Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Lost First Love Church

: To call believers to see where they strayed and return

Text: Rev 2:1-7
Rev 2:1  "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 
Rev 2:2  "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 
Rev 2:3  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 
Rev 2:4  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 
Rev 2:5  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 
Rev 2:6  Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 
Rev 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.' 

When we talk about Revelation we often think of graphic symbolism and predictions of the future. But we forget this book starts out with 7 short letters to 7 churches. These are more like Postcards! Postcards from Heaven! They’re brief, personal and Urgent! In fact, the urgency part is a bit unnerving, because Jesus says things like, “Repent or I’ll take away your lampstand!” And even if we aren’t sure what the lampstand is, it sounds pretty serious!
We are going to spend 7 messages with these postcards. My hope is God will speak to you and me, through these passages, and bring us home!   Now you might think you're already home. And to a large degree, you might be. But let me ask, Is your life as fruitful for Jesus as you would like it to be? Are you as courageous in the Lord as you ought to be? Is any area of your life in rebellion to the Lord? Are you afraid to take a risk for Jesus? If so, open your hearts to these passages in the weeks ahead. Ask God to speak to you, to draw you to himself.
   Acts 19 is the record of Paul ministering in Ephesus. But its believed John also ministered there both before and after he wrote this book. Ephesus was among the largest cities of Asia Minor, about 50,000 around this time, and a famous center for idolatry!
In V1 Jesus is the one who holds the 7 starts and walks among the 7 lampstands. What is that about? See Rev 1:20 As for the mystery of the 7 stars you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.     
What are the 7 stars? Angels? Well the word means messenger. I think it’s fairly safe to say these are the pastors or individual messengers that John sent with each message. But I favor the pastors of the churches. And what are the lampstands? Remember, there was a lampstand in the temple. That was the only source of light in the temple, it was made with pure gold and filled with oil. Oil was the fuel of the 7 flames on the lampstand. That’s some profound symbolism when we remember, oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. So, what is the lampstand? I believe it is the life and light giving Spirit of God in the churches. And notice Jesus is walking among these lampstands and churches. He is with them, He knows what is going on.
V2 He says, I know you works, your toil and your endurance. He knows not only the work we do but the pains we take and how we suffer in our work for Him. That’s what He means by toil. And they have endured – they continued working when it was hard.
     He said they didn’t put up with evil. They even tested self-appointed apostles and found them to be false. They understood what the Bible taught about good and evil and sound doctrine. They didn’t put up with false teachers! In those days there were men going around trying to trick churches into false doctrine. Things like Gentiles need to become Jews to be Christians. Or Jesus wasn’t really God in the flesh. Or the God of the Old Testament was bad but Jesus was good. On and on. And the church called these things heresy, And Jesus said, Good!
In V3 He mentions again their patience and endurance and how they “bore up” or held up under stress. This is a good sign of being a true believer.
Ill) I remember reading of two missionaries who brought the gospel to some folks in Indonesia. They were ladies who went there as Bible translators. As they worked there for years some finally left their tribal religion and trusted in Jesus Christ. This made the local witch-doctor pretty angry and he was put curses on them. One of the young women who became a Christian lost her baby just after it was born and everybody said it was the power of the shaman. So there was this fear in the village that following Jesus would cause your babies to die. When the young missionaries heard and rushed to see the young mother who lost her baby they were prepared for the worst. How are we going to convince her that our God is a God of love, and more powerful than the shaman.? When they got there, they found her grieving but she said, shall I receive good from Him and not accept the bad also? And the other believers were all encouraged and even more women came to know Christ.
  Perseverance in trouble is a testimony of true believers!
BUT! Don’t you just hate it when someone is singing your praises but you know there is a “But” coming. “You did a great job!!  BUT – you missed this part, do it over.” Or, when a girl is letting the guy down easy, “I really like you a lot – BUT – can we just be friends?”
Well Jesus says But – and remember He walks among the candlesticks – he knows each church – and He says -V4But I have this against you – You have abandoned your first love!
This is a powerful accusation. And you know its true because Jesus said it! And of all things to have lost, Love is the Hallmark of the Gospel
For God so LOVED He sent! 
Herein is LOVE, not that we loved Him but He loved us! 
By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have LOVE for one another! 
LOVE is important! Its appears over 200 X in the NT!
 What does Left your first love, mean? Well, who is our first love as believers? Isn’t it the one who took our place? Who paid our debt? We have no Genuine Love – no Godly Love – until Jesus comes and rescues us! 
But what can you do about it? 
How do you just start loving again? 
How do you get that back?
1.      V5 Remember. Here is where I start the alliteration. I have 4 “R’s” for you. The first is Remember! V5 Remember from where you have fallen. Can you remember?
Can you remember a time when you loved Jesus more? Is it hard to say the words “I love Jesus” or “I love God”? Can you remember a time when the Grace and Mercy of God was so precious to you? HOW do you go back there? Or how do I get there if I have never really been there?
Ill) For years, I had a hard time singing “I love you Lord and I lift my voice ...” Even though I was grateful and loved the Lord for what He did, I knew my love was nothing compared with His love for me! But one day I accepted that He knew that I knew that! I was able to say ‘I love you.’ Because I knew that while my love was far from perfect, it was a love He had planted in my heart! But lets face it, we don’t always continue in the realization of His love for us and ours for Him!      SO – What do we do?
2.      REPENT. What does this mean? It means think differently. Change the direction of our thinking! After you Remember, Go back to that way of Thinking! But we have to be intentional about it. I saw a great quote the other day – "Nobody ever drifts into Holiness!" You don’t Repent by accident. You don’t keep repenting, everyday, several times a day, without Intentionality! Keep Remembering and Keep going back to that time when you were so thankful for His Grace!
3.      RETURN! Go Back to the First Works! This doesn’t mean, Work harder, or Serve the Lord More! No it means go back to what you did before you started to work for Him.
Remember – He just praised their hard work and faithfulness! They were working. Maybe they weren’t doing everything right but they were working. No, he said do the “First” works. What are those? Pray harder? Sing louder?
   Look at the History of the Ephesian church. Read Acts 19:18:

V.18 many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. 

Among other things they did when they first believed is they put away their idols! Now I don’t think any of you have little idols set up in your house – if so – that’s got to go!  I am really surprised that some Christians STILL follow horoscopes! That’s an idol. I’m surprised how many people get their beliefs from bumper stickers and the internet! We need to get away from catchy phrases and believe God’s Word! We need to get our principles from the Bible! If you follow worldly wisdom and Facebook more than the Bible you’re doing it wrong!
We need to put away things we worship. How about our comfort zones? Are you willing to give those to God and burn them in a bonfire? That’s Hard, right? You bet it is.           
But, Before you ever started “Working” for Jesus, look back and see if you didn’t have a heart for Jesus. And you realized, NOTHING – NOTHING – compares with the Love of Christ.
4.       One more R in this passage. (V5). REMOVE. Now this is not Removing our salvation or Jesus leaving us. But it has to do with the Question, Why does Jesus need a church that has left their Love for Christ? Does that do the Kingdom any good? When he removes a lampstand, there are other churches to carry on.

Will you Remember, Repent and Return To Jesus as your King of Kings today?