Do you remember the day that God revealed Himself to you and you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life? Do you remember the overwhelming sense of security and love that rushed over your body? Your whole self, unhidden…accepted?
Take a second and think back to it.
I remember when I received a revelation of Jesus and his grace when I was 21. I had just spent the week in the mountains doing whatever I wanted to completely living in the flesh…knowingly sinning and not obeying the Lord…and not caring. I remember on the way home feeling completely ashamed and disgusted with myself. I had been a believer for five years, I was going into “the ministry”, I had led friends to the Lord, I had a daily quiet time, and I went to church services…yet here I was - ashamed and alone.
Except, I wasn’t alone. It was in that moment that I felt the Holy Spirit in a way that I had never felt the Holy Spirit before. I felt the Lord say in my spirit, “I’ve never loved you more than I do right now.” I remember arguing with God, “Right now?! I haven’t done anything for you worth loving. I’ve been sinning all week! How can you love me?”
It was at that moment that I realized that I could never earn God’s love. It was something I had to freely receive. Romans 8:5 became alive to me, “but God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I cried while riding in the car for ten minutes. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about it.
God, myself, and nothing else.
That’s really what God is after…us.
Sure, we can do a lot of things for Jesus and in His name; but what He desires the most is us.
As years go by, a believer can be tempted to trade in “being with God” for “doing for God”. It’s very easy to get sucked into this trap, especially if you serve at your local church or are involved in some area of ministry. And this isn’t something that is new. We see the same thing happen in John’s revelation in the Book of Revelation. Jesus has the same charge against the church of Ephesus:
I think we all strive for the words Jesus has to say in verse three. Who wouldn’t want to persevere, endure hardships, and not grow weary? Those are all markers that we would say are good qualities. We search for Bible plans on these topics and save motivational quotes around these things because we want to persevere, endure, and not grow weary.
But Jesus turns the table with the next verse. Basically He says, “You’ve done all the stuff…but I hold this one thing against you.” If someone holds something against you it shows the priority and weight of that thing. Jesus is saying, “This thing that I hold against you is far more important than persevering, more than enduring, more than not growing weary.”
So what is more important than doing a lot of stuff for God? Being with God…our first love.
When we are with God, a couple of things happen:
2 Corinthians 5:21 says:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
When we accept Jesus we BECOME the righteousness of God. Meaning that when God sees us, He doesn’t see us for our past, present, or future doings…He sees Jesus. So the word’s God speaks to Jesus in Matthew 3:17 is true to us as well:
“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
You are God’s son or daughter…in whom He is well pleased. This has nothing to do with what you’ve done but what Christ has done for you. This is your identity.
It is inevitable that if you trade being with God for doing for God you will burn out in faith at some point. We see it throughout history but specifically we see it a ton today. This is not just something that celebrity pastors face…this is something that every believer on the planet could fall to if we do a lot but don’t spend time with God in rest.
Rest is not checking out physically and mentally. When we rest we are choosing to deny our desires to find our self worth in our doing. We are declaring that God is in control of the world while we are resting. It helps us see that the world will continue to spin without us feeling like we have to do something. When we understand this truth we can fully rest in the Lord. We can delight in His creation. We can contemplate the majesty and wonder of God.
The most important thing you can take away from this is that God desperately desires for you to be with Him more than do for Him. Being with God will lead to doing for God…but it is never a substitute.
Consider how you have replaced what is most important. Are you too busy? Do you find time with God to not be “productive”? Are you knowingly sinning and don’t want to face it? Are you afraid what God will reveal to you if you are alone with Him?
Repent to God. You will feel the fullness of His love and grace. Talk to a close friend and repent to them as well. Let them know that you have replaced your being with God with your doing for God and need them to help you in accountability moving forward.
God is still as close as He has always been. Return to your first love. You don’t have to make up for lost time. Just start again today. Say, ”God, I know you’re here” and allow the Holy Spirit to comfort you and fill you with His strength and rest.