I have been focused on the “Stones Night” for Deeper Bible 601 this week and I have had two interactions with past participants over how much the Stones meant to them in this level of Deeper Bible. Both participants said how they had come to realise the importance of the Memorial Stones and of making much of the moments when God has done significant things for us on our journey in Him. Both told me the Memorial Stones were a highlight of the Stones Night, despite that fact that all Stones Stations were important. One of those people told how on a recent holiday they went on a walk and along the way they gathered stones together and arranged the stones into a monument pile according to Joshua 4:3-7, á la the Stones evening of Deeper Bible.
At the same time I have been pondering Revelation 2:5.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent. (ESV)Revelation 2:5
Have you ever sensed the Holy Spirit pleading with you to return to the white-hot-love you had for Him when you first received your salvation? This is precisely what Jesus did with the church of Ephesus when He described their spiritual condition and told them that they had left their first love. If you look carefully at Rev 2:5 you will see Jesus showed them the steps they needed to take in order to turn their situation around. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
Notice that Jesus urged the Ephesians to do three things to correct their spiritual situation:
- Do what you did
These three key points are packed with meaning, so I will spend the time unpacking each concept one by one over the next Nuggets. Today’s offering is focused on remembering– setting up memorial stones.
The Ephesian believers had unintentionally drifted from the spiritual zeal they once had. For this reason, Jesus urged them to stop everything they were doing and to “remember” that which they used to practice with Him before they became spiritually indifferent.
The word “remember” is from the Greek word mneia, which means to set up a tangible, objective memorial to the event to be remembered. A written record used to memorialize a person’s actions, a tombstone, a statue, a monument, or a plaque. In fact the word mneia could suggest the Ephesian’s early experiences with Christ had become buried by years of activity. The busyness of life had buried what was once precious to them. So by using this word mneia, Jesus implored them to dig through the clutter of their routines and activities and discover again the early memories of their faith. Recalling their past, they would see how far they had drifted from the zeal that had marked them at the start. Recognising that would allow them to make the needed adjustments in their lives to recover their passion for the things of God.
Because mneia also refers to a statue, a monument and memorial plaque, we should be prepared to mark certain memories to make them stand out in our lives and not be forgotten. The purpose of a statue or monument is to immortalise an historical event so that future generations will not forget. Statues and monuments are made from materials that last like stone or metal in order to endure for many years without needing to be maintained. Generations can come and go, but statues and monuments persist, allowing people to look at them and remember past heroes and read the inscriptions that describe their actions and contributions which are now immortalised. As long as a statue or monument remains in its place, it will stand as a reminder to future generations.
Memories must be deliberately maintained and cultivated if they are to remain vital in our hearts and minds. If memorial stones like those depicted in Joshua 4 are not drawn to the attention of future generations, they will be lost under the dross of life, just like a neglected grave with no tombstone until such time as the grave is lost. People will walk across it without even knowing that the remains of a special, celebrated person lies beneath their feet.
Like an unmarked grave, important memories can be easily forgotten. Adults forget their childhood; nations forget their heritage and Christians forget their early days of their love for Christ. In Revelation 2:5, we see that key churches forgot their past. Years of ministry and Christian service can suck an individual’s energy dry to the point where they forget the reason why they were motivated to do what they do. And worse yet where the motivation which stemmed from their first encounter of the grace God and captivated their hearts lapsed into rote perfunctory performance. Weariness, busy schedules, and a constant flow of church related activities leaves the congregation weary. Such activity can change their passion for God’s Kingdom into drudgery and obligation. What was once fresh and exciting becomes monotonous, religious routine. Their early memories of coming to Christ can become buried under an overgrowth of spiritual weeds. How quickly we can lose the impact of God’s grace in our lives and allow spiritual freshness to dissipate.
This is actually a common occurrence among spiritually mature believers. Most of us will experience this to some degree during our journey toward spiritual maturity. The presence of the Holy Spirit can become common place in our lives, to the point where we don’t notice when He is no longer there. We have become used to “working” our Christian experience and fail to notice we are now doing it all in the our own strength. When we do notice Holy Spirit is absent we run back to Sinai like Elijah thinking that is where we will find Him. Because that is where we last remember Him being, only to find He is not there anymore. God has moved on and then must say to us “What are you doing here Elijah? I am no longer here. I once was but am no longer.”
The Ephesian church experienced this, Bible translators and preachers can experience this, where the focus becomes the work we are doing and the intimacy of God’s presence becomes lost in the process. The excitement of the earlier experiences for the Ephesian believers soon slid into rote processes as the years passed. Their zeal for the things of God ebbed away. Oh their knowledge increased, but the believers’ passion for Jesus and the presence of God was no longer part of their experience.
It is likely that the joy in the services of Ephesian church diminished because a loss of intimacy with Him is impossible to maintain without connection to Him. I don’t doubt that the Ephesian church grew, as did its schedules, routines, activities and repeated traditions. But they had lost the vital connection to the Head of the Body through their indifference or the dulling sedative of routine. They were so busy serving Jesus that they failed to see His Spirit had moved on. It was important for the Ephesian believers to realise they had lost connection and return to their first love if they were to regain the vibrant relationship with Christ they once had. They needed to place everything they were doing on hold and return to first principles and the reason for their passion for the Lord which sparked their fervour:
- Deliverance from idol worship
- Liberation from evil spirits
- The miraculous healings they had seen first-hand
- The great bonfire they lit which burned all of their occult books and magical incantations
- Their public act of repentance before a pagan crowd.
Taking stock of where they had come from would enable them to remember their Glory Days and the fire that God by His Holy Spirit had lit among them. Once they gained the correct perspective on their past the Ephesian believers would be able to move forward again in a fresh new relationship with Jesus on the back of their “repentance”.
If you have allowed the busyness of serving God to bury the excitement you once felt for Him, take Jesus’ words to heart and remember your first love. Clear away the weeds and the clutter of life which threatens to bury those memories. Stand your monument stones up again and remember again the things that God has done for you. Then you can say to yourself or to your future children when they ask, ‘What do these stones mean?”
“They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant went across. These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”