Imagine the ideal church. Imagine a congregation so firmly rooted in the truth that they were commended by the Lord Himself—specifically for their discernment, doctrinal fidelity, intolerance for false teaching, and willingness to endure persecution. If such a church existed today, most of us would likely travel long distances to belong to such an exemplary body of believers.
Such a church did exist in first-century Turkey. The church in Ephesus had rich apostolic credentials; it had been founded by Paul, and nurtured by John. But in spite of those tremendous privileges, and the commendable outward expressions of faithfulness, they still managed to invite a threat of judgment from the Lord in Revelation 2:1-7.
In his book Christ’s Call to Reform the Church, John MacArthur describes the potentially fatal flaw that plagued the church at Ephesus.
Verse 4 spells out the Ephesians’s spiritual failure and the cause for Christ’s rebuke: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” The burning hearts they once had for Christ in the days after they were delivered from the kingdom of darkness had flickered and faded over time. Four decades had passed between the early days of the church under Paul and John’s vision on Patmos. The passion of that first generation had cooled, and the second generation simply followed the pattern handed down to them. Their collective devotion to Christ was being replaced by dutiful coldness. While they maintained all the right external behaviors and held to doctrinal orthodoxy, their service to the Lord was no longer prompted by their original fiery love for Him. It was tending toward rote behavior—mechanical piety.  John MacArthur, Christ’s Call to Reform the Church (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018), 64.
On New Year’s Day in 2005, John MacArthur set aside his verse-by-verse study of Luke’s gospel to deliver a special message to his congregation—a warning that should never be too far from every believer’s mind: Don’t let your love for Christ grow cold.
John’s sermon “Rekindling Your Love for Christ” examines Christ’s words of commendation and condemnation to the church at Ephesus. But it’s not just a look at the spiritual faults of an ancient church—it’s a helpful reminder to faithfully take spiritual inventory of our own hearts.
This is the compelling reality for the Christian. It’s a very simple thing to understand what it is to be a Christian. It is to love Jesus Christ, it is to love Him singularly, and it is to love Him selflessly. It is to love Him to the degree that you’re willing to deny yourself and abandon everything you have—family, friends, or fortune. To love Him so that you desire to obey Him, to honor Him, to serve Him, and to proclaim Him.
And that really is the question. The question is a heart question. Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength? It was He who said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
I can’t think of a more profitable way to start a new year than with a thorough, penetrating self-examination of the affections of your heart. And like Christ’s letter to the Ephesian church, John’s message provides encouragement if you find your love for Christ in need of rekindling.
Click here to listen to “Rekindling Your Love for Christ.”