Revelation - 3
13th January 2008
Do any of you remember first learning to drive a standard transmission? I learned on a friend’s father’s pickup truck. You can’t explain driving with a clutch – it is something you have to feel – you release slowly, but not too slow – not too fast – you see people lunging forward and stopping because they stall it out.
There is a tachometer on some cars – that is not the speedometer for when you drive in Germany – but if you let the tachometer get too high – it gets in the red-line and it burns up the engine. There is a place where you are supposed to shift…
How does this fit in with the book of Revelation? It doesn’t – pastors just like to work stories in to say they had an introduction…just kidding:
The problems and concerns that are addressed to these churches are directly related to the culture and the situation of the city in which they reside. What is going on in the city has an impact on the church. Like that red line and when it is time to shift, a few of these churches had adopted and conformed to the cities they were living in – they have gone too far and are going to destroy the engine. Others are over-reacting and avoiding the church. They were also in the red-line – and no effect on the culture -
There are a couple of the churches that have found the balance in the church where God has placed them. As we look at these churches, yes, they are historical churches – but there are lessons for us today. We can look at our tendencies in how we conform too much and how we also over-react and go the other way.
Lord, thank You that You are here with us – and Your Spirit is here. He must work in our lives. Where we gather, there You are. We ask for Your work – for You to move in our hearts – that we might have a deep understanding of You – that we might honor and please You this week. Thank You that You are as pleased with us as You’ll ever be. We want to live in a way that glorifies You.
Rev. 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them [to be] false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. 4 'But I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love. 5 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place-- unless you repent. 6 'Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.'
A little background about each city –
Ephesus was one of the most influential cities of the group – a prosperous trade center – a sea port. It had special privileges with Rome –“Center for the Imperial Cult” - of those who worship the emperor. There was a large Jewish population there. It was at the mouth of a river that emptied into the Aegean Sea. It was a center for the worship of the deity, Artemis. It was a very religious city – known for that. Artemis was the goddess of fertility and fruitfulness. – Guardian of childbirth.
First – introduction – we looked at it last week –
2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this
He walked among them. Then he begins to speak to the issues of the church.
I know your deeds.
This is like an evaluation. You know how you dread an evaluation at work? I KNOW. Christ knows what is going on in our lives. For these churches, He knew they were going through persecution and difficulty. He understood. He knew the situation. He is not just evaluating them out of the blue – he walks with them.
Sometimes the boss doesn’t really know what is going on – but with Jesus, it is a sympathetic evaluation that comes out of love.
We need to allow God to do that. – To evaluate us. Sometimes it is good to let other people evaluate you – people that you trust. It is a hard thing, but important.
2: 2 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them [to be] false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.
First, He is positive – He commends and encourages them. Any good evaluator will do this – talk about your strengths. The church in Ephesus is a lot like the city of Ephesus. They are working hard – going at it with this faith thing – and I appreciate that. They were the type of folks who got up every morning and had their quiet time – then went out and evangelized – PowerPoint (probably on stone tablets), Starbucks, great worship, great Sunday School – they hated evil and false teaching. If you had a doctrine wrong – they would let you know. They hated evil deeds. It was a pure church. Immorality and idolatry were not an issue in this church, even though those were the issues everywhere else.
They looked great at this point. But we have to read on…
4 'But I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.
“You have left the love you had at first.”
Like the boss – here are your good points – here are some areas in which you can improve…That is not what He is doing here.
This means DIVINE DISPLEASURE AND FUTURE RETRIBUTION IF YOU DON’T CHANGE!!! This is really serious! He pointing out – not a minor flaw. You have left your first love. You know how when you first come to Christ – or go to a conference – like the teens going to LT – and when they got back they sang really loud for a few weeks – and were sharing all that God was doing…But then the reality of life sets in and …
You are no longer loving Me the way you ought to. This church began to love the Truth and their Christian experience more than they love God. This is probably true today. People who love worship more than God. Our love for God and for one another is not where it ought to be. These things have taken the place of that which matters – our first love for God. If that is the case, there is divine displeasure for the church. What this church had begun to do – in being so devoted to the truth and religious experience and the right way of doing things – they were like driving that standard transmission and constantly in the red line. They were pushing it – but not loving God and loving people. They were hating evil, but were probably stepping beyond that to hate evildoers – and not bringing them in. Your love for God must come first. Then love your neighbor. If your worship service is not all it should be – that is secondary. If you don’t have the first thing right, you lose everything – so make sure this is right.
5 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place-- unless you repent.
Remember – speaking of action – making change. He is demanding change. You can stir that up within yourself. You don’t need another conference – it is within you to love God and others. You don’t need someone else – yes, we need fellowship and church – but you have inside of you what you need to do right.
Repent – change directions – once and for all. Make the decision now.
Friday – we were watching TV – flipping through – Fad Diets – how they don’t work. There was an interesting one on – I couldn’t believe what I was watching – there are people who are ingesting tape-worms – and then taking the medicine to get rid of them.
When it came down to it – Fad diets don’t work, but you have to change your lifestyle – What He is saying – is basically that. We have fallen – and we are not where we think we should be – but the next book is not going to get us there. It starts when you personally make a decision to daily change spiritually. Then you begin – day by day – doing the right spiritual stuff. It doesn’t happen in a flash – but happens slowly as we do right.
Return – do the deeds you did at first – go back and start doing it. You will not regain the experience – you will not regain the feeling and memory that you can do the deeds – but the Christian life is a life of action – getting out there and making it happen. The Spirit is inside of us – but don’t use that as an excuse to not do anything. Act! Do deeds! Have your quiet time – Read your bible! Love God! Pray! Love your neighbor! Serve people! Serve church! ACT!
He commends, confronts, and cautions them.
5 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—
If there is no change – this church’s purpose would be removed. The way this relates – this city – here in Ephesus – had been moved 3 times – This river – as it dumped into the sea – the harbor would fill – and they would have to move the city.
He was saying – you can no longer be viable in this place – the church would be moved. It was a stern warning – one we would not prefer to have. God has a purpose and plan for each of us. He wants us to fulfill it. He is saying – if you lose your love for Me and others, I can’t do any of that – it is centered on your love for Me. Without it, you’ll miss the whole thing. You’ll lose your place in line. You know how you are waiting in line – and you forgot something – and you’ve lost your place.
Then – v.7 – each of these churches closes with a promise. It begins with something along these lines – he who has an ear …
7 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.'
Overcome – to vanquish the enemy – here is how I want you to approach this – whatever problem He is pointing out – wherever you have fallen – and need to repent and return – when you are confronted- just like an army to battle – take the same approach. When an army goes to battle – it is victory or death. You have to determine to go after each area for victory.
You have this city where they worshiped this fertility god – and He brings them back to the Garden – Adam and Eve had this opportunity and they lost it. God is talking about returning them to their original purpose – there is a future element to this – but there is also a present element in the sense of returning to that which God has called them to.
For them – it was their first love – to bring others in.
For us – always to remember as we move forward – this coming year – I’ll be sharing some plans we are trying to make. As God continues to bless, it is easy to lose sight of the purpose we have – to love God and people and make room for others. As we love God, we want to welcome others into this scenario.