2. Ephesus -- The Loveless ChurchRelated Media
Editor's Note: a lightly edited transcription of the attached audio file will be found at the end of this originally written daily study guide. Appreciation for this transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
Jesus sent a personal message to seven first century churches in Asia Minor. Even though these messages were sent to specific churches of that time, they can also apply to the church today. We can learn from each of these messages and heed the warnings of Jesus so that we might avoid the problems that they fell prey to.
We begin with the church at Ephesus. At the time this letter was written, Ephesus was a major city of Asia Minor and a seaport. Paul had visited Ephesus around A.D. 53, about 43 years before this letter in Revelation was sent to them.
Ask God to open your heart to hear what He wants to say to you through the message to the church at Ephesus.
DAY 1: JESUS AND THE CHURCH
I. Looking to God’s Word
Read Revelation 2:1–7. Today our focus is on verse 1.
1. How is Jesus described in verse 1 and what does this description imply?
2. As you read Paul’s farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:25-32 some 43 years earlier, what was his exhortation to them? What was he most concerned about for this church?
3. According to Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:3-7, what were some earlier issues in the church of Ephesus?
II. Looking Upward
4. How would you recognize a “false teacher” in the church today?
5. How can we protect our church from being “led astray” by false doctrines?
6. God is in control of all that happens in and around us. How have you seen His sovereign hand at work in your life recently?
III. Looking Deeper
What warnings and descriptions are we given in these passages concerning false teachers?
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
2 John 7
IV. Looking Reflectively
Be on guard against false teachings. Stand strong on His Word.
Are you grounded in God’s Word?
How susceptible are you to being pulled away from the truth?
DAY 2: THE COMMENDATION
I. Looking to God’s Word
Read Revelation 2:2-3, 6
1. What was the church at Ephesus commended for?
2. In light of Paul’s farewell message to the elders of this church in Acts 20:28-32, which you read yesterday, how has this church done over the years in following Paul’s exhortation?
3. What does it mean that one “cannot tolerate evil men” and why would that be considered a strength? How would you define an “evil man” today?
II. Looking Upward
4. What is the balance between not tolerating an “evil man” and loving the sinner? How do we work this out in a practical way in our lives?
5. This church was commended for their perseverance and not growing weary. Is there currently a situation in your life that is causing you to grow weary? If so, how are your handling it?
6. How does one practically persevere and not grow weary?
III. Looking Deeper
We don’t know who the Nicolaitans are. There are several viewpoints but they are simply speculation. What do we know for sure about the Nicolaitans based on the Scripture itself in Revelation 2:6 and 2:14-15?
Jesus commended them for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also hates (2:6). What else does God hate according to these verses?
Are you guilty of any of these things in your life?
IV. Looking Reflectively
God desires for His children to persevere and not grow weary, to exhibit spiritual discernment, and to hate what He hates.
Which of the commendations mentioned in verses 2-3 would He be able to commend you for?
DAY 3: THE CONCERN
I. Looking to God’s Word
Read Revelation 2:4
1. What is the criticism of the Ephesian church? Why is that surprising in light of how Paul concluded his letter to the Ephesians more than 30 years earlier (Ephesians 6:24)?
2. What was He referring to when He said, “… you have left your first love”?
Read Mark 12:28-31
3. What does it mean to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”?
4. According to these verses, how do we show our love for Christ?
John 14:15, 21, 23
II. Looking Upward
5. What are some possible causes of someone leaving his first love? What would be some warning signs that one is moving in that direction?
6. What role, if any, do emotions play in loving Christ?
III. Looking Deeper
Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-4
In a similar way, as Jesus was concerned about the church at Ephesus, Paul was concerned for the Corinthian church and their relationship with Christ. Describe Paul’s concern for the Corinthians.
What does it mean to be led astray from “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”?
IV. Looking Reflectively
“Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service to Him.” --Oswald Chambers1
“The Divine Lover still sorrows when His love is unrequited, and pines for our continuing, deepening, maturing adoration.”2
Have you ever left your first love? If so, describe the process of how it happened. How did you rekindle your first love?
Are you in danger of leaving your first love now? What are some potential areas in your life that could cause you to leave your first love?
DAY 4: THE INSTRUCTIONS AND WARNING
I. Looking to God’s Word
Read Revelation 2:5
1. What are His instructions to the church at Ephesus?
2. Why would it be important to remember from where they had fallen?
3. What is repentance and why is it necessary? What is the difference between remorse and repentance?
4. What is He implying when He says, “or else I … will remove your lampstand out of its place”?
II. Looking Upward
5. What “deeds” might fan the flames of your love for Christ and others?
6. What are some principles we can draw from Revelation 2:1-7 concerning how we should confront others in an area of concern?
III. Looking Deeper
Read John 15:4-6
What similarities do you see in this passage and the warning to the church at Ephesus?
Read Hoses 6:6
Why would this be true?
IV. Looking Reflectively
The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.3
“One cannot stand erect spiritually and see one’s sin as God sees it. It has to break the heart. Has yours been broken?”4
Does your love for God need “rekindling”?
Is there something in your life that you need to repent of?
DAY 5: THE PROMISE
I. Looking to God’s Word
Read Revelation 2:7
1. There is disagreement among scholars as to what this verse means. Some believe that the “overcomers” are a special class of believers. However, I agree with the view that the “overcomers” are all believers. How do these Scriptures support the second view that He is referring to all believers?
1 John 4:4
1 John 5:4-5
2. What insight do we gain from these passages concerning the “tree of life which is in the Paradise of God”?
3. So, what exactly is He promising to those who overcome when He says, “I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God”?
4. Why might this promise be especially relevant to the Ephesian church?
II. Looking Upward
5. As you look back over the letter, how would you summarize His message to the church at Ephesus?
6. What are some lessons for life that you can draw from this passage that can be applied in your own life?
III. Looking Deeper
In this world, we will have many adversaries, and yet Jesus promises us victory to overcome them all as we abide in Him as overcomers. According to these verses, who or what are our adversaries and what are the means for overcoming them?
1 Peter 5:8-9
IV. Looking Reflectively
“The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough to it for its sparks to fall on us.”5
Is your love for Jesus an undying love or is it “dying out”?
Introduction to the message for Lesson 2: Ephesus, the Loveless Church [Begin Transcription]
This summer I was listening online to a podcast of one of my professors from seminary. He was speaking in their chapel service. He shared how he had received a letter recently from a recent graduate. This student had expressed gratitude in the letter for the education he had received while he was at seminary, but he went on to write something that was deeply disturbing. He told Dr. Constable that when he arrived on campus he was deeply in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. But, when he left he was more in love with the biblical text. He left seminary loving the Bible more than he loved the Savior. He said it took him a while after graduating to recognize his drift and what he needed to do to reorient his life back to where Jesus Christ was the first love of his life. He told about another conversation he had had with a student. This student had just finished his first year at seminary and he told Dr. Constable “I am not returning in the fall.” The reason was because during that year in seminary his walk with the Lord had dried up. He just felt that he was not willing to make the sacrifice in order to get a seminary degree. So, he stopped. Dr. Constable went on to share some other conversations that I will not go into. They are all basically the same though: students who ended up loving other things more than Jesus Christ.
These students have something in common with the church at Ephesus. They had left their first love. They had lost focus of what was most important in their life. Thankfully, these students made the necessary corrections before it was too late. I can see how this losing focus can happen. I can tell you that as a seminary student it would be very easy to get so busy and always be under the pressure of having things to do, papers to write, books to read that the focus gets misplaced. I can see where it would happen. I am thankful that I was not one of those that it happened to, but it could happen to any of us.
What is most important in your life? Relationships, material possessions, recognition, knowledge--how much you know and maybe how much you know about the Bible--? Well, Jesus tells us what should be most important. You do not have to turn here, but in Mark 12:28 and following one of the scribes asked Him,
“What commandment is the foremost commandment of all?” Jesus answered, “… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NASB)
The foremost commandment of all is to love the Lord with all your heart, to love Him first. It has been emphasized this past year here that we are a church that is known for two things. I am sure you have heard this. We are a church that is known first for the excellent expository Bible teaching. We are also known for our missions. Those are the two things that this church is known for. But, do you know what I pray that we would be known for? That we would be known as a church that deeply loves the Savior. That is what I want people to say about this church. “They love Jesus Christ more than anything else.” I pray this because all those other things will fall into place if that love for Him is first. That is my challenge today to us is that we would love Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Overview of the Seven Letters
Before we look at the letter of Ephesus today, let us begin by looking at an overview of the seven letters. Go ahead and turn to Revelation 2. As I mentioned last week, these seven letters were sent to seven actual, literal churches in the first century. But, the messages to these churches do not just apply to that specific church. They apply to all believers throughout all the ages. As a matter of fact, when the carrier took the letter of revelation to Ephesus and the person at Ephesus read the letter, he read beginning in Revelation 1 all the way to Revelation 22. So the church at Ephesus heard every letter read, not just their letter. God wanted every church to hear all the messages. Today, He likewise wants us to hear the messages that were written to these churches.
All seven letters follow a pattern and I am sure you have seen the pattern. There is always a greeting at the beginning which is the same greeting. Each letter begins, “To the angel of the church in blank.”
Then, it is followed by a unique description of the Lord Jesus Christ. This description is drawn mainly from the vision of Jesus Christ that we looked at last week in chapter 1. Each description used in each letter is specifically appropriate for that church. It is always related in some way to the needs, to the problems, to the condition of the church and that is the description of Christ that we see in the beginning of each letter. It is a reminder that Jesus Christ is the only solution for any of our needs, for any of our problems.
A third thing that we see in the letters is a commendation. Every letter contains commendations of something good about the church, except one letter. There is something good said to start us off. Only one letter has absolutely nothing positive for commendation, and that is the letter to Laodicea. It the last letter that we look at. All the others have a commendation.
Then, fourth we see that they all have a rebuke. There is something negative said to every church. There is something that they need to work on or something that is not pleasing to the Lord. All but two letters, that is, got a rebuke. The two letters that did not get a rebuke are the letter to Smyrna that we will look at next week and the letter to Philadelphia.
Fifth, we see an exhortation in every letter. There are really two kinds of exhortations. There is always a specific exhortation in which he instructs that specific church to do specific things pertaining to their situation. There is also a general exhortation that is the same in every letter, just in a different place. As we get about halfway through. He always says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Then, the last thing is the promise. There is always a promise. It is made to the overcomer. These promises are often metaphorical, they are symbolic, and, as a result, they are very difficult to interpret. I realized that this summer as I was writing the study, “Oh, wow, this is hard because scholars do not even agree on how they interpret these promises!” Scholars that I respect do not even agree. So, it is hard to know what do these promises really mean? Well, there is one thing they agree on. All these promises allude to our eternal future with Jesus Christ. They all allude to that eternal space seen in Chapters 21 and 22 in Revelation. There we have the new heaven and the new which we can look forward to.
There are several views concerning these promises and who is the one who is the overcomer. There are actually four views. I do not have time to go through those with you, but if you are interested, come up to me afterward and I will be glad to tell you what those different views are. The view that I hold as to the identity of the overcomer is that he is the believer—that is, any believer. Anyone who has put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is an overcomer. I base this on another letter that John wrote, where in I John 5:5 John asked a question,
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he who believeth that Jesus is the son of God? (KJV)
The overcomer is the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God. We become overcomers the moment that we place our faith in Jesus Christ and believe who He is. So, in this view it is our faith that is the primary focus, not our faithfulness. Some of the views sort of lean toward the idea that you have to be faithful, then you will get these promises. I take the view that if you are a believer your faith makes you inherit these promises. So, these promises are intended to spur these believers on: persevere, hang in there because I tell you the end is worth waiting for. That is why every promise alludes to that eternal future hope. Hang in there, guys. Do not give up. It is worth it!
The Letter to the Church at Ephesus
Well, now let us turn our attention to the letter to the Church at Ephesus. We begin by looking at the city and the church, verse 1 of chapter 2,
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand. The one who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: (NASB)
Again, we see the description of Jesus Christ. This is taken from that vision of chapter 1, specifically verses 13 and 16. It talks about holding the seven stars in His right hand. We talked about that last week that the seven stars are really the pastors, elders, or the leaders of the church, the “angels of the church.” God is sovereignly in control of these leaders of the churches. You know, that gives me great comfort because I love the fact that I am not in charge of this ministry and that pastors are really not the ones in charge. He is the one in charge. It comforts me to know, “God, You are the one who is sovereign; You hold this church in your hand; You hold Your leaders in Your hand; You are in charge, not us.” It also gives great comfort because He says that He walks among the lampstands. He is infinitely involved. He is right in the middle of what has happened. When we went through a difficult time this past year in this church, Jesus Christ was walking right in the middle of everything. He knew exactly what was happening. He is involved and that should really encourage us.
So, why was Ephesus the first letter? We really do not know. Perhaps it was the closest church to the island of Patmos. Perhaps it was because it was the most prominent city in Asia. It was the capital of the Roman province. It was prosperous. It was a great business center. Maybe it was because this church was special to John. You know Paul spent two and a half years in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. After he left, he put Timothy in charge of the church at Ephesus to be the pastor. Then, early tradition tells us that the apostle John replaced Timothy near the end of the first century. John became the pastor to the church at Ephesus at the end there. He probably addressed the letter of I John to the church at Ephesus. As a matter of fact, John was living in Ephesus when the Emperor Domitian sent him into exile on Patmos. So, maybe that is why he started with this church. Any of those reasons are valid, but we really do not know why. Forty years earlier Paul wrote the letter of Ephesus to this church from his first imprisonment in Rome and he ended that letter with the words in Ephesus 6:24.
Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (NIV)
It seems ironic that this church, which was known 40 years earlier as a church who loved the Lord with an undying love, is the church now that is criticized for leaving its first love. How does a church get to that point? How do we as individuals get to that point that we once maybe were so fervently in love with Christ and now it is just “uhh.” What happened? What can we do to prevent that from happening? That is what I want to talk about today.
Three suggestions to Keep us from Leaving our First Love of Jesus
Realize your Foremost Priority
As we look at this letter, I would like to offer three suggestions to keep us from leaving our first love. The first suggestion is that we need to realize your foremost priority. Listen to what Jesus says about this church in verses 2 and 3, it says,
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.” (NASB)
He begins verse 2 with the words, “I know.” He knows everything. He knows everything there is to know about the church. He knows everything there is to know about you and me, He knows, good and bad.
Four Outstanding Characteristics
I want to point out four outstanding characteristics of this church that it was commended for. First – they were a diligent church. He speaks about their toil in verse 2, “I know your deeds and your toil.” The Greek word for toil refers to a labor to the point of weariness and exhaustion. It describes an all-out effort, demanding all that a person has to give physically, mentally, emotionally. You are giving all that you have. They rolled up their sleeves. They got involved in the work of the Lord. They worked themselves to a point of exhaustion. Some of you may be feeling that way, even day, you may be saying, “I am so tired. I am working, Lord, and doing this and doing that and I am just worn out.” Sometimes you wonder if it is worth it. Well, you may wonder, too, does anybody even notice what you are doing? He does. He knows. He knows exactly what you are doing. A hard work for the Lord is good and I do not want you to quit your volunteer position. That is not what I am saying, please do not misunderstand me. A hard work for the Lord is good, but should it be our foremost priority?
Second, they were a determined church. He talks about that “I know your… perseverance.” Perseverance comes from two Greek words which together means “who abide under.” It refers to the ability to endure under pressure or pain over the long haul. They were determined. They are not going to quit. No matter how hard life got, no matter how exhausted they got, we are not quitting. We are hanging in there. We are not going to throw in the towel. It was not easy living in Ephesus as a Christian. There were many other religions in that city at the time and people worshipped the emperor. They worshipped gods. They worshipped goddesses. Christians were not popular at that time. They were hated. They were despised. Some of the merchants found it hard to have a business because they lost customers because they were Christians. They had trouble shopping because some of the businesses did not want to sell to them. It was tough. Life was hard, but they persevered. They hung in there. Perseverance is good, but should it be our foremost priority?
Third, they were a disciplined church. In verse 2, he tells them “you cannot tolerate evil men.” They held to a high, holy standard of behavior. They were sensitive to sin. They did not turn a blind eye. They did not just sort of ignore it. They saw sin and they did not just push it under the rug. They practiced church discipline. Churches today tend to shy away from church discipline. Part of it is because there is such a loud shout of tolerance, but also there is this fear of lawsuits in churches today. A good friend of mine, who is a pastor of a large church in Dallas, got sued last year because his church practiced church discipline and the guy sued them. But, you know we should never back away from what God’s Word tells us to do. This church was a disciplined church and they took a stand against sin. This is a good quality. But, should it be our foremost priority?
Fourth, they were a discerning church. Verse 2 says, “You put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” They had spiritual discernment. They were committed to the truth of God’s Word. They did not just believe anybody who came and said, “Hey, I am an apostle of Jesus Christ. Listen to what I have to say.” They did not. They put them to the test and they made sure that they were who they said they were or not.
He adds a final commendation in verse 6 when he says, “Yet this you do have, but you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans which I also hate. We do not know for sure who the Nicolaitans are. There has been a lot of speculation. Some of the early church fathers believed that they were disciples of Nicholas, who was mentioned in Acts 6 as one of the seven deacons who were chosen along with Stephen to help the apostles with ministry. It was believed that later he turned apostate and then he led these men astray. Some believe that the Nicolaitans were followers of this Nicholas. Others believed, based on the letter to Pergamum, that this was a group that taught that you are free in Christ. You have spiritual liberty. So, because you have scriptural freedom, you are free to engage in spiritual immorality and idolatry. Others take the literal meaning of the word, “Nico” meaning “conqueror” and “laity” meaning “the people”, as any system that pushes the idea that the clergy rule over the people. We do not know who these people were, but one thing we know for certain is that their teaching was wrong and God hated their deeds.
What a great church. From all outward appearances, they were dynamic. They were effective in the ministry. They were working hard for the Lord. They took a strong stand on biblical doctrine, but those things are not the foremost priority in the eyes of Jesus. They were missing one thing and that is where he goes on in verse 4. He says,
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (NASB)
The English Standard Version reads, “You have abandoned the love you had at first.” This is the foremost priority: your first love. This is more important than all the works that you do for the Lord. This is more important than anything else, your first love. What is this first love that he is referring to? There is some disagreement on what this is. There are some who say that it is really referring to the original love that the Ephesians had for one another. In Ephesians 1, Paul commends this church. He says, “I have heard of your great love for one another.” Some believe that that is what this is referring to, your love for one another. That is your first love.
Others see this first love as that devotion to Christ that characterizes one’s life when one first comes to Christ. It is like that love of a newly married bride for her husband. When you get married and you are just so in love. Just as a side, I’ve never been married but I can imagine what it is like. It is just that ahhh, you know, you are just so in love. Someday. I believe that he is primarily referring to their love for Jesus. I base that on the parallel to the Old Testament scripture where it talks about Israel being wedded and betrothed to God and they left that devotion of their betrothal of their youth and they played the harlot with these other nations. That is basically what he is saying that we are leaving. We are leaving that first love that we were meant to be in. So, that is why I believe this is referring more to our love of Jesus Christ, as it parallels the Old Testament. I think both could be true because when we stop loving the Lord our love for each other is affected. I believe he was saying you no longer love me the way you once did. Your priorities are wrong. They were diligent serving Christ but they were doing it at the expense of loving Him. Our service is no substitute for our love for Jesus Christ. Our service, let me say it again. Our service is no substitute for our love for Jesus Christ! He is more concerned about your love for Him than what you do for Him. He made this very clear in the story that we are all familiar with of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10, Martha was serving so fervently and so distracted by all the things she needed to do for Jesus. Mary is just enjoying Him. Jesus made it very clear. “Mary has chosen the good part.” Do not let your service take priority over your love for Him. Well, that is the first step to keeping your first love.
Rekindle your First Love
Second, rekindle your first love. When we find that we have lost our priority in loving Jesus, then we need to rekindle that first love. Jesus instructs the church at Ephesus to do three things in order to do that. He first said in verse 5,
“Remember from where you have fallen.”
The first thing is to remember. Remember the way it used to be in your relationship with Me. This word, remember, here literally means keep on remembering. Keep on remembering what it was like. Don’t you remember what it was like when you first came to Christ? I do. I remember as a young girl when I first came to Christ that I was so in love with Him. I could not wait to spend time with Him and with other believers. I could not wait to share my faith with other kids. Then, of course, you know my story. I went to college and I left my first love for two-and-a-half years. Then, when a girl brought me back to the Lord and discipled me, oh, I remember that first love then and how excited I was. I was so on fire for the Lord. I just loved Him with all my heart. The girl who discipled me I asked her, “Bonnie, will you take me out every Tuesday afternoon. Let’s go share Christ every Tuesday.” Every Tuesday afternoon, we went to share Christ. I could not get enough of the Word. I couldn’t get enough of just ministry. I loved the Lord. I wish I could stand here today and say that I am still that fervent as I was in college. I blame it on age, but I am not sure. I do not have the energy I had then, but I think it is good for us to go back and think. Remember, remember when I was so excited? Remember when you first got married. I want to rekindle that love for Him.
The second things he tells them to do is to repent. That word repent means to change direction. You are going in one way, one direction, and you realize it is wrong. You turn around and you go in the exact opposite direction.
The third thing he tells them to do is return. Do the deeds you did at first. The third thing is return. Do the deeds you did at first. This is not a call to do more Christian service. They were doing plenty of that, but they needed to recapture and return to the richness of those things they started with: that richness of Bible study, that devotion to prayer, that specialness of worship. Return to those things. Go back to the things that got you started in your relationship with the Lord. Then, in verse 5 he gives them a warning. He says, “Or else I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.” Either change your ways or you lose your light-bearing capacity.
Eventually, the Ephesian church passed out of existence, but it did not occur until the fifth century. So, apparently, for a while they must have made some correction because they continued to exist for a while. But, the site of the city of Ephesus has been virtually without inhabitants since the fourteenth century. The church of Ephesus does not stand today. Its light has been completely snuffed out. We would do well to listen and heed this message. I do not want our church to die out because we have left our first love because we have gotten our priorities wrong. I hope that that does not happen to this church here. I also do not want to be put on the shelf as an individual. I do not want to hear God say to me one day, “Crickett, I can’t use you any more because you do not love Me the way you used to because you have gotten your priorities wrong. I am not your first love any more so I am going to have to put you on the shelf.” I do not want to hear that and I do not think you do either. Well, that is the first two things that we need to do to prevent leaving our first love.
Relish your Future Hope
The third thing is relish your future hope. In verse 7, he says,
To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God. (NASB)
What exactly is he promising them here? Well, the Tree of Life is first mentioned in Genesis 2 as one of the many trees that were given to Adam and Eve for food. But, that earthly tree was lost in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to sin. We see that tree again in Revelation 22 in the near heavens and the new earth. It symbolizes eternal life. That Tree of Life will last forever. It is never going to be lost again. The paradise of God is that new heaven and that new earth that we look forward to that you read about in Revelation 21 and 22. We can look forward to that Tree of Life that we will never lose. That paradise of God in the future is so much better in the Garden of Eden because there will never be any chance of sin in that new paradise. So, what he is promising them is that you have eternal life. Relish it. Look forward to that new future, that new heaven, that new earth. Relish your eternal hope. It is there. Persevere. Live for it.
What is most important to you in your life? I asked that at the beginning of this message. Is your love for Jesus more important than anything else in your life today? Or, have you left your first love? Has your Christian life lost some of its excitement, some of its joy? Maybe you need to rekindle the fire. Are you finding the work that you are doing for the Lord becoming more drudgery than delight? Does it make you more irritated than enjoyable? If so, maybe you have abandoned your first devotion that you had for Jesus Christ.
I love what I do. I love this job and I will tell you (and I almost do not want to tell you). I do not feel this is a job. I have always felt that God has wanted me in full-time ministry. I love what I do. It does not feel like a job because it is my life. I love being involved in your lives. I love the things that God allows me to do, but I pray, and this is how you can pray for me, that I will never get so busy doing, running this ministry, preparing lectures, doing other things, that I leave my love and passion that drives me to do this. I pray that for you, that we would never lose sight of that first love. I pray that every one of us in this room will love him with an undying love. But we have got to do those three things. Realize your foremost priority; rekindle your first love; relish your future hope.
Let’s pray. Father, I do love You, but I know there is always that chance that things will distract us and overwhelm our thoughts to where we have less and less time for You. I pray that does not happen to any of us in this room. Father I pray that You would help us to keep our focus on You, that our love for You would be more important than anything else we do. I pray that for these women. Lord, I pray that for me. We love You and we want to worship You together now. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s stand and close in worship.
1 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Westwood, N.J.: Barbour & Co., 1935), Jan. 18.
2 John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: An Exposition of Revelation 1-3 (Mill Hill, London: Monarch Books, 2003), 28.
3 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 572.
4 Dan DeHaan, The God You Can Know (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), 22.
5 Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church, 33.