Remember Your First Love 8/27/00

Revelation 2:1-5

JESUS CHRIST loves you. Do you love Him more today than at any time in your life? If you have never trusted Him as your Savior, today is a matchless time to turn in trust and thrust yourself dependently upon Him with reliance for His grace in time and for eternity.

If you are a Christian and you cannot honestly say you are closer to Him than ever in your life, you have backslided. Today is a marvelous time to return and renew your devotion.

Remember when the very citizenship of your soul changed kingdoms? Remember the pure, almost sacred, feelings you had when you came to Christ? The paradise of first love is a germ that needs to be cultured and allowed to grow. The emotion may fade but the relationship can and must grow in intimacy.

Our emotions, that is our feelings, change, as they must, but the confident relationship must grow. As we grow spiritually, feelings may change but facts don’t.

Sentiment must be stabilized by study.

Ecstasy must be embraced by experience.

Passion must be by predicated on principles.

Persons don’t take giant steps away from Christ. Their devotion most often deteriorates imperceptibly. A flower dies so slowly that from moment to moment the decaying process is not noticeable. However, after a few days the difference is distinct.

Forgetfulness of our first love usually begins with a few slight indulgences that you formerly would not have tolerated. A casual brief venture into enemy territory may result in alienation from your first love.

Let’s each make this a day of personal spiritual inventory. Be honest to God in answering whether you are closer to Him today than at any time in your life. Are you?

Christ addressed seven churches in the Book of the Revelation. To each He gave an ANALYSIS, AN APPRAISAL, AND AN APPEAL.

Before observing these aspects consider Christ Himself.

“He holds the seven stars in his right hand…” (2:2). What do these stars symbolize? For the answer note Revelation 1:16: “The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches…”

The word “stars” translates the Greek ASTER and the “star” is a symbol for the “angels of the seven churches.” ANGELOS in the Greek is translated “angel.” MALAKA in the Old Testament is Hebrew for ANGELOS in the New Testament Greek. Both words meant “messenger.”

For example, in Haggai 1:13 we see it used: “Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger [MALAKA]…” When we hear the word “angel” we think of winged heavenly beings. In Scripture angels don’t have wings. That is ancient medieval imagery. An angel was simply a messenger. Sometimes a supernatural one but most often a human messenger.

Here in the Book of the Revelation “the angel” is a reference to God’s messenger to the church, the pastor, the under-shepherd of Jesus Christ, the overseer of the church. Christ is depicted as holding His messenger in His loving hand. He is controlling and protecting him.

The minister is the messenger of God to the church. He is the courier of God’s message to God’s people. The messenger is to take the Word of God and deliver it on behalf of the Lord to His people.

In Revelation 2:2 Christ is seen as the one “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.” The “lampstands” are identified in Revelation 1:20 as the churches. A lampstand is a fitting depiction of the church. The lampstand doesn’t give light. It merely provided a base for the light itself. Christ is the light of the world. The church is the equivalent of the pedestal from which He is to shine. Christ is depicted as being right in the midst of the churches. He is walking in the midst of the churches. He is fellowshipping with the church.

The first church addressed was the church at Ephesus. To understand the process of spiritual atrophy let’s look at an x-ray of this church. In doing so we will see traits that should serve as an appeal to us.

I. R E M E M B E R (Vs. 7)

An appeal to “remember” implies something has been forgotten. That something was their “first love” for Jesus. This refers to Him as being the one loved INITIALLY in order to be saved and to come into the church.

It is also a reference to the fact their love for Him had previously been the SUPREME love of their life.

What caused this drift in their love? In answering that question perhaps we can discover what might have caused our own spiritual erosion. Perhaps you once had admirable qualities like the members of this church in Ephesus. Note their qualities as recorded in verses 2 and 3. They had the admirable qualities of patience, perseverance, and laborious service without growing weary.

Even a virtue can be a spiritual liability if misapplied or misused. They had the quality of being good people who did good “works” and engaged in diligent “labor.”

These praiseworthy qualities have often caused well-intended people to lose their “first love.” They enter the church and diligently accept any assignment given. They are so in love with Jesus they do a good job regardless of how menial the task. This good work is noted and rewarded with an expanded opportunity of service. Again their faithfulness consequences in additional opportunities to serve. Soon they are so absorbed in service that they suddenly realize they have lost the joy of their salvation and are overburdened by their many roles.

They have served and served well, but their focus has drifted from the Savior to service. Service has become their first love. Though this is a commendable trait it is no substitute for intimacy with Christ — your first love.

Some dear Christians get so enamored with doctrine, their devotion is detached from Christ and attached to orthodoxy. We must ever be vigilant in our defense of the tenets of the faith, but when our absorption is with teachings and not the Teacher, Jesus Christ, we have drifted from our first love. They were so doctrinally right that they “tested” those who made false claims. They were so concerned that they could not “bear those who are evil.”

One group of these is identified. The Nicolatians were followers of a man named Nicholas. He was a fellow who thought he must be missing out on something. Some of the non-Christians seemed to be having a better time in their false religion than he. In the name of religion, pagan cults were engaging in drunken brawls and sexual debauchery. He didn’t jump right in. He rationalized his way in with the help of the equivalent of liberal theologians. Plato taught the spirit of man was good but the flesh was evil. A group known as the gnostics, that name really means a bunch of know-it- alls, taught the spirit, therefore, needed to be liberated from the body and the only way to do that was through sexual fornication and drunkenness.

Nicholas knew his eternal destiny was secure, so with nothing to lose, he sought this spiritual experience. He convinced some believers this was all right, so they joined him.

There are persons who lose their first love for Jesus because of sexual or other immoral activities. This still happens to persons today. Has it happened to you?

For whatever reason, Christians often get out of fellowship with the Lord. One of two courses of action are available. One is to take a course in “shorter hypocrisy.” The other is to repent and be



1. Symptoms of the loss of first love usually begin at the closet. Scripture urges us to enter into our closet and pray. The closet is simply a reference to getting alone with the Lord, and prayer is talking with Him. A first symptom is that the person comes out of this closet and enters another. The other closet is a reference to secret conduct unbecoming of a believer.

2. Persons stop giving to the cause of Christ. Where a person’s heart is, there is his treasure also.

3. They attend church and hear Biblical messages that address spiritual needs in their lives and are insensitive to them. A message, which if they were spiritually sensitive would call them to repentance, leaves them nodding. Externally, many may be deceived by appearances. However, departure from our first love is like what happens when the roots of a tree die. The leaves keep green for a while, but soon they also wither and fall. Love for Christ is the root of all devotion – once it begins to wither, it is only a matter of time until the life is left spiritually barren.

4. Their prayer life and Bible study time declines or stops.

5. They become irregular in attendance or stop all together.

6. They become negative and critical. Persons who have left their first love become defensive by becoming critics of the church and fellow believers. When you observe a brother or sister who has become critical, rather than listen to the criticism, be observant of the spiritual decay in the life of the critic who is talking. When a person leaves their first love, Jesus, they themselves become less loving and lovable.

When such wanderlust occurs in our lives, what we need to hear is a compassionate appeal, a sharp prophetic command, to repent. Often a person in such a state is offended by such an appeal. That is all the more indication repentance is needed.

Perhaps you, like the people at Ephesus, have let Jesus Christ become one line of the menu of life, whereas He must be the total menu. Actually, our daily bread.

Perhaps you, as they, are having a THEOLOGICAL problem. They left their “first love” and He is central to all theology. If you get your opinion of Him wrong, all other doctrine is jeopardized. If He loses first place in our lives everything else is out of order.

Perhaps you, as they, are having a PSYCHOLOGICAL problem. If you manifest a misunderstanding of who Christ is, you lose the proper perspective of who you are. You can only have a healthy understanding of yourself in connection with who Jesus is to you. You can only celebrate the wonder of who you are in connection with who you are to Christ.

Perhaps you, as they, are having an ETHICAL problem. Christian ethics are Christ-centered. Our ethical outlook begins with Christ and His view of life, and controls our ethical outlook.

It is not based on the fact we are commanded to love, but on a love that commands. When we hold Christ as our first love, that love commands, that is controls, our world view.

The “Ephesus syndrome” results gradually and subtly.

“Remember” is an appeal to give their heads over to Christ.

“Repent” is an appeal to give their hearts over to Him.


The word “repent” used here in the Greek is in the aorist tense meaning to have a complete change of mental attitude and has no emotional reference at all. The statements Christ made in the Book of the Revelation to the seven churches are His last words to His church. One’s last words are considered to be important. One who is leaving wants to leave a farewell message of importance. Those who love the one leaving want to hear and comply with any request of the departing one.

Christ’s last words were “REPENT.” The Biblical appeal to repent is as often applied to saints out of fellowship as to sinners out of grace.

The Greek word translated “first” is PROTOS. It is a word that suggests they still love, but with a quality and intensity unlike that of their initial love. Is that you? Then now is the expedient time to repent and return to your first love. These imperatives are all part of a single command based on an appeal to remember their first love and how much their enthusiasm for Christ has waned; how much their devotion has diminished.

Might your spiritual life be pictured as ashes on a rusty altar? Such indicates there once was warmth, light, and flame, but which reveals it has been a long time since there was an act of devotion performed there.

When the Holy Spirit is allowed to grip us with a true spirit of repentance we are willing to admit having let other lords besides Him have command over us. We will admit to having left our first love and appeal to Christ to recover us.


Once we repent then we will “do the first works” (Vs. 5). In verse 7 reference is made “to him who overcomes.” This is a summary expression for those who repent.

In 1632, the favorite wife of Shah Jahan of India died. Her title was Mumtaz-i-mahal, which means “pride of the palace.” He loved her so much he set 20,000 workmen to work building a tomb for her in the northern city of Agra. They labored for 21 years on the palace tomb. As work was begun on the Taj Mahal, the coffin containing the body of his beloved was placed on the spot where the temple tomb was to be constructed. Time after time it had to be moved to allow construction. Soon it got shoved aside and ignored. Shortly thereafter, building materials were scattered around it. Lost in the clutter and pushed aside, it was at some time removed with other items considered trash. When the temple tomb was completed, the body of the one in whose name it was constructed could not be found.

Spiritually, the same thing happens in the lives of some Christians. Gradually Christ gets moved aside until at last he is lost. Then we who are the temple of the Spirit are as devoid of Him as the Taj Mahal was of the pride of the palace. When it happens we must repent and return to our first love, Jesus.

Occasionally this happens collectively in a church. Christ gets pushed aside and is lost in the life of the fellowship.

The first step away is the great sin of which to repent. However cold or carnal you might have become, it could never have happened without the first small step leading away from your first love. It may have been a small beginning which you can’t even recall that has led to a great departure. That departure may be so great you aren’t even sensitive to it. That makes it all the greater. That departure may even be hard for others to detect because you still wear the uniform, you still have the external performance, the right vocabulary with the right people, but inside you know and you know Jesus knows.

Therefore, begin at the beginning again.

Go back to the fountainhead of your love — Jesus.

Go back to the fountain of thought about your Savior’s love for you as a condemned hell bound sinner and fill your cup so full it runs over into your saucer.

Today, remember and return to the embers of your first love and reignite the torch of your zealous love for Jesus. Warm your heart by the light of that flame and learn to love again as you did when you first came to Jesus.

Christ’s appeal is found in verse 5: “DO the first works.” Now is the time to begin again at the beginning. As your new life began with repentance, so your renewed life must begin with repentance. The call is to DO the first works.

Some church members need the cold water of a gospel message thrown in their face calling them to repent and return to their first love.

As you quibble and waiver in renewing your allegiance to our Lord, may you become as resolute in expressing your devotion as Samuel Rutherford, the Scotch Covenanter who was imprisoned in Aberdeen for his faithfulness to his Lord. He expressed his devotion in this manner: “O my Lord, if there were a broad hell betwixt me and Thee, if I could not get at Thee except by wading through it, I would not think twice, but I would plunge through it all, if I might embrace Thee and call Thee mine.”

That is love such as He deserves.