First Love in the Second Generation
Robert Wurtz II
”When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent (Revelation 2:4-5).
I have chosen these two passages to illustrate the danger of passing the faith to the next generation. The Old Testament saints passed down the faith to their children who, in turn, refused to hate sin and compromise. This is why they neglected to throw down the altars to false gods and rid the land of every trace of idolatry. The church at Ephesus passed down the faith to the next generation that had no trouble hating certain sins and false doctrines. Nevertheless, they left (forsook) their first love in the process.
These Old and New Testament examples have a common theme; they did not pass through the experience of faith the same way as the generation before them. There were practices left out that left them lacking in their faith and in need of going back to the beginning and retracing the history of what the generation before them had done.
The Other Side of Jordan
The generation following the life of Joshua was born on the other side of the river. They lacked the experience of crossing the Jordan and all that that experience implied. The Israelites were-tasked with retrieving God’s property (the land of Israel) and evicting the squatters of pagan idol worshippers, giants, and demons that were there by the invitation of the idol worshippers. God would have no competition inside the perimeter of His land. This was the first commandment. Literally, the commandment means, you will have no other gods before my face. The second generation failed miserably in this regard. They did not throw down the altars and God said that as a consequence—those gods would be a snare unto them. God refused to evict the demons because the people refused to throw down the altars and idols. Selah.
The generation following the absence of Paul at Ephesus was one that (apparently) never followed the pattern of those who first believed in Acts 18-19. The church started with the message of repentance and baptism in water preached powerfully by Apollos. The people obeyed. When Paul arrived, he noticed something lacking in their experience and asked whether or not they had received the Holy Spirit. They had not.
Gladly Receiving the Word
What made the saints at Ephesus mighty weapons in the hand of God was their willingness to act when God spoke to them. Paul, the mouthpiece of God, informed them that they needed re-baptized—because the Old Covenant was expired and John’s baptism of repentance (though commendable for them to receive) was not effectual at that point in time. What did they do? They gladly received the word and were baptized again in the name of the Lord Jesus. Is there any surprise, with such an open heart, that they received the Holy Spirit easily and without all the fuss? They were willing to live by every word that was proceeding from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4). God responded by baptizing them in (the) Holy Spirit.
The common theme in both of these examples is that genuine repentance and a willingness to hear the word of God is paramount if one intends to go forward with God. Far too many people resist the word of God and thereby resist the Holy Spirit. They don’t agree with God and what He calls sin. They skip over or ignore scriptures that confront their lifestyle. Yet one cannot resist the Spirit and receive Him at the same time. It is impossible. Understand that the Holy Spirit and the word of God, agree. Why? Because the scriptures are God-breathed, by the very breath of the Holy Spirit. To resist the word is to resist the Spirit. We must agree with God if we intend to walk together with God (Amos 3:3).
The Israelites, in the book of Judges, refused to throw down the idols and altars of the land. This is an ancient attitude that says, “I know better than God knows, and I’m going to do things my way.” It was rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). The Israelites had no clue about loyalty and exclusivity. They had no concept of the notion that they belonged to God exclusively and that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, James 4:5). When we say jealous, we are saying they He is unwilling to share the love that belongs to Him alone with anyone of anything else. Understand that the plain definition of whoredom or harlotry (if you like) is to take the love that belongs to one and give it to another. God wouldn’t tolerate it—in the lesson of the book of Hosea—just like a husband shouldn’t have to tolerate it with his wife (or vis-versa).
What Are the First Works?
Finally, Jesus told the Ephesians in Revelation Chapter 2 to go back and do their first works. What were they? It was easy enough to find out. All they needed was a copy of the second volume of Luke’s writings that we commonly call the book of Acts. Turn to chapter 18-20 (though they didn’t have chapter divisions at that time) and right there, written out in great detail, was the process of how the first generation of saints at Ephesus came to Christ and became powerful men and women of a God doing exploits for the kingdom. They were FULL of the Holy Spirit.
No doubt the people who received John’s letter figured it out, and set about, in Old Testament style, “cleaning house” and getting back to the word of God. Undoubtedly, some had never truly renounced and repented of their sins and yet were actively involved in the church. Some were entertaining various forms of compromise. You will recall that the Ephesians in Acts 18-20 burned a fortune in sinful, idolatrous, relics as they renounced all associations with false gods and demons. They got it right, and God rewarded their faith.
A Personal Jordan
In modern times, I suggest that first, every generation needs their own personal “Jordan” experience. They need to make a clean break with the past and announce to men and angels that they are on the Lord’s side going forward. This is a primary purpose of water baptism. It is a declaration. It is a watery grave for your past and a new name under which we submit. This is why we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are coming under the authority of the Godhead. We intend to die to all past spiritual ties.
Second, every generation must go through their lives and tear down the altars, destroy the false gods, and cut down the groves (as it were). In practical terms, rid your life of items, associations, and practices that offend God. Rid your life of interactions with the enemy such as demonic media or pagan/new age books and artifacts. These things are invitations to demon spirits whether you believe it or not. The Devil knows when he is being “flirted with” or “given an invite” to come into your life. Satan never rejects an invitation.
If we respond to Christ in faith—gladly receiving the word, then we, as did Ephesus, can know the fullness of the Spirit and obtain or regain (for those who have backslidden) our first love in Christ. We can be motivated by the expulsive power of a new affection (as one old-time preacher called it) as God works in us both to will and to do His perfect will. We can see first love manifest in the second, third, and every succeeding generation.