July 13, 2022

You Are Never Too Far Gone

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:4

Years ago, before video games, smartphones and tablets, kids used to play “Let’s pretend!”  Perhaps you can remember back that far—fighting pirates in the Caribbean, riding wild horses or discovering buried treasure.  For just a minute, let’s pretend we can turn back the calendar nearly 2000 years and walk the streets of ancient Ephesus, one of the most beautiful cities in the Roman world.

Pretend to walk down Main Street from the North. At the end of the street is Celsus Library containing more than 200,000 volumes.  On the right is City Hall, and nearby is the great amphitheater seating 25,000 people.  And there’s the great temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Today we can go beyond pretending, based on the archaeological ruins which have been reconstructed as a shadow of the city’s former self.  But the ruins let us know that this was a “power city” when Paul visited here long ago with his companion and friend, Barnabas.

When Paul preached, a church was born–a good one, too!  From Rome, he wrote the letter we know as Ephesians in the New Testament and commended them for their good works.  But then a generation passed, and something happened.  Their ardor cooled off.  They became preoccupied with other things.  A generation passed.  Then towards the end of the first century, John, on the Isle of Patmos, had a vision, and in this vision God spoke to this very church.  In spite of what was still good–and there were many things in that category–He chided, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Could that be said today of many churches, perhaps the one you attend?  A generation ago, it was a growing, exciting place to be; but today the doors are closed after weekend services.  The mid-week prayer meeting disappeared a generation ago and things are boringly predictable.

Could the fact we’ve lost our first love account for the fact that half the people who own Bibles never read them? That only about half of born-again Christians ever share their faith with anyone?  Apparently, we aren’t sharing it with our children because the percentage of 13- to 18-year-olds who identify as atheist is double that of the general population.

What is first love?  First love is that deep, intoxicating devotion to Jesus Christ which resulted from knowing your sins were forgiven and God now accepted that you as a son or daughter, a joint heir with Jesus.  It was the warmth of devotion you first had when you surrendered your life to Christ–when you couldn’t stay away from Bible study or worship, when you read the Bible for “ten minutes” and discovered an hour had gone by because you were so drawn to it.

If you can hardly even remember that first love, what then?  How do we recover today, what we’ve lost?  The way back is found in three words:  1. Remember.  2.  Repent.  3.  Return.  It’s just that simple.  You’ll find the formula in the second chapter of the Revelation–the last book in the New Testament.   Remember what you have been saved from. Repent, which means to turn and go the other direction. And, return, as Revelation 2:5 says, “Repent and do the things you did at first.”

A final thought.  You don’t have to live with lukewarmness or fear that you have gone too far to come back.  Long ago God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  The fact is that God wants you to walk with Him.  The fire can be rekindled.  You don’t have to pretend.

Resource reading: Luke 15:11-31.