Welcome to Priority Pastor. This is Daren Wride.
When it comes to priorities, what is most important for pastors, for Christian leaders, for followers of Jesus Christ. There are few passages that answer the question more directly than Revelation chapter two, the first seven verses which is the letter to the church in Ephesus.
I’ve shared from time to time about the series I’ve gone through called The Blueprint where we looked at the church in Ephesus, starting in the Book of Acts where the truth was born, through the letter to the Ephesians and then just last week, I concluded the series here in the church we’re serving in, by looking at the passage in Revelation, which is the last mention of the church in Ephesus.
This is a church that was pretty amazing. And even in the description here in Revelation chapter two, it’s pretty amazing. It says, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, you found them false. You’ve persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”.
And if you look at the letter to the church at Ephesus there’s really no rebuke. There’s no correction is just this ideal a blueprint which is why we call it that the ideal blueprint of what we believe and the applications and implications of it.
However, in this letter in Revelation, the words of Jesus through John’s vision, he says in verse four, “Yet I hold this against you ” or “but I hold this against you” another translation. “You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Other translations say you’ve forsaken your first love, you’ve walked away from your first love, you’ve abandoned your first love, you no longer love me as you did.
And the way I described the church to this point is that this church had everything. They were doing it all right. If we were marketing, we might give them an A+ 100 percent, except what Jesus says they had everything except the main thing. The grown cold in their love for Christ. They were doing all the things they were supposed to do externally, but something had cooled off on the inside.
Oswald Chambers says, “The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus, is service for him.” There’s so much truth to that. There’s there’s this dynamic in church leadership, whether you’re a pastor or a ministry leader or serving some kind of ministry, there’s this dynamic that makes ministry actually a hazard to your soul, a has hazard to your spiritual health. And that is that all of these tasks begin to squeeze out the relationship.
And when you think that the whole point of creation is for us to have a relationship with our Creator and the whole point of salvation is to restore that broken relationship and the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, you begin to understand why this is such a serious serious issue.
One of the notes on my bulletin board here my office which just covered with overlapping little notes and sticky notes and things pinned on; I call the Board of wisdom. One of the notes there asked the question: am I walking with God or working for God? And it’s so easy to work for God, that we cease to walk with him, that the relationship again gets squeezed out by the task.
Well Jesus in this passage in his letter to Ephesus gives a very simple way back for both these Ephesian Christians and for anyone today. He says in verse five, “Consider how far you’ve fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first.” NTSB says, “remember where you fallen from.” There’s really three steps, three simple steps in that verse, the way back if you see that you’ve failed, that you’ve falle,n that you’ve drifted in your first love.
Step number one is to remember, to look at where you were at your best, where you were when the fire was hot, where you were when you were first saved, where you were when you were at your spiritual best and recognize if there’s a gap between then and now and remember where you once were. And if you’re no longer there, it’s not because he’s walked the way. It’s because we’ve walked that way in some way.
And so the answer then is step two, to repent, to turn around. Obviously if we’ve drifted from that place of first love, we’ve been going in the wrong direction, so do the U-turn, the change of heart and mind and go back in the other direction.
And then step three, do the things you did at first. This is just a great piece of wisdom. This, I mean this as an aside, this actually is a great principle for a marriage relationship. If you feel that things are starting to fade, think back to the things you did at first. And so step three is to return, to do the things you did at first. To think back to that time of first love here in your spiritual life. What were you actually doing? How did you feed the passion? How did you cultivate your inner life?
See the Ephesians were doing everything right on the outside, but the inner life had fallen flat. Sometimes we might look and say, well when I was on fire, I was in the Word and in prayer regularly. Or when I was on fire I was in a good mentoring relationship or a great small group or there was this worship song or this retreat or this location or this discipline that just really kept me there.
For me I try to do quarterly retreats, two quarterly two night retreats, I usuallt get in two or three in a year. I know I need to do that. I try to spend time in personal worship and the Word every day and there’s worship songs that I go to help bring me back, books I’ve read and and just want to start my day. Ideally I’d like to start my day with the first conversation I have is with the Lord, not with anybody else.
If you were to go back and do the things you did at first, what exactly would you be doing. That’s the call of Jesus here. And if you need to return in some way to that place of first love, the answer is to remember where you were, to repent and then to return. That’s priority.
I can’t talk about priorities as Christian leaders as pastors without talking about walking in tight, personal relationship as scripture describes it with the Lord. That’s why creation happened. That’s why there’s salvation. That’s his call, to walk with him. Remember, repent and return. That’s job one.
Thanks for listening. God bless. Press on.