Do you remember when you first “fell in love”? You couldn’t wait to be around that person. You did things for them that would make them happy, no matter the inconvenience. Emotionally, you couldn’t be any higher.
But then time passed, and those emotions waned. Doing things to make your “love” happy became a chore. You stopped spending as much quality time together and began investing in something else more exciting. You began listening to other voices and entertaining other relationships. Before long, that “love” you had diminished to a tiny flame.
This could happen in any kind of relationship—friendship, marriage, and parenting. And, like the church of Ephesus, it can also happen with our relationship with Jesus.
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you 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 give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God”’ (Revelation 2:1-7).
This church was zealous in its stand against wickedness, and tirelessly served God. That was commendable. But what was missing was their motivation of love toward Jesus. They had gotten so caught up in their work and stand against evil, that they came to neglect the One they were serving. They forgot their “first works”—those things that kept their love for Jesus alive.
Losing our first love doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually as we make choices every day. Little by little we choose to pursue something other than what keeps us connected relationally with our Savior. We choose a to do list over spending time in prayer. We choose to sleep in rather than attend church on a regular basis. We choose entertainment over Bible study. Before long, the fire dwindles until it dies. We are then left with two choices: continue in our lost state, or repent and renew our first love. Jesus always desires the last.
Renew the Flame
Renewing our love isn’t impossible, but it can be challenging. It’s always harder to restart a fire than it is to brighten a fire that already exists. This is especially true in the Last Days. The devil can take advantage of our lukewarm state and take us farther and farther away from the love we once knew. Oh, we may be saved like the church of Ephesus. We may even be consistent in our day to day routine of Christianity. But the colder our love gets, the easier it is for the devil to pull us into sin where we’re not connected to our first love at all.
If we’ve fallen from our first love, we can renew it by first repenting of our sin. God will faithfully forgive us when we’ve done wrong, wiping our slate clean of any wrongdoing (1 John 1:9). But it doesn’t stop there. Action follows true repentance—a pursuit of our first love like we did before. Pursuing Jesus includes spending time with Him in worship and prayer, studying His Word, and ministering His love to others. It is said that desire follows pursuit. As you pursue Him, even when you may not feel like it emotionally or physically, you desire and affection for Him will grow. In time, that first love will no longer be lost, but regained.
Protect the Flame
The most important thing to do is to actively keep from losing our first love in the first place. Like any relationship, it takes time and effort. It takes purposeful action, even when we don’t feel like it. It requires staying alert and walking aware of everything around us, so that when the devil tries to distract us with other love choices, we can identify them immediately.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Romans 5:15-16).
If we’re paying attention to our walk with God, we will regularly take inventory of our lives. When we see ourselves falling from our “first works,” we should act protectively and adjust. Signs that we are slipping can come in many forms. They may include desiring the things of God less; questioning the integrity of God’s Word; decreasing our ministry to the world; tolerating or accepting sin; and losing excitement for Jesus’s return.
The more we spend time with Jesus in prayer and His Word daily, the more we will recognize distractions. The Holy Spirit will alert us, and we can easily discern when something is taking higher priority or is deceiving us. We can then snuff out the temptation by choosing to keep our priorities and beliefs in line with His Word.
It’s always been crucial that we protect our first love. But it’s even more vital in the Last Days amid greater deceit and evil, and as the Spirit of the Antichrist works overtime. God has promised His grace in times like these, for His love for us exceeds our love for Him. Our responsibility is to simply choose and desire Him above all else.