Summary: Like the church of Ephesus, many have left their first love. They are doing the right things for all the wrong reasons. This will lead to backsliding and great iniquity.
From The Desk Of Pastor Toby Powers
Truth Baptist Church
Loving & Leaving
Intro: These seven churches in Asia Minor were seven actual churches in this day of John the Revelator. They also represent seven different church ages. They show the progression of the church world over the past two thousand years, and whether you will have it or not, I believe we are living in the Laodicean Church Age. But, not only were these churches actual churches and types of church generations, but they are also object lessons to all who will follow. Just as they show us the progression of the church ages over the generations, they also show us the progression of churches.
This church of Ephesus was a great, influential, hard-working, prominent, and well-known church. It is the church that most of us would think was “just right.” But they had one issue: they had left their “first love.” They had come to serve the church, religion, the community, and the desires and goals of society more than they served God. They were still doing the right things, but they were not doing them for the right reasons. They did what was good to be recognized, to grow the number on the board, to get credit among society, for obligation, or to satisfy family. Why do you do what you do for God?
Furthermore, I notice the progression of the churches, of which we have just spoken. This church in Ephesus had left its first love. Notice the progression of what takes place after that:
• Smyrna faces tribulation (2:9). The same society from which you seek approval through religion will persecute you for your religion!
• Pergamos endures Satan’s authority levied from within the church and his false doctrine taught from its pulpit (2:13-15).
• Thyatira develops loose morals and standards in church doctrine, discipline, and decorum (2:20-23).
• Smyrna just about dies! They were a dead church… or at the least, almost dead (3:1-2)
• Philadelphia became a weak church. Though they had attempted to get things right with God, they had no influence with the world! (3:8)
• Laodicea regressed into lukewarmness or apathy. They became so anesthetized to their own condition that they believed themselves rich, increased with goods, and having need of nothing; they did not even know that they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked! (3:15-18) They were in a mess, did not know it, and did not care!
WHAT REALLY MAKES THIS SUCH A SHAME IS THAT IT ALL STARTED WITH A GOOD CHURCH IN EPHESUS WHO DID ALL THE RIGHT THINGS FOR THE WRONG REASONS. THEY HAD LOVED, BUT THEY HAD LEFT!
I am preaching on “LOVING AND LEAVING.” If we leave our first love, the same things can happen to us that happened to these churches. Let me say today that a church who is “loving and leaving” becomes:
I. Carnal: as James began to speak to the church about its carnality in James 3-4, he called the world and its wisdom, goals, and desires: earthly, sensual, and devilish. To be carnal is to be sensual, worldly, non-spiritual, given to the crude desires and appetites of the flesh. A church leaving their first love will be carnal in:
A. Interests: the priorities set will be carnal. Athletics, entertainment, programming, socializing, and esthetics will take preeminence over worship, praise, and evangelism.
B. Intentions: Ministers will seek praise through numbers. Members will seek prominence through notability. Masses will seek peace with no relationship with God!
C. Interaction: the fellowship of the “loving and leaving” church will be carnal. Spiritual people fellowship in worship, at the breaking of bread, through friendships and relationships built. Carnal people need carnal things to fellowship around because their interests are carnal. That’s why they have Sunday School class swimming parties for the young people.
II. Conformed: Romans 12:1-2. Churches who leave their first love will become conformed to the world or worldly in their:
A. Meetings: this is seen in the “movie ministries” where preachers show their movie or TV show clips on the church projector screen and preach on the lesson learned in the movie! That’s why they really like these cafeterias, warehouses, and theatres to hold services in. They do not look like churches, and they are trying to get rid of the church look!
B. Music: they don’t love the songs of the spirit. They love the songs of the world. That’s what they listen to all week, and they make their church songs sound the same way. It is impossible to glorify God to a beat that Satan uses for his glory!
C. Message: they deal with nothing! All the sermons are geared toward the flesh, the pocket book, and the here-and-now with no concern for the hereafter. There is very little preaching on sin, hell, judgment, the diety of Christ, and the perfection of the Word of God. These things bring conviction, but that’s what we need to see sinners saved!