I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent
- Revelation 2:2-5
Let's be honest, it's not easy to keep our heart where it needs to be. Amid all the things we have to do and still have yet to do, the many unannounced joys and sorrows of this life, and the scores of people whom we love and must learn to love, it is just plain hard to keep our eyes upon Jesus. Surely, Jesus understands, doesn't He? He knows our frame intimately, does He not?
Yes, He surely does. But understanding is one thing, and accepting it is another.
We are reminded of this in what our Lord speaks to the Apostle John while on the island of Patmos concerning the church of Ephesus. Having been commended for their diligence in both deed and doctrine, noting their tireless pursuit of truth without growing weary, our Lord cuts short the praises and goes straight to the heart, literally. "But this I have against you, that you have left your first love."
More important to Jesus than our outward acts of obedience and zeal is our love of Him as foremost in our hearts. True, it isn't possible to engage in these acts in the first place if we didn't have that love from which to begin. But it is also true and oh so easy, to do those deeds life before but have lost that love that we had in the beginning.
Consider your spouse, the one to whom you professed your undying love in years past, but how easy it was over the years to allow the busyness of life, work, and kids, crowd out your affections. Sure, you started right--the cards, gifts, dates, acts of service--and even over the years you have been pretty good to keep them up--well, ok, at least the service part. But to what does that point? Does not at least in some way point to the priority our spouse has in our heart?
Now what of Christ? Do you remember the former days, when after being enlightened you were "on-fire" for Him? Were warmed just by the mention of His name? Were delighted to awake in the morning just so that you might call upon His name? Even forgoing sleep just so that you might talk to Him more? Him, yes, Jesus...what has happened to Him in your heart?
Well, the encouraging truth is, He, at least, has not changed. So often in young love or relationships we have at a young age is that the fear sets in, "What if they don't love me any more?" But you cannot have this fear concerning our Savior at all, "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever" and that includes His love towards us. Who is our Savior? "To Him who loved us and released us from our sins by His blood! (Revelation 1:5). He can no sooner stop loving us than forget the sacrifice of His blood which pleads for our forgiveness.
So, Praise Christ for that, literally. But what of our love for Him? Oh, how we struggle! We know that we know that our hearts are not "in love" with Him, but yet we do nothing about it! What are we to do?
Christ in Revelation 2, tells us. He tells us to "repent and do the deeds you did at first". See, the first step is to acknowledge a lack of love in our hearts toward Him, and to plead His forgiveness. To get on your knees and cry out to Him! To confess that your heart hasn't been in the right place, and has grieved His heart. That you haven't just missed the standard, but have turned away from His forever loving heart! Oh, how our hearts should come alive again to know that He, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness! This is our loving God!
...but why "our knees"? Did you stumble over that bit? Some must have. Surely, they are right to add that one prayer posture over another doesn't gain special access to God. So, why then add "get on your knees"? Well, this is where we go to the next step. The second half of Christ's charge is for us "to do the deeds you did at first". And simply, it's not that we are mirroring basely the actions we did before, but that we are mirroring the heart that set our hands and feet into action like it did before.
How hard was it to make yourself kneel when you proposed to your wife-to-be? It wasn't, and it will never be for the many generations of the future that see behind that posture a humble, tender loving heart! Your body just responded in kind to your heart! And it is for this reason, too, that we are to be reminded of our heart toward Christ, the heart that was willing to do whatever whenever wherever the Lord required, because we loved Him so! Our bodies need to respond in kind to the heart that is in love with Christ.
So, how long ago was it, since you stayed up late to speak to the Lord? Why not do that again? How long has it been since you cuddled up with letters of His Word to hear His voice? When was the last time you went to Lord's Day services and had the thought, "I'm hear to worship God" and not let the busyness of life crowd your mind? Why not mediate and memorize His Word, instead of the latest song or funny joke? Now is the time for us to act, to return to our "first love" so that would not have to find out what Jesus means by having our lampstand removed ("or else I am coming...").
These are the deeds Christ is calling us to do all over again, the deeds that spoke of our love for our Jesus. Repentance is the first, and the rest your heart will remember quite well...