Sermons & Sunday Schools

Ephesus: The Church of Loveless Orthodoxy

In this sermon, Pastor Babij begins preaching on Jesus’ messages to the seven churches of Revelation, starting with the Ephesian church. Pastor Babij first explains, using several Scripture verses, how Jesus’ sovereignty is displayed over all the churches. Second, Pastor Babij details Jesus’ pattern of review for each church. Third, Pastor Babij discusses how the Ephesian church left Jesus, her first love, and substituted a loveless orthodoxy in Jesus’ place. Pastor Babij concludes by exhorting believers to exercise a careful watchfulness so that their love for Jesus does not grow cold.

Full Transcript:

You can turn to Revelation 2 today. I’m going to be starting to look this morning at the five churches of Revelation. I’ve been thinking of doing this before getting to 2 Peter and I thought it was good because I have one more message before the last series’ last message, and I want to do this before I finish that one.

So turn to Revelation 2:1-7. Let’s also look at Revelation 1:5-6. It says:

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Let’s pray. Father, this morning as we approach Your throne, we know that it is the Word that comes from the King Jesus. So make us attentive to it. I pray that we would listen with listening ears and remove the distractions from our minds. I pray Lord that we would drink in the Word of God and actually apply what we see and hear to ourselves. And that we would make the appropriate changes as we listen to the Spirit of God from the Word of God today. I pray in Christ’s Name, Amen.

I came across a story that was told of a wealthy man when his only child was young. A housekeeper was hired to take care of the boy and then he died. He was heartbroken and a short time later he died. No will could be found since there was no relatives and it looked like the state could get his whole fortune. The man’s personal belongings and his mansion was put up for sale. The old housekeeper had very little money. But there was one thing she wanted. There was a picture of the boy that she loved and nurtured for a short period of time. When the items were sold, nobody else wanted it. So she took it home and began to clean it and polish the glass. As she took it apart, a piece of paper fell out from it. It was the man’s will and it stated that all his wealth should go to the person who loved his son enough to buy this picture.

Now the legacy of Heaven and the inexhaustible riches of God’s love belongs to all who trust and love His Son. Pursuing our relationship with Christ is the most important goal of the Christian life. Here in Revelation 2, the Ephesian church got knocked off their course by good and noble and spiritual pursuits. In fact, they were doing things that were vital and important to the ministry of the church. If you look at Revelation 2:1, it says:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

And he goes on to tell us what that means. To get a better understanding of the imagery in this part of Revelation, we need to go back to chapter 1 and we’ll see that the seven church will make more sense. Even though this is Revelation in the first century, there is a lot of clear understanding of the first parts of Revelation. Emphasized in our passage of Scripture is the sovereignty of the Head as He walks among lampstands and holds the seven stars within His right hand, the place of authority and honor.

So there are several important symbols that we can’t miss before we go any further. The first symbol is in Revelation 1:12:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands.

Here is a compound symbol. The basic symbol for a lampstand is a candlestick holder, or basically a stand that holds an oil lamp. Now you notice that he did not see a light but saw something that held the lamp. So the book of Revelation interprets for us here in Revelation 1:20. It says:

As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

So the lampstand represents a church. Here is revelation from God concerning a church and it is like a lampstand because it holds the light. So the church holds the light and shares the light in its area that God assigns to it. What are we going to do with a light if it goes out? You throw it away! You’re going to hear in our passage that if you do not bear your light, it will be removed. If you look at Revelation 2:5 it says this:

Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

The second symbol isn’t made of wood, stone, or silver, but of gold. Gold is a symbol of being precious and valued. In other words, the lampstand’s mission is to hold the church and share it, not keep it to itself. The gold is the value of the church because the church of Jesus Christ is precious and valuable to Him. Now the reason why I read Revelation 1:5 is because it says there, “He who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” Jesus is saying He loves His church and those redeemed by Him.

Another symbol is the number 7, which represents the church in the sense that seven is the number of completion. It represents the entire Church, even though only 7 physical churches will be discussed in Revelation 2 and 3, whose main mission is to share the light. The next John asks is who is the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand. Well it is none other than Jesus Christ.

In fact look what it says in Revelation 1:13, it gives us the position of the One who holds the stars.

In the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.

In the vision there is one standing in the middle as if the churches were in a circle and he is standing in the center of that circle. Of course “one like the Son of Man” comes from Daniel where it says in Daniel 7:13:

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.

The term Son of Man is an important designation because this term refers to Jesus Christ and He uses it to link Himself to the prophecy of Daniel. In almost every case, it is used to refer to His title in the second coming.

Daniel 8:17 says:

So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.”

One like a Son of Man is seen symbolically in the middle of the church and we watch what it says about the Head of the Church. It describes in Revelation 1:13 His Person. It says again that He is clothed in a robe reaching to the feet and girded across His chest with a golden sash. Now who wheres a garment like that? A high priest, king, prophet, and a judge wears it. Jesus is all of those things.

In other words, His position is high and He has dignity and absolute exaltation. This one is of old age and wisdom where it says in Revelation 1:14:

His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.

Jesus has total wisdom and is absolutely omniscient. In Revelation 1:15 says:

His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.

Burnished bronze and brass represent symbols of judgment and sin. The feet of a king sitting on His throne are ready to judge or condemn anyone who is being addressed. This One speaks with absolutely authority and His voice is not only loud but it has command, force, and finality to it. Therefore the audience should be ready to listen because it says in Revelation 1:15 that His voice was like many waters. Then it describes His work in Revelation 1:16:

In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

So what is Jesus doing here? The Son of Man is standing in the middle of the seven churches, has in His right hand the seven stars. And Jesus has all of them in His hand belonging to each church. The seven stars are indicated in Revelation 1:20:

As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The word angel really means messenger, or the one who was sent. Let’s just say this is a human being, such as elders and pastors in a local church. Now why are the letters addressed to the messengers of the local churches? Jesus is holding the leader of this church in His hand and He speaks to Him through the church. So each church is like a little theocracy where Jesus is the head, and He speaks through some human leadership. He is holding the stars of the churches and thus controls the churches. So as a leader goes, so goes the church.

Brethren, it is an awful lot of responsibility to be an elder or pastor of a church. I and my fellow elders have often felt the crushing weight of the responsibility on our shoulders. When the Lord first called me to preach and pastor, I did not want to do it. I fought my calling for a while. I still often feel my deep inadequacies, weaknesses, and fears and I say to myself how can I continue on to shepherd and preach, especially in a place where I’ve ministered for such a long time.

Satan surely knows how to send his fiery missiles towards me and this church. He has tried to divide and conquer and he has been somewhat successful in some instances. He has not let up the whole time that I have been here. It is only the Lord that has kept me up and continuing on. I have felt the right hand of my Lord Jesus Christ keeping me in perfect rest. He has provided protection, the strength and power of continuing. I have tasted and learned that the Lord is good. And He deserves all the glory for all that has and will be accomplished.

There is seriousness of making certain that we are all pleasing Jesus Christ who we see in these Scriptures. The reason why is that He is standing in our midst. Brethren, how much we need your prayers, support, cooperation, patience, and understanding! How much we need to submit to the Word of God so the Spirit can make you Christ like. We need you to use your gifts to minister in the body. We need you to consider this church your family and grow in your faithfulness towards God and love towards one another. We need to love the Lord Jesus, love each other, and love the lost so that our church body can get through the growing pains and go on to maturity. This is all so that we uphold our responsibility of holding up the light as lampstands!

The Lord speaks in Revelation 1:16 with authority to the churches. It says:

In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

Can you imagine the Apostle John getting this vision from God?How would he respond to it, well look at what it says in Revelation 1:17-18:

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

That’s who is walking among the churches. You can make no mistake about who this is, even though the passage never mentions Jesus’ name. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 all go together in Revelation. The seven churches in Asia selected from a greater number than existing are each analyzed by the Lord and their spiritual condition is laid bare before them. Christ follows a general pattern of speaking to each church. Two exceptions are notable, but each church as a whole are commended except two, Sardis and Laodicea. Each church is also condemned except for two, Smyrna and Philadelphia.

So He says to the Apostle John that He would like to speak to the church and John is to be the messenger to all the churches. This is the pattern for all churches and ministries. Jesus gives the state of the church, whether by praise or promise, rebuke or warning. Therefore as the Lord walks among His churches, He examines them and continually knows their work and sufferings and sins. His eyes are as a flaming fire so that He sees with a penetrating discernment and an accuracy to which no human can attain.

If we were to judge the church, we would be too lenient or we would judge inaccurately because we would lack the knowledge that it takes to judge the church. Or we would judge too severely. We must judge using this Scripture. Only Christ can judge His church properly. And be sure that He does!

As the Lord examines the first church in the list of seven, which is Ephesus, the Lord first gives a commendation to them. Secondly, He gives a condemnation to them. Thirdly, He gives them counsel and lastly He challenges them. And that is the pattern that the Lord uses.

Now we have to consider the background of the church at Ephesus. It was a thriving commercial city in Asia Minor, which is today modern day Turkey. It was centered around the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis. Her temple was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the world.

Like other cities, it had its own problems. There was crime, immorality, and in spite of these conditions the gospel flourished there under the ministries of the Apostle Paul and John. Now let’s look the morning at the commendation that Jesus perceives at this church. It says in Revelation 2:2-3:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.

They were a church of good deeds and labor to the point of exhaustion, even enduring burdens with great patience. Secondly in the second verse, they were a separated church. They couldn’t bear with evil people, meaning they were a church that did discipline. Notice also in verse 2 that they exposed unsound, heretical teaching. And in Revelation 2:6, it says this about them:

Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

The Nicolaitans’ sins will be explained in a later message, but it basically had to do with immorality.

The church at Ephesus is also an enduring church as we can see in verse 3. They were a tough church and hated what God hated! All these things lead us to conclude that the Ephesian church was a Biblically orthodox church and had strong convictions. They could not yield the faith they had or play traitor to their Lord. They showed accuracy towards heretics.

A church may have every wheel turning and the machinery of ministry is moving at a steady rate and yet something very important may escape their notice. I believe that our church can be commended or these same things. We have been growing in sound doctrine and getting better at the organization of our time and ministries. But we should always be diligent and careful to make sure that the very important things do not escape our notice.

You’ll see in the next passage the Lord’s assessment of what does not please Him. Scripture will be telling us of the kinds of things He approves of and does not approve of in the church. He rebukes His church in the areas that need rebuke. So these are the kinds of things we ought to love and hate.

What is the condemnation now? Look at Revelation 2:4:

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

This church does everything they are supposed to, but in doing that they have drifted away. A church can be orthodox in all their behavior and ministries and yet still lack love. A. T. Robinson said, “This early love, proof of new life in Christ, had cooled off, in spite of their doctrinal purity.” So the Great Physician Jesus Christ puts His finger right on the problem, because He is right in the middle and sees everything going on. He can diagnose the problem and condition and here He brings a condemnation that is the most serious one that can be brought against a church: declining love.

Why are we saved anyway? They get saved so they can love Christ and what He did for us and then live for Him. That’s the whole point to the Christian life! If you’re going to hate sin, it’s because you love Christ. If you’re going to be obedient, it’s because you love Christ! All those things are necessary and here the Lord says that He is not pleased. This is no complaint of an enemy but one of a dear wounded friend. Will we grieve Emmanuel whose heart was pierced for our redemption? Can you and I let Jesus find out that our love in our hearts toward Him has departed and that we’re going through the motions? That we are so precise in our doctrine that it doesn’t bleed out of our lives or change our hearts?

The Ephesian church along the way of running the Christian race and fighting the Christian battle. They got away from devotion to Jesus Christ. In other words, they stopped pursuing the goal of Christ’s likeness through a personal, ongoing relationship with Christ.

We don’t want to become the church of loveless orthodoxy. The Greek term here in our passage of Scripture for left here is actually to abandon or neglect. These believers abandoned and departed their first love for something else. Be sure brethren, that anytime we depart from our first love, we depart in our affections to another object. Because that’s who we are as human beings. Paul brought that out in his pastoral epistles to young Timothy by saying that men will be lovers of self. So if you depart from the intimate relationship that you should have with Jesus Christ in loving Him, you depart to some kind of self love. Or you become a lover of possessions and money that satisfy your wants. Or you become a lover of pleasure instead of a lover of God.

When you become a pleasure lover, there’s no love left for anyone else. So a church that moves away from its first love will be susceptible for misplaced affections and will be at risk for being cold and hard hearted. Many things can easily be given. The throne of your heart can easily be crowded out and the affections that we should have for God will be for something else. If our love has grown the least bit cold, then we have done a terrible wrong to our best and closest friend. Can there be any greater grief than leaving our first love.

See God takes special notice in which the way and manner that His people think of Him and how they attend services and worship. He sees all of it going on. He knows what is going on at home, in your marriages and behind closed doors. We can say that things are going well, but He sees what’s going on. A love for Christ will go everywhere you go and will permeate every part of your life. If you love something, you want to spend time with it. And when you love someone, you want to spend time with them. So if we really love Jesus, and when we go home back to our schedule, you will love Jesus then too.

It was D. A. Carson that said this is like a comparison to marriage. He says, “Like a married couple who feel helpless while their marriage grows cold and distant from want of attention. Even while Christians retain its former boundaries and predictable duties, they may feel the hot flame of their Christian love die down to an ash coated ember. While they deny no cardinal truth or even relinquish their Christian responsibilities, and while they are showing up at church and worship, inside they are dying and they know it. Have you ever felt like that as a Christian?

Even though you know all the truth, you just don’t feel the spark. That’s what the Lord is saying. He is saying that He has done everything for you and you are just going to drift off? This is a grievous sin for the church. You realize that if you don’t love like this, there is no more light. It’s just sputtering in darkness and ready to go out.

Love in the church is important for at least five Biblical reasons. First of all, it’s because the great commandment said that. Jesus was asked a question by the Jewish scribes and He gave the Scripture from Deuteronomy and asked what is the great commandment? Deuteronomy 6:5 says:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

The second reason for Biblical love is because of the second commandment: love your neighbor like yourself. When someone is not growing in their love for Christ, they are laying aside the two greatest commandments. Christ said if you love Him, you’ll do what He says. Hearts which desire to be obedient to Christ in whom they are affectionately in love. Christ followers are to be marked by devotion to God and by sacrificial service to their neighbors.

Third reason is that true discipleship requires denying oneself and loving Him above all else. This is what it says in Matthew 10:37-38:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Part of being a disciple is to deny yourself to love Christ! Christ should be our first object of love before husbands, wives, parents, or children. Jesus Christ is always the key to any other part of our lives. If people really love Christ there would be no counseling or divorce or leaving the church. Because the love of Christ would constrain us so much that we would do what we knew we had to do, out of a heart of affection.

He also left His followers a new commandment. It says in John 13:34:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

The attribute of God that should be communicated through our lives to others is love. It says in 1 John 4:8:

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

And 1 John 4:16 says:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

All love is but a reflection and a shadow of the intra-trinitarian love that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for each other. So how are we doing as far as growing in Biblical love? Love is the badge of the Christian community. A Christian may advance in many areas of their Christian life but without growth in the most important Christian distinctive, it profits them nothing. That’s what it says in 1 Corinthians 13. You can be the best speaker and be the most gifted, but if you are not doing it out of a heart of love, you are just a noise symbol.

When love begins to diminish and grow cold, our sin increasingly manifests itself and we look unlike Jesus when that happens. This is how diminishing love looks. We lose patience easily, instead of being long-suffering. Unkindness becomes common, yet love is kind. Sinful envy and bitterness are displayed yet love does not envy. We defend ourselves when confronted of our lack of love and yet love does not parade itself and is not puffed up. We become less courteous and more rude and yet love does not behave rudely. We start trumping our rights over others. Yet love does not seek its own. We become easily angered yet Biblical love is not provoked.

Fault finding becomes frequent and yet love keeps no black book of wrongs and thinks no evil of the person. Projects become more important than people. They are unwilling to confront when necessary so no one is looking at sin. Those growing in Jesus’ love will not only say loving words but do loving deeds as He did. It is the direction of your life to honor and love God as well as to your neighbor. Commentator and professor Robert Thomas said Jesus calls members to return to the actions prompted by love that they as a church had formerly known.

So that brings me back to Revelation 2:5, here is the council that the Lord gives. It says:

Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

The church had lost their bearings and needed to regain them. The church’s previous condition is alluded to in this way. Their departure from their first love is now seen as a fall from their previous position. In other words, they backslid. It is not the Lord that changed or moved away from us but it is we. So here’s the subtle truth, love can grow cold where outward religious performance appears to be acceptable and even praise worthy. It is to be satisfied with religious performance. It is easy to have a checklist of what you’ve done and attended. Jesus said this to the religious leaders in His day in Matthew 23:23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

They needed to do all of it. The problem is that external religious performance can replace true inner faith and heartfelt love. Mark it down, the greatest danger to any church is declining love. Remember in this passage of Scripture is the imperative command. Remember means to call your faithfulness of earlier leaves and take inventory. Remember when you first came to Christ and He saved you and He was your love and your Lord, and your life. You probably said that you wanted to know more of Jesus and His Word. you are never weary to talk about what He has done in your life. You could not get enough of the gospel, very comparable to the marriage relationship.

If your marriage cools off, go back and remember the day you got married. You weren’t sad on that day, you were rejoicing and excited! If Christ is in your life, you realize that He has been teaching you all those things with a tremendously sanctifying relationship of two sinners getting married. But if Christ is your and your spouse’s first love, you’re going to be able to overcome every obstacle and issue and problem because you are in love with Christ and His Word. And it makes you more like Him.

But when declining love comes the sermons feel too long now. Your Christian life is kind of dull. You have a spiritual appetite but only with new things. Once you were never displeased with Jesus. But now because of some sickness, a loss of a job, some family disappointments, you’ve lost interest and cooled off. At first you would have blessed His name for everything and given Him thanks. But now you grumble at the slightest problem. You were once consecrated to Him in zealous joyful service. You once said you wanted to serve the Lord in whatever it takes. When these things don’t happen anymore, it all comes down to departing love. Things are wrong in your heart.

In our own assembly, several things will become obvious. Like if you’re not serious and prepared for a worship service. Or if you never desire to pray with your brethren in prayer meetings, or if ministries are only occupied with a few faithful workers. If you serve out of duty and obligation rather than with love for the Lord. Remember the beginning and compare it with the present state of your heart. For the Ephesian church, the way forward was going backward.

Ask yourself how you’re really faring with the Lord. Have you fallen in your love for Him in any measure at all? Ask Him to show you. You should want a burning heart for Christ until the day you die. You should want to know more of Him and throw all the rest on the garbage for the sake of knowing Christ. You don’t come to a place like this on the first day of becoming a believer. You grow to that place because you know there is no return. You shouldn’t want anything in your past, you should just want to live the rest of your life wholeheartedly for the sake of Christ.

Look at the second thing it says in Revelation 2:5:

Repent and do the deeds you did at first.

The Lord’s council is by way of a command and here it is, an urgent repeal to an instant change to an attitude of thinking, conduct, and way before it’s too late. Remember there’s always four things included in repentance. You have to name your sin, proved you dropped it, replace your sin with righteous behavior, return and repeat what you did at first.

It doesn’t say do more things and add to what you are already doing. It says go do the thing you stopped doing and do them first. That relationship you have with Christ is the most important that you will ever have. This is a practical repentance for in doing the first works, you will prove that you have come back to your first love.

Duty motivated by transparent love for the Lord and one another. The church finds love by following the two greatest commandments. Love the Lord with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

This is the fourth thing the Lord gives as a challenge. Look at the last part of Revelation 2:5:

Or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.

So you see your sin and God told you what to do with it. You might walk out of there with nothing changed. But God doesn’t want us to do that. Now I’m not preaching this message because I think our church has declined in its love. But it’s a warning not to let it. Love in Scripture should always look like a glass constantly overflowing because that’s what your love looks like. It should be evident in how we are responding to the Lord and to each other. The Lord responds here with a threat, He will remove the lampstand and cut down the light in that geographical area. The one great mission will be shut down in that local body unless they repent.

Christ cannot allow His church to be apart from love. If the first love has been abandoned and there is no repentance, then the church will be left in darkness. And it will be nothing more than a wedding venue. This may mean that the Lord removes the faithful ministers who bring the Word of God to another place. This also may mean that the Lord will cut the church’s usefulness to preserve the truth. Another thing is the Lord can take away the church and closes the door. I think the Lord’s closed a lot of doors and abandoned church buildings where they only become historical sites.

Now you may be wondering what happened to the Ephesian church and if they repented of their declining love and returned to the Lord. It doesn’t say it in this passage of Scripture but in the beginning of the second century, the disciples of the Apostles, wrote it down. Ignatius was the overseer of the church at Antioch in Syria. He was arrested for his faith and sent to Rome. While on his journey to Rome, he wrote seven letters. One of them was written to the church at Ephesus. On the way to Rome, the guards stopped at Smyrna. While there, the church at Ephesus sent a delegation of brothers to encourage and strengthen Ignatius as he faced martyrdom in Rome. So uplifted was he by their visit that he wrote a letter thanking them for their thoughtfulness and care. In this letter, he praised their loving attitude and said that this church was characterized by faith in our loving Christ, Jesus our Savior.

So you know what that says? They repented and listened! They made sure that sin was not being committed naymore. Unfortunately, Ephesus is gone today. There’s nothing but ruins to be found. But they repented and and turned back to their first works of love. Now look at Revelation 2:7:

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.

In other words, the Lord’s promise to those who continue, He says He will bring them closer to the center to the tree of life. We need to remain an obedience community of light-bearing believers who love Christ. Jesus gives council to His church so that they as light-bearers can fulfill their mission right to the end. We know this, that when people do return from this coldness and departure from their first love, it will be because they realize they cannot be apart from the one they love for long. If you love someone, you cannot be long apart, the desire to see the object of your love will be so intense that you will sigh until you lay your eyes upon the one you love. It was King David who said in Psalm 84:2:

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

His passion is seen in his heart. Also those who return to intimacy know that life without Him is empty, vain, and lifeless. You’d be like a dead fish flapping for a bit and then that’s it. For those who love God, all of life will be undone and empty without Him. In other words, they will say there’s no reason for living if my Lord is not first in my life. It was Psalm 143:7 that says:

Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die.

You get the feeling from the psalms that David just needed to be with the Lord even though he could have anything he wanted. Those who return to intimacy with Christ realize that each day they don’t know Him enough and are not like Him enough. That’s why Paul says in Philippians 3:10, 14:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What happens is that the Lord gives us this desire because someday we are gong to be in His presence, so He is preparing us. If we don’t want the Lord here, why would we want Him in Heaven. I think that those who return to intimacy with Christ must love what Jesus loves. When His people humble themselves and come together and pray and do not neglect the Lord’s Table, He is pleased. That’s going to drive us to be a witness for Him.

I must ask, when people visit our church, do they find a warm, friendly, welcoming atmosphere that demonstrates loves for all people? Do they sense Christ’s loving passion and see a loving family community and care for others’ needs like hospitality and unselfish generosity? Do they see spiritual vitality and singing from the heart? Do they sense God in this place because we are passionately worshipping and loving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That’s where the passion comes from. The Spirit sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts that it would come out of us.

I pray that visitors would never meet just an impersonal gathering of people. I pray that they would never see a proud, critical spirit or an angry contentious group of people. We must never forget that there’s always One who walks among the churches, unseen but all seeing, our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, how might the Lord evaluate our local church today? How might He evaluate your life since you are a part of the body? I pray that we would keep the advice here and watch our hearts. And if we detect even the slightest cooling off, that we would remember, repent and do the first works to love the Lord and His people. Let’s pray.

Lord, let us hear Your warning that we at Calvary would keep ourselves in the love of God, as it says in Jude, that our relationships with You would grow in intimacy and the love for the brethren and the people would be a reality. And that our appetite would be kindled for Your Word, prayer, fellowship and witnessing and I pray that our intimacy with You every day would only increase and get better. Help us, we need the Spirit of God’s help to maintain this part of our walk. And I pray that as You do this Lord, You would be glorified and that our church would always be a lampstand that holds up the light so others who have not see the light yet can see it and be saved and loved by our Lord too. I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.