Lost ‘First Love”

Posted: August 19, 2020 in Meditations

 

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“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 have this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’ ”

Revelation 2:1-5a

What was that “first love”? What makes it special? And how can a church under great persecution do so many right things and yet be condemned? “Consider how far you have fallen!” The admonition assumes the Ephesian church knows what is wrong, but do we?

I look back on my first year of life in Christ. At seventeen, so much happened in such a short period of time. The day after I cried out to God, “God, if you are real, please be real in my life”, I asked the church to pray over me. I thought little else but thoughts of my new found Savior, Jesus Christ. I showed up at every service, Bible study and Christian activity in my town. I shared my story, a simple gospel message, with anyone willing to listen. I read my bible and inspirational books about great men and women of God. I prayed in the morning, noon, and night. Nothing else mattered beyond the object of my love. I reveled in his presence. I hung on every word. I thrilled at the embrace of the Holy Spirit on Sunday nights after tarrying service. I wanted nothing more than to please God.

Honeymoons are awesome. Couples spend money they don’t have to get away and indulge the love that they have for each other. But the time comes for real life to begin. Jobs beckon, bills come in, life pauses for none of us. The same dynamic confronts the young Christian. It caught me by surprise and I didn’t handle it well. I didn’t want to go to college. I had an opportunity to do the Lord’s work and I took it. Nothing went right. The ministry plan went south when the pastor’s wife got struck down with cancer. My older roommates at the ministry house bickered, any comradery disappeared. My zeal melted away. No ministry, no direction, a fractured relationship with my parents, my life devolved into a mess. I still pursued the things of God. I went to church, bible studies, hung out with friends but I was a shell of what I was just a few months  ago. Who was I, and where was God in all of this?

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Psalm 10:1

People are shameful and shameless creatures. “Why me, Lord? Where are you when I need you?” Too many of us overstep our bounds with God. That was me. I took control of my life and made a mess of it. If that wasn’t enough, I got angry with God for the mess I created. A key moment came on a lonely dock of a lake in the early dawn. Emotionally spent, I submitted every failure to him, the blame game was over. God, you build my life. I’m yours. That was the beginning. I returned to my first love and it began with submission.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the God’s mighty hand, that he might exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6

The Ephesian church looked healthy but it was fragmenting. The daily submission to the Great God, infinite goodness, had long passed. Dutiful believers pushed on by sheer grit. “Why Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself?” The Ephesian church was at an existential crossroads, intimacy with the Almighty or self-destruction. Submission leads to intimacy. Why is God so harsh when he says, “Repent!”? God has so much more for them. They already lost their first love. They are now losing the deepening love God desires for them. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

James 4:7,8a

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