Summary: Jesus gave a different self-portrait to each of the 4 churches addressed in Revelation 2.
On two occasions I have visited the White House and taken a tour of the downstairs rooms. One thing I remember is that the walls are lined with impressive portraits of all the Presidents. There have been 40 presidents in our 230-year history as a nation. But in the church’s 2,000-year history, there has been only one President. Jesus Christ is, has been, and forever will be the one and only “president” of the church. In every sense, he is the CEO who is in charge of every aspect of His church.
Today, we’re going to focus on the letters Jesus dictated to 4 different churches in Revelation 2. (Next week, we’ll examine letters to 3 other churches.) As we look in chapter 2, we will see that Jesus gives a SELF-PORTRAIT to each of the 4 churches he addresses. The PORTRAITS found in Revelation 2 are all of Jesus Christ, but they do not all look alike. Each portrait is custom designed to fit the needs of a specific church.
Look in Revelation 2:1 for the First Portrait. We’ll call this one THE STAR WALKER.
1. The Star Walker Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7 (BURN OUT)
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands: Revelation 2:1
If you’re wondering what these stars and lamp stands symbolize, Jesus himself explained it in Chapter 1: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches. Revelation 1:20 You’ve heard the song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Here we see that Jesus has the whole Church in his hands.
The Portrait of STAR WALKER is given to the church in Ephesus. Jesus commends the church for their hard work, but in verse 4, he identifies one PROBLEM this church faced. I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Revelation 2:4
The hard-working church in Ephesus had worked itself into a big case of BURNOUT. In the middle of all that intense effort, they forgot to love the one they were working so hard to please.
That is so easy to do. We want to serve God and work for his Kingdom. But sometimes we get the notion that Jesus needs us to take over and manage everything for Him. That’s when we work ourselves into a lather and wind up fit to quit.
In the midst of all our church work, we must not forget that our number one goal is to love God and enjoy Him forever. And God also intends us to enjoy His church. You see, the church is designed to be a family … a place full of brothers and sisters in Christ. If we forget to enjoy and treasure our spiritual family, all our work turns to drudgery.
Our friends in the church should be precious to us. We should love being among them. … Just as Jesus Himself should be precious to us and we should love being with Him. If we lose our first love, we’ll find ourselves getting frustrated with our brothers and sisters at church.
Which reminds me of the time I’ve spent with my two little grandchildren recently. (Have I told you about them?) My greatest pleasure is not in thinking about what they will become some day, but in just looking at them as they are now and taking pleasure in being with them. They have much to learn, but I’m not getting frustrated that they haven’t learned it yet. I’m enjoying them now, as they are.
We need to have the same patience we have with a beloved child when we deal with each other in the church family.
As we work in the church, we need to remember, we are not just another business, and we are a family. And we do not work for an absentee boss. Jesus Christ, our one and only CEO, is right here, walking among us. If you are dealing with BURNOUT, picture the PORTRAIT of Jesus who walks among the 7 candle stands and holds the 7 stars in his hand.
The next PORTRAIT we have of the church CEO is the portrait of the Death-Defeater. When Jesus wrote to the church at Smyrna, He described himself this way:
2. The Death-Defeater Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11 (SUFFERING)
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Revelation 2:8
This church was suffering persecution. And you will notice as you read the text, that Jesus gave the suffering church only words of encouragement. He did not condemn any of their actions. Suffering and persecution seem to be great purifiers.