Our Rightful Place
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (Revelation 2:4).
If the church is to become what God has purposed it to be, there must first be a reversal of mind-set (paradigm) within the body of Christ. The Lord must be given His rightful place of exaltation in our lives and we must take our rightful place under Him. The Lord's judgment of the church at Ephesus was that they had left their first love. In other words, something else had usurped the Lord's rightful place. That something else always comes down to the love of self no matter what we might attribute that love to. And this is what the church has done today — we have replaced our first love of the Lord with the love of self. We have become so engrossed with obtaining the blessings of the Lord that we have neglected the Lord of the blessings. If you don't believe this, just take a few moments and examine the priorities of your own life and the church you attend. What is the focus of the preaching, prayer, Bible study, giving, programs, and even worship of your church? Is it really worshiping and ministering to the Lord simply for Who He is or is it really about you, the ministry, the church building, what you can get, how you can be blessed, how to build the ‘ministry,' how to increase the church? On a personal level, what are your priorities in this life? Are you really loving and serving God with all of your heart, soul, and strength, or are you really pursuing a good life, being happy, obtaining the things of this world, etc.? If you're not sure just sit down and determine how much of your time and resources go to serving God and how much go to you and your family. How much time do you spend getting to know God and His will for your life and how much time do you spend on everything else? What really is first in your life? If most Christians are honest, it is not the Lord!
The reality is, we do not give the Lord His rightful place of being first in our lives. It is as Paul declared to the Romans: "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (Romans 1:21,25). We have adopted a gospel that worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator. Our church services and most of what we do is designed around and driven by the furtherance of our prosperity, happiness, and pleasure. Jesus said that we are to, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Yet we seek all of these "things" and never really get around to God and His kingdom of righteousness.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about us, it is about Him. It's not about our will but His will. It's not about our kingdom but His kingdom. It's not about what God can do for us but what we can do for Him. We did not choose God but God chose us and did so with divine purpose. Notice what Jesus said: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you" (John 15:16). He chose us and appointed us to bear the fruits of His kingdom. And not only did the Lord choose us, but He bought and paid for us with His own blood in order that we would be His own special possession to do with as He pleases. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Corinthians. "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). We are not supposed to be our own. We belong to God for His purpose. We exist to glorify God in body and spirit. Again, its' not about us, it's about Him and His kingdom. Jesus made this clear in one of His parables:
"And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat'? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:7-10)
The Lord, He is God. We are His servants. We serve Him first and afterward we eat and drink. And it's not something special we do for the Lord. It is our duty! In other words, it is the least thing expected of us because we are not our own but His servants. We are here to please Him above ourselves. We are here to serve Him before ourselves. We are here to fulfill His good pleasure and not our own. Paul exposed this same problem of mixed-up priorities in the early church. "For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:21).
This love of self over the love of God is a serious problem in the body of Christ. It hinders the work of the kingdom. It prevents the manifestation of the glorious church. It hinders church growth and discipleship. It creates a lack of laborers for the harvest. It misrepresents the nature and character of God before the world. And most of all, it greatly displeases God. The very essence of the Gospel is to produce a selfless people in the likeness of Christ who live for the Father. Notice what Paul says about the purpose for the death of Christ: "He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). Peter tells us the same thing in his epistle: "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (1 Peter 4:1,2). The first requirement to follow Christ is to deny ourselves. Jesus gave His life in order that we might live for Him and His purposes.
Have you left your first love? Then it is time to return and give the Lord His rightful place of lordship as we take our rightful place under Him. Like Jesus, we must make the will of the Father the priority of our lives.
"Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner'" (John 5:19).