There is something missing in our lives. There is something missing in our Christian walk. We know what we are supposed to do. We know that we are to serve God by staying away from various sins. Why is this so hard? Why does serving God seem so difficult? What inevitably happens is that serving God becomes a bunch of “don’ts.” “Don’t do this” and “don’t do that.” Is that all there is to this? Is that really what the Christian life supposed to be about? In this series of lessons we are going to look at what has gone wrong and see how change our perception of the Christian life from religion to love. Our base text for our studies will be the second and third chapters of Revelation. Even in the first century we will read of Christians who had similar problems.
If Jesus wrote you a letter, what do you think he would say? If Jesus wrote this church a letter, what do you think he would say? In Revelation 2-3 Jesus is speaking to seven congregations. In this series of lessons we will look at how to ignite our lives for Jesus.
Jesus Knows Your Good Works (2:2-3,6)
Verse 1 tells us that this is Jesus speaking. He is the one we saw in chapter 1 who holds the seven stars in his right hand and is walking among the seven golden lampstands. The messenger of the church of Ephesus was to write these words down from Jesus. The city of Ephesus was a cosmopolitan city, with many similarities to our cities today in terms of morality. The city was known for its widespread sin and sexual immorality. We learn from verses 2-3 that the church at Ephesus is not an apostate church. These Christians are not engaged in worldliness. They are not participating in sexual immorality like the people around them in that city. The church had not rejected the teachings of Christ.
They have the right doctrine. They do not bear with evil. They are testing teachers to make sure that what is being taught are the very words of God. They are patiently enduring, as we studied in James 5:7-12. They are holding fast to the faith and are not giving up on God in the face of suffering and difficulties. This is a church that is sound in the truth, not caving into sin, and not giving up on God. They do not tolerate evil. They even hate the teaching and the works of the Nicolaitans, a false teaching about which we do not have information. I believe we would be very pleased with this church. I think we would be happy to members of the church of Ephesus. But everything is not good.
Abandoned The Love (2:4)
Imagine that Jesus wrote you a letter. Imagine that Jesus wrote a letter to this church. These should be chilling words to our ears. “But I have this against you.” There is a problem. They have abandoned the love they had at first. When did we turn God into a to do list? The call of the Christian is not some sort of checklist that must be completed to make God happy. Following Jesus is not a life of rule keeping. How boring and mundane to turn having a relationship with God into a “don’t do this” list! What is the first and greatest commandment? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37; ESV). What is the second commandment? “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; ESV). Have we lost that? Are we missing the need to love God? The commandment is the love the Lord. Jesus writes to the church of Ephesus as says that you are doing all these things but you do not have the love for me. Where is the love? “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40; ESV). What we do for God is based on love, not a list.
How much would you appreciate your spouse telling you that you are going to keep all of your spousal duties, but I do not love you anymore? We don’t want people to do things just to do them. We want love to be the basis as to why we act. Jesus says that they had lost the love they had at the first. The fire for the Lord was gone. Their love had grown cold. They were still doing the checklist. They were working for the Lord. They were rejected evil. But love was not the basis for their actions.
We must love our Lord. Our actions are to come out of an overflow of love, not out of some mere sense of duty. The reason we are struggling doing the things that we know we need to do for God is because our love for God is growing weak. We are thinking of God as a list rather than a love. When Joseph was confronted with committing sexual sin with Potipher’s wife, what kept him from sexual sin? Did he tell her that this was not on the list? No, Joseph responded that he could not do such a thing against his God. He did not see God as a list of things to do and things not to do. He saw himself in a relationship with God. He loved God and that is what motivated him to choose right.
What To Do (2:5)
Jesus instructs these Christians concerning what they must do. The first thing he tells them to do is remember. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.” Remember where you were with God. Remember the zeal and love for God that you had at the beginning. Think about where you used to be in your relationship with God and consider how far you have fallen. We need to ask ourselves what has happened? Why have we lost the love we previously had? What is going on in our lives that has brought our relationship with God into ritual or a to do list?
There may be many things in your life that you can put your finger on as the problem. I hope you will meditate on those obstacles and think about how to renew your love for God. However, I would like to contribute one thought as to why we may have lost our love for God. We have lost our awe of him. We are not moved by his grace. We are not impressed by his creation. We have allowed the mundane to crowd our minds. We have let our routines blind our eyes to the majesty of God. Technology interferes with us seeing God. We are running so much and serving our gods so that we are too busy to see and too busy to love the true God. We have our heads down in our phones so much that we do not look up and see God in all the created world. We have our minds so plugged into technology that we cannot enjoy relationships anymore. We do not know what to do anymore if there is not some piece of technology interfering with our relationship. I went out to lunch the other day and in the booth next to me were two women eating, probably on a lunch break. For my entire meal there was no talking between them. They were both busy in their phones, checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. We are so busy serving our gods that we cannot see the true God. Our love is bound up in the technology of this world and not in God.
Look out the window and see God!
22 Have you no respect for me? Why don’t you tremble in my presence? I, the LORD, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. 23 But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned me. 24 They do not say from the heart, ‘Let us live in awe of the LORD our God, for he gives us rain each spring and fall, assuring us of a harvest when the time is right. (Jeremiah 5:22–24 NLT)
We have lost our awe of God. We take grace for granted and do not understand our condition as people with stubborn, rebellious hearts. We have exchanged the glory of God for the technological toys of this world. Remember from where you have fallen.
Second, Jesus says that these Christians need to repent. Remember where you were in your love for God and be sorrowful about what has happened. Nothing is going to change until we are cut to the heart about our poor relationship with God. We need to be sorrowful that we have inadvertently turned the love of God and a relationship with God into a mundane to do list. We should be distressed to realize that we have lost the love for God that we had at first.
Perhaps we need to see that what we are doing now is not working for God. God is not pleased with our current condition and our current depth of love. Notice what Jesus says will happen if they did not repent. “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” There will be judgment if we do not have a full love for God. Christ coming to them was not a positive event, but a judgment event. They will be judged for not having the love at the first. Further, Christ will remove their lampstand. This pictures our separation from God. We might be gathering together as an assembling, claiming to be followers of Jesus. But Christ declares that we are not his if lose our love for him.
This statement should open our eyes to the fact that it is false to believe that it doesn’t matter what church you join. This is a very important decision because there are churches who are not in fellowship with Christ, even though they claim to be. We must have the teachings of the scriptures and the love for Christ reflected in our lives. Friends, we need to repent of losing our love for him. We must repent for being caught up in the mundane routine of life. We need to repent of loving technology rather than loving Christ and loving one another.
Jesus says to return to him by doing the works they did at first. What did you do when you first started with God? For most Christians, you read your Bible much more than you are now. For many, you gathered with other Christians for fun, for study, for worship, and for fellowship much more than you are now. Perhaps you prayed more than you do now. You appreciated Jesus more than you do now. Your fear of condemnation and eternal punishment was stronger than it is now.
Why is it so hard to love God? Why do we have such a hard time doing the things we know we ought to do? We have the problem of spiritual amnesia. We forget all that God has done for us. No matter how much we learn about God’s creation, we forget the Creator. We forget that everything we need and true satisfaction is in having a relationship with God. We have forgotten how good it is to be in a relationship with God. We have forgotten how good it is to be free from vices and free from slavery to sin. We have forgotten what we are looking forward to going. We forget what God has promised.
In verse 7 Jesus tells us that we need to listen to what he is saying. Pay attention and listen carefully to his words. This is serious for our souls. If we listen and do what Jesus is telling the churches to do through his Spirit, he will grant us to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. We read about the tree of life in Genesis 2:9 as one of many trees given for Adam and Eve to eat from for food. Once Adam and Eve sin, they are removed from the garden to prevent access to the tree of life. Jesus gives access to the tree of life. Paradise is not so much a picture of location but a picture of fellowship with God. The garden represented life with God. Sin separates us from that excellent life. Through Jesus access is granted to have true life with God. Return to your first love and receive the coming promise of eternal life in the paradise of God.