Remembering Your First Love

Revelation 2:1-7 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

In many ways the Book of Revelation is difficult to understand.  The Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, takes us on a journey that in many ways uses images from the past to convey to us God’s unfolding plan.  From the Book of Revelation various people have developed different understandings about end times.

What is sad, is that for many, a particular understanding of end times has become a dividing point; a line in the sand.  In these cases, failure to agree with their understanding of end times and their interpretation of the Revelation separates real Christians from the hopelessly lost.

As I read the Scriptures I always try to remember that the audience begins with a certain people at a certain time, while at the same time providing a message that transcends time, geography and culture.  So as I study God’s Word I always try to ask myself, what was the message for the original audience and what is the message for me.

In today’s text we listen in on God’s message to some real churches in real places of the time: Ephesus, Smyrna,  Pergamum, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Sardis, Laodicea, .  All located in modern day Turkey. 

Our focus today is on the first church addressed, the church in Ephesus.  What does Jesus Christ say about the Church in Ephesus?  What does Jesus see in his evaluation?

·      The church is active in Good Works

·      The people work hard even when results are not immediate

·      They hold a high degree of accountability

·      They have a strong knowledge of God’s Word

·      They accept and endure hardships that result from their faith in Christ.

It reminds me of Paul’s words to Timothy, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings– what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured (2 Timothy 3:10-11). This church seemed to have it together.  If this church was here today, you would want to be a part of it!  However, Jesus saw something else; something that others might miss.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (v. 4). 

Do you remember the first time you fell in love?  Do you remember what caused you to fall in love with your spouse and the reasons you decided to get married?

How’s it going?

·      Does your heart still beat a little faster when your spouse enters the room?

·      Do the things you once thought were cute about your companion now seem annoying? 

What changed?  I would suggest that in just about every case, people forget their first love.  They replaced the  great memories with everyday boredom.   

Jesus, looked at the church in Ephesus and said, you have so many things going for you.  In many ways you are a model church.  But where is the love:

In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul said:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Jesus said:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). 

When we forget our first love…our love for God, something happens.  Our work becomes empty effort, a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal.

What do we do?  How do we fall in love all over again?

 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first… (Revelation 2:5)

You and I need to REMEMBER!

Remember where we were and where we were going before God took a hold of our lives.

Remember God’s faithfulness in good times and bad

Remember God’s forgiveness and grace

Remember God’s call in your life

Remember what God has done in the lives of others.

Throughout the Scriptures, when God’s people failed or feared… God said REMEMBER: 

·      I delivered you from bondage.

·      I provided for you (manna, meat, direction)

·      I protected you 

The same is true in marriage.  When I forget what first drew me to my wife, marriage gets old.  Memory can be a great rejuvenator.

What’s at stake?

(verse 5 continues)  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 

The lampstand represents the churches (Revelation 1:20).  I believe that Jesus is warning the church.  If we don’t honor Jesus in our ministry.  If we do good works for the wrong reasons.  If we get the glory instead of God.  If we forget our first love. God has no reason to let our light shine.  The church, that is not a living part of the Body of Christ, loses its place and its influence.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7) 

 

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