. . . fully after the LORD I Kings 11:6 by Steve Flinchum
OUR FIRST LOVE
By the undeserved grace of God, I was given a desire to have a greater love for Him who "first loved us." I John 4:19 tells us, "We love him, because he first loved us." In Psalms 116:1 we read, "I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications." In II Corinthians 5:14 we are told, "the love of Christ constraineth us." God's love for us and in us should cause us to love Him.
Seeing, then, that our love for God is subsequent to His love for us, we are forced to conclude that our love for God is either strengthened or retarded in proportion to our knowledge of God's love for us. That fact demonstrates the importance of Holy Spirit led Bible study and exposure to scripturally sound teaching and preaching. It shows as well, how detrimental the neglect of Bible study and lack of exposure to sound doctrine is.
I first knew that God loved me when He saved me nearly thirty years ago. I knew He must love me a lot, because, as He had so patiently shown me, I was without hope, except through faith in Jesus; and not only was that hope undeserved, I had repeatedly resisted and rejected it. God was not willing that I should perish, but brought me to repentance, and gave me the gift of faith in Jesus.
I later learned that not only did God choose to save me, but that He had made that choice even before He created the world. Study Romans 9:11, Ephesians 1:4, II Thessalonians 2:13, II Timothy 1:9, and Revelation 17:8. That knowledge brought with it a greater recognition of God's love.
I had known all along that salvation was eternal, but as the years have passed and I can look back at all the failure, weakness, and my unprofitability to Him, it is overwhelming to know that God knew all that and still chose to save me before the world began.
The acceptance of the Bible doctrines of grace are essential to the continued learning of the love of God. To the extent of our recognition of how sovereign God really is, and how depraved man really is, we can have a greater awareness and appreciation of the love of God.
Our love for God should cause us to worship Him. Proper and acceptable worship should then lead us to effective service. Our worship is one way of showing our love for God. Can we expect our service for God to be effective if our worship is not proper and acceptable? Notice the difference in Peter's usefulness after the matter of his love for Jesus was dealt with in John 21.
This desire to love God more and the study induced by it has raised many questions. Some ideas and opinions had to be discarded. My narrow minded beliefs have become much more narrow. Many of those beliefs are not popular and are often ridiculed, rejected, and hated. In Matthew 7:14 Jesus said, ". . . narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." It seems that a narrow mind would be proper for going a narrow way. Noah was in the same boat, wasn't he? In Luke 17:26 Jesus said, "And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man."
A narrow mind is not necessarily a closed mind. There is a time for an open mind and a time for a closed mind. It is absolutely essential though, that we have the Holy Spirit in charge of the opening and closing of our minds and that we heed the warning of Proverbs 3:5 to "lean not unto thine own understanding." When our minds are open, the Word of God should be in front of us.
The importance of love should be seen from reading I Corinthians 13. The first verse of that chapter shows us that no matter what we do or how well we may speak or how pretty we may sing or how much we may spend, if it is without love, we are only making a meaningless noise. Read the letter in Revelation 2 to the pastor and congregation at Ephesus. The charge made there was "thou hast left thy first love." Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Also see Mark 12:30.) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). As a result, we are then able to love Him. As that love grows and matures, we are then able to love others. As love is expressed and exercised, it becomes stronger.
The conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21 was not necessary for Jesus to find out how much Peter loved Him -- He already knew. It was Peter who needed to know, and he needed to express it. Through conversation and communion with God, we too can be shown our true spiritual condition.
Through our proper worship and communication with God, He can show us of His greatness; and when we begin to see how great God is, we can begin to see how small we really are. That leads us to an even greater awareness and appreciation of God and His greatness, and then we can better see the true size of ourselves.
This, much like looking into a mirror, gives us a more accurate assessment of what changes need to be made. This also helps us to see others in a proper perspective. We can begin to see that the most wicked and ungodly person is just as good as we are except by the grace of God. From that, by the grace of God, should develop a compassion for and the ability to love others. Proper worship of God should lead us to a proper respect for all of God's creation. That is where we need to be. Most worship, it seems, is little more than self gratification, and I believe we can see the results of it.
Until a person recognizes that he is a sinner in opposition to God, without hope except by His grace, and will repent, that person can have no communication with God. Psalm 7:11 says, ". . . God is angry with the wicked every day." Without repentance and the personal application of Jesus' work alone for our salvation, we have no access to God. In John 14:6 Jesus said, ". . . no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Romans 11:6 tells us, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace."
The very act of breathing the air and standing on the ground that God has created is a sin for the unsaved person because he is in no position to give thanks to God for it. In Proverbs 21:4 we read that ". . . the plowing of the wicked, is sin." In verse 27 his sacrifice is abomination and in Proverbs 28:9 ". . . even his prayer shall be abomination." He can not pray for himself or for anyone else. He cannot "pray through;" he must repent.
After the receiving of salvation, we can ask God for guidance and understanding; and by His grace, we can begin building an increasingly closer relationship with Him.
When God gives us instructions, we must respond in obedience before we have any right or reason to expect any further instruction, guidance, or growth. Take another look at Proverbs 28:9, quoted from above, and notice that the prayer of the disobedient Christian is also an abomination. The student in school or in any course of study must progress one grade or one level at a time. The comprehension of one lesson is dependent upon the understanding and mastering of the previous one. Is it not reasonable that our spiritual growth and progress would come in the same manner?
When we reject God's will and go our own way, the farther we go, the more we distance ourselves. There can be no closer walk with God until we return to where we left Him.