Christ's love for us never changes. But sadly, our love for Him does. We know this. We can think back to when we were first saved and remember how on fire we were for Him. And perhaps today, our love is not as fervent as it was before.
This is not a new phenomenon. The church at Ephesus had this same struggle. In our last couple of posts, we saw the encouragements that Jesus gave to this church, and now we see His critique of them:
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (Revelation 2:4)
In the previous verse, Jesus has just commended the church for their good works, perseverance, and their discernment of false prophets. But on the other hand, they had abandoned the love they had at first.
This is interesting. How is it that they had good works, perseverance, and discernment of false prophets, but had also abandoned their love for Him? It seems like all those things would go hand-in-hand. Typically, they do, but they're not mutually exclusive. People can do good works without having a zeal for Jesus. They can also keep trucking along and identify false prophets along the way. People can be motivated by tradition, fear of breaking God's commandments and angering Him, and even personal gain. So, while these things may be the fruit of a love for Jesus, they are not always so.
This doesn't necessarily mean, by the way, that the church had no love for Jesus. If that were the case, how could they even be a church? But we understand what it's like to be all religion and no relationship.
What are some other ways this could manifest in a church? In our Reformed tradition, what we often see are people who are incredibly sound theologically. They understand doctrines that most Christians don't. They're Confessional. But their hearts are cold. They've become puffed up by their knowledge. Sometimes, we've seen people out on the streets evangelizing, passionate about sharing the gospel, only to renounce their faith years later. So, they were doing the right thing, but they didn't have a love for Jesus.
In our next post, we'll discuss ways to combat this, but for now, let's just be self-reflective. Ask yourself some questions:
How has my connection with Jesus evolved over time? Has it grown stronger or weaker? Have I distanced myself from Him or become closer to Him?
What drives me to serve Jesus and follow His commandments? Is it to please Him and build a deeper relationship with Him, or is it something else?
How do I allocate my time and resources? Do they reflect my love for Jesus, or do they revolve around other things?
What's my attitude towards prayer and reading the Bible? Do I look forward to spending time with Jesus, or do I find it a burden?
How do I cope with challenges and difficulties in life? Do I rely on Jesus and trust in His goodness, or do I become bitter and resentful?
How do I deal with sin in my life? Do I own up to it and turn away or do I make excuses and justify it?
How do I feel about Jesus? Is my love for Him burning brightly, or has it grown dim?
How do I feel about sharing my faith? Is it something I'm excited about and actively engage in, or is it something I shy away from?
The answers to these questions don't necessarily indicate that you're not a true believer, just as what Jesus is saying to them doesn't necessarily indicate that they were not a true church. But they're important questions to ask ourselves, to check ourselves on. And then what we do with the answers also matters. We'll see that next time.
Just remember this: Christ is merciful. If you trust in Him, even your periods of complacency and apathy have already been paid for on the cross. Flee to Him today.