THE UPWARD CALL
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
IN CHRIST JESUS.
(Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)
January 21, 2010
‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.’ (Revelation 2:4 NASB)
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, dangers Christians face in our day is leaving their first love.
I sense this danger for many emphasis-driven ministries. By emphasis-driven, I mean that most, if not
all, of their attention is devoted to one thing that drives all that they preach and do. Whether it is an
emphasis on prosperity, on the kingdom, on the prophetic, or even on saving people from “hell,” to
name a few, the danger is that first love could be replaced by the thing most emphasized. When this
happens, according to the Lord, they have the heart of the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22).
Today, ministries or churches could be passionate about what they are doing and emphasizing, and yet,
the One who should be the love of their life is left outside of it all, standing at the door knocking. This
does not mean that Jesus is absent from their ministry, for His name is mentioned, but He seems to be
secondary to the emphasis, if not left out of it entirely. In particular, love for His appearing seems to be
lost in a myriad of things.
As one who often emphasizes the prophetic, especially the coming of the Lord and His kingdom, I am
constantly on guard that my heart not be moved off the ground of love. However, I must state that I find
it hard to imagine one leaving first love who desires to literally see the Lord Jesus and to literally see
His kingdom established among the nations. I will come back to this thought, but first let us look at the
whole concept of first love and what it means.
First, let us be abundantly clear that love starts with God.
We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NASB)
Even the love that we have, what I would call true love , comes from God because the love of God
has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us
(Romans 5:5 NASB). When we believed on the Lord Jesus, we received the Holy Spirit who poured out
the love of God within our hearts. Thus, the Holy Spirit and love are inseparable.
Second, there is a reason for this love; it is so that we might love with the same love that is of God, for
God is love . We have been joined to Christ in a very special love relationship between the Creator and
His created. The love of God within our hearts speaks of our betrothal or marriage to Another.
So, my brethren, to you also the Law died through the incarnation of Christ, that you
might be wedded to [married to, joined to, belong to] Another, namely to Him who rose from
the dead in order that we might yield fruit to God. (Romans 7:4 WNT)
The Greek word used by Paul in this verse has a very wide application, but, in his letter to the
Corinthians, Paul used a more direct word for betrothal or marriage , the word harmozo , which means
“to joint” and figuratively “to woo.” You might notice the similarity to the English word harmonize . We
could say that we are to be harmonized with Christ, made one with Him into one vessel of love.
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed [harmozo] you to one
husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. (2 Corinthians 11:2 NASB)
Third, we see the concept of first love manifested when the ancient sons of Israel were called out of
Egypt in order to enter the Promised Land. They were betrothed to the Lord, something that the Lord
Himself recounted later after they had left their first love.
“Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “I remember
concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following
after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. (3) Israel was holy to the LORD, the
first of His harvest.’” (Jeremiah 2:2-3a NASB)
This was a word to ancient Jerusalem, which, in this case, was a word to all the sons of Israel. The Lord
reminded them that their fathers were betrothed to the Lord in first love (Revelation 2:4), but they
strayed from this love and instead accused the Lord of injustice (Jeremiah 2:4-8). To the house of Israel
and, by inference, to the house of Judah, the Lord pronounced His judgment of their condition: “And I
saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ
of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot
also” (Jeremiah 3:8 NASB). Also, Hosea was raised up to pronounce judgment on the house of Israel:
“For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband” (Hosea 2:2 NASB). The Lord gave the house
of Israel a writ of divorce for their disobedience and the breaking of the covenant that He had made
with them and that they had ratified with an oath of obedience (Exodus 19:5-8).
Fourth, the good news is that the Lord has promised the true Israel or the spiritual house of Israel, the
one into which believers have been grafted, that He will betroth them to Himself, based on a new
covenant guaranteed never to be broken because of His oath and promise alone (Hebrews 8:8-10).
(16) “It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD, “That you will call Me Ishi [my
husband] and will no longer call Me Baali [my master] . … (19) “I will betroth you to Me
forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness
and in compassion, (20) and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know
the LORD. … (23) … and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’
And they will say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hosea 2:16, 19-20, 23 NASB)
Fifth, if we are betrothed to Christ or, on a more personal level, Jesus, then shouldn’t we be in love with
Him in a very special way? Shouldn’t we see ourselves as betrothed or married to Him? Paul did! Read
Ephesians 5:22-32, if you have any doubts. Christ loves His body as His own, just as the first Adam
loved Eve as his own body, for she came from his body. Paul spoke of it as a mystery. Is it still a mystery
to us? I hope not. It is no coincidence that in speaking to the seven ecclesias in The Revelation , Christ
first exhorted the ecclesia at Ephesus that they had left their first love. It was a reminder that, like the
sons of Israel that had left their first love while in the wilderness, so too has the ecclesia left her first
love as she has wandered in the wilderness, awaiting Tabernacles and the coming of the Lord.
According to the Lord, this first love is recovered in the ecclesia with a Philadelphian heart.
Sixth, first love is intimately joined with a love for the appearing of the Lord. As his death was
imminent, Paul wrote to his beloved Timothy that a crown of righteousness awaited him on that Day,
that is, the future Day of Christ, not only for him but for all who have a special love to see Jesus.
From this time onward there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness which the
Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to
all who love the thought of His Appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8 WNT)
Other translations use the phrases to all those who wait with love for Him to appear (GNB) and
for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing (NLT).
If you truly love someone and you are separated from that person for a long time, don’t you miss that
person and long to be reunited with him or her? Doesn’t your heart pine to be with the person? Aren’t
you consumed with a desire to be with the person? If you love someone, you want to be with that
person. Love demands it, for love must be expressed!
Dear beloved, this is first love!
Is Jesus the love of your life? Do you long to see Him? If you do, then there is a wreath (crown) of
righteousness awaiting you. Paul was not alone in this matter, for, in reference to the royal law of love,
James wrote that those who love Jesus will be heirs of the kingdom (James 2:5). Do you want to
reign with Christ in His coming kingdom? If you do, then love Him, long for Him, and love the thought
of His appearing. Don’t be like those today who are mocking with their faithlessness: “Where is the
promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). Without stating so directly, many in our day are expressing
the same sentiment. Let us love the Lord’s appearing. Let us return to first love!
The Upward Call: #04-1009
by: Stuart H. Pouliot