At the launch of 2020, the Holy Spirit’s agenda for us is clear: He wants the first commandment in first place in our hearts. The first commandment — to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength — comes before every other passion, vision or mission (Matthew 22:37–38). Nothing is more essential as we step into this pivotal decade.
Good news: The Holy Spirit is willing to do whatever it takes to restore our first love (Revelation 2:4). Start your year by praying the dangerous prayer, “Whatever it takes.”
It’s time for dangerous, desperate praying out of holy desperation — when you’re willing to pay any price to have more of Christ. What merciful kindness — when God disrupts our soft, middle-America Christianity and launches us on a journey to pursue His face.
For me, that journey has meant a profound return to the cross of Jesus. Because the cross is where everything starts.
Back to the Beginning
To reclaim the vitality of a thing, sometimes you have to go back to its inception. For example, to renew vitality in your marriage, you may want to go back to the things that first brought you together. As another example, when the Jews asked Jesus about divorce, He talked about how God instituted marriage way back in the beginning. The principle applies to our first love. To rekindle our love for God, we should go back to the beginning. It all started, for all of us, at the cross. That’s where the two of you first met.
It’s at the cross that the fountain of love was first opened. This is where gratefulness, abandonment, fire, passion, devotion, zeal and longing flow. This is where love is excavated, revisited and explored.
Go back to the nails, the stripes, the bloody wood, the thorns. Go back to the naked horror and the writhing, contorted trauma. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16).
God Withholds Nothing
The adversary tells me, just like he did with Eve, that God’s withholding from me. He tells me that God is withholding the answers to my prayers that would make me everything I could be. And when I hear that ancient accusation I just go back to the cross, because the cross nails that accusation.
When I come to the cross, I see a God with nails in His hands, a nail in His feet and thorns on His brow, who stands on the nail, spreads His arms wide and says to me, “I give you all My strength. I give you My mind. I give you My flesh. I give you My soul. I give you My heart. I give you My last breath. I give you My last drop of blood.
When I look at the cross, I don’t see a God who’s withholding from me. Rather, I see a God who is giving me His best. He’s giving me His only begotten Son — His everything. Therefore, I declare to my generation, My God withholds nothing from me. He’s already given me His everything! And if He hasn’t answered my prayer yet, it’s because He’s got a better way to answer it than I have in my best imagination.
And now I find the courage to stand on my nail, spread my arms, and say back to my Beloved, “I love You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my body, my time, my finances, my giftings and my strength. I am Yours, and You are mine.
“The fire of God’s love is so empowering that no trial in life can extinguish it.”
The Cross Awakens Love
How does God renew our first love? Through trouble. Through the cross. There, I said it.
Don’t despise the means God uses to make you more desperate for Him. Satan may have a hand in your trial, but God has a purpose to make you desperate for everything He’s willing to give.
Are you in a fiery trial? It’s not the fire that changes you; it’s the pursuit of God in the fire that changes you. Harness the distress of your trial and press into God with the desperation of someone who’s drowning. He wants to become your survival.
It was a fiery trial that launched me on my spiritual journey. Over 20 years ago, I suffered a debilitating physical injury (fallout from a bad surgery) and nearly lost my way. With the desperation of a drowning man, I began to cling to the words of Jesus like never before. Psalm 119:92 became my personal experience: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.” His promises and the words of His mouth became my survival. I’m here today only because of His word.
This is where He brought me back to my first love.
For years, my prayer life was reduced to three words: “I love You.” “I don’t understand You; I don’t see what You’re doing; I don’t know where You’re taking me; I’m not even enjoying You right now, but I love You.” Just giving Him my love, in the darkest place of my life, that’s all I could do.
And now I realize, it’s the most powerful thing you can do. When you choose to love Him in the greatest trials of life, you become eligible for some of the most powerful promises in Scripture.
“All things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:14–16).
He used the greatest trial of my life to bring me into the kind of intimacy with Jesus that I always wanted.
The cross opens to the deepest intimacy. Why do we run from the very thing that will bring us into the bosom of our Beloved?
The Fire of God’s Love
Song of Solomon 8:6 says, “Love is as strong as death,” because love took Christ to His death. That same love empowers us in the face of the greatest opposition, just as those who faced the wrath of the accuser “did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).
Song of Solomon 8:6 also says this love is like “flames of fire, a most vehement flame.” The fire of God’s love is so empowering that no trial in life can extinguish it. This is what the next verse means when it says, “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it” (8:7). Waters in the Bible often symbolize problems and difficulties that seek to overwhelm and drown us. This verse is saying, “There is no opposition great enough to quench this love for Jesus that burns in the hearts of God’s saints.”
Many saints in the Bible knew overwhelming circumstances, and many today continue to experience deep floods of adversity and crisis. But even after Satan levels his greatest attacks, God’s people come through with a deeper, more fiery love than ever. Revelation 12 depicts Satan (the dragon) in his last days’ rage, spewing a flood from his mouth in order to try to drown the church, but he’s not successful. The grace of God lifts up a standard against that flood. When the enemy would seek to drown us, the Lord kindles a fire within us that cannot be extinguished. It’s a fiery love for the Lord Jesus.
In the hour when God’s people experience their greatest tests, the Lord is reserving a revelation of Himself and His beauty. He is saying to us, “Don’t be afraid or intimidated of the dragon’s floods, because when I reveal Myself to you, the revelation of My love will be stronger than the rage of Satan.” God has a fire that will consume the greatest floods — the very fire of God Himself.
Do you feel too weak to love Him with this kind of extravagant love? Are you aware of your inner wounds, emotional handicaps, addictions and proneness to sin? The Lord would answer, “The issue is not your weakness but My fire! When I release the fire of My love in your heart, everything will change. I will awaken in you a love beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. You will see My Son!”
Love Him With Everything
Jesus created the human body for crucifixion. At creation, when Jesus was fashioning a body for Adam that He Himself would one day inhabit, I can imagine the Father saying to Him, “Son, are You sure You want to put all those nerve endings in the hands like that? That’s where they’re going to put the nails. And are You sure You want to put all those nerve endings in the feet like that? That’s where they’re going to put the nail.”
I imagine the Son replying, “Yes, Abba, I know. I want to feel their sorrows in the depths of My being. I want to feel for them in every part of My being.”
How does Jesus feel about you? He feels about You in His hands, in His arms, in His shoulders, in His neck, in His face, in His scalp, in His back, in His gut, in His legs, in His knees, in His feet, in His toes. His love for you runs the full course of His entire body, soul and mind.
And now, this is how we love Him too. No matter the troubles; no matter the distractions; or the temptations; or discouragements. The cross has awakened us to the greatest romantic adventure of the centuries. Love for Jesus runs the full course of our entire beings.
Love gets all of me. Worship gets all of me. The cross gets all of me. All I want to know is, how can I give more?
Kneel again at His cross today. Give Him your love. Let this love grip, shake and take you. Love Him in 2020 with all your mind, flesh, soul and strength. May the fire of this love so consume you that all is burned away except for one thing — love for the face of Jesus Christ.
Pray the dangerous prayer. “Anything. Everything. Whatever it takes.” +
Bob Sorge is the author of more than 20 books and is best known for “Secrets of the Secret Place,” which inspires and strengthens believers in their secret-place relationship with Jesus. Visit freemethodistbooks.com to order this book. More of Sorge’s teachings can be found on his Oasis House Ministries website (oasishouse.com) and his YouTube channel (fmchr.ch/sorgeyt).
Scripture in this article is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.