Back to First Love

“When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’” (Mark 10:14-15)

I remember how I first encountered the Lord as a child in kindergarten. I was captured by the story of how He loved us to the point of sacrificing His own life. And I wanted to love Him back. I sure knew little history, vocabulary, and theology, but it was just a simple yet profound love. I began to talk to Him every day and night. During a school-bus ride, my friend asked me, “Who is your best friend?” and with both shyness and excitement, I answered, “Jesus.”

As I grew older, realizing that I had become a “Christian”, my spiritual life went a little complicated. I was distracted by many worldly pursuits like education and materialism. I was also distracted by many things about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. Things about Jesus are great. They can be useful, however, only if they point us to the Lord. Sadly, I went off track because I was chasing things about Him and around Him, but my eyes were not Jesus Christ Himself. Let me explain.

I tried to live my Christian life apart from Christ. I was chasing the fruit of the Spirit without chasing Christ Himself.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

I grew up in a church where we were taught WWJD. “To live is Christ” turned into a mere outward imitation of Jesus’ possible acts rather than a pursuit of God.

I tried to live up to expectations. I tried and tried with my own effort. Most of the time, I was either too proud to admit my failure, or I just simply ended up trying harder.

The same old bitterness, the same old jealousy, the same old lust.

Praise God that when I entered into college, He gradually showed me how my so-called Christian life over the years had been completely self-sustained, self-centered, and self-entertained. In other words, I lived it apart from Christ.

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” There is no way I can bear any fruit of the Spirit if I detach myself from the true vine. Apart from the Spirit, any fruit that I “bear” is of the flesh.

As my desire to seek Him more grew, I also became more attracted to the Scripture.

Yet another way to get off track came in. I began to search the Scripture for the Scripture’s sake.

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39 NLT)

The Scipture point us to real living Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life-giving.” (John 6:63). In other words, we read the written word of God (the Bible) to know the incarnate Word of God (Jesus Christ) better.

But we often turn these words into dead letter, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6). The word “letter” here may refer to the Old Testament law, but in reality, we can turn any part of the Scripture, be it of OT or NT, into dead letters.

We may, for example, know many Old Testament stories without knowing they were all pointing to Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophesies and promises.

We may also end up seeking thrills and taking pride in knowing the Scripture but not Christ. In the words of Marshall Segal, we think we are serving the Lord, but in reality, we are serving theology.

In short, we know the word to know the Word. If our focus is off, we may very well, even with our zeal, end up like the Pharisees who, despite knowing all the Scripture, still failed to recognize Jesus Christ when He appeared to them in flesh.

I am 24 now. If I have to use one sentence to summarize my current spiritual state, is that the Lord has brought me back to my first love, Himself. Not things about Him, but Him.

I want to become that 6-year-old me again, who was captured by His glory and beauty. When the Lord says, “anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it”, it echoes with Matt 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When we become like innocent children who only want Christ and Christ alone, we shall see Him who reveals His unsearchable riches to those who seek with a pure heart.

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