Summary: The most important relationship, the one which will determine where we spend our eternity, is our relationship with God.
AM Sermon Preached at Syria Christian Church January 2, 2005
"Your First Love: Hold On To It" Rev. 2:4, Matthew 22:37-38
[SERMON TITLE SLIDE]
On one occasion when Jesus was asked what’s the first and greatest commandment of all, He responded by saying, ""’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment." Now if that comment stood alone we might get the idea that Jesus was saying we must love God exclusively. After all if we love God "with ALL our heart" then we will have no love left for anyone or anything else, right? But Jesus didn’t stop there He went on to say, "39 And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." A little thoughtful digging into the text and it becomes clear Jesus wasn’t trying to tell us we should only love God---Jesus was telling us that our love for God should be so strong and have such a high priority in our lives that any other loves we might have will seem small in comparison.
He’s doing the same type of thing in Revelation 2. As I read Jesus’ letter keep in mind that Jesus is drawing attention to the high priority the people should have been giving to their relationship with God....
2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
[SLIDE WITH 1ST SERMON POINT]
1. Your Relationship To God IS and ALWAYS WILL BE Your Most Important Relationship
When you read through the letter to the church at Ephesus which Jesus dictated to John you find that the church of Ephesus has some pretty impressive credentials. It was full of hard working Christians. Jesus compliments them for the good deeds and hard work they’ve done. And Jesus is obviously pleased that they take a firm stand for the truth. But the church at Ephesus had a big problem. They had forsaken their first love. The King James reads "thou hast left thy first love" and the New Revised Standard Version claims "you have abandoned the love you had at first." Perhaps we need to clarify this first love idea---Jesus isn’t upset with the Christians at Ephesus because the members of that congregation failed to remain committed to the first person of the opposite sex they ever had a crush on---that’s not the first love He’s writing to them about. No, Jesus is upset with the Christians at Ephesus because in general the most of them no longer gave Him first place in their lives. By human standards things looked great---and the Christians at Ephesus were probably receiving compliments from other churches and people in the community for the great works they were doing. But while others were applauding them and giving them high marks---Jesus is appealing to them and warning them that they are dangerously close to failing in the thing that matters most of all. For you see these guys had become so busy serving Christ and doing the work of the church; that they had forgotten their love for Christ. They had become so focused on their routine for Christ that they failed to maintain their relationship with Christ. Like that husband who spends so much time working to provide nice things for his family that he fails to be with his family, the Christians at Ephesus exchanged action for intimacy.
Adam Diebert in his sermon, Rekindle the Desire, writes, "Friends, make no mistake about it: it doesn’t matter what you are doing, or what evil you are resisting, or what false doctrine you’re rejecting, or how many souls you are bringing into the kingdom; if your love relationship with Jesus is not there, then you stand to be condemned. Doctrinal truth and evangelistic fervour do not save you; it is a relationship with Jesus that saves you. Any substitution, no matter how spiritual, no matter how zealously embraced, is woefully inadequate." I agree.