I love getting personal letters. Nowadays, just about all of the personal correspondence I get is either via e-mail or Facebook and is rarely on paper. And though the medium of personal communication has changed dramatically for most of us, hearing from someone you care about is always a joy.
The church in the city of Ephesus received some personal correspondence, too. This church had a unique spiritual heritage. It was founded by Apostle Paul and was then lead for a time by Timothy, Paul’s Life assistant. Paul would then write a letter to them, what we know today as the book of Ephesians. Later, church tradition records that the Apostle John resided in the city of Ephesus during his final years. But if that weren’t enough, the believers in the Ephesian church received a personal letter years later from none other than Jesus Himself.
The Apostle John recorded a series of seven letters to seven different churches located throughout the region of Asia Minor. Ephesus was the first of these seven letters. Found in the second chapter of the book of Revelation, John wrote to Ephesus on behalf of Jesus, stating, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (vs. 2-3, NIV).
This church, it seems, had a lot going for it. They had worked hard in pursuing the Lord’s work and refused to tolerate any wickedness. They also had a talent “testing” those who claimed to have spiritual authority but really did not. Also to be commended was their perseverance through hardship.
But Jesus said to them, “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love” (vs. 4). We are not told what beguiled them from the Lord but they had evidently found things to fall in love with other than the Lord.
There seems to be no end of the things that can beguile us away from the Lord. For some, it is the allurement of wealth and affluence. Others seem to desire personal relationships more than anything else. Some even bow to their own personalities and attitudes, allowing pride, anger or lust to control them personally.
But rather than leave them as they were, the Lord told them: “Repent and do the things [they] did at first” (vs. 5). Repentance is simply turning from one direction and going in another, in this case, turning from sin to righteousness in Christ. In so doing, they were to turn back to Jesus, their greatest love.
Personally, I can think of nothing that is more important, more life-changing or more eternally relevant than our personal relationship with our Lord, Savior, and God, Jesus Christ. But oh, how careful we must be to not allow anything to eclipse that greatest of relationships. How wise and happy we would be if we would but love the Lord with everything we have and are!
Other scriptures besides Revelation 2 teach this principle. Mark 12:30 tells us to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” In Romans 12:1-2, Paul prescribes doctrinally what Mark recorded practically where he writes to us: “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” That is to say, that one of the primary ways in which we worship and declare our love for God is to offer our lives completely to His lordship.
What does this look like practically? First, ask yourself if there are any areas of your life that you have not yet fully surrendered to God. If there are, simply surrender them to the Lord and allow Him to direct that area of your life. Discerning the condition of our own hearts can be difficult. Spend time reading the Bible and ask the Lord to use it to reveal the true condition of your heart. Second, spend time in prayer.
Nothing focuses our hearts and minds on the Lord like prayer. Finally, serve Him with all of your heart! Give yourself to Him totally and watch how He uses you. Loving the Lord with all our hearts and minds brings joy and yields eternal rewards.
Allen can be reached at [email protected]