"You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:4b-5 (NIV)
I still have pounds to lose and overflowing closets, but this year my resolution isn't based on external goals. Instead, there's a heart issue clambering for attention, and God is filling me with a simple prayer: Lord, please make me completely righteous and not a bit self-righteous.
The word righteous means, "acting in accord with divine and moral law, free from guilt or sin" according to Webster. But being righteous and looking righteous are two different things.
Looking righteous is something I've mastered.
I know how to follow the rules, play the game and fit into the church crowd. Maybe you're like me and are wired to work hard to get things done "right." I like to please my peers and check items off my to-do list.
Often it wins me the approval I crave. I get pats on the back, and it all looks good on the outside.
But on the inside — in the quiet moments — I can find myself exhausted. Defeated. Numb. Those feelings let me know I've crossed from being righteous through Christ into trying to earn righteousness myself.
Sometimes my self-righteousness leaks out and reveals its ugliness through judgmental thoughts and attitudes towards others. That's when I find myself looking down my nose at those struggling while thinking I have it together or snapping with impatience when someone delays my next task.
Then I read Revelation 2 in a new light. In this passage, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for their good deeds. He praises them for hard work, perseverance, intolerance of wickedness, sound doctrine and endurance. It's a list of wonderful works indicating righteousness.
But Jesus follows with a stunning and scathing indictment, "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:4b-5).
Those verses highlight the root of the issue and reveal the Ephesians were in the same predicament as me. They were working hard, but without love they had become self-righteous, and God won't tolerate that.
Could I have lost my first love? Was that the cause of my self-righteous thoughts? I began to think back to the days when I first fell in love with my husband. I was crazy about him, and couldn't get enough time with him. Love for him filled me with an explosive joy bubbling over on everyone around me. Not only did I want to hug him, everyone else was in danger of being hugged too!
The same is true when my heart is overflowing with love for God. That joy bubbles over to those around me. It makes my heart sincere and gracious, rather than hard and judgmental.
To maintain the right heart, God asks us to keep returning to our first love with Him. To rediscover the newness, lightness and joy we felt at first. He urges us to constantly rekindle passion for Him, which will deepen our love for Him and others.
The beautiful part is God doesn't call us to love without Him setting the ultimate example. His love is "wide and long and high and deep" (Ephesians 3:18, NIV), and it surpasses our thoughts and the works done in our own strength.
Pursuing righteousness solely through good works is an empty endeavor, always leaving us impossibly short of the goal. Returning to our first love ensures full righteousness as we follow Jesus, for He is our righteousness. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30, NIV).
Renewing our first true love produces righteousness. True righteousness creates more love for God and others. It's a beautiful cycle, and it's a goal that transforms us.
Lord, please make me completely righteous and not a bit self-righteous. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What can you remember about your first days of falling in love with Jesus? Write down your memories of how you felt and what you did during that time.
Has that first love faded? Spend some time in the quiet today offering a worship/love song to Him. Ask Him to rekindle your passion.
Proverbs 21:21, "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." (NIV)
Luke 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV)
© 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105