I was a teenager when my father decided to embark on a Sunday night sermon series in Revelation. The book of Revelation starts out with letters written to specific churches and the first is to the church at Ephesus. Revelation 2:1-5 reads as follows –
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
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.
Like many kids and adolescents, I was easily irritated when things didn’t seem “fair” and the charges against the church of Ephesus were not even a little bit fair! After a list of all the good things they had done they are chastised for one error – they left their first love.
I had nearly reached a nice simmering level of indignation when my father made a statement that shifted my perspective immediately – “Your motive matters.” We are called to be the light of the world. Even in the letters to the churches in Revelation, the imagery of this role is seen in the recurring reference to a lampstand. It is safe to say that God intends for us to do good in the world. But every action needs to be motivated by our love for our Heavenly Father.
Whatever good these believers were doing, there were important things they had forgotten. I’m not sure exactly what was missing but the phrase “do the things you did at first” definitely implies something has been lost.
It’s not about appearances. It’s not about church attendance. It’s not about followers on social media, how many likes you get on a post, or even how much money you give to worthy causes. It’s about your motive. Where is your heart?
These were the types of thoughts that inspired one of my newer songs titled “First Love”. The song is part repentance, part reconciliation, and quite a bit of recognizing the need to check our motives. Often. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered, “Love God with absolutely every part of your being.” The Bible is rich with reminders of the importance of love informing our choices. And with this verse from Revelation, it’s clear that all the good deeds I can perform are pointless if my motivation is anything other than love.
I’m running home to you my First Love
I’m so sorry for the choices that I made,
For the path that led away
From your presence,
From the wonder of your love.