AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/6/91
#1 (Book of Revelation Series-Addition messages on the 7 Churches)
TEXT:  Rev. 2:1-7
INTRO: [Show a salt shaker full of salt]: How many know what this is?... SALT! We use it to spice up our food, to add flavor to it, to preserve, to help in healing, to cleanse, etc. Salt is a necessity in our diet, we would die without it! In antiquity it was considered so important that at times it was more valuable than gold and was used sometimes as hard currency! Salt is made up of only 2 elements: SODIUM & CHLORINE (thus Sodium Chloride). Like Christianity … made up of 2 elements, TRUTH & LOVE. Combined they are wonderful ... but either existing alone brings death!
Truth without Love is like Chlorine ... chlorine without sodium is a poisonous gas, it is what gives bleach its distinctive offensive odor. Chlorine is used to purify, but alone it is a killer! Love is like Sodium, sodium almost never is found in nature without combining itself to some other element, it is an extremely active agent. If Chlorine isn't available it will combine with something else ... love is like this. IT IS NOT ENOUGH to JUST love, without truth love combines with all kinds of things and can produce strange substances!
THE CHURCH MUST COMBINE BOTH TRUTH & LOVE ... like salt, in order to be useful!
The Church in Ephesus was missing LOVE ... though they maintained truth, they had lost an important element. The passion of their faith and service was missing, it can happen!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that if we lose our "first love" for Christ, our service will become weary, and the results will be just another institution attempting to create another product! God calls us to have passion in our service for Him, and when we do our ministry becomes a JOY rather than just a JOB!
I. COMMENDATION! 2:1-3
A. Reputation! 2:1-2a
1. It is hard not to like this Church at Ephesus! It was a Church of workers!
a. these were not lazy Christians ... God even states this clearly!
b. how many Churches today would pass this same test!?
c. These were not sporadic Christians ... they were hard workers all the time!
d. this was their earned reputation!
2. The City: Ephesus
a. This was a unique city, a population of 250,000 people!!!
b. It was the chief seaport of Asia ... nearly all goods from east to west went through Ephesus.
c. The theater in Ephesus seated 25,000 people at one time!
d. It's roads were wide, it homes spacious, it buildings elaborate, it was a tourist town!
e. It was also very religious ... having dozens of temples to various gods and goddesses.
f. One of the 7 wonders of the world was in Ephesus ... the temple to ARTEMIS (also called "Diana"). The temple was 425 feet long, adorned with gold, marble, and all kinds of jewels, and about 1,000 prostitutes in the temple ... ARTEMIS was the "goddess of LOVE!"
g. Even the city name reflects this: "EPHESUS" means "Desirable" or "Maiden of Choice"
3. The Church: probably the largest Church in its day!
a. This Church had entered it's second generation! It was established by Paul around 50-60 AD.
b. It was a well established Church, a reputation of high degree ... but the Church was at a spiritual crossroads as far as God was concerned, and how ironic that its problem was that of LOVE! In the very town where the "love goddess" was strongest!
c. There was nothing wrong with their service and works, but they were losing their passion for God, and in a town that held a premium on passion this could easily become a liability and snag to the Gospel!
4. Why was this so critical? If their ministry was duty alone the people of the town would fail to see a difference between REAL LOVE and that of LUST!
a. in other words, the Church might lose it's relevancy!
b. they would even be seen as being LESS of a draw than the passionate worship of ARTEMIS!
ILLUS:It would have been like trying to attract a football fanatic who jumps and gets into the game to a baseball game ... with a stadium full of spectators that did nothing but sit there and write statistics on the game and show no emotions!
c. They had the perfect opportunity to show the Ephesians the difference between passion for the right God and passion that turned to lust for a false god!
(1. but to do this they would have to recapture their lost love for God!
(2. God wasn't asking them for more work ... just motivation based on loving God as they once had!
B. Reliable 2:2b-3
1. they not only worked hard, they were not quitters! They persevered!
a. they kept up their ministry no matter the odds against them!
b. they were not easily sidetracked by opposition.
c. they were stalwarts of good doctrine and teaching, they even knew how to spot false teachers.
d. they did not become weary in the battle!
2. God commends them for this stability, being a second generation Church had given adequate time to really develop their teaching and programs.
a. and yet, something quite important was still missing!
b. important enough to endanger their lampstand from continuing!!!
c. all that was missing by this Church was its PASSION OR LOVE!
II. COMPLAINT 2:4
A. Ritual! 2:4
1. They were not far from being similar to the Temple of Artemis!! HOW YOU ASK?
a. at the Temple of Artemis there was all kinds of activity ... but no REAL LOVE! (just lust! )
b. If they as a Church had lost their love then they would be left with all kinds of activity but no real love too!
c. When that happens the world will only see the Church as nothing more than just another social institution! (HOW PROPHETIC OF MANY CHURCHES TODAY)
2. They could have all the outward appearances of worship and service and still be empty ... sooner or later it would show!
ILLUS:A Pastor who had spent the night at a home of one couple was impressed when he showed up for breakfast in the morning and heard the lady of the house singing "NEARER, MY GOD TO THEE". He was moved that such a young couple held high the start of their day by singing unto the Lord. As he began to eat the eggs and bacon she had cooked, he complimented her on the way she started her day... singing a hymn. She replied, "Oh, that's the hymn I boil eggs by, 3 verses for soft boiled, 5 for hard boiled!" So much for passion & spirituality!!!
3. How sad for a Christian or a Church to settle for just ritual ... forsaken of passion! Passion can sometimes do more than programs!
ILLUS:Helena Modjeska was one of this country's most popular stage actress in the mid & late 1800s. She was known for the passion she put into her parts ... moving audiences into the drama of the plays. Once to prove the power of passion, she gave a dramatic reading at a very sedate dinner party ... but announced she would do the reading in her native tongue, polish. No one at the dinner spoke polish, but no one protested. She performed ... building as she went ... until at the end the audience was in tears ... hardly a dry eye was in the room. Only later was it revealed that all her speaking parts had only been a recital of the polish alphabet … over and over!!!
4. The Church in Ephesus was in danger of being without the passion needed in their service of God and therefore without attraction to the citizens of Ephesus!
B. Reckless 2:4
1. This would be a reckless mistake ... why reckless?
a. because it didn't have to be!
b. there was no cost involved ... no resources not already available!
c. to ignore this need would be a reckless error in the midst of a town of people whose means of support and recreation were founded on a goddess of love!
d. Their lampstand (the Church) existed in this town so that these people could know the difference between LUST and LOVE! For them to ignore LOVE would leave the people without a way to know the difference!
2. This is true today of the Church: IF WE DON'T LOVE GOD AND ONE ANOTHER our society will degenerate into a society based on LUST ... never knowing the difference between the two!
a. What if we fail to really love God properly?
b. What if we fail to really love one another properly?
c. What model will the world have if we don't become that model!!!?
3. A loveless Church or Christian is a serious offense to God!
a. a bickering, backbiting Church has little appeal for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
b. A Church that only loves Truth and not each other is in danger of losing their lampstand ... and light!
c. this would indeed be a reckless thing in God's Kingdom!
ILLUS:A pioneer Pastor had finally seen the day when the small congregation could build ... and so he spent 15-20 hour days working on the building and doing the work of ministry -- day in, and day out. He didn't have time to notice the changes at home with his young son and wife, he was too busy doing God's work. One day in the car as they were traveling to the building site his son asked him a strange question; "Dad, how much do you make an hour?" The Pastor was confused by the Question, "I don't know son!" But, his son persisted, "Day how much does the Church pay you per hour?" "I don't know son, why do you ask?" "I have 25 cents dad, I thought that if you were paid by the Church 25 cents an hour or less I would pay you for an hour of your time!" How reckless this Pastor had become in His work for God ... while working hard he was in danger of losing the passion for his family and his son's spiritual needs!
Ill. CORRECTION 2:5
A. "Remember"! 2:5a
1. God doesn't leave them with the problem ... He offers a solution. THANK GOD!
a. The starting point of repairing the problem was in remembering the past!
b. those who forget the good things of God in the past will lose their passion for God in the future! (Happened all the time to Israel when one generation failed to remember what God had done for their forefathers!)
c. They were to remember the days of passion!
ILLUS:We still do this today ... most of us have learned to take for granted the freedoms of this country ... and the passion of those who died to give it to us ... After the U.S.S. Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans the 82 surviving crew members were thrown into brutal captivity. One of the daily tortures was a room with a table that had 13 chairs around it. 13 men were escorted each day into this room. Soon the door flew open and a North Korean guard came in and always beat the man sitting in the first chair, the men had been assigned the chairs. The next day the same men in the same chairs experienced the same thing ... the same man getting beat in the same first chair, he nearly died. Knowing this would be repeated again the next day ... and that their fellow serviceman could not survive another beating, one of his fellow seaman took his chair instead and thus the beating! For weeks this went on, every day ... but the men took turns sitting in the first chair so that they all could survive ... finally the guards gave up the torture in exasperation! The passion of these men to save each other defeated the purpose of the guards to dispirit their passion for freedom!
d. all they had to do was remember that past passion to ignite their passions of self-sacrifice!
2. Sometimes it is good for us to remember the passion in which we served God after we first got saved, a fresh dose can come from a fresh memory!
B. Repent! 2:5b
1. Now comes a surprise correction item: REPENTANCE!
a. this word is hardly spoken in the Church anymore, nobody thinks they need it or it is just too old-fashioned ... not cultured!
b. But after remembering, God hoped those memories would jolt them to action. Repentance was a TURNING AROUND 180 degrees from where they were going!
2. Repentance has never been a popular thing to preach ... or practice!
BUT IT IS A POWERFUL WITNESS FOR THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL!
(1. Noah's message from the ark was not "SOMETHING GOOD IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU!"
(2. Amos was not confronted by the High Priest of Israel for proclaiming, "CONFESSION IS POSSESSION!"
(3. Jeremiah was not put into the pit for preaching, "POSSIBILITY THINKING WILL MOVE MOUNTAINS!"
(4. Daniel was not put into the lion's den for telling people, "I'M O.K., YOU'RE O.K.!"
(5. John the Baptist was not forced to preach in the wilderness and eventually beheaded because he preached, "SMILE, GOD LOVES YOU!"
THEY ALL preached repentance! ... turn around before it's too late! SIMPLE, but PROFOUND!
3. The Church was called not only to remember, but to repent ... do something different, going back to a first love.
4. SOMETIMES THE ROAD TO PROGRESS IS FOUND IN REVERSE!!!!!
5. For this Church to move forward it had to turn around!
C. Repeat! 2:5c
1. The final remedial item is repetition!
a. seems strange, but they are being called to re-run their previous record but with the passion they had lost!
b. it doesn't take some new thrilling program to revitalize a Church ... but it does take a repeating of the passion that once built that Church!
2. Some of the best things in life have been around a long time, they are worth repeating!
3. Over and over again the prophets spoke the same message ... Israel though wanted to hear something NEW AND DIFFERENT!
a. this will characterize the last days before Christ coming again, people wanting new teaching!
b. Master the old stuff first ... there is nothing new under the sun anyway!
IV. CALL 2:6-7
A. Redemptive 2:6
1. in the midst of this renewal of passion God states the importance of keeping that passion focused properly, hating the practices of sin and NOT the sinners!
2. Perhaps God added this knowing the dangers of passion rekindled could also create a passion that moves in the wrong direction, this was added to guard against their new-found passion from corrupting the opportunities!
a. hate the right THINGS!
b. don't hate PEOPLE!
3. As a challenge to properly see the difference God added the next line...
B. Realization 2:7a
1. ..."He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
2. idea here: TAKE NOTE ... and HEAR CORRECTLY!
3. Also: this is not something from the mind of man, this comes from the Spirit of God!
4. We need a discerning heart these days to separate hatred towards the right targets and to see the need of our own heart!
C. Rejoicing! 2:7b
1. A promise is held out for those who hear and respond correctly: "THE TREE OF LIFE!"
2. A new homeland awaits those who not only serve, but serve with a real passion for God!
3. The results of serving with passion is GREAT PASSION ... PARADISE WITH GOD! A great joy awaits those who serve with it!
THE WARNING SIGNS OF LOST PASSION IN SERVICE:
1. apathy about service
2. joyless experience ... the "I'll do it if I have to"
3. Bitter spirit
4. judgmental heart toward others
6. pride rather than passion
7. frequent complaining
CONCLUSION: It is possible for both the believer and the Church to be active in God's work and yet be dead spiritually! Life without love is not righteousness, just ritual! JOY is replaced by JOB when God's love is absent in our hearts. Over time, passion can be lost to programs ... we need to renew our first love for God if we hope to escape empty rituals!