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Revelation 2:4 -- Leaving Your First Love

In Revelation 2, Jesus gives a message through John to the church at Ephesus. After two verses of commending the church’s works, Jesus declares He has something against them. He accuses them of leaving its first love.

I wonder how many believers today could be considered Ephesus Christians. At one time they were exuberant about Christ, and they never thought their love for their Savior could diminish. Unless they stay focused on keeping their relationship with Jesus vibrant and fresh, over time their love for Him will fade and will take a backseat in their lives. As Jesus accused the members of the church at Ephesus, they will leave their first love.

For many, one day they come to the realization that Jesus is no longer relevant in their lives. When that happens, most will walk away from God, Christianity and the church without looking back. Then there are others, once they realize their declining spiritual predicament, they wonder how in the world they got to that point. After all, they’ve been faithful in their church attendance. They’re involved in committees, they teach Sunday school, sing in the choir, and serve in VBS every year. They even attend every service during the revival services held twice a year. They sit back and scratch their heads wondering, “What happened?”

To understand how that can happen, allow me to use the relationship between a man and a woman to demonstrate this point. Many spiritual parallels can be made and much can be learned by observing how a husband and wife interact with each other. Consider the following scenario:

When John and Jane first started dating, they had difficulty parting at the end of evening. They talked to each other several times throughout the day, and they couldn’t wait for work to be over so that they could be in each other’s company again. They would talk late into the night, exploring each other’s background, present and future. And the romance! Jane’s coworkers tired of the parade of flowers John regularly sent, usually for no special occasion other than to say, “I love you” or “You complete me.” Jane, as well, spent hours in the Hallmark stores picking out just the right “thinking of you” cards to send to John. Occasionally Jane would show off her culinary talents and cook candlelight dinners for John. After the meal, John would help Jane clean up the kitchen. It didn’t matter whether they went out or not. They were content to cuddle on the couch and listen to music, or watch a movie together. If John wanted to watch a football game, Jane sat next to him. If Jane wanted to go to a chick flick, John happily bought the tickets. The important thing was that they were together.

Their dating eventually resulted in engagement. Oh, the thrill and anticipation of the wedding day! They made all the key decisions together. When they didn’t agree, one of them would often give in, wanting only to please the other. The wedding day arrived and John and Jane glowed from the happiness of the day. Their eyes seldom left the other’s as they declared their eternal love. Nothing would come between them — not sickness or health, riches or debt.

There’s just nothing quite like the thrill of a new relationship. The joy just to be in each other’s company and the anticipation of seeing each other again is unparalleled. Perhaps the scenario reminds you of how you and your own significant other started out. Likewise, for many new believers, their new relationship with Jesus is just as exciting. Never have they felt so guilt free. Jesus took their burdens away and replaced them with hope and a clean heart. Everything is fresh and new. For the first time they understand the term “born again.” They’ve been given a new life.

They look forward to going to church because it’s like having a new family. The people there are so friendly and caring. They’re hungry to hear more about Jesus and how He died for all mankind. They particularly want to hear about God’s grace. For the first time in their lives they have an interest in reading the Bible because they want to know more about their Lord. Their fascination and preoccupation with their newly found Savior parallels that of newlyweds.

Now let’s go back and look in on John and Jane after several years of marriage, a mortgage and a couple of children.

John and Jane have traditional Monday through Friday, eight-to-five jobs. On her way home from work, Jane stops to pick up the children from their after school care. Sometimes she needs to run into the store for last minute groceries for dinner. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, John goes directly home from work, changes clothes, then rushes off to the park with his daughter to coach her soccer team. On the other nights, John settles into his favorite chair after he gets home, with remote in hand, to watch the news. The nights they actually sit down to eat together as a family, their attention during dinner is divided between the big-screen TV and getting the children to eat their vegetables. After dinner, John settles back into the recliner while Jane cleans up the kitchen and helps the children with their homework. She might even wash and dry a load of laundry. Jane sets a bag of trash in the garage for John to put out for pick up the next morning. Once the children are in bed, Jane might finally relax on the couch to read or watch TV. Jane tries to discuss a matter with John, but his full attention is on a basketball game. It’s been a long day, so Jane gets ready for bed. By the time John calls it night, Jane is sound asleep.

On the weekend, their schedule revolves around the children’s soccer games. Either before or after, John will mow the lawn and take care of any needed car maintenance. Occasionally, he takes in a game of golf, or watches football with some friends. Meanwhile, Jane’s taking care of the house cleaning, clothes shopping and planning the week’s groceries. If Jane wants to see a chick flick, she’ll invite a girlfriend to attend a matinee.

This is quite a different scenario than the courtship and honeymoon stage. Early in the marriage, the “I Love You” flowers stopped being delivered, and they were occasionally replaced with “I’m Sorry” flowers following an explosive argument. After a few more years, the flowers stopped all together. Candlelight dinners disappeared when the children started arriving. So did the Hallmark cards. Whenever Jane suggested to John that he help her with the dishes, he laughed as if she had just told the funniest joke, and he immediately retreated to the recliner. The hours John and Jane spent talking on a daily basis have now dwindled to minutes. In any given week, the number of words exchanged between John and Jane might total only a few hundred. The passion each felt about each other has faded into complacency.

As John and Jane settled into their marriage, they unconsciously slid into roles, each taking on “his” and “her” responsibilities of the household. That wouldn’t have been a bad thing if those duties hadn’t eventually taken precedence over their relationship. Unfortunately, the passion and relationship took a backseat to all the things that needed to be done in the house and yard, not to mention the myriad trips to the grocery store, the mall, the children’s school, their soccer games, etc. They moved about the house fulfilling their roles with a minimal amount of conversation and interaction. Remember the early days when they would hold hands and cuddle on the couch? Now Jane would consider it a waste of time to sit with John when there were a dozen chores to be done. Besides, she would feel that her company either wouldn’t be noticed by John, or would just distract him from his programs.

John and Jane are fulfilling the duties of a husband and wife, but they aren’t doing it with much joy. Somewhere along the way they lost what was really important between them. They forgot to keep focused on their relationship. It all started with them wanting to spend hours together, but then their jobs, the children, the soccer, the lawn, the dishes, and the laundry took over their lives. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that a relationship is a lot more important than a sink full of dirty dishes, or an overgrown lawn. But those responsibilities had a way of blinding John and Jane that they weren’t taking time for themselves. They scheduled soccer games, vet appointments and PTA meetings, but they forgot to schedule time for each other. They did something they promised each other they would never do — take their marriage and relationship for granted.

Once in this state, a lot of couples stay together because they haven’t recognized their situation, or they prefer a dull marriage over the alternative of divorce. Other couples, however, decide that they’ve outgrown each other, or that they have “lost that lovin’ feeling,” and walk away. Quite often, the friends and church acquaintances of these couples are shocked at the breakup. From all outward appearances, they seemed to be devoted to each other. If, or when the breakup happens, friends will ask the question, “What happened?” The answer is, nothing happened. Each partner gradually withdrew emotionally and neither did anything about it. Because their needs weren’t being met, they did nothing to satisfy the needs of their partner. They did nothing to keep the love and passion alive because they were too busy with other things.

Now, let’s compare the passion of a new believer.

After a time, this believer will most likely settle into roles within the church, whether it be as a choir member, a Bible study teacher, a nursery worker or an usher. Her busyness within the church may gradually distract her from the sweet relationship she first had with Jesus. As with John and Jane, she may forget her relationship with the Lord is paramount to all else. At times it would be more beneficial for her to just sit with Jesus on the couch and enjoy the fellowship of His presence instead of attending a committee meeting. The time she and her Lord spend together dwindle from hours to minutes. Without realizing it, her passion for her Lord gradually gives way to responsibilities and duties. But because she is giving so much of her energy and time to her local church, she misinterprets her busyness for spirituality. In reality, her spiritual bank is approaching bankruptcy.

It’s at this point that immature believers might begin to feel a void and an emptiness in their Christian walk. They don’t feel their needs are being met. Not recognizing that the root of the problem is in themselves, they begin questioning their involvement. They blame the church, or claim that the pastor has slipped in his effectiveness in the pulpit. Eventually they might start visiting other churches or skip services entirely. They begin to think back to their life before salvation. They had more fun before they became Christians, or before they got so involved in the church. Now church is boring.

As we can see, it’s imperative that new believers are taught the importance of keeping his or her relationship with Jesus fresh and alive, just like the relationship between a husband and wife. The same is true for those who have been saved for 10, 25 or 40 years. As marriages can so easily slip into the routine, so can the Christian life. Each believer’s relationship with the Lord is something that has to be worked on — daily. When the relationship is taken for granted and the passion dissipates, he or she becomes like an Ephesus Christian described by Apostle John in Revelation 2:4. They leave their first love.

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