“A man walked into a bar…he had to get 8 stitches because he forgot to duck….you thought I was going to tell you a joke about a man going into a bar to drink, but it is all about perspective.”
This line was spoken by one of my dearest friends as he shared at The ManTour Men’s Conference I was blessed to be a part of recently. He was making the point that it is all about our perspective and what our minds are trained to do. As I pondered these words over the past few weeks, my mind started thinking about how we as men have lost our perspective when it comes to the things of God.
I have to go to church.
I have to read the Bible.
I have to pray.
I have to go to men’s small group.
I have to tithe.
These are the words and thoughts of so many men as they daily try and develop a spiritual walk around everything else that presses us in life. As I thought of these phrases in light of the perspective joke my friend had told, I came to realize that God’s men have lost perspective. We have come down with a bad case of the “have to’s”.
In reality, we should be thinking:
"I get to go to church today and worship God with other believers."
"I get to read the thoughts and words of God in the Bible."
"I get to pray to the God Who saved me and set me free."
"I get to go to men’s small group and develop relationships with other men."
"I get to show my appreciation to God for allowing me to keep 90% of His money by giving back 10% to Him."
We have lost our perspective. Think about it. When you first got saved, you never had the “have to’s”.
You were excited. You were thankful. You had a good old-fashioned case of the “get to’s”. So how did the “get to’s” turn into the “have to’s? To find the answer, we are going to flip to the back of the Bible and look at the book of Revelations.
In the book of Revelation, we read of Jesus’ words to John on the island of Patmos. Jesus tells John about believers who were letting kingdom business and good deeds rob them of their joy and happiness to be God’s child. They had a bad case of the “have to’s”. Let’s read their story in Revelations 2:2
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.
This passage is written to the church in Ephesus. The Ephesus church started when Paul arrived in their town and witnessed to 12 men who were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke and tongues, and prophesied. The Ephesian church became a growing vibrant church. When Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to face persecution, he sent for the men of Ephesus to come and meet with him. Paul loved and respected this church.
This passage in Revelation shows us that the church in Ephesus was a model church. They held to solid doctrine, didn’t tolerate any sin among there believers, and they faced and overcame much persecution. They did good works and served the Lord faithfully. Sounds like a model fellowship. However, they had one problem.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen!
The church in Ephesus had forgotten their first love. They had lost the joy they had when they first got saved and began following God. The years of ministry and serving God mixed with persecution and church issues had left them serving out of a sense of duty, not a love and relationship with God. They had a bad case of the “have to’s”. They followed God from a sense of duty, not a sense of love. The passion, the fire, the joy they had when they first came to God was gone.
Notice God says “look how far you have fallen.” He didn’t view this lack of passion as a good thing or spiritual maturity. He hated it. He hated the loss of fellowship, the closeness that He no longer experienced with the Ephesians church. He longed for them to see that they had become weary in well-doing, that they had lost their fire and zeal. It was church activity and business now, not service out of love and gratefulness. He wanted to change them. He wanted them to long for Him.
How many of us fall into the same boat as these people at Ephesus? We would do well to ask ourselves “How far have I fallen?”
Do we focus more on the service than spending time with the One we serve? If so, how do we fix it?
How do we get back to our First Love? How do we rediscover the “get to’s”? How do we get our perspective fixed again? Thankfully, the passage in Revelations gives us the answers.
1. Consider how far you have fallen.
Stop and remember what your life was like when you first got saved. How did you feel? What did you do? How much time did you spend in prayer? Did you have a passion for reading the Bible? Do you remember the excitement you felt? Do you recall the trust you had in God? Remember how praise welled up inside of you? Stop and reflect on the weeks and the months after you first came to Christ and see if you still are the same. Has your love and passion dwindled? Reflection is step one to getting back to your first love.
2. Repent: The second thing to do is repent.
The passage clearly says to repent for losing our first love. We have to ask God to forgive us for getting so busy doing for Him that we lost sight of our great opportunity of being with Him. Ask Him to forgive you for seeing time spent with Him as something you have to do. Ask Him to forgive you for not being as sold out, on fire, and hungry for Him. We need to realize the sin we committed and ask Him to forgive us and restore us.
3. Do the things you did at first
The final thing we need to do is get back to where we use to be. We must return to pursuing God in our lives wholeheartedly. We need the passion restored. We should ask God to restore the joy we once had.
King David prayed an excellent prayer we can all pray. David was a man after God’s heart. He wanted to love and serve God more than anything in the world. However, over time, he lost sight of spending time with God as he served God as king of Israel.
He prayed,10 "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Notice this prayer is a petition to God to restore the joy of his salvation, the first love he had lost. He wanted God to restore him to the place from which he had fallen. This is an excellent example for all of us to follow.
God longs for His children to get back to the first love they had when they first came to Him. He wants our relationship with Him to be as passionate and exciting as the day we knelt at the altar. He is just waiting for us to realize we have fallen away from it. He is waiting for us to repent for allowing our hearts to grow cold, and He is waiting with His arms open wide for us to be restored to the place we once were. He wants us to have a relationship with Him.
So what about you? Do you have a bad case of the “have to’s”?
Can you see areas where your love for God has turned into a responsibility to God?
Do you still have the same joy and passion you had when you first came to Christ?
Has complacency and spiritual exhaustion from doing good works robbed you from developing your relationship with God?
These are serious questions. We need to analyze ourselves and see if we have lost our first love. Then we need to follow Jesus’ command in Revelations and get back to the place we fell. We get to do it today!