TO OVERCOME THE LEAVING OF THE FIRST LOVE
The Lord charges us to overcome all kinds of religion, and in these seven epistles He also charges us to overcome some other matters. The first thing we are charged to overcome is the leaving, the missing, the losing, of the first love (Rev. 2:4-5a). Many in Catholicism are absolutely for the Catholic Church, but they do not love the Lord or His holy Word. They do not say, “The Bible says.…” Instead, they say, “The pope says…” or “The church says.…” When they say “the church,” they mean the Catholic Church. This is why the Lord Jesus in Revelation 2 says that Jezebel calls herself a prophetess and teaches and leads His slaves astray (v. 20). This indicates that the Roman Catholic Church is a self-appointed prophetess, one who presumes to be authorized by God to speak for God. Those who are loyal Catholics respect only what the pope says, what the church says. They do not care for what the Bible says. This indicates that they do not have any love given to the Lord.
If we love someone, we surely want to hear his voice, his word. On the other hand, if we do not love a person, we do not want to hear his voice, his word. A number of Catholics are like this toward the Lord. They have Christ in name, but they do not have any personal affection or loving element within them toward Christ. It is also like this with the tares in Protestantism, who are not saved. They have no element of love toward the Lord personally.
I must testify that I love the Lord. I received the Lord sixty-seven years ago in 1925. After all of these years, I feel that the Lord is still so intimate to me and that I am so close to Him. I do not care for any religion. I care for this dear One, this living One. Whenever I mention His name, I am happy. When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we should do is say, “O Lord Jesus. O Lord Jesus.” It is better to add, “I love You.” We should say, “O Lord Jesus, I love You. O Lord Jesus, I love You.” How intimate, how sweet, and how affectionate this is!
Our God, our Christ, our Lord, is not only loving but also very affectionate. He is full of affection. God has “fallen in love” with us, His chosen and redeemed people. If you say, “O Lord Jesus, I love You,” right away you will fall in love with Him. Quite often I would not do some things, not merely because they are not right or because I fear God but because I love Him. I would say, “Lord Jesus, I love You, so I cannot do this.” I just cannot do certain things, because I love Him.
We need to overcome the loss of the first love. The church in Ephesus was a good church. It was an orderly church and a formal church (Rev. 2:2-3). Surely we would like such a church, but such an orderly church had left the first love (v. 4). The Greek word for first is the same as that translated best in Luke 15:22. Our first love toward the Lord must be the best love for Him. When the prodigal son in Luke 15 came back home, the father told the servants to bring the best robe. The best here is the first.
Now I would like us to consider what the first love is. Many Christians think that the first love is the love with which we loved the Lord Jesus when we were saved. I would not say that this is wrong, but it is not adequate. The first love which is the best love is much more than this.
The first love is the love which is God Himself. In the Bible we are told that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). In the whole universe, only God is love. The Lord charges the husbands to love their wives. But it is impossible for the husbands to love their wives in themselves because we are not love. There is only one Person who is love—God.
God is not only the best but also the first. In the whole universe, God is first. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God.…” This is the opening of the Bible. God is the beginning. God is the first. Colossians tells us that our Christ must have the first place. He must have the preeminence (1:18b). Christ must be the first. What is it to recover the first love? To recover the first love is to consider the Lord Jesus as the first in everything. If we make Christ everything in our life, that means we have overcome the loss of the first love.
We need to consider our situation. Is Christ the first in everything with us? The first item we have to overcome is the loss of Christ as the first, as the best, as the real love. The failure of Israel was that they forsook God, the fountain of living waters, and the degradation of the church is the leaving of the first love. Actually, to leave the first love is just to leave Christ, not taking Him as the first in everything.
Christ should be first not only in big things but also in small things. When the brothers buy a necktie, they should give Christ the first place. If I wore a certain kind of tie in a very worldly style, I would not be able to speak for the Lord in my ministry. Even for the sake of my conscience, I cannot wear certain styles of ties. The sisters should give Christ the first place in the way that they style their hair. If the sisters give Christ the preeminence in the way that they style their hair, this means that they are taking Him as their first love. Sisters who have a worldly hair style do not have Christ as their first love. They are not giving Him the preeminence. We should give Christ the preeminence in the way that we dress and the way that we style our hair. When we give Christ the preeminence in everything, this is to recover the loss of the first love.
Some think that the first love was our love for the Lord at the beginning of our Christian life when we were saved. But when I was saved, although I was very grateful to the Lord, I did not have such a strong heart to love Christ as I do today. Sixty-seven years ago I was saved and I loved the Lord Jesus, but not as much as I do today. Thus, the first love must be to have God, Christ, the Lord, our Master, as the first One in everything.
At times when I am getting dressed, I talk to the Lord by saying, “Lord, do You like this shirt? Do You like this pair of shoes?” Such a talk is very intimate with the Lord as the first love. To recover the first love is to give Him the preeminence in great things as well as in small things. The husbands should give Christ the preeminence in the way that they talk to their wives. We need to ask the Lord to forgive us for all the things in which we do not give Him the preeminence.
If we love the Lord Jesus in such a way and to such an extent, we will never stay in the three “isms.” We will never remain in any religion. We will love all the Christians, but we will hate any “anity.” We should love all the Christians, but we should hate the religions in which they are. Because the Lord hates these “isms,” we also should hate them. We should hate what the Lord hates (cf. Rev. 2:6).
The Lord said to let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest. Then when He comes back, the first thing He will do is to send angels to bind up the tares in bundles and throw them into the lake of fire. The sons of the kingdom, the wheat, constitute the kingdom, whereas the sons of the evil one, the tares, have formed the outward appearance of the kingdom, which is today’s Christendom. The Lord hates this outward appearance, so we must overcome it.
We also need to overcome in the kind of ties we wear, in the way that we style our hair, and in all of the small things. In all things we should give the preeminence to Christ. If we do this, our Christian life will be different, and our feeling will be different. Throughout the day, we will be happy in the Lord. When we are joyful in and with the Lord, everything is pleasant. On the other hand, when we are not joyful in the Lord and with the Lord, everything is unpleasant. The enjoyment of the Lord as grace is with those who love Him (Eph. 6:24). Thus, the first thing we have to overcome is the leaving of the first love. The leaving of the first love is the source of and main reason for the failure of the church throughout the ages.
(The Overcomers, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)