“Christ’s Message to Ephesus Part 2: Remember, Repent, Restore”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Revelation 2.1-7 Part 2
Rev. 2. Continue in Revelation and Christ’s letters to the 7 churches. A 2-year-old boy was fascinated by a bubbling mud pool, which was the result of geothermal activity in Rotorua [Row-Tow-Roo-Uh], New Zealand. On moving to another spot and seeing no bubbles there, he exclaimed, “What, no batteries?” He was so accustomed to his electronic toys that he attributed even natural phenomena to battery power!
Just like that confused boy, sometimes Christians can be confused about the revitalization of the church. True, God-honoring church revitalization doesn’t come from programs, hiring a young pastor, or even doing a bunch of great things in the church and community …. True biblical revitalization comes from responding to the word of God. As we each respond to God’s word, revitalization comes. As the word is read and preached, we respond. Don’t take it for granted, don’t glance over it, put it in your heart to change your life. And act on what you are exposed to His words.
That should be your goal when you come in contact with God’s word.
After only a generation or two, the Ephesian church was on the brink of extinction, as Revelation 2 indicates. Jesus gives them instructions about their spiritual condition. To revitalize the Ephesian church would take remembering, repenting, and restoring.
Revelation 2:1–7 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Keep in mind who is giving this to the church… Revelation 1:12–17 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
He it is who is telling the Ephesian church… in order to keep going as a church, you need to remember the blessings of the past, repent today, and restore the first things for the future.
“Remember, Repent, Restore”
This is God’s program for the revitalization of the Ephesian church, and any church: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
It’s going to take this in order for “times of refreshing” to come from the Lord.
But what is exactly the problem in the Ephesian church?
Revelation 2:4 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
They left their first love.
Left first love: meaning, examples, what it looks like
EXP: What the Lord Jesus is referring to is that they had left the love that they had at the beginning, at the first. They had lost their enthusiasm and excitement for Christ and had settled for simply safeguarding the truth but without the joy and enthusiasm of a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.
That was true individually and corporately.
Any Christian can fall into a cold orthodoxy.
But when you first came to Christ, how earnest and passionate you were! Any little part of the Bible you found precious to your soul and enriching to your heart. Every single command was like gold. You were at the church whenever the doors were open. If there was a prayer meeting, you were there. You were accused of being so heavenly minded you were no earthly good.
But now you’ve lost your enthusiasm for the Lord. Your business or busyness does not allow you to attend the prayer meeting but when you first started serving Christ, people thought you strange for how often you were at church!
ILL: Spurgeon said, “It is the loss of your first love that makes you seek the comfort of your bodies instead of the prosperity of your souls.”
This is true, not only individually but corporately.
ILL: Muynak [Moon-ahk] was once a thriving fishing port on the Aral [R-all] Sea. But today Muynak sits on the edge of a bitter, salty desert. Sand dunes are strewn with the rusted, hollow hulls of a fishing fleet that once sailed high above on the surface of Central Asia’s fountain of life.
Things began changing around 1960 when Soviet government planners began diverting the Aral’s water source to irrigate the world’s largest cotton belt. No one, however, envisioned the environmental disaster that would result. Weather has become more extreme, the growing season has been shortened by 2 months, and 80 percent of the region’s farmland has been ruined by salt storms that sweep in off the dry seabed.
What happened at Muynak parallels many churches today. Many churches could be said to have once been a thriving spiritual community but now, like what the Soviet’s did to the water supply, Christians have diverted their attention from Christ and his gospel to different things, whether it’s their own stand for truth or their desire for material things or for comfort.
And we too may have lost sight of what is important: our love for Christ.
APP: Most people prevent church closures by new programs, louder music, starting a soup kitchen, or whatever… external things. But a group of people can exist and call themselves a church without Jesus calling them a church!
Let’s be frank with ourselves. Bethany Baptist has seen a lot of decline over the last couple or few decades. The vision for revitalization of a church MUST be an increase in the love of Christ.
Let’s reorient our thinking: it’s not programs that’s going to solve our problems here; the Bible never says that. This passage says the Lord Jesus can remove a church due to its lack of love.
Revelation 2:4–5 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 … and there is this threat … v.5 … Christ says He could come and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
So if someone were to ask, “What is a cause of church closure?” ANS: Not lack of programs, not a lack of events … one answer is a lack of love for God in Christ. Everyone in the church… must respond! How? By growing in love for God in Christ.
What does that look like? Remember the Past, Repent of Sin, Restore the First Things
Revelation 2:5 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else …
Those are the 3 points and the 3 points make up the main point: Remember the Past Blessings, Repent of Sin, Restore the First Things.
I am convinced that for BBC to serve Christ in the next generation, each one of us needs to apply this passage. First, remember past blessings.
Remember the Past
Revelation 2:5 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen
EXP: The Ephesians church needed to actively call to mind where they fell from.
There was a falling away from the first works.
What were those first works? The first works of a new church, that’s what!
What zeal, what evangelism, what discipleship of one another, what help we gave to each other, how the prayer meetings were filled with God-centered praying, how the singing was heartier, how we repented with earnestness, and sought the Lord in His Word…how we remember the former days.
EXP: And that’s a good thing, “Call to remembrance the former days.”
Perhaps there was gentle confrontation, a loving no toleration of sin, intimate care for souls in the grip of temptation, true Christian fellowship.
Whatever it was, it was better for us in the past, we can sense that. We had more peace, purity, and passion. We were more cheerful, we could sense God’s blessing and enjoyed His providence, the glory of Christ’s return was more present, members were more dedicated to His cause of saving His people from their sin, longing to see their friends and neighbors come to Christ.
But now, materialism has set in, there is the pursuit of money and pleasure that has damaged the spiritual life. Left the love of Christ we had at first!
ARG: For revitalization to occur at Bethany, we must learn from the past in order to live in the present so that the Lord guides our future. “Remember from whence thou art fallen!”
We need to remember the blessings in the past!
Here’s the thing then, an application: We need to talk about the blessings of the past and recall how the Lord has blessed and what we were like. Not that we do things exactly how they were done back then or just live in a nostalgic sense, but we need to remember from whence we’ve fallen.
We need to contemplate the lessons and principles that the Lord blessed in the past.
We need to celebrate them and continue to implement them in ways that fit the gifts and resources that we currently have in our church and use the celebrations to set up new initiatives in the ministry vision that the Lord is laying out to take the church to the next level in serving Christ and expanding the kingdom.
ARG remember: This is good and godly, because the Bible is constantly calling on us to remember. Any attentive reader of the OT will come away with the fact that God calls on His people to remember the things that He has done.
The people of Israel in Joshua 4 were called upon to heap up stones as a memorial of the miraculous crossing the Jordan.
Joshua 4:21–22 21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.
God’s people were also to remember the Exodus…
Deuteronomy 5:15 15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm:
The OT constantly looks back to the exodus.
And the NT constantly has us remember the crucifixion.
TRANS: We should take this to heart: Remember your love for Christ, and the things you did at first. Remember the past blessings … where you fallen from, and now… repent of sin.
Repent of Sin
Repent of leaving your first love!
Revelation 2:5 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, [now look…] and repent, and do the first works…
There are things that have come into the life of the church that have replaced the first works and need to be repented of; there needs to be a change of course, getting on the biblical track.
It’s very easy to keep going in the direction that you’re headed, thinking everything is fine, when it’s not fine!
Our wrong beliefs about our present condition leads to wrong actions about where we’re headed. Everything seems fine, but it’s not! You’re hear, let’s do something about it, let’s repent!
ILL: A Peanuts comic strips features Charlie Brown saying to Snoopy, “I hear you’re writing a book on theology. I hope you have a good title.” Snoopy, on top of his dog house typing, responds, “I have the perfect title: Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Might Be Wrong?”
Our understanding of God and what He requires of us is easily twisted. Wrong belief will lead to wrong behavior and it needs to be repented of.
Folks, let’s get real… everything is not fine in our church right now!
Very common for a church, like the Ephesian church and ours, that has known God’s blessing in the past to come into a season of sin.
Now, there will be two responses to sin: cover up, or fess up!
This is an opportunity! … An opportunity for God to do a new and exciting work in the church when we humble ourselves and repent.
It may be that God has been withholding His blessing because the church has not repented, and that when we do, He will open the floodgates and pour out His grace in unprecedented measure.
ILL: But we have to be willing for change, particularly a change in our spiritual life. A study published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows one in four men doesn’t make any lifestyle changes after a heart attack, stroke or other major cardiac event. Women were more likely to change unhealthy behaviors, and urban residents were more likely to make at least two lifestyle changes than those who lived in rural areas.
Three behaviors were included for the study: smoking cessation, healthy eating and physical exercise. Out of 7,519 patients surveyed in 17 countries, just 4.3 percent of participants improved their habits in all three areas, more than 30 percent made two lifestyle changes and more than 47 percent changed at least one lifestyle behavior to better their health.
Dr. Mark Friedman, a cardiologist at the SSM Heart Institute, said changing one’s lifestyle can be very difficult.
“Patients don’t want to be talked down to,” he said. “They don’t want to be told they’re bad.”
Well, too bad, right? If there is that little change in physical things, how much more is it true for spiritual things.
If these stats are true for the church, the church will die!
POINT: As you consider where you need to repent in your life, understand God’s grace! God responds to repentance! He gives grace, mercy, and forgiveness! He responds to appeals to His Son’s cross. He put His Son on the cross to pay for that sin; will He not give you grace and mercy? Turn, that you might truly live!
What is it in your life? What is it in the life of our church? Is there sin in the camp that needs repented of?
ILL: Achan tried to hide his sin. He had stolen silver and gold and hidden it in his tent (Josh. 7:20-21). But when the Israelites were defeated in battle, the Lord told their leader Joshua that the loss was due to sin in the camp (vv.11-12). The Lord identified Achan as the one who had sinned. And even though Achan confessed, he and his family were executed (v.25). Sin doesn’t just affect you; even if it is hidden, it affects all of us!
We can no longer hide sin! Is there immorality in our midst, theft, has someone committed some financial sin? We can’t expect blessing until we square up with our sin and man up and deal with it biblically, stop making excuses.
Turn from it! And real repentance will have real fruit! Let’s confess any sin!
Proverbs 28:13 13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
TRANS: Remember, Repent and now restore the first things.
Restore the First Things
Revelation 2:5 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, [here it is…] and do the first works;
Do works done at the beginning.
There are many different things we could do to grow the church: music, have healing services, poll lost people about what they want in a church … but Jesus’ plan for revitalizing a church is sufficient: remember, repent, restore the first things.
ILL: Go back to basics. It’s not rocket science. Race car driver Bill Vukovich won the famed Indianapolis 500 race in 1953 and 1954, a record of success few other drivers had matched. Asked the secret of his success in Indianapolis, Vukovich replied, “There’s no secret. You just press the accelerator to the floor and steer left.”
The concept of church revitalization isn’t difficult.
We don’t have to be marketing experts, we simply need a willingness to remember, repent, and restore… the first works, do the works we did at first. The path to get there may be personally challenging … confession and repentance perhaps, and we have to get down and dirty with people in their sin, get in trenches with each other in spiritual warfare.
Sometimes there are tough decisions to make, but this isn’t difficult to understand.
So what are the “first works” that we need to focus on?
Foundation: Restore biblical gospel
The life of any church has as its foundation the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus death and resurrection without a focus on his lordship and his life for us come out we have no church. The gospel is the foundation of a church that seeks to be a “first love” church.
The gospel not only saves, it is the gospel-empowered Christian who grows. The gospel empowers the growth of the Christian and of the whole church. Without a focus on the gospel, there is no biblical church.
And not a focus that it simply needs to be defended… many solid doctrine churches could no doubt focus on the gospel, simply that it is a truth that is to be defended. But gospel ministry goes well beyond that. It is to reach the lost and it is something to grow the Christian. It is something to be proclaimed and to be cherished and to be empowered by in order to properly serve the Lord and to be a first love church.
Titus 2:11–13 11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 [what is that grace of God doing in those who are Christians? Answer this saving grace continues its ministry of ] Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
The gospel is the priority in the Christian life: in salvation and to sanctify us, to grow us to be like Jesus. Why you still struggle with filthy speech or attitudes or this or that besetting sin is because you don’t have enough gospel.
May the Lord root out any besetting sin in this camp.
Empowered by the gospel, we do the first love kind of things.
And so works are important in the Christian life. Sometimes we can poohoo them b/c not saved by them. But works testify of someone’s salvation.
Ephesians 2:8–10 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
And we easily stop there…the Lord saves by grace, not by works… but…
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
…and so we’re created to do good works.
Let’s do the things that we did at the first: let’s be more committed to prayer, more committed to serving His people, more sacrifice that we might see the next generation of believers come in the church! Because that’s what it’s going to take.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Revelation 2.1-7 Part 2
Or … get “Removed” We’ll close with Jesus threat …
Revelation 2:4–5 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else … [only Jesus can make this threat…] I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
EXP: Jesus is removing candlesticks today. What this means is that a church is no longer His church in some way: either they shut down OR people are meeting, perhaps hundreds or thousands of people, but it’s not Jesus’ church. And that’s because He removed their candlestick.
ILL: When I was in Bible school, I liked to think about crazy church names, like “Dedicated to the Gospel Baptist Church” or “be a missionary everyday Baptist church.”
How about “first love Baptist church?” Or “Not gonna to lose our candlestick Baptist church.”
We can easily miss the importance of the candlestick. In John’s vision in chapter 1, the first thing John sees are the 7 golden candlesticks and they represent the 7 churches. And Jesus is in the middle of them and He is walking among them… and as the Lord of the church, He has every right to remove that candlestick.
And as a candlestick, we have shinning power. Our love for Christ and doing the deeds we did at the first must shine through us to a lost and dying world.
We must get Jesus and His gospel in our hearts like He was in our most sincere times of devotion to Him, doing all things for Him, the smallest to the greatest.
If you want to do your part and you want to remember, repent, restore the first things and you want to be a part of the success of Bethany Baptist but you’re having trouble, come talk to me. Let’s meet, let’s get together.
But we have to do this. And I’ll be attempting in weeks and months to come to guide us in this.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2465. ↑
Reeder, Harry L.; Swavely, David. From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church . P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition. ↑
Reeder, Harry L.; Swavely, David. From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church . P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition. ↑