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Jan 20, 2019

Rekindling Lost Love

Passage: Revelation 2:1

Preacher: Jess Achenbach

Series: Churches of Revelation

Keywords: accountability, christ, church, ephesus, love, marriage, revival, romance


Revelation 2:1-7 Rekindling Lost Love

Read Rev 2:1-7

REV 2:1

To the Angel: Pastor, not actual angel, this word is actually messenger.

Holds the seven stars and walks among golden lampstands – explanation: The golden lampstands stand for the 7 churches very likely stand for the pastors of these churches.

REV 2:2-3 Commendation

Verses two through three are a commendation about what they have done and how they have persevered and stuck to the truth through the years.  Their theology is right.  The word theology means what? Theo the Greek word for God and -ology the Greek for “to speak” the same root word is used in Eulogy, when you speak at a funeral.

It wasn’t just their words though, they were also doing hard work, and they had persevered in the area.  We know this because they had endured hardships and it says they wouldn’t tolerate wicked people and they tested the apostles that were false and found them out.  I believe this is referring the line in verse six where it says you hate the practices of the Nicolations – which Christ also hates.

In Ephesus at the time there were many different gods worshiped but none more that Diana or Artemis.  One of the Roman ways of worshiping this goddess was go to the temple where they had temple prostitutes, these fertility rituals were being adopted by the Nicolations that were mixing Christianity with prostitution.  The Ephesian Christians were calling it out as wrong – which it was so they were commended for that.

However, in the next several verses we come to the heart of the matter.  He says “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first”.  When we look at the book of Ephesians written by the Apostle Paul some forty years earlier we see in chapter one that he commends them for their love.

Ephesians 1:15 “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people”. 

The second part of Ephesians 4, Paul was telling them that they had some that were not following the right ways, (not doing the good deeds, bad talk, bitterness, rage, stealing, brawling, slander, malice etc).

What happened in those forty years?  You see, now their speech was following the rules, they were saying the right thing, but there was a disconnect between their mouths and their hearts.

Life seems to have a pattern, history repeats itself.  We have all heard that statement and the same is true of Christians and their families.  The pattern is that the parents become Christians, the kids follow suite, and the grandchildren often stray away.  Over a generation or two it can change completely. 

However, it wasn’t always this way. The population of Spokane was recorded at 36,848 in 1900. In just ten short years the area had almost tripled and was almost 105,000.  It was during this period the winter of 1908-1909 Actually 110 years ago from Christmas 1908 to February 7th 1909 as many as 35,000 people a day gathered in downtown Spokane to hear Billy Sunday preach the gospel for six weeks. The Spokesman Review says “The city’s moral future was at stake, the local preachers believed. Which Spokane would prevail in the 20th century? Evil Spokane or Righteous Spokane?

“There was the working-class culture, with all of those younger men in mining and timber,” said Dale Soden, a Whitworth University history professor. “They were all looking for some fun. The brothel, the saloon and gambling house arose to serve those people.”

While it might not have been Billy Sunday that changed Spokane, it was indeed a starting point from Spokane being a rough city but over the next 20 years drastic change took place.

If we fast forward to today, we can see that it has indeed in so many ways reverted back, we are more Godless today that we were 20 years ago.

Many of you know that I work for the specialty group of Lifetouch our parent company is Shutterfly, and in that capacity I go to churches in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.  We get to see the statistics from these churches and not only are they closing but the population of the ones that are still open are shrinking at a very dramatic rate.  The last 20 years has seen the largest depletion of congregants. 

In the United States this year there are projected to be anywhere from 16-27 churches that close their doors every day.  365 days a year, 7 days a week. That is anywhere from 6,000-10,000 churches that close their doors.

Just think of the people that you yourself know that in the past seemed to be “on fire” Christians that now no longer attend or have even completely turned their backs on Christ. 

The Church is the bride of Christ, this command to “meet together” is for a good reason, so that we can care for each other and lift each other up. Not just with physical issues but spiritual, mental, emotional reasons. 

Recently a dear friend, someone that was an aunty to me passed away, and in her declining months, as I was speaking to her husband, he said, I don’t know what we would do without the care and support from our church.  The outpouring of love, meals and caregiving made that time in their lives manageable, as painful as it was. 

More importantly as a church we get to pray for each other and when the times of doubting and confusion come we have a support group that sharpens us and leads us closer to Christ. 

We come back to the Ephesians, they have lost their first love.

Today we are going to be talking about two main topics.  Number one, what causes us to lose our first love, and what that looks like when a whole church follows that pattern, and secondly how to rekindle that first love.

Candice and I were married and 10 months later we were living in Japan, we had two children born there and after returning to the States we dove into life and I started work that caused me to travel all over the northwest.  She was busy being a housewife and stay-at-home-mom and I was sucked deeper and deeper into work.  Around year seven of our marriage we decided to attend a marriage conference in Coeur d’ Alene and as we were sitting in our hotel room getting ready for “Date Night” our conversation ended up with us agreeing that we were not in love anymore.  We had allowed our lives to be separated by different interests and other things so we had to wrestle with what we were going to do.  Do we call it quits or do we try and make it work, and if we do, what does that look like?

You might have been in a relationship where that same thing happened What was the cause of your lost love?

[Ask the congregation]

Business, complacency, boredom, other interests.  All these things sneak up on you and then one day you are struck by Crisis.  That might be a conversation on a hotel bed or it might be the loss of a child or job, a parent or your health.  But when that crisis happens, and it will, people do one of two things.  They turn TO Christ or they turn AWAY from Christ.

In all my years I have never seen someone that was in crisis that just kept going along like everything was fine.

Praise God that Candice and I chose to follow Christ and recommit to our marriage.  It was a tough time, but one that in the long run has caused us to be even closer than we were before situation.

When we look at a church body that is going through the same type of situation of lost love it seems that they go one of two ways.  They either become lax in their theology and accept any loosy-goosey, easy believ-ism, wacky idea that comes along.  You might know the type, not really standing for anything but pretending to stand for everything, or like the Ephesians, they become legalistic, following the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.  Oftentimes people in this position are the type to make sure that everyone else is following all the rules, and much of the time are not following the rules themselves.

This is what had happened to the Ephesians and the warning letters that we see in Revelation to each of these churches are the warnings that we can apply to the broader body of churches now in these different situations we see today.

Let’s look at verse four and five together here:” Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place”.

You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Love is such a complex word, it has so many meanings in English today.  Let’s see what scripture has to say about love.  One of the most famous love chapters is 1 Corinthians 13.  The first part of this chapter I think give us a good idea of what love is not: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”.  This is exactly the situation the Ephesians are in.  They have the knowledge and the practices but have not love!  He says in the first part of the chapter, I know your deeds, hard work, perseverance… but this without love is NOTHING!  That is why he comes down so hard on this church. 

I turn to another prophetic book: Isaiah 63:8-10 and Isaiah 64:5-9

He said, “Surely they are my people,
    children who will be true to me”;
    and so he became their Savior.
9 In all their distress he too was distressed,
    and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
    he lifted them up and carried them
    all the days of old.
10 Yet they rebelled
    and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
    and he himself fought against them.

Isaiah 64:5-9

You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
    who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
    you were angry.
    How then can we be saved?
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
    or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
    and have given us over to our sins.

8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
    do not remember our sins forever.

So now this brings us to the second part of the talk today.  Many have lost their first love, now how do we rekindle that love, what are the practical steps we can take that will cause us to fall back in love with Christ?

The following is not a true story, but one that made me think, and I hope you can see the application to our topic today.

“When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’

She sat down and ate quietly. Again, I observed the hurt in her eyes. Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce.

I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, ‘Why?’

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the fork she was using and shouted at me, ‘You are not a man!’

That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage.”

“But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane.

I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her! With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement, which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30 percent stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly.

Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce, which I had obsessed over for several weeks, seemed to be firmer and clearer now.”

“The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: She didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce.

She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: Our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day. She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning.

I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request. I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions.

She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.”

“My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, ‘Daddy is holding mommy in his arms.’

His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over 30 feet with her in my arms.

She closed her eyes and said softly; ‘Don’t tell our son about the divorce.’

I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, we were more at ease. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face and her hair was graying!

Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute, I wondered what I had done to her. On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again.

I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger. She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, ‘All my dresses have grown bigger.’

I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily. Suddenly it hit me — she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, ‘Dad, it’s time to carry mom out.’

To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life.

My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway.

Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.”

“But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, ‘I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy.’

I drove to the office, jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind. I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, ‘Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore.’

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead.

‘Do you have a fever?’ she said. I moved her hand off my head.

‘Sorry, Jane,’ I said, ‘I won’t divorce. My marriage life was probably boring because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart.’

Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears.

I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card.

I smiled and wrote, ‘I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.’”

“That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed, she had passed away.

My wife had been fighting cancer for months and I was too busy with Jane to even notice.

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship.

It is not the mansion, the car, property, or the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.

So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy.”

It’s no secret that the details matter, that losing love is hard to regain, but not impossible.

The church has fallen away from Christ, we are in the position of needing to rekindle our first love and so how do we do that?  I like the last part of the passage we just read.  It is this plea “Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever”.

And that is where it needs to start.  This acknowledgement that we have strayed away from our first love and then the ask to make it right.

In our own personal human relationships, whether it be with a spouse, friend, parent, sibling, neighbor whomever, what do we need to do first?

We first need to address the situation.  We go to that person and talk to them.  This is the hard part because we often refuse to believe that we had any part of it.  It was all their fault right?  We don’t have that excuse with God.  It is our sin, our falling away that has led to the rift.

Starting with an apology, acknowledging our sin to Christ, and making the move to repentance.

James puts it this way:

James 4:7  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.

Now is the time to take a little self test.  Is this something that you need to do?  Maybe you are fully in love with Christ and you feel like this message isn’t meant for you.  Well, I think we can all benefit from this exercise.  Let’s all take just a moment and quietly reflect on your relationship with Christ.

Since I know none of us is perfect – especially me, we all have sin of some sort in our lives.  However, the secret sins that only you know about, these pet little sins that you keep hidden are causing you to fall further away from Christ and in can be so destructive.  Let’s not wait for crisis to cause you to run to Christ, how about we start that journey today!  What is holding you back?  Are you afraid that you won’t be happier with this sin (these sins) out of your life?  Right now we are going to pause for just thirty seconds or so and I want you to be honest with yourself and with Jesus. 

Yesterday, I had the chance to go snowboarding, and I used to really love going up and hitting the slopes.  However, that was primarily before I was married, so almost 20 years ago.  I have gone several times over the years, but less and less as time went on.

The way my body feels this morning, believe me, I am not in love with it today.  The further away I get from it, and the more out of shape physically I am, the harder it is to even enjoy the experience.  My legs were burning, I was out of breath and far less flexible.

Even this was a picture to me of how it is when we choose to follow diligently after Christ.  At first it is very hard to get back into the spiritual exercises, they take discipline and perseverance.  But doing them over time, especially if you have the accountability factor, it draws you closer to Christ and at the same time those disciplines become easier.

I hope each of you were pinpoint a problem area in your life that needs attention.  The key thing now is that we act on the information we have.  Now that the problem is addressed the next step is to turn away from it.  Make the decision to turn away from that thing that is causing you separation.

It is often much easier to think about and determine to live for Christ when we are sitting in church and surrounded by a bunch of other folks that are wanting to do the same thing.  The hard part is when you walk out of here and real life hits you in the head like a two by four.  And that is when we get to put into practice some basic tools of the Christian life.

Accountability.  I would encourage you to share your struggle with someone that you respect in the faith and ask them to help keep you accountable. 

Revelation 2:5 says to “Repent and do the things you did at first”.    The word first means foremost like in order of importance, and things refers to the practices that we were called to do.  Put your priorities back in the right order.

Here are some of the things we are called to do.  By putting them as an important place in your life you naturally are drawn back into a deeper love with Jesus.

Worship, Prayer/Fasting, Study the Word, meet with others, giving, exercising your time and talents.  If you are looking for opportunity please, look no further.  We have more than enough options for you to serve and be involved if that is what you are looking for. 

Several weeks ago we talked about the space use of this building and the expansion next door.  The apartment building bible studies, Youth for Christ, Life services, those are the Outreach, but we also have the in reach, Sunday School, Hospitality, Worship, that happens here inside the body of Christ.  And the great part about that is there is a naturally built in opportunity to connect with other folks that are going through similar circumstances as you are.

The 7th and final verse in this letter to the church at Ephesus says this:

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Let’s Pray