I have been struggling with a question: when a person’s faith grows cold (either our own faith or a friend or family member’s faith), what can ignite the fire again? This morning, I heard the answer – right from Jesus’ lips, as recorded in Revelation 2:1-7.
Jesus instructed the apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus; a church that was, candidly, doing a lot of good things: “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”
Put that in today’s language: a person could be going to church, tithing, participating in church ministries, etc. But …
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
The fire has died. Here’s what a cold spiritual hearth looks like:
The Bible may be taken to church on Sunday, but it isn’t cracked open during the week.
Prayer is limited to a rote repetition of “saying grace” before meals.
Getting personal about spiritual health becomes a taboo topic in conversation.
Worship and thanksgiving dry up.
Relationships with people who are “on fire” for God become strained – even relationships with spouses, children, parents, and close friends.
Jesus states that there are three steps to rekindling the fire:
1. Remember. He begins with these words: “Therefore remember from where you have fallen.” We need to spend time thinking about what our Christian walk used to be like. Remember the passion we experienced, when nothing was more fulfilling than talking about Jesus. Recall the sweetness of quiet times in the presence of the Lord. Think about how it felt to meditate on God’s Word and hear his Spirit speaking through it to bring understanding, comfort, and wisdom.
2. Repent. One word comes next: “Repent.” This, I think, is the sticking point for most of us. Admitting that we were – and are – wrong. We prefer to nurse our grudges against the people who hurt us. We would rather continue in our sinful pleasures. We do not want Jesus opening up the door to the basement in our lives where all the rats and cobwebs and mess abound.
3. Reengage. Jesus ends with this instruction: “Do the deeds you did at first.” If we are following Jesus’ words, we have spent time remembering those deeds – how we used to get on our knees, open the Word, bare our soul, worship in spirit and in truth. We have also repented of our failure to do these things. Now, we reengage: we must pray, study, fellowship, praise … the actions we did when the fire was burning bright will serve to reignite the fire again.
If the fire has died in your heart, taking these three steps will light the fire again. If you are praying for someone because you have watched their faith grow cold, pray that they would remember, repent, and reengage.
Jesus had a warning for the church at Ephesus if they failed to follow through on his instruction: “I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Jesus takes this very seriously, and so should we.
It’s hard. Believe me, I know. But it is worth it. More than worth it. Eternally worth it. Because Jesus doesn’t end with the warning … he ends with a promise: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”