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.
God gave up His life for us
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.
9. Read deeply and widely
It’s been thousands of years since Jesus walked the earth. People on every continent and from every walk of life have discovered His goodness and given Him their lives. This means there’s a wealth of information and stories out there about what it looks like to love Jesus.
Don’t just read the blockbuster books from the latest Christian authors. Delve into classic Christian books. Hunt down books from Christians in different cultures. Learning to see Jesus from different perspectives and experiences magnifies the Lord and helps you see facets of His might and goodness that you may never experience otherwise.
10. Share generously
Stewardship is a vital Christian concept. It basically tells us that everything belongs to the Lord, and we are simply caretakers. When we take in a beautiful vista, we’re looking at land that belongs to God which He expects us to manage. When we speak to our children, we’re talking to people that the Lord has trusted us to care for. And the same is true of our possessions and finances.
When we really believe that our resources ultimately belong to Jesus, we’re confronted with the question of how we’re going to use those assets to grow God’s kingdom. The great thing is that as you begin to live a life of generosity, you don’t become embittered or resentful. It’s quite the opposite: you become more aware of Jesus’s provision and care.
11. Watch films that depict Jesus’s ministry
Reading the Gospels is critical, but interacting with the biblical stories through various kinds of media can impact you in all new ways. For instance, listening to an audible version of John’s Gospel can hit you in an entirely different way than reading it does.
Film is another phenomenal way to experience Jesus’s life and ministry from an entirely new perspective. Movies can add a sense of drama that you miss when you’re simply reading the words and can bring the experience to life for you. .
12. Share your testimony
Your faith journey is powerful. When you’re sharing your personal Jesus story with others, it can have a profound effect. It’s hard to argue with someone who’s telling you about their own experience. This is why your testimony is such an effective tool when it comes to sharing your faith.
But another thing you get out of sharing your testimony is that it keeps it fresh. It reminds you of the times that Jesus has come through for you. If you don’t have an outlet for rehearsing your faith journey, it’s easy to forget all the things that made you start loving Jesus in the first place.
13. Get out in nature
There’s something restorative about nature. When you couple it with silence and contemplation, it can be therapeutic and healing. For the Christian, there is the added bonus that comes from seeing the Creator behind the creation. Not only does nature calm and rejuvenate us, but it makes us erupt in worship of a God who made such a beautiful and miraculous world.
Try to find some nature that has this effect on you. If you live in the city, you might need to find a park or plan for occasional trips out of town. When you do find your chance to get away, use your time in nature to do some of the other things on this list: pray, read, confess, and remember.
14. Ask for a revelation of His love
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prays the most beautiful prayer:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17b-19).
Paul prays for the church at Ephesus to experience a revelation of Christ’s love because it’s the only way they can truly understand it. As he puts it, it’s “beyond knowledge.” But having God reveal how wide, long, high, and deep Jesus’s love is can make all the difference in your walk.
15. Make choices that draw you closer to Christ
It’s easy to think of life as simply consisting of good choices or evil choices. As long as something isn’t bad, it must be good. Right? Not exactly. Paul explains it to the church at Corinth this way:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say-but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but not everything is constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23).
To maintain a passionate connection to Jesus, we often have to make choices that go beyond whether an action or activity is simply good or bad. The real question that mature Christians need to ask is whether or not our choices are bringing us closer to Jesus or helping to distract us.
Tending the fire
It’s nearly impossible to go through the motions and maintain our passion for Christ. Like a home warmed by a wood stove, we need to tend the fire. When it comes to falling deeper in love with Jesus, the key lies in being intentional about it. We need to be aware of the tendency for our zeal to cool over time and make purposeful decisions to keep that fire burning.