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Preached by Associate Pastor Tim Melton
Summary: The Church in Ephesus, although strong in their Christian practice of good works, endurance, justice, theology, and testing of leaders; tragically had lost their First Love. They had departed from actual Christ centrality and dependence. As a result, they had inwardly deteriorated into an unloving church. They possessed no love of Christ and no love of others.
Christ gave a stern warning to them to consider this a grave sin that could lead to their death as a church. In my view, if we are not careful, I could easily see Surfside Church in particular and the PCA in general defaulting into this trap. In my ordination into the PCA, although I was rigorously tested in theology, there was little to no work done in testing whether or not I had lost my First Love. Tragically, this was assumed rather than examined. Note how many of the qualifications for an elder, cited in Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, have nothing to do with theological precision, and have everything to do with love: self- controlled, hospitable, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, manages his own household well, and well thought of by unbelievers… not arrogant, not quick-tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain, hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”
These attributes are all about love. Yet, no one examined me along these lines. This is incredibly dangerous for a church.
I was asked doctrinal questions to which I gave doctrinal answers. Aside from a general examination of my salvation experience, no one examined my heart for Christ, for my family, for my church, and for unbelievers – these things were not considered. This is what was happening in Ephesus. Their head knowledge and their good works had supplanted their relational love for Christ.
May we always be careful of leaving our First Love! Don’t miss the point here. Theological training is crucial. Confronting injustice through acts of mercy and involvement in the political and social process is extremely important. But the real “salt and light” that a church has to offer must come first and foremost through loving, enjoying, and exalting the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is absolutely vital for a church. This is the church’s heartbeat. This is our Tree of Life! If a church loses this, then it loses everything. It will flat-line. It will die.
May we never, ever, ever leave our First Love – Jesus Christ our Lord!