Yesterday, I met with my staff to have our weekly meeting and Bible study. We have been in and out over the past 2 weeks because of camp and other summer activities. It was really nice to get back together yesterday and open up God’s Word. I was praying about what to teach during the Bible study. We have been studying the Sermon on the Mount and we finally reached the end. I thought about just giving an exam over the study but God would not let me. I sensed that God wanted me to teach something special but I did not know what. The day before, I was listening to a sermon online preached by a friend of mine from Moldova. The message resonated with me so much that I have pretty much memorized it. The next morning, I was still not sure what to teach so I chose to prepare a lesson on Philippians 2. Once I finished and was preparing all my notes to go and teach, I still did not have a peace about the lesson. On the way back from lunch with my kids, God laid the message from Revelation 2 on my heart. I quickly outlined the lesson and prepared to teach it. As I was thinking of an example to explain what it looks like to come back to your first love, the Philippians passage came to mind. It fit perfectly. I would like to share the message here in this article.
Our main passage is Revelation 2.
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His righthand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first;or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place -unless you repent. 6 ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
I. Christ’s Praise
The first thing that Jesus does with the church at Ephesus is to praise them for their good things. This is the same thing that the Apostle Paul does in his letters to the churches. It is almost like Paul were taught by Jesus or something 🙂 . Let’s take a look at all of the things that Jesus praises the believers in Ephesus for doing.
- good deeds
- toil for the Gospel
- perseverance in the midst of persecution
- they do not tolerate evil
- they confront evil
- they tested all who taught with the Word of God
- they did not listen to false teachers
- they confronted the false teachers
- they have endured persecution for the sake of Christ
- they have not grown weary in serving
Based on this simple list, this would be an almost perfect church, based on the outer appearance of things. These are the things that get the recognition because they are tangible. Some would even call them the “fruit” which the Bible speaks about. These seem to be actions but, in fact, they are results of another action. The original “action” is the first love that Jesus speaks of in verse 4 of Revelation 2. The funny thing about the things listed by Christ is that they can keep rolling even when the essence of what causes them to roll is left behind. The scary thing is that you can leave your first love and still keep the status quo, i.e. the ball rolling in the church. It can be very impressive to the world around but Jesus is not fooled. He knows that once the first love is left, the actions will eventually fall apart, even though it may be much later and you keep up the appearance to fool those who are looking on from the outside. If the passage were to stop at verse 3, all would say, we want to be that church. But, we arrive at verse 4.
II. Christ’s Complaint
Christ looks into the heart of the problem. He is not impressed with the outer appearance. Man looks at the outer appearance and is impressed but God sees the heart of the matter. In verse 4, Jesus tells the believers that they have left their first love. The question is, what is the first love? In order to find the answer, we need to go back to the first church and see what their first love was and how it was manifested.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren , what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2)
Here is what the first love of the church was, just like what had happened in Ephesus (see Acts 19).
- Heard the Gospel
- Moved to act based on the message of the Gospel
- Forgiveness of sins
- Received the Holy Spirit
- Continually devoted to studying the Word of God
- They fellowshipped around the Word of God
- The took the Lord’s Supper together (evaluated their walks with the Lord)
- They prayed together constantly
- What is implied is that they served the community with the Gospel (that is why God was adding to the number of new believers every day)
This is the first love that the Ephesian Christians had left. They were still doing the serving and ministering but had turned away from the essentials. They were no longer excited about studying the Scriptures daily. They were not fellowshipping around the Word of God like they once did. They were not evaluating their walk with the Lord like they once did. They are no longer praying for each other and with each other like they once did. They were just busy keeping the ball rolling. The ministering flowed out of their first love. Once they left their first love, they were still able to keep the ball rolling, but sooner or later, the wheels were going to fall off. Jesus intervenes before the crisis hits to warn them to return to their first love so that the results (ministries) would not eventually fall apart. Where are you? Are you like the Epheisans, still keeping the ball of ministry rolling but have already left your first love? Do you have a passion for private and corporate Bible study? Do you fellowship with others based on what you are learning in God’s Word? Do you evaluate your walk with God on a daily basis? Do you pray privately and corporately for those with whom you fellowship? Does your ministry flow from your first love or is it your love? What is the solution?
III. Christ’s Solution
I love the Word of God because when God calls us out on something, He does not do it simply to agitate us. Instead, He does it so that He can get our attention and then give us the solution. The answers are in verse 5.
- Remember from where you have fallen. Remember what it was like in the beginning, how much you loved to study and understand God’s Word. Remember the fellowship that came out of being in the Word with others. You constantly evaluate your walk with the Lord. You pray for others, both believers and nonbelievers.
- Repent – have a change of mind. Have your mind changed back to the way it was in the beginning, when you first came to Christ. Do not focus on the ministry as much as your relationship with God. The ministry will flow out of the relationship.
- Go back to the deeds that you did in the beginning; 1)Bible study 2)Fellowship 3)Lord’s Supper 4)Prayer and allow 5)Ministry to flow from those things.
If you do not return to your first love then the wheels will fall off of the ministry eventually. You can keep the ball rolling for a while but it will all fall apart. If you return back to your first love then the ministry will continue spinning like a top. God will continue to add to the believers numbers as we walk with Him and serve out of that. Which do you want? Which direction is your church headed? What are you going to do about it? May the Lord help us hear Him and obey Him for His glory and our own good.