If you are, I hope I am not talking to you about your marriage. Do you know how many married people are so madly in love and after a few years (sadly in some cases it’s much less), they lose their first love … or as the text says, “forsaken your first love”. Remember the word “forsake” is deliberate in intent. In marriage it might appear not to be deliberate, but being too busy for each other, growing selfish, focusing on other attractions (perhaps the car, garden, TV, etc.), things that are legitimate and not sin … yet stealing time, energy, money, emotions … and without realizing it … forsaking your love for your spouse is deliberate in disguise … without even realizing how bad things have become. Have you been there? This church is right there!
Rev 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
Was the pastor teaching truth (good doctrine) without application? Did the pulpit become a “form” without reality? Was loving Jesus reduced to service without feeling? Remember the letter is to the local Church as well as the Churches on the postal route (v7) … but firstly it is too the pastor
Rev 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write!
It does seem as though the pastor is lacking seriously! The condition of the Church comes directly from his teaching and pastoral care! I am not talking about the size of the church, nor it’s bank balance or the number of people or ministries, I am talking about the spiritual health of the people. Perhaps the first ingredient in spiritual revival and reformation in the soul and the congregation lays on three important steps … (1) Preaching – Proclamation; (2) Prayer – Petition and (3) Pastoral Care – Shepherding. The second ingredient must be … (1) Congregational Prayer for the Pastor and (2) Congregational Encouragement of the Pastor.
1) Repentance means Restoration.
Rev 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
First the pastor and then the congregation had drifted far from reality in Jesus. Repent is serious. It is a complete about turn … it requires moving 180 degrees in the opposite direction. It requires leaving the past … the sinful detour, the worldly indulgence and the rejection of Jesus as Lord and King. Perhaps unlike many others, my focus is firstly on the pastor because when the pastor falls (even when the people can’t see it), he leads the people into his folly. Generally it is his fault the congregants slip away from passion for Jesus into full scale “forsaking their love for Jesus”. I cannot but help return to King Jesus’ words … “I know …” If you are a Pastor, Church Council Member or Christian Worker and are wayward and leading others into your sin … know this, Jesus knows! You might pull the wool over the eyes of some but sooner or later you will get caught out because Jesus knows! And to the congregation … please remember that “where there is smoke there is fire”! Rumors, a stubborn heart, half-truths, suggestive language, inappropriate behaviour, variations between teaching and lifestyle and a dysfunctional family are some of the smoke signals that congregants ought to be aware of. In no way am I saying a Pastor or Christian Worker must be completely sinless and holy … he can’t … but he needs to strive to sin less and be holy. Robert Murray McCheyne got it right when he said: “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” Remember … Jesus knows! Now look at this …
2) Failure to repent has serious consequences.
Rev 2:5 … If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
This statement from the Lord Jesus still carries true today. Many Churches have been shut down because of pulpit failure. There is a Church some 15 kilometers from where I live that changed from a Christian Church to a Mosque. Another Church about 1 kilometer from us is now a property agent’s office. I am informed that in Britain many Churches have ceased to minister. Their buildings are now pubs, mosques, stores, etc. To the pastor at Church at Ephesus [including those on the postal route and all pastors throughout all time], the message is … forsake your first love … true love for God … if you don’t “do the things you did at first” … have real passion for Jesus as Lord and King of the Church … Jesus says … “I’ll remove your lampstand … I’ll close down your Church”. Pastor, you will be without a calling, without ministry and without work. O my friend, this has happened and still happens in our day! Pray for the pastor … that he will remain faithful and true to the Lord Jesus Christ.
3) There is however a glimmer of hope.
Rev 2:6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Although little is known about these people, it seems as they were a permissive society, engaging in immoral conduct and advocating “freedom” for all Christians to do as they pleased. This society was a hippy styled community sharing their possessions and their wives. Most false teachers who infiltrate the Christian Church support low morality because they want to get followers whom they can seduce financially and sexually. The pastor hated these practices and so did Jesus. He would because false teaching damages the flock, often scattering them. A ‘type of the Nicolaitans’ visits Churches seeking followers to draw into their web. Naturally a pastor needs to insure purity of life and then he needs to root out such people, exposing them and banishing them from the Church. As with this pastor, so with many pastors who have slipped spiritually. Jesus knows … the sin and the immorality you hate … He hates it too. He is giving the pastor a lifeline … repent … return and be restored and the Church will be restored too.
4) A positive response leads to a positive outcome.
Rev 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
This verse is extremely deep. If the pastor is able to hear spiritual Truth in his soul, he will hear what is being said by the Lord Jesus and ensure repentance and a return to doing what he did at first. He will return to loving the Lord Jesus with all his heart, soul, mind and strength resulting in fitting service with the congregation being restored to spiritual maturity that pleases and glorifies the Lord. The Lord’s promise to the pastor as well as those in his congregation is that restoration and reform secures the right Adam did not have, the right to eat from the tree of life. When spiritual food is digested the life Jesus gives results in feasting on life giving food in the Sanctuary of God which is Paradise indeed.
Lord Jesus, restore wayward pastors and congregations so that they might enjoy eternal life with you in Glory. Amen.