Summary: Our passion makes our performance more meaningful.
One day a man came home and surprised his wife with a bunch of beautiful roses! She was so thrilled. While she smelled the flowers, the man whispered to her ears, “A four-letter word is the reason why I bought these flowers.” His wife answered, “Is it L-O-V-E?” The man said, “No! It was S-A-L-E!” If you were the wife, how would you react? Would you be happy to know that your husband did things for you not because he wanted to do it but because he has to do it or because he needed to do it? Of course not!
If that is what you would feel, then imagine what the Lord would feel when we obey Him out of duty and not out of devotion, when we find worship a burden rather than a blessing, or when we serve Him out of obligation to Him and not out of passion for Him.
Let us look at one church that treated the Lord that way. Open your Bibles to Revelation 2:1-7. This morning, we will see that our PASSION makes our PERFORMANCE more meaningful. Let us pray…
According to the NIV Study Bible, “Ephesus was the most important city in western Asia Minor… Because it was also at an intersection of major trade routes, Ephesus became a commercial center.” It is now modern-day Turkey. The church in Ephesus has a rich spiritual history. The apostle Paul himself planted the church and made it his ministry base for about three years. Can you imagine that? The best of the best planted that church! After that, Timothy served there as its pastor. He was Paul’s protégé. Later on, the apostle John ministered in Ephesus also.
All in all the church in Ephesus got eight books of the New Testament. Paul wrote them a letter that bore their name. Usually, whenever Paul would write to a church, it was because there was an issue. But if we read the letter to the Ephesians, there was no mention of any issues at all. When Paul sent Timothy his two letters, Timothy was in Ephesus. John sent his three letters to the church in that city and he wrote the Gospel of John there. And before he died, while the apostle John was in exile in Patmos, the Lord Jesus appeared to him with messages for seven key churches in Asia Minor. Ephesus was the first church he addressed. But even if it was a privileged church, it became a problem church. Truly, to whom much is given, much is required.
In verse 1, the Lord revealed Himself to the church. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.’” The “stars” and the “angel” symbolize the leaders of the churches. The “lampstands” symbolize the churches. The Lord Jesus is described here as the One who has the power over the leaders and Whose presence is with the churches. He can do whatever He wants with them.
Then the Lord gave His review of the church in Ephesus. At first, He commended them. Read verse 2: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance…” Twice, in verses 2 and 3, the Lord said, “I know”. He knew them inside and out. The word for “works” in Greek is where we got the word “energy.” The word “toil” refers to “laborious work… The word signifies not merely labor, but labor unto weariness, or to the point of exhaustion”. Then the phrase “patient endurance” means “endurance under difficult circumstances”. They faced a lot of challenges in serving the Lord. But they conquered those challenges. Verse 3 goes like this: “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” They were so energetic in laboring for the Lord. But, though they got so exhausted, they patiently endured. They were so intense! Then verse 2 continues: “I know… 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.” They were so discerning. They were exposed to real apostles such as Paul and John so they could spot a phony immediately. In fact, in verse 6, the Lord added, “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Whatever the Nicolaitans did wrong, the church in Ephesus was so zealous for the truth that they hated error. They were known for their commitment and their convictions.
Yet, despite all these commendations, Jesus issued a condemnation. Verse 4 starts with a strong contrast: “But I have this against you…” They were so devoted to the words and to the works of God. But still the Lord has found something against them: “that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” What was their first love? In Ephesians 1:15, Paul was so thankful to God for the church in Ephesus “because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints”. Then at the end of the letter, he blessed them: “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” It’s a love for God and for each other that they used to have but now that love is gone.