“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.” (Revelation 2:5)
This was Christ‘s message to a particular Church, but we shouldn’t err and think that there isn’t an application for the individual Christian as well — this admonition is not something that we can merely lay at the feet of our church leaders, even if the church as a whole has fallen. If that has occurred, then our first response should be to ask the Lord how we have contributed to the problem and how we (through Christ) might set the course straight.
Gratefully, Jesus already answered the second part of the question — do the first works. That leaves us to ask what are the first works Jesus is referring to? Is it merely that we have fallen out of love with Jesus; or that we have neglected our relationship with our Lord and Savior; or that we have taken our God for granted? The short answer — it’s probably one or more or all of those, but we want to be precise. The Revelation verse, “Remember therefore form where you have fallen,” implies that the place where we fell is significant; we need to go back to where it happened and identify the problem that caused it to occur.
In regard to the church of Ephesus, we’re told what they were doing right, but more importantly we see how their pursuit of works caused them to ignore the passion; their fist love Jesus. Don’t misinterpret what’s being said — the works of the church are essential, but maintaining a consistent, faithful, and obedient relationship with Jesus is of utmost importance. If we’re not dedicated to stoking this flame, the fireplace will dwindle to embers. When this occurs, and it typically does for all of us at one time or another, we must think back to the time and place where we were last going full-bore for the Lord, and then determine what work drew us away from our relationship, asking…
What was that holy (or unholy) distraction that loosed our bonds?”
Imagine for a moment you’re an engineer on a locomotive and it’s your duty to shovel coal into the boiler to keep it steaming. If you should stop, the fire shrinks, the engine cools, and the train slows. The problem is that the train can keep going for miles without adding fuel, and we can become so caught up in the momentum of a good work, that we might not notice we’re decelerating. What does get our attention is when the train comes to a complete halt in the middle of nowhere! We scratch our pointy little heads and wonder how in the world this happened. It’s at this venue Jesus doesn’t say, “Start fueling that furnace again!” but rather counsels, “Remember where you have fallen.” Ultimately, Jesus will have us re-kindle that fire, but first He desires we identify the problem that caused it to go out in the first place, lest we make the same mistake again.
What does it mean, Jesus will remove the lampstand?
First of all, Jesus’s warning to take away His lampstand is not a threat, but a reality. The function of the church corporately, and the divine purpose of the Christian individually, is to go and make disciples to Christ. Everything we do should serve to turn people towards this vocation. We’re to always act as Jesus would expect His followers to act, wherever we find ourselves. That doesn’t mean we’re straightforwardly evangelizing all day long. Our behavior though is to always be Christ-like, our time dedicated to pursuits pleasing to the Lord, submitted to obedience in Christ, and not quenching the work of the Holy Spirit.
If the train we’re on has stopped moving in this manner, then obviously we’re not going anywhere, therefore Jesus has no cause to keep a lampstand (His light) upon a stalled vehicle or vessel. Losing the light is a very bad thing, and it’s definitely something that should be corrected, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a person’s salvation is lost, but rather, it’s indicative of a Christian who is not functioning for the purpose in which he or she was designed.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
What are the first works?
That’s between you and God. I can’t tell you the mile-post where you decided to stop tossing coal into the stove and you probably won’t be able to find that spot on your own. Our hearts, outside of a connection with Christ Jesus, are deceitful, desperate, and wicked. The only solution is allow God access to your heart and trust that every stone will be overturned in His search for the truth. Saying the following verse as a prayer, at least once a day, and as needed throughout the day, will get you going in the right direction.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
When you find what you’ve been looking for, then stoke the fire! Do the things that by God’s mercy and grace, you get to do. Pray! Worship! Read your Bible! Be in Christian fellowship! Be alone with Jesus! Do whatever He tells you to do and persistently ask for His help and Helper (the Holy Spirit) to accomplish it. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 reminds us to be ready in any season to preach the word. In every secular conversation there’s an opportunity to bring it back to Jesus. Our voice should consistently serve to patiently convince, correct, and encourage others, while keeping a keen eye out for things that are not true. We might not be evangelists, but nevertheless we have been called to do their work.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ‘ Revelation 2:7
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