Returning To Our First Love
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:1-6
Staying true to our first love, to our first calling is not always easy. Burning hot with the first passion we exhibited for the gospel of Jesus Christ, when in every waking moment we sought to live it, to tell everyone about it, not compromising our faith or our obedience to the truth of God’s Word, despite the persecutions, tests, or trials we faced because of it, that passion and zeal can and often does grow lukewarm over time, and can become cold, because we forget to do what is necessary to keep it vibrant and aflame within us.
But it is good and right, indeed imperative, that we do just that, because it is God's will and commandment that we do it, and it is always beneficial and will merit reward for us eternally in His presence.
It is in this place of passion and zeal for God that we are most useful for His Kingdom's purposes to be realized, and it is this fire and passion that becomes a pathway by which God brings His miracle working power to manifest in and through us, as He sees fit to do so.
The Ephesians, by all indications were a faithful church as far as diligence and hard work were concerned. They were a body of believers who were actively living out their calling as Christ followers. Testing and identifying those who claimed to be apostles but were not. They were also commended for their patience in the midst of trials. All these were impressive indeed, by human standards, and obviously noteworthy to God.
But what they lacked was so vitally important, that not having IT threatened to negate all the other good things they were commended for doing.
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Remember from where you have fallen. Repent and do the first works…Revelation 2:4-5
Where they had fallen was into a religion of works and sacrifices, without their heart's engagement. They were plowing through life to fulfill their "duty." They were doing good things out of compulsion and of necessity to be able to say that they did them, but they weren't motivated by a zeal for God, just a dispassionate, outward appearance of piety and faith. But they weren't completely dead. They did vigorously hate the works of the Nicolaitans, and God commended them for that passion at least.
Nevertheless, for leaving their first love they were in danger of losing their place among the churches where the Spirit of God dwelt with His people. Jesus said to them,
"...repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent."
The lampstand, like the pilar of fire for Israel in the wilderness and over the Tabernacle by night, was the presence of God in His glory among them. This letter is written to the angel of the church at Ephesus. The angel of the church at Ephesus, as with all the churches, was the pastoral leader overseeing the church. In reality, the angel was the spirit given by God to reveal His will and guide His church through the work of the pastoral leader.
From the pastor to the parishioners, the first love as the fulfillment of the first commandment to love the Lord our god with all our heart soul mind and strength. That is most perfectly expressed in worship, and the only worship that is pleasing and acceptable to God is that which proceeds from a humble (broken) and contrite (willfully submitted) heart.
Sacrifices, good works, labor, patience in tribulation and an abhorrence to evil are all commendable, but they do not set anyone apart from the rest of those who do such things while serving other gods in the process. What makes true faith in Jesus Christ different is knowing and living this truth.
"For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm 51:16-17
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me,' (walk in the truth God gives him)' let him deny himself', (not be constrained merely by the laws of men), 'and take up his cross daily' (in the fear and reverence of God),' and follow me'". Luke 9:23
The true meaning of this call from Jesus to us is that it applies to every aspect of our lives, especially our identity as creatures made in His image and after his likeness, male and female. How we think or act from our human instincts is to be subject to what God has said and established concerning us as His creation, regardless of how or what you or I or any other created being may think about it.
By the grace of God, we get to choose life or death, blessing or cursing. That's it. We also get to deny ourselves, and follow Christ or submit to our instincts and follow the world, the flesh, and devil. It's our God given right to choose. Once we make the choice, we cannot have it both ways, or have some fractional measure of both, 50/50, 30/70 or 90/10, a little or of life and a lot of death and a little of death and a lot of life. No! There is only one choice. That choice is between life and death. We get one or the other, blessing or cursing, period.
Apart from God, the devil seeks to convince man that his so called, higher intellect uniquely positions him to be superior to the parochial invocations of GOD and His Word, therefore, God has nothing to say about man's enlightened choices as to who or what he chooses to identify himself to be.
Unfortunately, professing himself to be wise in this, he becomes a fool. Just as men did from the beginning of the Fall of man.
"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." Romans 1:22-25
Here is the good news! What we give up, sacrifice, or deny in this life for the sake of the Gospel of Christ we will receive now in this time 100-fold all of those things. And though there will be persecutions also, they won't diminish our blessings or the enjoyment and fulfillment of them.
And what about the pleasures of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the belly, and the pride of life –– indeed, all the sins we turn from to follow Christ? What will replace those? Whatever sin we lay aside for the cause of obedience to Christ, we will not be enslaved to again, because the Spirit of God is working us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13
Without that weight of sin, we will find the true and life-invigorating freedom to run the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, to win the prize of the high calling in Him.
From the moment we were saved by grace through faith, confessing with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believing in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we entered the race. In that moment, Jesus raised us up to sit together with Him in Heavenly places.
This is our glorious identity as new creations in Christ Jesus. Relationally, we are now the sons of God. Positionally, we are seated together with Him in heavenly places. Vocationally, we are Ambassadors for Christ and servants of the Most-High God. Physically, we are human beings, earthen vessels filled with the Holy Spirit, God and Jesus abiding in us. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are in this world, but not of it. Mentally, we have the mind of Christ, therefore because Christ is in us, the hope of Glory, we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us!
We can deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him! We can return to our first love and worship Him in spirit and in truth. We can love God our Father with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.
The joy of the Lord is our strength. The is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it, passionately, and fully, from our hearts!