The first church that Jesus addresses in the Book of Revelation is Ephesus. To appreciate and understand Ephesus is to think of New York City. Ephesus was the “New York” of Asia Minor, now known as Turkey.
Ephesus was the center of commerce, culture of civic focus, of fashion. Ephesus was the place to be. It was a tourist city. It was well-known throughout Asia as the place to go.
Ephesus was also known for idolatry. The Book of Ephesians was written to the church in Ephesus. If you want to read how this church got started, go to Acts 19.
Here in Revelation, the angel is not writing because “all is well.” He is writing because of a situation that needed to be addressed for people who wanted to be overcomers. We learn from verse one, that there is an unseen visitor walking in the midst of the seven lampstands – churches. Jesus Christ is walking in the worship service, for those who worship Him.
Revelation 2:1 – “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (Verse 2) “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
The first thing Jesus says is, “I know your works.” He knows us as He knew them. He sees what we do and say. He’s watched it all. Then He says, that He knows their labor. He sees the effort behind their works to the point of exhaustion. They were tireless at their ministry with this church. He’s aware.
Then He sees their perseverance, their patience to not quit. Then He tells them they have tested with the correct doctrine and theology to see if they are of God. They were serving, sacrificing, steadfast and separated to the ministry of God. (Verse 3) “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. They seem to be the “model church.”
(Verse 4) “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Think about this for a minute: Jesus just told them five great things that they were doing right, and then tells them one little thing He can’t deal with.
However, evidently you can be a serving church, a Christian church, a sacrificing church and a sacrificing Christian, but left your first love. You can be a steadfast church and a steadfast Christian, but still leave your first love. Evidently, you can be all these things, but yet still not be putting Jesus first. We can be doing the right things, but forgo the relationship.
To love God is to passionately pursue God’s pleasure. So, what’s the problem? People say, “But I love the Lord!” The complaint is not that they don’t love Him, His complaint is that they don’t love Him “First!”
There are certain things God can’t do. God can’t lie; God can’t sin; God can’t act contrary to His nature or He would no longer be the “Unchanging God; God cannot stop existing, because He is eternal; and God cannot be “Second in our lives.”
Whenever God is made second in a person’s life to anything, even if they are good things, it is unacceptable. God is in a class all by Himself. “In the beginning, God!” Before there was anything, there was God. All through the Bible, “first fruits,” worship first, first, first, etc. God demands to be first in our affection, in our attention and in our priorities.
But when He is no longer first and has been re-positioned with something or someone in place of Him, a person has just “created an idol!” Whatever we put first becomes our god. God doesn’t like competition in our lives.
Many have often made ministry for Him, more important than a relationship with Him. The cost will be great in our spiritual experience with Him. Compromising religion for relationship – left your first love.
I’m sorry to say this, but some people don’t even know they have left Him, because they never stop doing, doing, doing, to realize what has happened. Then there are some that will never admit that they have left their first love. Religion will keep you busy. They think they are pleasing to the Lord the more they do.
Jesus did compliment them on what they were doing right, but it should never be at the expense of the relationship with Him.
Where you prioritize Christ will determine whether you become a overcomer or not.
What does it look like when we’ve left our first love? This means you have to find time for Him when you have plenty of time for other things. The reason that some won’t find the time to spend with Him is because they really don’t want to be intimate with Him. People want to “fit it in” when nothing else is competing with the time spent with Him. This is because most won’t spend time with Him unless there is a problem in their life. They don’t make the time to get in His Word and really get to know Him.
As Christians we should start our day with Him, if He’s our first priority. Psalm 100:4 – Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. And that my friend is why we worship Him first with praise and song when we enter into a church service when we all gather. (If you are skipping worship service and only make time for the sermon, He is not being placed first.)
Our first priority is to enter His presence, His gates, with thanksgiving and praise – worship Him.
So what do we do when we are guilty of losing our first love? Revelation 2:5 – “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.”
Jesus tells us to remember. Remember when you first started out with Jesus and you had to depend on Him for everything? Go back to the time before your ministry grew to where it started to take all your time to manage. The more we have the more time is devoted to taking care of it. Whatever it is it moves into first priority.
Remember, saint, when we didn’t know anything but John 3:16, when we were first saved? All we knew was our sins were forgiven and we were on our way to heaven and Jesus loves me – remember? Do you remember when Jesus was filling your heart with love and you wanted everyone around you to have that too? He mattered the most.
Second thing He said to do was repent! There is only one thing mentioned in the Bible that we repent of and that’s “Sin.” Guess what? Leaving your first love is called “Sin.” It is not just a bad habit or just a mistake. It is when your relationship with Christ becomes secondary to the program.
This is not just about, “Oh, I got to get my priorities straight..” No, we have to get our sin fixed. Jesus says we must repent. This is not just a “scheduling issue,” it’s a sin issue.
John 14:21 – “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest (reveal, disclose) Myself to him.”
To those who keep His commandments, He will talk and reveal Himself to them. If a person doesn’t hear or get guidance from Him, seem to never have victory over things, it is because Jesus doesn’t feel free to disclose Himself to them. They have given Him second place in their lives.
Revelation 2:6 – “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (The Nicolaitans were Christians who were abusing “Grace!” They thought grace was an excuse to sin.) (Verse 7) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
He not only is talking to the churches, but the individual. Do you have ears? Yes, but are you hearing what the Spirit is saying? Are you, as an individual, paying attention about your first priority in your Christian life?
Then Jesus says, “To the one who overcomes.” To overcome what? To the one who can overcome the pressure to not put Jesus first from other things. Sometimes we get so busy in our lives, it becomes “pressure” and we neglect that quiet time.
If God is not first in our lives, He says He will remove your lampstand from its place. He will shut it down! No love, no light. You’ll run your life, but He won’t be guiding you, you will.
Ask yourself this: Who else died for me; who else paid for my sins; who else can give me eternal destiny; and who else do we call on when life shuts down? If we can find anyone that fits that description, then go to them and put them first. There is no one else that is all these things to us, so He has to be first.
There is a reward to those who overcome. To that person, Jesus will give to eat from the tree of life! Do you see how important this is? Not every Christian will overcome the temptation of not putting Him first.
Jesus is talking about a future reward that will come, but receives a “down-payment” in this life. So, what is this that I can experience some of now? “God will disclose Himself, beginning now!” God is waiting on us to meet with Him every day. You draw close to Him and He will draw close to you. You will begin to see and hear what the Spirit has to say about all things.
Do you want to be drenched by His glory? Don’t get satisfied with seeing Jesus from a distance. Move in and dig deep and be over whelmed by the King of kings and the LORD of lords!!