Stoking the Fire

A Discipleship Study on the Revelation Message to the Church in Ephesus

by LTC Tom Schmidt, USA (Ret.)

Nothing beats a wood fire on a cold, crisp night. While gas fires are cleaner and more convenient, they simply don't provide the warmth and atmosphere.

One drawback of the natural fire, however, is that it needs tending or it ebbs and eventually burns out. A fire needs regular stoking to keep it from growing cold.

After years of walking with Christ I have found that the personal spiritual fire of the heart also needs close attention and considerable stoking. If left untended it cools and loses its light.

In the message to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) Jesus strongly cautions a people whose fire has waned. He acknowledges their apparent faithfulness in many areas of the Christian walk including their diligence, endurance, and doctrinal rigor-all outward signs of an upstanding Christian body.

Even while they remain busy in the work of faith, they appear clueless to the spiritual cooling that afflicts them.

Why does that happen and what is the remedy? Jesus gives clear and simple-although not easy-direction.

Jesus says, "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love." Abandoned, forsaken, left, walked away from, are all words used in various translations of this verse. The cooling did not happen by accident or as a natural result of the passage of time.

No, a series of careless decisions on the part of the believers led to abandonment. Similarly, a series of diligent decisions and actions are the only remedy.

The Great Physician's prescription for this ailment is quite direct. He gives "three Rs" for rekindling the spiritual fire: Remember. Repent. Return.

"Remember the height from which you have fallen!" Remember those times of a white-hot relationship­-whether they were the early days of your walk with Christ or seasons of renewal.

Remember when your thoughts were frequently on Him in the past, your conversation was sprinkled with godliness, prayer and worship were spontaneous throughout the day, Scriptures were your constant companion, and Christian fellowship was precious and frequent.

It can serve us well to regularly set aside times to measure our current spiritual temperature against those earlier seasons when our relationship with Christ was alive with fire.

"Repent." If we have fallen, repentance is in order. Essential to repentance is calling the problem by its right name. Acknowledge the way the Lord sees it.

Time is not the culprit-neither are the world's demands, nor the natural ebb and flow of life. You didn't lose your first love-you left it. You abandoned it by careless disregard for the love relationship and willingness to be diverted by cheap and profane alternatives.

Thank God for His mercy and kindness! He forgives and grants strength and renewal as we follow His full prescription.

"Return-do the works you did at first." In other words, return to the actions that characterized your former love-inspired days. Identify those things and return to them. Here are four things to remember:

1. Devour the Scriptures. Biblical stories and principles may not seem as astonishing after years of reading, but the living Word still speaks into a willing heart with encouragement, conviction, and hope-and sometimes in startlingly refreshing ways. The character, wisdom, and ways of God seem fuller and richer with each reading. The fire is stoked.

2. Seek out fellowship with other believers. Young believers find pleasure in fellowship because their spiritual antennas are so carefully tuned to the important things of God. Don't let the inadequacies of the venues, the quirks of others, or the inconveniences of time impede true Christian relationship. Regular and deep Christian fellowship is a fuel that the fire desperately needs.

3. Pursue opportunities to make appreciable leaps in spiritual growth. There is a continual need for learning and growing in the things of God. It is a lie from hell that a believer might mature to the point where significantly new experiences and growth are unlikely. A seasoned Christian with a receptive and expectant heart still can experience inspiration in worship, fellowship, and reading.

4. Spark your spiritual life with new energy through special events. I have been profoundly affected by a week at an OCF conference center, a Marked Men for Christ retreat (women have the companion ministry of Women's Walk with Christ), and an extended period of fasting, meditation, and reflection.

We must tend to the fire-to the love relationship with our Lord. Anything less is abandonment. Remembering, repenting, and returning stokes that fire and results in peace and power. Praise the One whose love never grows cold!