section, check any of the statements that apply to you.
Do I . . .
C HOOSE Jesus First? “So that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). � o I can go hours without having more than a passing thought of Jesus. � o I spend more time and effort on my physical appearance than on cultivating the spiritual beauty that pleases Jesus. � o I can talk with others about weather, sports, news, kids, and marriage, but I struggle to talk about Jesus and spiritual matters. � o I prefer the company of people who don’t love Jesus to the fellowship of those who do. � o I am more passionate about other things (work, hobbies, entertainment, pleasure) than I am about Jesus. � o I am more concerned about my bodily health and comfort than about the condition of my soul. � o I desire physical food while having little appetite for spiritual food.
L ISTEN to His Voice? “My sheep listen to my voice” (John 10:27). � o � o � o � o
Reading the Bible is a chore, something to mark off my “to do” list. Private prayer and worship are perfunctory or non-existent. My heart is cold and indifferent, not tender and easily moved by what Jesus has done for me. I have a hard time coming up with something fresh to share when someone asks, “What has Jesus been doing in your life?”
� � �
o o o o
I am more influenced by books, movies, news, or people than I am by the words of Jesus. Evils that used to disturb my conscience no longer do. I am slow to respond to conviction over sin—or I ignore it altogether. I am not grieved by sin; it’s no big deal to me.
O BEY His Word? “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). � o � o � o � o � o � o
I display attitudes or am involved in activities that I know are contrary to the Bible, but I continue in them anyway. I justify “small” areas of disobedience or compromise. I have been drawn back into sin habits that I put off when I was a young believer. The satisfaction I find in Jesus is not as strong as the allure of certain sins. There are aspects of my life that I am unwilling to give up for Jesus. I have become more attached to God’s other gifts to me than to His greatest gift—Jesus.
S ERVE His People? “Whatever you did for one of the least . . . you did for me” (Matt 25:40). � o I tend to hold tightly to money and possessions rather than being quick to give to meet the needs of others. � o I rarely give sacrificially to further Jesus’ work in the world; I only give my “extras.” � o I spend more time accumulating and maintaining material things than seeking the well-being of others. � o I am judgmental and critical of others—more focused on sin in others’ lives than in my own. � o I am more concerned about having the right position than the right disposition toward others. � o I have broken relationships with other believers that I do not care to reconcile.
E NJOY His Presence? “You will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11). � � � � � �
o o o o o o
Christianity is more of a checklist of things to do or not do than a relationship with Jesus. My service for Christ and others is motivated by a sense of duty or obligation. I tend to measure spirituality by performance rather than the condition of my heart. I am more concerned about what others think and pleasing them than about pleasing Jesus. I find myself becoming resentful over the hardships and demands of serving Jesus and others. I am formal and rigid about spiritual things rather than joyful and winsome.
Go back through each section and make each item you marked a matter of prayer and confession. Remember, godly sorrow leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Jesus wants to forgive you and restore your relationship with Him.
.com Resource Questions adapted from “40 Evidences You’ve Left Your First Love” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Download the entire list at LifeAction.org/FirstLove.
7 DAYS of Loving Jesus Day 1 – Read the following passages that summarize the gospel of Jesus, then pick one to memorize and meditate on throughout the day: Romans 3:23-26; Romans 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Day 2 – Read the book of 1 John, then make a list of the characteristics of someone who knows and loves Jesus. Consider whether these practices are the pattern of your life.
Day 3 – Call another Christian who is serious about following Jesus, and ask them how they keep Him central in their daily life. Ask for their prayers and counsel as you seek to love Christ more (Heb. 13:7).
Day 4 – Approach your work today as more than a way to make a living, but rather as an opportunity to serve Jesus (Col. 3:23), “adorn” the gospel (Titus 2:10), and bless others (Eph. 4:28).
Day 5 – Meditate on Jesus’ words “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,
you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). Think of one way you could give to a specific person in need (and thus give to Christ), and make arrangements to do it within the next week.
Day 6 – Think of a Christian friend who could use encouragement. Call them or drop by for a visit, then follow up with a handwritten note (John 13:34-35).
Day 7 – Begin your morning by praying for the opportunity to share about Jesus with a nonChristian—then don’t be surprised when God gives you one! (1 Pet. 2:9).
Jesus in the Face of Others
his issue of Revive has been very challenging to me. If you’ve felt the conviction of God’s Spirit reading articles about the need to love God wholeheartedly, imagine having to comb through the words again and again! So what “next step” might God want us to take? If we’ve repented of our sins and refocused our passion on Jesus, what else is there? As I asked myself that question, I remembered that Jesus actually told us what comes next. After giving us the first and greatest command, to love God with all that we are, He went on to reveal the second greatest: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus didn’t say, “Love yourself and share your surplus with a neighbor.” He said, “Treat your neighbor as if he were you.” That is, put his needs, desires, and wants above your own. Whatever nature tells you to do for yourself, do instead for him. According to Jesus, loving God and loving people are inseparable concepts. We are to do for others with our lives what Jesus did for us with His. The apostle John reinforces how closely connected our love for God is with our love for others: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. . . . Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21). The simple but powerful reality of this principle is illustrated by Jesus’ fascinating account of Judgment Day, which He likens to a farmer separating the sheep from the goats. On that day, the righteous “sheep” were commended for personally caring for Christ in His times of physical and emotional need. But the righteous had no idea what He was talking about. They asked, “Lord, when did we see you hungry
and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:37-40). The best way to keep your fire for Jesus burning is to throw yourself into the service of others. The unworthy. The destitute. The poor. The lost. Those with baggage. Those who need attention. The orphans. The widows. The single moms. The neighborhood on the other side of town. The addicted. The incarcerated. The persecuted. The diseased. The outsiders. To miss out on a love relationship with Jesus is to miss everything. But when we love “the least of these,” we love Christ. When we give cups of cold water in His name, we demonstrate the very love God demonstrated toward us. And we do well in the service of our Savior, our first love. n
When we love "the least of these," we love Christ.
Daniel W. Jarvis Managing Editor
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