RETURNING TO YOUR FIRST LOVE
In a speech before parliament, the 18th century British statesman, Edmund Burke said, “Very seldom does a man take one giant step from a life of virtue & goodness into a life of vice and corruption. Usually, he begins his journey into evil by taking little steps into the shaded areas, areas tinted & colored just a bit, almost unnoticed by those around him. Until one day, hardly aware that he had made the journey, he finds himself entangled in a life of vice and corruption.”
It is not usually, giant leaps that lead to our fall into sin. It is usually the little steps, the little compromises that lead to our downfall.
What is true of sin, is also true of the cooling of our faith, of our Christian zeal, and our love for Christ. Those who fall out of love, generally do so, a little at a time.
We find a warning to vigilance recorded for us in the 2nd chapter of the book of Revelation.
- Read Revelation 2:1-7
We find here the first letter to the churches in Revelation. It is a letter to the church in Ephesus. In the time of John, Ephesus had the greatest harbor in Asia. Many of the leading trade roads of the day came to Ephesus. Trade roads from every direction conversed in Ephesus. Strabo, the ancient geographer, called Ephesus “The Market of Asia.”
Its position made Ephesus the wealthiest and greatest city in all Asia. Men and merchandise from around the world flowed through it constantly.
Ephesus was the center of the worship of Artemis, or “Diana of the Ephesians.” The temple of Artemis was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, and it was filled with temple prostitutes.
The temple area also possessed the right of asylum. Any criminal, who had committed any crime, was safe if he could reach it.
The population of Ephesus was very mixed. It was made up of the natives, Greeks who had conquered it in the past, Romans who ruled it now, and a good mixture of Jews.
No one would expect much to come from such a mixed area, but Paul stayed in Ephesus longer than in any other city (Acts 20:31). It was to Ephesus that Timothy was sent as bishop. We find in Acts that Paul was very close to the elders there and he had a very successful ministry.
In that city, God displayed the conquering power of His gospel. The church there, in the midst of countless distractions, did some great things.
1. God knew their toil - v2 The word translated here as toil, or labor, is a strong word. It means to work with perspiration, to work to the point of exhaustion. Jesus says, “I know you haven’t been sitting on your lorals. I know you haven’t been goofing off. You’ve been working, & working hard.
2. God knew their steadfast endurance - v2 The word translated here as “endurance” means not merely accepting what life sends your way, thinking your earning some reward for grimly accepting what life sends. No, it is the “courageous gallantry which accepts suffering and hardship and loss and turns them into grace and glory.
I know your difficult labor, I know your steadfast endurance, 3rdly, I know your doctrinal integrity.
3. God knew their doctrinal integrity.
a. Emissaries of the Jews, who tried to put them under the law. They resisted the legalism the Jews tried to impose on them.
b. Liberty into license, saying they didn’t have to live pure lives. They resisted the license, some claimed they had under God’s grace, which led to immoral living.
c. Professional beggars, who preyed on the generosity of the church. They resisted the professional beggars they had in those days, who are very similar to some we have today, who move from church to church imposing on the generosity of Christians. They applied the teaching of Paul, who said, “Those who will not work, shall not eat.”
The church had faithfully applied Scripture. They had tested the spirits. They were doctrinally sound.
They had done all of this, but: “I have one thing against you. You have left your first love.” v4 To leave your first love, means either to replace it with another, or to go through the motions without the right love or motivation behind it. It means to let things cool. To continue to go through the motions w/o love. I am afraid we sometimes do that in the church today.
Why do we do the things we do?
a. Habit? - Sometimes we do things out of habit. There is no telling, how many people are at church today because it is simply a habit. They’ve always gone to church. They grew up going to church and they have never stopped.
Why do we greet people when they visit? Is it because we are sincerely happy to see them, or is it simply habit?
b. Tradition - Sometimes we continue to do things because it is tradition. Discuss traditions inside/outside the church. No one really knows why we do it. It’s just tradition.
c. Obligation - Sometimes, we do the things we do out of a sense of obligation. There is no telling how many people there are today who teach Sunday School out of sense of obligation. There is no telling, how many people are in the nursery today, out of a sense of obligation. There is no telling the number of people who are attending today, out of a sense of obligation.
You know, there is nothing sadder than a marriage made up of people who serve one another, who go through the motions of married life out of habit, tradition, or obligation. Nothing sadder, except perhaps people who serve God or who serve others with those motivations.
How are we to do the things we do?
- Read -1 Corinthians 13:1-13
We are to serve God with love. We are to serve and minister to others because of the love of Christ and because of our love for them. ...
So, how do we return?
1. Remember -
a. What we are to do - Remember what God has called us to do.
b. Why we are to do them - Remember why we are doing them. We are doing them because of our love for Christ and our concern for others. We are doing them because, apart from a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, people are condemned to a Christless eternity.
c. How we are to do them - We are to approach Christ, with love. We are to approach our quiet time as a lover approaches his beloved, looking forward to spending time with Him. We remember, we are called to love others and to serve them out of that love; for if we have no love, “Our words are as useless as a clanging gong.”
We remember what we are to do, why we are to do them, and how we are to do them. We remember how it used to be. Second, we repent.
When we remember how things used to be we may be tempted to:
a. Give up - Believing things can never change.
b. Resent life - Believing that life has been unfair. Too many hard & difficult things have come our way.
c. Become bitter at those we believe led us to this point
d. Repent - Repentance is admitting that the fault is ours.
- Luke 15:18
- 1 Samuel 26:21
The sorrow of repentance is not mean to drive us to despair, it is meant to drive us to action. To redo the things we did at first. Go back. Approach Christ like you used to. Think of why you became a Christian in the first place. Remember the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father that caused Him to send His Only Begotten Son. And then, go back. Redo the things you used to do. Redo, approach Christ like you used to. Approach your service like you used to. ...
Why are you here today? What drives you?