Love God XI-How To Love Your First Love Again

Introduction:
How many of you remember your first love? Of course you do! You never forget that very first person that caught your eye and stole your heart. My first love was a cute little blond I first met in sixth grade. Pretty much every day until our senior year I couldn’t take my eyes off her but was way too intimidated to ever talk to her or ask her out. Yes, there were plenty of other loves in the interim. I didn’t earn 2nd as “Class Flirt” for nothing. However, no matter who I was with I could never get my first love out of my mind, nor did I want to.
 
Did you know that we very seldom marry our first loves? One research firm has estimated that it’s less than 25% of the time. That’s a 75% fail rate on first loves. However, against all odds, tremendous competition, and the fact that she broke my heart on several occasions, we became, and still are, part of that 25%. Today, we continue our “Love God” series in Revelation 2:1-7. Here we see how to stay in red-hot love Jesus, our spiritual first love forever.
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
 
The Christ Letters
What we have just read is the first of the seven famous “Christ letters” which were addressed to the churches of Asia Minor. This one was addressed to the church of Ephesus. Ephesus was a wealthy and magnificent city. It was the crown jewel of Asia Minor, the seat of the Roman Proconsul, and the commerce capitol of Asia. Situated at the end of the great road of Euphrates, its harbor accommodated the most massive sailing vessels of its day. It was such an important city that the Roman emperor Domitian allowed a statue of his image to be built there. This was also the center of the worship of the goddess Diana. In AD 52, the apostle Paul had visited it on his way from Corinth to Jerusalem (Acts 18). On his 3rd missionary trip he spent three years there establishing a robust and flourishing church. After he left, he wrote a beautiful letter of the NT to the Ephesian congregation. However, 40 years later, the apostle John, while exiled on the Isle of Patmos, penned these “Christ Letters.” A lot can happen in 40 years!
 
Christ’s Commendation
Christ commends the Ephesians for several reasons: 1) It didn’t fold under intense Roman persecution. 2) It did not tolerate the teaching of false prophets. 3) It detested the works of the Nicolaitans: a group that wooed Christians into idolatry. In sum, Christ applauds the church for its orthodoxy, faithfulness under persecution, and theological correctness. From the outside everything looks fantastic! Who wouldn’t want to join this church?
 
Christ’s Condemnation
However, despite external appearances, something was radically wrong with this church despite its numbers and affluence. Jesus states the problem directly, “You have forsaken me, your first love” (2:4). For all of its positives it forgot to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing that makes a church a church had evaporated.
 
At the time John sent the Christ Letters an entire generation of Ephesians had emerged without direct contact to Paul. This new generation lacked the red-hot passionate love for Christ that the first generation had possessed. Without this love for Christ this church had head without heart, knowledge without zeal, and smoke without fire. That’s the death loop for any church (relationship)! The Ephesians love for Jesus had evaporated into the cool mist of indifference. Unfortunately, the older a church gets the easier for this to phenomenon to happen. Evangelist Edmond Robb writes:
 
It takes three generations to backslide. The first generation has the love and commitment. The second generation has the memory and respect. The third generation has lost the memory & respect.
 
Lampstand: Old and New
Twice, Christ calls this church to return to him as its first love. If it does he will not remove its lampstand. In the OT, lampstands were used to illuminate the Temple and provide a visual reminder of God’s presence. They were made out of pure gold, filled with olive oil, and stood on the south side of the Temple. In the NT, lampstands became symbolic of the light of the Church shining in the midst of spiritual and moral darkness (Revelation 1:20). Jesus had this imagery in mind when he told to his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). It is the oil in the lamp, however, that represents the Church’s love for Christ. The amount of oil determines the intensity, heat, and brightness of the flame. As the oil keeps the lamp lit, so love for Christ keeps the church alive.
 
The Promise
If the church returns to its first love, Jesus promises that they will eat of the “Tree of Life in the paradise of God.” One would think that this offer of eternal reward would provide powerful motivation for the spiritually cold to heat up. Unfortunately, however, the Ephesians never recaptured Christ as their first love and now, tragically there is no longer a Christian church in Ephesus today. Its lampstand was removed. In Matthew 24:12, Jesus predicted that during the end times, “Love for him will grow cold.” This means that glaciers of spiritual coldness will freeze out much of our love for Christ.
 
Parallels
In many ways the contemporary church parallels the historical situation of Ephesus: prosperous, theologically sophisticated, and inundated by the culture of consumerism. These things, along with a plethora of activities and distractions, temptations and seductions, are trying to cool out our love for Jesus. If Christ sent a letter to Bay Point today what would it say? Not regarding our beautiful buildings and wonderful worship, but in terms of our love for him? The core reason a church’s lampstand is removed is not bad demographics but because it falls out of love with its first love. Even the super saint, Keith Green worried about this spiritual condition when he sang,
 
My eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold.
 
Conclusion
Keeping Jesus as our first love is both the most awesome and most difficult thing to do. How do we do it?
 
(1) Commit or re-commit to loving Christ first and above all (The Phone Call).
(2) Remember, love is a commitment, not a feeling. Commit to love Christ!
(3) Spend time with Christ in Prayer, Word, and Ministry (v5).
The more we know Jesus the more we love him so let’s us habitually do these things mentioned above. If we do, our love Jesus will be so hot we will be able to blowtorch the end-time glaciers of spiritual coldness that are sweeping over our church and country.
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *