Has your love gone cold?
That figure is the risen and ascended Jesus Christ! The one we Christians down through history have proclaimed as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He was the greatest gift of all, freely given, in order to save the world! Salvation, as a gift of grace, imparted to all those who would accept Jesus Christ as saviour! And one group of people had taken Him up on that offer, a church we read about in Revelation 2:1-7
The speaker: As I have already said, these passages speak of Jesus in the fullness of His post-resurrected glory, although these mere words cannot do ultimate justice to Him. He is our speaker here, commanding John to write. Jesus is not aloof, impersonal and distant. He knows intimately about His church and His people. Nothing is secret to Him! Note v1 where Jesus walks around surveying the people who claim to follow and worship Him alone! WOW!
The angel: The angel mentioned in vi could also mean messenger or it could mean a guardian angel or a saint. As with much of Revelation and the largely figurative language, there is no certainty as to what is meant.
The author: There is much debate as to the author of the Book of Revelation. Most attribute it to the Apostle John, and that is who I believe it to be.
Ephesus : Ephesus was located on the coast, and was a transportation hub and an administrative and commercial centre. It was home to the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and as such was a centre of mystical cult worship. There were also 6 temples set up for worship of Roman emperors such was its importance. We know a lot about the church of Ephesus from the New Testament. It was established by Paul on his third missionary journey, and it was from this church that Paul called the elders of Ephesus to meet him at Miletus when he was on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16). Tradition tells us, that Ephesus became the residence of the Apostle John, both before and after his exile, and that he was their bishop.So if tradition is right on this aspect, then can you imagine the sense of excitement built up in the Ephesian congregation? "WOW! John has sent us a letter. Our John!! What does it say? Quick. Hurry up and read it. " Boy, were they in for a shock!
- They work hard (v2).
- They tirelessly persevere through hardships (v3).
- Their doctrine, teaching and belief system is orthodox and correct.
- They tolerated neither evil or people who perpetrate evil (v2, 6).
- They use discernment when required (v2).
The Ephesian church had refused to allow apostasy and immorality to go on in the church. They exercised church discipline when men refused to respond to God's Word. Does that sound like any church you know or attend? Most of the apostle John's sermons were based on 0ne thing - "love". Love Christ and love one another. Indeed, John is known as the Apostle of Love.
2. Forsaken & forgotten
The church in Ephesus was orthodox in theology, practice, and service, yet something was missing which, if not corrected, would ruin their light-bearing capacity. They no longer have their "first love" (v.7), it has been left behind. Again, many people have a theory about what this love is. Is it their love of Christ? Is it their love of others? I personally think its both, and the reason I say this is because loving Christ involves loving others, just as loving others truly depends on loving Christ. They have also forgotten something.
The local church is married to Christ, but there is always the danger of that love growing cold. The church, both as a congregation, and as individuals can be so busy working for Jesus that they have no time to love Him. Jesus Christ is more concerned about what we do with Him than for Him. Labour is no substitute for love. To the public, the Ephesian church was successful; to Jesus Christ, it had fallen out of love with Him.
For all its outward appearances, the church of Ephesus was super-spiritual. However, they were guilty of something that is not necessarily seen outwardly. Jesus sees the heart, and in the Ephesian church, He did not see love. So Jesus tells them to do three things in which to restore their marriage.
a. Remember: Reflect, go back and recall the past. Jesus is saying, remember the way it used to be in your relationship with me. This process of looking back is also a call to recognize one's true condition. We can't very well confess sin 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 and dull, even to the point of drudgery? Have we lost the joy of the Lord, if so, it is because we have left the position of devotion and occupation with Christ.
b. Repent: Recognize one's previous decision, opinion, or condition as wrong, and to accept and move towards a new and right path in its place. Repentance includes confession of sin with a view to stopping the bad behaviour so it can be replaced with what was right.
c. Repeat: Jesus commands them, "Do the things you did at first." Go back to when you first turned to me and repeat them. As well as continuing to work for me, it would include such things as honest confession of sin, prayer, Bible study, reading, meditation, memorization, fellowship with believers, being occupied with Christ and refocusing all of our life on Him, the faith rest life, reckoning on our position in Christ, etc. In your dealings with people, have an attitude of love as well as service.
After the commendations, then the counsel, comes the challenge. If they refuse to remember, repent and repeat, the church will be destroyed. Their zeal is again commended in v6, but that is not enough! They must love again and keep on loving all - not just those they like! Love Jesus Christ and love their neighbours. For without love, your survival as a church is dependent. Did the Ephesian church listen? Well today, there is neither church nor city, so apparently they didn't.
For the individual that overcomes, for the individual that remembers, repents and repeats, there is the promise of everlasting life (v7)
We live in times when churches are closing and congregations are dwindling. Yet not all are. Some churches are thriving and growing. Those churches that close or are facing dwindling congregations, are they churches that have forgotten their first love? Are they so efficient and zealous for God that they have forgotten to love their neighbours and therefore by proxy forgotten to love Jesus. Or are they churches that declare love for their neighbours, yet neglect to love Jesus Christ by following His commands closely?
No wonder there are churches in decline if they don't love, they are writ for destruction if the church of Ephesus is anything to go by.Studies show that those churches where the Word of God is faithfully preached and actively showing love to others, there is a steady increase in congregational growth. However, it also showed that the churches that were closing or had dwindling congregations, were those that didn't take God's word seriously and were therefore neglecting their love for Christ. Where is your church today? Is it, and you, like the Church of Ephesus from the passage from Revelation 2?
Why do you do the things you do for the church? Is it motivated out of love for Christ and for others? Or is it motivated out of some vain self satisfying glory and duty?Let us all, each one of us, remember, repent and repeat, as we go about in our service for God. By no means stop what you are doing for Him, but go about it even more fervently with a love that is reminiscent of your first love of Him. Don't treat Jesus as a "first crush", easily forgotten. That is not what He requests. He requests we treat him as a "first love", showing that in our adoration of Him and in our love for all those around us.
Perhaps one of the greatest areas where love can be seen is in the area of giving. Our giving of words, gestures, touches, possessions, lives and yes, even money! How does our giving of anything match that of the God we claim to serve and emulate? Our money, words, gestures, touches, possessions and lives: to be given without expectation of return. That is the essence of grace. Our money, possessions and lives were all given to us by God in the first place! To not pass them on wisely and freely for the use of others in need is to rob God of glory due His name. To not do that is spiritual materialism and a gospel of works.
Indeed, the reason most people don’t give to need is because they are either selfish or lack the imagination to fulfil the needs of others. When the world gives, they give expecting something back. When Christians give, they are to give as God gives - freely and without expectation of getting anything in return. We, as the church, as Christians are not to emulate the world but emulate the greatest gift, Jesus Christ, who freely gave all, in the name of love! Go and show your love of Jesus Christ, remaining close to Him and giving generously and with grace! Thank you.