Clouds Parting Revealing the Heavens

A daily devotion for July 8th

First Love

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 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 people, 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 the love you had at first.

Rev 2:1-4

The Lord sees three commendable things about the church at Ephesus. First, they were hard, committed workers. They witnessed; they labored; they ministered to human needs. Second, their doctrine was orthodox. Their faith was well defined and well defended. They did not run after every theological fad that came along, but examined them as to whether or not they were true. Third, they had persisted in their teaching and their work despite much discouragement and hardship. They were not quitters. They were sturdy, determined disciples, faithfully working and witnessing and not deviating from the truth they had received. Up to this point in the letter, they were getting a grade of A+.

But despite all the commendable things, there is something seriously wrong, so serious that he says he will remove their lampstand if they don’t correct it. This does not mean that individuals in the church would be condemned to hell. It means the church would lose its ability to shed the light of truth. They would become a church with no influence spiritually on the community around them. They would be busy doing religious, but entirely irrelevant, things. They would still be working, still orthodox, but inconsequential, with no light, no impact. There are thousands of churches like this in our country. They are still meeting Sunday after Sunday, doing religious things, but having no spiritual impact, seeing no change in people's lives.

What causes this condition? Our Lord puts it in one brief phrase, You have forsaken the love you had at first. This is the love you felt for Jesus when you first came to know him. It is that wonderful sense of discovery that he loved you, delivered you, and freed you from your sins. Your heart went out to him in gratitude and thanksgiving. Watch a couple who have fallen in love. Note how they have eyes only for each other. Talk to them, and they do not even hear you. They are only thinking of the wonder of each other. So it is with a Christian when he first comes to Christ. His heart is filled with gratitude. What an amazing thing it is to him that he has been forgiven! He can hardly believe it. The love of Christ seems almost incredible to him.

But gradually there comes an almost imperceptible shift of focus. We get busy, and what we do for Christ begins to be less and less important to us. Gradually our position, our status, the longing for approval, begin to take first place. We go on doing the same things but not from the same motive. We drift into the loss of first love. There are always symptoms of this happening. There is the loss of the joy and glow of Christian life. It soon becomes humdrum and routine. You begin to feel like you have heard it all already. Church seems mechanical, routine, dull and drab. Then you lose your ability to love others. When we lose that consciousness of the wonder of Jesus' love, we also find our love for others fading. We become critical, censorious, complaining. Finally, we lose a healthy perspective of ourselves. We become more and more important in our thinking. Instead of what the Lord wants, we begin to think of what we want and what will please us.

Lord, help me to recover that first love we shared, when I first discovered all that you had done for me and how deep your love is for me. Amen.

Life Application

Take some time to reflect on the "first love" between you and the Lord. What feelings does that evoke? Do you show symptoms of one who has lost that first love?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

The Church that Lost its Love

Listen to Ray