Where does this ‘first love’ come from?
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen, repent and do the first works…” (2:5).
The outline suggested by this word from our Lord is threefold: Remember, Repent and Repeat.
Remember what you had before. Recall the early days of your salvation, the way you loved other believers and loved the Lord. This love for the brethren, Jesus said, was the mark of a believer (John 13:34-35). It is the first fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22.
Repent. Call the lack of love the sin it is and repent of it. It is not optional, something to be enjoyed if present but not particularly important when absent. Its absence is everything. Stop what you are doing and recapture the love!
Then, repeat the actions you did when you first fell in love with the Lord and his people. What actions would that be? He didn’t say, but I expect it would involve a lot of spontaneous acts of worship, devotion, obedience and kindness.
God’s people forget this lesson all the time and constantly have to keep relearning it: Love is the most important command. “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and mind and soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” It is essential and the Christian cannot function when it is missing.
At its essence, it’s a matter of our personal relationship with the Lord. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Where the Holy Spirit is, there will be love.
Wonder what would happen if our pastors talked to the church the way the Lord did in Revelation 1-3? Wonder what would happen if a bishop or district superintendent or director of missions quit trying to be so cotton-picking nice and told the church leaders the unvarnished truth about their situation? What if our leadership quit worrying about someone getting their feelings hurt and withdrawing their contributions? What if we valued faithfulness to Christ above all?
My friend Barbara Smith is the church pianist and receptionist at Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church. Today, January 3, 2019, she wrote on her daily email to church leadership. I’m going by memory here and have joined my thoughts with hers. She said, “We applaud (head football coach) Nick Saban for being tough and demanding discipline of his players because he turns out winning teams. But what if a school teacher did that with her class? What if a pastor exercised that kind of strong leadership toward his church? People would holler to high heaven. ‘You’re being too tough.’ ‘Expecting too much.’ ‘We can’t do that.’ And so we end up with mediocre students and average churches. Something is bad wrong here.”
While it’s true that the Lord chastens whom He loves, it is not true that those who receive the chastening appreciate it the way they should. I’d give a week’s pay to know how the church at Ephesus reacted to this first of the letters to Asia Minor.
Help us, Lord.
This article originally appeared here.