love and litmus tests

I’ve been letting two things steep together in the deep pools of my mind for the last week.

The first is a litmus test. (You know, because I like to spend my time thinking about particularly exciting things.)

A decisively indicative test.¹

A test in which one single thing is the deciding factor.

It’s not unlike when your kid comes in the kitchen for lunch and sees a plate in front of her with circles on it.

That one single thing is the deciding factor that lunch is, no doubt, ruined.

And then there’s the second thing. The second thing comes from the book of Revelation:

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

I know I’ve read this verse before, and I know I’ve passed it by blithely. There are, after all, plenty of people in my life whom I love.

But then this week it hit me: Maybe Jesus isn’t talking about abandoning my love for people. Maybe He’s talking about abandoning my love for Him.

Maybe He’s reminding me that if I don’t first fervently love God, nothing else matters.


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.²


A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

It’s the litmus test.

The test in which one single thing is the deciding factor.

(Although “test” is, admittedly, one of the worst words I could use to try to explain this train of thought.)

God calls me to love others. To clothe the poor, feed the hungry, and offer a voice for the helpless and vulnerable.

But somewhere along the way, I think I overlooked what He called me to do first: Love Him with every part of my being.

I’ve been thinking about what that looks like this week. I mean, what does it look like to love God first?

I do not, of course, have all the answers (and, of course, never will), but I read two more things this week that provided me some insight.

The first came from Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

It’s the ultimate miracle. Certain death has been replaced by certain life. We who would never have sought after God on our own have been redeemed by One who sought us in His love and mercy. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

That’s the gospel–the good news! Our guilt has been swallowed up in the gift of God’s grace–the only thing big and powerful enough to forever and fully overcome and remove that guilt.

What follows next, then, should be the logical reaction to this kind of rescue. Snatched from the brink of death, the burden of our sins lifted from our shoulders, you’d think the entire remainder of our earthly life wouldn’t leave us adequate time for all the ways we’d want to say thanks. No longer dependent on our good works and performance, with the destination of our souls secured for all eternity, you’d expect that the energy of sheer gratitude, if nothing else, would propel us to never-ending acts of worship and service. “Whatever you want, Lord. It’s the least I can do after all You’ve done for me.” ³

The second comes from God (you know, because primary sources are always best):

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Which translated for me this week as, “Stop, and think about what I’ve done for you.”

What comes into my mind when I think about God is the most important thing about me.

It’s the litmus test for everything that follows.

For every thought. For every word. For every action.

An awareness of all that God has done for me shouldn’t leave me adequate time to say thanks. It should propel me to never-ending acts of worship and service.

It should change everything.

And that’s not something I want to look at blithely ever again.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” 


¹ The official definition if you Google search “litmus test.”

² 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

³ Demoss, Nancy Leigh. “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.” Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, Moody Press, 2011, pp. 33–34.


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