Robert Morris - Return to Your First Love
All right, we're beginning a new series called "The Seven Churches of Revelation". You've been waiting for this series. You've been wondering, "Pastor Robert, when you're gonna preach on the Seven Churches of Revelation"? Well, here it is, all right? So, the first thing I'm, well, is give you some background on the Book of Revelation, and the Apostle John, or the disciple John, who wrote the book. I also want to remind you, that when I begin a series, in the first message, about one half of the message, or two-thirds of the message is laying the foundation of the whole series. And then I'll actually get to the first church of the Lord, kind of zeroes us in on one major thing about it, and so, we'll get that minute.
The reason I said that is for those who are like I am, who are time conscious. And since I get to my first point until the two-thirds the way through, I don't want you to pass out, okay? So we'll get plenty of time for everything. All this background information that you love about the Book of Revelation.
First of all you need to know that the Book of Revelation is a letter. It's a letter to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which is Turkey now. But it's the whole book is a letter. And much of the New Testament are letters. You've read the letter to the church of Ephesus called The Book of Ephesians. You've read the tho letters to the church of Corinth, called First and Second Corinthians. Thessalonica - Thessalonians. Colossae - Colossians. Galatia - Galatians. Do you follow me? So this is a letter. Matter of fact, people don't realize: Peter was written 1st Peter and 2nd Peter to the tribes of Israel that have been dispersed. Same with James. So it's kind of that the very first of the book, that we don't even read part, we just kind of go past that part of to whom it was written.
So this is a letter. It was written about 95 AD, so 95, almost 65 years, a little over 65 years after Jesus was, the resurrection of Christ. And Jesus appears to John on the island of Patmos. Now it was written probably 96, but I'm rounding dates off because in your mind you could do math easier if we round it off. Alright? The reason I'm saying this is Jesus appears to John. He appears to Paul in about 33 to 35 AD, and this is going to shock you what I'm about to tell you if you've never heard this. He was resurrected in about 29 AD. I know you're thinking, "Yeah, but he was 33 and a half". I understand that. But that's because he was actually born in 4 BC. I know you're wondering, "Well, how could he be born four years 'before Christ'"? It's because we didn't understand about the calendar, and the BC/AD started about 500 AD.
Now, I just want to mention one thing. Today they're trying, they've changed it and they're not using BC/AD. BC means before Christ. AD means the year of our Lord. They've changed it to BCE, before common era, and CE common era. And when you, if you go online and read about why they changed it, they will say, "This has nothing to do with taking Christ out of it, nothing at all". But if you'd go back and see why they started it, they say very plainly, "We're doing this so that people of all faiths or no faith are not offended". That's literally why it began, and they'll come up with all sorts of stories that 1500 years BCE is what they say, before common era. They were keeping time by. Okay. It's just a bunch of baloney. Bologna in the Greek is what that's called. So we're going to use Before Christ and AD when we talk about dates in the year of our Lord. Okay? So, I'm rounding dates off.
Let's just say that Jesus resurrected around 30 AD so that you can get the dates here. And around 35, he appears to Paul. So five years after the resurrection. But 95, he appears to John. This is what I want you to catch from that: 65 years after the resurrection is when Jesus appears to John and speaks these seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. And by the way, we're going to get there in chapter two and three, and you need to know if you go and look at it, if you have a red letter edition on your iPad or phone or whatever, however you read the Bible, or if you have one that actually has pages in it, you know. If it's red letter, every word in chapter two and three is red letter. It's all Jesus. Every bit of it, him speaking to John, and then he shows up in chapter one and he says some things. So this is where it starts on the island of Patmos.
Why is he on the island of Patmos? He's on the island of Patmos, John is, because he was exiled to the island of Patmos, now get why, because he wouldn't die. That's the truth. Every disciple, other than Judas and John, were martyred. John wasn't martyred, but they tried to martyr him. Tertullian tells us this, who's a historian of the day. He says they put him in a cauldron of boiling oil, but he continued to preach and suffered no harm. So they pull him out of this boiling oil, and the emperor who's tired, the Roman emperor who is tired of hearing him preach, bans him, exiles him to the island of Patmos. Okay? So that's where he writes the book of Revelation, about 95 or 96 AD. He wrote the book of John and 1 John, 2 John, 3 John between 90 and 95. Some say when he was on the island, some say before. I think he was still in Ephasus when he wrote that. That's the church he attended, by the way, the church had Ephasus, which is the first letter, which is, Timothy was the pastor.
If you remember 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy and Paul's writing to Timothy, his spiritual son. Okay. So Timothy is the pastor. John also was the disciple that took care of Jesus' mother until she passed away. All of this happened, him being banned and exiled after Mary had already passed away. But it's while he's at the church of Ephesus. The reason I wanted to say that when he wrote the gospel of John is because he wrote his gospel after Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mark wrote about 70 AD. Matthew and Luke wrote about 85 AD. John's about 90 AD. The reason he wrote his gospel is Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called synoptic gospels. Synoptic means similar. So you will find many of the same miracles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but you won't find them in John.
The reason again that John wrote is because they only wrote about the third year of Jesus' ministry. They write about the birth and the death, but then every one of them, Mark 1, Matthew 4, and Luke 3 all say, "after John was imprisoned," and John was imprisoned two years into Jesus' ministry. So they're all covering the last year, the third year of Jesus' ministry. John then decides to write his gospel after all three of those have been written because no one had covered the first two years of his ministry. So you find things in John you won't find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
You'll find, John 1 begins, "In the beginning," the way Genesis begins. It's the only other book in the Bible that begins that way.
You'll find in John 2 the first miracle Jesus ever did. He turned water into wine. You'll find in chapter 3 the conversation with Nicodemus.
Chapter 4, the woman at the well, the conversation with her.
Chapter 5, the healing of the blind man at the pool of Bethesda.
Chapter 6, where he describes, I am the true bread that came down from heaven.
Chapter 7, where he describes how he is the Messiah and that he has equal authority with the Father.
Chapter 8, the woman caught in adultery. None of these are in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.
Chapter 9, the healing of the blind man.
Chapter 10, that he's the good shepherd.
Chapter 11, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It's the whole chapter.
Chapter 12, the anointing preparing his body for burial.
Chapter 13, the washing of the disciples feet, not in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.
Chapter 14 is what he said at the Last Supper. This is the only place that we have this recorded.
Chapters 15 and 16 is on the way to the garden.
And then chapter 17 is the prayer he actually prays in the garden.
So we have that prayer, and then chapter 18 is the crucifixion, and it picks up and coincides with the others, although it has some, two or three statements (I'd have to go back and look) that he said in John are recorded that are not recorded in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Are y'all follow me? Is this too much detail for you or is this interesting?
Okay, so you've got John who writes this. When he writes it ... Now, one thing about John you need to know. The average age for death rate was in the fifties. People didn't live very long back then. John lived to be over a hundred years old. At the end of his life, it was sad that he could only say three words. There's a story that is in history, but it's not in the Bible, so we don't know about its authenticity, but it's that one day John was at the church at Ephesus where he attended, and they said, Hey, John's here, the last living disciple of Jesus. And so please come to the front, come tell us, come tell us, you know, what was it like walking with Jesus? What was it like being with Jesus? And he walked to the front and he said three words, "Love one another". And he went and sat down. They said toward the end of his life it's the only three words he would say, for several years, "love one another". If you remember, John's the only one, John 14, that recorded Jesus saying at the Last Supper, "A new commandment I give you". A new commandment. He talks about it in 1 John and 2 John, also. "A new commandment I give you, love one another".
With him only saying those words, I heard, I know, Franklin Graham's a good friend of mine, Billy Graham's son. And then I was invited to attend the memorial service of Dr. Graham. Only 2000 pastors were invited, and friends. And I was on the fourth row, and Billy Graham's pastor shared a story about Billy Graham, and Franklin shared with me that in his final years, he didn't speak much, but when he did speak, most of the time he only said four words. So his pastor at his memorial service told the story that every Saturday, they didn't have Saturday services at the church, only Sunday, they didn't have online services. So every Saturday he would go over to Dr. Graham's house, talk with him some, and then preach his message on Saturday to Dr. Graham that he was going to share on Sunday.
So personally, I don't know if I'd want to preach in front of Billy Graham, but that's what the pastor did. And for the last few years, Billy Graham didn't say hardly anything. And so the pastor's over there preaching this message and after he preached it, he said to Dr. Graham, "Dr. Graham, I don't know if you recognize this message, but this is a message actually that you preached". And Dr. Graham started shaking his head, and he said, You preached this in such and such city in such and such crusade, and then he told him how many people got saved. And I really don't remember the number, 5,000 or 10,000 or whatever. He said, this many people got saved when you preached this message. And Dr. Graham raised his finger and said the four words that he was known for saying toward the end of his life, "It was all him". Those are the words he used to say a lot toward the end of his life. People would congratulate him or commend him on his life, and he would always say, "It was all him". So that's kind of the way John was toward the end of his life.
Now, these seven churches (let me get back to the seven churches) are in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. Why did he write a letter to these seven churches? He did it because they were on the most populous trade route of the day. Let me show you a map, so you can kind of get it into your mind of where the seven churches are and where the island of Patmos is. So there's the island of Patmos where John was, and then if you start at Ephesus and go up and go clockwise, that's the order of the letter. That's the order of the letters, the seven letters, Ephasus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia. By the way, Philadelphia started an extension campus in Pennsylvania. Sorry. It's a horrible joke, but it's funny. Alright. And then the last letter, the seventh letter to the church at Laodicea.
Alright. So that kind of lets you know a little bit, and I think that the Lord spoke to these seven churches. They were major churches at that time, but then he knew that these letters, and you got to remember it wasn't just the seven letters in two and three, it was the whole letter. It was the letter of revelation, a book of revelation, which would go through the enscripturation process. So he knew it would become scripture, the last book of the Bible. And he knew that once these seven churches passed the whole book around, the whole letter, that then it would go then to other, the rest of the body of Christ. You see what I'm saying? So it was a strategic plan. All of the letters seem to have three parts.
Now, these won't be my three points for each of the letters. And I can't go through verse by verse and just explain, because this isn't a seminary class, although I'll make comments, but I believe the Holy Spirit's going to point out one thing that we need to learn from each of these letters, you know, one major thing. Okay? But all of the letters seem to have... let me say five of the seven you see it very clearly. Two of the seven it's difficult to see it, but it is there. But they all seem to have three parts: commendation, correction, counsel. They start with commendation. The Lord's saying, this is what you're doing well. Correction, this is what you need to change. And then counsel, this is how you need to change it.
Now, one other thing about the seven churches is people see these differently. Some theologians see these differently. Some theologians see these as church history, and it's a timeline from the resurrection until the second coming. And so the letter to Ephasus was about the first church for two to 300 years, then fourth century they're saying that's when they moved to the second church, and then third and then. And they'll say, and you could see now we're in the seventh letter, the church of Laodicea, so we're the end time church. There are some that see these seven letters as written, obviously to those literal churches, but they're only for the end time church. I don't believe either of those. I believe these seven were literal to the seven churches, but also letters to all the churches of all time. In other words, whether you live in the seventh century or the 12th century or the 21st century, these letters are for us.
Here are two reasons why I believe that: because it's in the Bible. God put it in the Bible, so just like the letter of Ephesians was written to the church at Ephesus yet God has spoken to you through Ephesians. I think he can speak to you through these seven letters, which encompass one letter. So it's by the Spirit. The second reason I believe it's for all churches of all time is all of them end with, either at the last line or close to the last of the letter, they'll say this, all of them say this: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches". Plural. Anyone who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying.
Now remember, Jesus said these yet the Spirit inspired the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit. So, "... let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches". Alright? So let me show you how the whole book of Revelation is to all the seven churches. Revelation 1:4, "John, to the seven churches which are in Asia". So this is in chapter one, he's telling you the revelation of Jesus Christ is for all seven churches. That's the whole book, okay, was written to these seven churches. Verse 11, Jesus shows up. He shows up in verse 7, I think. But in verse 11, it says, he's saying, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,' and 'What you see [This is Jesus talking to John], write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.'" And then he lists those seven, just the same way we had them a while ago.
And then Revelation 1:20. Now he's going to tell us something about the seven stars, cause they all start with, "To the angel". So he's going to tell something about the angels and the churches. Alright? Revelation 1:20, "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches". So when John sees Jesus, he's in the midst of seven golden lampstands, and he has seven stars in his right hand. So the seven lampstands are the seven churches. So what does that tell us? It tells us that we're not the light, but we hold the light, that we're just a lampstand. You don't light a light, Jesus said, and put it under a basket. You put it on a lamp stamp. So the higher the church holds the light, the more people are going to come to Christ.
So churches are lampstands. The stars are messengers, they're angels. The Greek word is angelos, which means a messenger. I personally believe that this is the senior pastor, or the pastors of the seven churches, not an angelic being. This is why: Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about John the Baptist and called him a messenger. But it's the same Greek word for angel, but they're talking about a man. And then in Revelation, John has this angel that's showing him around. Remember, you've read the book of Revelation probably. He has an angel that's showing him around, and he falls down and begins to worship him. And the angel says, don't worship me.
Now, listen to why he says. Revelation 22:9. "Then he said to me, 'See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets.'" So I don't think this is an angelic being like an angel from the Old Testament when it talks about the angels and the angels encamped around. I think this is actually a prophet, maybe from the Old Testament. He says, I'm one of your fellow servants. I'm one of your brothers. So I believe that when it says to the angels, it's talking about to the pastors of the churches, because the pastors would get up and read the letter to the church, and said, Listen, John sent a letter back and Jesus appeared to him, and I want to read you this letter. So he's talking to the leaders. Also, leaders are referred to as stars in the Bible.
Daniel 12:3 says "... those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever". So that's my belief about what these seven angels. Alright? That they're the pastors. Alright? Alright. Y'all ready to get to the first letter? You didn't fall asleep, did you? I mean, I test my sermons on Debbie, and when she starts dosing I know I've gone into too many details. Alright. So Revelation 2:1, and I'll make comments throughout about some of the comments, alright, some of the verses. "To the angel [which could be, it's the messenger, could be the pastor] of the church of Ephesus [that'd be Timothy.] write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands ...'" Now verse two starts the commendation. Alright? Here's the commendation. "'I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.'"
Now this is referring to the Nicolaitans, and we're going to talk about those in the third church. Alright? You can't bear those who are evil. This next is also referring to them. "'You've tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.'" So that's the commendation. The correction then in verse four. "'Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love". Okay. So let me just go ahead and give you right now, I guess they can do it. The title of the message is Return to Your First Love. So Return to Your First Love. Alright?
Alright. So let's go back. Verse four. I have this against you. You've left your first love. That's the correction. Verse five is the counsel. "'Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.'" In other words, I'm not gonna let you hold the light any more 'cause I don't want people to see the type of light you're holding. Let me make a comment. The church at Ephesus was a church that emphasized truth, and Jesus said, I want you to emphasize love as much as you emphasize truth. That's basically kind of a bottom line to this. Alright? Verse six. "'But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.'"
Let me make a comment about that. Again, I will tell you exactly what the deeds of the Nicolaitans are, in the third message in this series. Alright? But I want you to notice, this goes back to what Josh said last week, that you can share in God's anger against wickedness as long as you share his compassion for people. Notice, he doesn't say that he hates the Nicolaitans. He says, I hate their deeds. He loves the people, but he hates the deeds. So I'll tell you what the deeds are in the third message. That's called a teaser by the way. Alright? Verse seven. "'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" Plural. And then he says, and this is in many of the letters, something like this: "'To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'"
Now, I told you a while ago, there's three parts. It seems like there's really four in most of the letters, and that's a reward. But the other three that I had: commendation, correction and counsel, all begin with the letter C, and I couldn't think of a word for... Crown. Look at that. It's a gift. It's a gift, I'm telling you. They all have four parts. Alright. Commendation, correction, council, and crown. That's, alright. Alright. We got it all there. Okay. So verse four. Verse four says, "I have this against you, that you left your first love". So I want to ask you something. Have you ever felt that way? Well, if you're a believer you have, unless you got saved an hour ago. You have felt like that you don't love Jesus like you did when you first got saved. You've gone through that. You're like, I just, I want you to do something to my heart 'cause, man I was so excited and I just fell in love with you when I first got saved. I feel like I've left my first love. Okay. It's really easy to get it back. And he tells us how to do it in verse five. That's his counsel.
Alright. Watch this, verse five. "'Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent...'" What's repent mean? Change your mind. Just change the way you're thinking about this. "'...and do the first works.'" Do the first works. Here's how simple it is. He's saying, Do what you did when you first got saved. Just do it again. Okay. For me, it was three things when I thought about this. Alright? And by the way, they all begin with the same letter, just so you know. Okay. Worship, Word... now we'll go through each of them. These are our three points: Worship, Word, and Witness. Worship, Word, and Witness. Okay. So we don't have time to go through bunch of stuff on them, but we'll hit each of them. Alright?
Number one's worship. When I first got saved, I just wanted to spend time in the presence of God. And worship can include prayer, but I want you to think about when I first got saved and when you first got saved, we just wanted to get to know God. We just wanted to be in his presence. We loved being in his presence. And then life gets busy. So for me, I got saved at 19, nine months after Debbie and I got married. And then about a year after that Josh was born. And then along came James. And then came Elaine. Okay. Children, work. When Josh was born, before Josh was born, Debbie worked. When Josh was born, she quit work. We went from a two-income family to a one-income family. Life got busy. My work started taking off. We had children, so we learned how to not sleep. Anybody ever been through this? And so all of a sudden we feel like we've left our first love.
And so I remember telling the Lord when I was reading this passage, this is years ago, just a few years into my Christianity. "Lord, that's me. I've left my first love". And it was like he said, "Look at the next verse". Do the first works. And I just felt like the Lord said, make it a priority to spend time in my presence. Just make it a priority. So I began to do that. Here's the second thing is Word. Spend time in the Word of God. Now the Bible has 1,189 chapters. I'm going to round it to 1200 just for math again, okay? So that means if you read 40 chapters a day, I know that that's a lot. I understand that. But you could go through the whole Bible in 30 days. Let me put it another way. If you read 10, I think I started too much. Alright. If you read 10 chapters a day, you can go through the whole Bible three times a year. You can do it in 120 days. 10 chapters, 1200 chapters. It's 1189, but close to 1200, you can do it in four months. Alright? 120 days.
So for me, I was traveling and preaching. So I was preaching revivals at night. So I had a lot of time during the day. So I that's how I started doing this math. If I read, for me, it takes about one hour to read 10 chapters. So I thought, "If I read 40 a day, I can go through the whole Bible in a month". And by God's grace, I was able to do that many times. And then I thought, "You know, if I read 50 chapters a day..." Again, I'm doing, I'm working at night from 7 to 11 or so during these revivals in the evening. So during the day I had the time to do this. "If I do 50 chapters a day, I can do it in 24 days". And then a few times when I wasn't even, when I didn't have a revival or something, I just took time away and I would read a hundred chapters a day. It takes about 12 hours to do that for me, but I'd read a hundred chapters a day and go through the whole Bible in 12 days. And I just did that many, many times. It just got me in the Word.
Now, let me tell you something that applies to all of us. Maybe you're on a daily Bible reading program, or you try to read a chapter in the Old, chapter in the New, a Psalm every day, whatever it is. Have you ever opened up the Bible to read your daily Bible reading, and you think to yourself, "Oh, I've read this passage before". And then the next thought, which is from the enemy by the way, is, "You know, you're running a little late, so you could skip Bible reading today. That'll save you like 10 minutes". Okay. So let me give you a comparison. Have never had a nutritious meal, a good tasting, like one of your favorite, best-tasting, but nutritious meal sat down in front of you, and you thought to yourself, "Oh, I've had this before, so I don't need to eat today". You don't think that, do you? You eat it anyway, even though you've eaten it before, because your body needs nutrition. Right? So when you open your Bible to a passage you've read before, read it anyway because your soul needs nutrition. Read it anyway.
So Worship, Word, this is what I feel like the Lord wants to say to us, and then witness. When I got saved, I just felt like I witnessed to everybody all the time. And as I grew in the Lord, I kinda got away. Now I'm not talking about telling seven strangers a day the Roman Road. Okay? I'm not talking about, "Hey, excuse me. Can I tell you, the Bible says you're a sinner, and you're going to hell and Jesus died for your sins. Okay. I got to go talk to someone else now". Okay. I'm talking about with sincerity, just work Jesus into the conversation. Just work God into the conversation. You know, if someone says, man, this rain was sure a blessing, you could simply say, "Man, it really was a blessing, and I'm telling you for me, 'cause I was so messed up. Once this guy shared with me how I could give God control of my life, now I really do see everything as a blessing".
Okay. You'll get one of three responses when you do something like that. One will be, "I know exactly what you mean. Once I gave my life to the Lord, I just see blessings everywhere now". Well, you found a fellow believer. Second response you might get is, "What do you mean, 'Gave God control of your life?' 'Cause I've been kind of thinking about the whole God thing, so what do you mean"? Now you get a chance to witness to someone. Third response you might get would be, "Uh, okay". And then the person backs away slowly, but that's okay. You planted a seed. You didn't get to water it, but you got to plant it. Alright? So, you need to understand Worship and the Word, and Witness. God did not design us to be reservoirs. He designed us to be rivers. The way are reservoir becomes stagnant...
Well, let me say it this way. For a reservoir to not become stagnant, it must have two things. It must have water flowing in and water flowing out. Worship and the Word and Witnessing. That's the only way you're going to return to your first love. Let me give you one example. You ever had ... maybe let's, I'll just talk to the guys for a minute. You got a group of guys, group of friends, and all of a sudden you notice that Jim isn't showing up. You know, Tuesday night's bowling night, Friday night's poker night. And all of a sudden Jim's not here. And so you say, "What happened to Jim"? And they, what do they say? "He met a girl". Right? And pretty soon you see Jim standing at a mall, outside a store, holding a purse. And when you go talk to Jim, what does he do? He talks about her. "Oh man, you need to... this girl I met, I mean, she's incredible. We like all the..." He wants to do two things: He wants to spend time with her, and he wants to talk about her. You want to know why? 'Cause he just fell in love. Are y'all following me?
When you first fall in love with Jesus, you just want to spend time with him, worship and the Word, and you want to talk about him. That's how you return to your first love. It's that simple. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes. Every weekend we ask the Lord a question at the end of the message. "Holy Spirit, what are you saying to me through this message"? I just want you to ask him. He's not mad at you. He knows all the good things you're doing. The only reason he wants you to return to your first love is for you. It benefits you. It makes this life so much more joyful, so much more exciting. So this is counsel. Yes, he's correcting something that could lead to another, a drab, dreary life for us, but he's giving you counsel. Let me tell you how you return to your first love. Do the first works. So maybe it's not those three things. Maybe you wouldn't say them the way I set them, but let the Lord define it for you. And then just give him a response. Tell him:
Lord, I want to return to my first love. Lord, I want to tell you, thank you. I want to tell you thank you, Lord, that we love you because you first loved us. And Lord, we want to, all of us, commit today to return to our first love. We want to spend time with you, and we want to talk about you, and we want to be the lampstand that holds the light, that you set it on a hill so everybody can see you, in Jesus' name, amen.