Ephesus was home to a tremendous ministry. Despite opposition and harsh persecution, the church planted by Paul spread the gospel and was quick to challenge false prophets. But 30 years after the apostle left, John’s revelation included a stern warning for those believers (Revelation 2:1-7).

Imagine how these words must have struck the Ephesians. After complimenting their service for the gospel, Christ said, “But I have this against you . . .” (Rev. 2:4). That phrase was, without a doubt, extremely disconcerting. The Lord warned them that they had left their first love. In other words, all of their work was being done with wrong motives.

Christ called the Ephesians to remember their love for Him and their delight in His salvation. Service is no substitute for an intimate relationship, but modern believers continue to fall into this subtle trap. The commendable things we do amount to nothing unless they stem from a vibrant personal connection with God. Our work cannot be effective or fruitful unless He is in it.

God is more interested in you and your relationship with Him than in a thousand lifetimes of good works. He desires to be the satisfaction and delight of His children so that their service is a result of loving devotion. There are plenty of wrong reasons to labor for the kingdom. God wants all believers with selfish intentions to return to their first love. In that way, our hearts and minds can be renewed and our service to the Lord will be more effective.

Allen Tilley is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Carthage.

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