Have you abandoned the love you had at first?

Undertaking a regular health check is good practice, as it can expose problems that we were unaware of, although sometimes we were well aware of an issue but needed someone to point it out to us before we took some action. Equally it can be comforting to hear that, in some areas, we have good health.

Have you abandoned the love you had at first?

What is true for our physical, material bodies is also true for our spiritual health. In the Christian “walk” we can be oblivious to our own problems when something has not been addressed and has become a part of our life. An issue may have developed in us that should cause us concern, but we are oblivious to its existence, or to its severity. Thankfully we can go to the Bible for a spiritual health check.

In Revelation chs.2 and 3 the Lord Jesus, the great physician, provides a spiritual health check on seven churches. Nothing could be hidden from His eye. He was able to give a thorough and complete assessment of their present condition and, as well as providing feedback where there was good health, He could supply the necessary antidote to any problems that had been diagnosed.

The conditions that He identified in every Christian assembly may not have been true for every single member but it certainly was for the majority, and this determined the overall character and assessment of the assembly.

The first assembly to consider is the Ephesian one. Ephesus had been greatly blessed. As well as hosting Paul for two years (Acts 19:10), they had received Apollos, Timothy, John, Aquila and Priscilla. The assembly was well taught and had a solid foundation.

The Lord Jesus could commend them for their works, effort (toil) and endurance. They were very discerning and did not have time and space for those who taught error (Revelation 2:2). They particularly hated the false teaching of the Nicolaitans (2:6) which stated that living an immoral lifestyle was compatible with being a Christian. It all sounds good for an assembly of believers who were very busy with a full programme of works, who held to doctrinal purity, and who were not quitting but persevering.

Yet, the Lord saw a major problem. Perhaps an issue that had not been perceived by the assembly. The assessment was that “you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4). Their love for the Lord Jesus was not what it once had been. They had grown cold in their love for Him, and this affected their love for others. Our love for the Lord Jesus and His people can be distinguished but cannot be separated. If we love Him, we will love His people.

It appears that the believers “loved the work of the Lord more than the Lord of the work”. In the business of assembly life, they had been very industrious. The rotas were full, the programmes were well organised, and the routines ensured efficiency. Regular Bible teaching ensured they held to a purity of doctrine. But the one thing that really mattered, that crucial component of life, was no longer burning as bright as it once did. The love for the Lord Jesus was diminishing and this was so serious that the Lord stated, “I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5).

How easy it is to mistake busyness and orthodoxy for a love for the Lord. Undoubtedly love for the Lord will lead to zealous service in His name and a desire to do all that He commands but, as we can see from the Ephesian assembly, outward activity and soundness of doctrine does not necessarily come from a growing love for the Lord.

Love for the Lord and others lies at the very heart of a healthy spiritual life. The Lord Jesus commands any believer who finds themselves diminishing in love for Him to “remember”. The call is to make every effort to recall your past love for the Lord Jesus, the joy you had when you considered Him and His work. The thrill that was yours when you knew you were in the family of God, the bliss of having your sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life. Rather than being fixated on your love for Him consider and dwell on His love for you.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).

The assessment of the Lord Jesus would have been a shock and wake-up call for the believers at Ephesus. Their spiritual health was not what they thought it was, but the Lord had graciously examined them and provided a way back. As you conduct, by God’s grace and power, your spiritual health check, do ask that the Spirit of God will reveal the truth and enable you to implement any change that is necessary.