Returning to Your First Love

To help prepare us for a series of meetings with Joe Humrichous on October 2 and 3, I am sharing articles written by Joe and originally posted at paradigm1.org

First love happens when we find in another what is desperately needed in ourselves. The greater the desperation, the greater the appreciation and adoration. There is no greater demonstration of this than the scene at the cross. It was a show-down. Three major doctrinal realities converge at the cross.

1. The holiness of God accompanied with all its perfect justice, its all-consuming fire and wrath

2. The total depravity of man accompanied with its clear demonstration of rebellion and ignorance

3. The unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness of God as His innocent Lamb is willingly caught in the thicket for us!

Fast forward to the most vulnerable day of our lives when we stand before His holiness. What will our “felt-need” be? It will be to be robed in appreciation throughout eternity with an attitude of first love knowing first-hand how desperate we really were. That desperation needs to be studied in the Scriptures, reviewed in our fellowship, and demonstrated in our lifestyle of worship.

What are first works? A picture is worth a thousand words, so the scene I would like to relate here is that of the sinner woman who crushed a Pharisee’s arrogance after he invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 7:36-50). Luke relates to us twice in the narrative that she was a noted sinner. Her worship was described as follows: “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (v. 37-38).

Luke’s description of her actions and the intensity of the verbs used here lets us know that she made a scene to express her desperate need and loving appreciation. As leaders, we must cultivate this kind of worship as the lifestyle of our church.
Expressions may vary, but our hearts should be hot with love.

Jesus observed the bewilderment of the Pharisee and engaged him in a dialogue in which He explained the difference between the Pharisee’s lack of respect for Jesus and the sinner woman’s lavish gestures, i.e., the Pharisee’s rationalizing his deep need of forgiveness while the sinful woman seemingly recognized her need for forgiveness. Jesus summarized His analysis of the situation with this, “But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (v. 47). A good servant-leader is always reminding himself and those he leads of how much they have been forgiven. From this story, I would suggest that the first works Jesus seeks in believers is a heart condition that reflects our deep need of Him in the light of the blazing holiness of God and the relief believers experience having learned that Jesus paid it all. My heart leaps afresh as I write this. Roy Hession says, “The gospel is good new for bad people.” That should make us worship and turn every act of service into a sweet gesture of thanksgiving. From the example of this woman, let me suggest three practices that may partially describe the place to which Jesus would like us to return.

1. Honest, humble repentance: The Lord sees repenters as those who worship Him with the ongoing admission of their need.

2. Demonstrative faith: The Lord sees believers as those who worship Him with ongoing trust in Christ as their only hope.

3. Extravagant thanksgiving: The Lord sees givers as those who take every opportunity to worship with obedient acts of service and sacrifice as an ongoing expression of gratefulness. They have moved from dead works of obligation to the fragrance of adoration.

This is the heart of worship.