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How to grow in love and keep your church (Revelation 2:5)

Jesus has just said to the church at Ephesus that one thing He has against them is that they abandoned the love they had at first. Then, He says,

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. (Revelation 2:5)

He tells them to "remember...from where [they had] fallen." He calls them back to earlier times, to the time that they had a stronger love for Christ, and to the reasons that they loved Him. And He tells them to "repent", to turn away from this path of cold religion and back to their first love.

This repentance also means that they were to "do the works [they] did at first." It's interesting that He calls them back to their works because earlier in verse 2, He actually commends them for the works they were doing. Perhaps they were doing more works before, but what's more likely is that the reason their works were better in the beginning, is that they did it out of love for Christ and not merely duty, tradition, or anything else. Christ does want our obedience, but not just our obedience. He also wants our love. 1 Corinthians 16:14 says, "Let all that you do be done in love." That verse doesn't specify whether it's talking about love to God or love to man, but Christians are called to both.

And then Jesus says that if they don't turn back, Jesus would come to them and remove their lampstand. Remember from earlier in Revelation that Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands. He was threatening to go and remove their lampstand. Jesus said that we are the light of the world. It's a privilege to be the light in a local area, and the Ephesians were at risk of losing that privilege. Jesus was going to remove their spiritual authority and influence in the city.

It's debated whether Christ removed their lampstand back then, but I can tell you now there's no active Christian community known in Ephesus today. The country of Turkey, which is now predominantly Muslim, is less than 1% Christian. So, no doubt this giant of a church, in the beginning, lost all of its authority and influence. In part, it was because they lost their love for Christ. But higher than that, Christ took away their privilege of being a lampstand for Him. They had apparently not repented.

This stands as a warning for us. If we lose our love for Christ as a local church and only obey Him for lesser reasons, He may well remove our spiritual authority and influence from our area.

What can we do to maintain our love for Christ? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Meditate on who He is and what He's done. Philippians 2:5-11 implies for us that if we remember who He is and what He's done, we'll act a certain way.

  2. Continue to use the means that God has given us to abide in Him and grow, including the Bible, prayer, meditation, fellowship, and partaking of the Lord's Supper. God uses these means to keep our love for Christ strong.

  3. Pray for love. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, Paul essentially asks God to help them abound in love. We should pray that others would grow in love and that we ourselves would grow in love.

Our desire is that Christ would use us in a mighty way where our churches are. We must never lose sight of the reason we want that: Christ Himself. He is worthy not only of our obedience but also our love. May God help us to that end.

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