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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ephesus: Getting Back To Our First Love

Rev 2:1-7 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things says he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands; I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you can not bear them who are evil: and you have tried them who say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: And have endured, and have patience, and for my name's sake have labored, and have not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your lampstand out of its place, except you repent.

The first thing Jesus says here is I Am (Rev_1:8) We have read it, but have we ever understood the reality of those two small words? I, the Creator, the Word of God that was made flesh, that came and lived among men, that was vilified, crucified, and put to death by wicked men, I exist. I AM. I have always been. I was, I Am, and I will always be. I Am without beginning and without ending. I AM bigger than your feeble minds could even begin to understand. My goodness, can you wrap your mind around that truth?

John was here, having been banished to the isle of Patmos. He's in the Spirit--this was a man who had learned how to walk and live in and by the Holy Spirit of God. He had given himself wholly to the Lord. That's what it means to be in the Spirit. One who has given himself wholly to the Spirit, who lives and moves according to the direction and leading of the Spirit, not his own self will or desire. John hears this loud, mighty voice. Remember when HE spoke, worlds were made. He commanded and it was done. He hangs the stars in heaven on nothing but His Word. He looked upon a dark, shapeless, chaotic world and said Let there be light and instantly there was light. He says I Am the Alpha and Omega, the first and last. He has always been and always will be. He's the beginning of everything. Everything that has ever been made was made because He desired it to be.

He tells John what you see, what I'm going to show you, look and understand it, take heed to it. Write it down and send My Word to the seven churches which are in Asia. The Lord identifies each church by name and His message is to be sent to the angel, or pastor of each church. He speaks to the leadership first.

As the Lord is speaking from behind John, he turns to look and see who this is, although by the Spirit, I know he knew. This was the man who was so profoundly moved by the love of the Savior as His disciple, He stayed closest of them all to His side. Now he looks upon the glorified Christ, and is stunned beyond words. He sees seven golden candlesticks and in the center of them is Christ. HE is truly to be the Center, the Preeminence of all, church. That simply means He's to have first place in everything. The seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches but the light and life of the candlestick or the church is the Holy Spirit. You can see this illustrated as well in Zec_4:2-6. The church can do nothing of its own accord for Jesus plainly tells us without Him we can do nothing.

He addresses the church of Ephesus first, and remember, He is speaking directly to the leadership there, to the pastor who will then have to notify the congregation of what the Lord said. He said I know what you're doing, how hard you're working. I am aware of all the trouble and toil you are enduring. I see how you have been hurt, your pain, your weariness. I see how you have endured, waiting with hope and how you can't bear them which are evil. I know you have tested them who say they are sent by Me and found them to be liars. You have carried the load patiently, and for My Name's sake you have worked hard even though you're tired. You have not grown weary or sick to the point of giving up.

First, He commends the things He has found pleasing in this church. But then He points out the flaw: You've left your first love and that I have against you. They had endured, been steadfast, for His Name's sake, and not given up, not given into weariness and fatigue. But He had something against them: they had forsaken their first love. They had allowed something else, be it the work for Christ, or the battle they fought, or other distractions of life to replace what was of utmost importance: the preeminence of Christ in their heart, affections and life. Remember He shows us in Rev_1:12 HE is in the center, the focus, the Source of the Churches. His Holy Spirit is the life and light of those churches and if they do not deal with the things He exposes, if corrections are not made, He will remove their candlestick. He'll take His Holy Spirit from them and they will lose their place in His Kingdom.

Without His life and light they will deteriorate into the impotent religious institutions you see on every corner today, going through the motions and rituals of religion while the world around them goes to hell untouched by this great God who died so they could be saved. This might offend a lot of church goers but it's true: Nowhere in the Word of God is there given an example or even a hint of church programs, skits, plays, puppet shows, clowns or dance and drama groups as a God accepted method of spreading His gospel. He showed us very different-a five fold ministry under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit who alone does the work. He offers us a chance to be partakers and co-workers with Him in this but we are never to be in charge. HE is.

Now, Christ tells Ephesus you best remember where you have fallen from and repent, and do the first works. You best agree to cast out anything that interferes with what is most important in your life and that is Me. You can't serve anyone else if you don't first serve ME. If you don't abide in Me, stay connected to Me, then I will remove your light, and you will walk in darkness unless you repent. Unless you turn away with abhorrence for your sin and turn to Me. That was the warning here to this church at Ephesus where this doctrine and pattern of behavior illustrated by the Nicolaitans was trying to infiltrate a church that was operating in the flesh. These people were being faced with a teaching that allowed indulgence of the flesh, changing God's commands, going easy on the flesh so it can enjoy itself and not have to suffer for being separate, different. He acknowledged that they hated the deeds and behavior of the Nicolaitans as He did, He commended their hard work, their pain and suffering, acknowledged it, even. He understood. But He also knows if you don't love Him you won't remain, you will fall away. LOVE is what causes those who follow Him to follow Him. You would have to love Jesus to follow Him for the path He takes is not an easy journey. It's straight, narrow and uncompromising. And when He no longer has first place in our lives and we are walking in the flesh, sooner or later we will begin to fulfill the lust or desire of that flesh.

Remember what He told His disciples? Walk in the light while you have the light lest darkness overtake you. He said remember from where you've fallen. That means you've lost something, you've become inefficient, all the work you do has no effect. Why? Because it's no longer born out of communion with HIM. It's human reasoning, trying its best to serve a Master but many of His people, even in the ministry, don't spend enough time with Him to know Him, to draw the eternal life and strength from Him that is needed in this hour to bear fruit. How can you know what He wants you to be if you don't get alone with Him? How can we serve Him when we don't know Him, don't know or share His heart's desire? How can we represent Him accurately when we don't know Him intimately ourselves? He said I Am the way, the Truth, and the Life. If we try to use our way, if we try to interpret His Word ourselves, if we try to run on the resources of our human life, we can only miserably fail Him at BEST.

The key is love. You have to love Him to follow Him because His way leads to the cross and flesh wants to run from that. Self doesn't want to be crucified, denied and totally rejected. That sounds like lunacy. No wonder He said the way is straight and narrow and many will strive to enter in and not be able. Self can't get through that door, only what is hidden in Christ makes it through.

The Holy Spirit Who has been given to us from God to remain with us, to live in us, to teach, guide, direct, empower, reveal truth to, expose what is unlike Christ in us so we can repent and be cleansed, to take what Christ has available for us and show it to us, make it a reality in our lives. In Rom_5:5, the Word of God tells us it's the Holy Ghost that pours the love of God into our hearts. Eph_3:19 says to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, it transcends the knowledge of religion or anything else. It's a far more excellent thing-hard to understand, but it's a reality. The Holy Spirit can so pour the love of God out in to our hearts, because when He is in us, HE is God, He is LOVE, and He will reproduce in us what He is. When He is active and working in our lives, there is evidence, the fruit or result of the Holy Spirit working in us. Love, peace, joy are just the first three. The kingdom of God is that we have peace with God, peace in our minds, we're covered by the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, because we have none of our own and we are strengthened, taught and fed by the communion of the Holy Ghost. (Rom_14:17) In His Presence is fullness of joy so why is it so hard to pray? To make ourselves and our troubled minds be still until we know once again HE is God, not us? He's responsible for the results, not us. We can't change the world but He can through us if we yield to Him, follow Him. He will change what needs changing, He will accomplish His will. But we must understand what that will is. It's not make this world a rosy place-He's already condemned this planet. His purpose is to seek out the lost, to call and reach out to those in darkness and deliver them from the grip of the devil. Satan is a merciless and cruel jailer. Only Jesus has the key to their prison.

The Word of God says in HIM was life and that life was the light of men. That Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ was the life that lit up the way for men in darkness. Oh, Hallelujah! No wonder the devil has lured people away from the preaching of the cross, from the preaching of the necessity of the Holy Spirit and being baptized by the Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit. HE is the One who makes the Word real to our hearts, opens our understanding to its mysteries and makes it possible for us to be nourished by the Word of God. Without Him, the Word of God is a dead letter that only kills. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is vital to the Christian. Let us, like Ephesus, get back to the cross, put self out of the way and bow our hearts before the Lord, gripping His Word to us. No man can call Him Lord but by the Holy Spirit. No one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. When He draws them, the Lord won't refuse them. Without Him we can do nothing. We can't love, we can't order our steps right, we can't think right, do right or be right. We must realize we are totally dependent on HIM. He alone can get us back to our first love. Our flesh is too strong and we've made too many mistakes. For so long the church has been wearing herself out, trying to put God in a box, thinking wrongly about how it is supposed to be. Too many people in the church follow more of man's traditions and rules than God's commands. It's either name and claim it or a bunch of rules. Heavy emphasis, as with the Pharisees, is placed on external things by the church because these are things flesh can accomplish without God. But those things which require the work of the cross and the Holy Spirit in our lives, the weightier things, they are neglected, misunderstood, and rarely preached. The result is a tired, worn out, ineffective church that's operating in the flesh.
Sometimes we can get so busy, so set in our religious rut that we just don't see that's why there are so little results. He can't bless or anoint the flesh. Won't do it. But there's a remedy.

If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2Ch_7:14)

Read entire notes HERE.

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