When we experience something for the first time it makes a big impression. The first time we heard a piece of music, the first time we visited a place, the first time we met someone. There is a freshness about new experiences and with it is a first flush of enthusiasm and excitement.
I recall going to a particular restaurant for the first time and having an incredible meal I can still remember. I told everyone who’d care to listen about it. Me and my wife Carol visited several times afterwards, and while each meal was amazing, it was never like the first time.
This can relate to some people’s walk with God. After a time of initial zeal and eagerness in Christian life some settle into cold convention, going through the motions, more surface than depth.
In the book of Revelation Jesus writes letters to seven churches. The first letter to the Ephesians encourages them for their hard work and endurance, and then challenges them that they have lost their first love. There is something they had at first in their faith in Christ that had got lost.
There is some debate if the Ephesians had lost their first love for Christ or lost their love for one another. I believe that Jesus has both in view. A love for Christ that led them to tell everyone and anyone who’d listen about Jesus and also to live out that love in the church community. Seemingly they were still going through the motions, but lost the fervour they had at first. Jesus prophesied that in the end times that “lawlessness will be increased” and that “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12-13).
Has your love grown cold? Can you look back at a time when your love for Christ and His people burnt bright and hot. When there was nothing you wouldn’t do for Him and for His people.
The good news is that Jesus loved the Ephesian Church, and you and me, not to leave us in a moribund grey state of relationship. He calls us back to our first love. Jesus tells the Ephesian Church to do two things: firstly repent, and secondly do the things they did at first.
Repentance is an intentional turning around. Saying sorry for going the wrong way, turning around and going the way that God wants. Doing the things we once did is to rediscover the love and the actions connected with that love. In relational terms with Jesus, that means giving Him the time and space we once did devotionally in prayer, study and service. With His people it means rediscovering the passionate desire to love one another in words, thoughts and deeds. This is deliberate intentional love, an act of will as well of the heart.
We are embarking on a new preaching series called ‘First Love’. Over the coming weeks we will look at each of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation to discover what Jesus is saying to us. Recently we have had significant prophetic words which, like the letter to Ephesians, encourages us in things we do but also challenges us to regain a lost intimacy with God. There is so much God wants to be and do amongst us. We need to dwell in His presence. He is speaking to us, so let us journey together to deepen our love for God and His people.