Your First Love


Last week thousands of people came face to face with a question that sometimes needs to be asked. What do you do when you’re powerless and cold? It’s one thing to think about it in terms of electricity and modern heat. But this morning I want you to think in terms of your relationship with God.

Now that we are wrapped up in the Christmas season; which is a time unlike any other reminding us of the distance God would go to be with you. Let me ask you this question: Do you feel close to God today? We’ve had a time of prayer, we’ve sang songs of worship ” we’ve even shared some testimonies but here towards the end of the service I wonder if you feel close to God today. Or is there a distance which is sometimes hard to put into words but has lately always been there.

Do you feel a distance between you and God today. If you do I want to give you two things. First I want to give you some hope because Christmas is the most awe inspiring reminder that God has come to you. Second I want to give you the answer to your dilemma. If you don’t feel close to God I want to tell you today how to get that relationship back on course. As a text for our instruction please open your Bible to Revelation 2:1-7. {Read Revelation 2:1-7}

The church in Ephesus was an interesting place. Remember that Paul was involved there, remember that Timothy was the Pastor there for a time. It was in Ephesus that the worshipers of Artemis were turning so fast and in such large numbers to Jesus that the idol makers were on the verge of going out of business. Ephesus has established itself as a church that labored long. It was a church that had existed long. It was a church that was earnest and diligent in resisting the false teachers. No doubt, thanks to Timothy’s teaching, they had excellent doctrine. They had solid, biblical teaching, they had a wonderful church fellowship. However amid all of their excellent religion that had utterly lost their love relationship with God.

Can you imagine the leaders in Ephesus starting to read this letter in public? They get to verse two and say, “Hey look at this, Jesus knows how hard we work.” The rest of the second verse and the third verse are equally flattering but then in the fourth verse their smiles break, their voices falter and they stare in disbelief at the words on the page,

“you have left your first love.”

I want you to notice an important distinction here. Satan loves to accuse you and make you feel terrible. And he would love this morning to convince you that you are hopelessly separated from God. But there is a major difference between how Satan accuses and how God accuses. When Satan accuses his goal is your destruction, and his accusation will ring with notes of “you can never get right with God.” But when God accuses you his clear goal is your redemption. Satan never gives you the recipe for deliverance but God always does because as long as you live his goal is for you his creation to be purified.

There is a very clear indictment here against the believers in Ephesus. And the warning God gives of impending judgement on them is real. But in the midst of it all his goal is remedial. Their problem is sometimes our problem. The problem is they have left their first love. You and I can readily understand the symptoms of the problem. They’re active in the church and their diligent with their doctrine but they are not connected to God. In brief, they are powerless and cold.

But notice please if you will the three part solution in the fifth verse. The first course of action towards restoration is to remember.

Remember:

“Remember from where you have fallen…”

What does it say on the front of this Communion table? It says, “Do This in Remembrance of Me.” Every month we celebrate communion and we have a visual reminder of the love of God expressed for us. Communion plays a vital role in the Christian life because it serves as a constant reminder. Every time we take communion we are proclaiming the Lord’s death. Every time we take communion we are by virtue of the symbolism reminded of his sacrifice and of God’s great love for us expressed through Him.

But notice what the letter in Revelation says. It doesn’t just say to remember the sacrifice, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It says to remember the height from which YOU have fallen. Remember the first and greatest commandment? In a single word it is LOVE. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. The believers in Ephesus have stopped loving God. They weren’t embroiled in gross immorality or wrapped up in shameful addictions. They weren’t offering sacrifices to idols, they weren’t stealing, lying, diluting the gospel or otherwise sinning against God.

In fact they were doing all the “right things.” Back up a few verses and you discover that they were a working church. They probably loved the challenges to practice your faith in the book of James. They persevered in difficult circumstance. They had no tolerance for evil and sin. They were flooded with Scripture knowledge and were able to put false apostles to the test. For the sake of Jesus Christ they put up with all kinds of problems and were no where near faltering. They were by today’s standards a super church. Every pastor would give his right arm to pastor a flock like the Ephesians. They would have been on the front cover of “Church magazine” every few months with titles like, “Nobody does it like the Ephesians.” and “O to be in Ephesus”. They’d have bible conferences and missions conferences. Nobody could beat the Ephesians in Missions giving. They did it all and they did it right. But they were missing the point!

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

What about you? Do you love Him? I don’t mean in theory, and I don’t mean in labor, I mean with your heart ” do you love him?

If you find yourself feeling distant from the Lord this morning, and if everything up until now hasn’t managed to trigger your love for God, it’s time to take a mental road trip. Do you remember how much you used to love the Lord? How long ago was it. Was it just this past week and this is only a low point. Has it been weeks, months or even years since you really and truly last loved the Lord? It’s time to remember the way it used to be between you. Remember how you had that high point of worship? It’s time to remember.

Why do you suppose God wants you to start by remembering? Because remembering the heights makes you want them again. It’s hard to work for something you don’t want. Try offering the average kid the following incentive: “If you clean your room I’ll make Lima beans tonight!” Tell them that and they’ll take clothes out of their dresser and throw them on the floor. But tell them cleaning their room will result in their favorite pizza and you’ll probably get some cooperation. Remember the heights from which you have fallen means that you know what you’re missing because you’ve been there before.

There is no ecstasy like dwelling in the presence of God. There is no greater Joy than feeling his presence beside you. Absolutely nothing compares to it. So if you’re missing that relationship it’s evident that you’re missing something worth having. Take a moment and remember. If you’re already remembering look at the next command in the sentence: “repent”.

Repent

Over in Acts 8 Philip preached in Samaria many believed and one of them was a man named Simon who was a magician. He wasn’t an illusionist like David Copperfield he was a demon empowered wizard. When the apostles heard about the mass conversions they sent Peter who laid hands on many of them and they received the Spirit and many the gift of tongues. Simon was still thinking in the old ways apparently when he offered Peter some cash so he could also get this power to give people the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s response to that wizard was telling:

“But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”” (Ac 8:20-23, NASB95)

In other words: “You are stuck in sin and are desperately in need of one thing: Repentance!”

Just the other day I read the story of a couple driving in the car. As they were going down the highway the woman noticed another couple in the car ahead of them. That couple was sitting close together in the front seat and she had her head on his shoulder. After pointing it out to her husband she said, “Dear we used to be like that, what happened?” Without pausing her husband responded. “Well I haven’t moved.” We’ve all heard the old adage, “If God seems distant, guess who moved.”

The Psalmist prays, “Search me and see if there be any wickedness in me.” I have long suspected that the root of that prayer was a recognition that he needed to repent but he needed God to point out the specific sins. Maybe he couldn’t remember them, or maybe he just wasn’t sure what they were. But there was a distance there and he wanted it bridged.

Finally, as we turn back to Revelation 2:5 we see the three step process. You have left your first love. And here’s what you need to do about it.

  1. Remember
  2. Repent
  3. Repeat.

Repeat

See what he says there “Do the deeds you did at first…”

God has already promised you, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” That’s the kind of promise you can take to the bank. God hasn’t left but if you are powerless and cold it’s time to go back to Him. Start walking with him the way you were back then, when you were living in his presence and you felt his Spirit’s fullness guiding you. Check back and remember what you used to do. I’m willing to bet you prayed, you read the word, you obeyed the Spirit’s promptings, and you stayed away from sin.

Do the deeds you did at first. I can’t begin to imagine how many marriages would still be together today if the first advice from a counselors lips were those words. “Do the deeds you did at first.”

When you first came to God what did you do? I can tell you one thing. You heard his word preached and you obeyed. You heard his gospel and you received it. You heard his promise and you believed it.

There it is folks. If you’re powerless and cold the answer is clear.

Remember what you’ve lost.

Repent – because if nothing else a lack of loving God is sin.

and Repeat what you used to do at first. Come back today, to Jesus.