Losing the first love
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev. 2:1-5).
What were the first works? They were the things newlyweds do—they hold long and deep conversations, and go places and do things together. It may not seem so important a matter to have lost the first love to Jesus, but He made it clear that if they didn’t return to that first intimacy, that their light would go out.
Paul warned of another condition happening to that early gospel revival. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first…. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” (2Thess. 2:3,7). Iniquity, according to Paul is a mysterious force. It takes its place within God’s own camp and works from the inside out.
The work of God’s Spirit is also mysterious. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” (1Tim. 3:16). What this says is that the controversy between Christ and Satan goes on beyond our awareness. The carnal mind of man cannot comprehend it. But spiritual thing are spiritually discerned, and “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” (1Cor. 2:14). It is only with glasses given by the Holy Spirit that “Satan should [not] get an advantage of us.” (2Cor. 2:11).
So we have two causes of trouble for the apostolic church: 1) loss of the first love and 2) the mysterious incursion of iniquity. But, Christ made a prophetic statement that linked them together. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt. 24:12). The mystery of iniquity is the cause of the fading of the first love. So how does that work?
Iniquity, or in-equity, is injustice, lawlessness, rebellion. Lawlessness can enter in and sneak in quietly without notice or raising the suspicions of the church elders. It can move in under the radar even when the church is active in doing “the work of the Lord” according to Rev. 2:2,3. This would seem inconceivable to many church workers busily doing their jobs. It would seem that if I stay active in the Lord’s work, by teaching, preaching, giving Bible studies, with works of charity, being a good neighbor and brother, spouse, parent, that Satan wouldn’t be able to get his foot in the church or Christian home door.
James gives this explanation. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (Jas. 1:14). We are drawn away from our love for God. Really?! Can this actually happen to love? I thought God’s love was irresistible? It is irresistible for those who keep close watch of it. But if we are casual about what He has done to prove His love, then gradually His love fades away in a glut of this world’s temptations. We live in Babylonian captivity. Unless we obey Christ’s mandate: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” (Lk. 21:36) we will be overcome.
James says we are drawn away and enticed. Once we have left our connection with Jesus, we’re goners. Without the enchantment of Christ’s fatherly love, the enticements of Satan will grab us and not let us go. Only a desperate cry for help, like Jehoshaphat surrounded by enemy armies or Peter about to drown in the angry waves, will save us from becoming victims to the devil who walks about like a roaring lion intending to devour us.
Not even church work can save us from the enemy of souls if we have no intimacy with Jesus, our everlasting Father and wonderful Counselor. The Jews thought it was good enough to be physically in the presence of the Messiah and rub shoulders with Him. A huge mistake! They spent His whole ministry of 3 1/2 years simply keeping Him at arm’s length instead of getting to know Him. At the end of that time, they were not only non-chalant toward Him, but Satan was able to inspire them with his fury toward Christ. They actually became the Lord’s enemies! This is what happens when we do not obey the command to seek to strengthen our heartstrings to His strong love.
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (Lk. 13:24-30;Matt. 7:22,23).
This is exactly why King Saul was rejected. He received a most wonderful demonstration of the God of peace through His Holy Spirit. But Saul didn’t strive to keep that experience and it left him empty and gasping for hope and peace. Judas saw something good in Jesus, but never pursued the deep friendship John sought after with such ravaging hunger. In his great imperious superiority, Judas towered over young John. But in the end, John was the victor over the conflict of who would be next to Jesus. John only sought that position so that he could make sure Jesus would never leave nor forsake him.
The “first love” experience was allowed to fade away from the apostolic church, and, true to the warning from heaven, they were left wide open to Satan’s temptation of the exalted Roman Empire. After John died, the Shepherd was smitten and Satan scattered the sheep. Soon one Christian philosopher after another wove the sentiments of popular Greek philosophy into church doctrine, Bible hermeneutics, and exegesis. Their candlestick was taken away, just as Christ forewarned.
Many things can move us off of the platform of truth and faith. “The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches” can “choke the word,” and it becomes unfruitful. (Matt. 13:22). Therefore the admonition, “Be careful for nothing.” “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (Phil. 4:6;1Pet. 5:7). This goes for worrying about whether we are saved or not. Even that kind of worrying pulls us away from Jesus.
We should not make self the center and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved. All this turns the soul away from the Source of our strength. Commit the keeping of your soul to God, and trust in Him. Talk and think of Jesus. Let self be lost in Him. Put away all doubt; dismiss your fears. Say with the apostle Paul, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. Rest in God. He is able to keep that which you have committed to Him. If you will leave yourself in His hands, He will bring you off more than conqueror through Him that has loved you. Steps to Christ, p. 71.
Last day events can also be a benign sidetrack of the devil’s. We can make it our all-consuming focus. God has authorized nothing else to be all-consuming except one thing—our relationship with Him. Yes, we need to be aware of events around us because they impinge on our connection with heaven, or will one day. They will shake our faith, the faith of those we love, and strangers we meet. We need to warn them of coming danger. But, never should the warning alone be all that we give them. The solution, the way of escape is what they need the most after learning of the approaching trouble. That solution is the joy of the Lord, His mercy, and truth. Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, we can and must be saved by His life of righteousness.
Fear of the tribulation can become a god above the Lord God. When that happens it breaks the first and greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And feeding others that same blighting curse of terror breaks the second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
The good news is that nothing trumps the school of Christ, learning to trust Him as a little child. And nothing is stronger than when we are weak, He becomes our strength. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” (Ps.8:2). The last shall be first. Let trouble come.
“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.
And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” (Ps. 37:1-7).
Delight thyself in the Lord. Let His goodness lead you to repentance. Keep watch over a deeper intimacy with your elder Brother and heavenly Father. Guard the edges of the Sabbath as a day of communion with heaven. “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Is. 58:10-14).
Your first love will never leave, or will return if it slips away, and iniquity will not be able to mysteriously make its way in. The mystery of godliness will be yours forever.