FIRST-PERSON: Keep your first love
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- "The most praiseworthy form of painting," Leonardo da Vinci said, "is the one that most resembles what it imitates." Though that was in the late 15th century, it sounds like da Vinci was thinking of a camera, which reproduces on film exactly what it aims at. In the 19th century, painters in the Realist school of art duplicated on canvas what they saw in real life by focusing on the subject.
There's a similarity in the Christian life. By keeping our eyes on the Subject of our lives -- the Lord Jesus Christ -- our lives become like His. Isn't that what the apostle Paul meant when he said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ?" (1 Corinthians 11:1). The church has found itself in serious trouble many times over the last 2,000 years by taking her eyes off the subject.
Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." That means Jesus is still the one and only Subject of the Christian life. It is His perfect love alone that can sustain us.
Jesus Christ's love, grace, mercy, righteousness, forgiveness and compassion are still there for you -- the same yesterday, today and forever.
Losing sight of the Subject
The apostle John recorded a brief letter from Jesus to a church that had made something different the subject of their lives. The church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) had left their "first love." What you saw in their lives was not what you saw when you looked at Jesus.
What was so wrong at Ephesus? Somehow, the church at Ephesus had taken their eyes off the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ -- the love He had for them and the love they were to have for one another. As a result, their church no longer looked like Jesus.
If a Christian, or an entire church, stops loving Jesus and loving one another the way they did when they first met Him, the art of their heart will take on a harsh and garish hue. And that's apparently what Jesus saw in Ephesus.
Busyness, formalism, legalism, striving, carnality -- these are all symptoms of losing sight of the Subject of our lives. It's possible to have an active Christian life and a busy and prospering church, yet have no resemblance to the Subject we started out painting in our lives.
How does that happen? Sometimes we try to finish from memory, failing to look upon His face, to meditate on His Word, to meet with Him in prayer, to see Him enthroned in our praises in worship. How could we possibly duplicate His life on the canvas of our lives if we stop seeing Him face to face?
Refocusing on our first love
As we pursue our first love, we are called to live a focused life -- because Jesus is still the first love of our life, the Subject of the art of our heart, the only one who can meet our every need, the one who deserves our praise and our worship.
Maintain your first love, keep your eyes on the Subject of your life. Frequently refresh your memory as to His attributes and character. How many ways do you experience His love and share it with others? Worship, prayer, acts of kindness and generosity, sacrificial service -- these are ways to express His love.
If you hear Him speaking to your heart, make sure it is a commendation for keeping your eyes on your first love, not for having left it.
To borrow from da Vinci, the most praiseworthy form of Christianity is the one that most resembles its Founder.