Renew Your Love

We have reason for hope for our churches and believers. Revelation chapters records Jesus’ message to the seven churches. These churches had seen persecution from outside of their groups and false teachers come to attack them from within. Many of these congregations were once vibrant in their relationship but had major issues appear.

​Two of the seven churches get only commendations from Jesus and no criticisms: the church at Smyrna (2:8ff.) and the church at Philadelphia (3:7ff.). One of the churches gets only criticism and no commendations: the church at Laodicia (3:14ff.). But four of the churches get mixed reviews. Jesus approves some things and he disapproves of others: the churches at Ephesus (2:1ff.), Pergamum (2:12ff.), Thyatira (2:18ff.) and Sardis (3:1ff.).

And all four Jesus calls to repent and threatens terrible things if they don’t. For example,

• to Ephesus: “… else I am coming to you, and will remove your lamp stand” (2:5);

• to Pergamum: “I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth” (2:16);

• to Thyatira: “I will cast her upon a bed of sickness …” (2:22);

• to Sardis: “If you will not wake up I will come like a thief and you will not know at what hour I come upon you” (3:3).

These are all merciful warnings to wake the churches up. They are all mixed—not that there is any perfect church—but these are evidently so badly mixed that their very existence is threatened.

Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) Good and Evil in the Churches of Asia and Bethlehem

Our focus on the promise of hope focuses on the first church addressed here, Ephesus.

​1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Revelation 2:1-6

Ephesus had good doctrine and seemingly their religious practices were in tact. But their deeds were dry and not full of love. They had forsaken their enthusiastic and living love for God and turned into a cold obedience. The condemnation is expressed in one memorable phrase, “you have left your first love.”

Remember the words of Christ Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Paul wrote the following:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Ephesus still held people accountable and did deeds but they were without the first love toward God and therefore without any true love to others. If you do not have the love of God in you, your love towards other people will be empty and vain.

Two things to note before we look at the remedy that strengthens our understanding of passion and love for Christ. Ephesus was a church John pastored. The first and last of the seven churches are the only ones set up for complete destruction and their condemnations were similar. They lacked love, passion, zeal. The last church, Laodicea, were to be zealous therefore, and repent, from their luke-warmness (3:19).

Threefold Remedy for Coldness

  1. Remember from where you have fallen Christ considered the loss of proper motive in the Christian life to be serious sin indeed. The picture behind it is the heavy courtship turned into empty marriage. In other words the honey had ran out and the moon had set on this congregations honeymoon with Christ. The pursued truth out of duty and intellectual involvement. However, there was no emotional or spiritual commitment.
    • Drifting away. There is a boasting of past achievements but little is offered in the present. There must be more than changing your current practices, you need to change. It’s not wrong to remember the past, but there needs to be more than nostalgia, there needs to be a longing to return to such heights.
      • A husband and wife were riding in their truck when the wife said to the husband, who was driving, “Do you remember when we were first married and we set so close that people behind us thought there was only one person in the car? What happened?” The husband replied, “I don’t know, but I have been in the same spot for twenty years.” The lesson is only the wife had moved farther away in the truck. The same is in our relationship with the Lord. He does not change and is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. Us, on the other hand, are prone to wonder.
    • What were you doing in those days that you are no longer doing? An excitement about being at church to worship God and to be with other believers? An enthusiasm for ministering the Gospel to our community? An enduring spirit when it came to challenges and conflicts with other believers? An enormous heart for giving financially and giving of your time? An earnest application of the Bible in your life.
  2. Repent of their loveless attitude. Change your heart and mind. Stop being satisfied with your current condition. If you don’t repent the candlestick will be removed.
    1. We know for Ephesus it lasted until the 5th century. They held several councils there until 475 A.D. Apparently, they held on to their need for sound doctrine and practice, but keeping their love for God was lost.
  3. Renew first works. Notice it is not talking about restoring feelings. Your feelings will lead you astray every time. Renew your first works – what does this mean – two sides of the same coin.
    • First, repent of your unloving attitude, and redo your first works.
      • Your motivations for serving God must be continually examined. There are many false motivations:
        • Legalism: Some people may try to serve God in hopes that this will either earn them eternal salvation or help them hang on to it.
        • False guilt: A failure to trust God to forgive their sins may cause some people to try to serve God in order to work off their guilt, as in works of penance.
        • Self-seeking: Financial gain, preeminence, power, or self-aggrandizement may motivate some to try to serve God. Obviously, they are only serving their own selfish desires.
      • Legitimate motivations
        • This includes first a love for God, then an accompanying love for others (Matt. 22:37-39). A Christian motivated by love works for the benefit of the One loved. Love for God is often demonstrated through obedience (John 14:21; 1 John 5:2). Love also expresses itself in a desire to glorify (John 12:27-28), please (Col. 1:10; 3:20; 1 Thes. 4:1), and know God (Phil. 3:10-14; 1 John 4:16). Love for God would also mean love for that which God loves, thus we love other people (2 Cor. 5:14; 12:15; 1 John 4:11; 5:2).
        • Gratitude: Because we benefit from God’s actions, we may wish to respond gratefully. Our service and our lives become a “Thank You” to Him. In light of God’s blessings, we are motivated to offer our bodies to Him (Rom. 12:1-2) and to live for Him (Gal. 2:20).
    • Secondly, lets look at what the good works were.
      • Generically, we can look at the common first works for all people that accompanies – also known as the fruits of repentance We would most commonly look at things like baptism since scripture often says to repent and be baptized.
      • However, we can see some very specific things about the Ephesian. Let’s look to Scripture to see their first works.
        • They possessed a great spiritual hunger (Acts 18:20). They enjoyed rich fellowship among the brethren (Acts 18:27). They were faith-filled (Ephesians 1:15). They were known for their love of the brethren (Ephesians 1:15). They were publicly persecuted for the sake of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:32). They had an eagerness to repent and to receive what God had for them (Acts 19:1-6). They severed all connections with a pagan past at great personal cost (Acts 19:18-19).
        • Look at John’s first letter, which is most likely wrote to this congregation He pastored, and where he supposedly died of old age.
          • 1 John 2:15, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
          • 1 John 5:21, Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
        • Do not give place to anything that occupies the place of God in your life. Do not leave your first love again. Do not let Jesus become less in your life. He is not second or inferior. He is first and and our superior pursuit.
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