Christianity 201

May 25, 2020

God Directs Our Paths | Keeping Our First Love

This is our eighth time highlighting the writing of Mark McIntyre at Attempts at Honesty. I love his tag line, “Reflections on the interplay of the Bible and Culture.” That should be where most of us live!

Because these pieces are shorter, today you’re getting a 2-for-1 special! As always, you’re asked to click the article headers below and read these at his site.

Along the right paths

One of the advantages of reading a different version of the Bible, one that you are not familiar with, is that a different reading can trigger an insight that you never saw before.

This happened to me this morning as I read Psalm 23 in the Christian Standard Bible. In that translation the verse 3 reads:

He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:3 (CSB)

I’m not enough of a Hebrew scholar to know if “right paths” or “paths of righteousness” is the better translation. But I am encouraged by the CSB translation.

It is easy to wonder sometimes if we missed a sign post along the way. Things don’t turn out the way we thought they would when we were in high school or college. The actuality may look very different than what we envisioned.

But, David reminds us in this Psalm that God remains the Good Shepherd who guides us and provides for us. If we continue to look to him, especially when circumstances are difficult, we can be assured that he will lead us onto the right path.

From Psalm 23:3, I surmise that the path that we’ve been on has been the right path. We may have needed rescuing after getting lost, but we can trust that God knew about it before hand and despite our foibles has kept us on the correct path.

I will again share my favorite verse in Scripture, Philippians 1:6:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

If we follow the Good Shepherd we can’t get lost.


You have left your first love

The haunting words of the title of this post are taken from Revelation 2:4 in the middle of Jesus’ message to the Church in Ephesus. The full verse says,

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Revelation 2:4 (NASB)

The message to this church starts off so well. I can visualize the faces of the Ephesians as they first heard the message. I see the barely suppressed smiles as they heard their toil and perseverance praised by their Lord. Image the sense of satisfaction as their diligence in keeping the teaching pure was highlighted along with their willingness and ability to combat error.

There was much good that was going on in this church. But then their satisfaction turned to horror as they heard, “But I have this against you . . .”

They had lost their first love.

How could this happen? How could they be so on track theologically and be so wrong relationally? It is not just an academic question. This is a question that church leaders should be asking in every culture and in every generation because we are prone to repeat this error.

We all have an inner Pharisee that can reshape our thinking and behavior and cause us to repeat the Ephesians’ error. We need to be vigilant to monitor what we do and also be vigilant to know when our motives for doing the right thing become wrong.

There is another danger for us. We are also prone to over correcting and swinging too far the other way. We can be so relational that we don’t offer the confrontation that is necessary to keep the church grounded in a solid understanding of “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (WSC Question 3).

I have been in churches that were so focused on being loving that they allowed error to propagate within the members and did little or nothing to correct it. Lives were damaged as a result of the leaders’ negligence.

Those who over-correct in this way, while claiming love as their motivation have also lost their first love because that love should be focused on the one who is the Truth (John 14:6). Jesus was able to speak the truth at all times and to every person with whom he had contact. He also had the ability to make them feel loved as he did it.

By allowing either extreme to flourish in our churches, we are demonstrating that we have lost our first Love. If we love the one who gives the perfect example of unapologetically standing for the truth of Scripture while at the same time demonstrating love for those he encountered, then we will constantly seek to follow his example and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

I feel led to point out that the “sinners” were the ones that loved Jesus and were permanently changed by that love. The truth was both relational and confrontational.

 

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