We are so busy these days, running from one activity or obligation to another. Do we stop to have quiet time with the Lord? Do we spend time with Him like we do our friends and family?Even if these activities are work for the Lord, it may ring hollow to the Lord if we haven’t made Him a priority.
Ephesus was the home of a tremendous ministry. Despite harsh persecution, the church planted by Paul endured opposition, spread the gospel, and was quick to challenge false prophets. But 30 years after the apostle left, John’s revelation included a stern warning for those believers. “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4)
Imagine how the words of Revelation 2 must have struck the Ephesians when they read them. After complimenting their service to the gospel, Christ said, “But I have this against you . . .” That phrase was no doubt extremely disconcerting. The Lord warned them that they had left their first love. In other words, all of their work was being done with wrong motives.
Christ called the Ephesians to remember their love for Him and their delight in His salvation. “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Rev 2:5) Service is no substitute for an intimate relationship, but modern believers continue to fall into this subtle trap. The commendable things that we do count for nothing unless they stem from a vibrant personal connection with God. Our work can’t be effective or fruitful unless He is in it. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
In fact, God is more interested in you and your personal relationship with Him than in a thousand lifetimes of good works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) He desires to be the satisfaction and delight of His children so that their service is a result of loving devotion. “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4)
The Lord wants our hearts and our devotion to him, not works that come from any other reason except our love for Him. “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Cor. 2:11-12) And He knows our hearts. “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.” (Acts 15:8)
There are plenty of wrong reasons to labor for the kingdom. However, God is satisfied only with service motivated by love for Him. He wants those with selfish intentions to return to their first love. In that way, hearts and minds can be renewed, and service to the Lord will be more fruitful.
- Life Application Study Bible (NIV)
- The Priority of Relationship