Return to Your First Love, by Pastor Ed Evans

Scripture: John 20:1-18
20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
20:2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
20:3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.
20:4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.
20:5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.
20:6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,
20:7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.
20:8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
20:9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;
20:12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.
20:13 They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."
20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
20:15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
20:16 Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
20:17 Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.'"
20:18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that He had said these things to her.

Perhaps you remember those tender moments of your first love, not really knowing what love was all about, but feeling filled with emotion and desire to be known to the object of your affection, to know them better, to be with them always. Then to lose that love, so hurtful. That was the injured feeling of the women who came to Jesus' tomb that morning. They had put all their hopes in Him as the One who would make all things right, Israel's promised Messiah. They had given Him all their love and devotion, and now He was dead. Where was the love?
The great love of God, so difficult for us to understand, and equally difficult for us to make a part of our own daily life with others, was made manifest in Jesus at the cross there on Golgotha. Oswald Chambers rightly says, "There is nothing in time or eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable than what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross -- He made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God." Our God loved us, and loves us now, so very much.
Much of the world wants to ignore His crucifixion as a myth, a fairy tale to make people feel better. But John Piper in his "The Great Offense: Was Jesus Really Crucified?" describes how the Roman historian Tacitus wrote that Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the great fire of Rome in order to deflect rumors that it was he who started the blaze, alluding to a fact no one disputed, that Christ had been crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Piper added, "It was common and undisputed knowledge in the second half of the first century that Jesus Christ had been crucified. If there were any question that He had died in this way, it would have been eagerly disputed wherever Christians preached. But it wasn't. The fact of His death by crucifixion was not questioned."
Even the enemies of God, those who say Jesus was not the Christ, must admit to the testimony of history. And since they cannot refute His crucifixion, then men of power attempt to use it in their own behalf.
On April 4, 2012, Pres. Barack Hussein Obama spoke to a room full of pastors at the annual Easter Prayer Breakfast, quoting John 16:33 -- "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Joe Kovacs, executive news editor for WND writes of that event, quoting the President: "So the struggle to fathom that unfathomable sacrifice makes Easter all the more meaningful to all of us. It helps us to provide an eternal perspective to whatever temporal challenges we face. It puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems He was dealing with. And it gives us courage and it gives us hope.
“We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us – (laughter) – but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph. Jesus told us as much in the book of John, when He said, ‘In this world you will have trouble.’ I heard an amen. (Laughter.) Let me repeat. ‘In this world, you will have trouble.’”
“Amen!” the audience exclaimed.
“But take heart!”, Obama said to laughter. “I have overcome the world,” as he received applause."
Allow me to quote Pastor David Jeremiah about this very Biblical quote from his book "Until Christ Returns." Writes Jeremiah, "Throughout that chapter Jesus talks about the future and what is about to happen. He warns His disciples about His imminent death, about the persecution to come, about the sorrow and pain and hardship lying just ahead. But after predicting all these frightful events He says, in effect, 'Don't get caught up in that. Make sure that in the midst of these tumultuous times you place your trust wholly in Me.'"
Pastor Jeremiah goes on to say that we should spend more time getting to know Jesus better, and less time worrying about what others predict about the future. If anything, pay attention to what Jesus says about the future. The Pastor ends with, "Then when the future becomes the present, you will enjoy a wondrously close relationship with almighty God and you can be walking with the Lord Jesus Christ in strength. No matter what happens." That's what Pastor Jeremiah says about it.
Unfortunately, this is the President who when he was not talking up his Christianity, said, in fact, during a Chicago Sun Times interview that Jesus was just a teacher and prophet, and that there were many paths to Heaven.
This is the President who wrote in his book that in a crisis, he will stand with the Muslims.
This is the President who told foreign audiences that America is no longer a Christian nation, and that America is the largest Muslim nation in the world. Both of those assertions are factually incorrect.
Those who blame Pres. Obama for our current national troubles are legion. It's been revealed that even some in his own political party, who will undoubtedly vote for him in November, still blame him. But I want to assure everyone that Barack Hussein Obama is not the enemy, not the cause of America's fallen state, of its pending demise. He is part of it, but not the cause of it. And yes, if we continue on our current course, history indicates it will be the demise of this greatest experiment in the human experience.
We the People, as we are termed in our own Constitution, We the People are the cause. It is our turning from God, it is our arrogance in believing we can overcome of our own spirit and physical might, that we can conquer all on our own, that we are the captains of our fate, the masters of our own destiny.
Given the warnings we have experienced as God lifted His protection so there were breaches in our security and we were attacked as never before, instead of heeding His warnings, we vowed to do better, to do more, to take charge of the situation and change ourselves and the world. Instead of turning back to God -- Whom we have removed from our public gatherings, from our schools, from our buildings and literature and daily lives -- in our own self-absorption and self-confidence we build the wall between ourselves and God bigger, wider, stronger, and seal the fate of the nation.
Instead of returning to our first love we cut Him off vowing to do His job for and by ourselves. He Who was there when this nation was formed, upon Whom our forefathers called, Whom they worshipped and to Whom they gave thanks for our freedoms -- Who was called upon to consecrate the very ground in America's first capitol, New York City, the very ground we now call Ground Zero because of the almost unbelievable attack on this nation on Sept. 11, 2001 -- He, Almighty God, was pushed away, walked away from. He whom we loved, revered, depended upon has been systematically shut out of our lives until He must use terrible warnings to get our attention. But do we hear? Do we pay attention? Do we return to our first love?
Warnings ignored lead to consequences. It has all been set into motion. We have set it into motion by our selfishness, our greed, our demand for more; more for us, more without price, more excess. All over the world we are seeing the promised signs of the end times of which we read in the New Testament chapter of The Revelation of St. John the Divine. Just this past week the New York Times newspaper noted the drying up of the Euphrates River in Iraq, with photos of the cracked mud river bottom; something that has never happened before in the history of mankind. The reporters even went so far as to note that such is mentioned in the Holy Bible as a warning of the end times.
When do we return to our first love?
Such a question was asked before and we can read about it in the 24th Chapter of Joshua. Comfortable in the land God had given them, the people had begun to serve themselves and other gods, doing those things that were wrong before Almighty God. So He had Joshua gather all the tribes together, and Joshua reminded them of God's involvement in their history since the days of Abraham, how He has cared for them and loved them, and how they had betrayed God's love for them. In verse 15, Joshua, that great General of God's Armies, answered for himself, saying, "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Our own national history, so sketchily taught in our schools now, is a witness against us as the people of America. For our very freedoms are God-given, not coming from the power of men or the sword. Our forefathers, in forming this nation, understood His involvement, and paid careful homage to Him, acknowledging His protection, His faith in us, His love for us. But we have opted for foreign gods of sports, entertainment, pleasure, self, not only flaunting them before Him, but twisting His very inspired word to demand approval.
Now we find this nation under judgment, ignoring His warnings to us. To continue to ignore Him will lead to consequences we cannot, of our own might, turn around. After He has shown us all of His love and devotion, and now we act as if we are dead to Him. And so we come back to the question, do we return to our first love? Does the love of God, so manifested in the death, burial and resurrection of His own Son, celebrated this very Easter Day, have any meaning for us at all? Amen.