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05.26.24 "In Search of Love" (사랑을 찾아서)"

Revelation 2:3-7


3. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.


4. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.


5. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.


6. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.


7. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.


<Introduction>

  • We continue to hear the Word about 'a relationship with God' given to our community. Last week, we learned what it takes to form an intimate relationship with God, who calls us His friends. The pastor shared two crucial aspects: 'God's Word' and 'prayer.' These two aspects are extremely important, yet some may find it difficult to absorb the Word, feel burdened during prayer, find worship awkward or dull, or still seek ways to approach God.


  • Perhaps some are doing their best to maintain a close relationship with God but feel it has become a duty rather than a joy. For those seeking what they need and how to find a breakthrough in God's Word, let us look together at what the Word of God says. The Book of Revelation contains John's testimony that 'the message from God is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus Christ.'


  • John includes this testimony in letters he sends to the seven churches in Asia, wishing them grace and peace. The first church he addresses is the church in Ephesus. Some churches received praise, some received rebuke, and some received both praise and rebuke. The church in Ephesus, mentioned in today’s passage, received both praise and rebuke. Let us read together what kind of letter John wrote to the church in Ephesus.


  • Read Revelation 2:3-7


<Body>

  • The church in Ephesus received both praise and rebuke. What was the praise they received? They were commended for fulfilling their duties as Christians and as a church. The church in Ephesus was praised for their perseverance through difficult times, enduring numerous hardships without becoming discouraged. This is a commendable achievement, a testament to their unity and perseverance as a church.


  • However, there was one thing that John clearly pointed out: they had forsaken their first love. I believe this part is very important in today's message because forsaking the first love is not merely an issue of our emotions. When we think of first love, we naturally think of emotions. But what exactly is this first love? More specifically, what does the first love with God mean for Christians? Today's passage mentions that the church in Ephesus had 'forsaken their first love.' Losing the first love means losing a part of our identity.


  • Remembering and maintaining that first love means daily confessing that, although we were once unable to worship or have fellowship with God, through the grace and power of Jesus Christ's cross, we have entered into an eternal relationship with God. However, if we reflect on our faith, we often find that we, like the church in Ephesus, have lost this first love.


  • There are many misunderstandings for those who walk the path to maintain this first love. Today, I hope we can unravel these misunderstandings through the Word, so that we can all restore our first love and worship God in an intimate relationship once again.


  • The first misunderstanding that hinders our relationship with God is feeling unworthy of ourselves. This pertains to our inherent value as individuals. There are times in life when our sense of self-worth is shaken. We experience despair, disappointment, and repeated failures, which can become so overwhelming that many people resort to the extreme decision of taking their own lives. We may also encounter rejection in life. We experience wounds and pains that lower our self-esteem. All these things can shake our inherent value.


  • In the midst of life's despair and failures, those who bow down before God, those who complain to God (like Moses, Job, and David), are true worshipers. If we look at David's psalms, they are filled with such cries. "God, why have you given me this? What is going on?" These complaints and cries directed towards God are, I believe, something only true worshipers can do.


  • When our difficulties and pains in life are directed towards God rather than the world, it is in that very place that God reestablishes our inherent value. "You are my Lord, my God." When David makes this confession, it signifies that his shaken identity has been restored.


In John 1:11-12, our identity through Jesus Christ is described as follows:

  1. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

  2. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.


  • Through Jesus, we have become those who enjoy the authority of being God's children. This is our unchanging inherent value.


  • The second misunderstanding that hinders our relationship with God is thinking that worshiping God should be done solely out of responsibility or obligation.


Let’s look again at today’s passage, Revelation 2:3-4 (NIV):

  1. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

  2. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.


  • The church in Ephesus was praised for their deeds. Their zealous actions deserved commendation. However, their zeal ended at their actions. John rebuked them for one thing: they had forsaken their first love.


  • When we say we worship God, worship is our response to the most valuable being. Because it is our response, it involves our actions. Whether we engage in personal worship or uphold communal worship, there is a sense of responsibility and obligation within it. Our zeal and dedication are precious in serving and establishing worship. However, as today's passage highlights, this is only 50% of worship. The other 50%, perhaps even more crucial, is the motivation and reason behind our worship. What is my motivation and reason for worshiping God?


  • It is God’s 'unconditional love' for us and the 'grace' given freely through His Son, Jesus Christ. When unconditional love and freely given grace become the motivation and reason for our worship, our zeal before God becomes complete.


  • We need to reflect on our worship to confirm this. Am I worshiping God with joy? Am I serving and dedicating myself with gratitude? If not, we may be in a position where we need to restore our first love. I hope that today’s worship will be a day where we earnestly seek God’s unconditional love and the freely given grace of Jesus once again.


  • The third misunderstanding that hinders our relationship with God is doubting the power of repentance. Repentance is turning away from the direction we are heading and turning towards God. When we talk about repentance in the church, we often view it as something very heavy. Of course, repentance is not something to be taken lightly, but there are misunderstandings, difficulties, and immaturity we face when we struggle to repent before God.


  • There are several reasons why we find it difficult to repent. First, the guilt we feel is too overwhelming. We fear exposing our shame. However, the fact that we feel guilty means we are aware of our sins. God is the one who, through our repentance and turning away, liberates us from guilt and grants us freedom through the power of the gospel.


  • In other cases, our hearts are hardened and proud, preventing us from bowing before God. We believe we can resolve everything by our own strength and that time will erase our sins. However, no material possession or experience we hold can cover our sins. Only Christ Jesus can make our hardened hearts surrender.


  • Repentance is never light, but it is not too heavy or difficult to handle now. Repentance is God's invitation of love to us.


Joel 2:12-13 (NIV):

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.


  • God is gracious. He is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and full of mercy. Today, God will receive the worship of those who turn from their wrong paths towards Him. As we bow before God, not doubting the power of repentance, He will show us the grace of the cross. He will grant us true freedom.


<Conclusion>

  • Whether my relationship with God is hot or cold is something only God and I can know.

A certain pastor once said: “When you feel a lack of love, we must go to God. Love does not come from within us but from God.” Love starts with God. To experience that love, we must approach God daily. Restoring our first love is not achieved through intense emotions or dutiful zeal. It is only by remembering daily the price God paid to save us. This is how we live without forgetting our first love.


  • In our church’s discipleship training, the first process is the ‘Start up’ training. After completing it, there comes a moment to make a decision of faith: Rejoice, Receive, Recommit, Research, Reject. For those who have chosen Rejoice and Receive, may your knowledge of God and fellowship with Him grow richer.


  • There are also those who have chosen Recommit. Please pray for those who have made this great decision. The time of recommitment is essential in our faith journey because everyone experiences ups and downs. There may be moments when our sense of ownership in life wavers. Our lives do not stop at a single recommitment. Whenever our faith wavers or we become distant, we must turn back and recommit ourselves to God. Let today be that day.


To build an intimate relationship with God, we need to know Him more.

Revelation 2:7 (NIV):

7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.


  • Approach the Word and prayer. Do so not out of obligation or responsibility, but through God’s unconditional love and freely given grace towards us. Then, God’s Word will come to you not just as text, but as a voice of grace. His Word will comfort you and reveal the purpose you should live by. Open the door to repentance through prayer. You will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Within that, you will enjoy the grace of the cross. In the midst of intimate fellowship with God, He will receive your worship.

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