By Robert Wurtz II
THE LOVE WE HAD AT FIRST
The Reason For Everything
Christianity in its purest form boils down to just two requirements: that we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30). Upon these two commands rest all of the word of God (Matthew 22:37). Without these two basics elements in our Christian life; no matter how much we give to God or do for God, it is all in vain (I Corinthians 13). I John 4:16 reads... And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. This love that we know and believe then begins to have a profound effect on us as verse 11 states... Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. When we deeply consider the genuine sacrifical love that God poured upon us while we were yet sinners, the natural outworking of that love is to love one another (I John 4:20). When the revelation of God's compassion for us is revealed and is allowed to sink down and touch every fiber of our being, scripure says it would then be impossible to shut up the bowels of your compassion when you see your brother or sister in need (I John 3:17). Morover, it is the greatest evidence of all that we are truly saved, that our great love for God is translated to also include one another. As it is written... A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35, 36). The one who searcheth the minds and the hearts will give to everyone according to their works and those works must have been motivated by love (Revelation 2:23).
To Whom Much is Forgiven...
There was a time in Jesus' ministry that a woman came and washed his feet with her tears and wiped them off with the very hairs of her head. Jesus said the woman did not cease from kissing His feet. The Pharisee who resented this showed no such affection for Jesus. And herein lies the great lesson about our love for Christ. Jesus answered this Pharisee and said this... Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little (Luke 7:47). The Pharisee showed by his actions that in his own view his sin was about $50 worth compared to this womans $500. This pride and arrogance stripped the man of any real and meaningful love for God. He should have known that one cent of sin was enough to damn his soul and that he ought to be thankful. Because he perceived his sin as little and the woman knew her sin was great we learn a lesson about the human condition. When we cease to appreciate the love that God showed us by sending His Son to die upon a cross for our sins, we neither 'kiss the Lord's feet' with our love, nor do we welcome others to do likewise. He showed almost no love for Christ or his neighbor in this passage and it it began when he would not recognize his own great need for forgiveness. He did not stop to consider his sins. He did not take time to name them one by one. He conveniently cast his thankfulness as far as the east was from the west when God cast his sins. How can a person truly love when they never consider their sins? His arrogance expected God to forgive him as is indicated by his unthankfulness.
The Church at Ephesus
The church at Ephesus had the greatest teaching available in the New Testament and especially on the subject of love. Both Paul the Apostle and John the Revelator worked diligently with this church. Paul in the book of Ephesians writes that we should be holy and without blame for Him in love (1:4) and commends the church for their love for the saints (1:15). In 2:4 he reminds the people of the great love wherewith God loved us to quicken us with Christ while we were dead in sins. In 3:17 Paul tells us that we should be rooted and grounded in love and verse 19 we read these words... And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. In 4:2 we are admonished to 'bear with' one another in love and to speak the truth in love (v15) until the body is built and edified in love (v16). Perhaps 5:1,2 are the most telling... Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. Three times Paul tells the husbands to love their wives as themselves, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it (5:25, 28, 33). Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit made two final pleas of love when he closed his writing... Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen (6:23,24). It can be noted that I Corinthians was written by Paul from Ephesus which contains the great love chapter- I Corinthians 13 (I Corinthians 16:8). John the Revalator spent much time at Ephesus and is believed to have written the Gospel of John from there. From Ephesus he penned the words 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son....' Ephesus was inundated with the teaching of love, both in word and in example.
John the Revelator writing from the isle of Patmos saw visions of the great and mighty majesty and glory of God. As one of the first orders of business Christ gives a report on the condition of the seven churches of Asia. He begins with Ephesus. The Living Bible captures the great essense of what is happening... here Jesus says: 'I know how many good things you are doing. I have watched your hard work and your patience; I know you don't tolerate sin among your members, and you have carefully examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but aren't. You have found out how they lie. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. "Yet there is one thing wrong; you don't love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love (how different now!) and turn back to me again and work as you did before; or else I will come and remove your candlestick from its place among the churches.' (TLB) What horror John must have felt. They seemed to be doing everything right, but their motivation was all wrong. They had become a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol and all these things profited them nothing. Their hearts were hardened. There was a lot of business, but no real fruit. They hated sin, but did not balance it with their love for Christ. This was no different from the Pharisees that Jesus chastised in the years he walked the earth. They had abandoned their love for Christ that should have been chief and foremost (GK. protos). And if there is no real love for Christ we need not look for a love for the saints and vise versa (I John 3, 4). After all that teaching on love and all that example of what love was... they forsook the great love that they once had for Christ. They naturally, in an atmosphere such as this would have hated sin without having the heart of God's love for lost souls. They would have been moved by contention, strife, fear, envy, resentment, jealousy, guilt or vain glory, but not by love to do Christ's work (See Philippians 1:16). They would have condemned the guilty without considering their own sins (Galatians 6:1). Perchance they had so forgotten their sins that they may have thanked God that they were not like sinners such as the wretched publicans as did the Pharisee who prayed with himself (Luke 18:11). With them, yes, the Gospel is preached, and we can rejoice, but from the workers point of view it was all in vain because the motivation was not compassion (unmerited love). The fire in the end shall try every man's work of what sort it is (I Corinthians 3:13) and if it were birthed from a heart of great love, that work will not fail the test, because love never fails (I Corinthians 13). They condemned sinners and argued theology real good, but where was the compassion and love?
Retracing Your Footsteps
The church at Ephesus like so many Christians once had a great love for Christ, but lost it little by little. The physics law of the conservation of matter guarantees that the love did not dissappear, it was redistributed somewhere else. This is a travesty in the body of Christ. The blood bought Saints of the living God begin to take the love that once belonged only to God and gave it to someone or something else. This is the true definition of harlotry. How does this happen? It is simple. Jesus said that if you love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). In verse 16 Jesus says He will send the comforter and in verse 17 says that He (the Holy Spirit) is the Spirit of truth- which the world cannot receive because it sees Him not and does not know him. Why? Because they do not have a heart to keep the commandments of Christ (I John 2:4). The passage says that if a person contends to love God and does not keep the commandments they are a liar. So we see then that the Holy Spirit is sent to steer us and empower us to keep the commandments of Christ and in so doing brings forth the fruit of the Spirit which is above all things love. What happens? The Saints begin to quench the Spirit and disobey the commandments. Both sins of ommission (he that knoweth to do good and doeth it not) and sins of commission. The more the Spirit of God is quenched the harder the 'soil' of the heart gets. The harder the heart gets the less impact the word has when it is sown. The problem is the soil (see Mark 4:8). Soon preachers preach in vain and teachers teach in vain. Why? Because the 'soil' of the peoples hearts are all hard and dried up from quenching the Spirit. Soon they have no fruit of the Spirit in their life and rather than love Christ and their neighbor they begin to love the world and the things of this world and the love of the Father is no longer in them (I John 2:15). Roots of bitterness are then intrenched deep in the soil and must be overturned.
Breaking Up the Fallow Ground
Both Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12 deal with breaking up the fallow ground. In Hosea the Saints are depicted as going like a harlot after other lovers and abandoning God's love. The prophet under inspiration tells the people... Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men (Hosea 10:12, 13). How can a person break up their fallow (unplowed) ground? Simple. Go back and revisit what made it hard in the first place and repent. This requires a serious time of reflection and examination before the Lord. Jesus calls it in Revelation 2 'doing your first works.' So many people never spend enough time in reflection of all their sins (that they can possibly recall) until their is a brokenness before God for what we have done. Psychologists have people recall all the bad things that happened to them so they can blame others for their problems. God says to the backslidden 'break up the fallow ground of your own heart.' Recall when you quenched the Holy Ghost and made a hard spot in your heart and started the process of leaving your first love.
Here is the crux of God's argument against the backslidden people in Hosea, your heart needs to be as tilled up as would be a farmers field at seed time. Go back and repent and repent and repent until you are broken enough to be in a place where the seed of the good word will bring forth the fruit God designed. Who ever heard of a farmer sowing seed on unplowed ground? Plowing is a lot of work, but the indictment against the sinner is that they plowed all sorts of wickedness. They grabbed the plow and tore up with great pain and labor all sorts of Gods work in their heart. Now its time to reflect and do the first works of repentance. Modern Christianity says don't think about what got you here, just keep on asking forgiveness. God says, get about the work of breaking up the fallow ground of the hardness of your heart. Go back and remember what God forgave you of- so your love for Him will not grow cold. Keep his great mercy ever before your eyes by continually considering yourself and your own sins (Galatians 6:1). This does not dig up condemnation church- it digs up appreciation for what God has done and it keeps you humble before God. Were like the pharisee sitting around wondering why the woman is crying all over the Lord and kissing his feet. Its because she knows her sin and she loves much. God forgive us of our arrogance and excuses for blocking out our sins until we had no love left.