I grew up listening to country music. The Grand Old Opry was on our radio on Saturday nights. Later, in my teens, I was exposed to R & B. (We had to stay up late and listen to it on our local radio station, however, because it wasn’t played till after 11 P.M., when the older white folks had gone to bed.) Then came Rock & Roll. All three of these musical styles, though had one theme in common: unrequited or spurned love: ”my baby done left me,” “faded love,” etc., etc. Bob wills, Hank Williams, B. B. King, Bill Haley – all moaned similar complaints.
Jesus has a similar complaint. In the book of Revelation He voices it. Revelation 2 and 3 contain seven unusual letters, dictated by the risen glorified Christ to the apostle John and addressed to the “messenger” of each individual church. In each of these He makes some reference to Himself, commends something good, complains about something bad and gives counsel.
The first letter is to the church at Ephesus (2:1-7):
1. To the messenger of the church in Ephesus write: These things says the One who grips the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks in the middle of the seven gold lampstands:
2. I know your works and toil and your endurance and that you are not able to put up with evil persons and you have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not and you have found them liars
3. and you have endurance and you have put up with a lot for the sake of my name and you have not grown weary.
4. But I have this against you that you have forsaken your first love.
5. So then, remember from where you’ve fallen and repent and do again the first works. And if not, I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.
6. But you do have this: that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7. The one who has an ear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: To the overcomer I will grant to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.
I want to focus on the complaint in verse 4. This church had forsaken her first love. Just like all those women in all those country and blues songs.
Jesus is complaining like a jilted lover. Now the church at Ephesus was not a new church. If my understanding of New Testament dating is correct, this church had been around for about 40 years. A 40-year love relationship! There just aren’t many like that around. Uni and I have been married for 50 years. We’ve seen many marriages break up and what’s just as bad, we’ve seen many that have just grown cold.
According to verses 2 and 3, the church at Ephesus was externally quite a church. They were a hard working church. They had endurance through all their trials. They were doctrinally sound. They hated and rejected false teaching and bad behavior.
But they’d forsaken their first love. Their “lips were warm but their heart was cold as ice.” Who was their first love? It was Jesus Himself. See Paul’s letter to the Ephesians written over 30 years earlier. “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (6:24).
We’ve known churches like that: busy, programs and activities for all ages; evangelistic; but they seem to be just going through the motions. It seems as if Jesus is missing from it all. They’re like those marriages where the husband and wife just go through the motions but the passion is gone.
We have to ask, is our church like this? Whether or not it appears to be this way, the next questions should be, is my own life like this? Am I just going through the motions? Am I a busy, active Christian, “serving the Lord,” without the passion? Is my Christian activity simply activity?
In verse 5, Jesus gives us a three-step program for restoring that first love:
1. “Remember from where you have fallen.” Recall when you first “fell in love” with Jesus. Just as in a marriage, there are undoubtedly some great memories tucked away somewhere. That knowledge of forgiveness, of acceptance, of freedom that you had.
2. “Repent.” Repentance has been defined as “a change of mind leading to a change of direction.” Recognize that you’re headed in the wrong direction, confess it and ask the Lord for restoration.
3. Repeat. ” . . . do again the first works.” Don’t stop all your “Christian activity” (though it may be necessary to drop much of it). Get back to those “first works,” the time spent in the Word and prayer – not as a duty, but as a desire.
Though verse 5 contains a threat, verse 7 ends it with a promise: a restoration to not only our original relationship, but to a future in paradise itself.