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The Comeback

#storychanging

The Comeback

MONDAY— “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4

Prayer: Check. Morning devotions: Check. Church attendance: Check. Listen to Christian music on the way to work: Check. For many Christians, a once-vital relationship with Jesus has become a Christian checklist. That had happened in Ephesus and Jesus was not at all pleased. Would you be? How would it feel if your spouse or your best friend relegated your relationship to a series of checkmarks? Call them this week: Check. Talk nice: Check. Ask about the kids: Check.

An alarm should go off inside our hearts when our faith is reduced to a list of check boxes. To everyone else, we may look as we always did. But God knows we have left our first love. We no longer serve Him with joy; it is a duty. Whereas we were once eager for His presence, now guilt forces us to open our Bibles. The problem is passion. We don’t need to be forced to pursue our passions, we gravitate toward them every chance we get. Passion motivates us and that’s why God is jealous for it. Our passions direct our behavior, so when obedience to God feels like a dreary obligation, we’re in trouble. Passion propels us toward choices that please God. We set ourselves up for disobedience and resentment when we leave our first love.

Final Thought: Is your relationship with God a series of check boxes, or is obedience to Him your passion?

Prayer: Father, I see myself in your words to the church at Ephesus. I get in a habit of doing Christian things, but sometimes my heart is elsewhere. I want to return. Help me come back. Fill me again with the love I once had. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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TUESDAY— “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…” Revelation 2:5

At age 20, Les and Carrie couldn’t do enough for the Lord. They were at the church building every time the doors were open. They took out garbage, called visitors, served in children and youth, and visited the elderly. Les started a prison ministry and Carrie mentored teen girls. Their worship was passionate, their service dedicated, and their hearts on fire with love for Jesus. But by age 60, Les spent his days on the golf course and Carrie split her time between shopping trips and spa days. Neither had seen the inside of a church building since their daughter was married fourteen years ago. What happened?

Jesus tells us what happened. They had lost their first love. Rather than fight to get it back, they simply fell away. Most people would not consider that a sin, but Jesus does. He tells them to repent. Les and Carrie were not bad people. Friends and neighbors loved them. But over the years, as they slid away from God, their values began to change. Culture infiltrated their thinking. Self rose to a place of prominence and began to dictate their decisions. When facing an issue, they once asked each other, “What would God have us do?” Now their first thought was, “What do we want to do?” God warns them to consider how far they have fallen. He commands them to repent and return to the passion they once knew. Although God still loves them, there will be consequences if they refuse to listen to Him. Using Les and Carrie’s scale of devotion from 20-60, where are you?

Final Thought: Have you considered that lackadaisical spirituality is actually sin against God? He commands us to repent.

Prayer: Father, evaluate my heart. Have I slipped away from my passion for you? Is the joy gone? Is the desire for purity and holiness gone? Please forgive me. I do repent. Help me get back where I once was with you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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WEDNESDAY— “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Revelation 2:5

“I will come to you,” Dad called to his terrified toddler perched on the pool ladder. “I will come to you,” wrote the deployed groom to his new bride. “I will come to you,” Jesus promised before He ascended back into heaven. Those words brought comfort and hope. But years later, when Jesus said, “I will come to you” to the church at Ephesus, it was not a happy promise. If they did not repent, He was coming to take names. We know we’re in trouble when the thought of Jesus coming to us right now, right here, in the middle of our lifestyle choices, creates anxiety. It’s like a parent in the front seat of a car shouting to the rowdy kids in the backseat: “Don’t make me come back there!” The kids know he means it, but the one reading or playing quietly doesn’t mind those words. And when we’re in right standing with God, Jesus words don’t cause fear. They thrill us.
But what does it mean that Jesus will remove their lampstand? For Ephesus, it meant that God would remove their influence. The church body would disintegrate and the light they could have shed would be snuffed out. History proves this true. Ephesus did not repent and Christian influence has always been scarce in that part of the world. For us, it means that the power and influence God wants us to have simply vanishes. The light we could have shed on our families, our cities, and our culture becomes nothing but a pinprick. Our own news feeds prove that is already happening. God has removed the lampstands from many churches. But what if every person who claims to know Jesus repented? The world would transform overnight.

Final Thought: Has Jesus removed your lampstand? What part have you played in the condition of your world?

Prayer: Father, I’m ashamed when I realize that some of the issues I rave about are there because of my own choices. You’ve removed my lampstand because of my coldness toward you. Please forgive me. I want to help you change the world. Amen.
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THURSDAY— For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34

Remember treasure hunts? We eagerly followed dozens of complicated hints, sometimes doing things we wouldn’t ordinarily do, just to get to the treasure. Life is much like that game. We go to work, pay bills, develop skills and relationships, just to get to the treasure: money, food, recreation, love… Pursuing treasure is a good thing. It’s how we’re wired. But what if, on that childhood treasure hunt, you showed up at the final destination—sweaty, tired, and hungry—and found a bag of rocks.

That’s what Jesus warns us about in this verse. Pursuing earthly treasure is fine as long as we realize it is temporary, apt to disappear without warning, and not the ultimate goal. The problem with pursuing earthly treasure is that it robs us of our passion for eternal treasure. Our hearts are wed to our passions and if we pursue the wrong things, the hunt ends with a bag of rocks. We should enjoy recreation, take up hobbies, invest in relationships, and seek higher education. But when those pursuits become our life’s passion, we may be headed for a bag of rocks. Few people say from their deathbeds: “I wish I’d had more money.” Or “If only I’d slept around more, fought with more people, collected more trinkets, bought designer clothes…” At the end of life’s treasure hunt, we may be surrounded by piles of earthly valuables, but all that matters is what we sent ahead.

Final Thought: What treasure are you pursuing? We find the answer by asking ourselves: “What is my true passion?”

Prayer: Lord, it’s time for me to get real. I’m good at the Christian game, but are you my highest passion? Is pleasing you my Number One goal? If not, I’m chasing a bag of rocks. I’m ready to store up heavenly treasure. Teach me how. Amen
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FRIDAY— “I will get up and go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight…’” Luke 15:18

It had been parties and good times—until it wasn’t. Money ran out and so did the friends. The story of the prodigal son has been used to illustrate a dozen sermon points, but have you ever applied it to yourself? Right where you are. Look around. How does Jesus view your life? The prodigal son “came to himself in the pigpen.” It was a literal pigpen for this guy because pigs were revolting animals to a Jewish audience. But thousands of pigpens clutter our world and most look quite appealing from the outside. Maybe you’ve wallowed in some. Maybe you’re there now. Ask Jesus to help you identify your pigpen.

Laziness is a comfortable wallow. It grows until it smothers any ambition or passion we once had. Pride is a seductive trap. It insists that it is a rose garden, not a pigpen—and then it blocks us from the presence of God. Lust is a popular mud bath. So many people are splashing around in it that we can pretend God doesn’t mind the stench. Love of money is so glittery we forget it is a pigpen, calling it instead God’s Blessing. Only too late do we realize it’s an entanglement we can’t get free of. Anger is like quicksand that catches us and then sucks us into the pigpen. It may begin for righteous reasons but quickly morphs into hatred and bitterness. People-pleasing spreads a thin flowery veneer over the top of the pigpen so we think we’re obeying Jesus by never saying “no” when we need to. But in a short time, people’s affirmations matter more to us than God’s.

Final Thought: Ask Jesus about your pigpens. Then follow the example of the prodigal son in repenting and being restored.

Prayer: Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’ve wallowed in worldliness, sin, and compromise. The pigpen that catches me most often is______. Please forgive me and clean me up. I want to make you proud. In Jesus’ name, amen.