1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
It seems as though this text has been burned into my heart the past couple weeks. A few days ago, I posted about feeling distant from God. In all the busyness of the holidays and at work and various other things I’ve become so distracted from the one thing I love most: studying and writing about the gospel.
Even while reading Christian books, primarily about relationships (just the way it “randomly” worked out), I’ve stopped seeing gospel implications and started seeing practical applications. This isn’t always a bad thing, but when I read something about how the gospel addresses a situation and jump immediately into “this is what I need to do” without letting the gospel permeate my heart and change my affections, any action I take is worth nothing.
The Ephesians did everything right. They worked hard and were patient. They tested false apostles and didn’t tolerate their presence. They endured for Christ’s name’s sake without getting tired. But, out of all that, there was one thing that clouts all their actions: they had abandoned their first love.
Their actions were good, but they had left behind their love for Christ. If we do not love Christ supremely, how can we really love others? How can we be the example and ambassador of sacrificial, selfless, gospel-centered love if we do not first love Christ above all things?
Christ’s command to the Ephesian church is profound: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” This isn’t a command to return to good works only. It is a command to return to the love for Christ which they had abandoned. How great is this command!? Christ knows that obedience without love is at best begrudging submission, and God is all about the “praises of his glory” (Eph. 1:12). Christ isn’t after our begrudging submission. He’s after our joyful submission to His authority driven by holding Christ highest in our affections.
Maybe you’re at a moment in your life where you see areas you don’t hold Christ highest in your affections. Maybe you’ve just abandoned the love of God altogether. If so, Christ commands you, and I invite you, to come and repent with me. Return to your first love once again.