Revelation 2:1-3 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.
“‘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.’”
It is possible to go through the motions of our Christian faith and practice and for our hearts to not be in it. It is possible to be doing the right things, which God has called us to do, but to do them without real love or passion for what we are doing or for the people we are ministering to.
It is possible to have strong convictions about right and wrong, and to endure persecution for the sake of righteousness, and to expose evil, and to proclaim truth, and to test false teachers and false teaching, but to be lacking in God-like love for others.
It is also possible to be doing many of the right things, even for the right reasons, but to end up doing them more mechanically or habitually rather than out of love and passion for our Savior. He is no longer the love of our lives, in this case, but other things have taken his place, even religion.
Revelation 2:4-5 ESV
“’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.’”
So, what is this love that we are all supposed to have? The word is “agape” in the Greek, and it literally means “to prefer.” And it is used in the context of love which centers in moral preference, and typically it refers to divine love, i.e. to what God prefers (1).
And what God prefers, i.e. what he chooses for us, is what is moral, pure, upright, honest, faithful, kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, and concern for the welfare of others.
He chooses that we forsake our sins, follow Jesus in obedience, and submit to Christ as Lord. And, He chooses that we surrender our all to him, and that he becomes our life not just part of our life. For he died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co 5:15).
The Situation Here
And, I think this is the situation here. They were doing a lot of the right things, and perhaps even for the right reasons, but Jesus wasn’t the love of their lives anymore. He wasn’t first place in their lives. Other things had come into play that were replacing him in their hearts.
He was no longer King of their lives. He was not being treated as though he was their Lord and Master. Their religion had become just that, a religion, and mechanical, rather than being prompted and led by the Spirit of God out of a heart of love for God and for others.
And, so the Lord was calling them to repent. And, he is calling us to repent, too, if this describes our lives in any way, even if it is not to this extent. And, certainly it is encouragement to make certain our priorities are in the right order and that Jesus is truly Lord and that we are doing what we are doing out of a heart of love, not just out of duty.
And, to repent means to stop doing what we were doing before, to forsake whatever it is we were doing wrong, and then to turn to the Lord and to walk in obedience to him, and to do what is right, and to do it in love.
So, if they did not repent, what was to be the outcome? They would have their lampstand (or candlestick) removed from its place. And, we read in Revelation 1:20 that the seven lampstands were the seven churches. So, this would be like saying that he would remove them from their place.
They would cease to exist as the church, or their position or their influence or their opportunity for influence where God had placed them would now be lost. He would no longer call them his church, or they would no longer be useful to him in advancing his eternal kingdom.
It would (or could) be like if God called us to a specific ministry, to be his light and his witness wherever he sent us, but if we stopped listening to him, and if we got lazy or self-consumed, and if we failed to do the work he gave us to do, then we wouldn’t be useful for him anymore, and so he would remove that ministry from us because we weren’t faithful to fulfill our God-given commission.
But, what does this mean to you? How do you believe this could be applied to our lives today? To the church today?
Revelation 2:6-7 ESV
“’Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’”
We have all been given a divine call from God. And, that call is to leave our lives of sin behind us, making Jesus Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and to follow our Lord in obedience to his commands (to his instructions to the church). For, this purpose Jesus died on that cross (Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 2:3-6).
And, this is not a one-time event that takes place in our lives, either. This is continuous, daily, persistent, until the end when Jesus comes to take us home. And, if we don’t continue in it, but we forsake the Lord, and we go our own way, instead, and if we don’t repent when he says to repent, we don’t have the hope of eternal life (Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8).
For, it is the one who conquers who is granted to eat of the tree of life. It is the one who overcomes the flesh by the grace of God and who walks according to the Spirit of God who is promised eternal life with God.
So, for all those reading this today, if you have wandered away from your pure devotion to your Lord, and if you have abandoned the love for the Lord you had at first, provided you did truly love him at first, then the Lord is calling you, as well, to repent, and to return to him as your first love and your only Lord, and to do what he has called you to do.
If you do not repent, and if you refuse him, he will cast you out. But if you do repent, he will receive you and he will restore you to himself, and he will be your only Lord, and you will be his sheep, and you will listen to him, and you will follow him wherever he leads you until the day he comes to take you home (Matt 22:13; Matt 25:30; Lu 13:23-28; Jn 10:27-30).
The Ninety and Nine
Lyrics by Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868
Music by Ira D. Sankey, 1874
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare;
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”
But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry;
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.
“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way,
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”
And all through the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”
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