Restore your first love (Message by Dr. Jose Ahn)

 

RESTORE YOUR FIRST LOVE
 
Revelation 2:1-11
Key Verses: 2:4
 
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”
 
Revelation looks difficult to understand. But today’s lesson is easy and clear to understand. Jesus tells us two things. First, restore your first love. Second, be faithful even to the point of death.
 
First, restore your first love (1-7)
 
Let’s read v1. Here seven stars and seven golden Lampstands represent seven churches in Asia. They represent also all churches of God.
Jesus speaks to the church of Ephesus. Ephesus was famous with the temple of Diana. Immoral sex. A center of commerce too. Here many evil things were practiced. The city was a stronghold of Satan. There Paul ministered for three years (Acts 19:1, 20:31). 
What was Jesus doing? Jesus was holding the seven churches in his right hand. It means his perfect protection. In John 10:28-29 Jesus said. “No one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all.” I believe this Jesus is holding UBF Bonn and all the churches of God in his right hand too.
Jesus also was walking among the Lampstands. This shows Jesus is a good shepherd. He walks among his sheep. He knows and cares what they need immediately.
Let’s read V2-3. Now V6 too.
First of all, Jesus complimented their many good deeds. They worked very hard: Fishing and feeding sheep etc. They also persevered. To persevere means to overcome many hardships by faith. There were false teachers, but they discerned and kept pure doctrines. They did not compromise with worldly ideas. They endured all hardships and still have not grown weary. They looked pretty good in all ways.
 
Secondly, remember your first love. (4-7)
 
But Jesus did not stop there. Let’s read v4. Men look at only outward appearance. But God sees the inner hearts. The church of Ephesus looked good outwardly. But Jesus saw that they had forsaken their first love for God and for others.
What does it mean to forsake their first love for God? It was God who loved them first. He gave his one and only son. He forgave all their sins. When they believed this love of God, love began in their heart too. Their first love for God was burning. They wanted to do all God want them to do. To love God meant also to love others as themselves.  
A good example of this first love is Jacob’s love of Rachel. Out of his burning love Jacob willingly volunteered to serve Laban 7 years, freely. Then another seven years, no problem, with free of charge. His service required hard work. Yet for Jacob 14 years were just like a few days! He was joyful, happy. Hard work was not so hard at all. 
Paul is another example. He served God and God’s flock with the same burning love. He never forgot how wretched sinner he was. Out of love for God and for his sheep he traveled many places. He wrote many letters. When he had no more place to go in his old age, he did not stop there. He said in Romans 15:28 “after all… I will go to Spain too….” His love was still burning.
Therefore to forsake the first love means to do things with no love for God and for others.
This means, we may come all the meetings, writing and sharing testimonies well, going fishing and doing several one to ones, playing orchestra etc. Yet we may miss such willing spirit. No more sacrificial and volunteering spirit. Avoid hard work. Come late to the meetings. Feel burden and do all God’s work out of obligation. No joy in doing God’s work. No peace and no happiness in heart.
Here Jesus teaches each of us and our church. It is not enough that we look good, just work hard, persevere and keep UBF doctrine, but to love God with all our heart, soul and strength. Yes, it is more important to do with love for God and for others.
        How then can we restore our first love for God and for others?
Look at V5a “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Here three things Jesus suggested. Remember. Repent. And Do what you did at first.
When I tried to remember, my first love for God was like 100 Celsius degree. God’s love for campus students were boiling in my heart. I ran out to the campus and did many bible studies. I even became a missionary! Going alone even without my family almost 10 years! But after many years of UBF missionary life, I began to do many things out of obligation. I worked hard for my name’s sake. I used sheep to keep my one to one numbers. I persevered to reach our goal for the conference or Christmas worship number.
Could this make Jesus happy? Could this make sheep grow? Could this make me happy? No! No! No! One day I found I fell from high to low, very low, even below zero.
After remembering my fall, the next thing was to repent! At first instead of repenting, I wanted to complain about UBF hard life. I wanted to complain about Dr. Lee’s severe training. But Jesus helped me, no, no, “you should repent!.” So I began to repent. I confessed I worked hard  with no love of God and others.
The next thing was to do the things I did first. After repenting, I returned to love one person through one to one Bible study. I did not care whether I may be rebuked by not bringing many sheep. I wanted to live before God saying I love you Father and I love your flock.
Then the joy and happiness returned to me. Willingness for God and volunteer to suffer for sheep filled my heart again. Like Jacob who worked 14 years with no charge and like a few day, that life returned to me again. That was beautiful. Soon God also sent many, last Christmas almost 80 came from my fellowship and 180 came from NEIU too.
But if we do not repent, what will happen? Jesus says in v5b “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” It means there will be no more Ephesus church on earth.
But to those who repent what will be given? V7b says “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” God will give eternal life in the kingdom of God. We will not only be fruitful on earth but will go to enjoy paradise with eternal life too.
 
Second, be faithful to the point of death (7-12)
 
Look at V8. Here Jesus introduces his faithful character. He is the first and the last. He kept his faithfulness to God even to the point of death. Then God raised him back.
Look at V9 “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Today we have world economic recession. Many become poor. But at that time the Christians lost all possessions just because of Jesus. Yet Jesus considered that they are rich in the kingdom of God. To lose for Jesus is to be rich in his kingdom.
Look at verse 10, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.” Jesus foresaw the suffering they were supposed to have.
Policap was from Smyrna. He suffered but he did not surrender. The judge finally gave one more chance. If he just say that Caesar is the Lord, he will be released. But Policap answered, “I served my Lord last 86 years and he never denied me. How can I deny my Lord! Jesus is my Lord!” So he was burned to death. Jesus foretold that these kinds of persecutions would happen.
But Jesus challenged them. Let’s read V10 “Be faithful, even to the point of death!”
What does this faithfulness to the point of death mean? First of all, be faithful to a very small thing. If we are not faithful in a small thing, we cannot be faithful in great thing either. Dr. John Jun was very faithful in small things. Once he had one sheep, he served him faithfully all his life time. So much so that God charged the whole UBF work of God.
David was a shepherd boy. When a wild beast comes and takes his sheep, he ran after the beast, struck its mouth, and took the sheep out of their mouth. When the bear or lion tried to attack him, David did heading as well as punching its nose or eyes. In that way he was faithful to take care of even one sheep. That was why God charged the whole Israel.
        Secondly, we must be faithful to the end. In UBF work of God you see how many young people come fascinated by God’s word and his world mission vision. They all want to give their whole life. They share great testimonies. But sooner or later one by one disappears and finally just a handful of people remains. Yes, it is not easy to be faithful even to the point of death.
By God’s grace I have been 43 years of world campus mission as a self supporting missionary since my college sophomore year. I have been up and down. Now Jesus wants me one thing. ‘To be faithful to the point of death!” He says “I gave you warming up last 40 years in UBF. Now is time to begin to serve God and his flock really.”
Actually we can say that UBF just began for the real world mission. We have 150 more nations to pioneer, and hundred and thousands of campuses in each country. UBF Bonn Germany worked hard but there are many campuses to pioneer from now as the prayer topics show. We must be faithful to the end, to the point of death.
To the point of death also means to continue even though it is so difficult to continue. Jacob served 14 years for Rachel. But we UBF must serve God joyfully and willingly and voluntarily for 40 years, 50 years, and to the end. Even though world campus mission by self supporting missionaries through one to one bible study are very difficult task to do. Yet it is worthwhile to die for this mission.
Then what Jesus will give? He will give us the crown of life. Not the crown of olives! The leaves wither, but Jesus would give us eternal crown.
Those who overcome and win the victory will not also taste second death. Look at v11. He had passed from death to life forever.
In today’s passage Jesus taught us two things “Restore the first love for God and be faithful even to the point of death.” In 2009 may God bless each of us to love God and others and be faithful to Jesus to the end.