Tuesday, October 25, 2016

061. Hast Thou Left Thy First Love?

Chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Revelation contains a series of brief messages to the seven early churches of Christ. The first message was to the church at Ephesus, which was a port city on the Western coast of Turkey facing Greece. The city was known for its temple of Diana (or Artemis, Acts 19:27), and pilgrims came to Ephesus from all over the Mediterranean world to worship the goddess. Listen to the words given to those of the church at Ephesus:

 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou can not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

These individuals showed themselves faithful through their works, and their labor in the name of Christ, and their patience and perseverance. They were dedicated to the truth and did not compromise with the wicked. These individuals were able to detect those who said they were true apostles of Jesus Christ, but who were false apostles. Yet, these individuals were rebuked for leaving their first love, Jesus Christ. They were charged to repent of this offense or their light would be taken away. How can this be? How can a people be commended for their patience in laboring and enduring for Christ's name's sake on one hand, yet also be reprimanded for abandoning Christ on the other?

There are many today who have similarly realized that the leaders of their churches are not true apostles of Jesus Christ. These individuals have gone on to devote themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ, to follow Him alone. They have similarly labored patiently and diligently in His name, seeking His will and endeavoring to perform it. They have sought for the truth and are trying to live in accordance with it. However, similar to the ancient saints of Ephesus, is it possible to do such things, yet also abandon our first love, our relationship with the Lord? How would we know?

1. Do we keep the first commandment?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). Do you love the Lord thy God with all your heart (emotions, feelings)? With all your soul (will)? With all your mind (thoughts)? With all your strength (efforts, labors)? Those are very tall orders. How do you do that consistently? How do you maintain that kind of love on all those dimensions? Is it possible? The adversary will do all he can to divert your love of God away from Him on to other things and people. Do we delight in other things or people more than God? As we idolize things other than God, we are actually breaking this commandment and risk leaving our first love. How can you keep this commandment more diligently and faint not? Paul offered this advice: "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). If you strive to keep this commandment earnestly, the love of God will be with you.

2. Do we keep His other commandments?
Both those commandments spelled out in the scriptures as well as those that you have received through personal revelation? Your obedience to God demonstrates your love for Him: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10). We can all be tempted to break God's commandments: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:14–16). Pray that you will be able to withstand temptation. Pray that you will be able to keep His commandments and therefore show your love for Him. God’s commandments will lead you toward what is good and away from what is evil. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Obedience to His commandments brings true freedom and joy: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:31–32, 36).

3. Do we seek to follow His Spirit or do we follow other voices? 
If you have detected and rejected one set of false apostles, are you now following another? Is Christ your Master and are you striving to know and follow His voice, or do you believe you need a guide, a guru, a healer, or a medium in order to commune with God? If the latter, does this demonstrate a lack of faith in Jesus Christ and are you inserting someone else in between your relationship with Him? Are such practices in accordance with the scriptures or are you dancing in the dark? Are the methods and practices of new age spiritualism (enchantments, divination), necromancy (communicating with the dead), consulters of familiar spirits (mediums), soothsaying, etc. included in the scriptures? Yes they are...but they are included among the pagan, heathen, and occult practices that are to be rejected as they are not of God. There are many willing to teach you the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. To what end? To puff up your ego, your pride, your false sense of greatness. To deceive you into believing you are doing something good and noble, when in reality you are drifting away from your first love, Christ. How can you detect the operation of true spiritual gifts from those that originate from the seemingly legitimate counterfeits proffered by the adversary? Many such individuals believe that they are servants of Christ, yet the fruit of their labors has the exact opposite effect, drawing those they perform their priestcraft upon further away from Christ. Therefore, they are (often unwittingly) among the false prophets, apostles, and teachers who are inspired by the false Christs foretold of long ago (Matthew 24:23; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1). They will lead you along in endless wild goose chases that pull you further and further away from Christ and His words as well as the words of His servants. Paying heed to such sources will erode your understanding and devotion to the Lord and His commandments. Again and again, anything that pulls our devotion away from Christ is orchestrated by the adversary who hates Christ because He cast him from heaven for rebellion. Take the scriptures for your guide, repent and turn to Christ to be healed, put in the effort to get to know the Lord and speak with Him directly through prayer. What is most rare and requires obedience to the light and truth that you have received is to come into contact with a true messenger of salvation. One that will encourage you to repent, humble yourself, seek to serve others, and seek no fame or name for yourself. True messengers orient or reorient others to Christ and to develop a relationship with Him. They do not foster in others a dependency on themselves. We are to receive their messages, but not turn them into an idol. Wrote Nephi: "O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name" (2 Ne 9:41). Only the Lord can save you, follow Him. Make that your personal motto.

4. Do we care for the poor and needy?
Christ said: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). And also: “whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17). King Benjamin taught: "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish" (Mosaic 4:16).

5. Do we love those that are different from us, even our enemies?
Christ said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). “Love one another” is not a mere suggestion, this is actually a commandment. Do you treat others as you would want to be treated? We are to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27–36, Romans 12:20, and Matthew 5:42). Do you find that you are quick to judge and condemn others? Consider God’s love and mercy to you. Should you show similar mercy to others? If you want mercy for yourself, be merciful to others. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:10–11). The second commandment is: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:39).

6. Do we seek the affirmation and love of the world instead of seeking approval from God? 
Christ was misunderstood and rejected because of His obedience to His Father. You will face similar situations as you seek to be obedient to Christ's will: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Christ also taught: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:15–17).

7. Do we forgive our offenders? 
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Not forgiving others their trespasses against you, holding a grudge, or keeping score indicates that you have lost sight of the greatness of the Lord's forgiveness of your sins and your need for His continual grace (see Matthew 18:21–35). We are to forgive until 7 times 70 or an infinite number of times (until our forgiveness is complete). Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Christ taught, “If ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). Forgive everyone, accuse no one.

Do the First Works
The disciples at Ephesus were commanded to "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." They were to repent and return to their first love, the Lord. They were to remember Him and their relationship with Him, and not just focus on their works alone. All our affection and devotion should be placed upon the Lord. He promises “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you” (Jeremiah 29:13). The first works include renewing our faith in Him, repenting, seeking baptism (or re-baptism) as needed, and then seeking for the Holy Ghost to be restored to us. As you focus more devoutly your life around His ways, he promises to lead you in "the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). If you have found yourself having left your first love, who is Christ, remember Him and do the first works...He is waiting with open arms to receive you. He loves you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks James, I received the spirit through your efforts in researching and presenting these truths. I marvel at how the Bible and Book of Mormon compliment one another (seven churches - Mosiah 25: 19-23). We are blessed that believe both are the Word of God. Keep sharing, my friend.

    Your brother in Christ.

    Roy Moore
    Monroe, UT


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