The Key to Maintaining a Proper Relationship with the Lord

Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

Most of us Christians would say we love the Lord Jesus, the One who gave His life on the cross for us. But what kind of love do we love Him with? More importantly, what kind of love does He want us to love Him with?

In Revelation 2, the Lord reveals the love He wants from us. This chapter begins with the Lord’s words of praise to the church in Ephesus for being faithful in many things. Then, in verse 4, He says,

“But I have one thing against you, that you have left your first love.”

This verse shows that the kind of love the Lord Jesus wants from us is our first love.

What is our “first love”?

Note 1 on Revelation 2:4 in the New Testament Recovery Version explains the meaning of the word “first”:

“The Greek word for first is the same as that translated best in Luke 15:22. Our first love toward the Lord must be our best love for Him.”

In Luke 15, the Lord Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son. In verse 22, after being reunited with his long-lost son, the father says, “Bring out quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.” The father didn’t put just any robe on his son; he clothed him with the best robe he had, the top robe.

By using the same Greek word for first in Revelation 2:4 as best in Luke 15:22, the Lord is making the point that He cares very much about receiving our first, best, love.

Our relationship with the Lord is a relationship of love

The Lord is our Creator and we’re His creation; He’s our Master and we’re His servants. But our sweetest relationship with the Lord is one of love, like that of a husband and wife. He certainly loves us, and we enjoy His love. But He also needs and wants to enjoy our love for Him.

A marriage is a good picture of our relationship with the Lord. Two people marry each other because they love one another. And although husbands and wives do a lot of things for each other, what matters most is that they continue to love one another. What they do for each other should come out of their love for each other.

For example, we can all agree it’s much sweeter when a husband buys flowers for his wife out of his love for her, rather than out of a feeling of duty.

Additionally, a husband and wife want and need the first and best love from each other—not just any kind of love. Their marriage would be weakened, and even damaged, if one of them were to love their job or their friends more than their spouse. What nurtures and strengthens their marriage is loving each other most of all, with their first and best love.

On the Lord’s side, He loves us purely, with an unchanging love. But what about on our side? The Lord doesn’t want the love that’s left over after we’ve loved the world, our career, or anything else. He wants us to love Him first and best.

The importance of keeping our first love toward the Lord

In note 2 for Revelation 2:4, we see something more about the importance of our love for the Lord. The note includes this sentence:

Nothing but love can keep us in a proper relationship with the Lord.”

How incredible is that statement?

It’s not doing things for the Lord that keeps us in a proper relationship with Him. After all, the church in Ephesus did many good things for the Lord, but He had one thing against them: they had left their first love. Loving Him with our first love is paramount.

Often, we care too much about doing things for the Lord. We may even unwittingly begin to love serving the Lord more than the Lord Himself. But what we do for Him should issue from our fresh and first love for Him, and from our oneness with Him. Loving the Lord with our best love is the top priority of our Christian life.

Note 2 also says,

“The leaving of the first love is the source of all the degradation in the succeeding stages of the church.”

If we experience degradation in our spiritual life, whether as the church or as an individual, we can be sure it’s because we’ve left our first love for the Lord. Loving Him with our best love and not letting our love for Him fade or wane saves us from degradation.

How can we maintain our first love for the Lord?

It’s not hard to maintain our first love for the Lord, or to rekindle our love for Him. The truth is, the Lord is so lovable. He’s the most attractive and loving person in the universe. Our love for Him can be renewed by just spending time with Him and opening our hearts to Him. For example, we can consecrate ourselves to be with Him first thing in the morning, rather than immediately checking our phones or doing other things.

A simple way to maintain our love for the Lord is to tell Him we love Him. Throughout our day we can quietly say, “Lord Jesus, I love You.” Our spouses may know we love them, but saying “I love you” to each other keeps the love fresh. Likewise, the Lord knows we love Him, but He wants to hear us say it. Telling Him “Lord Jesus, I love You” helps us maintain our first love for Him.

We can also pray, “Lord, You’re my first and best love. I love You more than anything else.” Even if we don’t feel like this is true, we can still pray these words to the Lord in faith. As we do so, we’ll be reminded and strengthened to love Him until eventually, loving Him first and best becomes our reality.

Singing to the Lord helps us love Him with our whole heart. For instance, a song like this encourages us to love the Lord with our best love:

Jesus Lord, You’re our first love;
You’re the One we love the best.
When our heart is loving You,
How we’re filled with Your sweet rest!

Lord, we love You for Yourself,
Not for what You give or do.
Nothing else could e’er compare
With the joy of loving you.

Lord, we’ve been drawn off by many things;
Now we turn our heart back—how it sings!
We repent of loving other things—
Jesus, Lord, You’re our first love.

To hear the tune and see the words to the whole song, visit this page.

Let’s conclude with a short prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I love You. Increase my love for You day by day. Don’t let me leave You as my first love. Please keep me in a proper relationship with You and remind me to turn to You and love You with my first and best love. Amen.”

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