By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
Have you thought about your priorities as the New Year approaches? Is it your goal to put family first, to get out of debt, to plan for that trip of a lifetime, or to spend more time on self-care?
What about prioritizing your relationship with God so that Jesus becomes your first love in the year--and decade--ahead? Jesus is the Only One who satisfies and therefore, the only relationship that will never disappoint.
Scripture promises that when we seek Him first--and His righteousness--all the other things we want and strive for will fall into place (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus talked of the importance of making Him our first love. In Revelation 2:2-3, He listed all the impressive things the first-century church at Ephesus had done in His name – their perseverance and patience, their labor and the fact that they had not become weary in doing good.
But then, He followed that impressive resume with these surprising words: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4, NIV, emphasis added). In spite of all the good things the Ephesians were doing, God had a problem with them for losing their fervor and passion for Him.
They had grown out of love with Him. In the New King James Version, that verse says, “You have left your first love.”
We “leave” our first love when we express more passionate love for something or someone else, when we give that passion away to someone less deserving, or we obey and serve God out of duty rather than devotion.
When God isn’t our first love, it’s all downhill for us. Jesus called attention to how far the Ephesians had fallen in their devotion to Him: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5). Jesus demands and deserves to be the first love in our lives.
What better way to turn over a new leaf, improve your life, or just get back to where you should be than to make Jesus tour first love in the year--and decade--ahead? Here are five ways you can “do the things we did at first” and make (or keep) Jesus your first love in the New Year:
1. Tell Him First
When a woman is in love, she often wants to tell her man all that is on her heart, all that happened in her day, all her concerns, and all she has hopes and dreams about.
When something exciting happens, or when you’re dealing with something unexpected or even fearful, who is the first person you tell? Your mom? Your girlfriend? Your spouse? I used to call my husband at work, or my best friend who lived in my neighborhood, but I was often disappointed to hear the words “Can I call you back? I’m on another call.”
Or worse yet, an unanswered call or no immediate response to my text.
Jesus is never on “another call.” He isn’t “out of the office” or “in a meeting” or not answering your calls or text messages. Your cries to Him will never go to voicemail, only to be ignored because He’s too busy to go through the prompts and listen to your verbal message.
Jesus is always available to you. We know, from Scripture that He is the One who hears our cry (Psalm 18:6, 40:1).
Tell Jesus all that’s on your heart and mind before telling anyone else. Of course, He already knows whatever it is you’re going to say. But by making a point of telling Him first, you are -reaffirming to Him--and to yourself--that He is the single most important One in your life.
2. Take Him Seriously
He’s a great God. And He does wonderful things for us. But there are certain things He asks of us as well. Most of it is not to do anything, but to be someone--a person who loves Him more than any other. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
Are you taking that seriously and loving Him more than any other? It’s a pretty tall order, but Jesus was serious when He said it. Jesus also said “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
Are you taking His commands seriously? That’s the kind of devotion and loyalty God wants from us.
When you love someone, it’s natural to want to change your behavior to please that person. God wants you to be transformed into the image of His Son. So, take Him seriously by finding out what He loves--humility, obedience, generosity, faith--and clinging to them. And, by finding out what He hates (there’s a list in Proverbs 6:16-19) and avoiding them at all costs.
Taking God seriously is prioritizing our lives in such a way that He gets the first and best of our time. We live in a world of so many distractions.
If God doesn’t get your time, somebody else will. Take Him seriously by prioritizing your life so that anything that takes time away from Him isn’t worth your time.
Take Him seriously and you’ll find your life reflects that of a Jesus-follower and Jesus-lover, not merely a Christ-claimer.
3. Trust Him Fully
Circumstances will come your way that you don’t understand. To trust God fully means to trust in His Word and His Character and His promises like Rom. 8:28 – that He causes all things (even the bad things) to work together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Trusting Him fully is daily taking to Him your greatest fears – the death of a child, the loss of a spouse, never being married, a diagnosis of cancer, the loss of a dream?--and placing them at His feet and saying “God, no matter what happens in my life today, nothing comes between You and me.”
Can you trust Him fully by cementing your commitment to Him now, before the storms of life set in, so that when they do, nothing takes you outside that realm of leaning into His loving, protective arms?
We all know people who claimed to know – and even serve – God, but when the unthinkable happened, they blamed Him and went their own way. I don’t want to be one of those people who blames God, runs from Him, rebels in the face of His lovingkindness simply because I don’t see the big picture of what He was allowing.
If God can take care of your eternal life, He can take care of your everyday life and your emotional life, as well. Be the person who clings to Him when the trouble comes and leans into His everlasting arms to hold you up.
4. Treasure His Word
Can you imagine receiving a love letter from the object of you heart and only reading a little bit of it and then putting it on a shelf or in a drawer, intending to get back to it later? Can you imagine not knowing what is in that letter if you’ve never read it from beginning to end?
What if you decided that--since it was a really long love letter--to only read a little bit of it now and then?
That would be ridiculous! You and I would devour that letter and re-read it so many times it would be ragged and worn.
Jesus has written loving words to us in His living Word. His many love letters are evident in the songs and promises of Scripture, in the prophetic books, and in the red-lettered words in the Gospels, as well as the letters to the churches in the latter half of the New Testament.
Read His Word. Study it, memorize it, and meditate on it. A woman who delights in the Word of God loves to repeat it, reflect on it, teach it to others, and talk about it. A woman shows her love for the Word through her lifestyle, her actions, her daily choices.
David prayed in Psalm 1914: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight.” When our words are His Word and our meditations are on His Word, we know they are acceptable and pleasing to Him. And we know that He is delighted.
There are several reading plans to choose from on Biblegateway.com to help you read through God’s Word in a year or sooner. But don’t just read it. Treasure it. Pull it close. Show Jesus you love Him by loving His Word.
5. Talk of Him Constantly
Have you ever been around a woman in love? She can’t stop talking about the man who has won her heart. She goes on and on about how he can’t do anything wrong, how wonderful he makes her feel, how perfect he is in every way.
We might respond to that kind of talk by saying “love is blind.” But when you love Jesus, you really do have a love who is perfect in every way (Psalm 18:30).
Start talking about Jesus and don’t stoop. Talk about Who He is, what He’s done in your life, who you were before you met Him, and how you’re so much better off now that He’s the center of your life.
When Jesus is first in your heart, a river of praise for Him will flow from your mouth (Proverbs 4:23). It won’t take long before you are identified by others as a woman in love--a woman whose first love is Jesus.
A Daily Prayer to Make Him Your First Love
Lord, be first in my life--today and always. You truly are the Only One who satisfies, the Only One who will never disappoint, and the Only One who deserves to be the captain of my heart. Thank You for loving me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
May I please Your heart this day with every thought I think, every word I say, and every action I take, showing You – and the world--Who is on the throne of my life. May everything I do today be motivated by my love for You and what You have sacrificed for me.
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mom, Bible teacher, and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationships with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 140,000 copies sold), Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, When God Pursues a Woman’s Heart, God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her speaking ministry, or books and resources to help you grow in your relationship with God, your marriage or your parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ben White
Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mom, Bible teacher, and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationships with God and others. She is the author of 17 books including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 140,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts,When God Sees Your Tears, and When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection, which she co-authored with her husband, Hugh. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services, or books and resources to help you grow in your relationship with God, your marriage or your parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.