In the message this past Sunday, we looked at Jesus and his words to the church at Ephesus as recorded in Revelation 2:1-8. It was a challenge to this church who was working hard and holding fast to the truth but had forgotten their first love. Jesus’ answer to this problem was to remember, repent, and return to the things they did at first.
In prepping this message, I thought about two important principles that are taught again and again in the Bible. The first is the importance of having something to remember. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses told the people of the importance to love God with their entire being. He then instructed them to impress this teaching upon their children, to talk about it all the time. Why would God give this instruction? We find the answer in Deuteronomy 6:12: so they would not forget the Lord.
Over and over we are encouraged to retell the stories of our encounters with God, the faithfulness of God, remind one another of the commands of God, and even to hide the Word of God in our hearts. We can’t remember what we don’t repeat. We need to fill our hearts and minds with who God, all he has done for us, and his Word.
The other important principle we find related to this is just how important the heart is to our relationship with God. In the Old Testament, the people were called out for going through the motions but not really worshiping God with their hearts. In a surprising rebuke, God states that he would rather worship and sacrifices cease than for them to continue as a rote ritual with no passion or heart behind it.
Jesus reiterated this with the Pharisees when he quoted the prophet Isaiah in Matthew 15:8-9 and said, “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Activity has never been what God was after. He has always desired people who love him with their entire hearts.
This idea resonates with me. I don’t want my kids to love me because of what they can get from me or because they feel like they have to. I don’t want my wife to love me because one day 24 years ago she said she would. I want them to love me because within their hearts resides a passion for me and a desire to know me.
Our hearts aren’t secondary or an optional part of our faith or following Jesus. Hopefully, we are people who lead with our hearts, and our desire to serve and worship God is driven by a genuine love for him and a desire to honor Him in how we live out of faith every day.