Have you ever read Jesus’ message of warning to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7? It is a real eye-opener. It reveals the one quality above all else that Jesus is looking for in His people. Do you know what that quality is? It may be different from what you think.
Much of Jesus’ message is commendation for His followers. He says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles…and you found them to be false; and you have … endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary…[and] you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:2,3,6).
What did Jesus praise His people for? He commended them for their deeds; for their diligence to serve Him, their perseverance, for hating evil, for testing and exposing false leaders, and for hating immorality (“the deeds of the Nicolaitans”). Yet, in spite of all that they were doing, Jesus gave them a warning. They were lacking the one quality that is most important.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Think about that. What did Jesus want more than anything? He wanted their hearts. He wanted them to continue nurturing their love relationship with Him – a relationship based on their awareness of their great need for Him and on deep gratitude for His saving grace.
Are you a follower of Jesus? He wants this type of love relationship with you as well.
The Ephesian believers had left their first love. They had allowed their earlier passion for Jesus to cool. They had forgotten how much they needed Him and how much He had done for them. Love for Jesus was no longer the motivating factor in their good works. Instead, they were content to dutifully go through the motions of serving Him.
What was Jesus’ response to the Ephesian church? He gave them instruction and a stern warning. And, a wonderful promise for those who repented. We should pay close attention.
The Hard Truth
Jesus said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
“Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (Revelation 2:5a);
“or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent… He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:5b,7a).
“To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b).
Why does Jesus give such a stern warning? Because leaving our first love is extremely dangerous. It puts us in danger of falling away from the Lord completely and missing out on Heaven.
Matthew 7:22-24 testifies to the importance of building our personal relationship with Christ. This passage reveals that many who profess to belong to Christ, and who do great works in His name, will be shocked when Jesus declares to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
“I never knew you.” There is only one way to make sure we never hear these words from our Lord. We must “overcome”. We must win the battle to hold onto our first love. And yes, it is a battle, with a real enemy.
The Apostle Paul reveals the enemy in his letter to the Corinthian church. “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Our enemy – Satan – seeks to lead our minds astray from simple, pure devotion to Christ. He distracts and tempts us. He attempts to sow seeds of doubt and unbelief in our heart. He encourages us to get so busy – even busy for the Lord – that we don’t have time for the Lord Himself.
To overcome, we must intentionally focus on pursuing and nurturing our personal relationship with Christ as never before. We do that by following the instructions Jesus gave to the Ephesian believers.
Remember From Where You Have Fallen
As I was praying and studying to write this message, Jesus’ warning made me stop and seriously examine my spiritual life. “Lord Jesus, does Your warning apply to me, right now?” In my heart, I had to admit that my passion for my Lord was not as it once was.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in “doing” for the Lord rather than “being” with the Lord. (See the story of Martha and Mary, Luke 10:38-42.) Both aspects of the relationship are important, but I need to make sure the “being” aspect is my main focus.
How about you? Think about the joy and freedom of your “first love” with Jesus. Have there been changes in your relationship over time? Have other things or people captured the attention you once reserved for Jesus alone? Are you less focused on pleasing Him, and slower to respond to His Word, than you once were? What words would you use to describe your Christian life?
Repentance is a change of heart and direction. It means turning away from what you have been doing wrong, and turning to God and His ways.
Once I realized I had allowed my passion for Jesus to cool, I told the Lord I was sorry. I asked Him to help me return to my first love.
When I repented, something amazing happened. Jesus gave me increased joy as I began to seek Him anew.
Do The Deeds You Did At First
What are the “deeds you did at first”? Think about the Christian activities you eagerly participated in when you were newly saved and enjoying your first love. They probably included some of the following:
Reading and studying the Bible on your own and with groups. Devoting quality time to praising and worshipping God privately and in corporate settings. Praying in solitude and with others. Fasting. Serving others on your own or as part of a group. Giving.
These are the types of Christian “works” or “deeds” to focus on when you want to return to your first love. Why? They have the power to draw you closer to your Lord. They remind you of your great need for Him and foster a sense of dependence on Him.
As you do these deeds, let your prayer be, “Lord, I want to be close to You. I want to know You more. Help me love You.” Expect God to respond. He enjoys us seeking Him.
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
[Jesus said], “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
…“What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Receiving assurance of God’s love in Scripture will help build your faith. You can easily learn more about God’s love for you by downloading the song-prayer combo of our Love Spiritual Food Bar.
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