Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Losing the Candlestick


Not too long ago, I preached on the "Message of Jesus to the Churches" found in the second and third chapters of Revelation. This post is a clip from the sermon, looking at the message to the church at Ephesus.

The general pattern of the Lord's message begins with what the churches are doing right, followed by a rebuke for what they are doing wrong. There are two exceptions -- Smyrna and Philadelphia -- where there was no rebuke.

As far as Ephesus was concerned, here's what they had on the pro side. They had good deeds, perseverance, hard work, and had intolerance of evil men. They were willing to put false teachers to the test, they were endurant, not growing weary. They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which was a heretical sect that had sprung up. The Nicolaitans distorted spiritual liberty in Christ to mean they could still practice idolatry and immorality — antinomians in essence. This is an example of 2 Peter 2:1 where we are warned about those who rise up within the church and sow false teaching.

Now for the con side. The Ephesian church members had left their first love — the love they had at first for one another and for Christ. This might seem like a minor offense, but it's really not minor at all. This will in time impact the whole ministry of the church and its outreach. Here are a few verses about the kind of love we are to display -- John 13:35 – "all men will know you are His disciples by your love for one another." 1 Corinthians 12:25: "so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another."

How about Ephesians 4:2, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love." Then there's 1 Thessalonians 3:12: "and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.: Then in chapter 5 of the same letter by the Apostle Paul, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people."

James, the brother of the Lord, wrote: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16). The Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:8): "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Christian love for one another is pretty important, isn't it? The Lord thought so -- enough to end his message to Ephesus with a warning: Remember and repent, or the Lord will remove the lampstand – the congregation itself.

I should hasten to point out that we have more than a few teachers these days who twist biblical love into meaning that you can't discipline sin or correct false teaching in the church. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, biblical love demands such correction. However, correction and biblical truth divorced from pure, sincere love from the heart becomes nothing more than a clanging gong.

I recommend reading the other messages to the churches in Revelation. There's something in there for us in each one.

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