And so we end our tour at Ephesus. The scenery surrounding the ancient city is spectacular. To the west lays the Aegean Sea. To the east and north pine forested hills reach back to the interior. A Byzantine fortress still stands watch over the modern town of Selcuk and its fertile fields that stretch along the Meandros River valley. Ephesus, the fourth largest city in the Roman empire, is picture perfect. We walked its marble streets awed by the architectural brilliance of antiquity. We did not come primarily to admire the scenery (beautiful though it is) but to consider the life of the missionary, Saul of Tarsus. At Ephesus the apostle proclaimed the Gospel so effectively that the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor and large numbers of people here and in the whole province of Asia followed the Way. For Paul there was no geography or scenery but only lost humanity and the redeeming cross of Christ. Under the superstitious shadow of the fertility goddess, Artemis, and amidst the pressure of severe protest from those who profited from her temple, the Ephesian church was born. bathed from eternity in the saving love of God. Paul urged the young church there to follow God's example as dearly loved childrenand walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved usand gave himself up for usas a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2). The last words in his letter to them suggest this was a church of extraordinary and enduring love. 'Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.' (Ephesians 6:24) Forty years later however, the passionate faith of the Ephesian Christians had cooled to barely glowing embers.
From the hot, heat wave days of Paul, Timothy, Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila, the barometer had fallen. Yes, they were doing the deeds and defending the doctrines, but their doctrines weren't dancing. Jesus, speaking in the book of Revelation to John, diagnoses the cause. 'You have forsaken the love you had at first.' Theirs was not a lost love but a left love, and left love means lost light. They had ceased making an impact on the world. What was the remedy? 'Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.' If being in love means wanting to be with the one you love and desiring to hear their voice above all others, then the Ephesians, like the Emmaus disciples six decades before them, needed a believing and a burning heart. The fire of love for God is felt when we contemplate the cross and search the Scriptures, thanking and talking to Jesus in the language of love. Word and Spirit together fuel true faith. Is your faith on fire? Is mine? Thank you, Ephesus, for stoking the embers! "O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee."(Bernard of Clairvaux)