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 Ephesus - How to Recover Our First Love

Revelation 2:4-5

John Hoole March 5, 2006


Revelation 2:1-3 NKJV

1 To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

Thus far, Ephesus seems to be a model church,and are seen here receiving glowing commendations from Jesus. But all is not well in this church. In verse 4, Jesus chastises them with these words.

4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

For all their activity, patience and zeal for the truth, the church in Ephesus has forgotten the one thing needful. Externally it shows all the right characteristics:

o hard work,

o patient perseverance,

o and, purity in doctrine.

But internally, they had lost their way. Unfortunately, many churches in history have followed in their steps.

Hard work, patient perseverance and zeal for the truth are not enough. It is not that they are unimportant. It's that they are not the most important things. This church had left behind one very important thing - Love. The nature of this love is not specified,so commentators have debated whether it refers to love of God or love of man. I personally believe it starts with love for God. Love for other believers is driven by our love for God. I am really glad that Jesus did not stop speaking to the church at Ephesus at the end of verse 4. He is not content to leave the church of Ephesus, nor any church, nor any of his children wandering in the deserts of lovelessness. The church in Ephesus had abandoned their first love. But it was not too late. Jesus offers the church an opportunity to mend her ways.

The Great Physician, our Savior, issued a prescription to this congregation that would, if followed, cure their spiritual malaise. He never points out our faults without providing a remedy. Jesus never drops a bombshell of criticism and then leave us there quivering in His wake. He tells us how to fix the problem.

If you or I sense that we have left our "first love" for our Lord, the prescription He gives to this church can apply to us as well. He prescribes what I will call "The 3 R's to recovery."

The 3 R's to recovery

Let's again read verse 5.

5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent.

The 3 R's to recovery are:

1. Remember from where you have fallen.

2. Repent

3. Repeat what you used to do - do the first works again.

Jesus does not just drop the bombshell of criticism and then leaven them to quiver in His wake. He tells them (and us) how to fix the problem.

1. Remember therefore from where you have fallen

This is a call to reflect, to go back and recall the past. The Savior is saying, "Do you remember the way it used to be in your relationship with Me?" Undoubtedly, the process of looking back helps one see their true condition. We can't very well confess sins if we don't clearly see it for what it is.

Has our Christian life lost some of its excitement and joy? Are we finding our Christian work rather boring, dull and routine, even to the point of drudgery? Have we lost the joy of the Lord. If so, it may be because we have left the position of devotion and occupation with Christ?

There are many places in the Bible where the people of God are told to remember. In some of them, a memorial was establish so that later generations would remember.

CAN YOU THINK OF SOME BIBLICAL MEMORIALS?

1. God's Name - "Yahweh" - is a memorial to Israel (Exodus 3:14-15)

Psalms 30:4 ASV

4 Sing praise unto Jehovah, O ye saints of his, and give thanks to his holy memorial (name).

Other translations render it "his holy name."

2. The Old Testament holy days were each a memorial

Deuteronomy 16:2-3 (NKJV) speaks of the Passover:

2 Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name.
3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.

In Exodus 12:14, it actually uses the word "memorial".

When the Israelites were preparing to leave the slavery of Egypt for the freedom of the Promised Land, God commanded that they celebrate the first Passover. God told His people that this Passover feast would be a memorial to the fact that God had spared the first born of the Israelites in Egypt.

3. When Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land, a memorial was erected.

Joshua 4:4-7 NKJV

4 Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe;
5 and Joshua said to them: "Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel,

6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?'

7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever."

4. Two engraved stones on the shoulder of the High Priest's ephod was a memorial.

Exodus 28:12 NKJV

12 And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.

5. A written record can be a memorial.

Exodus 17:13-14 NKJV

13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
14 Then the LORD said to Moses,"Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven."

There is also a "book of remembrance" in Heaven - Malachi 3:16

6. The act of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus is called a memorial.

Matthew 26:13 NKJV

13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."

7. The Lord's Supper (Communion) is a memorial.

Luke 22:19 NKJV

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

Memorials have always been important to God. God regards remembering as a critical exercise for his people. Sometimes a memorial is a physical object - like an altar or monument. Others memorials are written down and kept. Others consisted of prescribed activities for all generation that followed, such as their annual holy days.

Memorials are important to God, because remembering is important to His people. Repeatedly throughout Scripture, God's people are told to "remember….remember…remember." Here in our text today, we find God's people being told once more: Remember!! "Remember the height from which you have fallen." Whatever it was they had forgotten, they desperately needed to remember it.

What had they forgotten? Had they forgotten to take care of the poor and help those in need? I don't think so - Jesus told them he knew of their good works. This was a church that did good things. And that got Jesus' attention. Had they fallen into false doctrine? Absolutely not!! Jesus told them: "I know you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them liars.

This church was known for its "good deed" and "good doctrine". But something was missing - this church had forgotten something.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THE SCRIPTURES TELL US TO REMEMBER?

The word "remember," in its various forms, is found 262 times in the Bible. Certain spiritual truths and principles found in the Word of God are especially emphasized by words like "remember," "remind," "do not forget," etc. Let me share a few of them with you.

Luke 17:32 Remember Lot's wife.

Our memory is a precious gift. There are times when looking back can be sinful, as was the case for Lot's wife. But looking back can also be sensible and right. To look back at the way that God has led us is the least our gratitude can do. Look back at the spiritual heights which once by the grace of God we experienced. Looking back and remembering can be the first step back along the road of repentance.

Psalms 20:7 NKJV

7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 NKJV

1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them":

Hebrews 13:16 NIV

16 And do not forget (remember) to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

2 Timothy 2:8 NKJV

8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,

Hebrews 13:7 NKJV

7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

And again, in our Passage in Revelation, we along with the Ephesians, are instructed to pause and remember, or recall, what it was like in our honeymoon experience with our Lord. The Greek word used here for "remember" literally means "keep on remembering." Remember when you loved Christ the most.

This phrase indicates that at one time, they had been at a point from which they strayed. Christ is trying to get us to look back to that place. Remember what it was like when you first came to Jesus. Remember the joy you had in the Lord. Remember the closeness you felt to Him and Him to you. Remember the inner support you leaned upon in times of pressure and trouble. Remember the ease with which you prayed back then. Remember how you felt when Christ was number 1 in all that you did. Remember the delight you had reading the Bible, and how the words just leaped off the pages, as you desired more of Him.

We have so much to remember about Christ's love for us, and how we felt when He was the apex of our thinking. We need to remember the freshness of our first love. Remember when it was springtime in your soul. Remember how you yearned to learn more of the Word. Remember when your heart was overflowing with love for Christ. Remember when you loved your fellow-believers. Remember when you had a passion for those who were still lost. Remember the excitement, the enthusiasm you had for the things of God. Remember how you saw God's hand in every circumstance. Remember how you felt the presence of God in you. Remember the thankfulness you felt for your salvation.

How easy it is for us to forget the great seasons we have had with the Lord. How easy it is to forget in the midst of our efforts to serve the Lord that love for Him is the most important attribute He desires. Ask Him to give you those feeling and experiences again. He will - and that is the first step to returning to your "first love".

2. Repent

Before ever mentioning the coming judgment in the Book of Revelation, Christ first calls the churches to repentance. 1 Peter 4:17 tells us that judgment must first begin in the house of God.

If the local churches are not a proper expression of God's truth and righteousness, how can they influence the world for Christ? In these letters, we find the Lord of the Church lovingly but firmly speaking to His church.

WHAT DOES THE WORD "REPENT" MEAN?

The Old Testament Hebrew word for "repent" has a slightly different meaning from the New Testament word for "repent." The Hebrew word for "repent" is SHUWB. It literally means "to turn".

Take Psalm 80:3 (ASV) for instance.

3 Turn us again (SHUWB), O God; and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.

So, to repent is to turn away from your sin.

Jeremiah 25:5 NKJV

5 They said, 'Repent (SHUWB) now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings,...

In the New Testament, you have the Greek word, METANOIA.

In Acts 2:38 (NKJV), we read:

38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

That word speaks of a revolutionary change in our thinking. It results in a change of our understanding of reality, a change of values, a change of goals, a change of purpose. In other words, repentance is a revolutionary idea.

From the Scriptures, let me give you a list of things pertaining to repentance.

1. Repentance is commanded to all by God. (Ezekiel 18:30-32)

2. It is commanded by Christ. (Revelation 2:5, 16)

3. Christ came to call sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13)

4. Repentance is necessary for the pardon of sins. (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22)

5. Conviction of sin is necessary to repentance. (1 Kings 8:38; Prov. 28:13; Acts 2:37, 38; 19:18)

6. The present time is the season for repentance. (Psalm 95:7,8; Heb. 3:7,8; 4:7; 2 Cor. 6:2)

7. There is joy in heaven over one sinner brought to repentance. (Luke 15:7, 10)

8. Repentance should be evidenced by fruits. (Isa. 1:16-17; Daniel 4:27; Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:29)

9. Repentance should be accompanied by:

a) Humility (2 Chron. 7:14; James 4:9-10)

If we will humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways then He will hear from heaven and forgive our sins.

b) Shame (Ezra 9:6-15; Jer. 31:19; Ezek. 16:61, 63; Daniel 9:7-8)

Ezra 9:6 NKJV

6 And I said: "O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities (sins) have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.

Let me give you an illustration of shame with repentance. Perhaps the quaintest letter in the whole White House collection is one which came from a youth, addressed to President Cleveland in September, 1885.

"Dear President. I am in a dreadful state of mind, and I thought I would write and tell you all. About two years ago, I used two postage stamps that had been used before on letters; perhaps it was more than two stamps, but I can only remember of doing it twice. I did not realize the seriousness of what I had done until lately. My mind is constantly turned on that subject, and I think about it night and day. Now dear President, will you please forgive me, and I will promise you that I will never do it again. Enclosed find the cost of three stamps, and please forgive me, for I was then but thirteen years old. I am heartily sorry for what I have done. From one of your subject."

c) Confession (Leviticus 26:40; Romans 10:10)

If we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Christ has been raise from the dead, we will be saved.

d) Faith (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21)

We are instructed to repent and believe the gospel.

e) Turning from sin. (2 Chronicles 6:26)

10. There is a danger in neglecting repentance. (Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 13:3, 5; Revelation 2:22)

11. Neglect of repentance is followed by swift judgment. (Revelation 2:5, 16)

I don't know who made this statement, but it is good. "If we put off repentance another day, we have a day more to repent of, and a day less to repent in."

I like what J.C. Ryle says: "One thief on the cross was saved, that none should despair; and only one, that none should presume."

Just because we belong to a Christian family, a Christian nation or attend a certain church, does not guarantee one's salvation. All must repent of their sins to the one and only Savior of mankind. He alone can save us - not our position, not our status, not our good works.

Let me share with you a story. It was a bright Sunday morning in 18th century London, but Robert Robinson's mood was anything but sunny. All along the streets there were people hurrying to church, but in the midst of the crowd Robinson was a lonely man. The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life. It had been years since he set foot in a church. Years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved. That love for God - once fiery and passionate - had slowly burned out within him, leaving him dark and cold inside.

Robinson heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of a horse-drawn cab approaching behind him. Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver. But then he saw that the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed in finery for the Lord's day. He waived the driver on, but the woman in the carriage ordered the carriage to be stopped. "Sir, I'd be happy to share this carriage with you," she said to Robinson. "Are you going to church?" Robinson was about to decline, then he paused. "Yes," he said at last. "I am going to church." He stepped into the carriage and sat down beside the young woman.

As the carriage rolled forward Robert Robinson and the woman exchanged introductions. There was a flash of recognition in her eyes when he stated his name. "That's an interesting coincidence," she said, reaching into her purse. She withdrew a small book of inspirational verse, opened it to a ribbon-bookmark, and handed the book to him. "I was just reading a verse by a poet named Robert Robinson. Could it be...?"

He took the book, nodding. "Yes, I wrote these words years ago." "Oh, how wonderful!" she exclaimed." "Imagine! I'm sharing a carriage with the author of these very lines!"

But Robinson barely heard her. He was absorbed in the words he was reading. They were words that would one day be set to music and become one of the great hymns of the faith - familiar to generations of Christians.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace,
Steams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

His eyes slipped to the bottom of the page where he read:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

He could barely read the last few line through the tears that brimmed in his eyes. "I wrote these words - and I have lived these word. 'Prone to wonder….prone to leave the God I love."

The woman finally understood. "You also wrote, 'Here's my heart, O take and seal it.' "You can offer your heart again to God, Mr. Robinson. It's not too late."

And it wasn't' too late for Robert Robinson. In that moment he turned his heart back to God and walked with him the rest of his days. So, repentance is to turn around 180 degrees, going in the opposite direction to where you had been heading.

Your attitude towards your sin changes. You begin to see sin like Christ looks at sin. You begin to see how utterly lost you are because of your sins. And you recognize how much He loves you. And you take your sins to him asking for forgiveness.

Repentance is not only turning away from the sinful direction you were going. It is also turn towards someone - your Savior.

Acts 3:19 NKJV

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

Sinners are not the only ones told to repent. These believers in Ephesus were told to repent. The angel (the pastor) of the church at Ephesus was instructed to repent. We are not perfect once we became a Christian. We still make mistakes. But we can be forgiven and our sins blotted out.

3. Repeat what you used to do - do the first works again

We are not given the details of what constitutes "first works." This is not a call to more good works. Neither is it a call to renewed Christian service and activity. They had plenty of that. But we do know it has something to do with loving God and others. We certainly know it includes making Christ first in our lives.

The tenor of the words used here says, "Don't wait!" There is no suggestion that, having fallen out of love with Christ over some length of time they must delay until they have fallen in love with him again. By God's grace, it is in their power to do so immediately. They have fallen from the heights of love. By storm, they can regain those heights once again.

The sorrow of repentance is meant to drive a man or a woman to two things. First, it is meant to drive us to fling ourselves on the grace of God, saying "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Second, it is meant to drive us to action in order to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.

When you first became a Christian, you probably came into God's presence in awe, and you may have been a little nervous when you prayed. We need to recapture that awe in our worship and our prayer life. When you first became a Christian, you probably read God's Word a lot. To repeat your "first works" may mean turning the TV off and reading God's Word.

When you first became a Christian, you were probably teachable, and tried to apply what you learned from your pastor or teacher to your own life. To repeat the first works is to be teachable still, and listen for ways to apply what you learn.

You will notice that along with Christ's prescription for recovery, those in the congregation at Ephesus have two choices. They can follow the advice of Jesus, or refuse to do so. And with each choice is found a consequence for that choice.

1. Not to repent would cause the Lord to remove the church from this city. Not to repent brings a 4th R - Removal

2. To those who repent and follow the prescription, God gives a promise. It is a promise to eat from the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise of God. Today we also have the same choices and the same consequences. We will look at these consequences more fully in a later lesson.

However, let me make one statement about one of the consequences. That is, for those who do repent. Like the father of the prodigal son, who runs out to meet his returning child, Christ is waiting with arm wide open to receive those who draw close to Him again.

As you have heard me say in past lessons, none of these seven congregations were beyond hope of recovery. Neither is any of you sitting here this morning. But, like the church of Ephesus, we must follow His prescription.

How about it? Do you and I long for a close and intimate relationship with our Lord? He longs for such a relationship with us. He is waiting with open arms.

Hebrews 4:16 NKJV

16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

   
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