Lent 1: First Love
‘You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will remove your lampstand from its place.’ (Rev. 2: 4, 5)
How much more does God want us to settle next to Him, to draw wordlessly from His very Presence?
Lent calls us back to the Source. Just in time: I am ‘worded out’. Speech never ceased in my efforts to help equip the Church in New Zealand and Los Angeles to stay true to Jesus in healing, purity and the proper definition of marriage.
All for Jesus while losing track of the One Thing needful: Jesus! Maybe that’s what happened to the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2: 1-7). They were a disciplined and vigilante lot, smoking out false apostles and resisting the gnostic Nicolaitans who may well have incorporated sexual immorality into their skewed spirituality. Jesus especially commends them for ‘hating their practices’ as much as He does. (v. 6)
But tireless zeal for His house cost the Ephesians big-time. They were gaining holiness and losing God! Their works for Him had overtaken their devotion to Him; intrepid Martha left Mary in the dust. Seated at Jesus’ feet, Mary ‘had chosen the better thing that would not be taken from her’ (Lk 10: 42). But now the entire Church at Ephesus ran the risk of losing everything if they failed to turn back to Jesus, their first love. (v. 5b)
Serious business: ‘You have forsaken your first love,’ said Jesus (v. 4) Perhaps their works were no longer sourced in prayer, their prophetic efforts detached from gratitude toward God’s saving them. (Ouch!) St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians come to mind: ‘If I give all to the poor and surrender my body to flames but have not love, I gain nothing…’ (1Cor 13:3)
Love to give is always sourced in remembering the love He gives us. So Jesus implores the Ephesians to ‘remember the height from which you have fallen!’ (v. 5) Remember mercy! The city of Ephesus enshrined the erotic goddess Diana; Christians there would have previously worshipped her through temple prostitutes. It is as if Jesus is saying: ‘Remember how I raised you from the dead of idolatry? Return to Mercy; return to Me.’
Jesus wants to reconnect our good works with His good work in reclaiming our lives. He made us His own because He loved us! Even our attentiveness to His saving work cannot change the fact that His loving action preceded ours.
He calls all of us to ‘repent and do the things we did at first.’ (v. 5) Consider what you used to do when Mercy was new. How did gratitude express itself in your walk with Jesus? Did you spend more time with Him devotionally? Gather to worship more frequently? Evangelize more naturally? Give out of the overflow?
Perhaps God wants to renew your youth by calling you back to Himself this Lent. Perhaps your good efforts to serve Him have overtaken devotion to Him. Remember Mercy: His mercy toward you. May this Lent prepare us to do what we can only do through intimate communion with Him.
‘Be still and know that I am God.’ (PS 46:10)
‘The only thing that counts is faith working through love.’ (Gal. 5:6)