Practice makes perfect? No, perfect practice makes perfect. The longer one practices something the wrong way, the harder it is to correct. This is what I believe happened with the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter two…
2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
The Ephesians had abandoned the love they had at first, their first love. They had works, toil, patient endurance, couldn’t bear evildoers, tested and exposed false teachers and were bearing up for Christ’s name sake and hadn’t grown weary. But without love, this was all meaningless. John, who wrote the book of Revelation, also wrote 1 John where he says, “We love because He first loved us.” When a church has abandoned the love they had at first, they have actually forgotten God’s love for them. The root is probably more along the lines of them being so focused on doing good works, that they failed to pass the actual gospel of God’s amazing love and grace on to the next generation. Notice, the messages to the churches of Revelation are not addressed to individuals, but to whole congregations. (ie. “you have some there who…” Rev. 2:14) Much like today’s church, the previous generations haven’t passed the gospel down. I grew up thinking that my salvation depended on my efforts. “Jesus died for my sins, but now its up to me to stay saved. – Faith without works you know…”
Remember from where they had fallen, repent, and do the works they did at first.
The first step is to remember. Do you remember when you first believed? Do you remember the hope and the love you had, that overflowed from you like a gushing fresh spring when you first believed on Christ? What changed? We took our focus off of Jesus and put them on ourselves and our works. So remember, and repent which simply means, change your mind/thinking.
Next, do the works you did at first. Wait a second, do the works…? So many times, I’ve heard the “return to your first love” messages but the end hook was always, remember to love more, do more works, but with love. They are always passionate, but lack any lasting power, because they reset the cycle; Feel bad, apologize, receive “new” forgiveness, try harder and remember to love this time. But in the end, the focus remains the same, you.
“Do the works you did at first.”
What works did you do at first? Obviously we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, so what gives? Well, John the author, also wrote the Gospel of John. Imagine that. In John chapter 6, he records, “Then [a crowd] said to [Jesus], “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.”
Jesus defined believing in Him as a work, and not just “a” work, but “the” work of God. Believing in Jesus is literally “the” work we did at first. Jesus’ message hasn’t changed, “Repent and believe the good news!” The key to returning to your first love, is to stop trusting in your own works and to throw yourself fully into the loving arms of Jesus, period.
The One Who Conquers
“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life…” Funny thing, all the messages to the seven churches contain this phrase, “To the one who conquers…” The word for conquer each time is the same as the word used in 1 John 5 for the word “overcomes.”
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God… 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
So the one who overcomes/conquers is the one who believes in Jesus. If you study the messages to all seven churches in Revelation you will see one consistent theme; “Believe in Jesus! Believe in Jesus! Believe in Jesus!”
So if we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us, let’s abide in His love and let it overflow through us to others. Because after all, its love that fulfills the law.