“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.”
Revelation 2:4-5 NLT
How disappointed the Ephesians must have been to hear Jesus’ next words, just after the encouragement they had just received. To be accused of not loving Him as they should must have hit their hearts like an arrow. A frantic rush of soul-searching must have tumbled through their minds and emotions. And the criticism extended to include their lack of love for each other. Jesus said to them, “Look how far you have fallen!”. Oh dear. As I have said before, mankind generally has a tendency to lapse into a state of comfort, where reduced effort and complacency rule the days. It takes effort, considerable at times, to keep loving God and loving each other, sad though that is. And it looks as though this is what happened to the Ephesians. Jesus went on to remind them of the consequences of continuing as they had been doing; their “lampstand” would be removed from the list of churches. But with Jesus there is always a way back. He encouraged these early Christians to repent. He told them to “Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first”. That is what repentance is all about – it is a turning back from the wrong and sinful ways of life and returning to those that are God-ordained. We don’t know the outcome of Jesus’ impassioned appeal because Ephesus as it was in those days doesn’t exist anymore. It just consists of a number of ruins, including a cathedral that was active up until at least the 5th Century. But perhaps the message from Jesus produced the fruit of repentance and led onto greater things, but of which we have no record.
This message to the Ephesians is a timely warning to us pilgrims. It reminds us, as do the messages to the other churches, of the importance of staying close to Jesus, as we did when we first encountered him. At the point when we were saved. It reminds us to repent when we stray. Because stray we will unless we work hard to keep the faith.
Near where I live there are some “lampstands” being removed. A number of churches in the Church of Scotland denomination are having to close because their congregations have dwindled to the point that it is no longer viable to keep them open. And in some cases, the upkeep of old buildings, monuments to our rich Christian heritage, is no longer affordable. So sad. But Jesus said He would build His church, and He was very graphic in His teaching to His disciples in John 15. We read, ““Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” Jesus’s church will not be based on dwindling congregations in dusty old mausoleums, but instead will be a growing, vibrant, fruit-bearing, and dynamic group of His followers. Grafted into the Vine. Loving God and their fellow Christians. Doing the works of His service. Are we pilgrims such fruit-bearers? Or are we useless branches? Hmmm…
Dear Lord. We thank You for this timely message. We repent of the barren times when we have erred away from You and we ask for Your forgiveness. Please help us, Lord , we pray. Amen.