God used the Apostle Paul on his third missionary journey, around A.D. 58, to plant the church in Ephesus, in the Roman province of Asia Minor, modern day western Turkey. Ephesus was a fruitful church which God used to plant many other churches in the region. Mighty societal impact resulted from the Holy Spirit coming upon Paul’s ministry there. Numerous exorcisms occurred. Many were healed. The worship of the false goddess Diana was severely damaged, even affecting the economy of the city. Riots broke out when merchants and power-brokers stirred up opposition to Paul and the believers there. Four years later, while in prison in Rome, Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, commending them for their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for all the saints (Eph. 1:15). And in Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus, around A.D. 68 , He also commends the believers there because they cannot endure evil men, because they put to the test those who call themselves apostles and are not, because they proved these men to be false teachers, because they have persevered through difficult times for the sake of Jesus, and because they have not grown weary in serving him. In other words, the Ephesian believers were theologically orthodox, did not put up with evil and wicked men who sought to subvert the church, and possessed resilience and perseverance. Outwardly, they were the ideal church members. And remember, they were apparently the ‘epi-centre’ church in Asia Minor, the one responsible for planting at least nine other churches in the region.
Though this was all true, Jesus still said to them, ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love’ (Rev. 2:4). Jesus gives them the remedy for recovering their first love. They were to think back and see how far they had fallen; they were to repent of leaving their first love; and they were to do those deeds they did when they were first converted. Why? Because Jesus promised that he was coming and that he would take the lampstand away from them unless they got back on track and did what they had been doing when they were first converted out of paganism. The lampstand is the church (Rev. 1:20). He promised to take the church away from Asia Minor if she did not get with the programme.
For the first three hundred years after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the church was flourishing in the Middle East, Asia Minor, and North Africa. Not today. Islam is predominant in each place. The church was flourishing in Europe during the Reformation. No longer. Secularism has come in like a flood and Islam is soon to follow. Christianity was flourishing in the United States from the very beginning, until the last forty years or so. Psycho-therapeutic deism is the prevailing religion and Islam may follow.
What is to be the Christian’s first love? After Jesus healed the leper in Mark 1:40-45, he told the man to go to the priest, in accordance with the law of Moses, and to not tell anyone about him. That’s because Jesus was early in his ministry and the timing was not yet right for his death, which would surely come when people began to understand who he was. Instead the healed leper went about, publicly proclaiming Jesus, spreading the news of him all around the region (Mark 1:45).
After casting the demons out of the Gerasene demoniac, as Jesus was leaving the area, the man, now sitting, clothed, and in his right mind asked if he could go with Jesus on his tour of ministry. Jesus said, ‘No, but go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you’ (Mark 5:19).
After Jesus told the Samaritan woman about her five marriages and present adulterous affair, she said to the men in town, ‘Come see a man who knows everything about me. This is not the Christ is it?’ (John 4:29). Later the men said, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world’ (John 4:42). Obviously the woman had spoken directly to these men about her Saviour.
In Acts 4:20, when told by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching Jesus, Peter said ‘We cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.’
After the dispersion from Jerusalem due to persecution, the believers went about preaching the word, literally ‘evangelizing’ (Acts 8:4).
The biblical evidence is clear – the first love of a believer is the irresistible desire to speak of Jesus to those who are yet dead in their sins. And this should not really surprise us. When we truly understand what we were, where we were going, how utterly bereft of God’s grace and favour we were, and then begin to comprehend the glory of God saving us, casting our sins from us, covering us with the blood of Jesus, and giving us the Holy Spirit to comfort, sanctify, and strengthen us, then how can we not speak of him?
So, bottom line – if we are not overflowing with a desire to ‘get Jesus on the scoreboard’ in our daily conversations; if we are unwilling to tell people, like the Gerasene demoniac did, of the great things God has done for us; then we have left our first love. How about you? Have you left your first love?
If so, what then, should you do to regain it? You are to repent, to acknowledge your sin of the fear of people; your ambivalence or lack of concern for people’s souls; and your doubt in Christ’s sufficiency to save and transform sinners. You are to confess your sin humbly and sincerely with contrition (Isa. 66:2, 1 John 1:5-2:2). You are to ask for the Holy Spirit’s filling (Luke 11:13). Then you are to do the deeds you did when you first were in love with Jesus. You are to seek God earnestly in prayer for he says that when you seek him with all your heart, he will let you find him (Jer. 29:13). And when you are doing these things something marvellous and remarkable begins to happen to you – you want to pray, you want to obey, you want to love and forgive people, and you want to open your mouth and speak of the mighty deeds of God in your life.
When, in 1857, the Holy Spirit began to move thousands of men in New York to pray, the men were filled with the Holy Spirit. We know this to be true because thousands of them went in to the streets of the city, as well as door to door in their neighbourhoods, and told people of the mighty deeds of God in salvation. When filled with the Spirit, we do what the Spirit does – exalt Jesus (John 15:26,27). The result was tens of thousands of conversions that altered New York City for several years.
What a joy it was a couple of weeks ago [March 2015] to be in Chicago and go into the subway with fifteen students from Moody Bible Institute and share Jesus to passengers on the platform. It was encouraging to see the students’ divine swagger. And it was a privilege the next day to join with street preachers Del Sutter, Ken Hisle, and Justin Hoffman in downtown Chicago and proclaim the excellencies of him who delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his blessed Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. Have you left your first love? Repent. There is always hope in Jesus.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at email@example.com.
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