“Love or Die”

Pursue love…
1 Corinthians 14:1

With those two words Alexander Strauch opens his book, Love or Die, with its subtitle of Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church Revelation 2:4.

This terrific small book is divided into two parts, “The Problem of Lost Love: Revelation 2:4,” and “How to Cultivate Love: Hebrews 10:24.” It ends with a study guide in the third section. As indicated in his title Strauch first turns to Revelation 2:1–7:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
Revelation 2:1–7 ESV

The three chapters in part one are expositions of this passage as he explains the crucial importance of love to all churches, what Christ has to say to the church at Ephesus and the three things the Ephesians must do: “remember, repent and do the works you did at first.”1 Because the object of first love is not given in this passage, Strauch interprets it as encompassing all Christian love, for God and for our neighbor.2

In part two, the first of the six chapters on cultivating love is “Study Love.” Strauch writes:

“If you want to pursue love, you must read and study what God says about love in his written Word. You will then grow in the knowledge of love and in the knowledge of God and Christ whom we are to love above all others. Nothing but God’s Word and Spirit can awaken our desire to love and transform our sinfully selfish hearts to love as Christ loves.”3

Strauch reminds us that the two greatest commands are to love God and to love our neighbor, and in an appendix Strauch lists fifty texts he considers to be key Bible passages on love.4 I’m going to be posting one a week on Sunday with perhaps some additional verses to provide context. Pray about the text, read it in its context, study it and think about what it means. If you’ve been reading my blog over the last year, you know how emphatically I agree with Alexander Strauch. That’s why I was so excited to find his book and why I want to share these verses with you. God’s Word changes us (John 17:17), and we must ask Him to enable us to receive what He has to say with humility and to make us to be doers of His Word, not just hearers (James 1:21–25).

Pray and think about these verses in Revelation this week and the other passages in this post. Do you need to remember, repent and do the works you did at first? Strauch explains the terms:

“To help the Ephesians recognize the seriousness of their condition, Jesus admonished them to remember their early days when love motivated all that they did. They needed to recall the love they originally possessed but had forsaken.

“To remember means to recollect past feelings and actions, but not in a passive sense. It is not sentimental daydreaming about the “good old days” with no intention to act. The present imperative command, “remember,” emphasizes an ongoing, continuous mental attitude of remembering. It requires making the effort to recall past joys, deeds, attitudes and experiences in the life of the church in order to repeat them and act upon them.”5

What were your early days as a believer like? What do you need to remember?

On repentance, Strauch writes:

“The imperative command “remember” is followed by another imperative command “repent.” They must sense the need to return and restore the love they once possessed….

“Through repentance the church in Ephesus would demonstrate
that it accepts Christ’s evaluation of its fallen condition,
that it has judged itself according to Christ’s Word to be sinful and deserving of divine discipline (1 Cor. 11:31–32),

that it grieves over its loss of love and displeasure to Christ (2 Cor. 7:8–10),
that it is turning away from sin and returning to its past life of love,
that it will, by God’s grace, take appropriate action (2 Cor. 7:8–12).

“The Ephesians could not restore their first love without repenting—the Lord would not allow it. The lesson here is that sin must always be dealt with; it cannot be ignored. Repentance is at the heart of what the Ephesians believers must do to restore their first love.”6

This is from his comments on doing the works you did at first:

“After “remember” and “repent,” the third imperative command is “do the works you did at first.” Literally the text reads “And do the first works.” The word first reminds us of its earlier appearance in Revelation 2:4, “you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Genuine repentance produces fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8; also 2 Cor. 7:10–11).”7

If you want to know what love is like, read 1 Corinthians 13. Notice that without love all spiritual gifts and good works are nothing! In addition to this chapter, there are numerous other New Testament passages that tell us how to love each other. Remember also the new commandment Jesus gave in John 13:34–35 and John 15:12–14, and his prayer for us in John 17:20–23.

If you want to know more about our love for God read John 14:21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6, and 1 John 3:1–5:3. Notice that our love for God is known not by our emotional intensity, but by our obedience to Him and by our love for other Christians!

As you read 1 John also notice how all of our love comes from God’s love for us. How has God shown us His love for us?

Now if you’re concerned about lack of feeling or that I’m describing an unattractive cold type of love, let me add this, pray, asking God to enable you and then: You remember and repent. You do the works you did at first of, and with, patience, kindness, humility and longsuffering. You obey God. You dwell with gratitude on how God has shown His love for us. Trust me, you won’t find your heart cold and unfeeling!

Next Sunday I’ll share a new passage on love.

May God’s mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you in 2012.

Heart-[foto & Concept by paul b. toman], Plismo: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7Alexander Strauch, Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church Revelation 2:4 (Lewis & Roth, Littleton CO): 9, 20–23, 27, 31 & 29–30, 21, 21–22, 22.
The six chapters in the second part are: “Study Love”, “Pray For Love,” “Teach Love,” “Model Love,” “Guard Love” and “Practice Love.” The titles indicate what he teaches on how to cultivate love.
ESV: English Standard Version

Original content: Copyright ©2012 Iwana Carpenter

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