In the second chapter of Revelation, Jesus addresses the church of Ephesus. He congratulates them for their discernment with leaders and the way they've endured hardships, but then He says these words, "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first" (Revelation 2:4).
The danger isn't that we simply fall out of love with Jesus. If the issue was as simple as loving or not loving Jesus, that would be one thing. But over time other passions begin to take His place. He stops being the focus of our ardor, and we never realize it's happened.
We've put together 15 disciplines and practices that can help ensure that Jesus remains your first love.
1. Surround yourself with others who love Jesus
The author of Hebrews encourages his readers not to give up meeting together. Why? So that "we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24–25). Healthy Christian community is an encouraging and life-giving discipline.
When we feel our affection for Jesus waning, we need to remember that love is much easier caught than taught. And we catch it by spending time around people who radiate a sincere love for the Lord. If Paul's right that "bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33), then the inverse is true, too. Good company encourages better character.
We pick up on a lot of the same attitudes and inclinations of the people around us. If you want to fall deeper in love with Jesus, it makes sense to spend time with people who share the same desire.
2. Commit to consistent Bible reading
You knew this suggestion was coming, right? God communicates His love, character, and plan to us in His Word. It makes sense that if we want to get closer to Jesus, we'll spend time reading the Bible. But be mindful of your goal.
If you're going through a period where you're trying to know and love Jesus better, read portions of Scripture that focus on who He is and what He came to do. Read the Gospels. Memorize passages like Philippians 2:1–11 or Colossians 1:15–23.
All of Scripture is God-breathed and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and it all ultimately points to Jesus, but it can help to specifically focus on reorienting yourself around the ministry and message of Jesus.
3. Pray without ceasing
Paul encourages the church at Thessalonica to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And while it's a good idea to have a set time in the morning to pray, it's also vital that we make prayer a completely natural part of our everyday life.
As you go throughout your day, try responding to events by turning them into quick little prayers. If you're feeling frustrated or anxious, ask the Lord to strengthen and empower you. By making it a habit to invite Jesus into your daily activities and experiences, you remind yourself of your reliance on Him.
4. Remember His presence
Not only is Jesus with us at every moment, but He dwells inside of us through the Spirit. The problem is that we’re incredibly forgetful. The very God of the universe is with us in our best and worst moments, and we often don't even realize it.
One incredibly helpful discipline is to create simple methods of reminding yourself that Christ is with you right now. Maybe it's putting up Post-It Notes in strategic places where you can run into them throughout your day. Or it could be as simple as setting alarms that chime on your phone or watch every couple of hours as a simple reminder.
Dwelling in the presence of the Lord is largely a case of remembering He is there.
5. Find ways to serve others
In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus separates the good sheep from the goats based on what they've done for others. He tells the sheep that every drink of water they gave to someone who was thirsty or every stitch of clothing they gave to the naked was a kindness they did for Him. As He told them, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
It's fairly self-evident that if you want to manufacture more positive feelings toward someone, you just start doing nice things for them. As we serve others, it does something inside of us. Our attitude toward them begins to shift. The good news is that by serving others, we are also serving Jesus. And knowing that transforms the smallest acts of service and aligns our heart with Him, too.
6. Take time to be quiet
Our senses are under constant assault all day long. We live in a noisy world that distracts us, stresses us out, and fills us with anxiety. Think for a moment about the last time you spent any prolonged period of time unplugged and enjoying simple silence. How long ago was that? How long did it last?
We weren't created to be stimulated constantly, and if we truly want to connect with Jesus, we'll need to make the choice to let the troubled waters in our hearts and minds come to a rest. We need to take Scripture seriously when it tells us, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10).
7. Confess your sin
Unconfessed sin creates a weight that makes walking with Jesus difficult. Not only does it constantly gnaw at us, but we also become obsessed with keeping it hidden. It becomes a barrier between God and us and makes joyful Christian living a challenge.
But 1 John tells us that "if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The term "walking in the light" simply means living open and transparent lives. We're going to mess up. But if we want to walk in the light, we need to be vigilant about confessing our sins to God and to one another.
When we're open about our mistakes, Jesus is faithful to forgive us. And walking with Him becomes a delight again.
8. Be thankful
Something special happens when we practice gratitude. It completely transforms our perspective. When we consistently practice certain kinds of thoughts, they become habitual. If we indulge ourselves with cynical and pessimistic attitudes, we'll find that we see everything through a disapproving lens. But the opposite is true, too. When we practice thankfulness, our eyes are suddenly opened to all the goodness in our lives.
The great thing about looking at the world through a lens of gratitude is that it turns our heart toward Jesus, the giver of every good gift.