But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.” I believe his insight applies to the Kingdom of God. If you want to build a church that pleases God, don’t recruit people to tasks and projects and ministries, but rather teach them to long for Jesus.
Above all else, a church must be a place where the people long for Jesus, where the people are pursuing Jesus, where the people are falling in love with Jesus.
There was a great church in Ephesus, founded by the Apostle Paul. They were tremendous lovers of God. But 30 years later, Jesus sends them the sobering message: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
The church was full of people who worked hard for God, but they had left their first love. They were workers, but not worshippers. They had religious duty, but they did not have a love affair with Jesus.
Fortunately, Jesus tells them what to do to recapture that first love. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (2:5a,b). Three things: Remember. Repent. Repeat.
First, remember: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.” If you can, deliberately think back about your feelings and thoughts and actions during your first weeks and months as a follower of Jesus Christ. Remember!
Second, repent. Jesus gives the Ephesian church a simple one-word command: Repent. Come to God in brokenness and repentance. Come to God in confession and surrender. Ask God to change you. Turn from yourself to your God.
Third, repeat. That is, repeat the things you did in your early Christian life. “Repent, and do the works you did at first.” Did you pray fervently? Sing from your heart? Gather with Christian friends? Eagerly read the Bible as a love letter? Give generously? Share your faith freely? Repeat all those things.
Ken Gire, in his book The Divine Embrace, relays the story of a teenage girl in the atheistic Soviet Union who knew nothing of the Bible, nothing of the doctrines of the church, nothing of the differences between denominations. She also knew nothing of Jesus until the day she chanced upon a copy of Luke’s Gospel. When she finished reading it, her immediate reaction was, “I fell in love with him.”
Jesus is looking for people who will love him back. Jesus is looking for worshippers. Jesus is looking for people who have an incurable disease – the disease of being smitten with Jesus.
Are you smitten with Jesus? Do you have a love affair with Jesus? Did you start out with a white-hot passion for Jesus, but now the fire has grown cold?
Above all else, God wants to be loved. He wants to be wanted.
How is your heart for God these days?