Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at .roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

Why am I not getting the same message and enthusiasm that I have for years? I know that it's an attack from Satan and not the church. How do I pray to get my spirit-filled life back?

Sincerely, K

Dear K,

It sounds to me that you’re losing your love for Jesus. Don’t despair. Most of us lose our love for Jesus at some time or other. Developing a love life with Jesus is like developing a love life. The initial burst of thrilling romance soon settles down to a long-time maturing which ultimately results in deep intimacy.

I met my wife Julie on Sunday morning. I was preaching in a small rural church and she arrived thirty minutes late to sing and play for the service. I led worship a capella until she arrived, out of breath and hurried straight to the piano. Our romance commenced that evening. Unfortunately, typically, love does not march unimpeded to full intimacy. Relationships are full of ups and downs and good and bads.

Julie has trouble keeping up with her car keys. It seems like I’ve searched for them for most of our married life. I will never forget — nor will she — the day I found them after a lengthy search, stood over her, shook the keys in her face and angrily yelled, “What am I going have to do?!! Put them on a chain and lock them around your neck?” Then, I’m shamed to admit, I spiked the keys on the floor in front of her toes and stormed out of the room. Not much love there! Ultimately, I confessed and repented and she forgave and we moved past those awful moments. Love is like that.

“Her lungs are filled with fluid,” said the emergency room doctor. “Very little room is left to produce breathable air. Tonight, your daughter may become a statistic. The words sent shivers up my spine and initiated overflowing anger toward Jesus: “How much is enough? When will the onslaughts stop? With all we’ve endured in our lives, if you can’t do any better than this, I’ve about decided that following You isn’t worth it after all!”

I surprised myself. I’d never had so much anger toward Jesus. I’ve had many opportunities for anger but never enunciated them. Every trouble was another opportunity for Jesus to mold me more to look like Him. I had open heart surgery at 13. My doctors made a mistake. My heart was perfect. I’ve had scar-tissue-induced-electrical problems ever since. I know what it’s like to “ride the lightning” as the paddles fired to restart my heart. I no longer have a colon. Three knee operations, several ablations and a back surgery did nothing to impair my love for Jesus. I own a bulletproof vest for protection when preaching. Julie had a nervous breakdown. My first daughter died in my arms. My oldest daughter has suffered with failing lungs for a decade. We do all we can to keep her breathing. Never once can I recall a time when my love for Jesus faltered — until that awful night. I’d had enough.

Asaph’s experience in Psalm 73 helped. He lost his first love and recaptured it. He was angry with God because all of his neighbors were better off than he was. He’d about decided that he’d be just as well without following God.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; for I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; ...

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God;…

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:1-26).

He lost it. But after a while he found it. When push comes to shove, I’ve decided, like Asaph, that there’s nowhere else I’d rather go than to Jesus.

At this very moment my oldest daughter Brie is in the hospital trying to get her lungs and breathing under control. I’m not angry with God this evening like I was that night in the hospital. We’ve worked through that. Gratefully, my heart is drawn to Jesus even while Brie is under the knife. I sense Him pouring in the power even as I feel agape love flowing from Him to me and back to Him.

Julie and I’ve had an adventurous life deeply in love with each other. Unfortunately, we haven’t lived happily ever after. Why not? You know why not. We’re all imperfect human beings, who grow up in imperfect environments around imperfect people. Why does our love for Jesus falter? Because imperfections (sin) can sabotage any and everything. Fortunately, agape love has a way of plowing through the slop and overcoming all.

The key to loving Jesus is to restore our first love when it falters. Jesus said to the Christians in Ephesus:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (Revelation 2:1-4).

Fortunately, in the next several verses Jesus tells us exactly how to rekindle our love affair with Him. We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, we need to deal more specifically with your questions.

You asked: “Why am I not getting the same message and enthusiasm that I have for years?”

Let me give you several possible reasons. When was the last time you heard God speak? You might well discover that you’ve neglected Bible study and prayer. God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to Him through prayer (John 5:39-40).

Perhaps, you’ve allowed too many distracting things into your life. These could include materialism, loving some person or thing more than you love Jesus. Quite possibly you are more computer oriented (shopping, news, gaming, surfing) than you are spiritually oriented (Matthew 6:24).

The Christian life is not designed for solo living. Are you in a small group of like-minded brothers and sisters where you can find strength and love and where you can love and encourage others? Christian maturity exists in the context of close fellowship with others (Acts 2:42).

Perhaps Jesus has failed to answer some prayer the way you wanted and you’ve looked else where for help. Down deep inside you are disappointed in Him (Job 7:11-8:1).

Maybe something you’ve done makes you feel that He’s disappointed in you. You’re too shamed to approach Him (John 21:17).

Of course, our sins can impair our fellowship with Christ. Nevertheless, our relationship with Him as His born-again child can never be broken. Sin may momentarily ruin our fellowship; but it can never threaten our relationship to Him (Psalm 51:1-4).

Then, you asked: “I know that it's an attack from Satan and not the church.”

Of course, we both know that Satan’s goal is to control our bodies and souls. Satan works on our minds and wills so that we choose to live according to his plans and desires. Our defense is twofold. Don’t listen when he speaks. We take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). In addition we continually renew our minds with Biblical truth (Romans 12:1-2).

Finally, you asked: “How do I pray to get my spirit-filled life back?”

The operative verse here is Ephesians 5:18: "Do not get drunk on wine, … Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

The term “be filled” is often translated from Greek as “keep on being filled” with the Spirit. From this we deduce that the filling of the Spirit is not permanent, but is to be repeated again and again. As a drunk is saturated and under the direct influence of alcohol, so we are to live saturated with the life of the Holy Spirit.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is a simple matter. We need not make the answer complex and involved. The filling occurs as we empty our lives of self-reliance, selfishness and self-condemnation.

We might say it like this: “Our experience upward in the power of Christ is in direct proportion to our experience downward in ceasing from self.”

This doesn’t mean that we rid ourselves of all of our “self.” Much of our “self” is good, profitable, holy, Christ like and filled with love. Our bad “selves” of reliance, control and condemnation are what we want gone. As we empty our lives of these three, the Holy Spirit has room to enter, fill us and fully express Himself through us. He stands ready at any moment to fill us to the fullest. He is waiting on us to be empty.

Let’s now return to where we started and examine the advice Jesus gave to the members of the church at Ephesus:

Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do (repeat) the things you did at first. (Revelation 3:4-5).

Follow these three steps and Jesus promises your love will rekindle.

Remember, what it used to be like when you were hot on fire for Jesus. Repent that it’s not that way. Repeat the things you used to do when you first fell in love together.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Well, K, I hope this helps.

Love, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: March 12, 2012