Don’t Forget Your First Love
In today’s sermon I take a look at when the believer first fell in love with their first love – Jesus Christ. We then evaluate whether that same fire is still present in our heart.
Your first love. Do you remember when you fell in love for the first time? (Let’s also include liking somebody or having a crush on someone as well.) That love starts out very intense at first, right? Everything is exciting as you both get to know one another and be around each other. The love be so strong that you can’t stop thinking about them, and missing them for an hour or so begins to feel like days.
Then something happens. Time passes by and with that, the fierce intensity of the love from the early days fade away. The love of that person kind of became a normal thing. Some people learn how to continue to love and to grow with the one that they love, while others forget their love and begin to take other actions.
Christ’s revelation of the church of Ephesus
I open with that thought about first love today because we will see here in our text for today (Rev. 2:1-7) that Jesus reveals some things about the church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:1). What I want to do today is take a look at this revelation and what it means for us because aren’t we the church? We, the genuine believers, are those that make up the church of Christ! Therefore, this revelation is of significance for us and so we should pay close attention to what Jesus says.
Christ in the midst of the church
To explain the significance to us, I want to first point out who it is that holds the church in His hands. Jesus says (Rev. 2:1) to the angel, or messenger (likely meaning pastor/elder) of the church of Ephesus, “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” Let’s pay close attention to the introduction of this letter to the church of Ephesus.
Notice who it is that is speaking with authority here. (The writing in our bibles will be a give away because the font should be red. Also, depending on the bible you are using, the he in this scripture may appear as a proper noun – “He”.) The one who is sending this message to the church of Ephesus, and speaking with authority, is Christ – God.
The seven stars are representative of the seven churches that were present in that day. In that day, He said that he held the seven churches in His hand. When you hold something in your hand, you are typically in control of whatever you are holding, right? So, Jesus says to us that He was in control of those seven churches. Not only that, but you will notice that Jesus also mentions that He “walks in the ‘midst’” of those churches.
Jesus, today, is still watching over the church. I tell you that Jesus is still in the midst of the church today! Yes, we have pastors, we have deacons, mothers, and all of those that make up the congregation, yet Christ is the one who is at the head of the Church. Not only is Christ the head of the church, but He still walks in the midst of His church, judging it as He goes up and down.
So, this letter we could equate to getting a letter (or email, I guess) from our boss. I guess we could also liken it to being called to the principal’s office or having a talk with your parents. We would pay anything from our parents, boss, or principle a great amount of attention. Jesus was seeking to get the church’s attention!
Christ applauds their works
Let’s notice what Jesus addresses with this church. He first says to them (Rev. 2:2), “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.” Essentially, Jesus says to them, “I know what you have been up too.” He says, “I know your works” which is to say, “I know your actions.” Jesus then says, “I know your labor,” which is to say, “I know your struggles.” Jesus knows everything there is to know about His church because He is in the midst of His church!
Let us note that Jesus even says, “I know that you cannot bear those who are evil, and that you test those that claim to be apostles but are not.” In the earlier days of the church, there were many who would claim to be apostles of the Lord, but the people would not fall for it so easily. Even Paul had to deal with those who would question his apostleship. In our time, there are many who proclaim to be doing the Lord’s work who are now being called out for not preaching the gospel.
Jesus then applauds this church by saying (Rev. 2:3), “You have persevered and have not become weary while laboring in My name.” In my opinion, this is a very high commendation, right? The church of Ephesus has done as they were commissioned – spread the good news. They did this with patience and through their struggles they never grew weary with the task! To hear the Lord one day say this to me, I can only imagine how wide the smile would be on my face!
Christ’s condemnation for the church of Ephesus
I believe all of us would feel a great amount of joy if we were to hear this type of praise from the Lord! However, we will see that the Lord’s judgment held both a commendation and a condemnation. I wonder if Christ would have this same condemnation of the church today. Let’s look at His condemnation for the church of Ephesus.
Jesus says (Rev. 2:4), “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Would Christ say this same thing of the church today? How many of us remember our first love today? Who is the first love of every believer?
Shouldn’t Jesus be the believer’s first love? The first and great commandment is that we should love the Lord our God with all of heart, mind, and soul (Matt. 22:37). John wrote that we love the Lord because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). The question for today is, do you still love your first love, Jesus Christ?
The relationship between the believer and Christ
I often speak about the relationship between the believer and Christ because this relationship is the most important relationship one can have. Jesus says (Rev. 2:5), “Remember from where you have fallen” – Remember when you first fell in love with Christ! Can you remember when you first fell in love with Christ?
You were so happy entering into your relationship with Christ. Many of us proudly filled the church pews with a smile on our face. Every song that was sung, our feet had life, we would rock side to side, and clap louder than anybody (if you’re like me, you can’t really carry a tune but you do your best!)
When we first entered into this relationship we would thank Jesus for everything! It did not matter how “little” or “big” the blessing was, we would throw our hands up in praise of the Lord! We would earnestly pray to the Lord, full of faith in knowing what God would do for us! Our friends and family would think we were crazy for believing in the Lord, but it did not matter because we knew how good God was to us! In fact, we wouldn’t even be ashamed to tell somebody about Him!
Then some of us encountered struggles. As with all relationships, there are going to be ups and downs. In a relationship with the Lord, we find that all of the downs comes from our own mind. We begin to believe that God slows up or even stops on giving us His blessings. Many of us begin to believe that God has abandoned us because He “no longer works for me.”
Leaving your first love
God does not abandon those who genuinely love and believe in Him. Many of us end up letting what we lust after and covet draw us away from the Lord when we should not! God does not lust after or covet anything other than us, so why do we do that to Him? Then we point the finger at God and say that He has abandoned us when it is we who have left Him.
Now, notice in our key verse (Rev. 2:4) that Christ, again, is talking to the church of Ephesus. This church, remind you, was actually commended for ministering the gospel and doing what was right. Yet, at the very same time, Christ tells them that He saw them slipping away from their first love. What Christ saw was that the Ephesians love was not as zealous (fiery/passionate hot) as it once was for Him. Essentially, the Ephesians were simply going through the motions.
Losing fire for Christ today?
Are we now in the same boat as the church of Ephesus? Is the love for the first love starting to go cold in your heart? Sadly, many believers are simply going through the motions when it comes to this relationship with the Lord. The love is no longer zealous at this point, in fact, the love may not even be genuine – it’s simply on autopilot. We find many believers who are simply going through the motions today: they go to church, they say “thank you Lord”, they pray, and they read their bible, but the love isn’t truly zealous (hot). The love is starting to fade in this believer’s heart.
You see, when you begin to do those things going through the motions, your faith will begin to simply turn into religion. There are many people who preach the name of Christ, but they do not live what they preach – we call those folks hypocrites. Many religious people are living their life as hypocrites. There has to be a burning fire and desire in the hearts of those that genuinely profess faith in the Lord!
David said (Ps 71:5), “You are my hope, O Lord God.” Hope, in this sentiment, means desire so David was saying that the Lord was his desire. Can we really say that the Lord is the desire of our hearts today? We have so many influences entering into the heart of both the church and the believer today. Many of these influences can come between us and the Lord. As Jesus said (Matt. 6:24), “it’s hard for a man to serve (be with) two masters. You will love the one and hate the other.”
Therefore, we should consider the warning that Jesus gave to the church of Ephesus. They were certainly doing good things, but they were leaving (fading away from) their first love. Jesus said to them, “Repent and do the first works (work out of genuine love) or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place.” I certainly don’t want the Lord to remove our lampstand from its place! Therefore, let us not let our love for the Lord fade but continue to let our love and desire for Him burn! Remember your first love, Jesus Christ!