"Have you read through the Book of Revelation recently? Admittedly I have avoided reading it through in quite a while, though I do have my much quoted verses from it. I sensed, however, that the Lord was telling me to read through the whole book s-l-o-w-l-y and pensively, I sensed there would be new 'revelations' to learn and that I was to share them with my readers. This one already proved to be an eye opener. It's a little long but worth the insight. ('Did you get the pun on 'eye opener' and 'insight'? ) Ok, more serious now.
Revelation #1. The book is really entitled, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (a.k.a., Messiah Yeshua) and not "The Revelation of Scary Things That May Come Upon You If You Really Live In The Last days." Beginning with the letters to the seven congregations in Chapter 2, starting with the issue in Revelation 2:7, Yeshua was telling the Ephesians He was aware of what they have been doing that He approved of, but then He said, "Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Ouch! How do you respond to that verse? I remember those 'honeymoon' lovey feelings as a new believer, but that changed as maturity brought me to a different kind of love for and with Him. But was He speaking about affections? I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what He meant.
As I was reading chapter 2 and came to verse :7, this time I read it in context. The Ephesian believers labored hard for the Lord and were even patient in their faithful work; they just kept on keeping on. They also had no tolerance for those whom they identified as being evil. They even tested those who said they were apostles (sent ones) and found them to be false. Was that a good thing, or a bad thing? Were they being discerning or judgmental?
As Yeshua said, they evidently did endure with patient long suffering what they were doing for the Lord, and worked hard at it without growing weary. You'd think He would be just down right delighted with these folks. However, what He said was "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen and repent...." (2:4,5a). Not what they would have expected, don't you think? Especially after they had worked so hard for the sake of the Gospel. That must have really been a shock to them to hear that from Him!
So I pondered what He must have meant by having lost their first love in light of all they were doing. I knew that love word had to be agape, meaning God's kind of love, but I looked it up to be sure I had the full meaning. It was not about having affectionate feelings for Him; its not about feelings at all. Agape is a love which acts according to what is needed by the person to whom that love is directed. It is God's kind of love in that He gives to us in our need, not a love we are to give to Him, because, of course, He has no needs. We, however, do. Agape is a God-infused love which acts according to what is needed by the receiver, whether they know it or not. The things God often does in our lives, including things we don't recognize, at least at first, as being for our good, are in fact expressions of His agape love toward us for our betterment. We each know God's love for us sometimes includes discipline when He "adjusts" us when its needed. But always it is with the utmost of care and never of rejection. And it always has a goal.
He always acts in ways to ultimately bring about our highest good. The most significant expression of God's love was when He did what we needed most by dying for us on a cross. Agape is also about being self-sacrificing for the well being of another.
Evidently, the Ephesian believers at that time were focused on what they considered as "right" and "godly" in serving the Lord and they did it well. Only they were apparently also focused on whether others were meeting their own standards of godliness by putting them to the test. I looked up the meaning of the words "put to the test" which is what they did in scrutinizing those who said they were apostles whom they found to be false, (in some translations, liars), The phrase "put to the test" is one word in Greek, peirizo, meaning the intention of proving that one is, has been, or to make one out as evil. The opposite word, dokimazo, means to prove someone good and acceptable.
We can see the very opposite character differences between Yeshua and Satan right here. Yeshua works in us to make us "good and acceptable," even better people, and more like Himself. Satan, on the other hand, seeks to tempt or accuses people of some level of evil, to make them feel unapproved by God or other people, or even themselves. Difficult times can help us grow and become more like Yeshua. Satan's ordeals are his attempt to demoralize us, to make us feel more like failures, or to cause us see others by his evil perspective. The Lord's ways are acceptance as opposed to the rejection fostered by the enemy.
There are two ways to look at this: The would-be apostles are likely in error, overly ambitious perhaps, or even ungodly power-seekers. How, though, does Yeshua treat sinners? After all, none of us was without our own brand of misperceiving situations or people ... or whatever. But Yeshua saw in us what would be "good and acceptable" by the sanctifying power of the Spirit, "when we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8). The issue Yeshua is addressing here is that the Ephesians apparently had written those guys off as evil, wanting nothing to do with them, rather than extending somehow to them a chance to learn the truth of Yeshua's love and humility.
But let's say they were not at all receptive to that love or truth but were trouble makers. We can understand wanting them to leave. But it's not that they felt a concern for their souls and God's heart to pray for them. They just called them evil and wanted to be done with them. They seemed to have written them off altogether. So the question here becomes:
Whose first love was it that they had lost? We are told that "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). That's where "first love" comes from.... Him! Yeshua!
To lose that sense of His first love for us is to forget who we were before Yeshua extended His gracious saving love to us. To be so out of touch with His agape love in that way, appears to leave us without the gracious, forgiving, compassion and mercy of the Lord for even the worst of us. Including wayward would-be apostles with misplaced ambition.
To "lose our first love" then is to be out of touch with the reality that God's redemptive ways are in every situation. And that He would have us extend His kind of love even to those most in need of it -- who, without His grace in our own lives, we might consider as unworthy of His, and therefore own, love. So the real issue then seems to be: Who is more the sinner, the unloveable, or the unloving?! The Ephesians may have been doing much of the "right" things in terms of their performance, but they either had not come to personally "know Yeshua" in this way, or they forgot that it is in extending His agape love to others that we are to be most like Him! Either way, they were not able to be extensions of His love and, therefore, were unable to truly represent Him to others. Which is why Yeshua threatened to remove their lampstand, meaning their anointing and ability to be a light for Him in any way, if they didn't repent of their lovelessness.
Here's where it gets perhaps personal, if it hasn't already. We are living in times when we are bombarded with ungodly, unkind, and supposedly-true information that renders those who don't think as we do as evil, as unworthy of trust or of any honor. It may be that there's a reason the Father listed this significant issue first in presenting what He had to say to the seven churches. As we seek to be more like Yeshua, it may possibly be #1 in the "Revelation of Yeshua" that He would have us be aware of.
* Note: In my last blog post waaaay too long ago, my intention had been to be writing fairly often. But then life intervened, including the writing of an historical book for someone in Israel which has taken precedence. Since the Lord says that there are blessings for those who take the Revelation seriously, my intention is to share some thoughts with you for you to ponder on your own as He gives us insight. Feel free to respond and add your own "
Bless upon you, one and all.