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OH, HOW I LOVED JESUS!
Intro: What we have before us is the first of seven letters written to seven different churches that existed in Asia Minor in the First Century. When I preached through Revelation a few years ago, I told you that these letters could be considered from three different perspectives.
1. They can be viewed Prophetically These churches represent different stages of the church over the last 2,000 years. The church at Ephesus represents the time period between the Day of Pentecost and 100 AD. This was a time of great expansion for the early church. It was also a time when some began to lose their zeal and fervency.
2. They can be viewed Practically These letters were sent to literal, real congregations that were actually functioning at the close of the First Century. While they were written to real churches existing in that day, they still speak to every church in existence today. God has a word for Calvary Baptist Church in these verses!
3. They can be viewed Personally These letters speak to congregations, but we should also be mindful that the Lord has a word for the individual in these letters as well. He has something to say to you and to me about our relationship with Him.
As Jesus begins to write to this church, He does so in glowing terms, commending them for their works and their doctrinal purity. It appears that this was a very busy congregation. They were active with many ministries occupying the time of the members of the congregation.
In verse 2, Jesus uses three words to describe the business of this church. The word “works refers to their accomplishments. This was a church that had been used of the Lord to do great things in the community. The word labor literally refers to a beating. It speaks of intense work involving toil and pain. The word patience reminds us that they carried out their works for the Lord in the midst of great persecution. The city around them hated them and the message they preached. This was a working church.
Verses 2-3 and verse 6 also tell us that this church was doctrinally pure. They stood for the truth and against evil. They publically exposed false prophets. They were what we would call “an old-fashioned, fundamental church. They were not allowing the world to influence their worship or their walk. Anyone looking in from the outside would have concluded that they were a rock solid congregation. Anyone attending their services would have been in awe of their work and their calendar of activities.
While those around them were looking at them, Someone far more important had His eye on this church. The Lord Jesus Christ was walking in their midst, verse 1, but they were unaware of His presence. While they had much to commend them, there were problems in the church of Ephesus.
The Lord knew what the people around them did not know. The Lord knew what the church itself did not know. The Lord knew that this church was just going through the motions of serving Him. He knew that they did not love Him like they had once loved Him.
If this church had been honest about their condition, their favorite hymn would have been “Oh, How I Loved Jesus! I want to consider the Lords letter to this ancient congregation. What He said to them then is relevant to us today.
As it was in Ephesus, many in our day are merely going through the motions. Many simply do not love Jesus like they once did, and it shows.
I want to point out some simple facts that present themselves in this text. I want to preach on the subject: Oh, How I Loved Jesus! I want you to let the Lord speak to your heart today, and ask yourself a couple of questions.
· Do you love Him with all of your heart, your soul and your mind.
· Are you serving Him because it is what you do, or do you serve Him because you are consumed with love for the Lord Jesus?
Let’s focus in on verses 4-5 today as I try to preach what the Lord has given me from this passage. I pray that God will speak to our hearts and help us to fall in love with Jesus again!
I. v. 4 THE LORD’S CASE
AGAINST THIS CHURCH
(Ill. After commending them for their works, Jesus condemns them for their lack of love for Him. He tells them that there is a real problem in their hearts. Let’s notice the nature of this problem.)
A. It Is A Personal Problem I have somewhat against thee... The Ephesians probably thought their biggest problems were the pagans around them and the persecution they faced. Jesus tells them that the biggest problem they faced was a personal problem with the Lord Himself.
This reminds us that the Lord cares about His people. If He did not have His eye on them, He would have been unaware of their problem. In verse 1, we are told that He “walks among them. In verse 2 He tells them “I know...
He knows us too! He knows us far better than we know ourselves. No one in the church of Ephesus would have guessed that there was a problem between them and Jesus, but there was!
Most of us would look at ourselves and think that we are all right. The problem with our way of gauging our own state of rightness is to compare ourselves with others. Of course, we never compare ourselves with anyone who lives holier than we do; we always compare ourselves with those who live less holy than we do. God’s standard of holiness is a bit higher than that. His standard of righteousness is Christ Himself.
We think our biggest problems are society and government. The truth is, our biggest problem in the modern church is that, like Ephesus, we have offended a holy God! He has a problem with us because we are not where He wants us to be spiritually!
B. It Is A Passion Problem Jesus tells them exactly what they have done to offend Him. He tells them thou hast left thy first love. Jesus tells them that they just dont love Him like they used to.
While all the words in that phrase scream for our attention, there are two that demand special notice. They are the words “left and first.
The word “left is an expressive word that means to sent away. It was used of a husband divorcing his wife. It also means to expire; to let alone; to omit; to forsake; to abandon; to leave on place to go to another; to disregard. Jesus is talking to a people who have walked away from their love for Him. They have abandoned His love. They have forsaken His love. They have disregarded His love. Like a man divorcing an unwanted wife, they have symbolically sent the Lord way.
The word “first means first in rank or importance. They still love their church. They still love their doctrines. They still love their activities. They still love their busy schedules. They still love all they do. They just dont love Jesus more than the other things.
(Note: We might think that falling out of love with Jesus is a minor thing. We might think it is something that happens to a lot of people that it’s not such a big deal. That it’s something we can get fixed up at the next revival, or the next service we decide to attend. Let me show you why I think falling out of love with Jesus is a serious issue.
· When we do not love Jesus as we should, we are in violation of the greatest commandment Matt. 22:37-38.
This opens us up to great sin! When we do not love Him as we should ,we are more likely to break the first four commandments.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. Thou shalt not make any graven images.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain.
4. Thou shalt remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
· When we do not love Jesus we should, we are more likely to violate the second commandment Matt. 22:39. When we are not in love with Him, we will not love others like He wants us to. Love is part of the Fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22. Love for others is the work of God in our hearts, 1 John 4:7-12. This makes it far more likely that we will break the last six commandments.
5. Honor thy father and mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
· When we do not love Jesus as we should, we will not have a desire to be with Him. (Ill. Honeymoon love – Always want to be with the object of your affection. That’s how it is for a new believer. Over time, the love fades and the desire to be around Jesus and His people fades too. What is the problem? It can all be traced back t a loss of “first love.)
· When we do not love Jesus as we should, we will not serve Him as fervently as He wants us to. We may attend church, but we will not be faithful. We might say we are saved, but we will never share the faith with the lost. We might teach a class, preach a sermon, lead a prayer meeting, lead a Bible study, but there will always be something lacking. Fervent, emotional, extravagant love for Jesus will always manifest itself in active, public service for Him.
· There is much more that could be said about the dangers of not loving Jesus as we should. Many of us have been in that place where we were consumed with love for Him, and many of us have been in that place where the flame of passion became a dying ember. We know the difference and we know which honors Him the most!
II. v. 5a THE LORD’S CALL
TO THIS CHURCH
(Ill. Having addressed their problem, Jesus gives them a plan of action. He tells them how they can go about rekindling the flames of passion for Him that once burned so brightly.)
A. He Calls On Them To Remember They are commanded to Remember from whence thou art fallen. The Lords command is for them to look back. They needed to remember a time when their love for Him was powerful, all-consuming and the most important thing in their lives. They were to remember those early days of salvation when the love of God for them was overwhelming. They were to remember how it felt to be saved and to know that all their sins had been forgiven. They were to remember what it felt like to know that they were no longer dead in sin, but had been made alive in Jesus. They were to remember the excitement that every new revelation from the Word of God brought to their hearts.
I say to you that we need to remember! We need to remember that moment when sin rolled away and Jesus moved in. we need to remember those early days of excitement and joy. We need to recapture the excitement of that early love we felt for Jesus when He first saved us from His sins. (Ill. Do you remember?)
B. He Calls On Them To Repent Once they remembered what He had done for them, they would see how far they had fallen. When they remembered they would recognize their sins. The word repent refers to a change of mind that leads to a change of action.” When they saw the depths of their sin, they were to turn from it and fall in love with Jesus again.
The greatest need of the modern church is for us to fall in love with Jesus once again. Before we can do this, we are going to have to recognize that our lack of love for Him is a sin! We are going to have the understand that all the things we have allowed to come between us and Him are idols. Our fun, our family, our work, even our church work can come between us and loving Jesus.
The modern church doesn’t really need a revival. The modern church doesn’t need more money, more recognition in society, or more presence in the community. The modern church simply needs to fall in love with Jesus once more. When we repent of our sin and turn from a lack of love, He will fill us with His presence, His wonder and His power.
C. He Calls On Them To Repeat He calls on them to do the first works. That world first is the same as the word first in verse 4. It speaks of that which is “first in rank and importance. In other words, Jesus calls them to return to the things that are most important.
What is most important when it comes to our relationship with Him? The Lord’s call here is for the Ephesian believers to return to the simple fundamentals of the faith. It is a call to return to the altars of prayer. It is a call to come back to the Word of God. It is a call to return to a place of worship. It is a call to obedience to His will. It is a call for the church to walk in holiness before the Lord.
(Note: Jesus is still calling the church to return to these basic, fundamental, foundational activities. If we do not seek Him in prayer; if we do not feed on His Word; if we are not active in His worship; if we do not walk in holiness and obedience; then we do not love Him. If we do not do these things, we cannot expect Him to bless us. If we do not do these things, we cannot expect Him to move in power among us when we gather at His house.
If we love, we will do these things! If we love Him, He will respond to our love by manifesting Himself in our lives as individuals and in the live of our church. So, do want to see souls saved? Fall in love with Jesus and let that love be seen. Do you want the power of God on this church? Fall in love with Jesus and let Him live through you every day. If we can recapture fervent, emotional, extravagant, first love for Jesus, that is all we need! It would forever transform the child of God and the church of God. Our problem in the modern church, our problem at Calvary, is that we do not love Jesus like we should. Oh, we love Him, but it isn’t the all-consuming love that it needs to be! Oh, we love Him, but there was a time when we loved Him more! If we were to be honest, we would have to sing with the Ephesians, “Oh, How I Loved Jesus!)
III. v. 5b THE LORD’S CHALLENGE
TO THIS CHURCH
(Ill. Because the Lord loves His church, He lets them know that their lack of love for Him holds serious consequences down the road. If they stayed the course and refused to repent, they faced certain judgment. The Lord describes this judgment in this verse.)
A. They Are Challenged Concerning Abrupt Judgment The Lord says that He will come quickly. The word means without delay. The Lord is telling this church when judgment comes, it will be swift and sure.
We can be sure that the Lord will not tolerate deadness and a lack of love among His people for an extended period of time. Sin will be judged! Of that we can be sure!
B. They Are Challenged Concerning Appalling Judgment He tells them that He will remove thy candlestick out of his place. This means that they will cease to exist as a congregation. Jesus is telling the church at Ephesus that their lack of love is so serious that it threatens the very existence of their church.
This prophecy was literally fulfilled in Ephesus. From what I can read, there is nothing where this great city once stood, but a pile of rubble. There is no Christian church there. The land is inhabited by Muslin nomads. There is not Christian witness. There is no light of the Gospel. All of that is the result of a church that failed to stay in love with Jesus.
Look around today. Everywhere you look there are little, struggling churches with a handful of aged believers. It’s not the case everywhere, but many of those churches are in their present condition because, somewhere a long time ago, they stopped loving Jesus with a passionate, all-consuming love. When they did, their worship became lifeless and dead. Their preaching lost its power and its effectiveness. Their young people moved away and their church began to die.
Regardless of what you might think, it can happen right here at Calvary! We are less than a generation away from this very thing taking place right here. I pray that it won’t, but I can se some of the signs already. You can too, if you will just look! That’s why the Lord led me to share this message with you folks. If anybody in our church is going to repent and turn to Jesus; if anybody is going to seek Him, repent of not loving Him and fall in love with Jesus again, it will most likely be those of you who care enough to come on Wednesday!
C. They Are Challenged Concerning Avoidable Judgment I dont want Jesus to take away our candlestick, but He will if our light ceases to shine. The Ephesians are told that they can avoid their fate, if they will repent of their sins. The modern church is dying. She is dying because she doesnt love Jesus like she used to. The only remedy is repentance and restoration.
Conc: It is a serious thing when a church ceases to love the Lord. That church might wander off into apostasy, a few do. More likely, that church will simply fade away and cease to exist. I heard just this week that the Southern Baptist Convention will have 50% less members than it has right now by 2050, if something doesn’t change. Why is that happening? It is happening because many in our Baptist church love their church, their doctrines and their rituals, but they just don’t love Jesus.
What about you? If you are honest today, can you sing “Oh, How I Love Jesus? Or, would you have to sing Oh, How I Loved Jesus? If He has spoken to you, you need to listen to what He is saying. Is it time for you to remember, rent and repeat? If we dont there is no remedy but removal! Lets mind Him!