Being an apologist means never having to say you're sorry.
“…because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:4b-5a, emphasis mine)
I thought it was first faith. As in, first we believe and then “add works to our faith.” As in, works are to come after our faith as a means of proving what’s in and on our heart. I’m being semantically spurious here. Forgive me.
What Jesus is saying here (to the church at Ephesus), by referencing our “first love” prior to “the first works” is that anything we do for Him is to be done out of a motive of love. This is the real litmus test as to whether or not what we do will last—either temporally or eternally. It’s the love behind it.
It could be argued that the things of the interior, things like gratitude, acknowledgement, worship, etc., are works as well. If not, what could those “first works” be to which Jesus is referring in this most apocalyptic of books? Because when we think of works, of activity and ambition and above-ground indication, we think of the things that everyone else can see. Why is this?? (yes, double question mark) Is it because we don’t see God? Because He hasn’t effectively blessed the work of our hands? The first part of Revelation 2, verse 4 says “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee”. Sure, the church is real effective doing things like organizing meetings and fundraisers and concerts and filling stadiums. But how effective is it at instilling a sense of community amidst its members that will tell in the darkest hours of the soul? If you have someone you can call at any hour of the day or night without worrying about what they’ll think either way, then that church is more-than-likely grounded in love. If the love that Jesus has for you is being refracted through its members the same, then that church is doing it right.
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
“But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:11)
From one extreme to the other. The further out in space you get from the earth, the fewer the molecules in the vacuum. While they may be superheated from the sun, you’d still freeze to death because the particles are so few and far between. I feel that this is an apt analogy for much of the body of Christ nowadays. Because many Christians opt for lukewarm to cold status and it shows.
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16) This isn’t an excuse to be cold, mind you. Neither state is where you want to be.
So then how do we stoke the fires of our “first love”? It takes effort. It might’ve come easy when you first met the Lord. The gratitude and praise and worship and love breaking through the ice floes of the Winter of your spiritual death. But, now that you’ve lived for a while in the light of His love, the planet turning on its axis, it behooves us to build and maintain the fire through the inevitable darkness that we’ll encounter. Dial it down. Tell God the most minute (particle-sized) thing that you perceive. Start small, tell Him you love Him. The cascade of particulars will conflagrate into a full-blown bonfire of a Christ-like life.
Y’know, we really should forget about doing anything on the outside until we’re glowing from within. Until our motives are truly purified. God doesn’t need another camp meeting or outreach program or whatnot because He can work on the individual where they’re at. Sure, He works in miraculous ways at retreats and through various sub-ministries, but it’s folly to think that He needs those things in order to get Kingdom business done.
He needs us. And the more we’re doing the “first works” of our “first love”, the more He’ll need us. Can I say that? I just did.
“Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until the eventide. Inspire all my thoughts. Pervade all my imaginations. Suggest all my decisions. Lodge in my soul’s most inward citadel, and order all my doings. Be with me in silence and in my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude. In the freshness of the morning and the weariness of the evening. Give me grace at all times to rejoice in Thy mysterious companionship.” John Baillie