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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Love Discarded

We can learn a lot from an old book. Take, for instance, the Book of Revelation, right there at the end of the Bible. I know, I know, it can be a tough book, so let's just try a small part. Let's just look at Jesus's letter to the Church at Ephesus. (Imagine that. Jesus sent letters to churches.)
"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: '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. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.'" (Rev 2:1-7)
Short letter, sure, but it is full of useful stuff for you and me.

Almost all of the seven letters follow a standard template. 1) Who is talking? 2) What are you doing right? 3) What do I have against you? 4) How do you fix it? 5) "He who has ears to hear ...".

First, the introduction. In the first chapter of Revelation Jesus is introduced to us holding the seven stars and standing among the seven lampstands. Jesus explains these so we don't have to guess. "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." (Rev 1:20) So, here we have Jesus reminding Ephesus that He holds the angels of these churches and walks in the midst of them. (We're not entirely sure about the angels. The term means "messenger". It may refer to a messenger that was being sent, the one already there giving them God's message, or a literal angel.) What we know, then, is that the One sending this letter is sovereign over the messenger and intimately involved with the recipient.

Christ commends Ephesus for doing everything right. No, seriously, you would think that they're doing everything right. They're doing the right deeds. They're working hard. They're persevering. They do not tolerate evil and they do not tolerate false doctrine. Right down the line. (An extra one is stuck in down in verse 6 where they do not tolerate the deeds of the Nicolaitans whose deeds Christ hates, too.) I'll tell you what; it all looks good for the church at Ephesus.

And then the other shoe drops. One thing. One little thing. One little thing that, if it isn't remedied, will cost them everything. "You have left your first love." It's interesting that Jesus did not say that they "fell out of love" or "lost your first love". No. They left it. They didn't lose it. They let it go. They gave it up. They sent it away.

What is the literally God-given solution? It takes three parts: 1) remember, 2) repent, and 3) return. Remember where you came from--the sin from which you were saved--and repent, turning away from "left love" and back to the Savior, back to the One who saved you from that sin. Return, then, to those early deeds, those motivated by loving gratitude from the beginning rather than stale, if correct, duty. Or "I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand." The church in Ephesus would end.

It ends with the "ears to hear" part where the one who overcomes will be granted to eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of God.

The text is clear and understandable, but, more importantly, it is immediately applicable. We all suffer from this from time to time. We know what's right and we try to do what's right and believe what's right, but ... sometimes our heart is just not in it. We're doing it because we ought to do it. And, to be fair, doing it because we ought is better than not doing it at all. Ephesus was commended for doing what they ought. Still, Jesus says that love matters. Duty only takes us so far. Love is absolutely necessary.

So check the remedy for yourself. Have you left your first love? Maybe it's love for Christ. Maybe it's love for a spouse. Maybe a family member. It works the same for all of these. Remember where you fell from. Turn from your failure to love and to loving Christ, the One who saved you from where you were before. Now, perform those deeds that this kind of grateful love produces. You'll be surprised at how effective this is. You shouldn't be. It is the prescription of Christ Himself.

1 comment:

Alec said...

Good reminder Stan. Thank you.