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Ephesus: Where is the Love?

September 27, 2020 Preacher: Steve Heron Series: The Seven Churches of Revelation

Passage: Revelation 2:1–2:7

Good morning! We are in a series on the Book of Revelation; Well, really the first couple of chapters of the Book of Revelation, specifically focusing on Jesus' commendations and critiques of seven churches. 

 

We spent the first two weeks in chapter 1 just talking about Jesus. John begins this epistle looking at the person of Jesus and laying out and displaying all of the glory of who Jesus is and what he is like. 

 

This morning we're going to study what Jesus has to say to the first of the churches starting in Revelation chapter 2, the Church of Ephesus. 

 

This is an interesting church. It's really the hub out of which all of the ministry in Asia happened for the Apostle Paul. Paul began this church in his second missionary journey. It shows up in the book of Acts at the end of chapter 18 and the beginning of chapter 19. Remarkable stuff happens in the city of Ephesus. It's a very popular city throughout the course of your entire New Testament; as I said, Paul began his ministry there.

 

This city experienced some incredibly powerful preachers and teachers. They had Priscilla and Aquila, a faithful ministry couple in the church. They came in contact with one of the greater New Testament preachers, a guy named Apollos. Paul preached there and wrote letters to the Church at Ephesus. He also wrote a couple of Pastoral Epistles to his disciple Timothy who was there when Paul left and went on to his future ministry. They even had the Apostle John, who writes this letter. In fact, He probably wrote second and third John from Ephesus during his time there. 

 

This church also has a rich history. They've got a rich theological history. They've got a rich ministerial history. They've got incredibly powerful leaders who have been in and around this church. As we encounter it here in the Book of Revelation, this church is about 40 years out from the time it was planted. They're getting into the second and third generations of believers who have come through this church.

 

This Church at Ephesus is somewhat mature. There are generations of individuals and believers who are coming in and through this church. If you were to look for a popular and effective church, you would look to the Church at Ephesus in terms of its ministry, its preachers, and its cultural impact. When we read the church in Acts chapter 19, there's a massive revival that happens in the city of Ephesus where hundreds, if not thousands of people, come and repent of their idolatry and burn magic scrolls in the midst of the city that resulted in the destruction of thousands if not millions of dollars of idolatrous material.

 

So they've made an economic impact. They made a spiritual impact. This is a church that stands as a result of God's grace and power through the gospel taking route to this church, but what you're going to see here in this church is something that's very common. 

 

I tried to think about an illustration, and the best illustration came from talking to my wife about occupational hazards. Whatever occupation you are in, you have certain hazards that come from that occupation. And the best one I could think of was jugglers. Hang on, stay with me.

 

Imagine you're a juggler for a minute, and you get to the point in your juggling career where you have the opportunity to juggle chainsaws. Would you agree that juggling chainsaws comes with a certain bit of occupational hazard?

 

That's what the Church at Ephesus is dealing with, an occupational hazard. When you're juggling chainsaws (I've never juggled, I can only imagine), you have to pay attention to the end of the Chain Saw. Otherwise, it could be disasterous for you. And the Church at Ephesus, while being incredibly gifted, incredibly powerful, and incredibly effective in its ministry in the city of Ephesus, carries with it an occupational hazard. And in fact, this hazard is probably one that you've experienced before in your Christian Life. 

 

Ephesus is going to receive a commendation from Christ, and they're going to receive a criticism from Christ. And really, in the remainder of these letters, five of the seven letters to the churches are going to have a problem except for two. There are two churches that don't receive a criticism.

 

This is how all the letters go: Christ knows what's happening in the Church; He commends them for their work; He gives a criticism; and He says if you don't handle this problem, there's going to be a danger. If you do handle this problem, there's going to be a blessing. Then virtually all the letters end with Jesus saying, "Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches." 

 

Here's what I want to challenge you with over the next seven weeks while looking at the seven different churches. These churches are prototypical churches; every church that exists will have a measure of difficulty in the variety of struggles that these churches have, and these struggles may overlap. There may be certain areas in your life where God will reveal something to you throughout these seven weeks from which you discover you need to repent. Don't shrink back. 

 

I want to challenge you and encourage you that each week as we look at one of these letters that it may hit some of you differently. You may not be receiving the criticism that this church receives, but it's informative for you because you may face a season where you need the particular criticism and challenge that Jesus gives to each of these churches. 

 

I want to challenge you to do a couple of things over the course of these seven weeks as we look at these chapters together. I want you to pray for yourself personally, pray for somebody else, and pray for Citadel Square. 

 

That's your application for this week. 

 

All right, are you ready? This is going to be a struggle and an occupational hazard as a Christian that you have felt before. It's going to be very common. It's going to be something that all of us have discovered about ourselves at some point in our walk with Jesus. So this is a needed letter for all of us.

 

 Let's pray together. 

 

Father in heaven, for Your Word here this morning, for the words that Jesus gives to the Church at Ephesus through John, I pray that we would have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. For individuals in this room who will struggle with the particular temptation that the Church at Ephesus has, I pray that this morning they would be challenged and encouraged; that they would remember and run back to the person and work that Jesus Christ did on the cross for all of us. May we be shaped and encouraged; may we be developed and challenged to be the kind of men and women that you desire for us to be. Would you reform our hearts all the way down in all areas of our life, especially our motives and desires, that you this morning would reorder our love for you, who you are, and what you've done for us. We pray this in Jesus' name and for His sake, amen.

 

All right, Revelation Chapter 2. We're going to be in verses 1 through 7. 

 

Revelation 2, verse 1:

 "to the angel of the Church at Ephesus..."

 

We said last week that John describes Jesus in some very thematic ways all the way through Revelation chapter one. All of those descriptions of who Jesus is will be displayed in his letters to the churches. It's as if Jesus says, "Here's something about me, church, that you need to remember and you need to pay attention to. As this letter unfolds to the church at Ephesus, Jesus wants you to remember certain aspects of His character, certain themes about who He is that will be incredibly important for how He addresses the struggle of this church. So each title, each introduction, as Jesus tells John to write, will be important for how you and I understand each of these letters. They act as anchor spots in the letters that help you interpret each letter appropriately and understand the theme that Jesus wants to apply to that particular church. 

 

Last week, we looked at John, and John had 3 main anchors of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to him which were: suffering for the truth of who Jesus wasintimacy with Jesus, and the commission.

 

So from John's experience of Jesus Christ, we have the command to deal with suffering in an appropriate way through intimacy with Jesus and the commission of obedience. Now, that was John personally, yet you're going to see the same thing here with virtually all of these churches; they all need to understand their suffering and their obedience in light of the person of Jesus. 

 

Now watch how Jesus describes himself through John's writing to begin this letter to the churches. 

 

Here's what he says: 

"the words of him who holds the Seven Stars in his right hand who walks among the seven golden lampstands..." 

 

Now, when he talks about holding the Seven Stars and walking among the golden lampstands, this symbolizes first that Jesus holds the leaders of these churches in his hand, the leaders who are meant to respond to the person and word of Jesus Christ accurately in their church, and second that Jesus is walking among them. There's a sense of Jesus' intimacy and attention to the health of the church. You'll see why this is important as we go forward in this letter to the Ephesians. 

 

As Jesus walks around these churches, as he has control over the churches at this time, you see the intimacy and attention that Jesus is giving to this work. So he cares about the church. Would you agree that when Jesus says in Matthew 16, "I will build my Church," that Jesus is invested in the outcome and the church's health and well-being? That's the picture you have of Christ here. The greatest hope for us as a church is not that we have wonderful visions about things we ought to do in the city. The greatest hope for us as the church is that we would be responsive to the word of God and the desires of Jesus Christ for us. So when Jesus walks around the lampstands, Jesus is paying attention. Jesus is aware of the struggles that all of the churches had, and they're ultimately under his control, his authority, and his attention. 

 

So Jesus wants John to make sure that Ephesus, this church with a rich heritage and a rich history, knows that Jesus is still paying attention to them. He's watching them, he's aware of what's going on, and that's going to form all of what Jesus says next to this church.

 

"The words of him who holds the Seven Stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven golden lampstands..."  

 

One more thing about that. 

 

What do you notice is consistent in this passage? What's the theme between stars and lampstands?

 

They give light, don't they?

 

This is how God views the church. This is how Jesus views the church.

 

Paul says in Philippians that "you shine like lights in the world," so when Jesus walks among the lampstands and holds the stars in his hand, it's as if 

 

Jesus is giving light to the world through the people who make up his church.

 

Now keep that in the back of your mind because that will be important as we go forward. Look at verse 2. Jesus says to the church: 

 

"I know your works."

 

That's really encouraging to me.

 

When Paul gets to the end of 1 Corinthians 15, which is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and he gets to the "therefore" of talking about the resurrection, he says: 

 

"Therefore, my beloved brothers be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain."

 

So when Paul writes that in 1 Corinthians 15, he affirms that because Jesus is alive, He pays attention to everything that you do. Jesus knows about it.

 

And what Jesus does to begin this letter and counsel to the churches is to say, "Look, I know your work, and I know your toil."

 

Both of those are brought together in 1 Corinthians 15, the work and the toil. Toil has to do with working until you're exhausted. Until you're just plumb wore out.

 

And Jesus pays attention to the work that is done in his name and for his sake in this church. And anytime this word "know" is used of Jesus, it's not used in the way of Jesus discovering certain things about his church that he didn't know before like "Oh man, I didn't see them working for me over there." It always has to do with Jesus knowing completely what's happening in His Church. He always sees and always knows. 

 

So let me apply that not just to our church but to you personally. When you are working in Jesus name in relationships where your faithfulness is not seen, that 

 

Jesus knows. 

 

Remember what Jesus says about your spiritual practices, your giving, your praying, your fasting? 

 

"Your father, who sees what is in secret, will reward you." 

 

There's an awareness that God has about those who aren't publicly sharing their spiritual faithfulness but are people working for Jesus' name, for Jesus sake in small individual, unseen, unnoticeable ways. And Jesus says, "I see you. I know right where you are. I know what you're dealing with. I know what you're going through. I see you being faithful. 

 

Isn't that an encouragement? Isn't that great to hear that Jesus knows the efforts, albeit unseen, the prayers, the simple acts of faithfulness that are done for his name? And that's what he says to this church: "I know not just your works, but I know your toil. I know that your faithfulness to me makes you tired."

 

He continues in verse 2:

 

 "...and your patient endurance."

 

 Now, remember what John said in chapter 1, verse 9? 

 

"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patient endurance that are in Jesus." 

 

See that? Jesus is saying to the church, "I see your patient endurance, I see your bearing up, I see the fact that you are persevering in your work." Endurance means "to sit under." There's difficulty that sits on their shoulders, and they're enduring through it.

 

He continues:

 "...and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."  (v.2)

 

They have a great doctrinal statement. This church has standards about people who believe the right things, and they determine their fellowship. If you read the first chapter of 1 John, he lays out the standards that determine fellowship among Christians. He says, "That's what we have seen with our eyes and touch with our hands," and later on, he says, "our fellowship is with God the Father and with you." (1 John 1: 1-3) These verses determine the Apostolic truth that binds Christians together.

 

Now Ephesus did not exist in a context where there was no conflict. There's an economic riot that happens in Acts chapter 19, as I mentioned before. This church has to deal with people who would call themselves apostles and are not. This church is not just faithful to their doctrinal stance, but they're also able to evaluate and examine those who would come in and pretend to be apostles, people who aren't just deceived but who are deceivers.

 

Now let me show you this. Paul knew this was coming. Keep your finger in Revelation Chapter 2, and flip back to Acts chapter 20. Paul, before he leaves the area of Ephesus, gathers all the Elders of the Ephesian church together. He has a one-on-one, or a one on many, and he challenges them and charges them to act, live, and serve the Lord in a certain way. This is Acts chapter 20, verse 25. Here's what he says: 

 

"Now behold. I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I'm innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his own blood." 

 

Watch the danger that Paul says is coming to the Ephesian Church.

 

 "I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert."

 

So how has this church done at evaluating and examining the leaders that are caring for the flock of God? Flip back to Revelation. They're doing great work. They're paying attention. They've got the right doctrine in place. They believe the right things. They evaluate the people who would threaten to destroy the sheep in their churches, and they stand guard. They're like good shepherds. They believe and order their beliefs rightly.

That's their work.

 

Let's look at their experience, what it means to be a Christian in the city of Ephesus. Verse 3:

 

 "I know you're enduring patiently and bearing up for my namesake, and you have not grown weary."

 

This church recognizes that they don't just have to believe the right things, but they're going to have to endure and persevere when things aren't easy; when believing that Jesus is alive and that he is the way, the truth, and the life costs them something culturally. 

 

Do you think a church that causes an economic riot in the city is simultaneously making a lot of friends?

 

Do you think that the relationships they already have with others in the city, who are watching their revenues drop, are going to last?

 

Now they're experiencing the consequences of believing that Jesus is alive, preaching his name, and watching people repent of their idolatry and come into the church. This is what causes a riot in Acts 19; all of the city's craftsmen who make idols come together, and they chant and shout at the Christians for hours because these Christians are costing them money. And Jesus says, "I know you're enduring patiently for my namesake. I see you when you are experiencing the consequences of belief in me." 

 

Remember what Jesus said, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. I know what it will cost you, Christians, to take a stand for me in your city, in your time, and in your culture, and I see it." Now isn't that encouraging to know that Jesus sees what churches go through. Jesus sees what it means to be a Christian in our day, in our age, in our culture, in our city, in our workplaces, in our classrooms. In all of those things Jesus sees.

 

Now before I go on to Jesus' critique for this church, I want you to just think about this for a second. What area in your life are you the most sensitive to criticism?

 

Let me tell you where it is for me.

 

I am the most sensitive to rebuke and criticism when I am suffering for what I believe.

 

I become reticent to rebuke amid pain and suffering- whether it's relational, economic, vocational, whatever it is that I'm going through.  

 

You ever feel that way when you're acting faithfully and doing the things that you know you're called to do? You ever have one of those days where you've been faithful, you've been doing stuff, and you've been suffering in ways that people might not be aware of, and a criticism comes across your bow?

 

And you spend the next three hours in the car driving around Charleston, muttering angrily to yourself, for example.

 

Maybe that's not you.

 

But when Jesus says he knows your suffering, he knows your work, and he knows you're bearing up patiently, he still has the authority to demonstrate and show you some things that are happening in your heart that aren't nice.

 

Because if there's one thing I know, it's that typically when I encounter suffering and difficulty in my life, it can either stiffen me to rebuke where I begin to be impervious, or it can soften me to what God wants to say in that moment.

 

So, let's see what Jesus' critique is of this church.

 

"But I have this against you..." (v. 4)

 

We've been working. We've been faithful. We've had the right doctrinal statements. We work for His namesake. We test the apostles and the false teachers who would come into our church...

 

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (v. 4)

 

You ever been there? Where at some point in your Christian Life, you recognized that it was more about duty than devotion. Where your Christian Life and your walk with Jesus has now become more performance than passion, more information and insight than intimacy. That now suffering in your life has made you hard and brittle. 

 

This is the danger for every church in every season at every time, that a church has a tendency to gravitate toward clinging to things they believe rather than loving Jesus. 

 

Especially a church that has a heritage. Because what this church begins to produce in the first generation is an authentic love of Christ. Then in the next generation, people are doing things that "we know our parents did." Then you get to the third generation mentality of we can't remember why we do the things that we do in our church, the things that really demonstrated our love of...well, I'm not sure why we do these things. We've got great doctrinal statements. Our doctrinal statements haven't changed. Our bylaws haven't changed. Our website hasn't changed. Everything we're doing is for the glory of God. Man, it seems like we're really proud of the things that we're doing. 

 

We've left the love of Christ. 

 

Is that ever a danger for you?

 

Is that ever a danger for me?

 

That now, my work that I do is more perfunctory than it is passionate about Christ and who he is.

 

You've abandoned- that's a word that means "to forgive, to release, or to let go." You've let go of the love that you had at first.

 

You've abandoned it.

 

You see where the eyes of the church are looking?

 

They're looking at the culture, at the consequences of their belief, and at the people who would come in and threatened the church body, but they're not looking at themselves.

 

They're looking at the things they ought to believe; they're looking at the right doctrines they're meant to have, but they've left something. They aren't looking at the right person anymore. They've abandoned the love they had at first.

 

Now, let me tell you why I love Jesus.

 

Because Jesus doesn't just end the letter right here, aren't you glad that Jesus doesn't go, "All right, John next one. We've given the critique."? 

 

Every confrontation with Jesus is also an invitation, and what Jesus is about to do is take somebody, take a church, that is struggling with right devotion, right love of Jesus as being the central marrow of their body, the central marrow of their belief system, and he's about to counsel them into wholeness of heart again.

 

If you here have drifted in your love of Jesus Christ, Jesus is speaking to you, saying this is how you get back on track. This is how you come back to the right kind of relationship you're supposed to have with me. 

 

Isn't that encouraging? Aren't you glad that Jesus doesn't leave you in a place of going like, "Well, my Christian life is now hard and brittle, and I believe the right things, but man, I'm angry."?

 

This is how you do it. Look at verse 5. You got three r's. What's the first one?

 

Remember.

 

Memory is such a powerful motivating factor in the scriptures. Throughout the entire Bible, memory typically has to do with ordering your life around the truth that you had at the beginning. 

 

Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11, he said that Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread and broke it. After giving thanks, he gave it out, and he said, take my body broken for you. Do this in what? Remembrance. Remember something. What does that tell you about your spiritual life? What's the number one temptation that this church has if the council that Jesus has just given is to remember? The number one temptation this church has is to forget.

 

You've forgotten something central about what it means to be a church. You've forgotten something foundational about what it means to be a Christian. You've forgotten something essential. You abandoned the love you had it first. 

 

So what should I do now that I remember? How do I counsel my heart out of situations where I've forgotten? 

 

Do I remember the love that I had at first?

 

No.

 

What love is it that I should be remembering?

 

I must go back to the scriptures. 

 

But God demonstrates his love for us in this: that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) In this is love not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

(1 John 4:10)

 

Remember, church.

 

This is why the Lord's Supper is so essential. This is why attending church is so essential. This is why when you come, and you sing, and you remember the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done. It causes and stirs the emotions in your heart to remember how good he is. Remember. 

 

Number two. You don't just remember; you also do something else that's active. 

 

You repent

 

Repent means "change your mind." Metanoia is the word. It means to reorder the way that you are thinking about Jesus.

 

Remember who he is, repent or reorder my heart, and there's one more. 

 

It's to repeat

 

There's your three R's- remember, repent, repeat. 

 

Do the works you did at first. (Rev. 2: 5)

 

The problem here is that we're doing works for the wrong reasons. It tells me that what is happening in my life as I work is coming from a faulty disordered heart. I become more in love with the mission of Jesus than Jesus. I become more in love with the truth of Jesus than Jesus. I like to read theology books for getting smart, but I've forgotten the love of Jesus.

 

Isn't that discouraging? All of our hearts work like that, don't they? We get excited about the wrong things, about doing the things that aren't reflective of a true love for Jesus. 

 

It's only the true love of Jesus that will allow you to navigate life and have applications for your theology in different ways, in different times, and in different seasons.

 

If you have the love of Christ central, it gives you, like we said last week, courage and comfort. It gives me comfort in suffering to know that Jesus Loves Me; it gives me courage to be able to step out in faithfulness to know that Jesus loves me. It's this central idea here of remembering that Jesus Loves Me, repenting for the fact that I have not loved God the way that I should with my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then I begin to reorder my life around the love of Christ to do the works I did at first. 

 

If you don't have these texts in the scriptures, your whole new testament would be essentially Jesus died for you, get busy. Do lots of work for Jesus. He's coming back; get busy! 

 

You would "lose all things work together for the good of those who love God." You would lose "the goal of our instruction, love from a pure heart, sincere faith in good conscience."

 

You would lose the prayers in the book of Ephesians chapter 3, to know "the length and the breadth and the height and the depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge." You'd lose John 15, that talks about "abide in my love."

 

All throughout the New Testament, there's this invitation to intimacy with Jesus Christ.

 

That results in works, results in a passion for the truth of God, that allows you to take a stand in your culture for what is true and against what is false, but it only rightly comes out if we love Jesus.

 

So is this a concern for a pastor and a church that we would believe the right things and do the right things, but forget the love of Jesus?

 

That we would gather together and get smarter but not get deeper in our intimacy with Jesus Christ?

 

That's a concern for me. I hope that's a concern for you.

 

Because Jesus knows, right? He sees down to the level of our hearts.

 

"Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen." (v. 5)

 

What an interesting way to put it. 

 

That there was a height at one point, and now I view you as "you have abandoned the love you had at first." You didn't stay the same; you went downhill.

 

Repent and do the works that you did at first. If not, what's the danger for a church that doesn't do this? That doesn't remember, that doesn't repent, and that doesn't repeat the works they did at first. Here's the danger, and this is why Jesus begins with walking among the lampstands holding the Seven Stars in his hand. Look at what he says. 

 

"If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent." (v. 5)

 

There's a lot of writing that's done about churches and how many close their doors each year.

 

And churches close their doors for a variety of reasons. What Jesus says here is that a church can lose its light because it's lost its love and that He has the authority to both build the church and to close it.

 

So here's this Church 40 years into being planted by the Apostle Paul and they have the threat of having their light snuffed out.

 

Because they've lost their first love, they've abandoned the love they had at first. They may be powerful in word, in deed, in doctrine.

 

But as sure as Jesus sees them, he says, "If you don't repent, your church is done."

 

That makes me nervous. Does that make you nervous?

 

That Jesus has total authority to close the doors of a church. And it begins here. Now watch this. This is balance. The loss of the first love is balanced with one more commendation, which is so strange that it's put here. Look at verse 6.

 

 "Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (v. 6) 

 

Why did Jesus say that there? I think Jesus says it there because he balances this disordered love that is resulting in the hearts of the Christians and in the church.

 

It's as if Jesus is saying, "You've got half of the equation right. You hate the things that I hate."

 

See, a church doesn't take a stand and seem intolerant in a culture just arbitrarily. A church orders its convictions around what Jesus loves and what Jesus hates.

 

So Jesus has rebuked them for their failure to love Jesus, for their failure to remember what is so essential to making their church alive, but they do have convictions that align with Jesus around things that Jesus hates. We don't know who the Nicolaitans are. But Jesus has the ability to be able to call out individuals in a church and in a culture and say, "These guys I don't like."

 

Church, you hate the right stuff. It's just that you've forgotten to love the right stuff, too.

 

So if you're known purely for what you're against, what kind of church does that create?

 

A lot of anger. A lot of stiffness. A lot of brittleness. A lot of "we believe the right things. We don't love anything around here. We sure hate a lot of stuff, though. You should come to my church."

 

Now, are there threats to a church? Let me ask you, if you were to sit down with a pen and a paper and you were to describe Jesus, would there be anything on your list that Jesus hates?

 

Or would you go, "Well, Jesus is bearded for sure. He's probably happy, wearing some kind of toga. Definitely, Birkenstocks. Real happy. He kinda floats everywhere, maybe."

 

But would there be things in your mind and in your description of Jesus that Jesus hates?

 

And he says this church is right on because they hate the things that I hate.

 

Okay.

 

Look at verse 7. Here's your invitation. As I said, every confrontation with Jesus to the churches comes with an invitation. 

 

"The one who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (v. 7)

 

So if you've been sitting here this morning and you've discovered that this rebuke is for you. That you would say, "I recognize that I'm doing things that I would consider faithful and obedient, but there's a drought in my heart, there's a lot more light than there is warmth in my spiritual life." Then this invitation is for you.

 

The invitation from Jesus is to hear. Take this rebuke, take this council seriously: He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 

 

"To the one who conquers..." (v. 7) 

 

Now conquering... Remember what Jesus said?

 

"In this world, you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world."  

 

It's the same word here.

 

"To the one who overcomes" holistically through the course of the Bible has to do with our faith in Jesus, God's Son, as being the one who heals us and brings us to wholeness in our relationship with him. And what comes with that is the sense that nobody can snatch us out of the Hands of Christ.

 

So this passage here, this phrase, "to him who conquers," has a global reality, which is what John says in 1 John 5, which says: "Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." So it has a holistic reality for us as we live life in a sinful world. We cling by faith to who Jesus is and what he has done for us. But it also has a particular application to this church. What is the thing that this church has to conquer?

 

What's the particular difficulty of the Church of Ephesus? 

It's to be forgetful.

 

It's to forget the love I had, to abandon the truth, to not remember, repent, and repeat all of what characterized the initial reality of our relationship. Now watch this because what John does blows my mind. In all of these letters, John gives you a council to listen, and he gives you a promise for those who conquer. What is the promise for those who reorder the love relationship with Jesus? Look at the remainder of the verse. 

 

"To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (v. 7)

 

Why in the world is the tree of life here?

 

Why in the world is this the promise to those who would conquer the particular forgetful tendency you and I have. What is the Tree of Life about?

 

We're going to end this sermon in the Book of Genesis. So flip from Revelation chapter 2, back to Genesis chapter 3.

 

We're going to do some biblical theology here. Why in the world would Jesus reference the Tree of Life in the first book of the Bible and the tree of life and the last book of the Bible?

 

There are two trees in the midst of the garden, one of them Adam and Eve were told not to touch, which is the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. The other is the Tree of Life. 

 

Now Adam and Eve don't do so good with the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, right? They sin by eating the fruit God told them not to touch, and then there's a problem.

 

They're broken in the Garden of Eden in the place where God walks. Take a look at Genesis chapter 3, verse 22. This is after they've eaten the fruit. 

 

"Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man is become like one of us knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever-"

Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the Tree of Life." (Genesis 3: 22-24)

 

What's the Tree of Life indicate?

 

These people have lost fellowship with God. God has put up a barrier to fellowship. What's that tell you about the temptation that caused them to fall? Look at Chapter 3, verse 6. 

 

"So when the woman saw the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate." 

 

What's the temptation in the garden about?

 

It's about obedience. It's about the revealed will of God and the word of God, but where's the temptation? It's the same temptation that the Church in Ephesus has in the things that are its Delight.

 

It's in the things that it loves.

 

That's why the main problem that you and I have isn't so much obedience and disobedience. The main problem you and I have is in what we love and what we worship.

 

So from Genesis chapter 3 all the way through the Book of Revelation, the Bible captures men and women with disordered passions, desires, and loves.

 

That's the great danger for you, and that's a great danger for me; that we would be a church that would continue with disordered loves and would lose what they lost in the garden, any and all intimacy with God.

 

See the beauty of Revelation Chapter 2 is that we have someone who obeyed God perfectly, who Loved God perfectly. Who, when he was on Earth, said, "I always do what is pleasing to the father."

 

How do you reorder the loves in your heart?

 

You remember the one who loved you.

 

See, if you're Bible study and your reading of the scriptures is like, "I need more information; I need more insight for this struggle in my life; I need more wisdom to make sure that my life goes well and is comfortable," and is not about a continued feeding and stoking the fires of intimacy between you and God, you are experiencing the danger of the book of the Church of Ephesus.

 

The greatest truth in the Bible is that Jesus loves you and me.

 

And out of that love, out of that intimacy, I can now begin to reorder my life around a love relationship with Jesus that will last forever.

 

So if you're dry and your heart is in a drought, don't go out and get busy.

Sit, consider, repent, and repeat the works that you had done at the beginning.

 

If you haven't come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, who he is, and how he loves you, and how he took the consequences and the penalty for your sin in his body on the cross for you to open the way to a love relationship of intimacy with the God of Heaven and Earth, the maker of the Sea and the dry land, then our hope for you is that you would come to a knowledge of Jesus' Saving Grace for you. 

 

We've got nothing to offer you but Jesus.

 

 It's our hope as Christians that we would begin to tend the fires of our hearts in such a way that we would come again to intimacy with Jesus Christ. 

 

Remember, repent, and repeat the works we did in the beginning. I pray that's true of you and true of me. I pray that's true of Citadel square, that we would be a church who loves Jesus Christ and, therefore, works out of that total safety, security, and intimacy in relationship with him.

 

Let's pray.

Father, we take just a minute to remember your love for us. We take just a minute to reflect on the truth that Jesus loves me and that Jesus loves you. Father, would the truth in this scripture penetrate into our hearts with the invitation that when our hearts are confronted with being unable to love correctly, would the confrontation between our disordered loves and the grace of Jesus Christ result in a remembering that would reorder our lives. Father, I pray even this morning for folks here. I pray for myself that I would know the length and the breadth, the height and the depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Being filled to the fullness of God the father. That is our prayer. And as Paul finishes that prayer, to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond what we could ask or think. To him, be the glory. 

 

Amen.

 

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