For the past 7 days I have blogged about my daily times with Jesus. It has been a challenging week. Making time to pray and write was not always easy, and I felt pulled in every direction to give up on the challenge. There was temptation too, and at times a sense of real darkness. It goes to show that when we make a decision to spend time with Jesus, the enemy will often try to distract us. I am not one to blame the enemy for everything, but we cannot deny that we are in a battle. This battle is for our devotion. A battle raged by Satan that seeks to take our eyes off Jesus and distract us with other cares.
Today as I prayed I was reminded of the passages in Revelation 2 and 3 about the seven churches. Jesus, through John’s prophecy, commends these churches on their love and work, but also warns them about areas of distraction. The church in Ephesus is warned about returning to their first love. Jesus wants them to go back to the start:
“You have forsaken the your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove you lampstand from its place.”
The church in Pergamum is also called to repent (Rev 2:16), whilst the church in Sardis is challenged to recognised that whilst they have a reputation for being alive, they are in fact dead… Jesus wants them to wake up!
“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found you deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it and repent…” (Rev 3:2-3a)
After a more detailed reading of both chapters it is clear that these are pictures of distraction. Communities and individuals that had initially chosen to follow God and even had a reputation for being passionate, alive and strong and yet had been distracted by ungodly ideas and a lifestyle that did not match with the Gospel they had originally believed in.
I know from personal experience that this can so easily happen. We can so easily get distracted by our desires, our ideas and our lifestyle that we neglect our first love. Our first love being that initial passion or resolve to follow God is then replaced by another kind of love, the love for something else that distracts us from our relationship with God.
The way back is repentance. But I often ask God, what does that even mean? I know repentance is not remorse. It is not feeling bad for a particular thought or action, but it is rather a U-turn that redirects us towards God and away from sin. But this is sometimes harder to make sense of than one may imagine initially. Flowing from yesterday’s reflection on sacrifice… repentance does involve self-denial however, it seems to be more than that. It seems to be about going back to the beginning and realising how much grace we have received.
On the Cross, Jesus pressed the reset button and made a new way for us. He opened the door for the way back. He made us a new creation. But often through our distractions we end up stuck somewhere along the way, travelling in the opposite direction. Repentance then seems to be a resolve to go back to the beginning. I don’t know about you, but I would love that opportunity in many areas of my life. The opportunity to start afresh… to be recreated.
Maybe like me, you are sometimes distracted by all sorts of things… thoughts, action, sins, and busyness. It is sometimes required to stop, reflect and deliberately go back. Stop doing certain things, ending certain relationships and throwing ourselves on God’s grace.
Today I am welcoming that opportunity to press the reset button. To restart. To go back to the beginning. The beginning is the Cross… the start of our journey is death. Death to ourselves and to the old way of being and rebirth through the resurrection of Jesus towards life. Today I am challenged to rid myself of distractions and start afresh, my prayer is that you may do the same.
I will continue to make time for Jesus each day (although I may not publish them pubicly). I will continue to go back to the beginning. As Peter exclaimed: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Where else can we go if hope is only found in Jesus. We better return then. A step at a time.
“Lord forgive me my distractions. Make me new and help me to restart. I need you… where else could I go? Only have the words of eternal life. Help me God. Amen.”