You Have Left Your First Love

In the book of Revelation, Jesus takes the opportunity to address seven churches and talk about their good and bad characteristics. Recently, something happened that made me think of one of these letters, the letter to church at Ephesus.

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. … But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”

Revelation 2:1-3, 6-7 NKJV

This part of what Jesus had to say to the church at Ephesus seems very positive and encouraging. The Ephesians had not fallen prey to false doctrine. This would be particularly encouraging considering Paul’s warning and admonition to the elders in Ephesus on his third preaching journey (Acts 20:28-32). He also says they had labored without “becoming weary.” How many of us would be thrilled to receive such commendations directly from Jesus?

Yet, in one of the verses that was not included above, Jesus threatened, “Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place…” (Revelation 2:5 NKJV) Considering the other positive statements about this church, what could they have done that jeopardized their relationship with Christ? Jesus accuses, ” I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4 NKJV) The indication, then, is that while they had maintained certain outward attributes of their relationship with Christ, their love for Him had, in fact, faded.

How is a “faded love” displayed. This is often reflected in a reduced level of zeal and excitement for the object of one’s love. How might this be reflected in our relationship with Christ?

  • To help us understand, I want to present another example of a fading of a certain kind of love. Consider a relationship between a man and a woman:
    • When they first meet, there is generally a lot of excitement to be together. They don’t want to spend time apart.
    • Additionally, in most cases, whenever they are going to be together there is a high level of willingness to be at their best when when they are together. This includes physical appearance, how they conduct themselves, how they spend every moment together talking to each other and being close to each other.
    • Then they get married. And, at first, during the “honeymoon phase,” they continue to try to please one another and spend time together.
    • Unfortunately, in most cases, in time there becomes a sense of “we have the relationship, we don’t really have to work on it.” Work, children, hobbies, and other activities began to take away their time together and erode the emotions of love between the couple. There is no longer the strong desire to spend every available moment together.
    • This relationship may not in an affair or a divorce, but they are together while not necessarily “in love” any more. It’s just not the same relationship it once was.
  • Compare this with what happens with many Christians:
    • Many new Christians are full of zeal and enthusiasm.
    • They are in love with Christ and His word. They spend time studying and growing in the knowledge of His word.
    • Maybe their enthusiasm and love for Christ is exhibited in talking to others about Christ.
    • They may strive to increase their ability to serve: Men wanting to lead in worship; Women wanting to learn to teach.
    • But then, time passes. The relationship becomes stale. Family, children, work, hobbies began to take their time away from Christ and His Word.
    • Maybe they never “fall away” in the sense of stopping assembling with the saints. Maybe they never accept false doctrine.
    • But, they no longer have the zeal to study the word of God. They may feel that they no longer need to serve because the have “served enough.” They believe they have a relationship with Christ, but they no longer have a love for the relationship.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that something happened to me recently that sparked these thoughts. I was cleaning out an old file cabinet trying to get everything to fit in a smaller storage unit. I came across some old notes I had made when studying 1 Corinthians when I was a younger man. What I saw made me ashamed of recent attempts to study God’s word. I saw detailed notes and in depth research trying to understand the meaning of God’s word. I saw study that took time and effort. I saw study that reflected a deep love for God and His word. And, I realized that I haven’t studied the Bible that way in a long time. I have a lot of “reasons” why I haven’t studied like that in long time, but I believe the underlying root cause is failure to love Christ and His word like I should.

So, how do we correct a loss of our “first love?” Jesus tells the Ephesians the answer: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first work.” (Revelation 2:5 NKJV) The answer is two-fold:

  • Repent: Change your heart. This love for Christ and His work is not optional to be Christian. Christ requires not just our rote service, but our heart.
  • Do the first work: Apply that love to our lives. It will change how we act. It’s not possible to love Christ as we should and not behave differently.

What motivates us to this love? One motivation is provided in this text: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7 NKJV)

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Advertisements

The Good Old Days

It’s a common practice for people to remember the past in way that makes it seem like there were no (or at least far fewer) problems in the past. Frequently this is in reference to our society and culture and how it impacts our ability to serve God. In connection with this thought, Christians sometimes grumble about how hard it is to serve God in our current society and culture. We are often heard to long for “the good old days” when serving the Lord was easier.
For a few moments, let’s consider some of the environments and cultures where people had to remain faithful to God and see if we still think ours is so bad.

Would we rather serve the Lord…

• In the days of Noah, when only eight people (1 Peter 3:10) in the whole world could be convinced to follow God?

• In society of Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous people (Genesis 18:23-26…32…19:24-25) could be found to save the city?

• In Israel, during the time of judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes?” (Judges 17:6, 21:25)

• In the first century, when people were persecuted and killed for their faith in Christ? (Acts 7:57-60, 9:1-2; 22:3-5)

• In the first century when there was no readily available printed Bibles to study and know the whole revelation of God?

• In the first century when visiting other churches and could mean days of walking just to get to the nearest congregation?

• In our recent past, before telephones and computers connected brethren to be able to communicate with one another and encourage one another, even from thousands of miles away?

• In our recent past where many brethren, even in this country met without air conditioning or had to travel to church in vehicles without air conditioning? Or, in countries today, where the same is true?

• In countries today (and in times past in this country) where people don’t have readily available transportation and must walk for miles to worship with God’s people?

• In the recent past when Bibles and bible study tools were not readily available at your fingertips on your computer or your phone?

• Today, in other countries, where Christians must worship in secret for fear of being thrown into prison or killed for their faith?

So, the real question is not whether we have it worse than others. Yes, our society is evil and getting worse. But, Read Romans 1-2 and ask yourself if you think our society is any worse than theirs. Theirs was a society where immorality was not only present, but in many cases part of their idolatrous worship.

The real question is whether we are taking advantage of the opportunities God has given us in this day age and in this society. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30) the one-talent servant was condemned because he failed to use the opportunity he had to serve the master and be productive. He wasn’t condemned for his results, but for his lack of effort. Will or excuses of an evil society be any more well received than his excuse that he knew the master was a hard man?

Today is the day that we have. This is the society we live in where have the opportunity to bring glory to God by our service. Will we waste it wishing for days that were not better, just different?

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Desire The Pure Milk Of The Word

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, [1 Peter 2:1-2 NKJV]”

Most people who profess to be Christians talk about wanting to grow in spiritual and moral conduct and thought. Many excuses are given for why we can’t change our habits and seem to be trapped in the same bad habits year after year. Yet, Peter provides the formula for “laying aside” the bad habits from the world: Desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

If person wants to lose weight or improve their health, one of the first things they need to do is change their eating habits. If a person says they want to lose weight, but can’t understand why they don’t, you might ask what they are eating. If they respond with, “My normal menu is three slices of bacon, four eggs, biscuits and gravy for breakfast; double cheeseburger with bacon, large fries, and extra large non-diet soda for lunch; and steak, loaded baked potato, and a large slice of apple pie a la mode for dessert for dinner; and a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce for before bed for a snack.” Any logical thinking person would say, “You can’t lose weight eating like that!”

So, if we can understand that our bodies need a certain nutrition to change our weight or health, why can’t we understand that our mind and spirit need a special kind of nutrition to become what God wants us to be.

Consider some additional passages:

  • “The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; [Psalms 19:7 NKJV]” – To “convert” is to “turn back or restore.” If we want to return our soul to what God desires, we need to spend some time with the law of the Lord.
  • “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. [Psalms 119:9 NKJV]” – Young people constantly find service to the Lord challenging. What can help them overcome these challenges and temptations? Spending time in the word of God.
  • “For the commandment [is] a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life, To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress. [Proverbs 6:23-24 NKJV]” – How many sexual sins could be avoided if people would spend time in the counsel of God’s word?
  • “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they [are] ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies [are] my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep Your precepts. [Psalms 119:98-100 NKJV]” – Where do we get the wisdom to change who we are and how we live? From the commandments, testimonies, and precepts of God.

So, which are we filling are minds with? The commandments and word of God or movies, TV shows, books, etc. that…

  • Mock God and serving Him.
  • That undermine the principles of His word by teaching that immorality is OK and promote conduct that God would condemn.
  • That are filled with language we should be ashamed of and that God would certainly not approve.

There are only so many hours in a day. If we spending all of our time filling our minds with the things that make us spiritually fat and lazy, how can we find the time to nurture our mind and spirit with the God’s word to help us become the person God wants us to become.

Which spiritual diet will you choose?

Dan Fontenot
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Blessed Is He Who Reads

“Blessed [is] he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time [is] near. [Revelation 1:3 NKJV]”

The admonition in this passage refers specifically to the book of Revelation and those to whom the letter was written. However, throughout the Bible we see an emphasis on reading God’s word and the impact of reading God’s word in the lives of those who take the time to read it.

  • One of the first things Moses did after coming down from the mountain was read God’s covenant to the Israelites. – “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ [Exodus 24:7 NKJV]”
  • Moses emphasized to the people that once they had a king, the king should always keep a copy of the law handy and read it. – “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that [are] around me,’ … Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from [the one] before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment [to] the right hand or [to] the left, and that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. [Deuteronomy 17:14, 18-20 NKJV]”
  • They were commanded to read the law publicly every seven years at the feat of Tabernacles. – “And Moses commanded them, saying: ‘At the end of [every] seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.’ [Deuteronomy 31:10-11 NKJV]”
  • Joshua made a point to read the law to the people once they entered Canaan. – “And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them. [Joshua 8:34-35 NKJV]”
  • The reading of the Law during King Josiah’s reign led to the observance of the Passover as it had not been observed since the days of the judges. – “Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. … Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. [2 Kings 22:8, 10-11 NKJV] … The king went up to the house of the LORD with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem–the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. … Then the king commanded all the people, saying, ‘Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as [it is] written in this Book of the Covenant.’ Such a Passover surely had never been held since the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. [2 Kings 23:2, 21-22 NKJV]”
  • After returning to the land after 70 years of captivity, Ezra read the Law to the people. – “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that [was] in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who [could] hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that [was] in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people [were attentive] to the Book of the Law. [Nehemiah 8:1-3 NKJV]”

But what about in the New Testament? Is there any emphasis on reading there?

  • In the book of Matthew alone, we have at least six times where Jesus asked the scribes and Pharisees and those who questioned him, “Have you not read?” (Mat. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31) He expected them to have read the word and have a working knowledge of it. And this was in a day and time where the written word was not readily available as it is today.
  • In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading and it led to his salvation: “The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.’ [Acts 8:32 NKJV]”
  • In Acts 15, the Apostles expressed that they expected to Jews to be familiar with the Law because it was supposed to be read in the synagogues on the Sabbath: “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath. [Acts 15:21 NKJV]”
  • Paul wrote his epistles with the expectation that they would be read:
    • “…by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, [Ephesians 3:4 NKJV]”
    • “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the [epistle] from Laodicea. [Colossians 4:16 NKJV]”
    • “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren. [1 Thessalonians 5:27 NKJV]”

God has always delivered His word with the expectation that it be read, heard, and obeyed.

  • Shouldn’t we be reading and listening to what God has to say?
  • Shouldn’t we be ashamed when we don’t read it instead of bragging when we do?
  • Shouldn’t reading God’s word be our norm instead of the unusual thing we do occasionally when it’s convenient?

A final thought: How do we know what impact God’s word can have in our lives if we never open it and read it?

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

How Much Better To Get Wisdom Than Gold!

Proverbs 16:16 states: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” (NKJV)

Over the last few days, I have been thinking about this very concept so it was interesting that it came up in my Bible study today. I have been examining the value placed on different things in our life based on the amount of time spent in each activity. With this on my mind it has been interesting to begin reading and studying Proverbs for some upcoming classes I am scheduled to teach. This is not the only reference to this concept in the book. Consider another:

“My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, [And] apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, [And] lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as [for] hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.” [Proverbs 2:1-5 NKJV]

People say they “treasure” the word of God, but consider…

  • Receive my words…Incline your ear to wisdom”: How can we receive the words of God’s wisdom if we rarely, if ever, open our Bibles to hear what God has to say. Inclining suggests putting forth effort to hear, not just hearing when it might be convenient or easy.
  • Apply your heart to understanding”: How many times have we heard someone say about a person, “Oh what they could be if they would just apply themselves?” Are we really working to understand God’s word and try to know what He wants us to know? Or are we satisfied just skimming by?
  • Cry out for discernment…lift up your voice for understanding”: Are we so eager to know the wisdom of God that we will cry out for help and lift up our voice to ask for guidance and counsel? Proverbs is filled with admonitions to heed the wisdom of the wise, but do we ask for help gaining that wisdom and knowledge?
  • Seek her as silversearch for her as for hidden treasures“: People go to seminars all the time or buy books to find out how to become wealthy or great leaders or successful in business. They will spend hours reading and listening because of the perceived value of the knowledge being imparted. How much do we value the wisdom of God. How much effort and time are we willing to put forth to gain God’s wisdom that he freely imparts!
  • Note that only when these attitudes are applied will wisdom come: “Then you will understand … and find …”. Sadly, some think that time alone will make them wise. But, it won’t. Only a diligent, determined effort to come to know the will of God will lead us to this wisdom.
  • Also, it is not just any wisdom we should seek: “…understand the fear of the Lord … find the knowledge of God”. Reading secular books and gaining secular wisdom is OK, but it is not the wisdom that provides eternal life and rewards.

But, what do we really treasure? Where is our time spent that shows our real desire?

  • I recently applied this concept to my own spare time. I found that when I had few spare minutes I would immediately turn to social media or the internet or to games on my phone. But, how often did I turn to the word of God? How often did I use that precious time to seek more understanding of God’s will?
  • Our society has unprecedented access to God’s word through the internet, mobile devices, etc. But, are we using that to seek God’s wisdom?
  • There is nothing inherently sinful about social media, games, or the internet. But, what are we seeking, crying out for?

Other verses in Proverbs challenge us to think about the value of wisdom over the things of this world:

  • “Happy [is] the man [who] finds wisdom, And the man [who] gains understanding; For her proceeds [are] better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She [is] more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days [is] in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways [are] ways of pleasantness, And all her paths [are] peace. She [is] a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy [are all] who retain her.” [Proverbs 3:13-18 NKJV]
  • “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [Therefore] get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you. Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she [is] your life.” [Proverbs 4:5-13 NKJV]
  • “Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom [is] better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. … My fruit [is] better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver.” [Proverbs 8:10-11, 19 NKJV]

So, ask yourself, do spend hours everyday in the things of the world only to “squeeze in” a few minutes for God’s word each day (if at all)? What does that suggest that we really treasure?

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

These Are Written

In the previous post, “By What Authority?” we discussed that there are only two sources for religious or spiritual authority. One of those, the authority of man, can and should be rejected. The authority of God, however, cannot be rejected. We know that Jesus was given all authority:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” [Matthew 28:18 NKJV]

We also know that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, as the “Comforter,” to guide the apostles into all truth:

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own [authority], but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” [John 16:13 NKJV]

This was promise to the apostles, not to all Christians. The promise was to those “who had been with him from the beginning” (John 15:27) and who need to be reminded of the things He had previously told them (John 14:26). Neither of these apply to anyone alive today. But, since neither Jesus nor the apostles are on the earth today, how can we know the what the will of heaven is? Consider the following verses:

  • 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. [John 20:30-31 NKJV]
  • 1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles– 2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), [Ephesians 3:1-4 NKJV]
  • These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may [continue to] believe in the name of the Son of God. [1 John 5:13 NKJV]
  • 16 All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV]

What we see in all of these is that the will of heaven has been passed down to all generations through the written word. The real question is whether we are willing to read and listen to the message God is sending to us. In coming articles we will look at some of the stumbling blocks people put in the way of hearing and understanding God’s will as revealed in the scriptures.

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)