The church in Ephesus was doing well, but by the time John writes Revelation, they seem to be headed the wrong way. John celebrates them and then warns them:
“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.“
I have heard this passage addressed many times, all with the same warning to individuals: “don’t backslide! Remember how excited you were when you first got saved? Return to that excitement. Return to that passion when you couldn’t stop witnessing and hating on sin!”
Well, here’s the thing.
I have known several people who had unbelievable passion at the moment of their conversion. They ran about witnessing, sharing their testimony, and railing on sin. It was cool to see!
Unfortunately, few of those actually stuck with it. They remind one of the seed that falls on the stony ground, they received the word with joy, until it got hard, then they quit.
I find a bit of a snobbishness among Christians about how you got saved and how you responded. If there wasn’t some huge emotional moment when you got saved, or there wasn’t some huge outpouring of spiritual activity 24/7 where you could hardly sleep, you must not be saved.
However, I don’t really see that in Scripture. Anytime Scripture talks about guys who flailed wildly in their new faith, there seems to be a warning attached to it.
What about Paul, oh Jeffy boy? Paul, upon being saved, ran around doing stuff and freaked out everyone. The church told Paul to go cool off in the woods for a while.
I think the best thing a church can do with a young, excited believer is let them cool off. Too often we throw these people out front and then watch them implode.
I don’t think the warning to Ephesus is about an individual needing to return to first-moment emotions, but rather a call to be careful to always be moving forward.
Instead of worrying about backsliding, make sure you’re foresliding and watch out for cliffs.