January 19, 2018

Death by Lovelessness

By Matt Recker

Revelation 2:4: Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Many churches die a slow, cold death. The significant and unvarnished divine diagnosis by the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the church of Ephesus is that they had left their first love. In spite of his words commending this church, this simple statement by Jesus dominates His evaluation of the Ephesian assembly. Yes, the Ephesians were diligent in their service, disciplined in their sacrifice, and stedfast in their doctrinal stand. They repudiated and exposed false apostles and rightly hated false doctrine, which Jesus Himself hated. But their zeal did not compensate for their lovelessness. They were faithful in fundamental doctrine, but they failed in the fundamental of love.

This is akin to visiting the doctor and having him tell you your eyesight and hearing are great; your sense of smell and taste are working impeccably, but you have lung cancer or heart disease and you face death if you do not radically change. This would be the very diagnosis you do not want to hear!

This otherwise admirable church had departed, deserted, and disregarded the lively affections of honeymoon sweetness that once burned in their hearts: a love for Jesus Christ, for God’s people, and for a world lost in sin. Like the disciples who once left their nets, this church left their first love. This was not an accident. It was a conscious decision.

The Ephesian church was greatly privileged by the Lord. They had been planted by the Apostle Paul, pastored by Timothy and then watered by the Apostle John for thirty years. They were direct recipients of at least four books written by Apostles: Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and The Revelation. They were likely among the first to read the Gospel of John, 1, 2 and 3 John since John was probably living there when those books were written. Yet they had grown cold and were dangerously close to death. Jesus Himself said He would remove their candlestick out of their place, except they repent. Could this be a foremost reason for churches ceasing to be a true lighthouse for Jesus Christ in the world? Is this a primary reason that churches close their doors? Can churches become dark and die simply from being cold as ice from lovelessness? The answer is an emphatic yes. If this privileged church could descend to that condition, we must truly search our hearts and see if we are there as well.

In Matthew 24:12 Jesus gives us a key reason for the waning of love. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” This world system with its strong wind of pollution ever blows on the loving hearts of Christians. The god of this world attempts to chill our hearts like one cools hot soup. Many Demas’ leave the love of Christ for the love of this world. With a broken heart Paul wrote, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” Demas did not love God but rather He loved the things of this world. 1 John 2:15 further states, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It seems that others in Ephesus were following Demas’ example.

Beloved, a crying need within fundamentalism is simply this: we need to love Jesus. But how? Paul passionately wrote, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Corinthians 5:14). This constraining love was not first Paul’s love for Christ, but Christ’s love for him and for a lost world. Paul was overwhelmed that one would die for a world dead in sin. Christ’s death-defying love along “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” put Paul in a vice grip of compassion that constrained him (Romans 5:5). As John also wrote, “we love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We will only love Him by believing and bathing in the truth that we are loved by Him.

This word “constrain” is used in the Gospels by one who is taken hold of a fever or disease (Matthew 4:24; Luke 4:38). When we are controlled and gripped by a fever we cannot do what we normally would. Do you know how to never leave His love? We must maintain a sense that His love has taken hold of us much like a life threatening, terminal, incurable disease. Would that we were like the Shulamite woman who claimed, “I am sick of love.” This is the best kind of fever to have. His love changes our diet and desires so that we cry out for Him and His Word.

This word “constrain” is also used of one being surrounded by an army on every side (Luke 19:43). Do you know how to never leave His love? Know you are hemmed in by His heavenly host of love and there is no escape. Feel that you are encircled by Christ’s compassion and trapped by love’s fence with no way out. This will be the first way we continue as His light in this dark world. Just now, let us follow Jesus’ counsel to assure we will maintain our light: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (Rev. 2:5a) Beloved, let us love our Lord Jesus Christ!

Matt Recker is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in New York City.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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