Episode 1. Have I Lost my First Love?
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In any relationship – it’s easy to start all lovey-dovey and then as time goes on and responsibilities cut in and things wear thin – well, you know … you wake up one day and wonder – what …
In any relationship – it’s easy to start all lovey-dovey and then as time goes on and responsibilities cut in and things wear thin – well, you know … you wake up one day and wonder – what happened to that first love? Well – that’s exactly the question Jesus wants us to ask ourselves.
Imagine for a moment, well you and I, we’re on a journey towards eternity. A step at a time. A day at a time. And at any point, any point on that journey it can come to an end. Hit by the proverbial bus; sudden heart attack or stroke. Whatever it is, as much as we carry on as though this life here on earth will go on forever, it won’t.
In fact, truth be known, our lives are incredibly fragile. Imagine those people holidaying on a beach in the Pacific one minute, swept away by a deadly tsunami the next. Who would have thought?
So along this journey we want to make sure that we are going to spend eternity in the right place. Eternity with God instead of eternity without God. So imagine that God Himself would have stopped by. I don’t know about you but amongst all the things that I would like to ask Him and talk to Him about, my biggest question would be this.
“Lord, am I on my way to an eternity with You or is there something in my life that’s putting all that at risk?”
Well this week on the program we’re going to have a listen to God Himself because it turns out He has shown up. He is prepared to tell us the things that are holding us back.
Sounds kind of weird but God made a specific point of listing those things in His Word, in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. The book we often steer clear of because it can be difficult to understand. With all these kind of weird pictures of eternity and judgement and heaven and hell and what God’s like and what’s going on in His presence.
But Gods listed the things that are going to hold us back from eternity. And I know the Book of Revelation can be difficult for us to get our minds around. Some people try and unpick it bit by bit and come up with some, frankly, whacky predictions.
The Book of Revelation is what’s called apocalyptic literature. It’s kind of a different literary genre. You know we have poems or we have newspaper articles or we have novels or we have technical papers. And because they’re all different we interpret them and we treat them differently.
Revelation is apocalyptic literature. It’s not something we have a direct equivalent to in our culture today. But back in the Hebrew culture, in the 1st century, they loved using imagery and picture language.
It’s a bit like an artist, an impressionist who’s painting things on a canvas, that when we look at the little bits of the painting, they don’t make too much sense on their own but when we stand back and we see the whole picture, it invokes something powerful in our hearts. That’s the Book of Revelation: a big picture about where this whole shooting match is headed and what’s going to happen.
Towards the beginning of that book there are seven letters to seven Churches. Jesus is speaking to some of the Churches, of the day, very specifically putting His finger on anything that’s going to hold them back from an eternity with Him.
So this week on the program we’re going to look at 5 of those letters, because they speak very much to you and me, here and now. They’re about our eternities so lets kick off today with what Jesus had to say to the Church in Ephesus. Have a listen; carefully see if He’s saying something to you right now. We begin in Revelation chapter 2, at verse 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, who walks among the seven golden lamp stands. I know your works, your toil and your patience endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evil doers.
You have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them to be false. I also know that you’re enduring patiently in bearing up for the sake of My name and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
Remember then from what you have fallen. Repent and do the works you did at first. If not I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans which I also hate.
Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. To everyone who conquers I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
Now there’s an enormous amount packed into that short passage and the short time we have together today, I simply want to distil the essence of what Jesus is saying, not just to the Church in Ephesus but to anyone who has ears to listen. What He’s saying to you and me, today in fact.
See, here are these people in this place called Ephesus in the 1st Century – one of the most important cities in Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea in what is now known as the nation of Turkey. And Jesus is saying to them, ‘You know, I know the good things you’re doing. I can see the good works. I can see that you’re not tolerating evil doers. I can see that you’re not following false teachers and leaders and apostles.’
“I can see that you’re waiting patiently and enduring through the difficult times for my sake. All good stuff. All necessary things and I see all those things.” That’s what Jesus is saying BUT here’s the thing. “The thing is that you’ve lost your first love. You’ve abandoned it”.
So, on the one hand He’s praising them for their orthodox and by that I mean, they’re sticking to their faith. They’re sticking to the truth. They haven’t abandoned any of that. Problem is they’ve lost their first love. And then what happens the Church becomes sterile and cold and legalistic.
When Jesus was asked, “What’s the most important thing of all the Commandments in the Law of the Old Testament?”, He said this. Matthew chapter 22, verse 37 to 40. He said:
You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first Commandment and the second is just like it. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two Commandments hang the Law and the Prophets.
There’s nothing more important than that. You know you can walk into many, many Churches around the world today. Places that maintain a sense of traditional or orthodox faith. Places that are focused on the truth of God’s word and yet they’ve forgotten their first love. They’ve grown cold.
And it’s not something that happens just in Churches, it happens in the hearts of men and women and children. We keep carrying on with things that we do to express our faith and little by little our first love drains out of it. And it ends up becoming an empty ritual.
And so here, Jesus is putting His finger on one of the most common things that happens to those who started off following with a heart overflowing with joy and love and delight and enthusiasm. And listen to His call. Revelation chapter 2, verse 5:
Remember then from what you have fallen. Repent and do the works you did at first.
And that’s His call to you and me today. Do you remember, do you remember what it was like right back there at the beginning? The joy and the delight you had in my love, Jesus is saying. It’s time to go back to that. It doesn’t matter how many other good works you’re doing. If you don’t have that, you have nothing.
My friend, following hard after Jesus isn’t about religious ritual and it isn’t about good works. It’s about our first love and nothing’s more important than loving God with all we are. And what flows out of that is we end up loving other people. That’s how it’s meant to work. The Apostle Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 13:
And now these three things remain. Faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.