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Tuesday, January 6, 2015


"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."  
Revelation 2:4

There are few sights that are sadder than the spectacle of the flames of a love that burns out. When the love for Jesus flames out, His heart is broken. Let us re-examine our LOVE for Jesus.

The image of a love which could be called "first love" is portrayed by the newly formed church in Acts 2:46.  The early Christians are often portrayed as being of one accord in their gladness of heart (Acts 2:46); rejoicing together (Acts 5:41); rejoicing after being baptized (Acts 8:39); rejoicing greatly for having believed in God (Acts 16:34).

It is sad as well as tragic when someone abandons the "first love" they had when they first married. When the affection that existed during courtship and the honeymoon is all gone, it is equally tragic. The same thing happens to Christians.  Sometimes it happens soon after baptism, when they abandon their faith and stop rejoicing and can no longer bear Jesus' yoke.  Although His yoke is easy and His burden is light, they think that it is difficult with its many "commandments and obligations" to follow and obey.  They don't realize that all of God's commandments are for our good to save us from the sins that will destroy us in hell. The obligation to meet on the Lord's Day to remember the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by observing the Lord's Supper as well as our songs of praise and our prayers of worship and petition to God and our weekly contributions to the cause of Christ are calculated by our loving God to preserve our souls to the end.

I.  The Good Qualities of the Church at Ephesus:

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus knew the works of each of the seven churches of Asia, even as He knows the good qualities and good fruits of each local church today.  In the Book of Acts chapter 19:1-5, the church at Ephesus is established.  In Revelation 2:2, Jesus told the church at Ephesus, "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance."  Here we see two qualities, toil and perseverance, which are vital to spiritual growth for any given church.  "And that you cannot tolerate evil men."  The church practiced real discipline.  They did not tolerate those members who refused to embrace the Gospel of our Lord that could change and transform their hearts.  "And you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false."  It was a very strong church that did not tolerate or embrace doctrinal error and false teaching. Let's consider some of these good qualities:

  1. The elders were putting into practice most of what Paul had taught them from "the whole counsel of God."  They were on guard and watching out for the flock, the local church, as true overseers, shepherding the church, which the Lord our Savior purchased with His own blood. They had resisted and confronted the savage wolves that rose up among them and had avoided apostasy and division. Acts 20:28-29.  
  2. Timothy was urged by the apostle Paul to help and instruct these brethren against those savage wolves, their doctrinal error and false teaching::  "As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith."  I Timothy 1:3. 
  3. In I John 4:1, we are warned that we must test every teacher:  This is vital if we are to stop false teachers from taking total control and leadership in the church.  It is the only way to stop apostasy and division.  It will save many souls!
  4. Their two biggest enemies were:  a) the Judaizers who would impose the Law of Moses on the Gentile Christians; b)  and the Gnostics that turned the freedom in Christ into a license to sin.
  5. Without a doubt, the church at Ephesus had the good reputation of being steadfast (faithful) and very strong:  strong because of her courage to take a stand, to defend and to retain sound doctrine, the sound words of love and faith of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These were sound and conservative brethren in word and deed.  I Timothy 1:13.

In Revelation 2:3 we read, "and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary."  Truly they had toiled without growing weary.  They were steadfast and immovable.  In verse 6, He goes on to praise them again saying, "Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." The Nicolaitans promoted sensuality affirming that their body's behavior, the deeds of the flesh, did not affect the spirit.  Many today talk of being patient with those members who teach false doctrine and error not taking into consideration that our Lord Jesus and those brethren who are sound and faithful do abhor false teaching and doctrinal error. Every congregation that makes a claim to be sound and faithful must abhor, reject and fight tooth and nail every false teaching and doctrinal error as well as their false teachers, if they are to retain sound doctrine, saving many souls.

II.  But In Spite of All Their Good Qualities, They Were Deficient:
  • The Lord had something against them, "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."  At first their love was as the love of newlyweds. They loved each other with a love that was not feigned or fake.  The love for Christ and the love for our brethren are inseparable. They go hand in hand.  Consider some examples from Scripture:
  1. In Jeremiah 2:2 we read, "Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, 'I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.'"  It is sad to say but this happens in many marriages.  The love that they both promised to cherish and to keep is all gone.
  2. Their early affection turned into a cold routine.  There were no "problems" and everything seemed to be going smoothly and normally.  Then the fountain of life ran dry.
  • In the beginning they loved the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul.  They hungered for God's Word.  They had brotherly love for one another.  Acts 19:19-20.  "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers."  Ephesians 1:15-16.  But something happened! 
    • They lost their first love, their love for the Word of God, the Gospel.  In John 14:23 we read, "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.'" They became disobedient by not keeping the same Word.  They lost that fellowship with the Son and the Father that can exist only when one abides in it.  They had lost that indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  It is faith in the Word of God that produces love.
    • They had forgotten to imitate Christ, having the same mind in word, in deeds and in thoughts.  This is what love produces in us.  It makes us love His Word, His Law, His Precepts, His Judgments and Statutes.  
    • It is the "first love," that love for Christ and His Word, that makes us love our brethren, His church.  "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.'"  I John 4:20.
    • Thus the “first love,” that the Ephesian brethren had, was a fervent love toward Christ, His Word and the church, the brethren.
  • The state of this church had changed for the worse.  Our Lord had warned that that would happen, "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.  At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.  Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold." Consider how cold their love for Christ, His Word and the church grew:
    • They had lost all their zeal and enthusiasm.  They became anemic and lifeless.  They were not steadfast in their faith anymore.  They were not fervent in spirit anymore.  They did not love one another with fervent love and affection.  They were like many married couples who remained together but without any affection whatsoever.  It is sad to say but there are many married couples who live under the same roof like strangers.  Their first love ceased to exist.  This is sad!
    • In Matthew 15:8 Jesus said, "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me."  We "must" show honor to God in the way we greet and treat each other, in the way we sing, in the way we pray, in our contribution, in the way we partake of the Lord's Supper.  I am afraid to say but we do everything as purely routine.  Our hearts are not there!  The fire of our love has been extinguished. There is much talk about "commandments."  For example we speak of the Lord's Supper as "commandment."  The contribution as "commandment."  The question is:  Are all of these "commandments" a burden rather than a "privilege" and a "blessing"?
    • If our obligation and motivation is nothing more than to not disobey "commandments,"  I am afraid to say that we have fallen into the same error or mistake of the Ephesian brethren.  We like them have left or forsaken our "first love" and we are just "enduring."
    • When we correct or confront error as well as admonish our brethren, we must do it without being harsh, hostile, suspicious, arrogant or whining.  Let us be careful not to leave or lose our "fist love."
  • So often many young children come to church with their parents only because their parents take them.  But when they become young adults they leave the church.  Their so called "religion" was pure tradition or habit, a family thing.  We forget that our God does not have grandchildren.  Our young "must" have their own conviction, their own steadfast faith, their own love for God and the church.  They "must" be faithful even when their parents are not. They must assemble even when their own parents don't come.
  • The Hymn "My Jesus I Love Thee" written by  William Ralph Featherston around 1864 says,

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

This amazingly beautiful hymn expresses a sincere and unique love for Jesus.  We ALL need to meditate in the words of this song, both young and old.  This song makes my eyes tear!

III.  To Leave Our First Love is to "Fall"

It is as if we are no longer on the mountain tops of enthusiasm and zeal but rather in the wintry, soulless, lifeless and discouraged valleys.

  • "Therefore remember from where you have fallen."  In Luke 15:11-32, we read about the "prodigal son," the younger of two brothers, who pushed his father into giving him his inheritance.  When he had gathered it, he left his father going to a far land and wasting all his wealth in careless, thoughtless and sinful living.  When he was penniless and homeless, a great famine occurred where he was.  He found himself working in the fields, feeding swine.  He longed to eat the pods that the pigs ate.  He was hopeless, helpless and desperate.  He then came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.'  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.   For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.'"  Luke 15:11-24.  My question is:  What was the first step that the "prodigal son" took toward recovery?  The first step was to remember how good and blessed his life was before he left the comfort of his own home:  all the blessings he had forsaken and left behind. Consider why it is always good and wise for us, the church, to remember and bring to memory where we came from and how far we have come in Christ:
    • It is always good for each member of the Body of Christ to remember those precious days when we first obeyed the Gospel of our Lord.  We must also remember the joy, the zeal, the enthusiasm, that fire we first had to listen, to thirst and to hunger for the Word; the same desire we first had to want to assemble to worship and participate in Bible classes.
    • Those days when we devoured our Bibles, studying, searching and longing for the Word of God like babes; longing for that milk to feed and nourish us in order that we might grow to the stature of Christ.
    • Those days when we wanted to tell everyone of the "good news" of Christ.  We wanted everyone to have that joy and hope we have in Christ.  We passionately wanted to teach and share the Gospel with everyone.
    • Those days when we loved to have fellowship with our brethren; we wanted to share everything and be together at all times.
    • Those days when we purposed in our hearts to come to worship early enough and not have to rush.  We so truly wanted to make sure we had enough time to greet everyone with a smile.  We did not want to be late for services. 
    • Those days when we wanted to come prepared for Bible class.   We had studied ahead of time before coming to church.
    • Oh, how ready we were!  How ready for any activity.  There was such enthusiasm, motivation and eagerness not just to assemble at the local church but also visiting other faithful congregations during their Gospel meetings.
    • Oh that we could remember those days, when we opened the doors of our homes with hospitality in order to teach others and encourage one another in songs and Bible reading.
    • If anyone is thinking and saying, "but I never had that kind of zeal, encouragement and joy," then I am afraid to say you never had or experienced that "first love" in your heart. You cannot remember it and make it return since you never had it.  It never existed.  You cannot reclaim something you never had!
  • It is a very serious condition or state.  It is not a tiny sore that needs a bandage; rather it is like cancer.  It is SIN that needs godly sorrow and repentance.
  • This leads me to the following question:  How critical and serious is it to leave or forsake your "first love"?  Very serious!  We run the danger of losing our hope of salvation.  If each Christian as well as each church does not repent with a sincere heart and start doing the deeds we did at first, Christ will come and take away His lampstand out of its place.  What that means is that our Lord Jesus will remove His approval of that church.  Perish the thought that we be found not worthy of His kingdom of righteousness!

IV.  The Remedy:  Remember.... Repent... And Do the First Works:

  • Remember what?  Their love for the Word of the Lord and their love for one another.  Let us read what Acts 19:20 has to say to this matter, "So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing."  Again we read, "And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him."  Acts 20:37.  Consider how low they had fallen:
    • Their fall had been slow.  They did not leave their "first love" overnight, in one day.  They let it go little by little through months and years.  The danger that so many churches as well as brethren run into when they leave their "first love" is that they don't even know it or realize it.  Why?  Because it happens slowly.  They are not aware is happening!
    • But remember now to compare your present state or condition with that of the beginning of your walk with Christ.  Notice the difference.  Is it not big?  It is as if you were two different Christians or two different churches.
    • It is vital for each church and each member of the Body of Christ to take inventory, to reflect, examine and self-evaluate.  Ask the question:  How do I compare myself and my faith with that of the beginning?  How does this church compare herself with that of the beginning?  Have we or they left our "first love"?
    • So often in the beginning of a new church, there is an ardent and sincere faith and love.  It is as Isaiah said, "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."  Isaiah 40:31.  Do we still have that fervent and sincere faith and love for the Word, for Christ and for His kingdom?
  • Repent:  Do we see ourselves and our present condition or state through the eyes of Jesus?  Are we having a change of heart, mind, outlook and thinking?  Are we resolved to change?
  • Do the first works as a genuine proof of your love for Christ and His rule.  Without works there is no love.  Let us take heed and not allow our crushed souls to lead us to despair but rather to seek pardon, repentance and a change of heart and mind.  

V.  The Terrible Consequences of "Lukewarmness"

"So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see."'  Revelation 3:16-18.

Consider the following about a church that forsakes and leaves her "first love."

  • The church that leaves the "first love" and does not repent ceases to be a church of Christ.
  • "Or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent."  My question is:  Did this church cease to exist to all apperances?  Perhaps not.  It just had no lampstand when Jesus took it away.
  • Without a doubt, this is the Biblical process when a church leaves her "first love."  It is vital for such a church to:  Remember... Repent... And do the first works.

In Conclusion, it is impossible to worship and serve God with a divided heart and mind ("double minded," James 1:8).  God simply does not accept us on that basis.  We must love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  There is no other WAY!

If for any circumstance or reason we have left or forsaken our "first love," let us resolve to remember, repent and start doing the first works in order that we might receive God's mercy and not be found naked. Let us be clothed with the first works and cover our nakedness so that God may be glorified by our beauty.

May the Lord help us to keep our "first love" and the light of our lampstand burning brightly.


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