First Love

March 9, 2014   Revelation 2:1- 7  First Love   

 

      I sent Bill an article on preaching this week and this was his response.   Hi Pastor, This article is very interesting. I think every sermon should point to Christ.  Every sermon should cause people to examine themselves in light of Christ.  He is coming back soon; we need to be setting people's eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.  If we are going to spend eternity with Him than we ought to be working hard to know him and love him more every day.    With every relationship we have there is effort that needs to be put in on our part.   Sermons need to leave the person focused on Christ and also wanting to be worthy of the calling in which they received.    Just a few thoughts that ran through my mind as I read the article. Thanks for sharing, signed Bill.    There is a sermon in and of itself.   We should just have the benediction and leave.   Some passages point more to Jesus than others and this one certainly points to Jesus.  

     These are letters to the 7 churches in chapters 2 and 3.   Jesus is the author of the letters.  We need to ask ourselves what would Jesus say to Bethel Christian Fellowship today?    What would he have to say about us?   That is a great question.  Churches are made up of individuals and what would Jesus have to say today about you?   Jesus is encouraging and Jesus has a lot of good to say about the church at Ephesus.  Jesus says I know your good deeds.   That means that Jesus knew their deeds inside and out.  Jesus knew their deeds in total.  He was not learning about it but instead Jesus knew their deeds from a to z from the beginning to the end.  Jesus inspects the church carefully.   Jesus carefully observed their works.  The church has the Lord’s attention.    Jesus sees all of your work and your good deeds.  That is really exciting.   Jesus knows your hard work.  Jesus knows that you have persevered.   You are in church today and that is a statement of your perseverance and continuing to follow the Lord.

       Jesus said to them that they hated the deeds of wicked men.   We love people but hate evil deeds.  They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans which Jesus hated.   Some of the people in the church at Pergamum in this same chapter embraced Nicolaitans teaching.   Some of the church fathers link that teaching to Nicolas who was one of the 7 men separated out in Acts 6 to minister food to the widows.   Some believe that his followers twisted some of his teaching.   They were involved in sexual immorality and eating food offered to idols.   Clement of Alexandria said that they lived in pleasure like goats.   They did it in the name of Christian liberty.  Jesus hated their Christian liberties.  

     Christian liberties have become a license for self gratification for many people.   Our society is getting carried away with Christian liberties.   I read this week where one person posted a comment saying if I follow the Law of Moses then I am cursed so they scrap the books of Moses.  The world’s attitudes seeps into Christians.   If I am trusting my works to save me then scripture tells me that I have fallen from grace.   I Corinthians 10 is plain that we are to be warned, to learn from and to avoid the mistakes that the Children of Israel made while Moses led them.  We need the Old Testament.  Christian liberty according to Galatians makes us free so that we can serve others.  We are free from ourselves so that we can serve others. 

      The Ephesian church had tested people and found that they were not what they claimed to be.  They endured hardships for Jesus name.   They suffered for the name of Jesus and they did not give up.   The report card for them looks pretty good so far.  Maybe they would be given an A.   It seems like they are in the bible and know right from wrong and they have discernment to see when things are not right.   But they have fallen a great deal according to Jesus.  Perhaps they had hurt Jesus more than any of the other churches.   Jesus tells them to look back and consider how far they have fallen.  They have fallen from love.   I suspect it was their love for Jesus but it could also be love for others and love for the lost.   If their love for Jesus had grown cold then their love for others would grow cold also.    Let’s not forget that we are the bride of Jesus.   The Christian is married to Jesus.  God takes that seriously.   These Christians’ fell a long ways. 

     They had lost something that was valuable.   Did you ever lose something valuable?    Ever loose your keys?   Did they even know where they were at?   Did they understand how far they had dropped?   Things were not good according to Jesus.  You and I might have thought they were in great shape.   Things on the outside looked OK but God looks at the heart and Jesus said things are not good.    They had devotion but without heart.   Their deeds and works did not cut it with Jesus.  

      Jesus demands or tells them that they step back and take some time to evaluate their life.    He tells them to think about where they were and where they are at now.   Take some time and think about things.   Do an honest evaluation about your walk with Jesus.  They needed to spend some time with the Lord.   The goal of course is to grow closer to him and not to drop away.     We should not fall in our walk with God.   Are you growing closer to Jesus or farther away from Jesus?   That is a good question.   It seems like the church today in America is dropping away from the Lord.   It seems like the church in general is not growing closer but further away in America.  Is there fire and passion in this church?    Is there fire and passion in the preaching of the word?   Do we have a passion for the things of God, for worship, service and for minsitry?  

     The people in Ephesus worked.   We can work hard in the church but not be close to the Lord.  People can work hard in the church but not for Jesus but for their own ends - for numbers, for a pay check, for respect.   We can be caught up in the work of the Lord but not caught up with the Lord.   Do we love Jesus and are we motivated by love for Jesus?   The Ephesians suffered for Jesus name.  They were patient in trying circumstances.  They put up with a lot.  That is very commendable.   But Jesus was not completely happy with them.  They lacked being intimate with Jesus.   There was a fire that was missing.  Their passion had diminished for the Lord.  Perhaps their love for the scripture had cooled.   Maybe their prayer life was suffering.   Maybe they met in the holy huddle or the church and then went about their weekly routine.   Maybe they were inward focused and were not reaching out to others.   Perhaps they were not tithing and lost their passion for giving.  When you lose your fire for the Lord Jesus to walk with him and worship a whole host of things begin to drop off and the world fills in.  The world will quickly back fill.    I suspect that they were not seeking the Lord’s help with living their life day by day. 

     There are many things that can crowd out the Lord in our life today such as entertainment through the computer and TV.   In II Corinthians 6 God says what agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.   As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”    Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  Don’t touch the unclean thing.  That means porn men and a lot of other stuff.   God says do not touch it.   If we break what God tells us then we pay the price.   You can choose what you do but you cannot choose the results from your decisions.   If God says it is unclean then it is unclean.  He sets the standards.  

    These Christians in Ephesus had a great start.  Paul visited there on his second missionary journey.  Paul was also there on his third missionary journey.  H spent about 3 years there.  Timothy was a pastor there.  Onesiphorus and Tychicus were there and the Apostle John spent the last decades of his life there and was probably arrested while he served there.   It would be awesome to have the Apostle John in your church.  It was a large city of a ¼ to ½ million people in it.  The city was known for its worship of Artemis which the Romans called Diana.   The temple to her was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world supposedly fell from, the sky.  The Christians had so changed the city back when Paul was there that Demetrius the craftsman who saw their lucrative business becoming endangered that he incited a riot. 

    The worship of the goddess was extremely vile.  There were thousands of prostitutes there.   Also there were priests, bankers, criminals, musicians, dancers and frenzied, hysterical worshippers according to William Barclay.  The weeping philosopher Heraclitus said no one could live in the city without weeping because of the immorality.   These Christians lived in a wicked environment.  It was tough living for Jesus in those days because everybody was doing it.  It was a moral sess pool.   People traveled there.  The city was a cross roads that led to the orient.   People traveled there because of what the city offered and the temple of Diana.  .

    As I look at these letters to the 7 churches I see that Jesus gives instructions and warnings to all 7 churches.  I think for every Christian Jesus would offer instructions and perhaps a warning.   Jesus says to those that have ears to hear let them hear.    To several churches Jesus tells them to repent.   The warning to the church at Ephesus was serious.  Jesus words were not to be taken lightly.   Jesus said I will come and remove your lamp stand from its place.  Did the Ephesian church lose its power?   Had it lost its ability to make a difference?    Jesus warns them about taking their light away.  It seems like the church was in the process of losing its power.   What did Jesus mean when he said he would take their lamp stand form them?    I think that means that they will no longer be a light.  Christians are called to be light.  What good is the church if it is not a light?   If we are not building the kingdom of God and driving back darkness what good is the church?    I know that I am in a spiritual war.    I know that God is using my life.   I know that my prayers for others makes a difference.   That is encouraging.  I know that several of us are making a difference.  I know that the prayers of this church make a difference.     This church does count.  I know that this church counts.   Christians are to be light shining from the hill top and we are to be salt.   When salt looses it flavor Jesus said it is cast out and men walk on it.  I believe that we all want to be productive people.  We want to contribute and to make a difference.   The results of not following Jesus are pretty serious.   Their light or lamp stand will be removed.  

     Life is better when we are in love.   Life is exciting and full when a person is in love.   When I walk in love with the Lord life and things are better.   The Psalmist said in your presence is fullness of joy.   If we are not there how do we get there?   If we are not walking in love what do we do?   Jesus told them to consider where they were previously and to repent.   Change your life.  Change the focus of your life.  Consider the great things that Jesus has done for you.     When we come to Jesus we have life.   Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.   Jesus is life.    If you love someone you will make sacrifices for them.   You will go the extra mile.  God went the extra mile for you and me.   What do you need to hear from the Lord today?    What does the Lord want you to hear from him today?   I suspect for all of us there will be some good things and for all of us some things to work on.