What causes some Christians to grow stale in their faith over time?
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
Leaving our First Love
When you read the letters Paul wrote while in prison, you’d never know he was behind bars. These letters read like those of a free, rich and joyful man who has everything going his way. The truth is that as a bond-slave of Christ, he had no “way” of his own. He was all about his Master’s interests, wherever they took him. He was free because the truth of the gospel had released him from the bondage of sin and self. He was rich because he had learned to trust in God’s grace, and that grace just kept coming and coming. Paul knew full well that anything good in himself had been given to him from God, and he had come to know how much God loves to shower good things on His children.
His letter to the church at Ephesus is a prime example. God had blessed the believers there just as He had blessed Paul, but they were living like paupers. They understood and accepted their salvation-justification by grace, but they had failed to grasp the fact that God’s grace was just as responsible for their sanctification. Human nature never wants to admit its sorry state-completely dependent on God. We want to think that we needed God’s grace for our salvation, but we’ve got it from here. We’re convinced that we are intelligent enough, diligent enough, and dependable enough to do what is asked of us and thus, to please God.
This appears to have been the case in the church at Ephesus. He starts out his letter by stressing that everything good in his life and theirs came from God. It was God who had decided to call Paul as an apostle. It was God Who, before the foundation of the world, had already blessed them with every conceivable blessing from heaven. It was also God who had chosen them to be one with Him through their union with Christ. God chose to do this so that they would be holy and blameless before Him. Yet, they were acting as though none of this, apart from their salvation, was true.
AS I SEE IT
In verses 18 and 19 of Chapter One, Paul prays that their spiritual eyes would be opened so they could see the magnitude of all that they had already received and inherited through God’s mighty power. Paul goes on to remind them that it was God Who had brought them from death to life and would, in the ages to come, make them an eternal public display of the exceeding riches of His grace as seen in His kindness toward them right now. He seems to be pleading with them not to wait to display His glorious grace. Do it right now! God had already given them everything they would ever need. Paul wanted them to live their lives now in light of what was already true.
In the second chapter of Revelation, Jesus evaluates the church at Ephesus (about thirty years after Paul’s letter). He commends them for several things, but then came the rebuke. They had left their first love. As I have been contemplating this, I can’t help but wonder if the reason they had departed was due to the same thing Paul saw thirty years earlier. They had failed to appreciate the magnitude of God’s continual grace toward them and their dependence on it.
Take a close look at the church today and you’ll see the same thing. Its members are in bondage to a host of addictions while God’s grace has set us free. Millions are striving to become something God has, by His grace, already made them to be. They are busy with their religious activity to the point of exhaustion, while God wants their hearts, not their best efforts.
Until we come to see ourselves as God sees us (apart from Him), we’ll keep deluding ourselves into thinking that man is basically good, and with God’s help, we can become righteous enough to earn His acceptance. God, however says that everyone born on this earth as a descendant of Adam, is worthless, useless and good for nothing (Rom. 3:10-18). We can’t be improved, made better, or given a makeover. The old must go so that the new can come, and the new is completely from God. It is nothing less than the life of Christ Himself indwelling us, working through our bodies and our unique personalities to accomplish His will.
It’s easy to leave your first love if you’re convinced that now that you’re saved, you’ve got it from here because we will consistently fall short, our efforts will drain us, and our love will eventually grow cold.