Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 15 What will Jesus say about our church? . Ephesus - Love or Die

. Ephesus - Love or Die

WHAT WILL JESUS SAY ABOUT OUR CHURCH?

EPHESUS - LOVE OR DIE!


One of the saddest pictures of the church is when Church pews around the world are filled with people who claim to be the bride of Christ, but who have fallen out of love with Jesus and the children of God. They still want the fringe benefits of a relationship with Him, but no longer love Him as they did before. They want to be part of his church where they can be hatched (born), matched (married) and dispatched (buried), but have no desire to be committed to Him in between those dates. There are many who despite no love for Christ still come together to sing, pray, give and worship, but there is no love for Christ. They do it for the sake of tradition, friendships in the church, silencing a guilty conscience, but, all they are experiencing is spiritual apathy.

We have a story in the Bible of people like this who forgot the first commandment namely to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and their neighbour as themselves. This church we read about in Revelation 2 and it is the church of Ephesus.

Revelation 2:1-7 (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.’

Introduction.

For the first three weeks of our preparation to study the 7 churches of Asia we have focussed on the Son of God revealed as one who is walking amongst His golden lampstands which are the churches, and He observes the churches and tells them what He sees in them. We have seen His attributes, His characteristics which filled John with such awe that he fell before Him as though dead. Now we will see the very appearance of Christ as in chapter 1 applied to the churches in chapter 2 & 3.

To give deeper meaning to the text we must be careful not just to be geographical about it. Most of us use Google Earth. Now a good friend of mine is a pastor in Houston Texas. So, I can open Google Earth and get a view of the globe, then I can select America and zoom into that, then I can click Houston and zoom into that, and then Spring Houston and then I can zoom in on Founders Baptist Church.  Now what we cannot see even if it were on a Sunday is the people inside, and even if we could, we cannot look into their hearts. Now when Jesus Christ is walking amongst His golden lampstands He is not doing a Google Street View. He knows every person inside and He knows their deeds and He knows their motives. So, when Jesus now through John addresses the Ephesian Church He knows exactly what is going on.

Now the church of Ephesus was not just any church. It was situated in what is today called Turkey and was a city of phenomenal growth and prospects for the future. It housed the great temple of Artemis which was regarded as one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. Their population at the time of John writing this letter on behalf of Christ was in the region of 150 000.

This church was indeed a privileged church. They did not have all the luxuries we had today. They had no electronics, or the transport methods we have. They could not phone or text one another. They had no printed material, or a great church programme. In that sense we are more privileged than them.  But they were privileged. Why do I say that they were indeed privileged?

Well, firstly they had the privilege of great ministers. Jesus is revealed in chapter one as holding the angel of the churches in His right hand, which now includes the church of Ephesus. Paul ministered longer there than anywhere else. He stayed there for a whole three years. What a bargain to have Paul teaching you the word of God under direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit for three years. They also had the privilege of having Timothy as their pastor.  Other leaders were Onesiphoros, and Tychicus. And then of course John himself was a leader there for the last few decades of his life, and he wrote his epistles from there. He was leading the Ephesian church when he was taken captive and exiled to Patmos, so guess what, even as he writes he has a good understanding of the Ephesian church.

Secondly, they were a church led by godly leaders. They were an example to the flock. Acts 20 is dedicated to Paul’s final visit to these leaders before starting his journey to Jerusalem. There we see a clear indication of the amount of teaching that Paul poured into their lives. He however warns them to watch their lives and their doctrine closely because wolves would come in dressed as shepherds to mislead and destroy the body.

Thirdly they had a great understanding of Biblical doctrine. Many theologians believe that the books of Romans and Ephesians are the greatest epistles that Paul ever wrote expressing true Biblical doctrine. They knew how their salvation worked from their election before the foundation of the world to the moment they were saved. They understood clearly the hope to which they were called. They knew that they were dead in their trespasses and sins, but that God made them alive and saved them by grace. They also knew that they were outside the fold of Christ but that now alongside saved Jews they were one family in Christ. There was no place for racism in the church of Christ. They understood the mysteries of Christ that now through a new people called the church the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the fallen and holy angels according to Ephesians 3:10.

No wonder Paul could pray for them that they would understand the length and the depth and the breadth and height of the love of God that was in Jesus Christ their Lord. They knew all about church unity and the gifts that were given to the body to bring them all to maturity in the faith as we see in chapter 4. They also knew what it was to live like as children of the light. In chapter 5 Paul reminded them to be imitators of Christ. Paul told them clearly in Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV) “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” They were not ignorant about what it was to be filled with the Spirit and how to be spirit controlled husbands and wives, and children and employers and employees as we see in chapter 5 and 6. Lastly, they were not ignorant about the devil and his scheming. They were taught that Satan would come with “methodia”, to use the Greek word which we can translate stealth or methods. He comes unnoticed and causes havoc in the body. But they were not without the weapons and the armour necessary for the battle. They were told to put on the full armour of God so that when the day of evil comes, they will stand.

Fourthly, they had a great story. All churches would surely like to make a difference in their community. These guys made such a difference. We read in Acts 19 that they saw mighty conversions and miracles. People were healed, demons were cast out. Acts 19:19-20 tells us that even those who practiced magic arts brought fifty thousand pieces of silver worth of books to be burnt. This is not a small story church family. But not only that, they even caused riots and were accused of upsetting the Idol manufacturing businesses and the worship of Artemis, a.k.a. Diana. Now as I mentioned earlier, Ephesus was home to the temple of Artemis or Diana, a temple much greater than the Parthenon. Today it is all ruins, but in those days, it was majestic, and you can understand why it was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World. All of this for a non-existent God. But Christianity upset her worship.

Oh, how I pray that these will be the marks of Logos Community church. As the Lord writes Acts 29 through us, which is our chapter, as the early churches chapter ended in Acts 28. I pray that our history will be paved with HISSTORY as history is His Story.

But what does the Lord Jesus say of them in our text? The bigger issue always is what Jesus would say about our church. No matter what your personal reputation is or the reputation of our church, in the end what matters is what the owner and head of the church says.

Firstly, he commends them, and secondly, he criticizes then and then He warns them.

1. The commendation of Jesus.

“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.

Jesus knows the church; He walks amongst His golden lampstands. At the same time, He blesses the church with Spiritual leaders who are called the stars that He holds in His right hand. Now some are truly stars from beginning to the end and others of us are ‘disaSTARS’ who can stand in nothing else but the grace of God. So, Jesus knew then, and Jesus knows now what is going on in churches. He knows our vision, our ministry, our lives, our joys, our struggles, our needs and He knows our deeds. And that is true for every church in Polokwane. He knows if people are filled with bitterness or if they are filled with the joy of the Lord.

So, what does He commend them for?

Firstly, they were commended on the works level.

Now we all know that we are not saved by works, but that we work hard because we are saved. These guys were hard workers, they toiled, and they patiently endured. Dr Mayhue in his book “What would Jesus say about your church” says that they had performance, perspiration and perseverance.  Now isn’t this a wonderful thing to say about any church. I hope that Logos will be a church like that where people all work hard and not just a chosen few. I pray that we will be so motivated for Logos in the long term that we all will perspire for the Lord. Remember that success is 90 % perspiration. The sad reality is that in many churches 10% of the people do all the work. The Ephesian church is commended for their labour. I trust that we will be commended as well.

Secondly, they were commended for their doctrinal purity and discernment.

Doctrinal purity counts and is so important that Christ takes note of it. The Ephesian church could not bear evil men; they rejected the false teachers and their doctrines. According to verse 6 they …hated the works of the Nicolaitans, which Christ also hates. This church seems to have done what we all should do and that is to love what God loves and hate what God hates. The Nicolaitans by the way were a group of people who believed you could come to saving grace, but that you could then live just like you want to.

2. The criticism of Jesus.

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.

Jesus has some criticism against the church. They had so much going for them, but all of that meant nothing, because they departed from their first love. It seems like there was a time when their love was prominent, but now it was peripheral.

There are three levels in which believers are called to love. We have an upward love towards God, and inward love towards one another and an outward love towards the world.

When your love for God becomes peripheral it will affect every aspect of your relationship with Him. It will affect your faithfulness in attendance, it will affect your worship, it will affect your giving and it will affect your endurance.

If your love for the saints becomes peripheral it will affect your caring and every one of the Biblical one another’s we all know about. It will sadly heighten things like division, slander etc. A loss of love will normally bring about a greater focus on buildings and programs than on care for one another and sacrifice. We have started off well here at Logos. I have stood amazed just to see the extent of our caring for one another in a very short span of time.

If our outward love becomes peripheral we will not share our faith, get involved in caring for the down and out. When we do not love outwardly we are not like our Christ. No wonder Mahatma Ghandi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike Christ.” Oh, that God will give us a heart for people, that we will see people through the eyes of the cross. Just think if Mahatma Ghandi got saved what the impact would have been in India with its more than 1 Billion People. Now I know salvation is the Lord’s work, but you get my point.

True love is about attitude. We all know 1 Corinthians 13 so well. In the ESV the heading for this section is “The Way of Love”, and I want to tell you today that the way of love which is the more excellent way is the only remedy for true unity in the body. Listen to what Paul says and it will do us all good to examine ourselves by putting our name into the place of the word ‘love’. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (So what Paul is saying is that I do not care if you are Super Christian, if you do not love you are nothing.) 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends”. So, 1 Corinthians 13 gives us the more excellent way of thinking and behaving. So, you can be a Super Christian, you can have the greatest theological knowledge, the most extraordinary spiritual gifts, and even the most sacrificial service but they all are profitless – even hurtful – if not motivated and coloured by the spirit of Christlike love.

True love by the way is not just about attitude. Christ here links it to their deeds. 1 John 3:18 (ESV) 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

3. The command of Jesus.

Jesus has one very simple warning to the Ephesians. Love or die! They are called to take serious stock of their lives. It is very simple. Remember – think, think back to your first love and the deeds that were associated with it and get back there. Sadly, in our day and age when we focus on the apathy of the church, too many pastors and leaders think more programmes, greater creativity and doing things in a way that people will like it more is the answer. Jesus disagrees, He says, get back to the future. Do the things you did at first and you will be amazed just how relevant it is now.

You know what I like about Christ. He does not act like believers who just write one another off. His warning is clear, love or die, get back to the basics, do the things you did at first, otherwise I will remove your lampstand. In short – love and do, or I cancel you! Despite His clear warning Jesus did not write any of these churches off. If you look at all seven churches Jesus warns them all clearly and says a day may come when he would write them off—make war on them with the sword of his mouth, come against them like a thief, bring them into sickness, and, if necessary, take away their candlestick—put them out of existence. But not yet, He gave them all time to repent. We know from Exodus 34 :6-7 (ESV) that 6…The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,…” That goes for people like and you and me. And it goes for churches like Logos. God is gracious and invites us to repent and get back to our first love.

So, in closing on a personal level. Jesus is walking amongst the chairs this morning. What will He commend you for as far as your love for Him and the works and endurance associated with it? But what will He criticize you for? Consider your ways, remember where you were and realize this, we better get back to first love or die!

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church – 3 June 2018