A man walked into a card shop and asked the clerk to help him find
a very special card for his one true love.
The clerk showed him a particular card, which read,
"To the Only Woman I've Ever Really Loved."
The man looked at the card and said, "That's perfect! I'll take six of them!"
The church at Ephesus had lost its first love, which tells us that they had develop many other loves.
The first of the seven letters is addressed to the church at Ephesus.
Ephesus was the leading metropolis in all of Asia Minor.
Pergamum was the official capital of the province, but Ephesus was the greatest city of the province.
Ephesus was an important city of commerce.
It had a population of more than 300,000 people, and it had the largest harbor in Asia Minor.
Many people considered it the third greatest city in the Roman Empire,
behind Rome and Alexandria.
Its commercial importance was heightened by the fact that three great trade routes converged there.
It was also a free city.
This was a political distinction which was granted by the Roman government.
A free city was one which had the right to self-government, and this attracted people to Ephesus.
Ephesus was also a cultural and religious center.
The city had a major stadium in which the most famous games in Asia were held.
It's enormous amphitheater could seat 27,000 people.
The city had a magnificent library, which was called the Library of Celsus.
Ephesus was the center of the worship of Diana, the goddess of sex,
who is sometimes referred to as Artemis in Scripture, the Greek name for the Roman goddess.
The ancient temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Originally, it measured 425 feet long, 225 feet wide, and had 120 columns, which were 60 feet high.
Pagan worship was at its peak in the city of Ephesus.
Christianity probably came to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila about 52 AD
when Paul left them there en route from Corinth to Antioch. (Acts 18:18-22)
Tradition tells us that John finished out his apostolic career in Ephesus
before he was exiled to the island of Patmos.
In this letter our Lord had a commendation, a complaint, and a command with a warning and a promise.
Christ commended them.
He said, "I know your deeds and your hard work." (Rev.2:2)
The Greek word translated, "hard work," describes labor that brings
sweat to the point of exhaustion.
The Ephesian church was an active and busy church.
They were conscientiously working for the Lord.
Christ commends them for their endurance.
"I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance" (Rev.2:2).
The church at Ephesus had been exposed to fierce opposition and persecution.
There was the opposition that the silversmiths and craftsmen had about Paul
on account of his preaching. (Acts 19)
But despite this opposition, the Ephesian Christians had held firm to their faith.
The Greek word that is used here means "a courageous gallantry,
which accepts suffering and hardship and turns them into grace and glory."
Then Christ commends them for their sound doctrine.
He writes, "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." (Rev.2:2b)
Ephesus had been visited by some self-styled apostles, which Christ later referred to as the Nicolaitans.
What they taught we are not certain.
The name, Nikolaus, means "destroyer or conqueror of the people."
This name is similar to the Old Testament name, Balaam.
They taught that spiritual liberty gave them the right to practice idolatry and immorality,
even though they claimed to be Christians.
The church in Ephesus tested this heresy and did not tolerate their teaching.
They possessed a rare gift of discernment, and they were not deceived.
A few years later, this church was still known for it doctrinal purity, Ignatius of Antioch wrote
to them early in the 2nd century AD,
"You all live according to the truth, and no heresy has come among you."
At first glance Ephesus seemed to be a model church.
Their members were actively busy in the work of Christ, they were patient in their persecution and suffering,
and they were sound in their theology.
Yet, Christ had a complaint against them.
Christ writes, "But this I have against you: You have forsaken your first love."
Love is the mark of a true and living church.
A church is not a living church unless it is a loving church.
Without love a church is lifeless.
The Christians in Ephesus were busy, but they did not serve with love.
They endured, but their love didn't.
They tested their teachers for their orthodoxy, but not for their love.
A love relationship can drift and die.
That can be true of our relationship with Christ if we are not careful.
A church that is marked by love will serve with dedication and passionate worship.
They will sacrificially give of themselves and their substance.
Ephesus was a church that served even as they endured persecution.
They held to the truth, but they had left their first love, and the Lord gave them His complaint.
Christ called upon them to remember, repent, and return to the their first love.
He said, "Remember the height from which you have fallen!" (Revelation 2:5)
The Church at Ephesus was commanded to remember that which God had done for them in the past.
They were to rekindle that first love for God, which comes from a grateful heart.
They were commanded to repent.
"Remember the height from which you have fallen, and repent!" (Revelation 2:5)
Repentance involves a change of mind which leads to a change in direction.
It is a turning from sin and turning toward God.
Finally, the Christians in Ephesus were to commanded to return to the basics of following Christ.
"Do the things you did at first" (Revelation 2:5).
Christ encouraged them to return to the elementary aspects of their discipleship
and reclaim their discipline in following Christ.
It is possible to become so caught up in church work that we fail to do the real work of the church.
We can become so busy doing the things of God that we fail to take time to be with God.
Loving Christ is the key to the recovery of our passion and our power.
This is how we can reclaim our former devotion and effectiveness.
Returning to our first love for Christ will cause us to make more time for Bible study and prayer.
It will propel us to share our faith with those who need Jesus as Saviour.
Our first love will be contagious to others.
Christ closes this letter with a warning and a promise.
He warns that if they do not repent, He will remove their lampstand.
He will terminate the church.
Our Lord also gave the church in Ephesus a promise.
He promised that if they did repent He would give them the reward of eternal life
in the paradise of God in heaven.
This message is to us!
What has God's Spirit said to you during this message?
We should remember our first love.
Do you remember why you became a Christian?
Do you remember how you loved the Lord?
You would have followed Jesus anywhere.
Christ was first place in your life.
You were devoted to the Lord.
Think about your relationship with Christ, and ask yourself,
"Is my love and fervor for the Lord what it was when I first knew Him?
Am I as excited about Christ as I was when I first followed Him?"
Can you remember when you had the right priorities, and you followed the Lord completely.
But as the years passed, something happened -- you didn't intend it -- but it happened.
You lost that first love!
In spite of all the good things you have done, you have left your first love for the Lord.
Remember your first love again!
Just having sound doctrine is never enough in the Christian life.
Believing the right things is never adequate without a love and passion for Christ.
Have you heard the saying,
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Vance Havner once wrote,
"Too much of our orthodoxy is correct and sound, but like words without a tune,
it does not glow and burn; it does not stir the heart; it has lost its hallelujah.
One man with a genuine glowing experience with God is worth a library full of arguments."
A loving encounter with the risen Christ will lead us to fall down in humility and praise God
as John did in the first chapter of this book.
Do we still have the awe?
Have you lost your hallelujah?
We need to renew and express our love to Christ afresh every morning.
We must return to our first love to receive God's future blessings.
Remember your first love.
Rekindle your passion for Christ, and reclaim your fire of devotion for the Lord.
Where do you stand with Christ today?
What is the condition of our heart?
In what ways have you forgotten your first love?
Pray that this will be a day of new beginnings!
Remember and repent!
Return to your first love!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White