The Church God Desires
September 10, 2017
That's one of the wonderful things about studying the Book of Revelation. Many people are kind of hesitant to study it because it's-- they believe it's very difficult and they often avoid it, but there's a blessing. He promises a blessing for those who read, those who hear, those who heed.
Remember John? The famous John? Received this Revelation which God gave to Him through Jesus to show to His bound servants the thing which must take place quickly. There is that prophetic aspect of this book, of course, that we really find very, very compelling and especially in the days in which we are living are these compelling words, because we are seeing before our eyes the world is changing.
Therefore, there's a sense of urgency about understanding the prophecies of Scripture to understand the signs of the times that Jesus told us that we should be watchful to observe the signs of the times.
So, John now was writing this prophecy and he writes to the seven Churches. Now, there's a lot more churches than that, but seven is like the number of perfection. In other words, it's the representation of all of the Churches and this book is the revealing-- that's the word, revelation, it is the revealing of Jesus Christ in the latter days. It's important to recognize that Jesus is the center of the Book, just as you must recognize that Jesus becomes the center of latter-day events.
In fact, in chapter 1, we're going to drill into that more in detail on Wednesday. He gives us really amazing symbol-filled picture of Jesus Christ that is so powerful; it gives a glorious picture filled with all of the symbolic meaning.
So, it tells us that John heard this loud voice, like the sound of a trumpet. When he turned to see the voice that was speaking, he saw this vision. He saw seven golden lampstands. Now, those become important. That vision, that symbol is important; seven golden lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands, there was one light, the Son of Man, standing.
Now, this is a picture and a description we're going to go through in Wednesday, but it's a picture of Jesus in His authority and His glory standing amongst the Churches. He tells us clearly that the lampstands are the Churches and He's standing there in the midst of them.
I love that because it's a picture of the relationship of Jesus and the church. He's standing in the midst of the Church. The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. The Church is very, very important to the Lord. Do you believe that? See, we've got to recognize the significance of the Church and He stands there in the center of them.
So, He sends the Church these prophetic words. He wants the Churches to understand the things which must quickly take place, but before He's going to get into those prophetic symbolic words, He's going to first do something in addressing the churches themselves. Here's why; because He wants to prepare the Church.
So, He's going to send forth to those Churches, those seven Churches, words of commendation. He recognizes some of the wonderful good things that are going on but also words of correction.
See, if the Church is going to be ready, the Church is going to be prepared, it's going to need to be strengthened spiritually. So, that includes there are corrections that God brings forth in the Church.
So, at this point, you have to kind of see the context of what's happening at that time. The Church is actually gaining tremendous momentum, tremendous inroads in the Empire so much so that the that the emperor feels threatened by this.
So, they're making such an impact like never before. They have such faith. They believe that their Lord is going to be ruler of the kings of the Earth. So, this is like a heyday in some way. The Church has done so well, but success can sometimes be negative. What I mean by that is it can make people rest on their laurels; it can make people no longer have the zeal. Because they're seeing the success, they kind of lose the edge. They lose the punch. They lose the zeal that they had.
Let me give you an example. Here's an illustration of that. Okay. So, let's imagine, by sake of illustration, let's imagine that you're the New England Patriots. Okay. Are you with me on this illustration?
Okay. Let's imagine that you're the New England Patriots and you've won the Super Bowl yet again. All right? Now, are you with me on this illustration? See, here's the thing. Here's the thing. It's hard to have-- see, when you've won the Super Bowl, you're such a success, it's hard to have that same drive that got you there. If you're not careful, you're going to end up getting blown out on the first game of the season.
Okay. Obviously, you were not tracking the first game of the season, but see, my point is, Jesus said in Matthew 24. "Therefore, you be ready." He's going to speak to the Churches. "You be ready," he says, "For the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect of."
Some people are just kind of sitting back on their heels. They're kind of just resting on their laurels. Things are going pretty well but he's going to wake them up and this is what we're going to see as we go through this Church that He's going to speak to in Ephesus. He's going to wake them up. He needs to.
So, He's going to write to this church in Ephesus; a very famous Church, it's a poor town, huge city on the Mediterranean, it was a main highway between Rome and Persia and Rome down through Egypt, it was like a center of commerce and transportation, and in it was this really significant church. Paul had planted it. Timothy, his son in the faith, was pastoring it. John lived there a number of years; it's tremendously significant.
I. Do Not Grow Weary in Doing Good
So, He starts out with that. Let's begin in chapter 2:1. "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write." Now, what does it mean to the angel of the church in Ephesus? We'll discuss that on Wednesday, so come down. "The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands says this."
In other words, Jesus is the one who's walking amongst the lampstands, which are the Churches, and He is the one who says this and He's speaking to the Church, really. "I know your deeds and I know your toil and your perseverance and that you cannot endure evil men."
He's actually starting with a commendation. He's recognizing some things that are going right, doing well. "You put to test those who call themselves apostles but they're not and you have found them to be false." He's commending them for all this. "You have perseverance and you've endured for my namesake and you've not grow weary in it."
All that was commendation, "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love." So, this is a word of correction. He wants to change this. He wants to wake them up to something to kind of step back a little bit. They've got a resting back and they've lost the dynamic of that love; "You've left your first love."
Then he says in verse 5, "So, remember therefore from where you've fallen and repent and do the deeds that you did at the first or else I'm coming to you and we'll remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent." Pretty strong words.
Yes, yet, and it kind of changes back to commendation. Again, in verse 6, "Yes, this you do have that you hate the deed of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.' Now, that's interesting. We'll look into that in a second. "He who has an ear let him hear."
Now, he repeats this phrase and it's a really great phrase that helps us to say, "Hey, we need to really hear this." "Blessed is he who hears. Blessed is he who takes these words to his heart." So, here's part of that. He says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God." We'll look at that on Wednesday.
Let's go through these verses because they're really, really important for us. One of the things I want us to capture is in this commendation, he tells them they're persevering and they're not growing weary. I just love that picture as that's a Church that's steadfast. "Do not grow weary in doing good."
There's that steadfastness, that persevering, they've got that right heart. There's much to commend. They've done so well in their serving. They've toiled well with their good deeds and they've toiled with perseverance. They've endured for His namesake and they did not grow weary. There's several Scriptures that say that do not grow weary and you're doing good.
A. Serve with the right heart
So, he's really commending them and we really need to take that also for ourselves. There's a perseverance. See, here's what's interesting, notice what He says in verse 2, "I know your deeds and your toils and your perseverance." It's like the Lord is very much aware of what we're doing. The Lord is very much aware of our works, how we bless others and really, it's a call out here, isn’t it? It’s a call out to serve with the right heart. The Lord knows. He wants us to serve with perseverance. He wants us to bless and to bless people around us with the right heart.
See, it’s interesting. When you look at Matthew 25. Now, you might remember that Matthew 24 and 25 are prophecies that Jesus himself spoke about in the latter days. In Matthew 25, He says, "When the Son of Man comes--" He's speaking of the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, "When the Son of Man comes," He says, "The nations will be brought to Him and He will separate them like one would separate sheep from goats. And then He will commend those who have done well." He says, "Well done, you righteous one, for when I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink, and when I was in prison, you visited me, and when I was sick, you comforted me."
Now, see, what is He doing? At the end of the age, He calls people to an account. How did you blast people around you? How did you serve? Did you have a heart after the least fortunate and the broken?
See, in Matthew 25, we get those verses and Jesus says, "The righteous then will answer back to Him and the righteous will say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you?" We don't remember that. "When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink?" We don't remember that. When did that happen? "When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?" We don't remember that. What do you mean?
"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Well, truly, I say to you, that to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even to the least of them, you did it onto me.'" I want to commend you for that because I know your deeds, I know your life, I know what you do, and I want to commend you for that because you have done well. When you love to hear those words of the Lord, "Well done my good and faithful servant." See, there's that word, "Well done my good and faithful servant." Because you have the heart to do what God’s heart is.
This is part of being ready for the Lord's return; by spending your life well, having the right heart toward the people around you. When Christ returns, He will commend for having a heart after the least, after the loss, because that's His heart. That's His heart. He wants you to have the same heart that He has and He's got a heart for the least, the broken, the hurting, the sick, and He wants you to have the same heart.
You see, the problem though is that we live in a society, we live in a time and in a culture that's fixated on celebrities and VIPs. They’re the highlight of the magazines. You go to the store, it’s always all about the VIPs and the celebrities and the beautiful people of the world.
The thing is God has kind of a different heart than that. God has a heart for the least, the lost, the broken, the hurting, and at the end of the age, we're going to give an account of how we lived our lives.
What they did was very effective. He commended them for this. They fed the poor. they reached out to the lost. They helped the orphan, the widow. They concerned themselves with those that were hurting. Wonderful. He commended them.
B. Stand strong in the truth
Then He gives them more commendation also because they're standing strong in the truth. Now, that's another thing. The purity of the gospel. They’re standing strong. That’s good word for us, too; standing strong in the truth. Notice what He says; I have also this commendation, "You cannot endure evil men and you put to test those who call themselves apostles, but they're not, they’re false." Well done. "Well done," He says.
Because the church is able to discern the truth because they had the truth to stand on. They had been taught very well. Paul founded that. Can you imagine Paul founding the church? His handpicked son in the faith, Timothy, pastored it for many years. John himself had been living there for a number of years.
So, there is this Word of God's great, wonderful foundation. To me, this is clear support for why it's so important to teach through God's Word in its entirety, chapter by chapter, verse by verse because it's the truth that God wants the send forth to the Church.
The Word is sent forth with power because it transforms lives and it is the truth of the gospel. He says, "Never divert from it. Never divert from it." He says, "Be discerning. Be discerning. Keep that first and foremost."
1 John 4:1, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, to see whether they're from God because there’s a lot of false prophets that have gone out in the world."
So, use spiritual discernment. Use Spiritual discernment. Test. You know what the best test? Test it against the Word of God and that's why it's so important to have the Word of God. There have been-- throughout Church history, there have been several denominations that began well. They were founded on the truth.
But something happened. They became diluted in an attempt, perhaps, to be more socially relevant or more socially acceptable. So, instead of changing the world, the world changed them and they became diluted. They became off course. They got off course.
So, we have to make sure that we don't allow that to happen. We cannot get off course. So, we're going to have the Word of God be central here. That's going to keep us from getting off course.
I remember when I was in Africa. I've been there many times. They have this custom and I was quite alarmed at this custom. The custom is-- okay. So, imagine they brought me to start church and a fellow walks in and he says, "I like to introduce myself. I'm pastor so and so from another city and I've come to visit your city and I’ve come to visit your church." The pastors, by tradition, would say, "Well, welcome, brother pastor so and so. Why don’t you come and teach the Word now?" No.
No, that’s not okay. We need more spiritual discernment than that. This is important. I like 2 Timothy 4:2-4, "Preach the Word." How about that for a great start? "Preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, and with great patience and instruction because the time is going to come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires. And they’ll turn their ears away from the truth and then they’ll turn aside to myths."
I've been in ministry a long time, long enough to see Spiritual fads that have come and gone in the Church. There had been a number of fads. As the Church has gone off course, gone after this fad or that fad. I've been around. I've seen a lot of different fads. There was the get drunk in the spirit fad. That was going on for a long time. There was the laughter movement, where supposedly people would laugh uncontrollably by the spirit. There was the barking like dogs movement. That was a hoot. Then, there was the emerging church movement.
I mean there is always different fads. But see, in my view, God's purposes never change, the gospel has never changed, God still moves in power in transforming lives. He still uses the Word of God. The gospel is the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is the gospel that must be sent forth, even to the end of the age.
Now, you can change the medium, you might say. I mean I'm all for using technology now. We have the app. We have the website. Use these things. I have no problem at all. These are opportunities. Don't change the gospel, but you're more than welcome to put it on an app, or a website, or Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or all these different things that I'm-- It's beyond me.
It’s like this, imagine, I remember when I was young, I listened to this song. I love this song, House on Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins. Okay. How many people remember this song? Okay. You’re kind of old.
I remember when it first came out on vinyl LP record and you put it in the record player and you put your-- House on Pooh Corner, oh, my goodness.
Then it changed. The song didn't change, the medium changed, because then it came out on a track. Now, I was like cool because I had a track player in my car. I could be breezing down the road. [singing] It was like, "Oh, man. It was so cool" Then they changed it to cassette, it got better, cassette. MP3, it came out on MP3, you play it on your iPod and no one plays those anymore. It just keep changing. The song doesn't change. The medium can change, the what you used to do it can change, but the song never changed.
Then when we had the father-daughter dance at our daughter's wedding, we danced To House on Pooh Corner.
Because I used to when I was young, I used to play for the kids, singing on my guitar. Here's my point; it's a picture of the gospel. Here's why; the gospel doesn't change; it is as powerful the day as it was when God sent it. It is still changing lives today like it was when God sent it. Amen?
I'll tell you what? When we have Welcome Weekend, you got to believe-- that's why you become inviters because you believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. You believe that that's why you do inviting. You will see, you pray, you believe.
C. Hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans
Jesus stood among the lampstands. Get this picture. He's standing among the lampstands. Why does He use a lamp stand as a picture for the church? Because Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works, they see your life, and they glorify your Father Who's in Heaven." They recognize. "You're the light of the world," He says. You're the light that shines the gospel. You're like ambassadors of Jesus Christ. This is powerful understanding.
Now, we've got to continue on. Then He gives them this commendation also when we put all the combinations together, Verse 6, "Hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans." He commends them for this.
Well, first of all, who are the Nicolaitans? They were followers of Nicholas. But here's the problem; he had distorted the truth to lead lives of unrestrained sinful indulgence. He departed from correct doctrine in order to put a spiritual covering over worldliness and licentious living.
Now, to show you just how strongly God feels-- I mean, He seems to feel pretty strongly about this because He uses some pretty strong words. To show you how strongly God feels about this, those who distort the truth to justify sinful living. He commends them for hating the Nicolaitans. Now, the church in Pergamum. They had some people. They had Nicolaitans; people who were following in that teaching actually in the church.
Revelation 2:15, "That's you also have some who in the same way hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." See, it's one thing to come up with a strange way of justifying sinfulness, it's another thing altogether to draw other people into that error.
If there's anything that makes God angry, because He seems like He's angry here, He seems like He feels very strongly about that because He's using some pretty strong words. If there's anything that gets God angry is when a stumbling block is placed in front of those whose hearts are to worship God. Don't put a stumbling block in front of the gospel. That seems to upset the Lord.
You see, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, He chased out the money changers and those selling doves from the temple. He felt so strongly about it He turned their table. He threw their tables over. I mean these aren't these plastic tables. These thick wooden tables and he grabbed the whole of them and He tossed them over "Get out. This is my Father's house. This is to be a house of prayer and you have made it a den of robbers." Because these are-- they're putting stumbling blocks in front of the people who just want to worship the Lord.
Another example is Matthew 18. Jesus says, "Whoever curses one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and be thrown into the depths of the sea."
II. Return to Your First Love
I don't know. I'm thinking He thinks strongly about this. He says, "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks. For It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes." Seems He feel pretty strongly about it because He wants His people to have a relationship unencumbered. Don't put a stumbling block in front. Don't draw anybody away.
Now, those were all the commendations. Then he brings the correction. "I have this against you. You've left your first love." Therefore, it's a call out. "Blessed are they who hear and who heed." Heed the words of this Book." He's calling us to return to our first love. There's a real danger of allowing religion or ritual to creep into our lives. God doesn't want religion or busyness or ritual to replace authentic relationship. Amen?
Busyness without love is the beginning of religion. That's how religion comes. Jesus told them how to change. He told them how to change this, how to fix this, how to make this right, how to get back on the right track spiritually and in their relationship to the Lord. Notice what he says, verse 5, "Remember from where you have fallen." In other words, remember the love you had at the first. Remember the love that you had at the first.
I don't know about you, but when I came to the Lord, it was a very impactful thing for me; it was spiritually impactful, it's emotionally impactful. I mean it was just a dramatic thing for me. I was crying in tears and my mom was there. I was very young and she was crying in tears.
To me, that's always a remarkable thing to-- my mom's tears because she came up to me and was hugging me and crying. When my dad came to the Lord at 75 years old, the old alcoholic came to faith in Jesus Christ and my mom was there. It was just a remarkable scene for me, remarkable scene for me because he had divorced her. He had become just an old difficult cuss and an alcoholic and everything you can imagine.
But there we were in church that one day. I got him to church and she was standing next to him and he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and I hadn't come forward and she was crying; that's such a picture.
A. Remember the love you had at the first
You member the joy you had? Remember the excitement when you made that decision for Jesus Christ? He said, "Remember the love you had the first," because things change over time. Marriage can change over time. Sometimes, people, they feel that marriages become a routine.
There's this new trend today of renewing vows. We had two ceremonies just this weekend of vows renewing. I think that's a wonderful thing, it's like, I love you all over again."
See, remember the love you had at first because things can change. Marriage can become a routine or that job you had the first, it was so exciting, it can become mundane, or the first child. I remember when we had our very first child, our first baby, my goodness, was it so exciting. We were just overjoyed with our first baby like, "That's an image of us. That's us." It was so amazing and I had so much desire for her that she's going to grow up and she's going to be so smart. I brought flashcards to the hospital.
She's going to be so smart and she's going to do so many wonderful things and you have this-- then you have another one, and then you have another one, and then it's like, "Hey, your kid's out there eating dirt." "Yes. Yes. Well, it's good for the immune system. Whatever."
I mean things change. So, Jesus wants them to remember. Remember. Remember. Psalm 44:20-21, "If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hands to a strange god, would God not find this out? He knows the secrets of the heart."
See, we've forgotten how wonderful things were at first. I'll tell you one thing for certain, God hasn't forgotten. God has not forgotten. He remembers the joy. He remembers the zeal. He remembers the tears. He remembers the excitement. I love Jeremiah 2:2, "Thus says the Lord, 'I remember, concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothal, your following after me in the wilderness through a land not sown.'" I remember. We need to remember, afresh and anew, what we had at the first.
B. Repent and do the deeds you did at first
That's why communion to me, communion is so important and so powerful because it's like that reminder, that reminder again of just how much God did, that we might have salvation, that we might have the forgiveness of sin, just how much He did. You remember with communion, again and again, it's like it's keeping it fresh.
Then he tells them, "Repent and do the deed you did at first." Now, a lot of people don't like the word repent and some churches don't even use the word repent, but I think it's a perfectly fine word to use, especially when Jesus himself uses it and He's telling us it's a word with power; it means to turn around, to change direction, to change the course. "You're going down the wrong course. You need to change course. You need to change direction."
John the Baptist, was anointed by the Lord to call people to change their hearts. See Luke 1:17, "It is he," speaking of John, "Who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers back to the children and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Isn't that the whole point of the Book of Revelation? "To make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
So, he's telling us, "Hey, change the course." If there's something that needs to be changed, then change it to be ready; to be ready; make ready a people prepared for the Lord. He tells him, "Do the deeds you did at the first."
See, what were you doing when you were on fire? Remember when you were on fire? What were you doing when you're on fire? Do it again. Were you worshiping the Lord and singing with all your might? Do it again. Were you hungry after the Word of God, reading it with an eager heart? Do it again. Do it again.
Remember, do the deeds you did at the first. Do it again. God wants you to fall in love with Him all over again. Maybe we need a renewal of vows or something. Do it again. Fall in love with the Lord, because He says, "Make ready a people prepared for the Lord." He says, "I have this against you. You have so many things--"
Well, you have so many things that are good, so many things that are right, so many things that I love to see, but I have this to say; have you fallen out of love with the Lord? Isn't that the center? Isn't that the key? Isn't that the main point?" The main thing, highest, first, foremost. They said, "Jesus, what is the highest of all that God has ever said?" Jesus responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all of your soul and all your mind and all your strength."
- Sermon Notes
The Church God Desires
John received this revelation which God gave Jesus in order to show His bond servants the things which must shortly, or quickly, take place, so now John is writing to the seven churches that are in Asia. There were certainly more than seven churches, but these represent the church in its entirety.
This book is the revealing of Jesus Christ in the latter days. He is the center of this letter and of the events that will take place in the end times. Chapter 1 gives a powerful and glorious picture of Jesus filled with symbolic meaning.
John heard a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet and when he turned to see the voice that was speaking, he saw seven golden lampstands and in the middle of the lampstands was one like the Son of Man. This is a picture of Jesus in His authority and glory standing amongst the churches. Notice what that says about the relationship Jesus has to His church; He stands in the center.
God wants the churches to understand the things which must quickly take place, but first God wants to prepare the church, so He sends words of commendation, but also words of correction. If the church is going to be prepared, if the church is going to be ready, it must be strengthened spiritually and that includes bringing the necessary corrections.
At this point, the church has been gaining strength throughout the entire Roman Empire. They’re making an impact like never before and know in all faith that their Lord is ruler of the kings of the earth. But success can sometimes be negative; it can make people rest on their laurels and no longer have the zeal they once had.
For example, let’s say you’re the New England Patriots and win the Super Bowl… again. It’s hard to have that same drive that got you there and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up getting blown out on the first game of the season.
In Matthew 24:44 Jesus said, “Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect Him.” This book begins with letters to the churches bringing correction and commendation and there is much for us to heed, or to keep, for ourselves as well.
He writes first to the church at Ephesus, a port town near the Mediterranean and a main highway from Rome to Persia. It was the largest city in Asia Minor of about 500,000 and the capital of the Roman government in that area.
The church in Ephesus was founded by Paul and later pastored by Timothy. John Himself lived there before he was captured by the Romans, boiled in oil and exiled to the island of Patmos.
I.Do Not Grow Weary in Doing Good
- There was much to commend about this church. They had done well in their serving; they toiled hard at good deeds and they toiled with perseverance, and they endured for the sake of the name of the Lord and did not grow weary.
A. Serve with the right heart
- Verse 2 – “I know your deeds and your toil and your perseverance…” The Lord is very much aware of our works – or lack of them.
Matthew 25:37, 39-40, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?… When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them, you did it unto Me.’”
- This is part of being ready for the Lord’s return; by spending your life well and having the right heart toward others.
- The context of Matthew 25 is that when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will sit on His glorious throne and all the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
- When Christ returns He will commend those who have a heart for the least and the lost because that’s His heart as well.
- The problem is that we live in a society that is fixated on celebrities and the most important people. The media track their movements, whole magazines are written so people can follow their lives, but God’s heart is quite different.
- They did much and were very effective. They fed the poor, they reached out to the lost, they helped the orphan and the widow.
- In this they were commended because they didn’t grow weary.
B. Stand strong in the truth
- Another commendation the Lord gave the church in Ephesus was that they could not endure evil men; they tested those who claimed to be apostles, but were false.
- This church was able to discern because they had the truth to stand on. They had been founded by Paul, had Timothy as a pastor for many years, and finally, the Apostle John lived out his years there after he was allowed to leave Patmos.
- This is clear support for why it’s essential to teach through God’s Word in its entirety chapter by chapter, verse by verse. We must have the truth to be able discern the false.
I John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Illus – There have been several denominations founded on truth at the beginning, but became diluted in an attempt to become more socially accepted.
Instead of changing the world, they themselves were the ones that were changed.
Illus – In Africa, there is a custom of allowing visiting “pastors” to be introduced and then given the pulpit.
As soon as we discovered this, we put an end to it. We must be very careful who is allowed to take the pulpit.
2 Timothy 4:2-4, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Illus – I’ve been in ministry long enough to see many spiritual fads come and go in the church. There was the ‘get drunk in the spirit’ movement, and then there was the laughter movement, then there was the movement where everyone was barking like dogs, then there was the emerging church trend. But God’s purpose has never changed; He is transforming lives and using the word of God to do it.
Illus – When my kids were little I used to sing to them, “House at Pooh Corner,” by Kenny Loggins. I heard that song when it first came out on a vinyl record, then on eight-track, then on cassette, then on a CD, then an MP3 that can that can be played from an iPod. It’s been through many formats, but it’s still the same song. My girls loved to hear me sing it, and for the father/daughter dance at our daughter’s wedding we danced to, “House at Pooh Corner.”
- In other words, that song never changed and the gospel doesn’t change either. God still sends it forth with power to transform lives.
- Jesus stood amongst the lampstands, which was a picture of the churches. We are to be a place where the light and glory of the Lord shines out to the community.
C. Hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans
- Vs 6 — Jesus commends them for this; but who were the Nicolaitans? Followers of Nicolas who had distorted the truth to lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. He departed from correct doctrine in order to put a spiritual covering over worldly and licentious living.
- To show you just how strongly God feels about those who distort the truth to justify sinful living, He commends them for hating the Nicolaitans.
- The church in Pergamum also had some who held to this teaching…
Revelation 2:15, “Thus you also have some who in the same way hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
- It’s one thing to come up with a strange way of justifying sinfulness, but it’s another thing altogether to draw other people into that error.
- If there’s anything that gets God angry, it’s when a stumbling block is placed in front of those whose hearts desire to worship God.
Illus – When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he chased out the money changers and those selling doves from the temple, turning over their tables in the process.
Matthew 18:6-7, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!”
II. Return to Your First Love
- After all the commendation, Jesus then addresses what He does not approve; that they had left their first love.
- There is real danger of allowing religion and ritual to creep into our lives.
- Busyness without love is the beginning of religion.
- Jesus then told them how to change direction, how to get back on the right track spiritually and in their relationship to God.
A. Remember the love you had at the first
Illus – Things can change over time; marriage can become routine; the job that was at first exciting can become mundane.
The first child is so special; flash cards are brought to the hospital and everything is written in a book. By the time the third or fourth one comes along, everything changes.
- The first thing Jesus wants them to do is to remember.
Psalm 44:20-21, If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hands to a strange god, would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
- If we have forgotten how wonderful things were at the first, one thing is for certain, God hasn’t forgotten.
Jeremiah 2:2, Thus says the Lord, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.”
- We need to remember the love we had at first. That’s why communion is so important, because it reminds us again of the great price that Jesus paid for our salvation.
B. Repent and do the deeds you did at first
- Many people don’t like the word, ‘repent,’ but it’s a word with a simple meaning, ‘to change direction,’ or ‘to have a new mind.’
- John the Baptist was anointed by the Lord to call the people to change their heart.
Luke 1:17, It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the father back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
- Jesus told them to do the deeds they did at first.
- What were you doing when you were on fire for the Lord? Do those things again.
- Were you worshipping the Lord and singing with all your might? Do that again.
- Were you hungry after God’s Word and reading it with an eager heart? Do that again.
- God wants you to fall in love with Him all over again.
Illus – There is a beautiful trend of renewing marriage vows. It’s a way of saying, “I love you and I would do it all over again.” In a similar way, there is something beautiful about falling in love with the Lord all over again. Return to your first love.
Revelations 2:1-7 NSAB