First Love

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

Revelation 2:1-7 NKJV

God promised Abraham saying ‘I will be with you and your descendants – I will be Immanuel.’ And finally, through Jesus Christ, we have been sanctified and the Holy Spirit has come within us so that we are now one with God. Jesus said of this, “On that day, you will know that I am in you and I am in God the Father.”

Regarding “that day,” Jesus said to the Father, “Let them be one just as You are in Me and I in You.” In other words, God’s promise of Immanuel already existed in the relationship of the Father and the Son. And we have been united into it. Apart from the relation of God and the Son, nothing else can be called as “being one.” Nothing else can be called Immanuel.

Our God the Father and the Son were Immanuel. They have been together. They are inseparable. They can be called one. Hence, Jesus and we the church are also called one. We are together. We are one. Though we are separate persons, we are still one.

The Father and the Son share a name. It is one name. The Father gave that name to His Son. He shared it with Him. And that is called Immanuel. By the name of Immanuel, they are one. The Father and the Son share that name together as one, and we were given that name also so that we may enter into that relationship.

The Father and the Son are one. Through Jesus, we can learn what attitude and life we ought to have as those who received grace. Jesus Christ is one with the Father. He is in equality with the Father yet became the One who serves. One who serves. What do you do by being together? There are many things you can do when you are together with someone. When my sons are together, sometimes they fight and argue, and in those times I want to separate them and give them their own rooms.

But what did the Son do when He was together with the Father? He served. The Son served the Father. How did He serve Him? He served as a Man. God loved His Son but what was it about the Son He loved? That the Son served in humility. That is what He loved about Him.

Often we do not normally say the Son loved the Father. Of course, it is love but we say that He obeyed the Father. He expressed His love through obedience. The Father granted all things to the Son and the Son obeyed. There is no conflict. They are fully one.

The Son obeyed the Father in everything. As God, He does not have to do that but He turned Himself into a servant. He was not a servant originally but made Himself a servant. It was not only for a short time that He was a servant but took the nature of a servant forever. He did not only become a Son of Man on the earth but for eternity. Thus in heaven, He is with God eternally as the Son of Man. In other words, He remains as One who serves forever. He obeys forever and remains humble forever. And God forever loves His Son. He is His most beloved. Thus, He granted all things to Him. So there is no other way to glorify the Father except through the Son.

There is a saying in Chinese that “礼尚往来 (lǐ shànɡ wǎnɡ lái),” meaning “Return courtesy with courtesy.” Similarly, in Korean, there is a saying, “if one receives affection, one gives affection to others.” Between God and the Son, there exists a mutual exchange of affection. However, this is not something demanded of each other; instead, it is utterly a unilateral dedication and a continuous unilateral love. Only then the relationship is established. Even if it is the same service and the same love, if the order was flipped the other way around, there would be disorder. It would lead to one saying, “Serve me! Love me!” And the other saying, “No you love me first. You serve me first!”

A beautiful relationship is where each person is willing and readily serves the other. Moreover, we are not God but sinners. And as sinners who received grace, we need to know what we have to do without being told. God says to us, “You are My Son. You can enjoy everything I have with Me.” To this if we were to say, “Thank You God. You’re so full of love,” and then take everything for granted, expecting to ride a nice car like others do in the world for example and do everything we want simply because we are God’s sons, then our relationship with Him will start to fall apart. We have to obey ourselves.

This applies to relationships with people. If you are being exalted, you need to know to humble yourself. That is called etiquette. This is a courtesy. Being courteous has nothing to do with how outstanding the other person is. It is about showing respect regardless. This is an unspoken social rule. Hence we respect and love the other person as they are. And people are supposed to humbly respond to that themselves. Yet, there are some who misunderstand that courtesy shown to them. They think it is because they are awesome. That is why the more dignified person is more courteous and polite to people even if they have a lower social status or position. But if a person is immature or foolish, he thinks he was treated that way because he deserves to be. We have to understand this. Otherwise, we could commit a discourtesy. We could struggle in social settings. People do not like such persons.

God exalts us and requests to shake our hands not because we are deserving but because He is noble. Without realizing this though, people mistakenly think they have the right to either accept or decline Him. They are greatly in error.

But with God’s Son, though He is equal to God, did not take such a position but became a complete servant and demonstrated what a servant ought to do. And even though the final request given Him was contrary to His wishes that He did not want to obey, He still prayed, “Not My will but Yours be done Father.” He clearly wanted this cup to be taken from Him but in the end, bowed His knees according to the Father’s will. He obeyed perfectly. And God saw that.

When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, if Abraham was deluded thinking that since He got to meet God and even eat with Him, he was allowed to voice himself before God and tried to persuade God, what do you think would have happened? If he said to God, “God aren’t You being so mean? You told me You will give me a son and I would have many descendants. Now if my son dies, how can Your words be accomplished!” By saying or even thinking that, he would be suggesting that God probably never considered the possibility of this happening. In other words, he would be looking down on God. Would not God have considered that already? Would not God think of that? But oftentimes that is what people do.

For example, if your boss requests you to do something, you might easily say, “But shouldn’t we do it this way instead?” However, before you even speak, you have to first realize that your boss is speaking to you after considering all of those factors. You have to have that mindset. A person who serves needs to have that basic attitude. When God commands, it is not as if He did not know what could happen. We have to have the basic trust that God knows everything and has given the command.

So through the relationship of God and the Son, the Son demonstrated in fullness of what a servant must do. God was very pleased with Him that He gave Him all authority of heaven and earth.

Today, when we say that we are Immanuel with God, it does not mean we can make ourselves equal with God just because He said, “You will eat with Me and I with you.” We are not in a position to argue with God saying, “God why are you trying to use me? How can it be that the reason You created us was to use us for Jesus Christ to come to the earth? How could You use us for the work of destroying the devil?” We are those who received grace.

Now that we have come to know that we are Immanuel with God, our mindset should be like that of a secretary. God’s personal secretary. It does not sound right to say God’s servant because a servant does only what he is told. But what should God’s secretary be good at? Understanding God’s heart – the boss’ heart. The secretary needs to know what He wants and make Him feel comfortable. We must be able to make God feel comfortable and serve Him meticulously. If God commanded us to do something we should know His intentions and do exactly that. And if we do any work, we need to give a detailed report about what we did.

What do we request of God? God, please help me with this. Help me with that. And when He helps us that is it. But we ought to go before Him again and say “Thank You God. I was able to get the work done very well which You commanded. I was able to do so because You gave me power.” Yet, we do not do that.

Before we preach a sermon, we pray. We pray for wisdom, knowledge and power of God’s word. After preaching the sermon, we are quite satisfied. Souls received a lot of grace. And then that is it. We just go home, relax and sleep. But sometimes I come to think about this and realize how cunning that is. If I prayed so earnestly before the sermon, I should be on my knees after the sermon. That is truly a faithful person. When the sermon is over and you know your prayers are answered, you should go to God in prayer and tell Him that in the time permitted by God, you were able to preach well by the power of God so that souls received grace and demons were cast out. You should thank God and report back to Him properly. For people who do that, God would want to help him again next time. Just as if we help someone but do not hear from them about the matter afterward, we do not feel like helping them next time, God does also.

Therefore, when we serve God, we have to always remember that we are together with God. We must think of ourselves as His attendants. You know there is always someone carrying the bag and following the CEO wherever he goes. That is the kind of attendant we have to become. If we are together with the Lord we should be His attendant. We ought to understand His heart and make Him feel most comfortable by knowing what to do.

We will not be able to do that, however, if we do not always keep watch while serving God. We always need to be quick and alert, and think of this.

So when thinking about us being Immanuel with God, do not just picture yourself and God hugging each other. That will happen when we go to heaven. There we will eat with Him. To eat with Him in heaven is slightly different from eating with Him on earth. In heaven, we will be with the Lord and eat with Him. We will share in His glory. When King David was fleeing, it was frantic. Later, when He recovered the throne and entered Jerusalem, he called all the people who helped him during that hard time to eat with him at the table. They shared in his glory. Now to eat with the Lord on the earth means to work with Him. In order to fulfil God’s will, we have to be on guard. We are those who partake in the work with Him.

We must be watchful and on guard. But when we are not, that is when we forsake our first love. The Lord’s attendant (personal secretary) always considers the Lord and what is on His mind because he loves the Lord.

There is a woman who loves me. She is mystical. She has supernatural powers. Usually, when I am in a good mood and feel strong, I do not really think about her. But when I become depressed and feeling down, she comes to mind. Remarkably though, when my living situation becomes bad and I think about her, she sends me money. And when I am a bit depressed and feeling heavy, she would call me. And give me words of comfort. She has supernatural powers. It is incredible. If it happened only once or twice, we might call it a coincidence. But every time we were struggling financially or in a difficult situation, she would send the appropriate help with perfect timing. So I asked her. “Mom, what is this ability you have that you do that?” And guess what she said? “Because I love you.” She said that amazing power of hers came from love. She is always thinking of her son. Her son forget her. I do not think about her. Even though it was Christmas yesterday, I did not call her. I was thinking of my kids though yesterday, whether they are doing alright. But my parents do not really come to mind. How despicable is it? But mum was probably thinking about her son. Because she is always thinking and thinking about him, she keeps serving him. Serving the Lord attentively is possible because one always thinks about the Lord. He has the Lord in his heart always.

The people of Ephesus were commendable in everything else. They served well, made efforts, persevered, and worked hard. However, they forsook their first love. They had lost that love – how they only thought about the Lord whatever they were doing, wanted to serve him and always considered what the Lord would want. They had lost the first love. So He told them to repent. Otherwise, the lampstand will be removed regardless of all the other good deeds they had done. How scary is that? We should not focus on the part where He said He will remove the lampstand and worry, “What do we do if He removes the lampstand?” When mom says to her child, “You won’t get into university with that effort. You can’t get in with only that much work,” would the right response be to say, “Oh, I can’t go to university?” She is telling him to work harder. “You won’t get anywhere like that!” “Oh, I won’t be able to get a job! I better work harder.” You can just sit around thinking, “Yup, I won’t get anywhere.” Such a person would be a fool. The Lord says, “Repent!” The point is not that He will take away the lampstand; it is repentance.

What do you do after repenting? Have the deed you had at first. What did you do in the beginning? People ask how they can recover their first love. It is very hard to recover that feeling you had. Don’t think about recovering the feeling but have the first deeds. What you did at first. Didn’t you pray whenever you had time? Didn’t you read the Bible and evangelize whenever you got a chance? Didn’t you give thanks to God whenever the opportunity came? Didn’t you arrive to worship service early and pray? Didn’t you look forward to coming before God and prepare your offerings in advance? Didn’t you endeavour to go to dawn prayer and keep trying even if you failed? Didn’t you try to do all-night prayers no matter what? Have the deeds you had at first.

We must recover our first love by repenting and having our first deeds. We have to love the Lord. Otherwise, the lampstand will be removed. But before we even go onto that, shouldn’t the one who has received this love of the Lord love Him the same? When we considered the Lord’s heart and dwelt in His love, how happy were we? When the Lord said He loves us and we understood that love, how happy were we? When we loved the Lord and obeyed Him, how happy were we? We need to recover that happiness.

There was a time when I was late to worship by 10 minutes. No matter how hard I tried it did not get better. Once I was determined to arrive on time and left home 30 minutes early. But as I was going, I realized I left something at home and had to walk back. So I was 10 minutes late to worship. I felt like I was under a curse. I could not get out. I realized it was a deceiving spirit. Because whatever I tried did not work. Every single week for about 6 months to a year this continued. It was because my heart was elsewhere. Later, I got in a bad car accident which I was at fault for, and as a result of that, I thoroughly repented in trembling. After I sincerely repented, I did something to express that. I decided I needed to change my actions. So first I got rid of the TV at home. Also, I had been saving up to buy a car but gave all the money as an offering. No car for me. I gave the money as an offering. I thoroughly repented before God. After that time, I was able to make it to the service early. I did not have to make a lot of effort. It just happened.

Sometimes you feel like you have lost your first deeds and that you need to change somehow. But no matter how hard you try, nothing changes. You can free yourself from it. That is when you need to repent. Repent and then do the first deeds. Truly show God your willing desire. A change is only possible when God helps. Lord, I want to turn and repent

We think we did fervently this year. The Ephesian Church was a fervent church. They did well in all areas. But they forsook their first love. I think God is speaking to us right now. We might think we did well in everything and worthy of commendation. Yet we forsook our first love. Let’s repent and pray “Lord help me. Help me to recover my first love.”

Father God, we repent and determine ourselves to have the first deed with repentant hearts. God our Father help us. Help us to recover our first love. Help us to be those who understand God’s heart, always having God in our hearts and able to serve You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on December 26, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team