Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sermon--When Jesus Walks Among Us--Revelation 2

For the last few months, we’ve been looking at Joshua and the Vision of Victory that he was given and the faith to Cross over and do it. With all of that in mind, I want to shift to another vision—a vision that was written to believers in Christ, a vision that was written to churches. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Revelation.

Revelation 1:10-11

Remember every church was to read the whole book including the messages to each church. So presumably, there are warnings and thoughts that each church could benefit from. It is preserved in Scripture for us to read and benefit from even 2000 years later. So rather than take the attitude, “I’m glad that’s not written about us”, let’s look and see what it has to say to us.

The first letter went to the church at Ephesus.

Ephesus was a crossroads of civilization. Politically, it had become the de facto capital of the province, known as Supreme Metropolis of Asia. The Roman governor resided there. It was a "free" city, i.e., self-governed. Located on the western coast of Asia Minor, at the convergence of three great highways, from the north, east, and south, Ephesus was the trade center of the area. The temple with its statue of Artemis was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Thousands of priests and priestesses were involved in her service. Many of the priestesses were dedicated to cult prostitution. Paul spent several years in Ephesus, as did Timothy and many of these Gentiles came to believe.

This church grew, struggling, but Thriving. And it is the church in this city, the first of 7 churches, that John sees a vision about.

Jesus Walks Among us and Knows our Strengths—2:1-3

The Messenger is Held in His Right Hand—the place a scepter of power and authority would usually go. I have no power on my own, but only what is given to me in fulfilling my calling to be UBC’s pastor. I want Him to be holding me and keeping me accountable to Him.

He walks among the golden lampstands—just like He walked among His children in the Garden of Eden, He walks among us today—that relationship, that closeness is restored in Christ.

They are golden because they are valuable, holy and set apart because of His presence to be used for His glory. Golden lampstands were used in the Temple. He walks among us, meaning He is near, He is close. It is a matter love and a desire to be close--but also Protection and Inspection.

By walking among His Lampstand, His Church, He knows our Strengths and the Good we have done.

For the church in Ephesus, in the heart of a pagan city, where the worshippers of Artemis caused a riot, where the darkness and deception is visible on every street, Jesus sees many strengths in His church. He sees their…

Deeds—the things done in faith—we are saved unto good works—James argues that if you claim to have faith, you should be able to show it by what you do, how you live—should be changed. When people are hurting or struggling you reach out to them, you pray for them, you minister to them—not in just words, but in action. Those deeds done in faith can easily be seen as inconvenient or…

Hard work—not all things done in the name of Christ are easy or comfortable—and yet the church is commended for doing them anyway. We must not be consumed with the idea that it’s only worth doing if it’s easy. Many times this hard work makes us uncomfortable, they take effort and commitment, they may even give us a bad opinion in the world’s eyes—but we should still be willing to do them. Which requires…

Perseverance—the ability to continue on in spite of opposition or difficulty. It’s not the world’s opinion or approval that matters—its Jesus’ opinion and approval that matters. He walks among us—don’t ever think that what you do, the contributions you make to the cause of Christ don’t ever think they go unnoticed. Humanly speaking, we, I, may not see it, know it, or recognize you for it—but you have a Savior who walks among us who will. Jesus recognizes and honors

He Sees Our Stand for Truth--Cannot tolerate wicked men

From v. 6—hate the practices of the Nicolatians— One of the problems many early churches were facing was the fact that many of the converts to the faith were not abandoning their pagan beliefs and practices.

These were those who wanted to mix Christian faith with idolatry and cult prostitution. The Church at Ephesus showed their maturity in rejecting this.

Tested those who claim to be apostles and found them false—so they didn’t just accept anyone who came claiming to represent and teach of Christ. Whether they were just passing through or whether they appeared on TV, they knew to test the spirits—something John had already warned them about in 1 John, they knew to check the Scriptures, to not accept another gospel.

They had Persevered, Endured many hardships for His Name, and they had Not grown weary—not quit, not given up, not abandoned their faith in Christ, but had, in spite of all their difficulty, been True to His Name and His Calling.

I pray, that as Christ walks among us this day, He would see these things as strengths in you and me.

Jesus Walks Among Us and Sees our Hearts and True Motivation—He Knows What Where We Must Grow –2:4

But notice the length of the list of things Jesus holds against this church at Ephesus—the part of their lives and fellowship that must grow—there is only one thing that draws His saddened eye. Of all the good things, of all the perseverance, of all the willingness to stand for good and correct doctrine, all of that pales before His greater concern, all those strengths are shrouded, tainted and veiled because--

You have Forsaken your first love.

Forsaken—you have Left, the word is used to abandon, leave destitute, to disregard, or even more harshly—of a husband who is divorcing his wife—walked away from and left something important behind.

Jesus is to be our First Love—that which is primary, most important. The most important thing they were to Love, their love of God had diminished from how they started.

Do you realize that apart from Christ—we don’t know what love is? The only way we truly love is b/c Jesus first loved us and gave His life for us. “we love b/c He first loved us.” O sure, the world has a concept of love—but it usually revolves around emotions or around sex—but Jesus teaches us that Love is really about Sacrifice—the other John 3:16—1 John 3:16—puts it this way—“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Inner devotion to Christ that characterized their earlier commitment, like the love of a newly wedded bride for her husband. Loving devotion to Christ can be lost in the midst of active service.

It is this criticism, that even in the midst of doing a lot of good things, even in standing for correct doctrine, even in the midst of enduring persecution—if you have forsaken your first love you are doing them for the wrong reasons.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17—“ And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” In the same way, if you go through the religious motions, all the activities but have forsaken your first love, you are wearing yourself out when you don’t really love Him.

If you stand for correct doctrine but have forsaken your first love, then you are fighting for the Letter of the Law rather than the Spirit of the Law, you desire sacrifice more than mercy, you are more interested in Uniformity than Unity—and your stand is hurt b/c of the divisive spirit in which you stand for it.

If you have forsaken your first love, but still endure persecution, you are suffering for a Savior that brings you no joy—and you should be pitied above all men. If love is not your bases for enduring, for overcoming pain and suffering, then your suffering is hardship.

If in our walk and our service to Christ as an individual believer, as the larger Body of Christ—if we don’t love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength—He sees it—and it is so glaring to Jesus that it overshadows everything else we may be doing.

He is to be our First Love—we’re not supposed to love football more than Him, we’re not supposed to love our jobs more than Him, we’re not supposed to love anything more than Him.

There’s nothing wrong with a single thing Jesus mentioned as their strength—it was their heart that decreased His glory.

Jesus Walks Among Us as Our Great Physician and has a Cure—2:5

The First part of the Cure we need is Remembrance—REMEMBER the height from which you have fallen. Two Angles of Looking—the most common way of seeing this height is how you must remember what your life apart from Christ would be. What would my life be like If Christ were Never a Part of it?

I’m not saying you have to remember what your life was like before you became a Christian—for some, who were older, that might be helpful—but some of you were so young you don’t remember anything else. This remedy is about remembering or taking a good look at where you would be if you never asked Jesus for forgiveness, never asked Him to be Lord of your life, never gave God a second thought but lived as if He did not exist.

Since that realization dawned on me—the thought of my life apart from Christ both saddens and terrifies me. My life would be radically different. It’s easy to say, I would not be your pastor today. I would not be married to Vicky, nor have my 2 wonderful kids. With all the ways that I know God delivered me, all the things He steered me away from, protected me, I wonder if I would be in jail, doped up, or alive at all.

The Second way is to ask What was my life like when I first believed and took my faith seriously?

REMEMBER the Height of Love, the Height of Devotion and Dedication, the Height of Joy, Excitement and Amazement that was yours when Faith truly awakened in you for the first time. When it finally clicked, when you finally took it seriously—maybe the first time you knew the Power of God was flowing through you as you gained insight into the Word of God, or as you prayed, or as you were sharing Jesus with a friend. Do you Remember that Spiritual Height? How long has it been since you’ve been there? REMEMBER it, desire it, don’t be satisfied without it—HUNGER and THIRST for Righteousness and you will be filled.

The Second part of the Cure is REPENTANCE—Turn Around, Change Your Mind and go back to the Heights you have fallen off of—at first, when I first took my faith seriously, I devoured the Word of God, I prayed about anything and everything and everybody, I shared with my friends when I didn’t have a clue and had little fear about it.

If I prove unwilling to do this, if We prove unwilling to remember, unwilling to repent—then we must be willing to face the consequence. “if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand.”

The very church that the Ephesians were a part of would lose its light—be replaced with darkness. It is so easy to get wrapped up in Doing Right, Believing Right, that we Forget Who we are doing it for—we can even forget the Why—the Mission we have been given to fulfill.

Without Love--We can get so bogged down that we make even our faith a Burden—the light we shine dims and will eventually go out. Unless we Re-Awaken our Spirits—unless our Light Shines—Unless our Actions and Beliefs Reflect our Love—our future is darkened.

A Church that is not built upon love for Jesus Christ will wither and die—choked off from the vine—self-strangulation.

Jesus Walks Among Us and Gives Generously to those who Hear, Respond and Persevere—2:7

This letter to the Ephesians is not just written for this one church, it was also written to ours. We are just as in danger of forsaking our first love as they were. I hope you hear Him! I hope you desire to overcome what He may be holding against us. Because the Promise is the Restoration of what was lost all the way back in Genesis 3--I hope you desire to see His promise fulfilled in you and me.

When Jesus walks among us—and I assure you that He is here—among one of His Lampstands in Macomb, what does He see? When He walks beside you, what do He see? Are you one of the lights on His Lampstand?

If we as UBC have forsaken our first love—then all our efforts, are overshadowed; everything we do is tarnished. How can we have Victory in the Name of Jesus Christ when we love doing things more than we love Him? Sometimes it is better to sit at the Master’s feet and worship Him, and hang on every word He says than to be so busy that we can’t hear Him at all.

Have you forsaken your fist love? There is Promise when you respond to His call to Remember and Repent. I believe we as a church need to do that today.

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