This morning I read the first eleven verses of Revelation in the Bible. John has received a word/vision from Jesus that he is to write to the churches in his day. The picture John is given is of seven lampstands, each representing a church which is given the task of reflecting the light of Christ in its specific place. In the midst of the lampstands, Jesus stands glorified, brilliantly shining, holding seven golden stars in His right hand. The stars are the angels of the seven churches. Apparently there is a significant connection between the stars and the lampstands. Jesus communicates to John that he is to write to the ‘angel’ of the church of Ephesus first. So, the angel is the spiritual receiver of these words, but the church (people who believe in Christ in Ephesus) are the recipients of the actual words John writes down.
The words are important. These words must be heeded because there are consequences to receiving them in the right way. The church of Ephesus is first praised for its love of righteousness, for its perseverance and toil, and for its hatred of what is evil in God’s sight. But these praises are followed by a dire warning. Their deeds are not enough to keep their lamp burning. Jesus repremands this church for losing its first love – for forgetting the love they had for Jesus that was the initial source of their deeds. They had become self-righteous and unloving. Their message became about right actions and right causes, but not about Jesus. Continuation on this path would mean the removal of their lampstand – I assume that the Spirit of Christ that was reflected in their church would be removed and it would dimly reflect the people of that place – their self-serving motives and desires, their legalistic grasp onto what they determined was right and good. I know these people. I am like these people. I also like to have people look at me doing good rather than glorifiy Jesus for the good I might do. I see myself adhering to rules and behavioral regulations. It is easier to follow rules than to evaluate motives. Evaluating motives might result in conviction of sin and necessitate humble recognition, confession, and repentance of those sins. That is the hard work of Christianity.
But the warning is for Ephesus’ ultimate benefit and blessing. They are given redirection that will enable them to return to the right path which will result in glorious life and freedom – access to the fruit from the tree of life in Paradise. They are told that they must simply remember where they began, repent or turn back to their first love, and do the things that they first did. In my application to myself, this means that I remember my own salvation – I was granted grace, love, forgiveness, acceptance and an abundant life by Jesus. The moment I truly heard the voice of Jesus and realized that He was real, I felt an overwhelming flood of love, that love overflowed in my life. The spillover manifested itself in willing obedience to my parents, forgiveness of hurts and injustices I had received, and the true desire to love and serve others. I desired a deeper understanding of God’s word and sought every opportunity to be in the presence of His people.
We are not told whether or not the church at Ephesus repented. We are not even sure that these words have yet to be fulfilled in time. Nevertheless, the Bible says that, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.’ Therefore, these words are also written to me. I am to heed this warning. I realize that I have strayed from my first love, Jesus. I remember from whence I came – I was in despair, I was angry, I was hopeless, I was full of fear, I felt rejected, this was where I was without Jesus. But Jesus spoke to my heart. He understood my hurts. He forgave my bitterness and touched my angry heart and softened it toward others. He loved me so that I could love others. He is still speaking to my heart, still turning me toward Himself by His word and His Spirit.
So, having remembered, I must repent – turn back – and do the things I first did out of love for the Savior of my life and of my heart. I want the light of the gospel of my lamp to reveal the face of Jesus Christ. That is why I am writing today. Jesus says if you have ears to hear, heed the warning He gives to the church at Ephesus. If we do we will one day hear Him say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’ He will embrace us and lead us into His glory and we will have fullness of joy.
We love, because He first loved us. (I John 4:19)