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. “‘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. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you; that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.’” (Revelation 2:1-6)
For several years we attended a church that would play a scene from their passion play during the service on Palm Sunday. It was the “market scene”- the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and the people laid down palm branches has he came down the road. It was an exciting thing to watch- lots of people singing and shouting, and LOTS of animals. The kids loved it. But those children who had seen it before were waiting, on the edge of their seats, for Jesus to make his way down the aisle.
I still occasionally reflect on that feeling- watching my daughter looking for Jesus. And then he came in. And all the kids would get excited, turn to their parents and say, “Look, its Jesus!” They would point, and stretch their necks to see him, wide eyed with wonder. It brought me to tears every time. I often wonder if that is what Jesus wants from us- to look for him, and wait for him with the same wonder and excitement as those children.
In Revelation 2, Jesus tells the church at Ephesus that they had lost their first love. First He commended them for their works. They had been vigilant and discerning toward imposters of the faith, and Jesus was encouraging them for their endurance, their suffering, and their strength. But then he says to them, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen”.
I have found this passage to be one that I relate to. They started out “on fire”, but the flame soon became dim. Matthew Henry puts it this way, “The sin that Christ charged this church with was their decay and declension in holy love and zeal. (1) The first affections of men towards Christ, and holiness, and heaven, are usually lively and warm. God remembered the love of Israel’s espousals, when she would follow him withersoever he went. (2.) These lively affections will abate and cool if great care be not taken, and diligence used, to preserve them in constant exercise. (3.) Christ is grieved and displeased with his people when he sees them grow remiss and cold towards him, and he will one way or other make them sensible that he does not take it well from them.” (emphasis added)
As Christians, we face many battles and hardships. Paul reminds us that we are wrestling, not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) While we continue to endure these struggles, we must remember to put on the “armor of God”. (Verses 11&13)
It is easy to feel bombarded by the evils and darkness in this world, and forget the hope and joy we have in Jesus Christ. Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for their endurance and perseverance and patience. What they were doing was “good” works. But they let it affect their hearts. We must not let our hearts grow cold or weary when doing Christ’s work. Our affections should always be toward Christ in love. Through His love, we have the power to love Him- even in the hardest times. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19)
Romans 8:35-39,” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”