The Ephesus Church

Bible Book: Revelation  2 : 1-7
Subject: Love; Commitment; Love for God
Series: Deeper - Seven Churches of Revelation
Introduction

If I desire to go deeper with Him, I must look deeper within. I believe the truths shared by our Lord Jesus with each of the Seven churches are words of commendation as well as words of chastisement for our churches. However, on a more personal note, the Seven churches are made up of individual believers, therefore, the people make up the character of the church.

Knowing God, Loving God, Obeying God while love for the Lord Jesus Christ will always be present in true Christians, it can fluctuate in its intensity. Christians will not always love Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to fail to do so is sin. There is no better illustration in Scripture of the seriousness of allowing love for Christ to wane than this letter to the church of Ephesus. Please keep in mind that any church in any age could have a mixture of the sins that plagued 5 of these 7 churches.

Ephesus was the most prominent church of the seven. It was the mother church out whose ministry the other 6 were founded (Acts 19:10). This being said, they were a church of great influence!

Remember, Love for Christ being the context; Love for Christ is inseparable from obedience. Love originated in God, was manifested in His Son, and demonstrated in His people. When Paul was writing from Ephesus to Corinth he speaks to a church that possessed “right doctrine” but love was absent. In 1 Corinthians13 Paul gave us the characteristics of love. He also focused on what love is not by showing us that sacrifice without love for Christ and His body is not sufficient.

Don’t miss this; the problem with not loving Christ is we also find ourselves not loving others!!! What happens when love for Christ is not first? Selfishness and Pride plague the church. Love is self-giving and more concerned with giving than receiving.

V2 Preaching must be done in love (Ephesians 4:15). Faith that gives believing prayer is useless without selfless love.

V3 Give up all your possessions or being burned at the stake, is nothing without love (SACRIFICE WITHOUT LOVE)

There is emptiness when our surrender, service and sacrifice are without love for Christ and others.

Note the qualities of God’s love (this is what Jesus is like):

Love is patience

Patient with people and gracious to them.

Love does not envy

Love does not parade itself

Brag about itself

Love is not puffed up

Arrogant

Love does not behave rudely or overbearing

Love does not seek its own

Love never wants its own way.

Love is not provoked

Is not irritated or angered in personal offense

Love thinks no evil

Keeps no account of evil

Love does not rejoice in iniquity

Finds no pleasure in someone else’s sin, even an enemy.

Love rejoices in truth

Love bears, believes, hopes, endures all things.

Love is everlasting; in Heaven we will express nothing but perfect love toward God and each other.

The love of God is the fruit of the Spirit of God which flows through the life of the child of God. However, there are weights, sins, obstacles that hinder the flow of God’s Spirit.

We can quench the Spirit of God. Like throwing cold water on the fire. (1 Thessolians 5:19)

We can grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). Done through our acts of disobedience.

According to Revelation 2:1-7 we can be disciplined, devoted to service, doctrinally sound, discerning and still not have love for Jesus and others as a PRIORITY (we skip first love). The Ephesians were there working and maintaining their separation, but neglecting adoration.

A lot had changed in their 40 years from their birth as a church.

Let’s continue our journey in history and move to 2Timothy’s time of around 67AD. The church is now 13 years old and Paul writes words of warning to this young church.

The theme still centers on love for God and others. This must be the key to a church and its’ people finishing faithful.

2 Timothy 3 magnifies Misdirected Love

Lovers of themselves v2

Lovers of money v2

Unloving v3

Not lovers of good (despisers of good) v3

Lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God v4

If love for God is not my PRIORITY, what have I replaced Him with? Family, work, money, sex, etc.

Problem: When God is replaced with other loves, all sorts of vices follow.

“Lovers of themselves”-boastful, proud, conceited (v2, 4)

“Lovers of pleasure”-worldly, without self-control (v2, 3), reckless (v4)

Rick Warren sees these as 3 main temptations: Tony Merida

Narcissism

Hedonism

Materialism

Temptation “to be”

Temptation “to feel”

Temptation “to have”

He mentioned that every TV commercial is aimed at one of these 3.

How do we fight those? By pursuing the opposite of each.

Humility (Narcissism)

Integrity (Hedonism)

Generosity (Materialism)

Psalms 73:25 - “Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.”

When we are satisfied in Him and Him alone, then you will find those Godly virtues present in your life.

Misdirected loves of self-centered people lead to corrupt relationships.

V2 abusive (blasphemers), disobedient to parents, unthankful (entitlement). Today we are plagued with abuse, disobedience to parents and ingratitude. Note other relational sins; unloving, unforgiving (irreconcilable), slanderers, etc.

Sin Separates Us From God and Others

This is not a call for behavior modifications, rules or the law. The only hope is the GOSPEL that transforms the heart.

History continues, now on to Revelation 2:1-7, time is 94AD. The church is approximately

40 years old (one generation).

The church (the believers/members) have abandoned their love for Christ and others.

If we abandon our love for Christ, what do we replace it with?

“Lovers of themselves”- Narcissism: inordinate fascination of oneself; expressive self-love, vanity. Its self-centeredness, smugness, egotism, pride.

Term originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image in a pool of water.

Jon Bloom talks about how “the state of your soul depends on what occupies your mind. If your self is occupying your mind, forget peace and contentment. You don’t find those in a vacuum of needs and sinful cravings. And forget loving others. A self –preoccupied soul might like the idea of being viewed by others as loving but ends up finding others obstacles that plugs up its craving vacuum. And forget joy. The soul does not find satisfaction in the self. It’s not designed to. It’s designed to find supreme satisfaction in Someone else.”

Psalms 107:9 - “For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

1Timothy 6:17 - “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”

The Self Will Satisfy the Soul

The soul is designed to worship, but not to worship our self. The self is not glorious enough to captivate the soul.

Proverbs 14:14 - “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.”

Soul-preoccupation really is a sin that “clings so closely.” It’s hard to lay it aside. It’s disorienting, because when we’re looking at ourselves we aren’t looking to Jesus and we aren’t looking at the road we are running on.

Hebrews 12:1-2 - “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God..”

It leads to discouragement and despair. It’s disappointing because we never find in ourselves what we’re looking for. We are then often lured into self-centered introspection which leads us into a vicious cycle of self-improvement efforts, self-indulgence, self-disillusionment, new self resolves, etc. Can someone change? Matthew 19:26

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I. How do you lay aside the old self for the love of Christ and others?

The Bible tells us how:

A. Deny Yourself.

Matthew 16:24-25 - “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Get your eyes off yourself. “Christian self-denial is hedonistic because you’re denying yourself of what robs life in order to gain life.” Jon Bloom

B. Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2)

Note all His promises to be and do for you.

Psalms 63:1-3 - “O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.”

This speaks of intense love for his Lord. Written while David was in the wilderness. Speaks of an eagerness to be with the Lord, he longs for His presence.

Join Simon Peter’s confession - John 6:68-69 - “But Simon Peter answered Him, “’Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

Practically speaking: Colossians 3:2 - “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Matthew 6:33 - “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Philippians 4:8 - “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things”.

C. Serve Others.

Strike a blow at self-preoccupation by focusing on other’s needs and concerns

John 13:34-35 - "’A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’”

Love is to serve as the distinguishing characteristic of discipleship. John 13:13 - "’You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.

Jesus modeled and gave the pattern for loving service and humility.’”

Acts 20:35 - “’I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”

Philippians 2:3-4 - “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

When our greatest joy is in loving God by laying aside the weight of self-preoccupation, by denying ourselves lifelessness, looking to Jesus who is our Life (John 14:6), and giving life to others by serving them, then we will begin living life abundantly.

“Lovers of money”- Materialism: preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts and considerations with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

“He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners except to see them with their eyes? The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt. But those riches perish through misfortune; When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a severe evil just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger. Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”

1Timothy 6:9-10 - “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

1Timothy 6:17 - Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”

On the other hand note: Proverbs 10:22 - “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”

Jesus speaks plainly on the subject of materialism.

Matthew 6:19-24 - "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Many of the Pharisees taught that devotion to money and devotion to God were perfectly compatible.

This teaching went hand in hand with the commonly held notion that earthly riches signified divine blessing. Rich people were therefore regarded as God’s favorites. While not condemning wealth per se, Christ denounced both love of wealth and devotion to money.

“An unguarded heart leads to unbridled emotions which lead to unreasonable thinking resulting in unwise choices.”

Luke 16:9-10 speaks volumes on Generosity, this is the antidote to materialism.

Luke 16:9-10 - “’And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much..’”

Believers are to use their master’s money (we are stewards) in a way that will accrue fruits for eternity, by investing in the kingdom gospel that brings sinners to salvation, so that when they arrive in heaven (an everlasting home) those sinners will be there to welcome them.

Proverbs 19:17 - “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and he will pay back what he has given.

Abandon (forsake, leave) materialism and embrace Generosity.

Be unselfish, sharing a readiness to give more of something; as money or time, this is strictly necessary or expected.

Proverbs 3:27 - “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.”

We should give of our time, talents, and treasures.

“Lovers of pleasure”-Hedonism: The doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life. “Eat, drink, & be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

V4 “rather than lovers of God”- Everyone worships something or someone, and one’s life is a spillover of that supreme love.

Joshua 23:11 - “Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God.”

“The greatest love requires the greatest care.”

V3 “despisers of good”- without love for what is good. These excuses lead people not to love what is good.

Now remember, the Church of Ephesus in Revelations 2:1-7 was made up of dedicated, dynamic, devoted, disciplined, and discerning members. However, the “Ephesus” marriages had lost the thrill of first love.

Once the diagnosis has been made, the prescription can be written.

II. Here are 3 steps to renewing love

A. Remember

What it was like! Relive the thrill of romance.

B. Reject

Turn your life around. Make a conscious vow to make that relationship right again.

C. Return or Repeat

Do the things you did at first. On the outside the Church of Ephesus appeared to be a model church. However, inside the love was growing cold.