Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…
— Revelation 2:5
Have you ever sensed the Holy Spirit pleading with you to return to the on-fire love you had for Him when you first received your salvation? As we saw in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, that is precisely what Jesus did with the church of Ephesus when He diagnosed their spiritual condition and told them that they had left their first love (see Revelation 2:4). However, Jesus didn’t just diagnose their spiritual condition — He also showed them the steps they needed to take in order to reverse their course and rectify the situation. This is seen in Revelation 2:5, where Jesus told the Ephesian believers how to return to the white-hot passion they’d possessed in the early years of their salvation. He said, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…”
Notice that Jesus urged the congregation in Ephesus to do three things to correct their deteriorated spiritual condition: 1) remember, 2) repent, and 3) do the first works. These three key points are packed with meaning, so I will take my time to properly explain each one. In the next few Gems, we will study what Jesus meant when He told the Ephesians to repent and do the first works, but today I want to focus on the word remember.
The Ephesian believers had lost their “first love” — the simplicity and passion that marked their early love for Jesus Christ. This tells us how far they had unintentionally drifted from the spiritual zeal that once characterized them. For this reason, Jesus urged them to stop everything they were doing in order to “remember” the precious fellowship they used to enjoy with Him before they became so spiritually sophisticated.
The word “remember” is a translation of the Greek word mneia, which in ancient literature denoted a written record used to memorialize a person’s actions, a sepulcher, a statue, a monument, or a tombstone. The fact that the word mneia can denote a sepulcher is very significant in the context of Revelation 2:5, because it suggests the Ephesian believers’ early experiences with Christ had become buried by years of activity.
Like dirt on a grave, the busyness of ministry had buried what was once precious to them. So by using this word mneia, Jesus implored them to dig through the clutter of their schedules, routines, and activities and unearth the early memories of their faith when it was tender and new. Once they recalled their powerful past, they would see how far they had drifted from the spiritual fervency that had marked their beginnings. Only then would they be in a position to make the necessary adjustments in their lives to recover their excitement and passion for the things of God.
Furthermore, because mneia (“remember”) also refers to a statue or a monument, we see that certain memories should forever stand tall in our lives and never be forgotten. The purpose of a statue or monument is to memorialize a historical event or a deceased hero so that future generations will never forget. Most statues, monuments, and tombstones are made from durable materials like metal or stone, and they endure for many years without effort or upkeep. Generations can come and go, but statues and monuments persist, allowing people to gaze upon the faces of deceased heroes and read the inscriptions that describe their past actions and contributions. As long as a statue or monument remains in its place, it will stand as a reminder to future generations.
Memories, however, must be deliberately maintained and cultivated if they are to remain vital in our hearts and minds. If significant memories are not deliberately passed on to future generations, they become lost under the overgrowth of life, just like a neglected grave with no tombstone. It doesn’t take long before the location of such a grave is completely lost. People will walk across it without even knowing that the remains of a precious person lie buried beneath their feet.
Like an unmarked grave, important memories can be easily forgotten. Adults forget their childhood; nations forget their heritage; and Christians forget their early beginnings with Jesus. In Revelation 2:5, we discover that churches can forget their past. Years of activity and Christian service can so consume a congregation’s energy and strength that they begin to forget the great work of grace God performed in their hearts. Weariness, busy schedules, and a constant stream of new programs to implement all have the ability to wear down a body of believers — turning their activity for God’s Kingdom into spiritual drudgery and reducing what was once fresh and exciting into a monotonous, religious routine. If they are not careful, they risk forfeiting their zeal and spiritual fire and allowing what was once precious to become routine. Their early memories of coming to Christ can become buried under an overgrowth of activity and spiritual weeds, making them forget how wonderful God’s grace was when it first touched their hearts.
This is actually a common struggle among spiritually mature believers. In fact, it is difficult to find a single mature Christian who hasn’t had to fight this temptation as his or her sinful past gradually fades into a distant memory. They become accustomed to the precious Holy Spirit in their lives, and too often they unintentionally begin to simply “traffic” in the things of God. It’s a subtle backsliding that occurs in the very act of serving God.
In the early years of the Ephesian church, the vibrancy and excitement of the Ephesian believers inspired the passion in congregations and spiritual leaders throughout the years. But as the years passed, this zeal for the things of God slowly ebbed away. Knowledge increased, but the believers’ fiery passion for Jesus diminished.
Undoubtedly, as the Ephesian church grew, so did its members’ schedules, routines, habits, customs, and traditions. They were so busy serving Jesus that they lost their intimacy with Him, and it is likely that they experienced a loss of joy in their service, since joy is impossible to maintain without a vital connection to the Savior. Therefore, it was essential for the Ephesian believers to recall their point of departure from their first love if they were to return to the vibrant relationship they once experienced with Christ. They needed to pause everything they were doing and gratefully remember:
- Their deliverance from idol worship.
- Their liberation from evil spirits.
- The many miraculous healings that occurred in their city.
- The great bonfire where they burned all of their occult books and magical incantations.
- Their public act of repentance before a pagan crowd.
Having put themselves in remembrance of their glorious history, the Ephesian believers would be able to move forward in their relationship with Jesus and “repent.” We’ll look more at what that word means in tomorrow’s Gem.
So have you allowed the busyness of serving God to bury the excitement you felt for Jesus when you were first saved? If so, take Jesus’ words to heart and remember your first love. Clear away the weeds and clutter of life from those memories, and let them stand tall like a monument in your mind!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I never want to forget the amazing things You did in my life when I first came to know You many years ago. Forgive me for allowing the clutter of my life to bury precious memories that I should never forget. From the start of our relationship, You have proven Yourself faithful to me. I need not ever bury that or forget it when I get busy. Holy Spirit, today I ask You to help me “declutter” the memories of my past and revive those precious memories that I need to hold clear and dear.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare that I do not easily forget the things that God has done for me. I have personally experienced the faithfulness of God, and I remain thankful for all that He has done for me. Weariness, busy schedules, and a constant stream of new responsibilities do not blur God’s faithfulness to me. My spiritual life is not full of drudgery, nor is it reduced into a monotonous, religious routine. I am spiritually alive, vital, and eager for God to move in my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!