Focal Passage: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’ssake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:2-4
When you mention the Book of Revelation, it strikes fear in the hearts of many people, even Christians. But it need not; it’s a wonderful Book of hope and promise, and here is something you may not know: It promises that those who read, hear and obey the words of this prophetic book will receive a special blessing from God. (Rev. 1:3)
First I want to correct one common mistake. There is no “s” in the name of this book; it is singular, not plural as many incorrectly pronounce it. Revelation means simply, an “unveiling”, much as you would pull away the canvas of of a painting and “reveal” it for the first time. It is an “unveiling” of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I highly recommend a study of Revelation. It will amaze, and I believe can alter your relationship with Jesus in such a promising way. I would also recommend a good commentary, such as David Jeremiah, as it can be complicated sometimes. Adrian Rogers also wrote a very good book called “Unveiling the End Times in Our Time”. It is easy to read and understand, and doesn’t delve into other complicated prophesies as some commentaries do.
We’re only going to study a few verses in the second chapter, but first let me set the stage. Jesus has just appeared to the apostle John. And it’s not the Jesus he had seen before—at least not in appearance. He sees our Lord in all of His majesty and glory, and all he can do is fall prostrate at his feet. Although His appearance may be different here, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow…and He reaches out and touches John and says, “do not be afraid”. This is the same Jesus John knows and loves.
In chapter two, He instructs John to write letters to each of seven churches in Asia Minor. I want to point out that while these were literal churches in existence in John’s day, the letters are just as applicable to the churches of today and to the Christians in them.
Let’s look at the the letter to the church of Ephesus. If I sound “preachy” from here on out, I don’t mean to be. I often have to refer back to these verses in my own life. In the first part of the passage, Jesus commends them for their labors and perseverance, and that they are obedient. He is also pleased that they haven’t followed after false teachers which were prevalent then just as they are today.
All in all, up to this point, this sounds like a well functioning church. They’re going about business as usual,doing the work good churches should do. And if we equate this to ourselves as individuals, we might say: Went to church this week-check. Read my Bible daily-check. Put something in the offering plate-check. Prayed for those around me- check. But something was missing here, as it is sometimes with us. He said,
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
What does that mean? Some commentators take this to mean they had lost their love for one another. But in each of the letters in chapters two and three, the emphasis is on allegiance to Jesus, and most Biblical scholars believe that love for our Savior seems to be in view here. It means that they had lost the love they had when they first came to know Him. They were doing the right things, but for the wrong reasons…there was no passion.
Do you remember what it was like when you first fell in love, or maybe went on your first date? Ladies, did you spend a little extra time in front of the mirror? Guys, did you make sure that car was absolutely spotless? Did you anticipate seeing him or her all day? Was there excitement in your eyes, butterflies in your stomach?
What about the time when you asked Jesus into your heart and first began your relationship with Him? I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was a young boy of about 11. And to be honest, I remember I was excited, but I can’t remember much else. When I was around 20 years old, I began to really take a look at my life, and although I knew I was saved, I rededicated my life to Him publicly at the church I was attending…and boy do I remember that feeling. I wanted to be totally His, and I wanted to tell everyone I knew about Him. The feeling was so strong, that I actually thought I was being called to preach. I transferred to Union University and majored in religion to prepare to become a preacher. I was excited!
Later I came to realize that God wanted me to be totally His, but as a layman. The world needs Christian laymen just as much as it needs pastors. We all have mountain tops and valleys in our walk with the Lord and He loves us just as much in the valleys as he does when we are flying high. But my point is this. Just like the church at Ephesus, Jesus wants our whole heart, all the time. He wants that fervor and excitement we had when we first came to know Him. That desire to serve Him out of true love, not blind obedience…He wants us to have the heart of a servant.
Service seems to come easy to some people. My wife, for example, loves to work in the inner city programs and gets involved in efforts to help those less fortunate than us without blinking an eye. That doesn’t come so easy for me. I would rather take another route. To me it’s much easier to teach a Sunday School class or work at the front door of the church as a greeter…I can smile and say “come on in” with the best of them. But I have to work at being a servant, that is much more difficult for me.
I read a book a while back by Chuck Swindoll (my favorite author) called “Improving your Serve”. It’s not a long book, but it was one of the hardest I’ve ever read. It humbles the reader. The book is based on the words found in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” I highly recommend it to you.
I hope reading this study today causes you to look inward as much as it did me while preparing it. And I want to throw out a challenge. Do something for someone this week for no other reason than your pure love for our Lord…and don’t tell a soul about it.
“…and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6