Have you left your first love for Christ? If so, you are not the first one to do this. There was a church in the Bible this happened to. Jesus had John write seven letters to seven churches on His behalf. I am speaking of the church at Ephesus. Revelation 2:2-3 gives us the picture of this church, and it says that they weren’t bad people, in fact, Jesus commended them.
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”
I don’t know what you think of when you read those words, but I see a pretty amazing church. I would be proud to pastor a church like that. They were a laboring church. These people were busy for Jesus. Their calendars were packed with good activities. They were doing all the things churches do, outreach, discipleship. These were hard working people for Jesus. They had labored for the name of Jesus and didn’t get weary.
And it also says that they had a sense of right and wrong. They were moral people. These weren’t people that couldn’t discern good from bad. They recognized some guys who pretended to be apostles and weren’t. And they weren’t quitters. They had persevered and not given up. In other words, they had faced some real trials and tests and opposition from the enemy. These guys had patience. They lived in a culture that was wicked. Ephesus was a hustling, bustling city in that day. It was known for the worship of Artemis. A huge temple was there and consequently, there was all of that false worship of other gods and the immorality that was involved as well. And yet, this church had left all of that, separated themselves from that.
Yet, Jesus knew that this group of believers, as commendable as they were, as hard working as they were, as persevering as they were. They were not functioning the way that they should have been functioning. There was an internal heart issue you need to deal with.
This church had left their first love for Christ. Have you left your first love for Christ as well? Jesus challenges them in Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
All those things are good that you have been doing. All the work. All the perseverance. All the holiness. All the separation from the world. All that is good and right and okay. But Jesus is saying. “You have left that place of first love.” Jesus did not want to lose that sense of love that flows between He and his forever family. The scripture tells us that God is love. God enjoys us, his children, loving him.
Have you left your first love? We must discover what “first love” is for a Christian. First love for a Christian is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer:
It is a love for God that is fervent.
It is a love for God that is personal.
It is a love for God that is uninhibited.
It is a love that is excited, and openly displayed.
You see, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is not just a set of rules that a person adheres to. Christianity is not a duty and an obligation that we must fulfill. Christianity is not something that after church we check off our to do list and say, Well I got that done for the week. Christianity at its core is a relationship with God. It is a relationship that is based on God’s love for us.
It all started because God loved us first. I love 1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.” Do you remember when you first became a Christian? Or maybe you remember when you really needed his grace in his life and he came through. It can be overwhelming when you realize all that Jesus Christ has done for us. He even loved us when we didn’t love Him. “While we were yet sinners, he died for us.” He forgave us.
He loved us when we were unlovable.
He loved us when we didn’t deserve it.
Even when we were in a mess he loved us.
Is there anyone besides me who has been overwhelmed by his grace? How could he love me? And as you get to know Him, you start loving Him back. When you love God, you want to be with Him. Worship isn’t just another obligatory duty. You come to worship Him because you want to be with Him. Having a devotional time isn’t hard because you actually want to spend time with God.
I read a story this Christmas season that kind of reminds me of the heart of God towards us. There was a widower and his daughter, his only daughter. They lived together, and every night after the farmer worked and the girl came home from her studies, they would sit beside the fire and they would talk of the day and share the evening together and then go to their bed.
But there came a time when the daughter, after tea, after clearing up and so on, she would sit only a few moments and then she would disappear from sitting with her father at the fire, she would go up to her room. The dad was a little perturbed at this, but obviously he was thinking, She is getting older, and maybe this is a bit cringe worthy for her, to have to sit here with me every night, she has other things to do, maybe she needs to study more’ – he tried to make excuses for her, but he was really quite pained by this.
The weeks transpired and passed by, and finally Christmas came. On Christmas morning, his only daughter came down the stairs and presented him with a gift. He opened the beautiful parcel to find a handmade pair of leather slippers, And he realized, ah, that’s what she was doing up the stairs! Night after night after night, painstakingly, with loving devotion, preparing this gift for him. Tears started to stream down his face, and he thanked her, but this is what he said: ‘I would rather have had you than the slippers’.
Wow! That’s the way our Father thinks. We can work for him. We can do all kinds of stuff. We can be busy. We can be on the praise team and in bible Study. But what God wants is us! Do you not see that has always been the heart of God? Since the days of the garden, God has been wanting to be with His children.
We could also compare this first love to the “honeymoon love” of the husband and wife. I remember the first year I was married to Jureen. I just wanted to be with her every moment of every day. And God feels the same type of first love too for us. I remember how Jureen loved me and I loved her. (I still do!)
You see, God remembers how we loved Him at first! If he remembers Israel’s first love for Him, he will remember our first love. Jeremiah 2:2 NIV “This is what the Lord says:
“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
through a land not sown.”
God is looking back at Israel and remembering the love that Israel had for him. He compares it to that honeymoon love. He says, “as a bride you loved me.” He says, “I remember the devotion of your youth.” He says, “you would follow me anywhere, even through the wilderness.” The reason being you wanted to be with me. It is almost as though it is a romance. It certainly is a relationship based on love. I can remember when Jureen and I were so young and just dating. We couldn’t stand to be apart, even for a minute. There was a spark there. It was first love. Don’t tell me it wasn’t real. It was!
While it is true that mature married love deepens and grows richer over time, it is also true that the love husbands and wives feel for each other can easily wane. In our marriages, we should never lose the excitement and wonder of those “honeymoon days.” When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, and life becomes routine, then the marriage is in danger. It becomes same old, same old. Anyone who has been in a relationship for a long period of time will tell you that you have to work to work at it.
When you are dating, you’d crawl over cut glass to be with your sweetie. But now it’s, “So what have you cooked for dinner?” And then, “What’s on TV tonight?” Many marriages get into a rut, but a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out… it’s not a place you want to be, right? I heard about an older couple in marriage counselling. The woman complained, “He never tells me he loves me!” The man replied, “I told you I loved you when we were married, and if I ever change my mind you’ll be the first to know!”
I am not letting the spark and the romance go out of my marriage. I have been for 41 years and I am still enthralled with this girl called Jureen. I am in love with her, all right?
Furthermore, I am determined not to let the love that I have for God go out of my life either. I want that kind of first love. How many of us love the Lord? How many of us long to serve Him?
Can I ask you honestly… do you have the same spark, the same level of love for the Lord today as you once had? Are you in love with Him in the same way? Have you left your first love?
Nancy Wolgemuth from the radio program Revive Our Hearts list 40 evidence that a person has lost their first love for Christ. Take a personal inventory as you read these.
- You can go hours or days without having more than a passing thought of Him.
- You don’t have a strong desire to spend time with Him.
- You don’t have a strong hunger for the Word; Bible reading is a “chore”—something to mark off your “to do” list.
- Spending time in prayer is a burden/duty rather than a delight.
- Your worship is formal, dry, lifeless, merely going through the motions.
- Private prayer and worship are almost non-existent . . . cold and dry.
- You are more concerned about physical health, well-being, and comfort than about the well-being and condition of your soul.
- You crave physical food, while having little appetite for spiritual food.
- You crave human companionship more than a relationship with Christ.
- You spend more time and effort on your physical appearance than on cultivating inner spiritual beauty to please Christ.
- Your heart toward Christ is cold and indifferent; not tender as it once was, not easily moved by the Word, talk of spiritual things, etc.
- Christianity is more of a checklist than a relationship with Christ.
- You measure spirituality (yours/others’) by performance rather than the condition of the heart.
- Christianity is defined more what by what you “do” than who you “are” (“doing” “being”).
- Your obedience and service are motivated and fueled by expectations of others or a desire to impress others, more than by passion for Christ.
- You are more concerned about what others think and pleasing them, than about what God knows and pleasing Christ.
- Your service for Christ and others is motivated by a sense of duty or obligation.
- You find yourself becoming resentful over the hardships and demands of serving Christ and others.
- You can talk with others about kids, marriage, weather, and the news, but struggle to talk about the Lord and spiritual matters.
- You have a hard time coming up with something fresh to share in a testimony service at church or when someone asks, “What’s God been doing in your life?”
Have you left your first love for Christ? If so, you can regain it! There are three biblical steps to regaining that first love:
Revelation 2:5a “Remember therefore from where you have fallen;”
First, we must remember (in Greek it literally means “keep on remembering”). Jesus calls us to remember the height from which we have fallen, the pinnacle of our relationship with Him. I can go back in my mind to many moments of closeness that I have had with God.
I can remember seeing the hoarfrost out the window as a 16 year old and the Spirit spoke to me. If I can make this beauty, I can make your life something meaningful.
I recall worshipping my Savior in chapel at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis and the tears streaming down my face as I sang, “Grace, Grace, God’s Grace”
I remember praying for an open door to ministry as I worked at Metropolitan Medical Center. It was a song, that said: I know the Lord will make a way for me. If I live a holy life, shun the wrong and do the right.
I remember revival meetings where I danced before the Lord with all my might.
I recall early in the morning on Sundays in Big Spring Texas, the first church I pastored. I would be studying my message and praying and just sensing his presence.
I remember that fasting and praying at Stamford and the sense of Gods glory.
I remember the passion I felt for Christ as I preached my first sermon in Spanish.
I can remember many moments in pastoring this congregation, when God sustained me, and I felt his presence and his power and his anointing.
It is a powerful thing to go back in your mind and remember. Have you lost your first love? Then go back and remember. But even as I remember, I don’t want those memories to be the pinnacle of my relationship with Him. I want the closest that I will ever be to Jesus to be the moment just before I breathe my last breath and walk into eternity. I don’t want to fall from that place.
If I am honest, I would have to confess that I have not always maintained that perfect first love for Jesus. There are moments I fell away from that closeness that I had with Jesus. Moments where I let anger or despair or sin or bitterness or depression move me away. But when I remember, I start the climb back! I start the journey back up that mountain pinnacle.
Have you lost your first love? Then begin with remembering, meditating on what your relationship with Christ was like when you were first saved. Go back and take a snapshot of that. Take a mental focus of that.
Has Jesus done anything for you?
Did he forgive you?
Did he rescue you?
Did he open a door?
Do you remember that feeling of being cleansed?
Of being right with him?
Singing it is well with my soul?
Do you remember the peace?
Do you remember the joy?
He wants us to remember what we have lost and cultivate a desire to regain that close communion once again. And it’s not a one time thing, we need to keep on remembering, or our love will grow old and stale! Forgetfulness is a chronic human problem, and that’s why Jesus says, keep on remembering. No one sets out to see their marriage grow cold. No true believer ever plans on growing cold. People sometimes describe their first love for Jesus as a mountaintop experience. Jesus tells us here to look back up the mountain.
The second step is to
Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent…”
Have you lost your first love? If so, you must repent. There is a false teaching today that says, Christians never need to repent. That is ridiculous. Of course, we do. Christians aren’t perfect people. We are in a process of becoming like Jesus. This was a letter written to a church in Ephesus that was filled with hard working believers. Repentance means to change our minds, literally to turn away from sin–and we need to confess our sins to the Lord.
If our love toward Jesus has waned, then we need to repent. If there is something in our lives that has crept up and become more important than Jesus and we start loving that more than him. We need to say, “God forgive me, let the first love return.”
To rediscover your first love, you need to take steps not only to stop your fall but also to get back on the right path of obedience to God. You must love Him enough to let His Spirit change you.
The third step is to
Revelation 2:5 “repent and do the first works…”
Another version says, “Do the things you did at first.”
We may be doing love-chilling things and failing to do love-warming things. To rekindle that first love, we should purposefully do the things we once did. When we do them, we will fall in love with Jesus again. What actions did you take when you were being faithful to God? When you were full on loving and serving Him? What activities were you engaged in when you were leaning on the strength of God rather than on your own strength? Remembering what you did before can help you see what you must start doing once again.
The third step is very practical… we must repeat the first works, getting back to what we use to do that produced love in our relationship with Christ. This suggests a restoration of the original fellowship that was broken by our neglect. For the believer, in practical terms, this means prayer, Bible reading and meditation, obedient service, and worship.
Get excited, fall in love again and rediscover your first love! If in my relationship with my wife, I start feeling a little far away, a little separated. I know what I have to do. I need to simply be with her. That’s it. If I hang out with my wife, I will fall in love with her all over again.
Have you lost your first love? Be with Jesus! You will begin loving Him again.