02: Jesus’ letter to the Ephesian church

768px-The_Church_in_Aurora (1)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 people, 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 the love you had at first. Consider how far 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 favour: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Jesus commended the Ephesian church for many great attributes: they were hard working, they persevered through their hardships, they refused to tolerate wickedness in their midst and they showed sound judgement in discerning false apostles and false doctrine. In many ways, they were doing really well.

Yet there was something that Jesus was deeply unhappy about. He was so unhappy about it, that he promised to close them down if they did not fix the problem! [Barnes’ commentary notes that the church of Ephesus evidently failed to repent and the church did indeed cease to exist.]

The problem was:

you have forsaken the love you had at first

This reminds me of God’s words to Samuel as he looked at Jesse’s eldest son as potential king:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

– 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV1984)

God considers our heart condition as of greatest importance. We can life lives that look good on the outside, people may think we are “good Christians”, but if we are not loving God first-and-foremost, our hearts invalidate our deeds. We are hypocrites. We appear to love God, but we’ve actually lost our love for him.

Many have observed the passion of a new believer – amazed by God’s love and grace, deeply grateful, full of awe, completely and joyfully surrendered to Jesus. Yet with time, many passionate believers “cool down”. Their passion subsides, and they settle into religious routines of ritual, doctrine and discipline. They may be very “religious”, but there is no longer any “fire in their hearts”.

They have not lost their faith (they may even have developed a strong theology), but they have lost their love.

Fortunately, Jesus gives the remedy – the way back to our first love:

Consider how far you have fallen!

   Repent

and do the things you did at first.”

1. REMEMBER:

Remember what it was like when you were first adopted as God’s child. Remember the awe! Remember the gratitude! Remember the joy! Remember the excitement! Remember the passion! Just remembering those days can stir up our passion again!

For many of us, our decline in passion was gradual; if we look back a week or a month, we may not notice much, but when we look back to our beginnings, we can see what we have lost. This motivates us to get back to our “glory days”!

2. REPENT:

“Repent” literally means “change your thinking”. Stop thinking religiously, ritualistically and theologically. Go back to a simple faith and a simple appreciation of the Gospel.

  • Jesus loves you enough to die for you – and he did!
  • Jesus set you free from the oppression of the devil!
  • Jesus has secured you forgiveness for your sins!
  • Jesus has prepared a room in the Father’s house for a glorious eternity!

Getting these awesome realities into our thinking again will reignite our love for Jesus!

3. RETURN TO YOUR EARLY WAYS

Barnes put it so well in his commentary that I’ll just quote him:

“This is the true counsel to be given to those who have backslidden, and have “left their first love,” now. Often such persons, sensible that they have erred, and that they have not the enjoyment in religion which they once had, profess to be willing and desirous to return, but they know not how to do it – how to revive their ardor, how to rekindle in their bosom the flame of extinguished love.

“They suppose it must be by silent meditation, or by some supernatural influence, and they wait for some visitation from above to call them back, and to restore to them their former joy.

The counsel of the Saviour to all such, however, is to do their first works. It is to engage at once in doing what they did in the first and best days of their piety, the days of their “espousals” [Jer 2:2] to God. “Let them read the Bible as they did then; let them pray as they did then; let them go forth in the duties of active benevolence as they did then; let them engage in teaching a Sunday school as they did then; let them relieve the distressed, instruct the ignorant, raise up the fallen, as they did then; let them open their heart, their purse, and their hand, to bless a dying world.

“As it was in this way that they manifested their love then, so this would be better suited than all other things to rekindle the flame of love when it is almost extinguished. The weapon that is used keeps bright; that which has become rusty will become bright again if it is used.”

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