“You have forsaken your first love.” Revelation 2:4
I must confess: I’m a romantic at heart, which means I love to hear stories of how people met and fell in love. What’s more, I love to hear stories of how they stay in love! Unfortunately, you don’t see too many 50th wedding anniversary celebrations these days.
Take Barb and Bob, for instance. Barb was a beauty queen who caught the eye of Bob, a talented athlete. It was love at first sight and romance at its best. Bob took great pride in his home and marriage, reveling in the fact that he was free to be a success in his profession because of his wife’s good work at home. She kept house, chauffeured the children, cooked, and accompanied him to social events. Without realizing it, however, Bob was shifting from a vibrant relationship with his wife to a complacent involvement with the “institution of marriage” and the organization called home. The intimacy of their love for each other was fading, until one night Bob confessed that he had in fact lost his love for Barb.
If we’re not careful, the same shift over time can happen in our relationship with Jesus. It’s fresh and exciting at first, but after a while we find ourselves more into the “routines” of Christianity than into the Redeemer Himself. You know the routines—the things we started doing out of love for Jesus that now are done simply out of habit or, worse, guilt. Routines of teaching, Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, counseling, missions, note taking, conferences, and camps are all admirable; yet they can become dry habits if they are merely rituals without relationship.
In Revelation 2:1-29, Jesus is concerned about this slide from relationship to ritual in the lives of his followers at Ephesus. He notes that they are doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. They have, according to Jesus, lost their first love. But they had not simply lost it; our text says that they had abandoned it. Evidently, after falling in love with Jesus, their lives became distracted by the lesser things of this world, and “Jesus” became just another thing in their day-timer as they ticked off their to-do lists. Maybe you can identify.
So how do we keep that from happening? Here’s what Jesus tells the Ephesians to do: Repent! As He put it: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5). Jesus knows that duty without devotion is a mundane low-level experience compared to the heights of doing things that flow out of a heart that loves Him.
So He lovingly calls us to repent. Repentance literally means to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Thinking of your devotions and prayer life as a time of personal interaction with Jesus, of serving Him in your church as an act of worship to Him, of giving because you love Him, and of obeying because He is a leader you want to follow are all the kinds of change in attitudes that will recapture your first love for Jesus.
There are some things in life that we can never get back: our youth, the thrill of our first kiss, or our carefree college days. But doing all that we do because we love Jesus is a joy that can be reclaimed.
If you’re talking about loving Jesus the way you used to, then let’s hear it for the “good old days”!
- Stop and evaluate your relationship with Jesus. Would you categorize your Christian experience as “duty without devotion,” or do you cultivate genuine, heartfelt love for Him?
- What are the “systems” that, while good in and of themselves, could cause a subtle shift in your devotion to Jesus?
- If someone were to ask you about the “good old days” with Jesus, how would you respond? If you have never experienced that type of relationship with Him, it’s not too late! See Personal Relationship with God to help you get started.