What would you say is the greatest mistake a follower of Christ can make? Pride? Greed? Sexual impurity? Unforgiveness? Bill Bright’s answer may surprise you. It cuts to the heart of every struggle we face.
My dad, Bill Bright, recognized although you cannot lose your salvation once you place your trust in Christ, you can lose your first love for the Savior—with devastating consequences.
Over the years people often asked my dad how they could pray for him. He always responded the same way, “Pray I never leave my first love.” He always exhorted the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) to “Never lose your first love.” He knew that “simply serving God was not enough.” God’s sobering words through the Apostle John to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 were clear:
I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance…. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this one complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first. Turn back to me again…. If you don’t, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.
A few years before my dad passed away, Larry Thompson, a long-time Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) staff member, pointed out to my dad, “Bill, you always tell us to never lose our first love, but you never tell us how.” The small but powerful book, First Love, Renewing Your Passion for God, was my dad’s response.
In the pages of First Love, my dad reflected on the genuine danger every Christian faces:
Most true believers in Christ can point to a time when our hearts were on fire for Him. We loved Christ with a passion that no one could help but notice. It transformed us from the inside out. But for many reasons and without intending it we let the flames die down until they became glowing embers. Soon there was little but a wisp of smoke and ashes. There are few things sadder than the ashes of a burned-out devotion.
Might that describe you today?
Luke chapter 10 introduces us to two sisters, Mary and Martha. Both women greatly valued their relationship with Jesus, but there was one major difference. Although Martha had good intentions, she had a busy heart. She was more focused on working to please Jesus than being with Jesus. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet as a truly devout disciple would do in first century Jewish culture. Just as He did with the church at Ephesus, Jesus rebuked Martha for allowing the Good to become the enemy of the Best. He praised Mary for having made the “better” choice.
So, how do you know if you have lost your first love? Reflect on 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. It was one of my dad’s favorite passages. Am I patient? Am I kind? Am I boastful? Do I ever point fingers or shame others? Do I ever demand my rights? Do I often find myself getting angry because I have been slighted? Do I obsess on how I have been wronged? If any of these things are true of you or me on a recurring basis then let Mary be our role model—let’s spend more time sitting at Jesus’ feet.
The first step is to intentionally shift our internal focus from ourselves back to God. Instead of asking, “How does that make me feel?” ask the better question, “How does that make God feel?”.
The squabbling and bickering in the Church today is a telling indicator we have lost our focus on being with Jesus. We may be working hard for God, but we’re not spending enough time sitting at His feet. Bill Bright would encourage all of us, “Return to your first love.”
In his book, Bill Bright tells us the tragic story of a man named Robert Robinson, who as a young man, penned these words:
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.
God waits with a broken heart for you to repent—to return to your first love. Just like the father of the prodigal son, He longs for you to come back. He invites you with arms flung wide-open to come home.
That’s the heart of my dad’s book, First Love. He wrote it to help you renew your passion for God—to show you the path home. My dad wrote over 100 books and booklets during his lifetime. This is one of the shortest books he ever wrote, but it is one of his most inspiring. You can read it in two hours.
First Love, Renewing Your Passion for God is Bill Bright’s greatest encouragement to everyone who claims to follow Jesus. If you’re in the spiritual doldrums, my dad’s words are for you.
For the remainder of November, we are offering a free eBook version of First Love to anyone whose heart yearns for rest. Don’t put it off another day. Come home to the Father who loves you.
P.S. After you read First Love, if you ever cross paths with Larry Thompson, be sure to tell him “Thanks!”
Copyright © Brad Bright 2021