“Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:7)
God has created us and called us into a love relationship with himself, to reflect his character, and to accomplish his purpose in the world. Look at how God says it through Moses:
“For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deut. 30:16)
These three elements summarize God’s commands to his people and the result of following them: love God, walk in his ways, and obey him and you will have life. These three are also the most common ways that we depart from God:
1. Shift of Heart–Moving away from God has nothing to do with activity! It’s a matter of the heart. It begins when the warmth of our love for God cools and our hearts shift away from God.
2. Disobedience–When our hearts are diverted toward another love, we then disobey God. Instead of walking in God’s ways we simply walk away from God.
3. Idols–Next we turn to substitutes for God, creating our own personal “gods” to which we bow down in worship. Anything that becomes a replacement for a love relationship with God is an “idol” of the heart.
Moses warns God’s people of the consequences of following this path:
“But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.” (Deut. 30:17)
God gives us a clear choice: love him with a whole heart resulting in life and blessings…or…don’t love him resulting in death and curses.
The choice is yours!
Examine your heart: How’s your love life? Are you warm-hearted for God, longing to be in his presence…enjoying times of being with him…talking with him? If not, repent! Return to your first love!
Check your obedience quotient: Are you quick to obey God? Do you listen to God speak–Scripture, prayer, church, etc.–and do what he says? When was the last time you intentionally did something that was direct obedience? (Obedience is in reality a measure of your love! See John 14:21.) In what ways have you disobeyed? Repent! Confess your sin and return to your first love!
Tear down all “idols”: What substitutes have taken the place of an authentic and vital love relationship with God? Materialism? Relationships? Bible study? Career or job? Ritual worship? Serving God? Trusting in the help of others? Self? Repent! Tear down that idol! Confess your sin and return to your first love!
[Click here to listen to Psalm 51, the classic prayer of repentance written by King David.]