Ephesus: Where is the Love?
Passage: Revelation 2:1–2:7
Good morning! We are in a series on the Book of Revelation; Well, really in the first couple of chapters of the Book of Revelation, called "Seven," which you can see on the screen there behind me. We're looking at the seven churches of Revelation. So, grab your Bibles. Go ahead and turn to the very last book of your Bible, the book of Revelation. We begin getting into the churches here today. We spent two weeks really 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. We've seen that demonstrated for you here in the first chapter.
Today we're going to start in the first of those churches. We're going to look at 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. The apostle Paul began this church on a second missionary journey. It shows up at the end of chapter 18 in the book of Acts, beginning of chapter 19. And 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. They had incredibly powerful preachers and teachers. Priscilla and Aquila were kind of this ministry couple that were there at Ephesus. They came in contact with one of the greater New Testament preachers, a guy named Apollos. Paul preached there. Paul wrote letters to the church at Ephesus. He wrote in a couple of Pastoral Epistles to his disciple Timothy, who was there when Paul left and when he went on to his future ministry. They even had the Apostle John, who writes this letter.
He probably wrote second and third John from Ephesus during his time there. This church 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. But this church, as we encounter it here in the Book of Revelation, is about 40 years from being planted. So they're getting into the second and third generations of believers who have come through this church.
So this church 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 church that was a popular church and an effective church, you would look to the church at Ephesus in terms of its ministry, its preachers, and its cultural impact. When you read Acts 19, there is 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 it results in thousands, if not millions, of dollars of idolatry being destroyed. So, they've made an economic impact. They've made a spiritual impact. This is a church that stands really on the result of God's grace and power working in and through the gospel taking root in 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. When I was 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 just for a minute. Maybe we have jugglers in this room. 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? See, three of you are nodding your heads that you're with me in this illustration.
That's what the church at Ephesus is dealing with. When you're juggling chainsaws, I've never juggled, I can only imagine that you have to pay attention to the end of the chainsaw. Otherwise, it could be a disaster for you. And the church at Ephesus, while being incredibly gifted, incredibly powerful, incredibly effective in its ministry in the city of Ephesus, it carries with it an occupational hazard. And in fact, this hazard is probably one that you've experienced before in your christian life. This may be
a passage of scripture that you've never heard taught before
But Ephesus is going to receive a commendation from Christ, and they're going to receive a criticism from Christ. And really, the remainder of these letters, five of the seven letters to the churches are going to have a problem except for two. Two churches don't receive criticism.
But this church will receive a commendation. This is how all the letters go: Christ knows what's happening in the church; Christ commends them for their work. He has 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." And then it ends, virtually all the letters end, with Jesus saying, "let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches." So here's what I want to challenge you with. Just over the next seven weeks, we're going to be together looking at seven different churches.
These churches are prototypical churches. Every church that exists will have a measure of difficulty of the variety of struggles that these churches have–and they may overlap. There may be certain areas in your life where God will reveal something to you over the course of these seven weeks that you discover that you're going to need to repent of.
So don't shrink back. I want to challenge you and encourage you that each week as we look at one of these letters, it may hit some of you differently. That you may not be receiving the criticism that this church receives. Still, it's informative for you because you may face a season where you need the criticism and the challenge that Jesus gives to these churches.
So, 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; I want you to pray for somebody else; and I want you to pray for Citadel Square. Okay, so as God shares with us, and Jesus demonstrates, the challenge that these letters are going to present to you and to me. This letter has been working on me all week. I hope it works on you this week. I want to challenge you to pray for yourself, pray for someone else, look around right now. Look around, somebody else, pick somebody out and pray for them this week. And then pray for Citadel Square. Okay, you would think that's your application this week.
Alright, you ready? This is going to be a struggle and an occupational hazard for a Christian that you have felt before. It's going to be very common. It's going to be something all of us in this room have discovered about ourselves at some point in our walk with Jesus. So, this is a needed letter for all of us in this room. Alright, the church at Ephesus. Let's pray together.
Father in heaven, thank you 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 does, I pray that this morning they would be challenged and encouraged, and they would run back and return and remember to the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross for 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 the areas of our life that are our motives and our desires, that you this morning would reorder our love for you and for who you are and for what you've done for us. We pray this in Jesus's name and for his sake, Amen.
Alright, you with me? Revelation, chapter 2. We're going to be in verses 1-7 here together. Revelation chapter 2, take a look at what it says: Revelation 2:1:
"to the angel of the church at Ephesus."
We said last week that Jesus gives, or 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." Its that as John writes this letter, 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 the church. So each title, each introduction, as Jesus tells John to write, will be important for how you and I understand this letter.
They're kind of anchor spots in the letters that help you interpret the letter appropriately and understand the theme that Jesus wants to apply to the church. Okay. So here's the first one and we've set we said this last week. This is how the text closed last week. Now, last week we looked at John. And John had two brackets around the Revelation of Jesus Christ to him. He had suffering for the truth of who Jesus was, then we had the intimacy with Jesus in the middle, and then we had the obedience of John at the end.
Right. So on either side of John's experience of Jesus Christ. We have the command to deal with suffering in an appropriate way and the commission of obedience. Now, that was John personally. You're going to see the same thing here with virtually all of these churches. That all of these churches need to understand their suffering and their obedience in light of the person of Jesus. And as I said, it's going to be out of the demonstration of who Jesus is. Now watch how Jesus describes himself 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, I explained this last week, and you can watch that online. But when Jesus talks about holding the Seven Stars and walking among the golden lampstands, it says that it's as if Jesus holds the, what we said last week were, the leaders of these churches. The leaders who are meant to respond to the person and word of Jesus Christ accurately in their church, and that Jesus now is walking among the lampstands. There's a sense of Jesus intimacy and attention to the health of the church. So you'll see why this is important as we go forward.
This letter is to the church of the Ephesians. But as Jesus walks around these churches, as Jesus has control over the churches at this time, you have an 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 in the health and well-being of the church? 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. You with me? 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 and his authority and his attention.
So Jesus wants John to make sure that Ephesus knows, this church with a rich heritage and a rich history, 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
Now, one more thing about that. I don't know if I said this last week, but do you notice, this is kind of a duh observation, what's consistent? 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 that 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's going to be important as we go forward here in a minute. Look at verse 2. Here's what Jesus says to the church.
"I know your works."
I don't know about you, but boy, that's really encouraging to me.
When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And he gets to the end, kind of 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 says that everything that you do because Jesus is alive, Jesus pays attention to. 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 work until you're exhausted. So you are just plumb wore out.
And Jesus pays attention to the work that is done in his name and for his sake in the church. And anytime this word "know" is used of Jesus, it's not used of Jesus discovering certain things about his church that he didn't know before. It always has to do with Jesus knowing completely what's happening in a church. He always sees in, always knows. That applies not just to our church but to you personally. When you are working in Jesus's name in the relationships where your faithfulness is not seen.
When you are praying for what Jesus says about your spiritual practices, you're giving, you're praying, you're fasting, your father "who sees what is done in secret will reward you." That there's an awareness that God has about people who aren't publicly sharing their spiritual faithfulness, but people who are working for Jesus's name, for Jesus's 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 encouragement? Isn't that great to hear that? Jesus knows the efforts, be it unseen, the prayers, the simple acts of faithfulness, that are done for his name. And that's what he says this church. I know not just your works, but I know your toil. I know that your faithfulness to me makes you tired. It goes on:
"And your patient endurance."
Now, we said that these three things, remember what John said in chapter 1? It is verse 9:
"I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus."
See that? So 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. You're not just doing one thing, and I see it, and that's over." But Jesus says to the church, "your persevering, your enduring, your time to sit under," was what that word meant. That there's difficulty that sits on their shoulders and they're going through it.
"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."
You know what that's about. This church has standards about people who believe the right things and determine their fellowship. If you read 1 John, in the first chapter of 1 John, John lays out the standards that determined fellowship among Christians. And he goes, "that which we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands," and he says, "our fellowship is with God the Father and with you." And it determines this 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 19, as I mentioned before. This church has to deal with people who would call themselves apostles and are not. And not only this church. 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 themselves.
Now, let me show you this. Paul knew this was coming. Keep your finger in Revelation 2 and flip back to Acts 20 just for a second.
Acts 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 and live and serve the Lord in a certain way. This is Acts 20:25:
"and 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."
Now, watch the danger that Paul says is coming to the Ephesian church.
Have I know that fierce wolves welcomed 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 after my departure. 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.
Now, look at verse 3. That's their work. Let's look at their experience. Let's look at what it means to be a Christian in the city of Ephesus.
"I know you're enduring patiently and bearing up for my namesake, and you have not grown weary."
So this church recognizes that they don't just have to believe the right things, but they're going to have to endure and to 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 making a lot of friends?
Do you think their relationships with others who are in the city–who are watching their revenues drop–are solid relationships?
That now, they're experiencing the consequences of believing that Jesus is alive and 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 craftsmen of the city 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. I know that you are under it, and you're enduring patiently for what?
"for my name's sake."
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's going to 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 church is going through? Jesus sees what it means to be a Christian in our day and in our culture and in our city and in our workplaces and in our classrooms, and in all of those things, Jesus sees.
Now, before I go on, here comes Jesus's critique. Here's the concern in the next verse that Jesus has for this church. And before we get to it, I want you to just think about this for a second.
When is the time in your life where you are the most sensitive to criticism?
Think about that just for a minute. Let me tell you where it is for me. The place that I am the most sensitive to rebuke and criticism is when I am suffering for what I believe. That I become really reticent because of the pain. Suffering, relational, economic, vocational, whatever it is, I become really reticent to receive rebuke.
Do you ever feel that when you're acting faithfully and doing the things that you know you're called to do that what begins to happen in your heart, is you stiffen to people who would critique 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.
Maybe that's not you.
But when Jesus says he knows your suffering, he knows your work, he knows you're bearing up patiently, Jesus–Listen. Listen, this is important.
Jesus still has the authority to demonstrate and show you some things that are happening in your heart that aren't nice.
Because if it's one thing I know, it's typical when I encounter suffering and difficulty in my life.
Suffering and difficulty in my life 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 this I have against you."
We've been working. We've been faithful. We've had the right doctrinal statements. We work for his name's sake. We test the apostles and the false teachers who would come into our church,
"but this I have against you, you have abandoned the love you had at first."
You ever been there? Are you shaking your head, yes? At some point in your Christian life, you recognized that your Christian life is more about duty than devotion.
Where your Christian life, and your walk with Jesus, have now become more performance than passion. More information and insight than intimacy.
That now suffering in your life has made you hard and brittle–and this is the danger for every church in every season at every time.
It's that a church has a tendency to gravitate toward clinging to things that they believe rather than loving Jesus.
Especially a church that has a heritage, because what this church begins to produce in the first generation, it's an authentic love of Christ that they had at first. The next generation, people are doing "things that we know our parents did." And then you get to the third generation, and it becomes, "we can't remember why it is that we do the things that we used to do in our church. The things that really demonstrated our love. I'm not sure why we do these things, and 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. But man, it really seems like the things that we're doing, we're really proud of. 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 is more perfunctory than it is passionate in Christ and who he is.
And that's a word that is used in other places. That means to forgive. It means to release to let it go. I've let go of the love that I had at first.
You've abandoned it.
You see where the eyes of the church are looking. Just in the first few verses, did you see it?
They're looking at the culture, at the consequences of their belief, and they're looking at the people who would come in and threaten 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? Aren't you glad that Jesus doesn't go, alright John, next one. We've given the critique.
But Jesus always, 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 you into wholeness of heart again.
To where, if you in this room this morning have drifted in your love of Jesus Christ, Jesus now is speaking to you to say, "this is how you get back on track." This is how you come back to a relationship. That is the right kind of relationship you're supposed to have with me. Is that encouraging? Aren't you glad Jesus gives, that he 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."
And Jesus says, "this is how you do it." Look at verse 5. You've got three "R's" real simple. What's the first one?
Memory, it's such a powerful motivating factor in the scriptures. Memory, typically throughout the entire Bible, has to do with ordering your life on the truth that you have back here.
And what Paul says in First Corinthians 11,
"The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'"
Remember something. What does that tell you about your spiritual life? What's the number one temptation that this church has? If the counsel that Jesus has just given is to remember, what's the number one temptation this church has?
Its to forget.
It's, "you have forgotten something central about what it means to be a church. You've forgotten something central 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? What should I remember? How do I counsel my heart out of situations where I've forgotten? Do I remember the love that I had it first?
What love is it that I should be remembering?
"But God demonstrates his love for us in this that while we were sinners, Christ died for us."
"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."
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 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.
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, reorder my heart, and you want one more.
It's to Repeat.
There's your three "R's": remember, repent, repeat. Do the work she did at first. The problem here is that we're doing works for the wrong reasons.
Right. It tells me that what is happening in my life as I work is coming from a faulty, disordered heart. It's that 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? Sorry to discourage you. All of our hearts work like that, don't they?
That we get excited about the wrong things, about doing the things that aren't reflective of a true love for Jesus? It's only 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. We said about John, it gives me comfort in suffering to know that Jesus loves me. 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 it first." You with me?
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 here. 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 is love from a pure heart, sincere faith in good conscience."
You would lose the prayers in the book of Ephesians 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 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 comes, that results in works, results in a passion for the truth of God, that allows you to take stands in your culture for what is true and 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."
What an interesting way to put it, isn't it?
There was 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, the danger for a church that doesn't do this, that doesn't repent, that doesn't remember, and that doesn't repeat the works that 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."
There's a lot of writing that's been done about churches and how many close their doors each year. And churches close their doors for a variety of reasons. But what Jesus says here is that a church can lose its light–because it's lost its love.
And that Jesus has the authority to both build the church and to close churches.
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. That they may be powerful in word, in deed, in doctrine, but as sure as Jesus sees them, he said, "if you don't repent, your church is done."
That makes me nervous. Make you nervous?
That Jesus has total authority to close the doors of the church. And it begins here. Now, watch this. This is balance. The loss of the first love is balanced with one more commendation, which it's 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."
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 says, 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. You with me?
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. And church, you hate the right stuff. It's just that you have forgotten the love the right stuff, too."
So if you're known for purely what you're against, what kind of church does that create?
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 with, "Jesus, he's bearded for sure. He's probably happy... some kind of toga. Definitely Birkenstocks. Really happy. He kind of 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 I hate the things that I hate."
Okay. Now, look at verse 7. Here's your invitation. As I said, every confrontation with Jesus to the churches comes with an imitation. Here's your invitation.
"the one who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
So if you've been sitting here this morning, and you've discovered that, "this rebuke is for me." That, "I recognize that I'm doing things that I would consider faithful and obedient, but there's a drought in my heart."
If there's a lot more light than there is warmth in my spiritual life, then this invitation is to you here this morning. This invitation may be for a variety of you here this morning. This may be an invitation for our church. Depends on where your heart is here this morning, but the invitation from Jesus is here. Take this rebuke, take this counsel, seriously.
He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. So the one who conquers is now conquering, and 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."
Now, holistically through the course of the Bible. It has to do with our faith–our faith in Jesus, God's Son, as being the one who heals us and brings us to wholeness and our relationship with him. And what comes with that is the sense that nobody can snatch us out of the hands of Christ, right?
So this passage here, this phrase,
"to him who conquers."
Has a global reality. That this is what John says in 1 John 5. He says this:
"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?
That's your question, right? To him who conquers. What's the particular difficulty of the Church of Ephesus? It's to be forgetful.
It's to forget the love. It's to abandon the truth. And 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, because John, in all of these letters, gives you a counsel to listen, and he gives you a promise for those who conquer. What is the promise for those who reorder their loves and relationship with Jesus in their life? 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."
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 that you and I have? What is the Tree of Life about?
We're going to end here in the Book of Genesis. So stop where you are here flip from Revelation chapter to go 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?
It's 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 that Adam and Eve were told not to... well, one that they were told not to touch. There are two trees. There's the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and there's the tree of life, right?
Now Adam and Eve don't do so good with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, right? They sinned, they eat the fruit, Eve gave some to her husband, and then there's a problem. They're broken. In the Garden of Eden, in the place where God walks. Now take a look at Genesis chapter 3:22-24. This is after they've eaten the fruit.
"Then Lord God said, 'Behold. The man is become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reached 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 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."
What does the Tree of Life indicate?
These people have lost fellowship with God. God has put up a barrier to fellowship. What does that tell you about the temptation that caused them to fall? Go back up to the end of the chapter. Let me show you.
Genesis 3:6: "So when the woman saw that 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 was the temptation in the garden about? It's about obedience, isn't it? It's about the revealed will of God and the word of God and what he has said. But where's the temptation? Hint: the temptation is the same temptation that the church in Ephesus has
It's 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 what we love and what we worship.
So that, from Genesis chapter 3, all the way through the Book of Revelation, the Bible captures men and women with disordered passions and desires and loves.
That's the great danger for you. That's a great danger for me. It's 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?
the one who loved you
See, if you're in a 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 it is not about a continued feeding and stoking the fires of intimacy between you and God. You are experiencing the danger of the Church of Ephesus.
The greatest truth in the Bible is that Jesus loves you.
Is that Jesus loves me. And out of that love, out of that intimacy, I can now begin to reorder my life in 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.
And repeat the works that you did at the beginning.
If you haven't come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and 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's saving grace for you here this morning.
We've got nothing to offer you but Jesus.
And it's our hope for you, 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 the beginning. I pray that's true of you. I pray that's true of me. I pray that's true of Citadel Square. That we would be a church that loves Jesus Christ and therefore works out of that total safety and security and intimacy and 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 who are in this room. 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