Remember your first love




Dietmar Joosten

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelations 3:14-16

This word has been with me for some time. Let us look at it and examine ourselves in the light of it. It is addressed to the church worldwide. In Revelations, the Lord addressed these letters to the 7 churches but they are also for the end times, warning Christians and encouraging them as to how they should live. Take these words and apply them to yourselves. If the shoe does not fit, it is a problem to put it on but if it fits, take it and ask the Lord what He wants to tell you through it. With what attitude of heart have you come this morning? If you came just because you had to, you will leave exactly as you came and stay the same. Did you come, asking the Lord to speak to you? He addresses the church, and so this applies to you, wherever you are in the world, as you are also part of the church. Direct the message at yourself. Forget about the person next to you and what he thinks.

I often wondered as a child what Rev Stegen meant when, in the early years, he said that he needed God and in a different way. I often asked my mother, because she grew up together with him, what it was like? This man said, ‘I cannot continue as I am.’ He said, ‘When I read God’s word and look at my life, there is something deeper, there is something more to the Christian life.’

Laodicea resembles the church of the end of the age. It was at Ephesus where Paul began the church and where he laboured. He said to them,  17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfil the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4:17

Paul, a giant used by God, started this church - but a number of years later, because they took things lightly and tried to fit in, things had changed. Ask yourself, if Paul had preached to you, what would your life be like after 30 years?

The letter was addressed to Archippus, the bishop of that church. Friends, God addresses a letter to us, the church today. Together, we form a chain, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

If this letter reflects the church at the end of the age, then we are close to midnight. In the parable of the 10 virgins, the bridegroom arrived at midnight. Where do we stand today? Do we realise why God started what He did through his servant – to wake up the church and wake us up?

Laodicea means human rights. Today, wherever you go, the concept of human rights is the topic of discussion. Human rights, civilian rights, the rights of everything. It is not wrong to treat people fairly, but somehow the devil is trying to enter. Today evil men are trying to push God and His word aside and replace it with human thinking. No one asks what God says or what God thinks. We are forced to think that we can do without God.

30 years later, God wrote this letter to that church. What did He see? He said to the church, ‘…you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! You are lukewarm.

Our first reaction to this verse could be: No, I am a Christian, I am living for the Lord. I am His child.’ That is good but look at what He says. Little by little things enter a person’s life like cancer. Some things enter quickly, others take years, but they eat at your soul. We take things lightly. Not Mary. She took things and stored them in her heart. However, you cannot even remember what you heard yesterday because there are things which eat away at your heart. Slowly sin enters your life, it does not die, it eats your soul like cancer.

When Christ wrote to the first church, He commended them on their works and He praised them for them. He commended them for what they were doing, but He challenged them regarding their first love. This was the beginning of a disease that had entered the church – they had lost their first love. Remember when you first met the Lord? Remember how you read your Bible? Do you still read your Bible like you did in the beginning? Where is your first love?

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18

If you say you have faith and you demonstrate it by singing, what is your singing like? James said that a person would show his faith by the works he did - how he did things, how he went about things, how enthusiastic he was. Without that first love that burns within, those works will grow dim.

I know your works. Do you do things as unto the Lord or merely to satisfy the person in charge? The work here is about living out our faith in what we do and how we do things. Many years ago, when I left home, I thought I would become a missionary and preach everywhere. This is not how things went and so I said to the Lord, ‘I do not even have time to pray, to read my Bible…’ You do not realise that what you do now affects your future. Where there is a will there’s a way. My grandfather had this expression written in his Bible: You make a way to bend your knee even if you are as busy as a bee.

I know your works and the record of your works. Is your mind and heart busy with what you are doing or are you in another world? You may think you are just doing something for people and not for God, but God records what you do and how you do it.

God says to the wife, “I know your works,” and even that the wife makes good food for her husband. The Lord knows it, he records it. However, wife, how do you treat you husband? You rule over him even in a pious way? I wonder sometimes, mother, grandmother, young wife: if the Lord had to take you now, will you be able to enter heaven with that attitude towards your husband? Everyone has rights. There are rights, but you should start with the right to be humble and able to bow. That is your right. But with the way in which you treat and rule over your husband, will you be able to enter heaven? Will you enter heaven if you treat your husband like a small child? If only you would bow and do your part with all your heart.

I know your deeds. I know your works. The word work means to toil (as an effort or occupation, by implication an act). It is a deed, a doing, it is labour, work. It incorporates everything I do, even my occupation and daily work. It means your schoolwork. You do not have to be intelligent, but what you do, you do with all your heart, with effort, as unto the Lord. The Lord sees it and He will recompense you for that.

In Zulu there is an saying that blessings are gained from the way you live, because of spiritual vitality and health. Are you alive spiritually? Is that fire burning within? Can the gift which God gave you be seen and experienced? If the Lord has given you the gift of teaching, can the Lord commend you? When you must sweep the floor the Lord, how do you do it? With all your heart? That is the secret - it is not what we do, it is what God can do with your work and whether he can bless you. God has called us to be in his work. It is a privilege. It is difficult but it is the best. The secret? Obedience. Can you obey? Do you understand how to obey or do you always know better? God helped me and He can help you. The Lord knows that you always think you know better. Listen and obey. Don’t always know better. Do the work you are told to do.

Worldwide, lukewarmness has entered the church. Let us not take this lightly. To get up from lukewarmness takes grace upon grace. Someone told me recently that in the UK alone, there are 500 empty churches and the buildings are up for sale. This is happening across the world. That is why we ask that the Lord will regard us, however, are you prepared when He looks at you? Christians across the world have become lukewarm. It is not what we do, it is what God can do through His Spirit. Why can’t he do it in the world today? Christ’s spirit is the answer. He cannot tolerate that we become lukewarm because of sin in our lives.

These days, people no longer want to listen to hard, harsh talk. One has to be careful, talk nicely and make sure not to offend nobody. Where are we heading? What will happen to us? People do not want to be corrected, they do not want to be shaken. They just want to go to church – it is part of their lifestyle and tradition. The Lord says, ‘I am not happy with you. Either you should be hot or cold but not lukewarm.’ Rather be a heathen than a person who goes through the motions with no desire or yearning in his heart. Remember when you first met the Lord. Is it still like that?

We hear that we should read God’s word. It revives and strengthens a person. It is like oil on the heart. How wonderful to read His word and He speaks to you. Recently I opened God’s word to a place Rev Stegen read on my 13th birthday.

 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

While the Lord searches and His eyes run to and fro, at the same time Satan seeks out people. He will not appear as the devil but as an angel of light. Only in time will it be evident that the road a person took has led to evil, little by little. Friends, we are on a narrow road, and we need to help one another. Only a fool will not take things to heart. A wise person listens. They will appreciate it when they are helped and will take things to heart. They will say, ‘God, if you say that, I agree.’ Does God see a life on fire for Him when he sees you? You may deceive your pastor or counsellor, but you cannot deceive God. Remember how in the past you would travel kilometers to make things right, but today, what is it like?

Today I am speaking to the church throughout the world. The Lord sees us and He says, ‘I would like to do this or that for them, but I cannot find anyone whom I can use, a person through whom I can show my strength.’ Today, God is showing us what can be done. It’s your heart, the attitude of your heart which is the important thing.

Perhaps everything was easy for you in the past. You could go anywhere. Even when you faced storms, you were always thankful. Life is shorter than you think. Let us open our hearts and ask the Lord to help us to be that for which He made us. That we get back to what we were when we first came to Him.

The fire burning is one fire. It is the same fire that works within men. If there are different fires, then that is not what God has taught us. When you put an iron in the fire and remove it, it quickly cools down and forms a crust which you cannot penetrate, and it can only be remedied if it is returned to the fire (where it does not want to be).

Would that you were either cold or hot. ‘Cold’ refers to unbelievers or people who have backslidden into the world. Our heavenly Father says He would rather that a person be a heathen than lukewarm. The church in Laodicea was lukewarm. A lukewarm person always speaks about himself and his work. He is always central to every conversation, but it should be about Christ and what He is doing.

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelations 3:17

Laodicea was a town of great power, an economic hub. It was destroyed but in a short time it was able to be rebuilt because of its great wealth. Wealth can be very dangerous. It puts your life at ease. A person no longer needs God because they have wealth. Everything can be bought with money. How much more, if a person thinks they are rich spiritually, they feel they have achieved something, or God has prospered them? A person may think that spiritually he is doing well, but such a person is already lukewarm and God can see that things are not going well. Spiritual vitality cannot exist with hypocrisy. You cannot fake a fruitful life; it comes naturally.

There is a big difference between your own zeal and what God does. How do you know the difference? It is when you are united with God’s children, you experience something in your heart. When the Lord preached, he went together with His disciples. Why did he take them along with Him? He knew that they needed one another. When we are together in the fire, it will burn. Remember when God started his work in your life, you had nothing. You prayed and pleaded with God and if God did not give it to you, it did not worry you. However, today when you want to go somewhere, you just go. You are able to do what you want, go where you please. When you want to buy something, you buy it. It is not wrong but think of where you have come from. Today, you get things in a dishonest way – it is not right or truthful, no wonder you are what you are. Sometimes things find their way into your home, and you know exactly where they come from, someone may have sold their body to obtain that money that you accept. These things cause the fire to die slowly but surely. Think about how you used to love serving the Lord but today there is just talk, it has all gone. The Lord records it and waits patiently.

Remember the sermon on the seed that were sown. Some seed fell among the thorns – the cares of this world and they choked the word of God. If these things start to choke your spiritual life, then something is wrong with you. This fire cools and you may think it is still burning hot, but the Lord is recording everything and He sees that something is eating at your soul and if you do not deal with it that thing will destroy your life.

To be lukewarm implies unfruitfulness. Instead of something good, it is bad. When God gives us work to do, we must make sure that it does not take over and rule our spiritual lives – Christ must be there and rule. If your life is right, your works will be right and things will naturally fall into place.

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelations 3:17

The Lord says that you do not even know, understand or grasp the state you are in. You think all is going well, you are singing and praying, but if there is sin in your life you are wretched. You are caught in the things of the world. What you read rules your life. Tell me, what is it that rules your thoughts – what do you think about? No wonder the Lord says, ‘Wake up, I’d rather have you cold than lukewarm.’

Don’t be taken aback when the lukewarm speak evil and find fault. Those are lies. The Lord said that they lied about Him so they will lie about you too. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. If God tells you to do something, do it with all your heart and you will be blessed. He says you are poor, but you think you are rich. You think you are rich and blessed, but the Lord says, it is not My doing, that is not what I called you for. Blindness is even worse. It causes you to question even what others do. When they help you aright, you always say something back. There is a sting in the tongue: why me? Why this? Why that? Instead, we should be asking the Lord what He is saying to us. Start with yourself, not with others.

As Eli aged, he became blind and he could not reprimand his own children. I don’t want to become blind. As you get older, there is the danger that you will go blind. It is terrible to be blind. There is nothing as painful as someone in spiritual blindness who knocks his head again and again against a wall. He does not see that God is trying to help him. He regards Him as an enemy.

Spiritual nakedness is when you proclaim to be what you are not. Sometimes what you see in others is your own nakedness. What you criticise in others, is in you. Stop finding fault with others – move on. Rev Stegen has left us a task and where are we heading? Your own clothing may display your nakedness. You look at porn, but your own spiritual life is worse than that, you do not see yourself as you are. We need God’s help more than ever before. You do not see your pride. You do not see your jealousy. You want things and others to be controlled by yourself.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Revelations 3:18

When you go through fires and difficulties, thank God. Do not be cast down by the evil that is said about you. Buy gold from Me, the Lord says and that is what is necessary, the refining of the gold. When we go through difficulties and experience reprimanding it may be because I cannot bow and I want to always be right. God comes with the answer: come buy from Me. It costs something to enter the fire. Think of Rev Stegen and the fire God put Him through. We want shortcuts but we cannot get that gold without going through the fire. If you go your own ways, according to your own thinking, it will be heartbreaking. You will enter your problems without God. Times of difficulty, temptation, hard knocks are good for us because they draw us closer to Him.

When we face things, let us not always ask why? Thank the Lord, learn from it. God speaks in different ways. Learn. When you trip and fall, don’t lie there screaming like a child. Get up. Ask the reason for your falling, find the stone, get up and remove it. Difficult times are often a great blessing. See it from God’s perspective. Wear the white clothes which are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Why don’t we come to the blood of the Lamb? What stops us? Ask the Lord to wash you clean and revive your soul. When He does that, He covers your nakedness. Consider such a gift and receive it with open arms. Yes, Jesus sees that you are what you are, but if you will only come He will give you those white clothes. You will have to change your ways. Repent from always wanting your will, your way and dominating everything. Get back to where it is God dominating your life.

He says that you should put salve on your eyes so that you may see. This is the Holy Spirit giving you discernment. If you have received the Holy Spirit, where is He in your life today? Are you able to see? We must pray for one gift – the spirit of discernment so that we can see clearly, where we all will see in the same way, not different ways. (The black brethren have that gift of discernment. Some hate them for it, but we love them.)

19 Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. AMCP Revelations 3:19

We do not like to be disciplined by others. The Lord will not allow things that are wrong. Accept discipline from others.

Many people, even married couples, wonder why things are as they are. Look at your life. What is your private life like? People are not like pigs, but their deeds are piglike, even in secret. These deeds are recorded by God. He records whatever we do.

Friend, the Bible says repent. Go back to where you were. The Lord can work in your life if you repent. God’s love shows us that He cares for us. Repent enthusiastically, burning with zeal, change your mind and attitude. He gives you an answer. Repent and turn from sin. Discipline destroys your pride. It is a blessing and a change when a person can submit to what God wants from you.

The Lord is a Lord of hope and a future. He does not leave you; He always gives you a way out. To these 7 churches He says what He has against them but then He always ends with He who overcomes … verse 21. The key is overcoming just as He did. So, we too must overcome.

21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelations 3:21

12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Revelations 3:12

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelations 3:5

God has called us to live a victorious life. You will fight but with His help you will overcome. There is no victory if there has not been a battle. Overcoming makes that fire grow even hotter. The Lord says, if you overcome, I will write your name in the book of life. I can see your works – now you need to overcome. Sin and disobedience will quench that fire in your life. Whatever you go through, remember that if you overcome, you will sit beside Him. It is worth it.

To every church, He says you can overcome whether you are young or old. I will keep you and no one will take you out of My hand. Shouldn’t we take hold of that? Lord, You have called us. It seems impossible, but He says, if you overcome … You must fight but you cannot do it on your own. When Christ comes, He grants victory. Put Him first in your life. Allow Him to be in your life. The battle will get hot, the fire must get hot, at work it must be difficult. If it is easy, your life will become easy.

May God help us. Forget about others. What is your work like? When at prayer or at work? The Lord records how you walk. Our lives must be clean and pure and that comes by overcoming through His grace. We are not saved by our works, but our works show in whom we believe.

Conclusion Sbongiseni Khumalo
Verse 15 made me realise that I would lose God if I was lukewarm.

Concerning the UK churches that have been closed, my prayer is that it may not be like that here, where the Lord forsakes us because we have become cold. It may have started with one lukewarm person who infected those around him, which in turn affected the whole church which eventually fizzled out because of lukewarmness. From individuals to families to a whole church.

The Lord says we must repent and get back to the works we did at first. We need to be on fire so that the Lord can do His work. May the Lord have mercy on us.

You may see things changing in your church. New things are coming in that were not there before. God has called us to repentance and the confession of the sin which has made us blunt.