By Pastor Donald Parker
In the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, we find seven letters written to seven churches. These letters are basically God’s “performance evaluations” for each individual church and its members, revealing their strengths and their weaknesses.
Jesus begins with the church in Ephesus beginning in chapter 2. He begins his evaluation by praising the church for the things they were doing right. Their good deeds, hard work and perseverance. This was a very busy congregation. They cared for the sick; sheltered the homeless; fed the hungry; cared for the widows and orphans; and visited the prisoners. Jesus continued acknowledging the good they were doing; refusing to tolerate sin and false teaching; refusing to bow and worship idols. This was a church that was doing a lot of things right.
Then all of the sudden Jesus goes from patting them on the back to rebuking them and says this in verse 4, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” It’s almost hard to imagine that anything could possibly be wrong with a church that’s serving the Lord. They were physically active, while at the same time spiritually cold.
The church members’ passion and enthusiasm for Christ had become cold. Their sound doctrine; they’re refusal of sexual immorality; their passion for the truth; their community service, were no substitute for the love for Christ they once had.
About thirty-five years have passed since the birth of this church, and the love and affection of the first-generation believers had begun to grow cold. In addition, many of its founders had died, and many of the second-generation believers had lost their passion for God. The people in the church found themselves over time, caught up in just doing church; just going through the motions; just doing the things they had always done.
They were committed to the sound doctrine that was handed down to them, but they found themselves just going through the motions; just doing church, and in the process their love for God, and their love for one another, and their love for the lost grew cold; the same thing can happen to churches today.
So, Jesus gave the church and you and I today, three things we must do when our love for God, our love for one another, and our love for the lost becomes cold. First, Jesus says in verse 5, “Remember how far you have fallen.” A reference to how far you have fallen away from the joy, excitement and love you had for Jesus at the start.
Christians need to think back and remember the excitement they had as a new believer; when they first fell in love with Jesus. The joy in their life spilled over and everyone around them could see and hear how God has changed their life.
They start out strong, going to church, reading their Bible, praying, telling others about Christ; but then life gets busy. Soon they find themselves putting something else before God. Something else that they have allowed into their life that has robbed them of their time alone with God. They did mean for it to happen, it just sort of sneaks in, and before long they find their love for Christ grew cold.
When that happens, Jesus says in verse 5 to, “Repent.” You confess your sins to God and turn away from the things that have led you astray. Whatever it is that has gotten between you and God, you repent of your sins and turn back to God. Jesus is saying, I want you to remember where you once were and how far you have fallen away from loving me, and repent.
Then Jesus said the third thing you do is, “Do the things you did at first.” Jesus is saying, I want you to repeat what you once did. Jesus says, “I want that intimate relationship with you we once had. I want to be first in your church, first in your life. I don’t want you just going through the motions. I don’t want to be second or third in your life. I want you to love Me like you did at first!”
Jesus is saying to us today, these are the steps to take to reestablishing your first love; remember, repent, and repeat what you did at first; love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love one another. Can you just imagine the kind of impact we as Christians would have in our community, if every one of us got back to loving Jesus the way we did when we first fell in love with him.