“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.
2 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. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 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.
I find this letter to the Church of Asia Minor one of the most challenging letters in scripture.
I am someone who tries to work hard, I try to preserver, I want people who call themselves Christians to behave like Christians, and don’t want to see bad -or at least sloppy- doctrine and false prophecy running amok… it is easy to read this first part of the letter and begin to feel like puffed up…
…And then we read the next line, the killer blow, “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen”.
Ouch, the truth is that although we might still be active within the Church community, we may still be keeping up our spiritual disciplines such as praying reading the Bible, but are we still in love with Jesus?
Jesus asked Simon-Peter on the beach after his resurrection this question “Do you love me?” -Not how hard will you work for me? Not how will you preserve sound doctrine? How much will you endure for me? -but, instead one simple question… “Do you love me?”
In fact, if you know your Greek he actually asked “Do you like me?”
The Bible is actually a love story, the first commandment is to “love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength”.
God wants us to choose him not out of a fear of hell, or even an intellectual belief in his existence but rather because we choose him because we want him for him, we love him.
In a world of cold professionalism, middle class morality and post-Victorian Britain we find the passionate love of books of the Bible like Song of Songs uncomfortable.
There are many words for worship -we normally talk about Worth-Ship- but actually can also mean “to lean forward as if to kiss” and talks of adoration.
Stories of David dancing in his underpants or the woman cracking open a pint of pure nard over Jesus show us the heart of love that brings joy to the heart of God.
All the way through scripture God is more interested our hearts, our love for him, than our productivity, theology or our religious habits.
My challenge for us all this Lent is not about doing more, or even doing less, it’s not about going deeper but rather falling more in love with Jesus Christ.
Some Disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus after he had been risen and their phrase wasn’t about some mind-blowing theological revelation, or even a life changing experience, instead they talked of their hearts burning within them.
What of us? Does Christ burn in our hearts?
I heard Danielle Strickland talking about Christian brain-scans, where they scanned the brains of those in love and discovered that when the person thought of their beloved their brains responded with joy, they were prepared to take risks for them their view of their loved one had a physiological response. She then asked what would happen if we brain scanned Christians when we talked about Jesus, would it have the same reaction.
Jesus says that if a Church doesn’t love him then it is not really Church and he will close it down, because if we loose our love for Jesus then everything else is (to quote Paul in his letter to the Church at Corinth) “if I have not love I am worth nothing”. Jesus says if we don’t sort out our hearts towards him he will ‘remove his lampstand’ -in other words close the Church down.
A Church that doesn’t love Jesus is no longer a Church, just a religious group of people gathered together.
Often we talk a lot about keeping our Churches open, talking about giving more money, or about signs and wonders, or more modern worship but when was the last time we were urged to review our love for Christ?
Maybe many of us remember what we were like when we were first saved?
Maybe we remember our early Christian life when we were at our most fired up for Christ?
Perhaps we have become jaded and cynical as the years have gone on?
Yet however far we have fallen, however much we have cooled off, however much jaded cynicism has worn us down… God is into restoring our hearts.
“Pouring his love into our hearts”… We love because he first loved us.
Let’s take this lent to fall back into love with Christ, and I pray to fall more in love with him than we maybe have ever been before.
Do check out Rob Bell’s great Nooma video on this subject…