Losing Our First Love
By Mrs. E. G. White
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Revelation 2:4-7.
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Thine is a decay, a declension in holy zeal,—not forsaken is the object of it, but lost is the fervor. The first affection of the convert to Christ is deep, full, and ardent. It is not necessary that this love should become less as knowledge increases, as the more and increased light shines upon him. That love should become more fervent as he becomes better acquainted with his Lord. God sees that there is not heart service, a love for Jesus, an earnest zeal in his work.
"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." How much need there is for the people of God at this time to consider the words of the Majesty of heaven, and carefully review the ground over which they have traveled, and see and understand where the very first step was taken in the wrong path! Absence of zeal and devotion, of earnest willing service in the cause of God, shows how indolent many professed followers of Christ are, how destitute of earnest, heart felt effort. They might have been going on from strength to strength, from light to still greater light. They might have become strong in faith had they walked on from step to step, thinking more of Christ than of themselves.
The Lord has a right to expect more of his believing children than they give him. Every individual Christian is indeed the light of the world. Christians connect with Christ. They reflect the character of Christ. They have been entrusted with great treasures of light; the oracles of God have been given to them, and in these they have been thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Every provision has been made, and why have the individual members of the church wearied of their Lord? Why does he who professes to love God refuse to obtain from the Source of light and power the oil of grace that he may be a bright and shining light? The church has had great opportunities, great privileges, and why is the light growing dim? Why does it not shine to the world? His church whose individual members are advancing, growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, is the elected means of the Redeemer's system for enlightening and saving the world. Christ lived and suffered and died to establish a church capable of doing this noble work. He bought her, he cleansed her with his own blood, and clothed her with the garments of his salvation. He laid the corner-stone upon the blood-stained rock of Calvary. He made his church the depositary of his precious law, and transferred into her hands in a high and holy sense the work of carrying out his holy designs; that the church should take the work when he left it, and carry it forward to its consummation.
The Lord of righteousness is walking amid the golden candlesticks. And he watches every dim burning lamp of his individual believers, and says, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Could mortals find language more impressive, more to the point, than these words of Christ,—words of Him who says, "I know thy works"? He presents the necessity of obtaining all the zeal and earnestness and energy that has ever glowed in the soul. And those who have cast off responsibility, and are content to have their light flickering and dim, Jesus would arouse to a sense of their obligation to let their light shine. He tells them that if they do not repent of their falling away from their first love, he will come suddenly, and remove their candlestick out of its place. As in the case of the unfruitful tree, the command will be given, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground.
God will accept nothing less than the whole heart. Happy are they who from the commencement of their religious life have been true to their first love, growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sure result of their intercourse and fellowship with their beloved Lord, will be to increase their piety, their purity, their fervor. They are receiving a divine education, and this is illustrated in a life of fervor, of diligence and zeal. They have that faith constantly becoming stronger which works by love and purifies the soul. Theirs is a child-like devotion, developing itself into activities of holiness, giving proof by the most expressive outward act of their inward gratitude, the heart-felt joy and devoted attachment to Jesus their Redeemer, the divine Restorer.
Those who have been growing in harmony with the world in custom, in practice, in thoughts, are not growing in grace. Their prayers become less and less fervent and intelligent. They seem lifeless, and cold, and dead. They must repent. They are called upon to be inwardly grieved and ashamed and confused before the Lord for their want of love. They should blame themselves, and humbly confess before God, and condemn themselves. They must come back, retrace their steps, and do the first works; take hold again firmly in faith where they let go, recover their first zeal, their conscientious, tender love for God and his precious truth. They must pray as earnestly, and watch as diligently, as when the light of Christ's forgiving, pardoning love first fell upon their souls. A severe threatening from God follows if this work is not done. "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place."
If we, like Chorazin and Bethsaida, are exalted to heaven in point of privilege, and, notwithstanding the abundant mercy and loving, tender compassion of God, indifferently regard his great privileges and are not responding to the light and opportunities bestowed, he will come in judgments for impenitence of his churches, and remove the light, and let darkness take its place. Those who are connected with Christ, bearing the yoke of Christ, and lifting his burdens, will be constantly self-denying partakers with Christ of his sufferings. They will be one with Christ, in deep sympathy with Him who loved us and gave himself for us, that he might bring us to his side in heaven. This is the religion that is earnest, deep, firm, and far reaching, and insures rest, and peace, fullness of joy.
The only way to grow in grace is to be interestedly doing the very work Christ has enjoined upon us to do,—interestedly engaged to the very extent of our ability to be helping and blessing those who need the help we can give them. This is the only way we can grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Christians who are constantly growing in earnestness, in zeal, in fervor, in love,—such Christians never backslide. They are becoming more closely identified with the Saviour in all his plans. They are partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Their wisdom is increasing, their ability how to work. They seem to comprehend the largest plans. They are ready to engage in the most stirring enterprises, and they have no room for slothfulness; they cannot find a place for stagnation.
Those who are ever pressing a little closer to the world, and becoming more like them in feelings, in plans, in ideas, have left a space between them and the Saviour, and Satan has pressed his way into this space, and low, worldly-tainted, selfish plans become interwoven with their experience. God's voice is addressing this class, which are not few: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." It is of consequence that you hear attentively and obey. Come into close relationship with Christ. Keep your souls in constant contact with the world, and its customs will become your customs, its practices will become your practices, if you place yourselves where you will see and hear and feel and act as they do.
"Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean." Turn quickly to Jesus Christ. Yield your pride, your self love, your selfish aspirations, your love of the world, which are death to spirituality. Repent quickly. Delay not in deciding, lest you be too late. Elevate your soul's aspirations to higher spheres of action in Christian activities. Those who do this are the only class in our churches that will grow. They will speedily attain the highest moral efficiency and the clearest spiritual perceptions. They will have unusual vigor and steadiness of faith. They will know how to pray and be persevering and earnest in prayer. And all those who are deeply and interestedly engaged in the salvation of others, are the more surely working out their own souls' salvation with fear and trembling. The piety that does not reveal itself in working interestedly for others, will become a form, strengthened, bigoted, self-conceited. Coming in contact with souls for whom Christ has died, seeking to bring them to repentance, and evidencing a love for their souls, will call them out of themselves, so that they will not be exclusively engaged for their own selfish interests, either in temporal pursuits or in spiritual things. God has shown it to be our duty not to live for ourselves. Christ pleased not himself.
The times of ignorance God winked at, but now, with the blazing light of truth shining all around us, with warnings, with reproofs, with increasing light if we will but open our eyes to see it, there is no excuse of any, even the weakest child of God, that they should not disperse light to the world. The four angels are holding the four winds that a special work may be accomplished: the saints of God are to be sealed in their foreheads. Brethren, how long before you will be ready for the seal of God? Every step you advance upon the path which God forbids, toward your own pleasure and in sin, is a step nearer your destruction. Every act of disobedience to the word of the Lord is exposing you to irreparable loss. Every moment of ease, of self-indulgence, secured by you in neglecting the divine admonitions and call to duty in earnest work for the Master, is placing you under the power and control of the prince of darkness. Your candlestick may at any moment be moved out of its place.
Four mighty angels are still holding the four winds of the earth. Terrible destruction is forbidden to come in full. The accidents by land and by sea; the loss of life, steadily increasing, by storm, by tempest, by railroad disaster, by conflagration; the terrible floods, the earthquakes, and the winds will be the stirring up of the nations to one deadly combat, while the angels hold the four winds, forbidding the terrible power of Satan to be exercised in its fury until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. Get ready, get ready, I beseech you, get ready before it shall be forever too late! The ministers of vengeance will pour all the terrible judgments upon a God-forsaken people. The way of obedience is the only path of life. May the Lord help you to see it in time to open your ears, that you may hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
What is my duty? What shall I do to save my children and to save many souls from the coming tempest of wrath unmixed with mercy? God claims every power, every capability of action to be invested in the doing of his work. Talents, possessions, everything that is great and noble in man he calls to be exercised in his work. Duty admits no rival, enters into no compromise with any opposing powers. The most precious friends and relatives must not step in between your duty and your God. The voice of duty is the voice of God in our souls. Obedience to its claims brings us into living personal agreement with the highest law in the universe—brings man into alliance with God.
Let the churches be aroused. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." This message concerns all our churches. You can never employ your faculty of hearing better than in hearkening to hear what the voice of God speaks to you in his word. There is a rich and abundant promise to those who overcome. It is not enough to enter upon this warfare, we must pursue it to the end. We must know nothing of yielding. We must fight the good fight of faith to the very end. To the overcomer is promised the triumphal victory. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Whatever was lost in the fall of Adam is more than restored in redemption. He that sitteth on the throne saith, "Behold, I make all things new." Let us look closely and critically to ourselves. Are not the vows we entered into at our baptism violated? Are we dead to the world and alive unto Christ? Are we seeking those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God? Is the cable cut which anchored us to the eternal Rock? Are we drifting with the current to perdition? Shall we make no effort to press and urge our passage up stream? Let us not hesitate longer, but vigorously apply the oars; and let us do our first works ere we make hopeless shipwreck.
It is our work to know our special failings and sins, which cause darkness and spiritual feebleness, and quenched our first love. Is it worldliness? Is it selfishness? Is it the love of self-esteem? Is it striving to be first? Is it the sin of sensuality that is intensely active? Is it the sin of the Nicolaitans [only believe], turning the grace of God into lasciviousness? Is it the misuse and abuse of great light and opportunities and privileges, making boasted claims to wisdom and religious knowledge, while the life and character are inconsistent and immoral? Whatever it is that has been petted and cultivated until it has become strong and overmastering, make determined efforts to overcome, else you will be lost. It is these cherished sins, abhorrent to God, that make enfeebled moral courage, and leave you to choose to walk apart from God, while you retain a miserable, heartless, outward form. Once the soul was all aglow with love for Jesus; but all this is changed. The great Head who moves in the midst of his candlesticks will never be without a church. There will be faithless ones who will go out from us because they were not of us. There will be apostasies. But "nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." There will be those who are evil, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, who are sensual, who are controlled by the master-worker in all evil, who will have to be separated from the church.
"I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." This labor of purifying the church is a painful work, but one that must not be neglected, if the church would have the commendation of God. But repent, because thou hast left thy first love. Here is plainly presented before us our work as members of the church of Christ. If we are faithless, we shall lose the crown of life and another will take it; for in the dropping out of the faithless the places are supplied by the faithful. If we refuse to let our light shine for the Master, if we do not do the works of God, others will do that very work which we might have done and could have done, but refused to do. When we cease to fulfill our mission, when the candlestick refuses to reflect light, and the great truths committed to us individually in trust for the world, are not given to them, then the candlestick will be removed. "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place." Another will be placed in his stead and will shine. Let prayer be ascending now without delay to Him who walketh in the midst of the golden candlesticks. Take not thy Holy Spirit from us. "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways: and sinners shall be converted unto thee."