On Sabbath we explored the meaning of first love and how to revive it in a message entitled, “Bring Back That Loving Feeling.”
Rewind to Rev. 2:1-4. The church of Ephesus was hard working and persevering. It was doctrinally sound, orthodox, and put so-called apostles and teachers to the test like John had told them in 1 John 4:1. They didn’t believe everything people told them. This was a good church! And yet, there was a problem.
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Rev. 2:4). The Amplified says it this way: “You have left [abandoned] the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love].” They didn’t “lose” their love for Christ, they “abandoned” it. This church had apostles, miracles, power, truth, energy, endurance, and correct doctrine. Jesus commended them for it, but they were missing something of utmost importance—Him! Jesus was their first love! The Ephesians were defenders of the cause of Christ but had somehow left Christ behind. When first love dies, other loves take its place. [Read Jer. 2:2, 3, 13.]
What is this “first” love? The word here means “foremost in time, place, order or importance; beginning, best; chief(est).” First love is best love and for the Christian, Christ is the One we love first, last and best. (See Mt. 22:37, 38.) Even as Ephesus was the first and greatest city on the road to Asia Minor, love to God is the first and greatest requirement on the road to heaven. Love is the beginning of Christianity and all Christian service. It is the first and greatest characteristic of our faith. Without it we’re just another works religion.
It was A.W. Tozer who said, “The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word.”
What’s the message here? You can be hard-working and yet be hard-hearted. You can be orthodox and stubborn as an ox. You can be intolerant of error and make the error of being intolerable. It is the love of Christ and love for Christ that means everything! Don’t exchange love for Jesus Himself for the theology of Jesus.
How does love die? How can we lose that loving feeling?
- Substituting duty for delight. When you lose your first love, the work looks great—all the elements of duty, and correct doctrine may be in place, but there is no fire. You can come to church every week, faithful, on time, but inside are dry, barren desserts where everything spiritual is dark, cold, and habitual—where the flame of passion has been absent from the heart altar so long it’s difficult to remember when you last felt the warmth.
Jesus says: I know your works. I know what you do for me, but you’ve lost that loving feeling. You don’t enjoy being with me like you used to. Don’t substitute the works of Jesus for the wonder of Jesus.
- Doing instead of being. One of the main reasons Jesus created the Sabbath was so we’d stop doing and just enjoy being with Him. We’re always doing, always moving, always somewhere other than in the moment with God. This creeps into our prayer life and instead of fellowship with the living God, it becomes a laundry list of “Honey dos” for the Almighty.
Prayer without intimacy is like marriage without love. Don’t pray because it’s important. Pray because you are desperate—for God! And if you’re not desperate for Him, then guess what’s at the top of your prayer list? Spiritual passion.
- Breaking your vows. Jesus foresaw a falling out of love with Him and others at the end of time. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12)
The word “wickedness” here is “illegality”—violation of law. The disregard and violation of the law of God cools the love for God. If a church has grown loveless, it may be because it has become lawless. A lawless church is really a legalistic church because it cares more about what it considers important than what God considers important.
Once you’re living out of harmony with God’s law, it’s easy to begin taking other lovers. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happened slowly by neglect. Other interests filled the empty space. What other lovers are turning our hearts from God?
How do you bring back that loving feeling? Rewind to Rev. 2:5 and remember, repent, and repeat.
Remember. Performance without passion is a fall! Cold Christianity is tragic, but lukewarm, passionless Christianity is sickening! Remember where you came from—when and where you first believed. Remember the cross and when it became personal for you. Remember when your love for Jesus was brand new. Share your experience with someone today.
Repent. Stop substituting duty for delight. Stop doing and start being. End the affairs with other lovers. Honor your vows to God. Name the rivals, confess them and turn your heart back toward God.
Repeat. Do the things you did at first. For the Ephesians this would mean returning to Acts 2:42-47. For us too. Simple Bible reading. Simple prayer. Simple sharing of what Jesus means to you personally. These are the first works. Do these. And by all means, don’t exchange the “kitchen” for the feet of Jesus. The “kitchen” is duty, but delight is found at the feet of Jesus. I encourage you to spend as much time there as possible. —Pastor Randy
p.s. The Washington Conference evangelism and prayer ministries departments are inviting western Washington to take part in the “28 for 1,000” challenge starting on February 1 and going through February 28. The challenge invites Washington Conference members to read through the 28 chapters of Acts (1 chapter each day of February) aloud and to pray that Bible studies will grow in our conference from 429 to 1,000! Watch this promo video by Tyler Long. https://vimeo.com/313298334