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Love is a very important truth taught in the Scriptures. John wrote the profound words “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and this great love of God was put on most beautiful display when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross as a substitute for His people. The Scripture says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What an amazing demonstration of love! Christ died for sinners because of God’s great love for us. In addition to this, to those who are His people He bestowed even more love, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
Because of this great love, the children of God have entered into a new life, because they have a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is expected and commanded of God’s people that they love their Lord and His people. This is not referring to a sentimental or superficial kind of “love.” Instead, this love is unconditional, loyal and deliberate. It is not sourced in ourselves as it is given to us by God (Romans 5:5). For this reason every believer is commanded to love the Lord and other believers (1 John 4:7).
There was once a church that had a fervent love for her Lord and for His people. In fact, their fervent love for God was put on public display (Acts 19:18-20) and their love for the saints was heard by those outside of their city (Ephesians 1:15). This was the church in Ephesus. However, at the end of the first century the glorified Christ – the One who knows all things – gazed at this church and concluded, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). How shocking, after commending them for their commitment to doctrine and service (Revelation 2:2-3) He reveals this devastating concern. They abandoned their first love. I take this to be a reference to the burning enthusiasm and excitement that once marked the Ephesians service for the Lord. Notice that He doesn’t say that they no longer love, but they “have abandoned the love” they “had at first.” What makes this very sad is that their aforementioned service, sacrifice, suffering and fight against sin (Revelation 2:2-3) were done out of everyday routine and not out of enthusiastic devotion for their Lord. They love Him, but not with the burning enthusiasm and excitement they once had. Their first love (Matt. 22:37-40) has been abandoned.
What does one do when this becomes a reality? How can we change and recover that first love? In my next post we will consider our Lord’s gracious and urgent counsel to this church.