WORKSHOP ON THE RAPTURE N°7
This teaching is the 7th part in a series of nine. Please read the other 8 parts.
Deut 5:28-29 "The Lord heard you when you spoke to me and the Lord said to me, "I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!"
Here we see the people in their first love, receiving the testimony of God Himself. We know the story of the people of Israel and how their end was. How then to remain in the first love, beloved? That's the whole problem.
The Difference between putting the word of God into practice and the first love
In Revelation 2, the Lord said to the church of Ephesus: I know your deeds... The brethren of Ephesus were doing many things for God, whereas the Lord reproached them for the lost of their first love. First love goes a little bit beyond the putting into practice of the word, it is the fact of doing it with joy, with zeal, with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength. Deut 11:13 "So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today - to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul ..." There is a difference between just putting God's word into practice and loving God with all your heart. First love goes beyond the putting of God’s word into practice.
Saying that the first love is different from simply putting the word of God into practice is somewhat surprising. But this element is very important, which we do not think very often about. God did not reproach the Church of Ephesus for not putting into practice some aspects of the word of God. Instead, God even praised them, telling them: you do this, you do that ... If we are to talk about putting into practice, we would say that these brothers put God's word into practice. But the Lord reproached them for losing their first love. He did not reproach them for things like theft or adultery, etc...
The Link between putting the word of God into practice and first love
We now understand that we can put the word of God into practice without having the first love. Those brothers did well, really well, yet the Lord reproached them for something, the loss of their first love. If we limit ourselves to the aspect of practice of the word of God, everyone would make an effort to put the word of God into practice. But now that we understand that it is different from the first love, I think it is the first love itself we must seek, and not only the putting into practice of the word of the Lord. For the former can go without the latter while the latter can only go with the former. And there’s no reason why you should have the first love without putting the word of God into practice, meanwhile you can put God's word into practice, without having the first love. This is a very important element.
Rev 2:1-3 "To the angel of the Church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary."
If we stop there, we would see that the Lord approves and appreciates the work of these brothers. Just like the passage that the brothers have read for us, in which Moses appreciates the people to have done the work, to have done it well, and to have done it according to what God had commanded. So they had the first love, our brother also cited the case of Saul who became very angry when he realized that people were playing with God, so he had the first love. Here, speaking first of all of work, God approves their work: I know your deeds, your hard work… And when the Lord says he knows their work is to say that the work is not bad. The Lord adds that: ... and your perseverance. The Lord is not talking about perseverance in lies telling or laziness, but in hard work, a proof that these people were working. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Here, before talking about the abandonment of the first love, the Lord first spoke of work, the practice of His word. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent.
One may ask here: but what is it that the Lord earlier approved just to speak here again about first works a little below? Because he did not reproach them above for the fact that they were not doing anything. He only reproach them for the abandonment of the first love. And now, He said: Repent and do the things you did at first. I think it is easier to understand here that it is not the practice of the word of God as the sister raised, but rather in the manner in which this practice was done. From the beginning these people were doing the same things but with great love for God, much zeal, much joy. Whereas now they are doing the same things, but with a little less liveliness, less enthusiasm, less zeal. They lost the passion of the beginning but still continue to do these things.
These brothers really did a lot for the Lord. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people. Getting right up to the point of chasing the wicked from the assembly, is something that many cannot do today for fear of losing tithes and offerings. This is a proof that these people were practicing the word. Except that with time, although always putting God's word into practice, the zeal with which they did it, the commitment with which they did it and the flame of love had dropped. Although things were being done, they were not done in the same way. The Lord tells them: Repent and do the things you did at first. In reality, there is no work to speak of putting the word of God into practice, that these people did from the beginning and were no longer doing. But the way the first works were done from the onset, it was the way the Lord wanted, with great zeal, great joy, great commitment and great love. These same works are being done now, but no more in the same way. Therefore, God can call their attention to the fact that this first love has disappeared by drawing their attention to the way the works are being done. He encourages them to love Him with all their heart while they put His word into practice, to do it as from the beginning because initially, they loved Him with all their heart. Even though by routine these brothers remained in the work, their love had dropped. And even as the little love which was still there led them to do these works that the Lord approved, the momentum had changed. We can really conclude that putting God's word into practice is really different from the first love.
We can put God's word into practice without having the first love. We can do it with a zeal already weaken by discouragement, a pale zeal. As the brother said, look at a people who remained in the desert to perish, who had yet done an irreproachable job in the beginning, as the Lord had recommended them. When the first love is there, things are well done. Without the first love, we can still do things; even do them well, but not exactly as God wants. We will understand better when we study the seven Churches. If we want to understand the concept of first love, then we should forget the fact that we are already putting God's word into practice, because the Church of Ephesus was doing that, but in the meantime, they had already lost their first love.
The sincerity of the soul is equally a characteristic of first love. During this phase, one manifests his love, his zeal with all his heart. We offer to the Lord what we have as precious.
Luke 7:36-38 "Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."
How to know that one has lost the first love?
This is when we begin to become cold with respect to the things of God. This is when we begin to become lukewarm towards the Lord, when we are no longer active as before. The first love is when one’s obedience to God is total, and to know that we have lost it, that's when things start to go slowly. When to obey God, we begin to ask questions: why does the Lord ask us to do such a thing? You start thinking about yourself, wanting to please yourself a bit. When we become big in our own eyes, Samuel said, when you were little in your own eyes.... When we do no longer behave like a child before God.
When we then become gradually big in our own eyes, when the zeal, the desire to meditate, to sing for God decrease, it is a proof that the first love is dying out. The people of Israel after crossing the Red Sea, sang to God, praised God. But when that time is over, we hardly sing for God, we hardly meditate. We now offer the crumbs of our time to God. And this is another proof that our first love is dying out. When we pray less, when we no longer intercede for our brothers, our leaders, when we think of God only when we are in trouble, the first love is no longer there.
We also noted the zeal of Solomon at the beginning. In his love for his God, he was ready to do everything for the Lord in the beginning. But later, when he turned away, that love and zeal for the Lord disappeared.
In the Bible, we have many cases of people who started well and eventually abandon their first love. How to maintain this first love? How to avoid falling into the trap of discouragement? By comparing our early works to the present ones, we can know if we have lost our first love. Let us examine ourselves, let’s examine our present works, let’s examine our first works, after this examination, we can know if we are still in the first love or if we have turned away.
The notion of fiancé mentioned above helps us to understand this concept of first love. When we were studying the teaching on marriage, we brought it out. If the couple were living in marriage as fiancés, they would never have been any problem in marriage; they would never have been divorce. This means that if the couple lived in marriage as they lived when they were fiancés, they would never be divorce, because during the short moments of engagement, it is really the first love that is lived, where one burns with love for the other. Once in marriage, the first love disappears, and routine sets in. After the first love, it is even the second that begins to disappear, after that love completely disappears. That's why people get to divorce!
You rarely will see people who found themselves in marriage without ever loving themselves, except in the case of forced marriages, where a woman is caught and sent in marriage without her consent. We are talking here about the case of people who made their choices by themselves, who accepted themselves. So when you see them divorce, you ask yourself: did these people at least once love each other? The answer is yes. There was a time when they loved each other to the point where if you had tried to interfere in their affairs anyhow, you would have been a problem, that is to say they really loved each other. But what actually happened between that time and that of divorce? The First love had disappeared with time. If people knew how to maintain their first love, they would never be any divorce. It is the same principle between God and us. From the beginning, we loved the Lord, we experienced pure love, a serious love for Him. But with time, we allow this love to disappear, until it disappears completely.
Another sign of the loss of first love are murmurs. Once you begin to murmur against God, know that you have lost your first love. It goes the same with couples. When they are fiancés and love each other, you will never see one murmuring against the other, it is total love. When in marriage, after a few weeks or a few months, one begins to murmur against the other, or both begin to murmur, it shows that the first love has disappeared.
In the first love, there is not a single occasion to murmur against God, everything is fine; there is no moment for murmurs. So whenever there is grumbling, it means that the first love has disappeared. As much as you find yourself murmuring, just know that you have not returned to first love yet. That's at least something that can help us return to our first love and be sure that we have returned to it.
Phinehas was animated by an ardent and sincere zeal. He had an ardent love for his God, and manifested this by his zeal.
Numbers 25:1-9 "Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. 2They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel. 4Then the Lord said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel." 5So Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor." 6And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; 8and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. 9And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand."
Romans 12:11 "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord."
The Lord commands us to be fervent and zealous for Him.
When the first love is lost, negligence begins to set in. And when negligence sets in, we are cursed before God. Because the Lord says in Jeremiah 48:10 "A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord's work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed!" If negligence sets in, how are we to live a life of warfare? Beloved let’s run away from negligence with all our whole heart.
When we lose our first love, we can no longer appreciate the goodness of God in our lives. A life of routine sets in; we do things in spite of ourselves, and it becomes complicated before the Lord. In the first love, we know how to appreciate God's goodness in our life. We have the example of the Israelites in the desert. Initially, the manna was a delight; they were all happy and blessed the Lord for this miracle. But with time, the manna was no longer a blessing, they murmured, and complained. When our life is full of murmurs and complaints, it is a proof that we have wandered away from God.
How to remain in the first love?
Live as our first brothers lived, those we consider as models. We need to discipline our bodies, examine ourselves daily, putting God's word into practice with joy.
2Cor 6:11-13 "We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13As a fair exchange - I speak as to my children-- open wide your hearts also."
Be willing to allow to God the first place in our lives, in our heart, in our programs. Be ready to give everything to Him, to have no other place in our heart except for Him. Ps 119:10-11 "With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! 11Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!" Let’s examine and hide the word of God in our hearts, in order not to wander away from His commandments.
Heb 10:32-35 "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded."
It is very important to remember our first works, to remember what we did for the Lord during our early days, during our early zeal. Let’s stand firm despite times of discouragement, despite the incantations directed against us day and night. To remember our early works, and especially the remuneration that awaits us up there. Do everything to remain in the first love, since we have seen that it is only in the first love that the Lord will rapture His people. Do everything to overcome discouragement, be vigilant, be awaken in warfare, in order not to fall into the traps that the agents of satan are setting for us. Because if we fall asleep, we would lose the reason for which we have lived.
Avoid falling especially into discouragement, because the agents of satan are there for that. They are there to push us to discouragement, to make us lose our zeal. Let us not become weary in doing good, for our blessings are what we accumulate in Heaven.
Recognition: If when you are asked the question what the Lord has done for you, you think before answering, it is a proof that you have lost your first love. Because when we are full of gratitude to the Lord, it's hard for us to keep quiet; we have much to say regarding the goodness of the Lord. When coldness comes, we think of what we will say.
Grace be with you all who have Jesus Christ as Master!
feel free to make copies of this article and give them out.
To download it, click HERE , or on the PDF icon.