Christians’ first love and religiosity

by Mike Ratliff

1 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord,
“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth,
The love of your betrothals,
Your following after Me in the wilderness,
Through a land not sown. Jeremiah 2:1-2 (NASB) 

As I think back on that startling, abrupt, life-changing time immediately following God graciously bringing me into knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, justifying me and placing me on that narrow road of sanctification, I remember my deep devotion to all things related to my faith. Some of those things were obviously part of the trappings of religiosity, but, primarily, I remember not being able to get enough of God’s Word and that is still the case. He has since that time chiseled and burned away much of the dross and worthless stuff from me that hindered me in my pilgrimage. It should be no surprise though that much of what was taken away were things, ministries, and people that I clung to desperately thinking they were vital parts of what made up “my walk.” In my case, my “first love,” which at times had diminished as I served religious things and worked at my religion with much vigor, has actually grown much deeper as the focus has been removed from all that to simply loving and obeying my Lord.

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB) 

From our Lord’s own words in this passage we know that the believers in this church had remained faithful to the Word and the Lord since its founding even through difficulty and persecution. They had the right motive because their first love was right, Christ and His reputation alone. However in v4 our Lord tells us that there is a problem. Here is that verse from the NASB and the NA28 Greek Text:

4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:4 (NASB) 

4 ἀλλʼ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην ἀφῆκες. Revelation 2:4 (NA28)

4 But I have against you, that you abandoned your first love. Revelation 2:4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

If you read all of Revelation 2:1-7 then you know that this was a good looking church on the outside. They did a lot of good things. They had people working hard doing the right things, believing the right things and even practicing proper discernment, but there was a huge problem. I think this is the very thing the Lord cleansed me of over the years and the same thing He has done with many of you as well. We get our focus on our religion, on our works, on all those good things, but we neglect the foremost, the first and most important thing. To be a Christian is to love the Lord Jesus Christ foremost (John 14:21, 23; 1 Corinthians 16:22). Christians can easily find their passion and fervor for Christ growing cold when the focus becomes religion instead of the Saviour Himself. When this happens, the result is a cold, mechanical orthodoxy. Yes, the doctrine can be right, and even the zeal for the truth can be right and the pastor can still preach doctrinally right sermons, but that does not mean there is any internal fire of the first love of Christ burning there. Is this a serious thing?

In v5, our Lord commands the Ephesians to remember, repent and do the works done at first or He will remove their lampstand. That means that they will be part of the visible church at the most, but the moving of the Holy Spirit as part of their ministry will cease. It is as if God would place the label Ichabod on them (1 Samuel 4:21). God’s presence there would cease. All their religiosity would just be cold and dead. Do you suppose this is what is happening right now to a large part of Evangelicalism, and has been going on for quite some time?

Examine yourselves my brethren.  Seek the Lord and repent. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “Christians’ first love and religiosity

  1. Thanks Mike for this prompting.

    There are so many things that satan uses to throw wet sand on one’s fire for living and loving Christ above all.

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