Read Revelation 2:1–7

What comes first in your life?  For many of us, that question seems easy enough to answer.  Reflexively, we might say family, children, education, working hard, helping people, or if any of us feels particularly churchy, we might answer, “God!” However, I’m willing to bet that the more deeply you think on it, you’ll begin to recognize that what you desire to be first in your life doesn’t necessarily match what is first.

The difference between what we desire in life and what is true of our lives is symptomatic of how busily we live.  Who we want to be isn’t always who we are.  How we want to live isn’t always how we’re living.  What we desire for ourselves isn’t always what God desires for us.  Busy schedules and constant activity leave little room for nurturing our life together in Christ. Sometimes the thought strikes us as just something else on an already long list of things to do.  And so church devolves into an activity on the calendar instead of a common life that orders and informs all that we do.

In every generation the church has needed God’s reviving Spirit to hold the church accountable to its purpose, and the early church we read about in the New Testament was no exception.  From a prison cell on the isle of Patmos, John pens short letters to the churches he serves in present day Turkey.  To his sisters and brothers in Ephesus in particular he declares these words from Jesus: “you have let go of the love you had at first.”

In the first century, Ephesus was a hub of trade, communication, and religion in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire.  It was also the site of the temple to Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.   According to John, the church had stayed strong in resisting these things, but had become stale in their passion for living God’s message of love to the world.  They were more or less going through the motions.  “You have let go of the love you had at first,” says Jesus.  This church, it seems, needs revival.

Did you just get a chill up your spine? I  think many of us are afraid of that word because it sounds too charismatic and old-time religiony.  And yet, revival names God’s ongoing work in the world and in our lives.  Revival is the ongoing work of grace in our lives.

It’s a major problem when we trade life in Christ for programmed, calendared religion because your busy life and living in Christ are not mutually exclusive realities!  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the disciples that where their treasure is, their hearts will be also.  That means whatever we prioritize and do, if we are not immersed in the love of God in Jesus, it amounts to very little.  If we compartmentalize the practice of our faith, then we close so much of our lives off to God’s grace.  That doesn’t mean God is absent, but rather that we fail to notice it, and thus miss opportunities to connect and grow in tandem with the Holy Spirit.

The faith of Jesus is not something we set down and take up only when we have time and energy for it.  Beloved writer Henri Nouwen once argued that Jesus’s question to us is never: How many people take you seriously?  How much are you going to accomplish?  Can you show us some results? Did you make a profit?  Are we under budget for the year? No.  The question is: Are you in love with Jesus? Do you know the incarnate God?  If the answer is yes, then everything else will fall into place.  There’s no shame here.  Every one of us needs revival.  Every one of us needs each other.  The only question is, will you seek it?

- Pastor Patrick

Last Published: June 6, 2019 10:20 AM
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