The subject we are considering is things that we have lost or are losing. While this may seem a negative ministry, yet it is necessary to expose what has happened over the years. Are we not seeing the effects of loose living and laxity in holding the truth? We are not alarmists when we observe that we are loosing ground. Are we protectionists of our own things, but have failed in the protection of the Lord’s things.. It is therefore vital for us to re-establish principles even though it rebukes us. There is a balance; negative and positive truth is necessary for the protection, preservation and blessing of the Lord’s people. The scribe which is “instructed unto the kingdom of heaven…bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt 13:52). Our Lord is the true pattern in both negative and positive teaching.
Revelation 2:4, A Church Which Left Its First Love
“Left first love” infers that it has been lost for a while, but it can be regained upon repentance. They were doctrinally right, and their judgments right, but their affection had wained. If this failure is not remedied by repentance, true doctrine will also soon be lost. How long did the Ephesian church last is a good question. History indicates that its voice was heard in the defense of Christianity as late as A.D. 431, “But the hour of doom nevertheless came” (W. Scott). The glory of Ephesus has departed. Let us apply this principle to ourselves today. We are not speaking of a passing spurious love, but that genuine first love to Christ, the heart love, love that is real, that is first, that is chief. Chief is used of the robe provided by the father for the repentant son, “Bring forth the best robe” (chief robe, Luke 15:22). This love must colour all our service, for this genuine holy love brings joy in serving, all else is but dross. This is the greatest test of our condition. We sing these lovely words:
“The joys of earth can never fill
The heart that’s tasted of Thy love;
No portion would I seek until
I reign with Thee, my Lord, above,
When I shall gaze upon Thy face,
And know more fully all Thy grace.”
First love will preserve the heart for Christ and will embrace all the truth of the Word of God, leave it, and we will turn cold, formal, and in the end, extinct as to divine testimony. The warning is valid to us all to-day. May our hearts be searched before God and may we return to first love, if we have departed from it!
Hosea 7:1-10, “They Have Lost Their Strength.”
Like Samson, Epraim’s condition was deplorable. Hosea describes them as marked by falsehoods – deceitful practices, blind as to their wickedness – closed eyes, unwilling to face them. Their morals thrown to the winds – moral laxity condoned. They were intoxicated with wine – worldly joy; mixed among the people – unequally yoked. A cake not turned – unbalanced in character, distasteful. Strangers had devoured their strength – wrong company; gray hairs are here and there. They had lost their freshness – prematurely aged. How tragic the condition of the nation! This is a red light of warning; for us. What a lesson! Do we not relive the history of God’s people of the past in spiritual declension? There must be voices raised to recover us, a standard raised to rally us, a call to return us to the Lord. It is possible to have lost our convictions. Lord, “Wilt Thou not revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee” (Psa 85:6). This is not the time for pet sermons, the tickling of the ear, or the soft-peddling of truth. Talk without a corresponding life is without power. May the Lord grant us a return to Himself and His ways, speaking the truth in love!
We fear lest many believers are not getting the unvarnished truth that once affected lives and preserved testimony. We appreciate exposition and well-handled doctrine which is vital to testimony, but is there a failure to reach hearts and put forth effort in shoe leather? We recall the words to Timothy, “A workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim 2:15). It means to cut a straight path through a forest others are following. This is in contrast to the bad workmen who have missed the mark who have swerved from the target.
One evidence of our sad condition is the laxity that has come among us as to headship. Is the long hair no longer a glory to our beloved sisters in Christ? Is the head covering no longer an indispensable truth to the honour of God? Ah beloved, let us re-think and return to these valuable and God-adorning truths.
As to sports, is it permissible to attend the big-league ball-parks to watch millionaires hit a ball, or to the ice-rink to watch worldly-stars hit pucks? Brethren these things aught not to be. Elders should watch for the souls of the young, instructing them as to the path of the child of God and by shepherd care preserving them from being swallowed up in a spurious and fake sports world. Psalm 1 should govern us here. The blessed man, primarily the Lord Jesus, is the perfect pattern for all saints. He walketh not, sitteth not, and standeth not with the company of the unconverted. Acts would give us the positive side, the true company of the redeemed one. Paul was “with them (the saints) coming in and going out at Jerusalem” The principal is clear and needs no exposition.
Can I take part with those who nailed Him to the Tree,
And where His Name is never named is that the place for me?
Ah, my dear fellow-believer, we have professed to follow a rejected, despised Lord whose footprints on the sands of time would never lead us to go in the way of the multitudes whose end is destruction. Our prayer could well be, “Be not silent to me; lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down to the pit” (Psa 28:1). The call to-day is to return to the Lord. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I (Jehovah) have heard him (Ephraim) and observed him (Ephraim)” (Hosea 14:8). How precious to the Lord is the return of the hearts of His saints to Himself! “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy Word is truth” (John 17:l6,17).
What has stripped the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?
Not the sense of right or duty, but the sight of peerless worth.
Psalm 137, The (Nation) Lost Their Song
The Lord in governmental dealings with Israel permitted them to be carried away to Babylon. What reflections they had in Babylon! What reproach they encountered there! What sorrow filled their hearts! It took all this to bring them to the acknowledgement, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” and the further acknowledgement, “If I forget Thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning (skill). If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem ABOVE my chief joy.” How sad and weak had become the once powerful nation, reduced to laughter and ridicule from the enemy of God!
There is the danger that we likewise can be carried away by our departure from the right ways of the Lord. Have we become so immune to our condition that the world really accepts us and accommodates us? Is there not a breaking down of the walls of scriptural separation that was once the bulwark of the Lord’s people? Is there not presently the attitude that there is no harm in mingling in the fundamental circles of Christendom? The fraternizing with the systems of men that once we were plainly taught were totally unscriptural? The other side of the coin is the introduction of what is on the outside being brought into the inside, the danger of becoming like the systems around us. “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (Lev 18:3). The principle is crystal clear! Have we lost the sense that our power of testimony to the place of His Name lies in scriptural separation? Have we lost our song? I do not mean that we no longer sing, there may be plenty of singing. Rather, have we lost that song in the heart that beats true in a ringing testimony to a world around us, the song that denotes vitality, witness and joy?
A fresh appreciation of His Person will rekindle our love, recover our strength and revive our song.
Now to Him who loved us, gave us
Every pledge that love could give,
Freely shed His blood to save us,
Gave His life that we may live,
Be the kingdom and dominion
And the glory evermore.