Church-Autopsy: Heartsick by Abidan Shah, PhD

CHURCH AUTOPSY – HEARTSICK by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Hollywood and the Music Industry has greatly impacted our understanding of love. Would you agree with that? People base their love life, their relationship, and even their marriage on some tearjerker movies or some romantic song or even some catchy line by some influencer on social media. Is it any wonder that we come up dissatisfied, disillusioned, and even discouraged when it comes to love? Today’s message in our series titled “Church Autopsy” is going to apply on several levels. Primarily, it applies to our love towards Jesus, our Savior. Secondarily, it applies to our love towards his body, the church. But it also has a profound application towards our understanding of love, especially in our marriage relationships. It is called “HEARTSICK.” Main point: Our Savior Jesus Christ desires first and foremost a loving relationship with us. Although, our beliefs and our convictions are critical, they cannot become a substitute for our love for him. But pure love is not a feeling. It lives in the will. We love him not for the pleasure it brings us but for the pleasure it brings him.

Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Context: The city of Ephesus (near present day Selcuk in Turkey) was the fourth largest city of the Roman empire. The largest was Rome, then Alexandria (Egypt), then Antioch on the Orontes, and then Ephesus. The population was around 250,000, probably more. Its history goes all the way back to the period of the Hittites in the fourteenth century BC. One reason for its continued success was that it was a port city until AD 1244. We walked through a major part of the excavations, but if they ever excavated the entire city, it would be about 600 years. Something else, Ephesus was also known as the temple keeper of the goddess Artemis/Diana. The city was known for “magical practices,” specially to ward off evil. There was also a big Jewish population in Ephesus. They were considered full-fledged Roman citizens for centuries. I can go on and on but let me shift gears and talk about how Christianity came to Ephesus. 

On his third missionary journey, Paul came to Ephesus. Acts 19     1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all. In a sense, Ephesus had a mini-Pentecost! Remember Acts 2       5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?” Paul remained there for 2-3 years, and Ephesus became the base of his ministry in Asia. Amazing miracles happened. Acts 19    19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver (That’s 50,000 days wages of an average worker!). 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. 

Just know that anytime good things begin to happen, the Enemy shows up. A riot broke out, led by Demetrius and the silversmiths who made the statue of Diana. In other words, they turned the city right side up!

Application: What difference does our church make in this city? Do we turn this city right side up with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Now, it had been over 40 some years since that meeting, and things had changed. Jesus had to send them a letter of warning. By the way, all 7 letters have the same format. To keep in line with the medical imagery of the autopsy, each point has a medical reference, which will be in each message in this series.


Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:”

What is the meaning of the 7 stars and the 2 golden lampstands? Revelation 1:20 “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”

Angels = messengers can be guardian angels or the pastors of the churches. I believe that it is referring to the pastors. What’s the use of writing to angels and fussing at them!

Jesus is saying to them that he is perfectly qualified to speak to them.

Application: I may not understand all that you are going through or know everything about you, but Jesus does. Can you hear his voice?


Revelation 2         2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 

In other words, Paul’s labor had paid off! Paul even came to Ephesus again to correct some problems in the church and left Timothy in charge (1 Timothy 1:3). He also wrote that wonderful letter to the Ephesians. Towards the end of his life, as Paul was headed to Jerusalem, he asked the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. He spoke to them at length. Listen to just a portion here Acts 20       28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Guess what? They listened.

By the way, theology and doctrine matters.

But, there was something else very special about this church. Acts 20      36 “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.” What a loving church!

Let’s go back to the diagnosis in Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” It doesn’t say “first love” towards whom. I believe that overall they ceased to be loving towards Christ, towards the church, towards their loved ones, and towards the lost. In other words, when it comes to theology, as they used to say, they were straight as a gun barrel and just as empty! They had become heartsick!

Application: Are we straight theologically? Have we become loveless? Have we gotten over it? Have you become heartsick?


Revelation 2        5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

The place to begin is to “remember.” 

Application: Do you remember how things used to be between you and the Lord? Do you remember how things used to be between you and the people in the church? Do you remember how things were between you and your spouse?

Next, “repent” = change of mind

Application: Do you need a change of mind regarding sin, self, and Savior?

Finally, “do the first works.”

Application: What did you do before that you do not do anymore? Are you waiting for feelings?

I would like to read for you from 1 Corinthians 13. To give you the context, this letter was sent by Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to a church that had forgotten how to love properly. Many of us don’t know how to love properly. Sometimes, many of us have never been loved properly, even the best of parents do their best and fall short. Hopefully, this message will help all of us to understand and remember what true/pure love is all about. 4Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. If you notice in that passage, there is no mention of love as a feeling or an emotion. That is the Hollywood’s or the music industry’s understanding of love. To them, it is all about the tear-jerkers and the pulling of the heartstrings. Is it any wonder that marriages and relationships are in such a mess in our world today? Because love has become how you make me feel. But Paul’s definition has nothing to do with how you make me feel, and it has all to do with what I do for you. Someone might say that “it is so wooden and lifeless and emotionless.” To the contrary, that is love in the right order. What I mean is this: When you obey what that passage says and do without feelings what love is supposed to do, then feelings follow. Putting feelings first is like putting a carriage before the horse expecting it to push the carriage. It will not work, and even if it does, it will hurt the horse or turn the carriage over.

The ultimate example of love is what Jesus did for us. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Application: How is your first love? Have you had a first love?


Revelation 2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’

This is going back to the Garden of Eden. God kept them from the tree of life so they wouldn’t be locked in their sinful state. Now, it is back. But, to get to this tree you have to go by the tree where Jesus hung for us.

What a beautiful image of what’s coming for us!

Invitation: How is your first love? “Our first love for Christ should be the measure of our daily walk with him.”

How is your first love for the church?

How is your love life?

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: