Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“I have something against you because you have forsaken your first love.”
Jesus, to the Pastor in Ephesus, in Revelation 2:4
When we start our journey with Jesus, we look at all others in the kingdom of God as better and wiser than ourselves. We look up to everybody who has been in Christ before us, and we are willing to receive from them the counsel they can give. Just coming out of the darkness of sin, we are acutely aware of the fact that we know nothing, and that we need the help and guidance of others who escaped sin and came to the Lord before us.
Then, as time passes and we pursue the righteousness of God, we grow in His knowledge. And growing in His knowledge, it must happen that we begin to notice faults among the saints we formerly held on a pedestal. In the beginning, this can be a troubling experience, and often the young ones in Christ condemn themselves and think they are feeling evil things when their spirits begin to discern errors where they saw none before. They tell themselves they shouldn’t think such thoughts about others in Christ, when the Spirit of God begins to show them things they have not seen about members of the body.
This growth in the Spirit can be a most difficult time in a young believers’s life, akin to the “awkward age” of human teen-age years, when children begin to have to deal with adult matters without having the benefit of adult experience and knowledge. Nevertheless, for those who sincerely pursue the righteousness of God after they are converted, this trial of one’s heart is an unavoidable reality.
What I discovered when I went through this trial as a young believer surprised me. While I was in sin, when I discovered someone was not what I thought he should be, I would turn against him. The truth about him affected my attitude toward him; it affected my feelings, and I could not feel the affection for him that I previously felt. But in Christ, what I was pleasantly surprised to learn is that a brother or sister’s errors did not affect the love I had for them at all. The love remained, even after I saw their fault. I found that, in my heart, they were still on a pedestal because they belonged to God, because He had loved them and sanctified them. Nothing they did caused me to love them less.
In Revelation 2, Jesus was somewhat displeased with the otherwise wonderful pastor in Ephesus because the doctrine of certain men who claimed to be sent by God had caused that pastor to lose his first love for them. This pastor was wise, patient, devoted to Christ, and hard-working, but the loss of his first love was such a danger to the well-being of the body of Christ in Ephesus that Jesus threatened to take the congregation away from him if he didn’t regain that lost love.
We must hold on to our first love when we see faults in one another, and we will retain our first love of the brethren if we stay filled with the Spirit, “for the love of God is poured out within our hearts by the holy Spirit which is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). God loves all His children, even the bad ones. And if we, in our hearts, leave no door open for them to repent, we are not like our heavenly Father, and we cannot be useful to Him in restoring lost sheep to the fold. Suppose those false apostles in Ephesus were to repent, and were forgiven by Christ, but then, the pastor could not minister to them because he had no more love or respect for them? He would be of no more use to the saints because the love of God could not flow from Christ through him to them. That is why Jesus commanded this good man to repent, and threatened to take the congregation away from him if he didn’t.
Next Time: Your First Love, part two