First Love Left
James Smith, 1860
The Church at Ephesus had been peculiarly favored, first with the ministry of the Apostle Paul, and then with the pastorate of his spiritual son Timothy. But after the martyrdom of the Apostle, and the death of the Pastor — the Church began to decline, and the Lord directed a letter full of love to it, and concern for it, in order to commend what was right, reprove what was wrong, and exhort to repentance and new obedience. Everything good was noticed and commended, and then this charge was brought, "I have this against you — that you have left your first love!" Revelation 2:4. They did not seem to be aware of this — for departures from God are often imperceptible at first.
We may not be aware of our exact state before God. We may imagine ourselves more spiritual, more healthy, and more holy than we are. This may arise, from our neglecting to examine ourselves by the light of God's word; or from neglecting to compare ourselves at present, with what we were once, or with what we ought to be, or with what Christ our great example was. But sometimes it is caused by pride, which prejudices us in our own favor, makes us partial, and puffs us up with conceit. The Lord Jesus comes forth to complain, and tells us he has something against us — this he does that he may not strike us. He cannot allow of sin, or foster deception, or approve of declension. He requires steadfastness in the faith, and progression in his ways. His command is, "Go Forward" — and our motto should be, "Onward, Onward!"
The Lord Jesus comes forth to complain, and tells us that He has something against us. He cannot allow sin, or foster deception, or approve of spiritual declension. The charge is a very solemn one, "you have left your first love!" You have left — voluntarily left. It was not merely an infirmity — but a sin!
You have left the object of your first love — Jesus. Not absolutely perhaps, or entirely — but comparatively.
Your heart is not with Him as formerly,
your thoughts are not filled with Him as they once were,
your affections are not set on Him as at the first.
Once it was your delight to think of Christ, to speak of Christ, and to meet with His people, to sing praises to Christ. Once He was your first object — and to please Him, and enjoy His presence, was your principal object — but it is not so now.
You have left the pursuits of your first love. Once it was Jesus — His word, His ways, His work — anything and everything, that would please Him, or bring glory to his holy name. But it is not so now.
You have lost the fervor of your first love. Then, love was as a fire in your heart, consuming pride, selfishness, and worldly conformity! It flowed forth in sweet thoughts, decided testimonies, and joyful praises — it ascended in ardent desires, pleasant aspirations, and joyful anticipations. But it is not so now. The creature, the world, and even self — is more thought of, valued, and pursued than Jesus!
Reader, can you look back to a time when you first loved Jesus — and when Jesus was the first and chief object of your love? When your first thoughts in the morning, and your last thoughts at night — were of Jesus. When His Name thrilled through your soul as the sweetest music, and everything belonging to, or connected with Him — was sweet and pleasant in your sight. O how precious Jesus was to some of us once!
Have you left your first love? Is Jesus less precious? Is His Name less sweet? Is His throne less frequented? Is His Word less read? Are His ordinances and house at all neglected?
WHY did you leave your first love? Were you disappointed in Jesus? Did He prove a wilderness to you, or a land of drought? Did He deceive you, or do anything to deserve such treatment at your hands? Are you at all better — for having left your first love? Is it better with you now, than it was then? Are you happier? Are you holier? Are you more fit to live, or more prepared to die? Can you rejoice that your love to Christ is less, and that your conformity to the world is greater?
If not, search and try your ways, and turn again to the Lord. Reflect, repent, and say, "I will go and return to my first husband — for then it was better with me than now!" Jesus deserves the best place in the heart, to stand first in the affections — and He will not admit of a rival. He is jealous, and having bought us with His blood, and won us for Himself — He will not lightly allow us to trifle with His love. He will correct us — until He reclaims us. Let us therefore at once, seek grace to love Him as at the first.
"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first!" Revelation 2:5