THE FIRST LOVE OF THE BELIEVER.
At this time of year, love is in the air. Well at the very least society, seems to visualize a type of romanticized love which replaces year long devotion for an extravagant rose filled evening and a passionate night. As a believer we cannot accept this perversion of love not only because of the way it cheapens the love that we have for our spouses, but also because this type of love cannot be our first love anyway. Now before all the men reading think I am saying that you are off the hook on Valentine ‘s Day, let’s deal with the right way to approach this holiday. Ephesians 5:33 tells us “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” This verse alone does not allow for us to have a singular day as the focus of our affections, but gives us a pattern for living. The best gift a spouse can receive on Valentine’s Day is the reality that this day is one among many in which love is show from husband to wife and wife to husband.
Now to the heart of the matter when we speak about first love; no earthly person can be our first love. Our first love must be as Jesus teaches in Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God” and in 22:39 “and a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love must begin with God and extend to others. Even so, many seem to think that they can love the Lord but disdain his bride, the Church or refuse to know and understand his Word. No doubt, just a cursory reading of a passage like Ephesians 5:31-32 which speaks about marriage can see that Paul connects Christ and the church so closely that this relationship mirrors that one-flesh relationship of husband and wife. I have heard Johnny Hunt say something like this in his preaching “Someone who says they love me but they hate my bride will not be able to love me.” People who say they love Jesus but hate the church cannot really love him, and this fact is one people seem ready at least to accept, even if they do not practice it.
Even so, when it comes to the Bible, the very Word of God people will often look at what it commands and ignore or disobey it with phrases like, “I know what the Bible says, but…” or “that was back then, this is now.” Don’t feel bad if these statements have come out of your mouth or been in your mind, they are ones with which each one of us struggles. After all the Christian walk is one that must be a continual repentance of our pride and selfishness to instead trust and have faith in Christ and what he has said. Think with me about the Ephesian church mentioned in Revelation 2. Jesus says that they are practicing some very good works like endurance, discernment, and intolerance for evil. Even so the Ephesians as Revelation 2:4 says had “abandoned the love you had at first.” What kind of love had they abandoned? They were still zealous for Jesus. They were still passionate to endure for His name’s sake as Revelation 2:3 states. What love had they abandoned? Look at Acts 18-19 where we meet the Ephesian church. Notice in 18:19 that Paul tough only passing through “went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” Look at 18:24-26 at the ministry of Apollos in Ephesus who was “competent in the Scriptures” but had to have Priscilla and Aquila explain to him the Scriptures more accurately. Notice the key verses in 19:8-10 where Paul returns reasons and has such an effective ministry that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks”. The Ephesian church’s first love was Christ as he was revealed in God’s Word.
We are not so different from the Ephesian believers. We need to be reminded of our first love, Jesus according to the Scriptures. We should love to read about him in both Testaments as He reveals himself. We should love to worship him reading, singing, and hearing preaching that shows us him as revealed in the Bible. Our families and marriages should be driven continually back to his Word that it may be plain that we love Jesus just as he is revealed in His Word. Even our activities and works as Revelation 2:5 states should reflect our love for the Savior of the Scriptures. John tells us in his gospel that true love for Jesus is to keep his commandments in John 14:15. How can we keep his commandments if we do not know them? How can we know them if we do not read about them? How can we read about them unless we go to the Scriptures? Thus, how can we love Jesus and do anything less that love and practice his Word? Let this love for the Savior as revealed in the Scripture truly sweeten our hearts at this time of the year.