THE BOOK OF REVELATION
( How to Guard Against the Drift - August 2, 2020)
Series Big Idea: "God has revealed His plans for the consummation of human history"
Sermon Big Idea: "Christ wants more than work from us, He wants a relationship"
Key Scripture (Revelation 2:1-7)
Theologian John Stott once asked, "What does Christ think of His Church?" That's an intriguing question. Some of us may have asked the same thing. Does this Christ that the Apostle John has been revealing in the first chapter of Revelation have anything to say to His Church? Absolutely! As a matter of fact He has a lot to say. That is why we will focus on chapters two and three during the next several weeks on Sunday mornings. We want to find out what Jesus had to say to these churches and what that means for us today.
This section of Scripture is interpreted in a couple different ways. First, is the view that they represent periods of Church history. Each church represents a period of church history from the day of Pentecost until today. The last church mentioned in Laodicea is often alluded to as the age we live in at the present. But it should also be pointed out that these churches were literal places of worship located in modern day Turkey. Second, it has been alluded to that these are the seven types of churches that exist today. In other words there are characteristics from each church listed that can exist in the modern day church.
1 “Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.
Jesus used a repeated phrase to address each of these churches, simply; "I know." As we have seen in chapter one, Jesus is envisioned as walking among the churches. Since He is among the churches, He knows their deeds. He knows who they are deep in their hearts. He has a lot to say to each church. So what does He say to the church at Ephesus?
For the most part, Ephesus had many good things going for it, even though they lived in a city dominated by false gods and goddesses and were persecuted if they didn’t adhere to worship of these false deities. Jesus said in verse two "I know your works, your toil, and your endurance." All these are great things. Today we might have even voted for them as church of the year. That is how dedicated they were. But Jesus also said he had one thing against them; they had lost their first love. I'm going to call this a problem of "drift." This church had drifted away from their love of Christ. They were doing good things but not because of their love for Christ. It was more out of responsibility and obligation.
So how can this happen in church life? How can it happen in our own Christian lives? And what is the solution in dealing with this issue? Well first let's look at what causes spiritual drift.
A passion for the things of Christ without the PASSION FOR CHRIST
In verse two Jesus commended this church for not tolerating the evil of false doctrine or in other words the preaching of another gospel than that of Christ. He seemed to say they were relentless at testing and calling out false prophets. They would find and weed out these people from within their midst. This church must have been strong in their doctrinal teaching which they had learned from the original Apostles.
Nevertheless, Jesus said that even though they had this great characteristic, they weren't doing these works out of their love for Him but possibly out of pride or even prejudice. This can happen to us in the Church today. We can get so excited and wrapped up in doing the things of Christ that we forget all about the Christ of the things we are doing.
An awareness of the things of Christ without the AWARENESS OF CHRIST
The lampstands in verse one refer to the seven churches and reveals that Jesus walks among these churches. This is His very presence. We see those words "I know" repeated in verse one and two. Jesus says I walk among you. It is the awareness that Jesus is with them, giving them all kinds of opportunities to posses the right attitude, share the Gospel, and set a Christ-like example to a Christ less world.
In verse three Jesus commended this church for remaining strong and enduring even in the face of the persecutions they were facing from the ruler Domitian, which besides Nero will possibly go down in history as the most horrific destroyer of God's people of all time. Even in this persecution they did not grow weary Jesus says. It is obvious this church had lost its awareness of Christ. Could it be that at times we loose our awareness that Christ is with us?
So, we have seen what will cause spiritual drift, but is there a solution to this problem? What will it take to solve this dilemma? Jesus gives this church counsel on what to do to redeem their first love.
REMEMBER how far you have fallen
The word "remember" carries with it the idea of something ongoing. Remembering that Christ is the power for my life. Remembering that He is my Savior. Remembering what He has done for me on the cross!
You may remember the story in the Bible of sisters Mary and Martha from the Book of Luke. They had welcomed Jesus into their home and while He was there Martha becomes distracted by the "things" she was doing to prepare for Him. But her sister Mary wanted to spend time with Jesus and refuel. Martha got bent out of shape and accused Mary of doing nothing while she was busy preparing. Jesus told her, "Martha, why are you distracted by so many things, when Mary has chosen the best?" What had Mary chosen? She had chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus.
So many times as individuals and as churches say that we are going to "turn over a new leaf." What does that even mean? The problem is that when we flip a leaf over to the other side it is still the same leaf. We haven't done anything but changed views. The Gospel is not about turning over a new leaf. It is about new life! For those of you who are grease monkeys, it is a total overhaul. The old is gone and the new has to come.
Repent means a genuine change of heart and mind. We realize in an instant that we are headed in the wrong direction. We then turn toward following Christ with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But sadly most people only modify their behavior. They are over focused on their behavior and under focused on the health of their heart. The problem with that is that is not repentance. We have never admitted to Christ that He is right and we are wrong. It is all about a change of direction.
The word "first" in verse four means first in terms of priority and motivation. So do you think that even though this church was doing great things for Christ, He was saying but you are not doing them because you love Me. Maybe He was saying for them it was more about habit and obligation. Sticking it out and staying faithful. It is like work without wonder. It ends up being dry and boring at the end of the day.
Jesus said if you don’t change this I will remove your lampstand. He was saying you will loose your effectiveness. Just doing loveless work just for the work you will loose your effectiveness. You'll loose the light in the darkness and the power of your church. Jesus longs for a relationship not just good behavior.
My wife Lisa works a job as well as me. She works long hours and often gets very tired. Years ago I decided, you know, I'm going to start cleaning the house and keep the clothes washed and keep things picked up around the house so it can be a place of relaxation. Lisa comes home and notices it and says Billy why are you doing this? And I say, because I am just dedicated to the institution of marriage. That's not true. I know I don’t tell her enough, but I do it because I always look for ways to tell her I love her.
This is what Jesus wants. If we repent we will do the works we did at first. We will fall in love with Him all over again. I wonder how much of our work for Christ is done out of love for Him?
Pastor Beaver's thoughts and ideals for this message, are inspired by:
Holman Christian Standard Bible
English Standard Version Bible
King James Version Bible
Christian Standard Bible
The Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord/Roy B. Zuck
The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge by Jerome H. Smith
Water, Mark, ed. Encyclopedia of Bible Facts. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2004. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Barry, John D. et al. Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016. Print.
NIV, Archaeological Study Bible, eBook: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Duane Garrett, and Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
NIV, First-Century Study Bible, eBook: Explore Scripture in Its Jewish and Early Christian Context
Zondervan, Kent Dobson, and Ed Dobson
Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Revised edition of New Bible Companion.
Akin, Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in Revelation. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2016. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Easley, Kendell. Revelation. Edited by Max Anders. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1998. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Keener, Craig. Revelation: From biblical text...to contemporary life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Patterson, Paige. Volume 39: Revelation. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2012. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Duvall, J. Scott. Revelation. Ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014. Print. Teach the Text Commentary Series.
Morris, Leon. Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 20. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987. Print. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.
James H. Bolick, Sermon Outlines from the Word, Sermon Outline Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 8.
Carr, Alan. Revelation. Lenoir, NC: Alan Carr, 2012. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
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