He brought her flowers on her birthday, bought her jewelry for Christmas, and washed her car when she asked him to. After thirty years of this---she left him.
Friends were shocked when she told them and even more shocked when she told them why. "He stopped loving me. No matter what I did, I never had his heart. I'd rather he skip the gifts and just love me."
Would you ever be guilty of such a thing? You might be surprised.
Take a look at your spiritual life. Look pretty good?
You stand against evil, humbly serve where service is needed, give appropriate amounts to worthy causes, and follow every command of Scripture as closely as you know how. You'd never claim perfection, but you're pretty sure God is impressed. Everyone else is.
The church at Ephesus was like that. God commended them for their faithful service and good works. They tossed out false teachers and picketed evil venues when necessary. They were the best church in town.
But shock of all shocks when Jesus said in Revelation, Chapter 2, "I have something against you."
The book of Revelation is often skimmed or outright shunned for its disturbing imagery and confusing symbolism. But the first half of the book is painfully clear and should be studied by every believer.
In it, Jesus sends a message to his churches. It's not futuristic. It pertains to every one of us right now. Every follower of Christ should take a hard look at these seven churches, because you're in there somewhere. Use it as a gauge to see how well your life is measuring up to God's expectation. Does he have something against you? How about your church?
The Christians at Ephesus were doing everything right. They were hard workers, diligent against sin, educated in Scripture, and careful about allowing heresies in. Yet, God was disappointed in them. He didn't spend much time fawning over their outward show of holiness. He went right to the heart, because it is only in the heart He takes pleasure.
Their crime? They had "left their first love."
What a beautiful picture. We can't miss its meaning. They had stopped loving God and substituted service for God.
Notice that he doesn't discredit their hard work, but he doesn't let them hide behind it either. How many churches in America fit this description? We've got the energized programs, the slick letterhead, the color-coordinated marketing ploys. "Bring 'em in! Spend the bucks! Fill the building!"
Sound familiar? Is it God-inspired or has God become just another marketing tool for our spiritual-feeling projects?
What about your heart? Do you have a list of 20 godly convictions taped to the insides of your eyelids? Do you judge your own commitment by your level of apparent holiness? Do your outward displays of righteousness often trump what's really going on deep inside?
None of that is wrong, but God shakes his head and says, "I have this against you. You've stopped loving me."
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." NOT serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
You may be hitting the mark in every way: hard worker, devoted teacher, Bible study leader, even the pastor. It doesn't matter. If your heart has lost the thrill of relationship, the Holy Spirit's voice is only a dim memory, and your actions have taken on a mechanical glint, then God isn't happy with you.
When we've stopped worshiping the person of God and started worshiping our service to God, we have slipped into idolatry and God hates idolatry.
If we don't stop it, He removes his blessing from our work. All that toil, all that effort is for nothing.
If God doesn't seem to be on your side anymore, you're burned out, worn out, frazzled, and disillusioned...you might ask yourself:
"Have I left my first love?"