Thinkin’ Out Loud: “. . . Thou Hast Left Thy First Love”

By Lewis Willis

When you stop to think about it, these words engender fear, if not abject terror! Can you imagine standing at the judgment and hearing a sentence of condemnation because we have left our first love? No, thanks! If such a charge can be waged against me, I prefer to hear it now.

“Balance” in our thinking is rather difficult to acquire. Most of us spend our time on one end or the other of every ,spectra. We are either totally positive or totally negative; up or down; high or low. Spiritually, we tend to be hot or cold. When our fervor for the Lord is at its height, we certainly do not want someone coming in and throwing cold water on the flame. Candidly, I don’t particularly like to throw water on flames. And, I definitely encourage a confident attitude in our relationship with God. However, if there is something I am overlooking in my duty to Him, and I still feel confident, that feeling of confidence is unfounded. Wisdom, then, demands that I give a balanced assessment of my obligation to Him and the manner in which I am discharging it.

When the Lord addressed the church at Ephesus, He observed many commendable attributes regarding it. They were working in patience, abhorred evil, tested their teachers for the truth, had borne hardships and they had not fainted in these good things. All this notwithstanding, He said He had something against them because, “Thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:1-4).

This seems somewhat difficult to imagine. How could all of these good things be said of them, followed so quickly by a rebuke? There was, obviously, something rather seriously wrong at Ephesus. It is estimated that this church was more than forty years old at the time this was written. From its beginning, it had manifested a spirit of enthusiasm, activity and devotion to Christ and the gospel. And, there is no evidence that their activity had greatly diminished. However, an all-knowing Savior perceived a decay or deterioration in their love!

A wife may be very faithful to her husband, fulfilling all responsibilities pertaining to him, even though the 4dromance” is slipping out of the marriage – her love for him is fading. Unless she is mindful of this situation, and acts to remedy the problem, the relationship is in jeopardy. Similarly, a Christian may attend the worship, sing, give, study, visit, etc., even though his love for, and devotion to the Lord is waning. Unless he identifies the problem and remedies it, his relationship with the Lord is in jeopardy. “Going through the motions” may extend a marriage relationship, but it will not sustain our “marriage relationship” to Christ (Rom. 7:1-4).

What are the tell-tale signs? Perhaps going to worship because I “have to” instead of because I “want to.” Or, I would be more comfortable somewhere else. Or, serving God is not exciting anymore. Or, I get no real delight out of being a Christian -it is all duty, obligation, responsibility, etc. Such attitudes should alarm us! It is foolhardy to ignore them.

I don’t like the psychological expression, but that which is characterized above is an “attitude problem.” Far too many things are identified as attitude problems. However, a decaying love for Christ is an attitude problem. It will degenerate into a practice or procedural problem unless the attitude problem is dealt with. In other words, one who no longer enjoys worshipping God, is but a short step away from an abandonment of the worship of the church. He can give up in frustration; he can quit doing God’s will. Or, he can look for another solution to his attitude problem. And there is one!

Here it is: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. . . ” (Rev. 2:5). It is something like the approach we make in fulfilling our obligation to love our brethren. We begin by loving them because God said so. We soon discover there are many reasons for loving our brethren. In correcting a love problem toward the Lord, we begin by repenting because He said to. Now, remember, repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of one’s life. Therefore, when we repent, assess what we were, realize what we are and contemplate the reward of faithfulness in the future, our attention is refocused in the proper channel. The “first works” have meaning to us again and our attitude problem is solved! I was just thinkin’ . . . a bunch of us Christians should be alerted by these thoughts!

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, p. 331
June 7, 1984