Tuesday, December 2, 2014

LOST LOVE (Revelation Chapter 2)

Revelation 2:2-5, “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  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 lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

In a recent poll Americans were asked “If Jesus suddenly came back to earth today, would he approve or disapprove of modern Christianity?”  Of the nearly 60,000 who responded, 87% said that He would disapprove, 9% that He would approve, and 3% said that it would depend on which denomination of Christianity.  What does Jesus think of His church?  Revelation chapters 2 and 3 provides some insight.  The exalted Christ stands “in the midst of the” churches (Cf. Revelation 1:13).  His “eyes (are) like flames of fire” (Revelation 1:15).  He knows all about His church (Cf. Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15).  Seven historical churches were variously commended for their strengths or reproved for their failings.  Five of the seven were both commended and reproved.  Two of the churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, received no rebuke.  Any church in any period of the church age can exhibit the commendable virtues or destructive vices that were evident in these seven churches. 

Ephesus was the most prominent city in the Roman province of Asia.  The Apostle Paul had ministered there for years (Cf. Acts 20:31).  The church was subsequently led by Timothy.  At the time of the writing of Revelation, and of this specific message to the church in Ephesus, some 30 years had passed since the church’s birth.  Jesus Himself addressed the church in Ephesus!  Imagine what their response must have been in hearing the news of it!  Jesus has something to say to His church.  There is both good news and bad.

The good news.  Jesus commended them for their doctrine and diligence.  He spoke of their works, toil, patience endurance, and doctrinal purity.  They had labored in serving Christ and had demonstrated discernment in rejecting false doctrine.  They had “endured patiently” and had “not grown weary” in these things (Cf. Revelation 2:3). 

The bad news.  It has been noted that worship in serving involves a person’s heart, head, and hands (Cf. Romans 12:1-8).  The heads and hands of the Ephesians were doing their part, but something was amiss in their hearts. They were doing the right things, but not for the right reason and, according to Jesus, motivation matters.  It is a “labor of love” alone that meets with God’s approval (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3).  “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).  Doctrinal purity and dutiful service are admirable, but are no substitute for the love for Christ which is of preeminent concern (Cf. Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 5:15, 11:3; Philippians 3:8).  They had previously possessed that kind of agape for Him, but something had worked to diminish it.  The Apostle Paul had previously spoken to them of the need of love for Jesus with “love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:24), but it had somehow suffered corruption.  Theirs was a “going-through-the-motions” kind of Christianity.  A dry, cold, mechanical, religiosity that bore little resemblance to its Spirit-empowered counterpart.

The remedy?  Jesus did not merely rebuke them, He exhorted them to remedy their course (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).  The remedy involved three specific actions: remember, repent, and “redo”.  The Ephesians were exhorted to recall to mind the love and joy that first filled their hearts in the wonder of their newfound salvation.  They were also to repent (i.e. to “change the mind’; Vine’s).  They needed to rethink their thinking about Christ.  Some serious Spirit-led soul-searching and confession of sin was in order.  Thirdly, they were to “do the works (they) did at first” (Revelation 2:5).  Love for Jesus is evidenced in obedience which in turn is especially made manifest in love for others (Cf. John 14:15; 13:34-35).  The absence of love was a threat to their light-bearing ability.  Jesus warned that He “would come…and remove (their) lampstand from its place” unless they repented (Cf. Revelation 2:5).

“Tell me when did I lose my first love?  Where did the fire and passion go?  Burn in me Your holy fire, give me back my lost desire, and restore in me the love I felt for You” (“First Love”; Writer: Henk Pool;  Universal/MCA Music Holland B.V.).

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