As I was driving down to North Carolina yesterday for a class I was listening to some sermons by Jim Hamilton on the book of Revelation (you can check out his sermons at the website of Kenwood Baptist Church). A number of great things were said by Jim, but I especially appreciate his thoughts on Revelation 2:1-7 as Jesus speaks to the church at Ephesus.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
So much could be said about this passage, but it is worth noting that Jesus says a number of positive things about this church. In many areas they are doing quite well. However, there is one area of deficiency that could undo all the good that this church has accomplished, namely, they have abandoned the love they had at first. In essence, they had become lax as it relates to keeping the first and greatest commandment, to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Many of us can remember the early days of our relationship with our spouse, or when our children were first born, how excited we were and how willing we were to sacrifice a number of things because of the joy we derived from these relationships. Many of us can also remembers when we first met Christ in salvation, and the burning zeal we had for our Savior, and our willingness to lay it all down because of the satisfaction we had found in Him. Unfortunately, without proper tending, the fervor we had for these relationships can cool, and this is especially the case in our seeking to love God.
So what do we do? How do we restore that first love? Jesus states in this text that we should remember from where we have fallen and repent. In other words, as Hamilton so helpfully points out, we should preach the gospel to ourselves constantly. Study your Bible and see the blazing holiness of God, and like Isaiah see your utter sinfulness in the presence of that holiness (Isa 6). Dwell there, don’t move to soon, we need to see the depths of our sin. But we do not stay there. As we gaze at the holiness of God and understand the depth of our depravity we recognize that God made a way to peace and reconciliation by sending Jesus, His Son, as the satisfactory atoning sacrifice on our behalf for our sins. He lived a perfect life proclaiming the kingdom, healing, and teaching, died on our behalf, and was vindicated three days later as he rose from the dead. He ascended and is now at the right hand of the Father, and will return to set up his eternal kingdom someday. This is good news, the gospel. Preach this gospel to yourself constantly, and as you see holiness, justice, grace, and redemption, your love for Him will burn anew. May our hearts be alive to the truths of the Scripture and the realities of our eternal inheritance in Jesus Christ, which will enable us to love God and forsake the petty idols and temptations of the world.