Your First Love

Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 10:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “In Harmony.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB).

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Your Toil

There is much talk these days of grace vs. works, as though they are in opposition to each other. They can be, but they don’t have to be. On the one end of the spectrum we read in scripture concerning works of the flesh or of the law (See: Ro. 3:20-28; 4:2-6; 9:32-33; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 3:2-5; Eph. 2:8-9). Keeping the letter of the law and/or following after works of the flesh (man-made rules, regulations, and traditions) will not save us. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our salvation. Our salvation is a free gift from God, which we receive by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9). We do not gain brownie points with God via good works done in the flesh. He gets no pleasure in them. He delights, though, in our obedience (See: Ro. 6:16; Heb. 5:9; 1 Jn. 2:3-5; 3:24; 5:3; 2 Jn. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:2).

On the other end of the spectrum, though, are works of the Spirit done in and through our lives via our cooperation with and submission to the Spirit’s work of grace in our lives (See: Eph. 3:20; Col. 1:29; 1 Tim. 2:10; 6:18; 1 Co. 3; 15:58). We are God’s workmanship. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10). This involves action on our part, and obedience. Yet, it is his power which is at work within us through which we are able to do these good works – the works he prepared in advance for us to do, not our own fleshly works.

God gives us various people within the Body of Christ to equip us for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12). In the Body of Christ, we each have our work (our assignments from the Spirit) to do. James said that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:14-26). Paul said we should work out our own salvation (in obedience to God and to his Word) with fear (awe; respect; reverence; and honor for God) and with trembling, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).

So, what I see here is that our faith and our works (of the Spirit, by the Spirit, and done in the Spirit) work together. We can have works without faith, but we cannot have faith without works, for true faith shows itself genuine by what we do in submission to God and to his work of the Spirit and of his grace in and through our lives.

This Against You

So, what’s the big deal here? It would appear from what was seen outwardly that this was a church on fire for God, doing the works he prepared in advance for them to do, because these things which they were commended for here are what are taught us in scripture that we should be doing. So, what went wrong? I believe 1 Co. 13 speaks to this issue. The problem here wasn’t that they were following human-based rules, regulations and traditions. They were following the teachings of scripture. Yet, they were lacking in what was most important. They had forgotten their first love, or the love they had at first.

We can do all these wonderful things taught us in scripture, but if it is lip service only, or if it is out of human performance, to gain acceptance or human appreciation or God’s approval, and if it is not us submitting to the Spirit’s work in our lives, then it amounts to nothing. As well, if it is not done in love towards others, and we are not truly walking in Christ’s love by following him wherever he leads us in doing, being and saying what he wants us to do, be and say, then it amounts to nothing – it is just a bunch of noise. And, it profits us nothing. So many people pick and choose what they will do for God. He is not pleased with our sacrifices. What he wants is our hearts, submitted to him in humble obedience to his will.

The “love” being spoken of here is not human love and emotion, though. It is not based in ourselves, in society’s norms, in our culture and traditions, or in the values, belief systems and philosophies of this sinful world. This is agape love, which is God-like love for others and it is love for God/Christ. We can only love like this because God, who is love, lives within us. Only in his power and strength and wisdom can we love with agape love. This love prefers what God prefers, it seeks to please God in all it does, and it seeks to show good will to its fellow humans in the same manner in which Christ loved us and gave himself up for us to meet within us our legitimate needs, especially the need of him and of his salvation. This kind of love embraces God’s will, chooses his choices, and obeys them through his power (Source: We love, because God first loved us.

So, how did Christ love us? He didn’t love us because of our own righteousness. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. His love is not based in the objects of his love, but in the one doing the loving. The same applies to us. We don’t love just the lovely. We are to love our enemies, too – pray for them, do good to them and bless them. Yet, we can’t do this in our own human flesh. We must yield control of our lives – thoughts, actions, attitudes and emotions – over to the Lord Jesus, allowing his desires, his will, his purposes, and his pleasure to be what rules our hearts, minds and actions. We also don’t love in order to be loved in return. We may even be hated in return for loving like Christ loved us. He said the world hated him because he told them that what they did was evil. Sometimes love involves speaking the truth about sin, but it must be coupled with grace and mercy.

Jesus Christ was loving, kind, gracious, merciful, compassionate and sympathetic. Yet, he was also honest and forthcoming, and he cared enough about those he loved to tell them the truth about their sin, and to let them know the only way to salvation and to heaven. He did not withhold the truth about sin or its remedy from people so they would like him or so he would not offend them. People are walking down the tracks of life and a train is barreling down toward them and they don’t see it or hear it, so he is calling out to them, warning them to get off the tracks, and to follow him on the path of righteousness. He died, not just so we would go to heaven and escape hell. He died to free us from bondage to sin, and to free us to walk holy lives pleasing to him – all in his power within us (See: Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; Tit. 2:11-14; & 1 Jn. 1-5).

Repent or Else

The word “repent” literally means to have a change of mind. It is nearly always used in scripture in the context of agreeing with God about our sin, humbly grieving over it and confessing it to him, and willingly turning from sin (dying with Christ to sin) and turning to God to walk in his ways, according to his truth, and in his power within us.

The lampstands were the churches themselves, so if he is to remove our lampstand from its place, because we refuse to repent of our sins of idolatry and spiritual adultery, it would seem to me that we would lose our effectiveness for Christ and for his gospel, and/or the church will suffer some type of spiritual decline, which I believe it already has in many places throughout the USA. Perhaps this is Christ turning the worldly church over to its own devices, and to suffer the natural consequences of its sinful choices, so that it might eventually be brought to its knees in humble repentance and then be revived.

The problem with much of today’s church is not that they are not doing some of the right things, according to the teachings of Christ and that of the apostles, but that they do what they do in their own flesh, and they pick and choose what they are willing to do and what they are not willing to do. This is not love! If a man or a woman does good deeds toward his or her spouse, but regularly and consistently commits adultery, is this love? – Not according to God! He doesn’t need our sacrifices, i.e. the things we are willing to do for him. He requires us to die to what we want, and to live for him and for what he wants – living holy lives, pleasing to him - no longer conformed to the ways and thinking of this world, but transformed in the renewing of our minds so that we can discern God’s good, pleasing and perfect will for our lives (See: Ro. 12:1-2).

This carries over, too, into how we choose to love others, or to not love them. We are to love each other truly, which means in truth, with no lies (including no flattery or white lies). If we tell people what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear, that is not love. That is selfishness! If all we do is entertain them, make them feel good about themselves, make them laugh, and play games with them, etc., but we never tell them the truth about their sin, about hell, and about their eternal destiny without Christ, if they do not believe, then that is not love, for truly we are loving ourselves more than we are loving them. To truly love others, and to be in harmony with them means we must first of all be in harmony with Christ and with his purposes and his will for our lives, then we can truly love others by following after his perfect will (See: 1 Jn. 5:2-3).

In Harmony / An Original Work / September 2, 2012
Based off Ro. 12:9-21; 1 Pet. 3:8-15

Love each other truly.
Cling to what is good.
Hate all that is evil.
Never lack in zeal.
Serve the Lord with fervor.
Joyful in hope be;
Patient in affliction;
Praying faithfully.
Honor one another.
Live in harmony.

Share with all God’s people
Who are found in need.
Do not be conceited.
Sympathetic be.
Love, and show compassion
In humility.
Keep your tongue from evil.
Peaceful you must be.
Honor one another.
Live in harmony.

God sees who are righteous;
Listens to their prayers.
But He’s against evil –
Is His to avenge.
Do not fear what they fear.
Suffer patiently.
In your hearts, make Christ Lord.
Serve Him faithfully.
Honor one another.
Live in harmony.