Jesus’ words to the church at Ephesus must have been startling: “You have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4, NKJV). Wasn’t this the church where Paul had labored three years (Acts 20:31)? To this church Paul had written one of the most promise-filled letters, fortified with inspiring references to Christ and his church. How is it that such a privileged congregation could leave their first love?
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:12 may give insight: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” The word “cold” is obviously an image. Love is an attitude, an act of a person’s will, and its temperature cannot be measured with thermometers. But a person’s love can range from slight to fervent. Jesus was affirming that Christians’ love can diminish; those who once were “on fire” for the Lord can cool in their enthusiasm. The danger of the situation is seen in the next words: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Those whose love has grown cold may not endure; they might not be saved.
I’ve sat around several campfires in my life. Sitting in the peacefulness of the evening, one’s eyes are riveted on the glowing embers in the midst of the fire. I’ve observed that when a piece of wood is moved away from the main fire, it will often cease burning. It doesn’t happen immediately. It’s a gradual cooling, and the dying of the ember can be seen. If it’s ever going to blaze again, it must be moved closer to the fire.
In this illustration we see one of the leading causes of Christian cooling. Is it not when we attempt to live our faith in isolation that we are most likely to lose our fire?
The epistle to the Hebrews acknowledges this principle. One exhortation the writer made was to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). The words “stir up” again conjure up scenes of a campfire. As the fire burns lower, we stir it up, moving the embers closer together. In this passage it’s Christians who need stirring up. Their flames are burning lower than before. They’re headed toward extinguishment.
But in what context are Christians stirred up? Read on: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Stirring up takes place in an assembly of Christians. When one disciple, however, is not in that gathering, how can she be rekindled?
There are so many demands on our time! How easy it is to use the time once given to assembling with the saints for other tasks. But in doing so we place our souls in jeopardy. By removing our ember from the midst of the church fire, we increase the likelihood that our flame will die.
We need the Lord. We also need one another. Fires burn best when embers are gathered closely.
How can we keep our love for the Lord alive?