Updated: Apr 1
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent.
As a Pastor (but actually regardless of your “position” in your church), I have this recurring fear… not fear in the sense of emotional fear, but a fear of God… a reverence… a knowing in my gut that we must do what is right with God… a nightmare if you will… that week after week, year after year, decade after decade, we show up for Sunday service, but Jesus is no longer present. Just like Elvis, Jesus has left the building. He has removed our lamp stand.
If you paid attention to the above scripture, and if you dare to compare it to our modern-day congregations, the church at Ephesus looks a whole lot better than most of our modern-day churches. In fact, if the scripture ended after verse three I am pretty sure that that I’d like to be a member of that congregation. Particularly, when comparing it to what has been passed off as Christianity over the centuries.
On the surface, their works, what they were doing, seemed to be right in line with what every church should be doing. They labored for the Lord, had patience with the people—they couldn’t bear what was evil. They identified the false prophets. It seems that the church even still had a zeal about it. But there was one major problem. In all of their zeal, in all of their busyness, they had abandoned Jesus. They had left their “first love.”
Back to my nightmare… My time has come. I wake up dead and I am standing before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10) Terror grips me. Jesus has only one question for me. He need not ask me another. “John, why didn’t you love Me?” I fall to my knees, “What do you mean? I dedicated my life to you. I served you all these year. I… I… I…”
Jesus does not relent. He asks again, “John, why didn’t you love Me?” My life flashes before me. I see all the distractions, all the things I prioritized ahead of Jesus—all the things I didn’t do—all the times I ignored the tug of God on my life.
My life flashes even further… the terror grips me even further. I was not just an example to my congregation. I was the example to my congregation. They followed me. They looked up to me.
Jesus asks me one final follow up question, “John, why did you leave Me? I was once your first love! When did that change?” I have no answer. I have no justification before my King. Just as I begin to open my mouth I wake up from this horrible dream…
Brothers and sisters, “your first love” as used in Revelation chapter two is not about chronology. Jesus is not saying, “I got there first.” It is a question of priority. The true question Jesus is asking is; who is your primary love? Is it Me? Where do I fit into your life?
Are you legalistically “going through the motions,” merely checking the boxes that make someone a “Christian?” Or are you seeking Him? Longing for His presence in your life? Hungering and thirsting after Him “as a deer pants for the water” in the middle of a hot, dry summer day. Does your soul long for your King? (Psalm 42:1)
During this time of consecration, I challenge you to examine yourself. Look deep within your heart and ask yourself, “Why do I follow You Lord? Is it about Me and my agenda, or is it about you and your agenda? Is your will being done in my life? Or am I pretending my will is your will?” Let the Lord search you and know you. (Psalm 139:23) Allow Him to search the deepest, darkest aspects of your life, of your thoughts, of your own rebellious will.
I know it’s scary to expose your whole self to God. I know that if you are honest with God, this takes you way beyond your comfort zone. Take comfort, however, in the truth that He already knows. “He knows your frame, He remembers that you are just dust” (Psalm 103:14) before Him.
Brothers and sisters, this one act of letting Jesus in, if you are willing, will tell you where God fits into your life. Do you trust Him? Do you really love Him? Do you know that He is good and that He loves you to the point of death… His death. (John 3:16)
In closing, take some time to repent before Jesus of all the things you have placed ahead of Him—knowingly and unknowingly. I cannot emphasize more how much Jesus loves you. The question is, will you love Him back? Will you return to your first love?
May God bless you and keep you!
About Pastor John Naphor
John Naphor is an author of the book series, Understanding the Almighty, and is the Senior Pastor Of Bethel Church in Edison NJ. He has traveled nations preaching the Gospel and he is a Board Member of the Gospel Mission Network as well as a leader in the Gospel Mission Network School of Leadership.