10 July 2010 (Shibi'i/Sukkot)|
Day #117, 5934 AM
Your First Love
Whatever Happened to It?
I'm afraid I can be a slow learner and don't even pay attention to my own devotionals and sermons sometimes. Yesterday I started a large sermon, it fizzled out, and I retired downcast. During the night I had some situational dreams in which Yahweh showed me my responses and reactions in different situations and each time I awoke inconsistencies in my behaviour compared to the way I am actually conducting my life in the real world right now. I was, to put it mildly, even more disconcerted. 'How could I have done better?' I asked Him. 'How have I failed to follow Scriptural tavnith or pattern?' Each time I put myself in someone else's shoes I could 'see' what they were 'seeing' and feeling what they were feeling even if what they were seeing was filtered through the lenses of ignorance, willfull rebellion or just plain blindness. Irrespective of how they were 'seeing' a particular situation, their feelings were remarkably similar. And I had to ask myself: 'How does Yahweh deal with people, all of whom see the same situation differently, all of whom have different expectations, and few if any would have those expectations realised? Because as you know our feelings tend to be far 'realer' to us than any thought processes, and we tend to react from feelings, however muddled, long before we settle down to think things out properly. And more often than not, our feelings remain to muddle our thought processes.
These, I imagine, are the kinds of questions a secular psychologist works with because psychoanalysts and psychiatrists only work out of essentially three
dimensions - the mental,the emotional and the physical world of sensations. If you believe we are the product of blind evolution then whatever conclusions you come to about the human psyche and why we think and feel in certain ways, you will alwas have to set those conclusions within the overall philosophical matrix of purposelessness. We exist because we evolved by chance. We experience things because we are the prisoners of a vast web of other people's experiences and natural events which have no ultimate point other than eventual extinction, for evolutionists believe the universe will keep in expanding, then contract and finally explode. As a former I did not take my belief - or lack of belief - to its logical conclusion. Had I, my response might have been similar to that great secular mind, Arthur Köstler, who concluded that since everything was pointless, what was the point of living? He and his wife committed suicide. No, probably I would not have gone down that route. I am not sure I was so fundamentalistically an atheist, probably more an agnostic. That would have left me two others: (1) Have a hell of a good time without giving a fig about anyone else, or (2) Being a philanthropist and doing my best for my family and children so that even though their lives would be pointless too, they might at least enjoy them as much as they could.
Those who do not believe in God tend to wrestle with such questions. Some take the suicide option but others don't dare take their faith to its logical conclusion because deep down they know that there is no point in doing anything if the end of the road is total and utter extinction. However, it is not atheists I principlally want to talk about today, it's about believers - like myself - who have entered, experienced and know the fourth dimension of the spirit which psychologists have no way of dealing with. They for sure encounter people who claim it exists but they usually categorise it as a delusion of the psyche, and explain it away as some sort of mental sickness.
Today I am assuming you have all met Yah'shua the Messiah - you have either had one big spiritual encounter like myself which has set your course for all the other little ones, or you have had lots of little ones which are mapping your way perhaps toward a big one or lots of more very small little ones. Just as no two relationships are the same, nor ever can be the same (since we are all utterly unique), so no human encounter with the resurrected Messiah is ever the same. All have points in common by which those who have met Him can say: 'Yes, we're on the same page! I know exactly what you mean!' or 'Yes, I have experienced something very, very similar and can recognise that you belong to the same invisible family as I do!' All those who have met the living Christ know that their experiences - whilst it involves the thoughts, feelings and sometimes even physical sensations - involves that 'fourth' dimension which we call the ruach or spirit. And what principally distinguishes this spiritual realm from the other three is that it is CONSTANT - everything is the same even if each time you encounter it you find yourself able to go deeper. And it is pleasantly the same because we know, when we are in it, that you cannot improve it - it is, in a word, perfect or complete. When you are in it, you feel you have no other needs in your spirit because in this sphere or dimension there is no defect or imperfection. You don't enter it thinking: 'Oh I need more!' Because once in it, you have absolutely all you need there and then. You may later discover there is more, as indeed there is, but you don't yearn for it, any more than you yearn for another meal after you have just consumed one and are filled and satisfied. Wherever you may be in your spiritual journey, each time you become aware of that spiritual reality you always leave it satisfied.
Now I don't mean that entering the spiritual realm does make you become aware of character defects that need fixing because that is absolutely certainly one of the things you will experience when entering it. It throws back a mirror at the rest of you. When you enter it you suddenly see yourself as Christ sees you and not infrequently this makes you feel very uncomfortable and ashamed. But the glory of it - and what distinguishes it entirely from the psychic realm of the mind and feelings - is that this dimension is supernatural and things 'happen' here that can't happen anywhere else in this world.
Most of you hearing or reading me today know, however, that there are two spiritual dimensions, one of which is a counterfeit of the other. But I don't want to get into the dark realm of demons and devils today. Today I want to talk only about Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) because this spiritual dimension belongs to Him. All other spiritual worlds with all their many religious and occult labels are in reality just facets of the other dark one.
I was told to share this message with you nearly a week ago. It was on a list of several topics that I was given one morning when I woke up. For some reason it got forgotten, I started writing another sermon which, though interesting, was not what Yahweh wanted me to share with you today so it was not Ruach-breathed. Today when I woke up I was given a single scripture for my theme and this is it:
If you ask someone on the street, 'Who is or was your first love?' they will almost without exception tell you it was or is the first boy or girl they fell in love with. This, however, is not what Yah'shua is talking about in this passage of scripture, even though He is making a comparison with the deep experiences of a marriage relationship because elsewhere in scripture our relationship with Him is compared precisely to that. And Yahweh is particularly angry when we try to destroy even that earthly 'first love' by divorcing a spouse in order to replace him or her with another:
"To the messenger (angel) of the assembly (church) of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden menorahs (7-armed lampstands): 'I know your works, your labour, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have laboured for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ruach (Spirit) says to the messianic assemblies (churches). To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of Elohim (God)''" (Rev.2:1-7, NKJV).
There are direct parallels between this passage in Malachi which talks about a treacherous husband who abandons his wife, with whom he became one (echad) the first day he consummated his marriage, and with a negligent and possibly even treacherous believer who leaves his spiritual First Love, who is Yah'shua the Messiah. And until that is repaired, no amount of crying on the altar or bitter weeping will make any difference. Our religious observances will count for nothing. When we accepted Yah'shua (Jesus) as our Master and Deliever (Lord and Saviour) our life started all over again. We became renewed inside and entered into a covenant relationship through baptism - an allegorical spirit 'marriage' - with Him that made us echad or one. For the moment His spirit penetrated ours - from the moment we opened our heart to Him and said: "Come in and possess me!", we became His sacred property. We ceased our life of independence, doing our own thing and chasing after our own lusts and ambitions, and subjected ourselves to whatever He wantes us to do. And in the same way that a wife belongs to her husband when he takes possession of her, and she becomes his companion and helpmeet assisting him in his life's calling, abandoning her personal ambitions, so we too, when we are born again and taken possession of, become the servant and (if we are faithful) friend of our Messiah, carrying out His directives for our lives. As the husband goes where Christ goes, so the wife follows the husband.
"You cover the altar of Yahweh with tears, with weeping and crying; He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because Yahweh has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Ruach (Spirit)? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth" (Mal.2:13-15, NKJV).
Now the set-apart ones or saints of Ephesus were one body of believers who are singled out by Yah'shua in this famous revelation that discusses the spiritual condition of seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia Minor in modern-day Western Turkey. They each have plusses and minuses. They each have qualities and a spiritual track record worthy of praise and they each have deficiencies they are commanded to repent of. Ephesus was, after the destruction of Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Messianic Community (Church) and was where the head apostle, John, made his headquarters. His three epistles were almost certainly written from there and were chronologically the last three books of the Bible, not the Book of Revelation, which was written earlier while he was an exile on the Greek island of Patmos.
Lots of Scriptorians and Theologians see in the seven assemblies (churches) of Asia Minor a prophetic description of the Body of Messiah over the last two thousasnd years, beginning with Ephesus and ending with Laodicea. They often claim that we are in the lukewarm 'Laodicean age'. This is possible though I am inclined to believe that these seven assemblies represent different dispositions in the Body of Christ throughout the current Messianic Age. Ephesus, as I said, was the home of the apostle John, the last of the apostles and the only one to live into old age and not be martyred. He very much held the community together during difficult times. Ephesus was the home or centre of the pagan goddess Artemis (Ac.19:35) and was therefore the focus of much occultism (Ac.19:19). The congregation was founded by Aquila and Priscilla (Ac.18:18) and with Paul's guidance became a centre for evangelism (Ac.19:10). Timothy replaced Paul in time (1 Tim.1:3) and was finally succeeded by John, the presiding patriarch.
The Ephesian believers was distinguished by their hard work without ever quitting, their patience and their abhorrence of anything evil. They were skilled at exposing false apostles. They also hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans who were an heretical group which encouraged idolatry and sexual sin as Balaam had done anciently. Balaam, you may remember, though a pagan, initially served Yahweh by refusing the curse the Israelites at the behest of the King of Moab (Num.22-24; 2 Pet.2:15-16) but later condemned himself by encouraging Israel to debase themselves in sexual immorality at Baal-Peor (Num.25:1-3; 31:16). How did Balaam manage to ensnare Israel thus? By tricking them into eating food which had been sacrificed to idols, thus demonising them! The Assembly of Pergamum fell into this sin and we are told exactly what they did: they participated in idolatrous feasts and sexual immorality (as Israel had done befroe the Golden Calf), violating the first principles of Torah given to them by James (Ac.15:28-29). The Ephesian believers were accutely aware of pagan practices and spoke out against believers getting seduced into them.
So what do we have here? We have very dedicated believers indeed, with a keen discernment, hard-working, patient, exposers of false prophets and apostles, exposers of idolatry and sexual sin and on the face of it exemplary followers of the Master! And yet somehow, in all of this, they lost their "first love". They got so absorbed in their hundreds of pursuíts that they create a breeze which cooled their passion for Messiah. They lost, not the strong emotional experiences which came with their rebirth (emotions rarely last and we are unwise to rely on them as the mainstay of our spiritual life), but their spiritual zeal for Yahweh! They were so busy doing Kingdom work that they neglected their own spiritual condition, failing to repent of sins and failing to regularly rededicate themselves to the Source, Yah'shua (Jesus). They thought they could do without Him in the same way that husbands in Malachi's time thought they could discard their wives and replace them with new ones, breaking their covenants and committing adultery thereby.
When you have "lost your first love", you have ceased to be Christ-centred. You can become self-centred, career-centred, entertainment-centred, even Kingdom-centred, forgetting that the King always come before the Kingdom. The Ephesians were Kingdom-centred alright and were so busy they probably didn't even notice they had forgotten their Saviour! But such negligence risks the loss of all, including the Golden Lampstand which represented their assembly, in reality a golden seven-armed Menorah which depicts in its seven branches the sevenfold Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Lose Messiah and you lose the Ruach haQodesh as well! Yah'shua removes the Ruach if we neglect and lose Him.
The Ephesians, like ourselves today, were in the middle of a hostile, pagan culture. Believers were being persecuted then as they are today. Ephesus was the centre of a fertility cult which is rampant throughout the world today, though not called by any particular name - rather, it is the 'right' to be sexually promiscuous. The Temple of Artemis or Diana was one of the so-called Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It is tough being in such a world as it is today and Yah'shua compliments the Ephesian saints for staying clean - they don't tolerate wicked people, they are theologically sound, they can spot false teachers, preachers, apostles and prophets with ease that try to infiltrate their ranks. But then the bottom drops out of their world. Everything has apparently been going fine, and the 'Jesus meek and mild' suddenly become an Elohim of Judgment and Condemnation. Suddenly He's calling sin, sin, and a spade, a spade. He reminds us that you can never separate Justice from Grace. It is not enough to be doing everything in order, getting your festivals right, observing kosher, observing the moral law, being busy in evangelism and so on. Yah'shua has to be the first in everything.
Indeed, we are reminded of our fallibility here somewhat, aren't we? These people haven't rejected Messiah. They aren't worshipping Diana. They aren't espousing false doctrines. So what's their problem? They have simply let Yah'shua drift out of the picture. The passionate love they had for Messiah simply dimmed in small increments until it was all but gone. Then the bottom fell out of their lives with Yah'shua threatening to remove their lampstand, that is, extinguish the light from their congregation and eventually remove the congregation from Yahweh's presence altogether. If they refused to repent, their congregation would spiritually die.
There is always a danger of putting Yah'shua into the back-burner and setting your eyes and goals elsewhere. We may not even have our eyes on anything unlawful. We may not be violating any Torah commandments at all! Our sin becomes one of negligence. We have forgotten what it is all about. No one is rebelling. No one is chasing after idols in an Ephesus assembly. No one is violating Torah They have simply drifted from their "first love", as so many marriages do.
You have all heard of the proverbial frog being gently boiled alive and not moving because he is totally unaware of what's happening. The same is true in freezing. We can grow cold and lifeless in small increments without realising it and before long just become a block of spiritual ice. What a way to knock out a church or messianic assembly, and a good congregation at that!
I suspect we all need refiring. I suspect we all need reviving. There are so many cares, there is so much to do, that it is easy to fall asleep without being aware of it. Without pointing fingers at anyone else, we need to look at ourselves and ask the question: 'Where is my first love?' And if we cannot find Him, we need to down Kingdom tools and pray until we have the King back again like a white-hot fire. I can't say how that is to be done individually because everyone is different with their own unique set of problems. It is for each to privately go to Yah'shua, one-on-One, since this is a Pesach-type need.
My prayer is that we search our hearts and do that, making that our first priority. For without the "first love" burning bright, pretty much everything else is in vain. Amen.