“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” —Revelation 2:4
This week I wanted to share something with you that serves as a reminder, and encouragement. As you continue to read these words, I pray that the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart accordingly and reminds you of His relentless pursuit over your life.
Since there are a few things I want to cover, we are going to get right into it. For those of you unfamiliar with this chapter, I will do my best to try and give a description of these particular chapters. Although we will be focusing on Revelation chapter 2, both chapters (2 & 3) are messages that were written to 7 churches.
Each message was given to 7 churches as addressed in the chapters, and these churches (at the time that these chapters were written) existed in Asia. However, the geographical location of these churches is not as important as the spiritual conditions of these churches were. Each message written to each church, addressed strengths and weaknesses as well as it represented a spiritual condition that is very much applicable and present in churches today.
It’s important to note that although they were corporate messages, they can also be applied individually. One can read through each of the messages written and reflect on how they personally measure up today. The purpose behind Christ sending these messages to these churches was to 1) awaken them to the reality of their current state so that they may turn towards Him and 2) to empower the body of Christ (church) so that it may overcome the plans of the enemy and be ready for His return.
Although on the outside we may be recognized as a “church”, or a as a body that represents Christ, the unfortunate truth remains that on the inside, there are many present conditions which indicate that we are not yet ready for His return. This is why today He is walking in our midst and stirring us up with His spirit to rise up out of our complacency. This is why He is revealing our weaknesses and sin, so that we may turn towards Him in repentance and be brought towards a new and stronger position of commitment for Him individually. By doing so, corporately we can be the church we’ve been called to be.
So, let’s get to our main focus for today - chapter 2. This particular message is written to the church in Ephesus. The first thing to notice is that Christ begins by saying something good. In verse 2 He says “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance [..]“ We see His immediate notice of their good deeds, and commends them for their hard work. This particular church seems to be well grounded in the Word, and we see the evidence of that as Jesus points out that they are a church that hates evil, does not tolerate wickedness, and tests apostles before receiving them.
Looking at this church from a spiritual standpoint, they existed in the midst of a very worldly surrounding – much like our churches today do. And although Jesus commends them for their hard work, for not having given up, they still have a great weakness. A weakness that many of us today as individuals and as the body of Christ lack. In verse 4, shortly after He has acknowledged their hard work, He points out to them their shortcoming - they have left their first love. And just like that, it all seems pointless. What is the point of having worked so hard, having done great deeds if they were done apart from our first love?
Our first love means putting Jesus, and our love for Him, above and ahead of everything - especially as the body OF CHRIST. Common sense right? Yet, somehow this still remains as one of our biggest struggles. The truth is, there is absolutely NO substitute for the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. The church will not survive, or shine bright without it. In fact, we see Jesus warning this church in Ephesus that if they did not quickly repent, then they would no longer be bearers of the true light, and witness to the world (which is the whole purpose of a church). It did not matter how much they did in His name, or all the good they produced and endured for Him. Forsaking their first love (Him) was most essential part of this church that was missed, and for that there is never a compromise. There is a verse found in 2 Timothy 3:5 that scares me every time I think of it, it says “[..] having a form of godliness but denying it’s power, from such turn away.” Perhaps this church, and some of the churches we see today have become more appealing to the world than to God. What I mean by this is that maybe we do all the things that a church is “recognized” for doing and may have succeeded at being appealing to the world, but we have lost appeal in the sight of God the moment we have forsaken Him as our first love. The only way for a church to have effective power is to remain deeply rooted, and established in His love. If everything we do does NOT flow out of our love for Him, then it won’t reflect Him.
Think of the churches around us today. We have all either been to churches, or in unfortunate cases belong to churches that are dull, lifeless and very mechanical. How many are left without the light and power of Christ? How many have turned from a body to an organization? Such conditions in churches, and in the lives of individuals did not happen overnight. It was a gradual process by which we slowly walked away from our first love. To help you understand this think of a new bride. A new bride is so in love with her husband that he takes the central focus of her life. Her every moment, thought, and energy is focused towards being the best she can be for him. She loves him so much that she eagerly anticipates his desires, and delightfully works towards meeting all of his needs. His desires, becomes hers and she gives all of herself to him withholding nothing. She’s anxious to spend every moment by his side, and longs to know everything about him. Because of her love for him he comes first above all else – even before her own needs.
There is so much passion, and indescribable intimacy between the two that we know this, as the “honeymoon stage”. Ever had your close friends get married? All of a sudden, they disappear off of the face of the earth for weeks before they join the rest of society again (that’s IF they ever decide to join the rest of us again, lol). The truth is, that period of time is when their physical, emotional, and even spiritual intimacy is enhanced. It’s a time in which they are now fully able to express their love for each other and begin to build an unbreakable bond between them. They are so focused into each other that nothing else around them matters. But what happens after the honeymoon stage? If there is no conscious effort to maintain the romance, to live out your love, and to set aside a time of intimacy and uninterrupted quality time, then you begin to endanger your marriage. You begin to forget the reasons that made you fall in love with your spouse. Although you remain legally married – emotionally, spiritually and physically you’re drifting away. You slowly shift from being married, to simply being roommates. You MUST constantly work hard towards maintaining that pure and fervent love to avoid dullness in your marriage.
Interestingly enough it’s this type of passionate, pure, self sacrificing love that led the disciples to willingly give themselves to the cause of Christ. It’s this type of love that burned up their own selfish desires and motivated them to live for the sake of Christ, and bear lasting fruits even after their deaths. Revelations 2:4 is reminding us of the urgency to return back to this type of “honeymoon love”. The type of love that has Him constantly on our mind. The type of love that causes us to long for Him every waking day. The type of love that enables us to have a burning desire to fulfill the purpose He has for us. Our every move, and works must be motivated by that love in order to see Him revealed in all things.
Go back to that first moment when you heard about Him and fell in love with Him. Incorporate Him in your everyday life, and every day thoughts. As a new bride longs for the attention of her groom, long for the attention of your Lord God. Let your love and intimacy with Him be the driving force behind everything you do for Him, and for others in His name sake. We get so caught up with trying to do the right thing for Him, that we forget the first thing we’ve been called to do - love the Lord our God with all of our heart.
See you next Monday.