Taking the Epistle

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Lessons from the Ephesians – Don’t lose your first love!!!! – Revelation 2:1-7

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Lessons from the Ephesians – Don’t lose your first love!!!! – Revelation 2:1-7 – 06/28/2016

It has been a while huh? I bet most of you haven’t noticed but I haven’t put out a blog in nearly 6 weeks and I think that is some sort of record for me. In that time I have not been idle, I have been doing some reassessing and looking at myself and as the church at whole introspectively. This blog article is not dedicated to any particular group of Christians but to Christianity as a whole. The verses I want to look at today are a well-known passage in Revelation…

Revelation 2:1 (ESV) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

I want to go to this church!

When I look at what the Ephesians had together I am amazed I would want to go to this church!!! They had …

  • Works
  • Toil
  • Endurance
  • Patience
  • A hunger for holiness
  • Enough doctrine to test what was good (They remembered the warning in Acts 20:17-31)
  • Judgment to call those false who were false
  • They were okay to endure for the name of the Lord/They were known as Christians
  • They did not grow weary/remained hopeful despite trials

Sounds like a solid bunch huh? I know from experience when I have been assessing churches to make sure that my wife and I are serving where we are called to be at this time by the Lord I have a list of “must haves” a list of “nice to haves” and a list that are “cosmetic purposes only” and this was from advice from a Pastor I trust that asked me once “what is your deal breakers?”.

Warning to the new church seeker

I say this because there maybe that guy or girl at the moment who is contemplating switching churches, perhaps for a good reason, perhaps not but I would encourage you to watch out for the Ephesian church, they may be the one with the biggest youth ministry, the best programs, the largest congregation, the best sounding worship, the best light display but outside the Sunday meeting they may be a group who never interacts with each other and are strangers apart from a warm handshake and a bunch of promises to meet (which never materialize).

They may have none of those things and may tick all of your intellectual boxes, they may not have worship down, children’s ministry sometimes happens and sometimes does not but the Pastor teaches some of the most intellectually profound, right on doctrine that flexes your spiritual muscles on a weekly basis, the exegesis and hermeneutics are phenomenal and the teaching is at college level theological seminary and new believers learn a lot of spiritual language but is light on application and you see quickly that apart from the weekly lecture, there is no mentoring, no feeding into one another and loving on one another apart from maybe one or two individuals but the culture of love is not present and you know that a year down the line you won’t know these people any better than today.

Those are two extremes of course and the church you are looking at will most probably be somewhere in the middle of those but what they have in common is that while each opposite have vital components that will get people through the door if they are Ephesian in nature and forgotten their first love then all else is in vain. As Shakespeare would say “it is all for nought”.

Beware of the Pharisee Christian

Let’s look at those vitals that are alive in this Ephesian church…

  • Works
  • Toil
  • Endurance
  • Patience
  • A hunger for holiness
  • Enough doctrine to test what was good
  • Judgment to call those false who were false
  • They were okay to endure for the name of the Lord/They were known as Christians
  • They did not grow weary/remained hopeful despite trials

However…you can fall victim to the human nature that thinks that as you progress as a Christian you become “too good” for the things you did as a baby Christian (or the basics) but I would remind you that you would not build a structure without a foundation and even if you become a master builder and have built many fine buildings, imagine turning up a new job and stating to the works foreman that we “would not bother with the foundation as this building will be great because I am the builder”. All you are setting yourself up for is a building that will fall and a reputation ruined… How is your relationship building with Jesus? Is the foundation sure?

Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees in the Gospels because they were the ones who know the doctrine, they were the ones who should have known better and they should have been rejoicing at the Messiah, the Pharisees had the works, had the doctrine, they were known as the holy ones, they were supposed to toil, have endurance and patience and many did but some did not… (see a pattern here?)

This I have against you…

God is not saying do not have these things in place but there is an important foundation to have in verse 4 and 5…

“V4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

The word “abandoned” is telling here, it is not like losing your keys, they had made decisions to leave their first love, that to me is the saddest part of the passage and even although internally they were like whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:25-28) They had left the love of God and the love for one another, they no longer had that first love of Jesus, like a marriage that both parties have allowed to become stale they no longer have that new romance spark and they did not allow it to mature so they have a broken relationship.

They are prodigals or wayward sons that have still got to come to that afternoon in the pigpen eating swill and realizing that they could have it much better as the lowest servant in their father’s house. Like the father in that account in Luke (Luke 15:11-32) when they returned to the love of the father there was much celebration, forgiveness and absolution of the sin that cause the son to go so low.

Exhortation and application

We are all sinners and the Ephesian church did not always have it together, read the epistle to Ephesians if you do not believe me. We all need repentance; we all need forgiveness whether your sins are few or many and we all could do with being closer to Jesus and I commend you all to learn the lessons of the Ephesians, take the good in what they do and in the spirit of application we need to do the basics, repent, find our first love and then follow Gods plan!

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

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Do we treat the Bible as the precious document it is?

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Do we treat the Bible as the precious document it is?

We in the western world are very blessed. We have a Bible in almost every room in our house. I certainly have at least 5-6 Bibles in my house that are either on my bookshelf or have barely been read. If we were to look into impoverished nations, such as those in Asia and Africa where they have only ever owned a few pages at a time in their native language, and see what they look like if they were to get a whole book of the Bible, like a Gospel of John or a New Testament, never mind a whole Bible, will make you think about your faith, your relationship with your Bible and hopefully inspire you to change. Here are a few scriptures I have chosen to ask the question above.

We need reminding to study and why

2 Tim 2:14 (NKJV) Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.

It is a sad indication that we don’t treat our Bibles the way we should. If we did, my new country (USA) would be in a state of revival that would make the Azusa Street Revival seem like a conservative “run of the mill” Sunday.

The graphic is of course amusing but it is meant to cause a point. I borrowed the graphic from a local pastor who I know quite well (Pastor Bob Grenier – Calvary Chapel Visalia) off his Facebook, sorry Bob!

The graphic however got me thinking and made me wonder about my own life, do I “study to show myself approved” as much as I should? I read the Bible sure, but how am I in the areas that really matter. How am I in personal readings? Do I study enough? Do I study with my wife as a couple? Do I lead by example when it comes to Bible reading? How do I engage my child and raise up the next generation of Christians? What example am I to the folks that God has allowed me to be head of that home?

Challenging stuff huh? I am not as bad as the graphic but I am certainly a long way from where I believe God would like me to be. It is not easy to publicly say that and it truly chafes at my inner being to admit. I like to be like everyone else and claim that I have it all down, but I am a fallen man, who fails his wife consistently (let’s be real here) but has been forgiven by God and also by his wife!

Continuing in the Scriptures

2 Tim 3:14 (NKJV) But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Starting a Bible plan is only the start; I have started, re-started and turned over enough leaves to fill an autumn. My wife calls me the “startup guy” because i am great at getting things moving, ministries started (I launched the church I attended since 2007’s Facebook & Twitter in 2009 before passing it on earlier this year) and then pass on the baton to someone else. Of course she is right, but I wish I had more staying power at times.

It is imperative that we teach the precious children the precious scriptures. These are not just words on a page, this book is the most maligned, most attacked, most martyred book ever, it contains the Word of God. The words that should guide your life as a Christian, as the verse says it “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”

The world is going to teach them anything but the Bible, such as programs to ban school bible classes. We have had no official representation in schools for the Bible since 1962. If the kids are not getting the Bible in their homes (whether that home is Christian or Non-Christian) then they most certainly are not getting it at school.

I am a little bit of an enigma in that respect, until recently my dad did not care for the word. I was sent to a Brethren Gospel hall for Sunday School and I learned a basic foundational knowledge from there, I did not get beyond a basic knowledge as I did not follow up in the word (always have had a Bible) and didn’t read it because my parents didn’t. God rescued me from myself by sending a wonderful woman (see my Testimony page)

How deep is the Word?

Deut 11:18 (NKJV) “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth. 22 “For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him—23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves.

This is critical, we have to memorize the word, write it on our hearts, we have to bind them as a fabric of our every being. (I don’t know about you dear reader, but I am being flogged by the words today and realizing my shortcomings) God promises blessings if we abide in his word.

I like the idea of writing them on your “doorposts and gates” having reminders all around your home who you serve and the standards that you must keep. In my house when you walk through the door I see the words “FAITH HOPE LOVE” which of course refers to our family verse 1 Corinthians 13:13, all around my house are different scriptures to help remind our family that when the trials come, and they will, the God is in control and all this other stuff is temporary (see my blog on trials)

The promise to drive out our enemies is one I like, what we have to realize though is that is in God’s time. Often times he will “purify us in the fire” longer than we would like. When I get trials I usually sink to my knees and pray for deliverance. What I should be praying for is open eyes to see what lesson I am being taught here.

Destroyed for rejecting knowledge

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

God has written down his plan for your life (mine too) and we have the same choice as Adam and Eve. We can choose to reject God’s plan, discard the knowledge that is in the Word of God, reject God’s plan for your life and forget God’s law. There are two things I would like to say here, if you are giving up on God completely and going away from the faith, then that is tragic.

Secondly I see people who are in ministry, try to take on more than they were ever equipped to take on, the counsellor is soon in need of being counselled, the preacher should really sit down and learn for a season. The prayer has a dry prayer life and is pumping a dry well publically. The minister is living life based on what he knows of the words of God as opposed to the Word of God and he is falling into a hole that very soon will either lead to apostasy or leaving the faith.

I pray for those folks. I see so many folks sitting with their little “cyber guns” waiting to shoot at a minister, a pastor or someone in ministry that either has gone off the rails or is about to. Instead of getting down, getting humble and praying for those folks, honestly wishing their brother does not fall. They sit with a “Grinch-like smile” and take great glee at uncovering their sin in the same manner as Noah’s son Ham, where he could not wait to tell his brothers of his father’s shame. (Gen 9:20-23) Are you like Ham? Or are you like Shem and Japheth? (There are whole ministries dedicated to being Shem or Japheth’s)

What is the Word of God?

Hebrew 4:12 (NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

I pray that as you read this, it is not my words which impact you but the Bible verses. That is the point of this whole blog/website. The word of God is center stage. I have no “show to steal” as i am just a lay person (a nobody) giving what God has put on his heart. I have no official ordination or tie in or promotion to any church/assembly or group. I write just as me.

That being said, in studying for articles like this one, my heart does get pierced. It speaks to me in a way that no other man made document has. It is a refiner, a mirror to show your imperfections and what you need to do to fix it. I am a knucklehead so I need to be told everything many times over to allow it to resonate. This is why I believe that God wrote it down for us. So that we can’t say, well if only God would tell me what he wants for me to do with my life. In the words of Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham “Well there is this book…”

How to receive the word

Acts 17:11 (NKJV) These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

Now we understand the importance of the word, how do we receive it? We have two options

1) Receive it in a passive way, possibly like you are doing now
2) Receive it in a fashion like the Bereans (v10 states who they were)

The Bereans were studiers of the word, they pulled apart the scriptures and were what we would call these days and Inductive Bible student, they found out what it meant, they liked for ways to apply it to their lives, they examined the evidence and found the truths, they looked for each spiritual nugget and how it meant to their lives.

My prayer is that God make me like a Berean!

Some comfort in the Psalms

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV) Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path

Psalm 119:11 (NKJV) Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

Some comfort to end on a light note, the Word of God is there to help us be “lights in the darkness” and our Bibles are what keeps the light shining bright, we need to treasure these scriptures as they have been diligently been prepared (by hand until the later part of the 16th century)

We need to have the word engrained in our hearts; it allows us to claim victory over our struggles.

God bless and I pray this was an exhortation and a blessing to you all
TTE