Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Vision of His Glory - Chapter Three Part One

Which church are you?

I know, that's a strange question to open a Bible study, but for the next few discussions we'll be dealing with the seven churches that Jesus commanded John to give Revelation to. The churches are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Each one had its own special challenge and correction given in Revelation. Today, we'll discuss Ephesus. Chapter Three will deal with three of the seven churches, and we'll probably do each of the seven separately.

First, Jesus praises the Ephesians. They are hard working and persevering. They don't tolerate wickedness and are discerning to see if someone is lying to them or is committing evil acts. They have been persecuted and gone through many things to glorify the name of Jesus. To me, this sounds like they were committed, right? But Jesus goes on to say this:

Revelation 2:4 (New International Version)
4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Um, what? Jesus just said all these things the people were doing for Him, but He has a problem with them still? But, be comforted. Know that first and foremost, no matter what and how much you do for God, you are still not perfect and not deserving of the salvation Jesus gives us. It is only through God's love and Jesus' sacrifice that we have our salvation. The Ephesians were doing everything right, but they were only doing. Sometimes, with the busyness of life and ministry, we can lose sight of Who we are doing all this for. It doesn't matter how many conferences you go to, how many times you volunteer at church, how pristine your home is or even how much you blog about Christ. If you aren't putting Him first, then it is all just works. Faith, not works, is what should take first place. That doesn't mean that you will never be able to do anything. You just have to be sure the reason why you are performing these works is right. Our goal in life is to glorify God. We do that by showing His love and doing His will.

Here's a way to test your motives. If God told you to walk away, no matter the hurt feelings it might create in others, could you do it? Are you doing things as unto God, or are you doing things because they are a tradition and/or people expect it? There is a woman (Candy) who had a blog that I greatly enjoyed. Her love and excitement for God leaped off the screen at you. Now, did I agree with everything she said? Nope. But, I knew that she was being obedient to God and what He told her to do. We are in two different places in life, so what He tells her to do isn't going to be the same as what He has for me to do. (As a side note, please please please listen to what I just said. God meets you where you are and brings you up to His level. Please don't put on anyone the conditions you have for them. We are only to follow God's will because He knows what each individual person needs at any given time.) Candy shut down her blog yesterday because her family has moved onto a different path that the Lord had for them. I will miss her, but I pray that they have great success in their endeavors. Here's the thing. There were some women that were so hurt by Candy's closing her blog that they chose to run her reputation down and talk bad about her. In my opinion - and this is only my opinion here - they forgot that while the blog was a blessing, it wasn't meant to be their church or spiritual food. They forgot their first love that brought them to the blog for encouragement and uplift - God. Only God should be the head of what you believe. Yes, she had some helpful hints and recipes and things like that. It was great to read about another Christian woman's life and get encouragement from that. But, her season for that blog was over and she needed to move on. God told her to move and she was quick to obey. She left a note saying what happened, and moved on. I wish everyone else could too.

Are you worried you might have lost your first love? Do you know for sure that you have lost focus and the joy of serving Him? Here's what you do. Test everything you do against the Word of God and see what happens. I once heard a teacher say that people can tell what your priority is by what you talk about the most. That's always stuck in my mind. Am I talking more about myself, my actions, my life or am I talking about God and His plans and His will for my life? If this is convicting you about any area of your life, don't worry. God gives us the way to get back to our first loves.

Revelation 2:5 (New International Version)
5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

It's really simple. Think back to when you last had joy in your life. You know, that joy that can only come from the Lord. Here comes the hard part. Repent. Not just of the bad things, but of the good things done with a wrong attitude. Sin isn't just action. It's also attitude. Repent and do those things you were doing when you had that joy. Was it turning off the TV and not allowing anything to get between you and God's Word? Was it giving in secret, like surprising a family in need with a bag of groceries on the front porch? Was it some other way of being a blessing and showing God's love to others? Whatever it was, go back and do that. Jesus ends the passage to the Ephesians with:

Revelation 2:7 (New International Version)
7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

WAHOOOO!!!!! God is faithful and mighty to save. After telling the Ephesians the issue He had with them, He told them how to fix it, and promises to give them everlasting life and salvation with Him. How very much our Lord loves us!

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