Return to Your First Love (Missions Sunday)

Return to Your First Love (Missions Sunday)

Introduction

Revelation 2:1-7 ESV  “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.  (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.  (3)  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  (4)  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  (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.  (6)  Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  (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.’

Revelation 2:4-5 ESV  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  (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.

  • When I was 16 years old I experienced a love like I had never known before.
    • Up until that point in my life I searched for love, affirmation, joy, and peace in things that would never give it to me.
    • Videogames, pornography, theft, alcohol, girls, habitual lying, pride…
      • And while I was not bad at entertaining myself… I never understood what love was.
      • Sure my parent’s loved me, but it never sank into my heart… not like what I experienced when I was 16.
    • I had been training in Mixed Martial Arts to be a cage fighter, and there I found  friend who quickly became my best friend.
    • He and I would do all the bad things together… but we also just liked hanging out together, like all the time.
    • This went on for a year, then all of the sudden things changed, I found out that he had started going to church and before long I found myself in the church as well.
    • And I didn’t really like church, but I liked hanging out with my friend and his parent’s would always buy me food afterword.
    • Then, after going to church for about two or three months, it happened.
      • Pastor Matt preached the Gospel, and I gave my life fully and completely to Jesus.
        • He said “If you want to be born again, raise your hand”
        • And I did… and I prayed… and I meant it… and Jesus changed me.
  • Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I felt love, real love, for the first time in my life.
    • Love that I knew wasn’t temporary, false, or shallow… I felt the love deep deep down in my heart.
    • And peace… I wish I could explain to you the peace I felt that day. Every stress in my life went away.
    • And when I worshiped, when I sang to Jesus for the first time as a new believer… THE JOY! OH BOY LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE JOY.
      • I had never been so happy or content in my life.
  • Every moment the church doors were open, I was there… I was there early and I left late.
    • I read my bible, I prayed, I told others about Jesus.
      • My prayer life was so sweet and so deep, I would literally pray until I feel asleep.
      • I would pray for my parents and my siblings, and my classmates who didn’t know Jesus.
      • I would tell others about Him then pray for Him.
      • And I felt SO CLOSE TO CHRIST. I didn’t just feel it… I WAS SO CLOSE TO CHRIST.
  • And that continued on for two years or so…
    • Then I got caught up with idolizing theology… I had found a group of Christian’s passionate about some of the things I was passionate about… and they had podcasts, and tv programs, and books to read…
      • And it was all good stuff… but what was not good was my focus change… my focus changed in this time from Christ to Theology.
      • And not just any theology, but a very specific theology…
        • Now theology, that is, the study of God and the things of God, is good! It’s important. It’s commanded.
        • But Idolizing theology is not good.
      • And that is what I did.
        • I read these books more than my own Bible.
        • I listened to the podcasts and TV shows more than I prayed.
        • I argued with people about theology more than I told people about the loving Gospel of Jesus.
        • I started arguing with pastor Matt and Crystal…
          • If they preached or taught anything that was even remotely contrary to what I was hearing in my books or TV shows, I would rebuke them, argue with them, even demean them as heretics.
      • And I stayed that way for nearly two years.
    • But these books, and podcasts, and TV Programs… none of them saved me.
      • None of them brought me to Love Jesus or feel the love of Jesus.
      • They didn’t reveal Joy and truth and peace in my life Like Christ did when I accepted the Gospel and was born again.
      • I HAD LOST MY FIRST LOVE.
  • And it wasn’t until I was in Pastor Matts Basement, watching football with him… and we got into an argument over theology…
    • And Pastor Crystal and Pastor Matt started weeping… begging me to return to my first love… that I finally broke, and realized… in my pursuit of understand Jesus I had ended up leaving Jesus behind in my life.
  • I think this is exactly the kind of thing that happened with the Church in Ephesus…

Revelation 2:3-4 ESV  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  (4)  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

  • The Ephesians had focused so hard on getting rid of the wolves, the false apostles, the evil ones… and that’s good we should do that… but they got SO focused on it, they forgot the whole reason they are a church in the first place… because CHRIST died for them and rose for them.
  • That brings me to my first point, our love should be outward focused.
    • I know that was a lot of intro… but it sets up the points to just knock them out… so lets go… point one, our Love Should Be Outward Focused

Point One – Our Love Should Be Outward Focused

Revelation 2:4 ESV  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

  • Now if you read this verse, by itself, out of context… you might wrongly assume that Jesus is accusing them of not loving Him.
    • That they have lost their love of Christ…
      • And while that may be true at a surface level, in context it is a bit more nuanced than that…
      • Because the Ephesians could easily argue “Jesus, we were fighting against false teachers BECAUSE we love you”
      • And Jesus would respond, that is true, but you are not loving me the way you USED to love me. Return to loving me like that.
  • You see we need to take a moment and step back and take a look at the big picture here…
    • Remember I said these sermons on the church of Ephesus need to be taken as a whole… you can’t miss one of them or you will miss out on essential context and balance in doctrine.
    • Two weeks ago, before Pastor Matt was here, we talked about how fighting wolves takes work.
      • We talked about how Jesus applauded the Church in Ephesus for removing false apostles, that is, people who claimed to be Christian leaders but were really evil.
  • And Jesus says “That’s good… good job working hard to keep the wolves out of the church!”
  • And now this Sunday Jesus is telling us “That’s good but… its not a replacement for your first love, you have been so focused on yourselves and the health of your own church that your forgot to love me by sharing the gospel.
  • You see they were so focused on themselves that they forgot about everyone else.
    • And what’s at stake here is the church in Ephesus, which is called a lampstand.

Revelation 2:5 ESV  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.

  • And remember we know what the Lampstand represents because Revelation chapter one told us!

Revelation 1:20 ESV  As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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.

  • So the lampstand of Ephesus is the church itself… so NOW we need to answer the question:
    • Why did Jesus chose to represent churches as lampstands? And when we answer that question we will understand what is at stake and why the Ephesians have lost there first love.
  • And it’s not that hard church… what does a lampstand do? IT HOLDS UP A LAMP or even MULTIPLE LAMPS.
    • And what does a lamp do? It shines light.
    • So the purpose of the lampstand is to hold up the lamp so light gets everywhere…
  • So we know what the lampstands are… but what are the lamps and what is the light? Well scripture tells us that too:

Matthew 5:14-15 ESV  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  (15)  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

  • YOU’RE THE LAMP! It’s you, it’s me! WE ARE THE LAMPS. And it is our job to shine… and what is the light that we shine? It’s none other than Christ Jesus…

John 8:12 ESV  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

  • You guys following me, you following the symbolism here?
    • There is a lampstand that holds up lamps and those lamps shine light…
      • The lampstand is the church… it holds up the lamps, which are us, and we shine the light that is Jesus.
  • In other words, the church’s job is to lift up and support believers to be able to share the glorious gospel with the world.
  • Now don’t get me wrong, the church has many functions… but it’s PRIORITY FUNCTION is to lift up believers to fulfil the great commission, that is, to go into all the world and make disciples.
    • The church is meant to lift us up, to equip us, to do the job of shining the light.
  • AND THE EPHESIANS MISSED IT. At some point they were shining the light… they were SO IN LOVE WITH JESUS that they just had to share it… they just had to let people know.
    • And I think about the times I was most close to Jesus, most in love… just crazy in love… like when I was first saved at 16… and those were the times I was the most passionate about praying for others and loving them to Christ.
      • And when I get away from that love, I tend to start focusing on myself… and now as a pastor, I focus on the church and what we are doing for us… not what we are doing so that others can know Christ and love Christ like we love Him.
  • And here is the kicker… we know the world is getting worse… we know the days are getting more evil don’t we?
    • Well scripture says that as the world… those outside of the church… grow more evil… that we are tempted to let our own love grow cold… and I think that is because we are so focused on loathing the world and what they do that we forget that we should be loving them and leading them to repentance.

Matthew 24:12-14 ESV  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  (13)  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  (14)  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

  • Do you see there how evangelism is tied in with our love? Some will have love that grows cold due to the wickedness of the world… but others will endure, and the result of that endurance is that the gospel is preached to all nations.
  • Y’all… I get it, life get’s hard… our priorities change… time marches onward…
    • But sometimes we just have to remember… Jesus died for me…
    • He saved a wretch like me… He showed me love and joy and peace… HE LOVED ME.
    • And because He loves me, I love Him.
    • And yeah man, we have to fight against wolves, and we have to raise building funds, and we have to set up the church programs… BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY ITS ALL ABOUT JESUS!
      • Oh how He loves us! OH HOW WE LOVE HIM.
      • LORD REMIND US OF THAT LOVE WE FIRST EXPERIENCED WHEN YOU CHANGED OUR HEART AND MADE US NEW!
      • LORD BRING US BACK TO OUR FIRST LOVE! AND LET IT OVERFLOW FROM ALL WE DO!
  • Now we are wrapping things up… point two is a short one… we either love Him and love others two Him or we will lose the Church.

Point Two – Love Him (and others to Him) or Lose the Church

Revelation 2:5 ESV  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.

  • Someone say “Do the works”…
    • Remember from where you have fallen and do the works you did at first.
    • You see, the “First love” was not just a feel good emotion… it was WORKS that the church was doing.
    • Because of the love they had for Christ they were doing the work of the Gospel.
      • But along the way they got so focused on their own inward purity that they forgot about doing the work of the Gospel. They forgot their first love.
    • And again, you have to listen to all three sermons here, it’s not that we should not be concerned with the purity and righteousness of our church and it’s doctrine… that’s very important… it’s that we shouldn’t get so focused on ourselves that we forget that it was the LOVE of Christ that brought us to salvation.
      • That we forget to show others that love and lead them to repentance that they too might follow Christ, be born again, be saved.
  • And listen, Jesus is very clear, if we forget that love for too long as a church, if we forget to reach others with the gospel, if we abandon our first love that should DRIVE us to do the work of disciple making…
    • If we forget our first love for too long JESUS WILL TAKE OUR CHURCH AWAY.
  • And y’all I have seen it happen…
    • I have seen it happen to whole denominations, that forgot their first love, and now Christ has taken away their church.
    • I have seen it happen to local churches… man the stories I could tell… churches that decided “We are just going to focus on us” and Jesus let’s them do it for 10 or 20 years… but eventually He says “ENOUGH” and the church dies.
    • I have even seen it happen to families… it starts by an unhealthy focus on minor theological differences…
      • Then theology becomes an obsession… sometimes end time theology… sometimes Early Church history… other times and infatuation with Israel…
        • And then these families fall away from the church…
        • Then they leave behind accountability…
        • Then the enemy sneaks in…
        • Before you know it the family that seemed so on fire is ending in divorce, drugs, alcohol, and sex.
          • Y’all I have seen it happen MANY times.
      • Again… not that we can’t study things like end time theology, early church history, Israel… or whatever… BUT WE CAN’T FORGET OUR FIRST LOVE.
  • If we do, that’s the end.

Revelation 2:5 ESV  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. 

Conclusion

  • Examine your life… have you walked away from that love you first experienced when you came to Christ.
    • Have you been so focused on A B or C that you forgot about what lead you to Christ? It was HIS love that lead you to Him. Are you showing others the love of Christ.
      • If not you need to get up to this altar, repent, and cry out to God… LORD LET ME RETURN TO MY FIRST LOVE.
    • We are going to sing a song or two, I am going to be at the altar because I need to be reminded to return to my first love from time to time too… then we will share the gospel and be dismissed.
  • Gospel Call

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