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04.11.10 When Love for God Grows Cold, Revelation 1:1-2:7 Sermon Summary

by on April 12, 2010

Those of us who go to church need a remedy for the post-Easter blues. The book of Revelation offers help. It starts with a description of the exalted Christ dictating seven letters to seven churches. This is the Christ of the resurrection. He is the Head of the Church. And he is the “faithful witness” according to Revelation 1:5. Thus he has earned the right to be heard in the church.

To the recipient church of the first letter, Ephesus, things start off well. The church

  • Does good works, probably in the community
  • Is patient and faithful in endurance
  • Strives for holiness
  • Maintains theological integrity

The problem is that they have “abandoned their first love.”

Think about love at first. When I was first in love, I would work extra hard and really fast to make time to spend with my new love. We would stay up late. I wrote cards, poetry, and songs. We spent hundreds of dollars on long distance phone bills and plane tickets.

Today, after thirteen years of marriage, I still love my wife, but that love has changed. Some of the early activities remain, but now I make sure the bills are paid and the cars maintained. I share the responsibilities with the kids. We spend time together in study, leisure, exercise, and problem solving.

Our first love for Jesus changes also:

  • From getting the needs that first drew us to Christ met, to later needs
  • From love for Jesus as Savior to love for him as Lord
  • From 1st ecstatic experiences of conversion to an ongoing lifestyle of conversion
  • From being a new disciple to lifelong discipleship

My point is, Revelation’s 1st letter is NOT about losing our initial enthusiasm for following Jesus. It’s natural to outgrow our puppy love for Christ. As we mature, we embrace what Jesus had to say about loving him:

  • The greatest commandment is to love God AND love your neighbor
  • If you love me, obey my commands
  • Since you love me, feed my sheep
  • Love as I have loved, do as I have done (washing the disciples’ feet)
  • Love others as I have loved you, by laying down your life for each other

Returning to the “first love of Jesus” is not about singing and dancing in worship like you might have done at camp. It’s not about studying the Bible and theology as you might have done in college (or seminary, or in doctoral work, or in sermon preparation . . .). It’s not about doing good works. The Ephesians were doing all these things, and Jesus commends them for it. They loved God, but they were failing to love one another. That’s the quality of their first love which they had lost.

What does it look like for the church to love one another? A survey of the phrase “one another” in the Newer Testament yields these activities:

  • Encouraging (1Th5.11) (Heb3.13; 10.25)
  • Cheerleading (Heb10.24)
  • Serving (Gal5.13)
  • Teaching (Col3.16)
  • Agreeing (1Co1.10)
  • Offering hospitality (1Pet4.9)
  • Forbearing (Eph4.2) (Col3.13)
  • Accepting (Rom15.7)
  • Not judging (Rom14.13)
  • Being kind, compassionate, and forgiving (Eph4.32) (Col3.13)
  • Not with words/tongue alone, but with action and in truth (1Jo1.18)
  • Honoring (Rom 12.10)
  • Supplying needs (1Jo1.17)
  • In mutual submission (Eph5.21)
  • Being harmonious, sympathetic, compassionate, and living through humility (1Pe3.8; 5.5; Rom12.16)

In their enthusiasm and success in pursuing doctrinal purity, holiness, and charity, the Ephesians neglected love for one another. They may have even become suspicious and competitive with one another. At stake, according to the risen Christ, is the existence of the church itself, and to emphasis the urgency even further, Jesus threatens access even to the tree of life.

His solution? The Ephesians are to Remember, Repent, and Reconcile. They are to remember the activities they did of old. Think about how much teamwork is required in a major initiative like starting a church. It requires all the activities in the above list. The Ephesians had abandoned those activities. They had become complacent. They had forgotten their first love. So they are to repent of this complacency, and they are to reconcile with one another so that they can follow the risen Lord where he wants to lead them.

Questions for Application

  1. How does your church show signs of complacency like the Ephesian church? What has distracted you from mutual love?
  2. What could your church accomplish if you remembered, repented, and reconciled in order to follow Christ anew?
  3. How has your individual relationship with God grown through stages of love? How does it feel to you to hear that you don’t have to love God the way you did at first? Liberating, challenging, hopeful, disappointing?
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