Summary: Rekindle the love for God’s work, his word, and for one another by focusing on his promises.
“You don’t bring me flowers, You don’t sing me love songs, You hardly talk to me anymore…” So sang Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand in 1977. The song became a hit because it spoke about something we all experience - fading love. Think about your pets. Do you love them as much today as when you first brought them home? What about the presents you received last Christmas. Do you still enjoy them? Can you even remember what you received last Christmas?
Fading love was also a problem in the church at Ephesus, a city in western Turkey. At one time the members there had been hot in their love for the Lord. Forty years after the founding of the congregation, however, that love was dying. Concerned, Jesus directed the Apostle John to write that congregation a letter. He urged the Ephesians (and us) to rekindle the love…for God’s work, for God’s Word, and for one another.
The book of Revelation came about as John was worshipping on the island of Patmos one Sunday. He heard a voice behind him that was as loud as a trumpet. When John turned he saw a man dressed in a white robe with a golden sash. It was obvious that this was no ordinary man for his face shone like the sun. His eyes were like blazing fire. Out of his mouth protruded a sword. And his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace (Rev. 1:10-16). It was the glorified Jesus.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have Jesus stand before us as he stood before John? Well he is standing in our midst. Jesus illustrated that truth by walking among seven golden lampstands. Jesus explains that the seven lampstands are the seven congregations to whom John was to write. A lampstand is a good picture of a congregation for Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). Did you also notice that the lampstands are made of gold? Christian congregations are precious to Jesus.
So what was it that Jesus wanted John to tell the Ephesian congregation? Jesus began by commending them. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…3 You have…endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:2a, 3). Although the Ephesian Christians had “labored to the point of exhaustion” (literal Greek translation) even in the face of hardships, they weren’t yet tired of doing God’s work. You wouldn’t hear any of the Ephesians saying, “I need a break from the church thing. Let someone else take the reigns for a while” (Brian Pechman).
Is our love for God’s work as strong, or has it started to fade? Two years ago we started working with Parish Assistance to nail down a vision for this congregation. It was exciting to have the consultants on site, and they fired us up for the Lord’s work. But has the excitement worn off? Did the fire to do the Lord’s work start dying when we realized just how much work we have before us? Is the committee work you’re doing frustrating and slow? Even if it is, don’t let the fire die. Persevere, as the Ephesian Christians had done, even to the point of exhaustion.
Not only was their love for God’s work commendable, Jesus praised the Ephesians for their love for God’s Word. He said, “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false…You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Rev. 2:2b, 6b). Teachers had come to Ephesus claiming to be from God. When the Ephesians tested those claims under the microscope of God’s Word, however, they found them to be false. Love for God’s Word then led the Ephesians to hate this false teaching of the Nicolaitans which apparently said that, because we have forgiveness, we can sin all we want. But isn’t “hate” a bit strong? No, not when Jesus said that he hated their practices too! Not only did the Ephesians hate the false teaching, they did not put up with those who taught or promoted it (Brian Pechman).
Friends, it is a lie of the devil to think that tolerating false doctrine is O.K. Loving the Lord means that we are to hate anything that is contrary to his Word. Stiff-arm the mantras: “Deeds, not creeds!” “Unity, not doctrinal purity!” “Live and let live!” The Lord hates these things; the church at Ephesus hated them; we are to express and exercise the same holy hatred when we separate ourselves from such influences (Rom. 16:17, 18). (Brian Pechman)
But here’s the paradox. We are to express this holy hatred as loving people (Brian Pechman). That’s why we patiently instruct those who are willing to be instructed regarding the truth. Our goal is not to be “right” but to win people to the truth and safeguard their soul. When the truth stops being listened to, however, then we need to show Christ’s disdain for false teaching by separating ourselves from it.