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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, October 1, 2017

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4, 5).

The church at Ephesus was a great church. It was a good church. It was a fundamental church that hated false doctrine But it had one flaw. This church had gotten complacent. The building was paid for. The people had become rather well to do. They had plenty of money. They had need of nothing. But Christ said He had one thing against them. They had left their first love. He called them to repentance. He called them to go back and find the love and zeal they had lost over the years. If they refused, Christ warned them of coming judgment. The church had been like a candlestick. It had provided light in a darkened world. Yet, if that church did not repent, Christ said, “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” And then Christ said, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7). But the church did not repent and it did not experience enough revival to save it. This once great church was destroyed by the armies of Rome, under the Emperor Domitian near the end of the first century. Another church building was built but the whole city was finally destroyed by the Muslims.

Do I need to apply that to our church? In the early days, the church at Ephesus was full of life and Christian love. It was a revived and loving church. It was like our church once was. We had church splits. But they were always splits over dedication and commitment. Those who left always left because they didn’t want to be serious Christians. Every time I tried to get them to go back to love for Christ, these groups left. They never left because I was preaching false doctrine. They always left because they did not want to have revival. They did not want to be disciples of Jesus. Richard Olivas caused the worst split. He said that the Great Commission was only for the Apostles, that no one else had to win souls. That was his first complaint. He literally hated the words of Jesus, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). He told the people to seek success and money rather than the kingdom of God. I kept preaching for the people to expend their lives in soul winning and prayer. Three hundred people followed him. Only about 15 are left. Our people kept Christ central and succeeded far more than his people! Far more! Almost all our children graduated from college. Most of the original people in our church own houses or condominiums. His people were scattered to the four winds. We have had very few divorces. His people couldn’t wait to divorce each other! So who came out better? Sure, we suffered to pay for this building. But it made us into strong disciples of Jesus. His tiny group quickly became weak new-evangelicals. We suffered a little for Jesus and were blessed. They ran after worldliness and money and were ruined by the Devil! Jesus said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). The Lord was right and they were wrong! “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Stand and sing it!

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

The cross before me, the world behind me.
The cross before me, the world behind me.
The cross before me, the world behind me.
No turning back, no turning back.
   (“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” attributed to a Hindu convert, 19th century).

Amen! You may be seated.

But something awful happened to the church at Ephesus. Jesus said to them,

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).

He did not say they “fell” from their first love. He said they “left” their first love.

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Dr. John F. Walvoord gave the reason. He said,

“The church at Ephesus was now in its second generation of Christians.”

Do I need to say more? “The church was now in its second generation.” That says it all! Then Dr. Walvoord said, “The love of God which characterized the first generation was missing” (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press, 1973, p. 56).

Young people, you are the second generation of our church! You are not from “the 39” people who saved this church building. They are the first generation, not you! Dr. Chan told how the first generation, “the 39,” loved and served Christ. He came into our church as a teenager. He said,

When I trusted Christ my life changed forever, my sin was cleansed by His Blood, and the church was now my second home! I immediately threw my life into working for Christ. Dr. Hymers continually preached on being Christ’s disciple, putting [Christ] and the church first, denying yourself, and winning souls. He preached against “Antinomianism” – being a lawless “Christian.” I knew what he preached was true. That was for me!... We prayed and sang together. I have great memories of these times. We evangelized several times a week. We filled the entire auditorium. I brought in Judy Cagan, Melissa Sanders, and Winnie Yeung, who became my wife. God helped me to bring them in from evangelism on the UCLA campus... Mrs. Hymers [as a teenage girl] threw her life into the ministry of the church and held nothing back. I knew her when she first came into our church when we were both young people. She had then, and continues to have a great love for Christ and a passion to win lost souls... She continued to do the work of two men in our church, even before she graduated from high school... Now she is working exclusively with young Chinese and other Asian girls... She is the most effective cross-cultural missionary I have ever known (Against All Odds).

Ileana has been sick lately, but she never misses the prayer meetings or the Wednesday and Thursday night phoning – to bring in lost people to hear the Gospel. Another great woman is Mrs. Salazar. She is like a Mother Teresa on steroids! She is a Baptist saint!

Young people, don’t let our church down like the second generation at Ephesus did! You are the future of our church! Please – do not leave your first love for Jesus!

Now, then, look at Revelation 2:3. It’s on page 1332 in the Scofield Study Bible.

“And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” (Revelation 2:3).

A modern translation puts it this way, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (NIV). Notice that this descries what they were like in the past – you have borne. You have endured hardships, you have not grown weary. It is a description of the way they were in the past.

Dr. Walvoord said, “The church was now in its second generation of Christians... the love of God which characterized the first generation was missing. This cooling of the heart... was a dangerous forerunner of spiritual apathy [lack of enthusiasm] which was later to erase all Christian testimony in that important [church]. Thus it has always been in the history of the church: first a cooling of spiritual love, then the love of God replaced by a love of the things of the world... This is followed by a departure from the faith and loss of effective testimony” (Walvoord, ibid.).

I am convinced that was happening in our church. The second generation of our church was far colder and lacking enthusiasm than we were in the first generation. Dr. Chan, Mr. Griffith, Dr. Judy Cagan, Mrs. Hymers – the original people who came into our church in the 1970s – they were alive, filled with zeal, full of love and deep fellowship – and strong commitment to Christ. In other words, there were a lot like the first generation of Christians in the church at Ephesus.

But this warmth and zeal was not passed on to most of the church kids – those who grew up in the second generation. The second generation were here all their lives. They went through the motions. They came to the prayer meetings, but they either didn’t pray or they prayed dry prayers with no zeal. “The love of God which characterized the first generation was missing in most of their lives.” Only John Cagan stood out and was like the first generation. It was because he had a life-changing conversion that resulted in the kind of love and zeal that the older generation had. If he had not been an athlete and a natural leader, he would have blended in with the other cold church kids. Some of his age left the church. Others were cold and cynical. A few of them still are like that. Even John himself was sometimes confused, wondering why his generation were so cold and worldly.

At this point I began to realize that we must have revival. The second generation could never keep our church full of life and love and power unless they were transformed by a real experience with Christ in a powerful conversion. But most of the second generation either rebelled and left the church, or settled into a cold cynicism. Some like that rejected Christ. Even though they stayed they refused to be converted. Some of them even started thinking that conversion wasn’t real. Others demanded some inner change to prove that Christ was real.

One by one we confronted them until they were truly converted or left the church. At last, the majority of them were converted – though they had a great struggle to become like the first generation. To do that they had to “remember from whence they had fallen.” They like John Cagan had to realize their faith was dead compared to the faith of “the thirty-nine” – their parents and the older generation. Second, they had to “repent and do the first works.” They had to have a change of mind and heart. They had to go back and have a real conversion (the first works). Thank God that some of them did – like Emi and Ayako, like Philip and Timothy, like Wesley and Noah – and some others.

Then God began to send revival among us! Thank God, He finally could trust us enough to send down His Spirit. In the last few months about 20 new people came in and were saved. These meetings continue to be held to ground these new young people in the faith!

Now John Cagan said that “revival is the next piece of the puzzle.” Our church must emphasize revival again and again or we will not be able to see zealous converts like the original members of our church. They needed that in the church of Ephesus – and our church needs it today. I call it “revival for survival!”

Brothers and sisters, we must confess our sins repeatedly and pray for more of God’s presence to come down in wave after wave of revival among us. Do it! Do it! Do it! Stand and sing hymn number 15, “I’ll Live for Him.”

My life, my love I give to Thee, Thou Lamb of God who died for me;
   O may I ever faithful be, My Saviour and my God!
I’ll live for Him who died for me, How satisfied my life shall be!
   I’ll live for Him who died for me, My Saviour and my God!

I now believe Thou dost receive, For Thou hast died that I might live;
   And now henceforth I trust in Thee, My Saviour and my God!
I’ll live for Him who died for me, How satisfied my life shall be!
   I’ll live for Him who died for me, My Saviour and my God!

O Thou who died on Calvary, To save my soul and make me free,
   I’ll consecrate my life to Thee, My Saviour and my God!
I’ll live for Him who died for me, How satisfied my life shall be!
   I’ll live for Him who died for me, My Saviour and my God!
(“I’ll Live For Him” by Ralph E. Hudson, 1843-1901; altered by the Pastor).

Now sing number 19, “Here is Love.”

Here is love, vast as the ocean, Lovingkindness as the flood,
   When the Prince of Life, our Ransom, Shed for us His precious Blood.
Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise?
   He can never be forgotten, Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion, Fountains opened deep and wide;
   Through the floodgates of God’s mercy Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above,
   And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting, Love Thee, ever all my days;    Let me seek Thy kingdom only And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory, Nothing in the world I see.
   Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me, Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
   And Thy grace my need is meeting, As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring Thy great love and power on me,
   Without measure, full and boundless, Drawing out my heart to Thee.
(“Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean” by William Rees, 1802-1883).

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer and grace.

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Solo Sung by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith Before the Sermon:
“Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know” (by Lela Long, 1924).