“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;
 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.
 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent.
 ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
When a man and a lady love each other, they get married, give birth to their children, and live along.
When a man and a woman meet and fall deeply in love, they eventually marry, have children, and live out their lives together.
As time passes by, however, the love they shared for one another changes and it is not what it used to be.
It is because they lost or let go of the original love.
If they keep their love for each other without changing, their relationship will last and there will be no problem at all.
But the fact is that as long as they are in the flesh, they will lose their first love.
The same applies to the love for God and the Lord.
Can you still remember the feeling of overflowing love that couldn’t be compared with anything in the world; the feeling that you had when you met and accepted the Lord for the first time?
Now, compare that heart with your current heart. Is here anyone who can say with confidence , “My heart and love for the Lord is stronger and better than ever. There is no change in my heart and love.”
Just in case, I hope that there is no one here that thinks that it is OK to say ” Well, everyone had that kind of love at first. Who in the world will keep that love without changing as a Christian?”
Our Lord is reproaching the church in Ephesus for losing the first love.
And He says in Revelation 2:5, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.”
You must look back on yourself and figure out when, where, and why your first love has fallen; you must discover the cause.
You must repent of the cause and turn back, and then you must recover the faithfulness and fullness you lost.
Now, after running in faithfulness and fullness in the beginning, why does the people’s first love cool down and why do they fall?
Some say, “I fall because of being caught up in the conflicts and trials with others.”
Some say, “At first, I skipped Sunday services a couple of times to make some money, but then it just became too difficult to keep Sunday at all.”
Still some say that they fell because of a servant of God, and some others say that the word preached from the pulpit didn’t agree with their own thoughts and ideas, they doubted, and then they fell.
But, to put aside all of the excuses, the biggest reason for the cooling down of the first love is looking back to the worldly ways and things again.
They started to look for the flesh of the world that they used to try hard to get rid of while managing believing life.
Even though you have been running faithfully to enter into the spirit, once you look back toward the lust for the world, you may instantly fall and become fleshly again.
It’s just like what 1 John 2:15-16 says; “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Chances are that at first you had no intention of taking up with the world again, but before you knew it you had been caught up in it (the worldly circumstances) again
For example, some diligently circumcise their heats in the fullness of the first love.
While they are doing so for a year or two, they may think to themselves that they aren’t making any spiritual progress, but are at a stand-still.
They may undergo the same trials again and again, or they may find the same evil they thought they got rid of already over and over again.
Then, they start to feel disheartened, and they get tired of trying. They may think, “I want to take a break from this for a while.”
They may try to console themselves or take a short rest through worldly ways and activities.
They say that they don’t take the things of the world; they just want to be comforted and take a break. But when they repeat it once and twice, they will start to fall in the world without even realizing it.
Spiritual things cannot be solved by the means of the fleshly things.
If you feel spiritually tied up, or if you are in need of going into upper levels of the spirit, you must find a spiritual way to solve the situation.
You must more fervently hang on to God and receive grace and strength from Him, and get help from the Holy Spirit.
But in order to do this, you must surely find where you have fallen, and repent and turn back.
You must break the barrier that has built up between God and you by leaving the first love and losing the first deeds of faith. Then, you will receive the grace and strength to run again at full throttle.
I am not talking about loose half-hearted repentance. It must be a repentance that will rend your heart.
“Father God gave His one and only son for me. My Lord was crucified for me, suffered from all the persecutions and insults for me, and gave His love to me. But how can I forsake such love and grace? Why have I fallen? Why did I love the world that is against God?’
This kind of repentance should come from the bottom of your heart, and bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.
You must get your passionate faith back just as you had when you lived a diligent believing life in the fullness of the grace, the truth, and the Holy Spirit in the beginning.
Dear brothers and sisters.
Just as a baby is born and grows up everyday until the baby becomes a full grown adult, your faith must do the same
If it stays still, or steps back, then you will be reproached just like the church in Ephesus.
But today, there are churches that used to grow up by fervently and passionately accomplishing the will of God and being faithful to the kingdom of God in the beginning, but they later stop growing.
They may appear to grow up outwardly, but if carefully examined inwardly, their old passion, faithfulness, and fervor are gone.
In the beginning, they tried to gather together and pray in order to walk in the truth and to accomplish the will of God even under persecutions, but when the church grew up and got stable, the first fervor and passion disappeared.
Their pride changed into arrogance, and they no longer toiled or endured with perseverance for the truth.
They just want to comfort their hearts in the current situation, and to be content with it.
They could no longer be used greatly any more and they were satisfied with what they had done and become.
It is just as Revelation 2:5 says, “or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent.”
Then, what does it mean by ‘removing the lampstand?’
The lampstands refer to churches, and there are two meanings in ‘removing’ such a lampstand.
First, in an individual sense, it is to take away the Holy Spirit from the heart.
According to 1 Corinthians 3:16 which says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” our body is a holy temple of God.
Therefore, ‘removing a lampstand’ is ‘removing a church which is a temple, and a part of the body of Christ. In other words, it is to take away the Holy Spirit from you.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit,” and 1 Corinthians 3:17 says, “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”
God says He will destroy any man if he destroys the temple of God. It means God will take away the Holy Spirit from him so that he cannot be a holy temple of God.
Even though he received the Holy Spirit, he lost his first love and befriended the world in sin so that his body cannot be a holy temple, it is no longer a place where the Holy Spirit can reside.
Of course, if he repents and turns back before the Spirit is quenched or before God takes away the Holy Spirit, God will give him another chance. But if he doesn’t repent or turn back, the Holy Spirit will be taken away from him when it’s beyond the limit of justice.
The Holy Spirit will cause him to realize it until he reaches that final stage.
He will allow affliction to come upon him, and He will give him many chances to turn back according to the word.
But, if he doesn’t turn back despite all these, God will take away the Holy Spirit and it will be too late for him to try later.
Since he has knowledge, he will then feel afraid, and try all means to turn back. But the Holy Spirit cannot be there to help him, and he will reach the stage where he can do nothing.
He will look for the sin and evil of the world all the more, and try to comfort his heart through them causing him to fall deeper and deeper into the world.
Once he reaches this point, it’s rare to get a chance ever to turn back. Truly, without sacrifice of love that overcomes justice, he cannot but go to the way to eternal death.
Therefore, as children of God who received the Holy Spirit, you should not be driven to such a situation where your lampstand has to be removed.
May the fullness of the Holy Spirit that resides in you overflow without ceasing so that you may run toward heaven in the guidance and supervision of the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray!
Second, ‘removing a lampstand’ is removing the Holy Spirit from a church.
When referring to the church, if the first love of a church disappears, the works of the Holy Spirit also disappear and there is no more revival in the church.
Many churches cry out to God in their prayers and they are full of the Holy Spirit in the beginning. But when they start to grow some, their passion and fervor also starts to cool down.
Fervent prayers are gone, meetings are non-existent, and evangelization disappears. There are many churches that have lost their first love.
In these churches, the Holy Spirit stops working, and the churches eventually fall into spiritual sleep. Once the works of the Holy Spirit stop like this, it’s never easy to ignite the light of prayers and to regain the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
After a church has lost its first love, God removes the lampstand. Therefore there are no more works of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit doesn’t move in the church.
When the Holy Spirit doesn’t move in the church, Satan starts to work and brings conflicts and disruption. Sometimes the church may be smashed and scattered.
Even though it may not reach that stage, the church has lost its duty as a church once the Holy Spirit is not working in the church.
Therefore, all the churches and congregation who live in the last days of the world must remember what 1 Peter says in 4:7, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer,” and stay awaken while living a believing life.
And if they lost the first love, they must repent and turn back as soon as possible so that God will not remove their lampstand.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
After the Lord reproaches the church in Ephesus, He commended the church again.
In short, the church in Ephesus heard praise from the Lord at first, then a scolding, and in the end they heard praise once again.
But when we look into the words that the Lord gives to other churches, we can see that the way our Lord manages each church with the word is different from one to the other.
The Lord gives one church praise as well as reproach, another church receives only reproach and no words of praise, another church receives only encouragement without any reproach or praise, and yet another church receives only praise.
When you serve a church doing the work of God, bring up children, or give advise to a husband or a wife, if you make a use of the way the Lord manages the seven churches, you will get a good results.
A model case is the church in Ephesus.
The Lord first gave commendation to the church in Ephesus before He reproached them.
He praised them for the good things first, and then scolded them for the wrongdoings.
When you want to point out other’s fault, if you first reproach him for it, then your praise and encouragement at the end will not be as effective as you may think.
Since he closed his heart after he heard the reproach from you, even if he hears the words of commendation from you, he cannot receive them with joy.
Therefore, when you point out other’s faults, you should commend him first so that he opens his heart wide and receives fullness.
And then, when you point out his fault, so that he will be able to receive your reproach much more positively.
By the way, when a person has done nothing to be praised for, then you’d better not rebuke him.
If he did nothing to be praised for, and on top of this if he hears reproach, he may feel disheartened and fall.
In such a case, it is wise to encourage him and teach him with love, instead of reproaching him.
In tonight’s scripture, our Lord commended the church in Ephesus first, and then rebuked them. And He still left something He could give them praise for after the scolding.
It is the wisdom of God.
The Lord rebuked the shepherd and the congregation of the church in Ephesus at first. Indeed, His reproach was not a trivial one.
For an individual, removing the lampstand means blotting out the name recorded in the Book of Life in heaven so that he cannot be saved.
For the church, since the works of the Holy Spirit stopped, the church couldn’t do its duty as a church, a body of Christ.
So, can you imagine how terribly shocking these words were to those to whom these words were intended!
If I say to someone who comes to me for counseling, “God wants to take away the Holy Spirit from you, and you will not be saved,” he will be terribly shocked, lose his strength, lose his mind, and collapse down in a heap.
The same thing might happen to the church in Ephesus that heard such a reproach from the Lord.
That’s why after the Lord severely rebuked the shepherd and the congregation of the church in Ephesus, He held back one commendation to give to them to keep them from being too disheartened so they could repent and turn back.
That is what the verse 6 says; “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Then, what is Nicolaitans?
If you read Acts Ch. 6, there is a scene of the 12 disciples that were selected from among the congregation’s deacons who were capable of managing the jobs in the early church so that the servants of God could devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
Acts 6:2-4 says, “So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.” Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.””
Likewise, even today, the servants of God must devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
When the early churches did like this, in the following verse 7 it says, “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
Among the seven deacons who were of good reputation and full of the Spirit and of wisdom in the early church was Nicola, a man from Antioch.
But Deacon Nicola who was praised like this did the things that were against the truth, and he rallied men of the same mind.
Just as there was Judas Iscariot among the disciple of Jesus Christ, Nicola was among the seven selected deacons in the early church. But later he betrayed God.
No matter how many titles a man got, and no matter how full he was of the Holy Spirit, until he comes into the whole spirit, he may be tempted by Satan and leave the truth.
Therefore, people should awake and pray in order not to be tempted.
Also, until God recognizes them completely, all the congregation should be careful and not fall into the untruth just because you think some one looks good and possesses many titles, or looks like they are full of the Holy Spirit. Do not be deceived
Then, how did the Nicolatians betray God?
Nicola said, “The spirit is clean, sinless, and sanctified. The reason human beings commit sins is that sin is in the flesh, so the spirit in the body has nothing to do with sin. And when God calls his spirit, the flesh drenched in sin goes back to the earth. Therefore no matter how much the flesh commits sin, it is irrelevant to salvation. Once he believed in the Lord, his spirit becomes cleansed so that it doesn’t matter what kind of sin the flesh commits.
In other words, he claimed that no matter how much sin he commits with his flesh, he will be saved as long as he believes in Jesus Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters.
In order for us to live in the Word of God, the toil and perseverance of prayer and deeds must follow. But, if a church teaches that we can be saved by going back and forth to church and still committing sin, what a deceptive message it can carry to those who are still in the darkness and love the world!
Even if some one resists and gets rid of sins, he can be deceived and may fall into the world again.
Therefore, if there is such a man who is proclaiming like that (of a Nicolatian) in a church, and some people agree with him, the church will soon be stained in sin.
But the church in Ephesus hated Nicolaitan teaching which was not proper before God.
The Lord commend them for this, and lastly he gives a word of exhortation to them.
Revelation 2:7 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”
When we hear and understand the Word, we should not remember it as mere knowledge.
By the help of the Holy Spirit, we must plant it in our heart, make it bud, and bear fruit with it.
Only when we do this, can we overcome.
Here “overcoming’ means that those who hear the Word of God, remember the word by the help of the Holy Spirit, and practicing what is remembered will then overcome the world.
It means that he will recover the first love, and will diligently live in the truth.
The Lord made a promise to those who overcame: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”
The fruit of the tree of Life is located everywhere from Paradise to New Jerusalem. And granting to eat from the tree of life means granting salvation.
Then, why did He say, “the tree of life in the Paradise of God?”
Here, ‘the Paradise’ has two meanings.
The first meaning refers to Paradise which is the lowest level of the dwelling places in heaven.
It is the place where those who have just barely enough faith to be saved, like the faith of an infant, have a place to dwell
Since God repays as much as people sow, the dwelling places in heaven are also divided according a person’s measure of faith. Because the congregation of the church in Ephesus was in the situation of having lost their first love, even though they turned back, they barely were able to receive salvation.
But, even though you lost your first love, if you find where you fell, repent and turn back, and fervently work toward the kingdom again, you will not stay in Paradise but also you will also be able to advance to the level of a better dwelling place in heaven.
If you just repent of losing the first love, and turn back, you will receive shameful salvation and enter Paradise.
The second meaning of ‘Paradise’ in the bible is referring to the whole heaven.
Since His word is proclaimed to all the churches on the earth, whoever recovers the first love will enter heaven and eat from the tree of life.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Even though the church in Ephesus was reproached for losing their first love, they had other things to be praised by the Lord.
Because they had such things to be praised for, they could be given a chance to repent, despite the severe reproach.
But, despite this reproach, if you are still arrogant and say, “We’ve done as much as we can. We’ve done great jobs,” you will never wake up from your spiritual slumber.
You must have a heart of an unworthy servant who can say, “We are unworthy servants. We only did what we must do.”
So, in the case of being in the situation of losing the first love, when the Holy Spirit lets us realize it and strongly urges us to repent, you are still able to repent and turn back, you can recover the first love, and can accomplish the original deeds of faith.
Therefore, please take this opportunity to check whether you or your churches have something to be praised aboutby the Lord, and also check whether you and your church have something to be reproached for through the word given to the church in Ephesus.
Especially, please look back whether you lost your first love for the Lord and Father God, and I hope that you can manage your believing life with unchanging love and faithfulness.
Therefore, may you become blessed people who can love God even more fervently than your first love, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I pray!