I want to share with you this week about the idea of “fighting for joy in our Christian life.” As you know, when we grow older in our faith and walk with Christ, at times we tend to lose that joy we had when we first became believers; we grow accustomed to Christianity and to the things of the Lord that we begin doing things out of duty rather than delight. It is true we still go to church, we still have good doctrine, we despise bad teaching and heresy, we do some general acts of kindness, but we have lost the joy, we have lost that first love we had for Christ. Instead, our relationship with him has become monotonous and customary, rather than passionate, zealous and heartfelt. However, as I say all this, I am sure you really want to recover that love and zeal for Jesus, you want to be passionate for him, but how do we do it? How can we recover that joy in Christ?
Let me begin today by sharing from Revelation 2:1–7 and focus particularly on verses 4–5.
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
What does the text mean?
In verses 2–3, Jesus begins by commending the church of Ephesus for their many good deeds. He commends them for their work, patience, hatred of evil, spotting and expelling false prophets (which meant they had good doctrine), and suffering patiently for the sake of Christ. However, in verse 4 he begins with a “but”. Imagine you were a part of this church, and after hearing all the commendations, Jesus says “but”. Therefore, Jesus rebukes them and tells them he had something against them: they had abandoned that first love and zeal they had for him.
When they first became believers, they learned good theology, they suffered gladly for Jesus, but they also had a fiery love for him. Sadly tough, that fire was now quenched; their zeal was now custom and their love had become just duty. Thus, God shows them that he cares about our love for him. In fact, the thriving Christian life can be described simply as a relationship of love between the believer and his Master. It is not his love for us that can change (that’s settled), but it is about our love for him. That is what it means to be a Christian, that you love him passionately, zealously, constantly and totally, and that is why he rebukes the Ephesians. He wanted the Ephesian church to love him more than anything, he wanted them to be passionate for him, he wanted them to revive that first love they had for him, and he wanted them to stop serving him only out duty. They had seen great miracles when the church was established (Acts 19 records it in detail), they preached the Gospel throughout all of Asia and everyone in Asia heard the Word in only 2 years. What a great testimony! But just a few years later, they had lost their first love.
What does the text mean to me?
Jesus cares about your love for him and he wants you to have a thriving and joyful relationship with him. Both the Old and New Testament tell us that loving him with all your mind, heart, soul and strength is the greatest commandment (Deut. 6:4; Mat. 22:37; Mark 12:30). It is not that you have the best theology, the most thriving ministry, the most faithful church attendance (though they are all important), but it is that you love him fully. If you love him with all your heart, you will do everything else he demands with the right attitude and for the right reasons. That is why; if you have lost your joy and passion for Jesus, you must rekindle you love for him with the grace that he offers to you.
Do you identify yourself with the message to the church in Ephesus? I certainly do more often than I care to admit. You might be at this very moment battling and struggling to find joy in Christ. The things of the world have becoming so dear and sweet to you that you have lost your taste for Christ. It is probably difficult for you to “see and taste that the Lord is good”. If that is your case, God speaks to you directly as he did to the Ephesian church and he calls you to repent. You may not be in danger of blaspheming the Lord’s name, you may never fall into the trap and lies of a false prophet, you may never stop attending church, but you may be at the brink of a massive spiritual fall, and that can come in the form of losing your first love. Do you love Jesus with all your heart, soul and mind? Would you pray as David prayed: “restore unto me the joy of your salvation”?
God bless you all and may he give you the grace to rekindle your love for him.