Come Join Us In Remembering What The World Has Forgotten..... The Seventh Day Sabbath!
“THOU HAST LEFT THY FIRST LOVE”
WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS
Jesus, in speaking of the latter days, gave a grim warning in Matthew 24:12, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Such a thought alerts any serious Christian to a couple of very important facts. One is that sin will increase in the days prior to His return, no doubt to a degree as it was in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot. Second is that this increase of sin will have a tremendous drawing power upon Christians. Daniel tells us that “knowledge shall be increased” (chap. 12:4) in this same time period. Today, knowledge and inventions have increased to such a degree that one wonders what else can be invented. With all the modern means of communication, knowledge is at one’s fingertips. However, along with this knowledge and man’s inventions have come a flood of every sort of entertainment, games, puzzles, news, information; all of which are designed to rob man’s time for God. Not only do we live in a busy world, trying to acquire the latest gadget (and learning how to use it) but attempting to meet all the demands placed upon us by our modern society. It seems that men today are constantly running from one thing to another trying to get everything done before they fall, exhausted into bed to gain some rest for the next day’s “rat race”.
When we as Christians feel the pressures that modern life places upon us, we must remember the words of Jesus, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold.” We must not allow the demands of life and the lasciviousness in our world lure us into their grip or rob us of our time for God. Satan’s tactics have been successful in causing many to forsake the path of righteousness because it seems they just don’t have time for God. Not only does the individual Christian face this bombardment upon their time but the church in general is experiencing it as well, which is evident by the declining membership. The church’s diminishing attendance reveals a two-fold problem: one already mentioned with the cares of this life, but the second is found in Revelation 2.
The Church at Ephesus
In chapter one of Revelation, Jesus appeared to John with instructions that letters be sent to the seven churches in Asia. The first letter was to the church at Ephesus in which He commends them for their faithfulness in certain things. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” (Rev. 2:2-3). I believe that if Jesus wrote these words to most of our churches today, we would be very happy with such a good report. We would feel we were on the right track and things were pretty good, assured that God was pleased with us. But such was not the case with the Ephesian church, for Jesus did not stop with His commendations but proceeded to address the main issue for His letter: they had left their first love (Rev. 2:4). While Jesus was satisfied with their faithfulness in many things, there was a major flaw in the church that demanded attention, for it would soon destroy those things which were commended, and with them the church itself. It was Jesus’ love for this church that He brought to light this critical issue. He encourages them to return to Him by speaking to them of the blessings which they would receive if they had ears to hear (that means to listen and make the proper response). “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).
The church in Asia was introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the Apostle Paul in his evangelistic journeys. Paul stayed one time in Ephesus for two years teaching and preaching during which time many received his words as God confirmed the Gospel with miracles following (Acts 19:1,8-12). Paul was grateful for this church in Ephesus and spoke highly of them when he wrote his letter, Ephesian 2:12-17. “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” Notice how great this church began. Paul was excited about their life-changing response to the Gospel and the spiritual maturity he observed among those who first heard. His letter to this church reveals much of the desire that God has for His church today: that we must grow up into Christ (Eph. 4:15), that we be no more children (Eph. 4:14), but that we all reach that state of a “perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Eph 4:13). In chapter six Paul encourages the Ephesian church to continue on so they might become a glorious church without spot or wrinkle but one without blemish and completely holy (Eph. 5:27).
Such was the church at Ephesus in its beginning. However, approximately 30 years had passed from the time Paul wrote his epistle and the letter John sent while on the isle of Patmos. What had happened over those thirty years? How had the love once experienced and manifested among them slipped from them. Jesus said, “Nevertheless,” in spite of all the commendable things, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4).
“Thou Hast Left Thy First love”
Was it because “iniquity” already abounded as Jesus predicted and consequently they were sidetracked from the glorious Gospel? Was it because they became so busy making a living, providing for their personal needs? Was it because they began to strive in the same pursuits that the world did? Was it because they began to become sectarian and felt they had all the truth they needed? Was it because they became critical of one another rather than allowing the love of God to flow as it once had? One thing is certain, they left that first love, that love which was graciously shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. It slipped away over the years.
The indictment against this church came with a certain warning of judgment and that judgment was, “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Rev 2:5) In Revelation, chapter one we are told what the candlestick is. Verse 20 “the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” In other words, Jesus was going to remove the church completely. The seven churches to whom John wrote were located in what is today modern Turkey. Turkey was considered Christian for a few hundred years after John’s letter was written. It was about 98% Christian. (I use the term “Christian” very loosely here but at least Christ was preached to some degree.) However, over time Islam began to infiltrate the country pushing out Christianity so that today Turkey is about 98% Muslim and barely 1% Christian. Those few Christians who live there suffer for their faith. God’s judgment fell upon those churches in Asia and one specific reason was they had left that love they once possessed for God and for one another.
The Church in America: The church in America is following in the footsteps of the church at Ephesus. We have left our first love.
Christ’s admonishment to the church in Ephesus is the same for America’s church today. “Remember from whence thou are fallen.” Remember that effervescence of love, joy and peace that once permeated our congregations. That peace that passed all understanding, the joy that superseded all the pleasures of the world, those God-given graces which once existed in our hearts. There once was a love that possessed our hearts to such a degree that we wanted everyone to know this Savior, Who could not only forgive our sins but was able to completely satisfy every desire. We eagerly awaited the next service when we would gather with other Christians and hear the word of God. We loved to sing the songs of Zion which glorified Jesus Christ, and as His presence came in it would fill our hearts with praise. Such was that first love. But somehow that love has slipped through our fingers. Like a leaking bucket the churches in America are finding themselves dry and lifeless, and we wonder why membership is dropping. While iniquity does abound and demands of life tax us physically, mentally, and financially, it does not have to be so. We may look at our church and feel much like the church at Ephesus, that we have many good things. We may say, “things aren’t perfect but at least we have truth” or “we are hanging in there” or “we are not like so many others.” However true those statements may be, the warning is that unless we repent and return to that first love our church will cease to exist. The axe will be laid to the root of the tree and it will be hewn down. It is time for the churches in America to quit waving their own self-righteous flag and begin to seek God, for we live in perilous times. We live in a time when we need God more than ever before. Let us heed the words written to the church at Ephesus. Let us remember from where we have fallen, repent and do whatever we did when we first came to know Jesus Christ so that we not follow in the steps of the Ephesian church. Rather, let us return to God with all our hearts. I close with a verse from Jeremiah, chapter 29 verse13: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”