Michael Youssef - Lost Love
The first letter that our glorified Jesus, our glorified Lord sends, he sends to the church in the city of Ephesus. Remember, John the apostle, the revelator, was given the revelation, was privileged to be lifted up and to see not only the glorified Jesus, the magnifier... and remember, John is the man who put his head on Jesus's shoulder, but he hardly recognized him in his glory, in his magnificence, in his splendor, and so he was given the revelation of the glorified Jesus. He's given the revelation of what's gonna happen in the future, and I explained to you that Ephesus is the first stop if you are sailing from Patmos, the island of Patmos, and going to go to the mainland of Asia Minor.
The first stop is the church... is Ephesus, the city of Ephesus, but there is other reason why. It's not just because it's the first stop. Ephesus was very important city. That's why it got the first letter. Ephesus was the capital city of that region at the time, but more importantly, Ephesus was a free city. In fact, this was one of the very few cities in that all of the cities in Asia Minor was under the Roman occupation that did not have Roman soldiers in it. It was a free city. All the others had Roman soldiers and controlling the cities but not Ephesus. Not only that, but it was the center of pagan worship. It was the center of the god Artemis, Diana's worship, and which made it, of course, to be a very prosperous city, very powerful city, very influential city. It was a destination of all the pilgrims who... worshiping their god Artemis. And it was a tourist destination. It had the most iconic temple for the gods, Artemis or Diana, which considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world at that time. I want to draw your attention in a moment to the screen. We're gonna hear Jonathan reading the letter to these churches in location. You'll see Ephesus as he reads.
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. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which 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. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God".
I love the description of our risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus: "He holds the seven stars in his hands". Now, it could be referring to those seven churches, but remember I told you the seven, the reason there were just seven, there were probably many other churches at the time, but the seven is a number of completion in the Bible. It's a perfect number, a number of perfection. It's the totality. If you're seven, then that's done. That is the perfect number, and that tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ is supreme, sovereign over all of his creation. It tells us that our Lord is supremely in control of the lives of his children. That tells us that our Lord is in total control of the lives of those who are his. Our Lord holds the security of the believers, of all those who love him, in his very hands.
So let's look at this letter very quickly here. The wonderful things about our precious Lord is that he does not ignore, overlook, or take for granted the virtue, and he starts with that. He commends them for the good things that they were doing. Our risen Lord often commends before he condemns, and I love the fact that in every letter, he says, "I know, I know, I know, I know". Of course, he knows, and he knows with accuracy, perfect accuracy, our condition, our plans, our thoughts, and yes, above all things, he knows our motives. Let's divide this letter very quickly. Three sections here. For those of you taking notes, I wanna give you three things that you will notice about this letter to the church in Ephesus. First of all, there are three praiseworthy merits, three praiseworthy merits. Secondly, there is a heartfelt disappointment, disappointment on the part of Jesus. Thirdly, there is a three-step recovery program. It's a 3-step, not 10, 11, 9, or whatever, a 3-step.
First of all, the glorified Jesus points to those three things in that church of Ephesus that they were doing. They were alert, they were biblically sound, they were discerning. This is something is really missing from most churches in the 21st century. They were discerning, but they were active. They had a good program for every age group. They were busy believers. They tested the false teachers and rejected their false teaching, but not only that, they did not moan or complain all the time like other churches were. They did all of their good works with a sense of endurance, with a sense of perseverance. Ah, they faced tribulations, they faced insult, they faced discrimination, they faced persecution, and they faced it with courage. They did not give in to the immorality that was invading the Roman world at the time. They did not give in to the immorality that is invading our churches even at this time. They held to biblical ground of fending off the barbarians and the heretics. They were not only biblically sound, they were not only persevering, but they would not tolerate evil. They refused to allow sin to fester like cancer in the body of Christ. They smelled the heresy a mile away. They were serving well. They're working hard. They were doing everything with zeal.
You say, "What else you got left"? Except, except the most important thing, and that's a disappointment. Secondly, in their eagerness to serve, they have allowed the most important thing to get away from them. What is it? The love for Jesus. The love for Jesus. If this letter from Jesus is saying anything to his faithful children, he is saying that if your doing and serving and ministering is not stemming out of love for Jesus, if your doing, your serving, and your ministering is undermining your love for Jesus, if your doing and serving and ministering replaces intimacy with Jesus, please, please stop. Here is the amazing thing about our Jesus, and I must confess to you, when I was writing my notes, tears were flowing. I couldn't read my notes, heh. While we know most certainly, while we know most assuredly that the Lord loves us and he loves us like no one could ever love you, while we know that he went to the cross for us, and yet he tells us he loves us in a thousand different ways every day, if we have spiritual eyes to see it, the truth is Jesus wants his own to love him back.
We see God's broken heart in the Old Testament. I mean, you cannot read the Old Testament without just literally saying, "God..." I mean, you have to love him more than you ever loved him as you read his broken heart over Israel. The apple of his eye is running after other gods. And even he does it in a practical way in Hosea the prophet when his wife was running after other men, and you see the brokenness of that man's heart in Hosea. "That's me. I'm brokenhearted". Read Ezekiel. Read Jeremiah. In the New Testament, read the church, the bride of Christ, and how Christ feel about his church when his church, his bride, has replaced the love for him with love for other things, when his bride is so busy for him, supposedly, but no longer emotionally and spiritually connecting with him, when his bride get used to going through the motions, goes through the routine even in his name but is no longer deeply in love with him, when his believers are more in love with themselves, with their ideas, with their plans, and even with their biblical interpretation than being totally enamored with the love with Jesus.
Please hear me right. This is important. Believers can do all the right things for him. Believers can believe all the right things about him. Believers can work hard in his name, but what God craves, what Jesus craves the most is for our love, our love above everything else that we can do for him. Listen to what the apostle Paul said to another church that love for Jesus cooled off and got replaced by the things. The Corinthian church. In 2 Corinthians chapter 11, verses 2 and 3, here's what he said: "I promised you to one husband to Christ, so that I might present you as pure virgin to him. But I'm afraid that as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds will be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ," Christ the person.
Did you know that people can serve in the church without loving Jesus? Yeah. Did you know that people can believe all the right things about the Christian faith? They believe all the correct biblical doctrine, but the love for Jesus is as cold as an icebox. The way you know that is when serving or believing becomes a sense of duty, "Oh, I've got to do this. It's my duty. It's my responsibility. I have to do this". Instead of joy unspeakable, instead of can't even wait to wake up in the morning because of your love for Jesus. Why? Because you love him so much, you want to do whatever he wants you to do.
The great news about those who have forsaken their first love is this: The divine lover wants you back. The divine lover is wooing you back. The divine lover longs for you to come back, which brings me to the third thing that Jesus says to the church here, and he gives them this three-step recovery program. Listen to me. I'm a grateful dude for that three-step program. I've used it many times. Listen, listen, listen, this is the most marvelous, the most wonderful three-step program, hah. I am blessed by the three-step program, used it many time, and I testify to you it is the greatest recovery program in the universe. Nothing like it. Three Rs: recall, reverse, recapture. Recall, reverse, recapture. Can you say that with me? God bless you.
Recall the time when you were so overwhelmed with your love for Jesus. Recall the time when you were so overwhelmed by his forgiveness of your sins. Recall the time when you were so overwhelmed with knowing the gift of eternal life and when you were so overwhelmed, you loved him with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. Then recall what caused the flame to die down. What caused that flame to die down? You know, sometimes the good things that cause the flames to die down, not always bad thing. But sometimes a sin... what sin entered in? What person has come and replaced that love for Jesus? What blessing that distracted you from loving Jesus? What suffering and disappointment in life that caused you to cool your love toward Jesus? What illness that caused you to become so cold toward Jesus? What virus has caused you to live in fear instead of faith? What trials has distracted and taken your attention of loving Jesus? What or who stole your devotion? Only you can answer that. Only you can answer that.
My beloved friends, I've tested this many times. The Scripture tells us that the place of failure is the place of recovery. If I lost my wallet over there, it's no use looking for it over here. The place of failure is the place of recovery, and that is why he said repent, reverse course, turn around, go back. Don't just feel remorse. Remorse won't help you one bit. Staying in remorse won't help you. In fact, it's the worst thing you can do to yourself. Turn around, get up, recapture the time when you used to love Jesus so much that you loved being in the presence of Jesus. Recapture the time when you used to love to worship and adore him alone. Recapture the time when your love for Jesus occupied your thoughts and your desire and your longing.
Am I preaching the truth? Why is this so important? Because what Jesus said next. Jesus said if you persist, if you persist, he's gonna remove your lampstand. What is that? The light of Christ is gonna be extinguished in your life and the life of the church. The life of the church. I cannot think of anything worse for me personally. I'm telling you, I tell you the truth, I would rather die before Christ removes his lampstand. Listen to me, to me, the most terrifying thing is that he removes the lampstand. It is so terrifying, I don't want even to contemplate it. Neither should you. Neither should you. Adam and Eve grabbed from the tree of life. They believed Satan's lie, but when your love for Jesus is rekindled and stay alive, he's gonna serve you from the tree of life. He personally is gonna serve you from the tree of life.
I wanna tell you this as I conclude: In the 19th century, there was a very famous lecturer, some of you probably read about him, by the name of Wendell Phillips. Phillips was so deeply devoted and adoring to his invalid wife, Ann. At a close of his lecture, one night, in a town many miles away from his home in Boston, he wanted to go home that night, and Phillips's friends and even those who were traveling with him said, "Please, don't attempt to go home tonight. Please spend the night. Go in the morning". They said to him, "The last train has left, and you will have to hire some special transportation to the city, and furthermore, it is cold and sleeting outside. You will face several miles of rough riding before you get home". His reply was very simple, very simple. "Ah, yes, but on the other end of those miles, I shall find my beloved Ann".
Now, my beloved friends, listen to me, loving Jesus will not only make life's journey easy and joyful, but also, it will make your long journey, by looking forward to seeing him face-to-face, a thing of excitement and joyful. Listen, I know and you know there are many problems on the journey. There are many difficulties in the journey. There are many challenges in the journey. There are many painful experiences in the journey. There are many heartaches in the journey. There are many trials in the journey. There are many hard bumps on the journey. Ah, but remember, at the end of the journey, you're going to see your beloved Jesus.