Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Gentle Nudge

We had a guest preacher (JF) this morning. Well, as he told us, he's not a guest (he's been at our church for 24 years) and he's not a preacher. He is an elder and one of the more quiet ones. He's been heading up our building committee (a thankless task!). But today he took a page from his dad's books (literally), and shared a truly God inspired message. His father was a Baptist preacher and in preparing the message for today, the books his dad had left guided him.

The text was Revelation 2:1-7 and the title was

A Performance Review From Jesus.

2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember 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. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 He 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. NIV

Background is that Revelation was given to the apostle John by the Holy Spirit while John was exiled on the island of Patmos. In this passage Jesus is speaking. He holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks among the seven lampstands. Both the stars and the lampstands represent the seven churches of Asia minor. The point for today is that Jesus not only holds His church in his hand, but He walks among it as well. That applies to His church today. We know from other Scripture that His church is referring to His people -- those who believe in Him as their Savior. It does not refer to any particular church or denomination today.

If you look at the first part of the passage as a performance review, verses 2-3 are really good news for His church! In a worldly performance review, it would make us think we're getting the raise in pay! He is pleased with the people's perseverance and endurance. It is a positive point that we have tested those who claim to be apostles and rejected false doctrine. Wow! It would be great to just go home at that point, right?

BUT, there is something He says is not going well. In v. 4 he says the churches (WE) are rebuked for having forsaken our first love. Wow, what does that mean?

Here JF really challenged me. A first love is enthusiastic, complete and service oriented. When we first fall in love we wonder, "what can I do to show love to that person?" We can't wait to be together, personal inconvenience is set aside in favor of pleasing the one we love. Still, over time we become more complacent and the driving force behind our actions often becomes doing things the way we've always done them rather than doing them for love.

JF said that symptoms of this in the Christian life are:
  • no joy
  • critical spirit
  • staying away from fellowship with other believers
  • craving for worldly pleasures rather than things of God
The good news is that there's a PLAN FOR ACTION! It's in Verse 5!

1. REMEMBER what He has saved you from.
2. REPENT of whatever is in the way between you and your first love.
3. RETURN to the first tasks we loved to do for him.
  • reading the Word
  • praying/talking with Him daily
  • showing true compassion to others
  • seeking fellowship with His people
  • singing His praises
And if we don't return to our first love? Verse 5(b) is clear: I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. This doesn't mean we lose our salvation, but we will lose our fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. The intimacy we share with our Savior will no longer be ours. Think back to how wonderful that intimacy was when you first discovered it -- would you willingly give that up?

The rewards are great too. Verse 7 says, LISTEN UP! (paraphrase). Those who do as he says will eat the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. That means we will be in His presence for ever. In the presence of the one who knows the number of hairs on our head! The one who knew us in the womb before we were formed!

JF closed with Psalm 51 -- Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.

This is one of the most convicting, penetrating messages I have heard this summer. JF said it better than I have paraphrased it here. But, I hope it blesses you.


1 comment:

Quilldancer said...

Psalm 51 -- Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.

One of my favorites -- and interesting you should blog about this just now. Since I left my home church and moved to Hawaiian I also seem to have left my passion for Christ.

Two days ago I picked up the Bible and started Studying again. I can feel the Spirit moving in me.

Some of what I have been doing is behind the Meditations tab on my blog.