Yesterday morning I started my time with the Lord listening to a song sung by Kari Jobe called “First Love”. As she was singing it I was taken back to the first moment that I really experienced God’s love consciously, at a camp in Noordhoek over Easter in 1980. I remembered the thrill of the immediacy and reality of Jesus, the waves of love that swept over me as we sung songs like “Jesus Name above all names”, how I walked early one morning on Noordhoek beach with the dank grey mist came swirling in from the cold Atlantic, talking to Jesus, overcome by this soul-lifting experience, where His presence was so real that I found myself offering Him a sweet from a roll I took out of my pocket. When I went home, after the weekend I had to curb my enthusiasm that I didn’t engulf my dear Emily with the waterfall of emotion I was feeling.
Yesterday morning I was thinking back of that time and even comparing it with the tsunami of emotion I had felt when I first met Emily. After a while I started asking the Lord to help me to relive that feeling again. Later in the day I was musing on all this, still feeling a bit of the emotional high of the morning, when it occurred to me that actually this could not be about emotion. Emotions, as amazing and wonderful as positive emotions can be so unreliable they can be, being swept away by some negative happening within seconds. So it occurred to me that the warning of Jesus to the Ephesian church (in Rev 2:5) could not be about how they felt about Jesus. Nor did it necessarily have to do with their chronological love, in other words how they had behaved when they were first converted, although that was probably part of it. It seems to me that what Jesus is speaking about here is the primacy of their love for Him demonstrated by their active practice of love for Him and His people. This is the warning which I felt was applicable to me. That love, the love of Jesus, should be the most important love in our lives, our “first love”, reflected in our love towards others. It should be of first importance as it were.
So I battle, I think we all do with placing the love of Jesus first in our lives all the time. There is a constant struggle between love for Him and other objects (idols). Probably the most important idol is our love for ourselves. Reading Oswald Chambers’ biography I see how he is portrayed as one who constantly made a point of placing God and His agenda above his own. Even when it was inconvenient for him and his family and associates. What a challenge.
Having said all this, there is surely no harm in the wonderful feelings of love which we may feel for God and Jesus. Often when we sing or experience His closeness in prayer or other circumstances, it spins off to engulf other people. However the encouragement to love, should not depend on those feelings but rather be constantly reaffirmed and built on through our daily relationship and interaction with Jesus.
Coming to my reading in Luke 4:14-21, the reading of the passage of the scripture from Isaiah 61 by Jesus in the synagogue, seems to serve as a written and verbal introduction in Luke to the next phase of public ministry by this Man, clearly linking Him to the Old Testament prophetic word. So He is presented as the “Anointed One”, which is of course what the word Christ means. From here on we will see His character and ministry develop as the true Messiah. So as I had pondered last time at the description of Jesus being “full of he Holy Spirit” we see here in vs 14 that description repeated and it will be repeated a number of times as the gospel unfolds. This seems to be a reminder of two things by Luke. 1. The humanity of Christ. That is apparently a strong theme in Luke’s gospel. So by repeated mentioning the work of the Holy Spirit being, with Jesus in His ministry brings the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead clearly into view. he was not acting on His own. 2. It is a constant reminder of the identity of this Man Jesus: He is truly “The Anointed One”.
So what does this mean to us? Well the baptism and work of the Holy Spirit is active in each truly “born-again” Christian. This supernatural power and wisdom is built into our nature. Does this mean that we can go out and do all the miracles that Christ did, like the charismatic believers profess? Well I suppose theoretically the power of the Spirit is there, however Jesus Himself said He did nothing without His Father’s instruction (John 8:29), one would have to be sure that God had clearly shown you to do it. The point of Jesus’ miracles was clearly to show who He really is and therefore completely unique. However we can be sure to be carried by God’s grace and power through any circumstance and in any ministry situation, as much as we shall ever need. The problem with most of us, me included, is that I try to do so much in my own strength and wisdom, that God wants to empower me to do. So the need for us to surrender completely to Him and be aware of the immense possibilities in His Name is constantly there. We are the supernatural children of the Creator God. Sadly, outsiders many times would not be able to tell that we are different to them. Why? “By their fruit you will know them”.
It is harvest time in all the orchards here in the Boland and well, maybe harvest time in our lives in the face of the challenges of 2021. Let us be so bound to Jesus that His fruit will draw people to Him the Gardener, that we are actively contributing to the “coming of His kingdom and His will being done”.