It’s wonderful to fall in love, to be loved, and to love someone else. But we also know how easily love can cool down. That can happen in our attitude toward the Lord too. That’s what happened to the church in Ephesus.
The Ephesian church began during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-21). During his third journey, Paul spent three years there, and the church in Ephesus became his signature work (Acts 19:1-41). Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos labored there. For a time, Timothy headed up the work at Ephesus, and later, the apostle John. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul schooled them on the riches of Christ and the glory of being part of His Church.
Diagnosing a Love That Has Grown Cold
Rekindling Our Love for God
Years later when John wrote the book of Revelation, he commended the Ephesians for their hard work, perseverance, purity, and persistence amid persecution.
"Nevertheless I have this against you," said the Lord, "that you have left your first love" (Revelation 2:4). The Amplified Bible says, "You have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me." Where did their love go?
Whenever we read Revelation 2:4, we need to ask if we too have allowed our love for the Lord to diminish. Do we love Him more than ever, or have we lost the depth of our first love?
Diagnosing a Love That Has Grown Cold
It probably shocked the Ephesians to hear our Lord’s assessment, for their love had cooled by degrees and they hadn’t realized it. That’s what happens to marriages and friendships. It’s a danger in all our relationships. How, then, do we know if our love for Christ is draining away?
You might have lost your first love if you no longer spend much time in regular conversation with the Lord. Couples drift apart when they become too busy to spend time together. This can happen between friends, and it is true of our relationship with God. Imagine the Lord sitting at the kitchen table, waiting to meet with you every morning; but you’re too busy. You rush into the day and leave Him sitting there, as it were.
You might have lost your first love if you’ve allowed habits to overtake you contrary to His Word. Psalm 97:10 says, "You who love the LORD, hate evil!" According to Jesus, obedience is a primary way of expressing our love for Him (John 14:15).
You might have lost your first love if you’re not anticipating His return whenever you view a beautiful formation of clouds and sunshine. The apostle Paul spoke of the reward belonging to those "who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
You might have lost your first love if you’ve not recently told the Lord you love Him. Psalm 18:1 says, "I will love You, O Lord, my strength."
"Lord… You know that I love You," proclaimed Peter (John 21:17).
Rekindling Our Love for God
If our love for the Lord has slackened, how do we rekindle it? Jesus gave a simple formula to the Ephesians in Revelation 2:5: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works."
Step One: Remember
Thomas Goodwin, the Puritan preacher, wrote a letter to his son, saying, "When I was threatening to become cold in my ministry, and when I felt Sabbath morning coming, and my heart not filled with amazement at the grace of God, or when I was making ready to dispense the Lord’s Supper, do you know what I used to do? I used to take a turn up and down among the sins of my past life, and I always came down with a broken and a contrite heart, ready to preach, as it was preached in the beginning, the forgiveness of sins."1
William Barclay said, "We shall not lose the glow if we take as our motto: ‘I will not forget what He did for me.’"2
When counselors want to rekindle the love of a married couple, they often find it helpful to ask the husband and wife about the early days of their courtship, to remember what brought them together in the first place.
As it relates to the Lord, remember when you met your First Love. Remember the exuberance when He saved you from hell by His own suffering, when you discovered eternal life. Remember how wonderful it felt to walk with Him in abiding fellowship.
Step Two: Repent
Sometimes we allow busyness to erode our love. Sometimes it’s bitterness. Sometimes it’s a lost battle with sinful tendencies. Whatever the cause, we can’t correct it without expressing our sorrow and sin to God.
Step Three: Renew
Renew your commitment to God. Rededicate yourself to worshiping Him, walking with Him, and working for Him. Rediscover His purpose for your life and wake up every morning with a commitment to fulfill His will for your life for that day.
On December 25, 1766, a boy was born into a very poor home in Wales. His parents named him Christmas— Christmas Evans. He grew up with little guidance, and he lived a wild life until his conversion at age 17. When his life changed, some of his ungodly friends ganged up on him, beat him, and destroyed one of his eyes. After his recovery, he began preaching the Gospel; and his sermons took a great hold on people. He was known as the one-eyed preacher.
In his early years, he battled a group of argumentative Christians; and in the process, he grew disillusioned and lost the joy of his love for Jesus. "I was weary of a cold heart toward Christ," he wrote, "and His atonement and the work of His Spirit—of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer and in study; especially when I remembered that for fifteen years before that heart had been burning within me as if I were on the way to Emmaus with Jesus.
"A day came at last, a day ever to be remembered by me, when I was on my way from Dolgelly to Machynlleth…. I felt it my duty to pray, though my heart was hard and my spirit worldly. After I had commenced praying in the name of Jesus, I soon felt as if the shackles were falling off, and as if the mountains of snow and ice were melting within me…. I felt my whole spirit relieved of some great bondage, as if it were rising up from the grave of a severe winter…. Thus I gave myself up wholly to Christ, body and soul, talents and labors—all my life—every day, and every hour that remained to me, and all my cares I entrusted into the hands of Christ."3
His love for Jesus came alive again, and out of his personal revival came a national revival that swept across Wales.
If your love for Christ has ebbed, remember His cross and the joy of being redeemed by His blood. Repent of bitterness, busyness, and the sins that have damped your love. And renew your commitment to walk with Him, to work with Him, and most of all, to worship Him as your supreme Lord.
Your love reveals your heart. It’s time to return to your first love and rekindle a personal relationship with Jesus that will renew the joy of the Lord in you.
This article originally appeared in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
1F. W. Boreham, A Bunch of Everlastings (New York: Abingdon, 1963), 223.
2William Barclay, Letters to the Seven Churches (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 12.
3James Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians (Anderson, IN: The Warner Press, 1911), 205-206.