Remembering Our First Love

When midnight strikes on New Year’s Eve, we traditionally sing an old song written by Robert Burns. It’s title sounds like nonsense, Auld Lang Syne. That’s old English for “old long since,” or more idiomatically, “days gone by.” We sing it to begin the new year, but lyrically it’s about remembering the last year.

When we sing it (and mean it) we’re actually showing wisdom, because the best way to live today is by remembering “days gone by”. That’s not to say that we don’t look forward in hope to God’s future promises (we must do that). But looking forward well requires deep assurance about our spiritual past.

In particular, we must remember our first love. In the book of Revelation, the church in Ephesus is criticized for it’s forgetfulness, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). Who was their first love? Jesus Christ.

In it’s youth, the Ephesian church showed great, passionate love for God. They carefully studied the teachings of the apostles, shirked the passions of the flesh, and joyously shared the gospel. These good deeds flowed not from a sense that their works would win God’s love, but from a deep conviction that God already loved them in Christ. The Ephesians were ravished by God’s love for them in Christ.

Just like us, they probably marveled that God became a human being, lived the righteous live they should have lived, and died the ignoble death that they deserved. They probably felt awe at the cost of this forgiveness, Christ bearing the wrath of his eternal father. They probably wondered at the love revealed in his sacrifice.

So early on, the Ephesians continually looked back to the gospel and felt deep assurance of God’s commitment to them, that he would sanctify them and send his son once more to renew all things. But as the years rolled by, Christ’s sacrifice lost is luster. The cross became commonplace, and they forgot their first love.

As we exit the hectic schedule of the holiday season, we often see Ephesus’ problem in our own hearts. Between all the shopping, family time, eating, and celebrations, we lose our first love. We stop feeling an urgency to pray or read our Bibles, because we forget our desperate need for God. We turn to idols like family or wealth or materialism to satisfy us, because we forget the true satisfaction found in God’s love for us.

That’s why the New Year is a good time to step back and remember. We do that through prayer, reflection, and the reading of God’s word. The truth is, we need this kind of “remembrance” every day. We need the spirit of Auld Lang Syne in our daily lives. That’s why it’s great to choose a Bible reading plan, and dedicate part of our mornings (or evenings) to remembering our first love. If you don’t have a plan, you should check out what The Crossing is offering.

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