When I hear the word stray, I think of a lost dog — one who doesn’t have a home, a wanderer looking for its next meal.
And then I think about people and the spiritual falling away that happens oh-so-slowly over time. I’ve been guilty of this myself. It’s not something we plan or even want to do. It just happens. But why?
I recently shared about falling away from our first love (Revelation 2:4-5). The word fall is throughout the scriptures and it always means the same thing: to lose ground from a higher level to a lower level. But Jesus said we’re guilty of falling from our first love. And then He clarified by saying our first love is our first works (what we did in the beginning, before we fell).
This will look different for each person because our individual functions in the Body of Christ are different. Initially we all shared an excitement for God, salvation, learning and applying truths from God’s Word, and definitely in sharing our new-found faith with others. Then over time, God revealed our individual functions — that specific thing we were each called to do in the world to further the gospel of Jesus Christ and build His kingdom.
But let us not forget we have an enemy and his goal is to derail us from our function. The Bible explains this well in the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15). The enemy immediately comes to steal the seed of God’s Word lest it bear fruit. And if that doesn’t work, he uses our own cares, responsibilities, and worldly temptations to choke the Word. It’s subtle. Thieves are always quiet and secretive, not drawing attention to themselves, so understandably, many Christians don’t recognize what’s been stolen from them until later (if at all).
I believe the answer lies somewhere between the flesh and the Spirit. In Galatians, Chapter 5, Paul said, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (verse 1). The word again points to our previous condition before Christ: lost (like the stray dog). Why would we want to become lost again?
Paul continued, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump… I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (verses 7-9, 16-17).
I almost re-wrote that last passage to say “…so that you do not do the things you once did in the beginning.” Our first love.
The problem is that it doesn’t take much to fall away. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” In other words, just a small amount of yeast can be added to the whole batch of dough and change it completely. The same is true of our lives. Just a little compromise here, a little laziness there, a little indulgence to the flesh slowly saturates and overtakes our whole desire to walk by the Spirit instead of the flesh. It’s certainly not intentional. But it happens to us all, unless we take note of this truth, resist the temptations, and repent when we discover we’ve fallen (even just a little).
I stand fast on Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ, therefore, I don’t let revelation like this beat me up. And you shouldn’t either. Just recognize the subtle ways in which the enemy has detoured you away from your first love.
Repent. Go back. You have a function that is needed in the Body of Christ. Nobody can be YOU but YOU. I’ll leave you with one more thought: “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but [instead] grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:17-18). Return to your first love.