December 11: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

Today’s Bible Reading:

2 Chronicles 11-12
Revelation 2
Zephaniah 3
John 1

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

Revelation 2:4 (CSB): “But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

Ephesus, and the church in that city, is spoken of often in the New Testament. In Acts 19, we read of Paul’s tumultuous visit to Ephesus. In Acts 20:17-38, we get to visualize a very powerful moment when the leaders of the Ephesian church met with Paul as he was on his way to Jerusalem. We read in 1 Timothy 1:3 where Paul encouraged Timothy to serve at the Ephesian church and fight against theological error. Then, we get to read the spiritually rich letter that Paul wrote to that church, that is simply called “Ephesians.”

The story of this church during Paul’s missionary journeys is incredible. It wasn’t perfect but we are left with a very, very positive view of that congregation.

This morning, we read through Revelation 3:1-7 and are reintroduced to the church in Ephesus one final time in Scripture. There are many wonderful compliments that Jesus, through the Apostle John, offers. They were an incredibly busy church. They endured a lot of hardship and injustice. They despised evil and properly dealt with people who insisted on doing what is evil. They had spiritual discernment and were able to sniff out false apostles.

This church was truly incredible. If this church existed today, the pastor would almost certainly be asked to write a book or two in order to explain how to cultivate that sort of church. The pastor might be asked to speak at church growth and church management/leadership seminars. Others pastors would want to know how to grow a church like the one in Ephesus!

Yet, since the church in Ephesus appears on the pages of Scripture, we get to listen to exactly what Jesus thought of it. He wasn’t nearly as impressed as we would be. In fact, He threatened to remove their lamp stand (Revelation 2:5) if they didn’t repent. This was a picturesque way of saying that He would no longer care for them or see them as one of His churches. They would simply be a club.

What was their problem? What was so offensive about them that the Lord threatened to disown them if they didn’t fix it?

Revelation 2:4 (CSB): “But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.”

What was the love they had at first? It was their first love! The love for the Lord that is commanded in the first and greatest commandment.

Matthew 22:37–38 (CSB): “He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.’”

Simply put, the church at Ephesus fell out of love with Jesus. The church was going through the motions of doing church, with a great deal of perceived success, without the right motivation. They didn’t crave and enjoy the presence of Jesus. They felt that they were just fine, being successful at doing religious stuff, even though they no longer loved the Lord. They served Him, they just didn’t love Him. The fact that they persisted in this condition tells us that they were fine with their indifference to the Lord’s presence and power.

To shed light on this thought, let’s take a quick trip to the Old Testament.

Last night (Wednesday), I taught out of Exodus 33. I pointed out that the Israelites had made a golden calf in Exodus 32 and God became furious. He told Moses more than once, “… I will not go up with you …” (Exodus 33:3). Essentially, God told Moses to stay with the primary objective and take the Promised Land. Yet, as they carried out the plan, God had determined that He had “changed His mind” and wasn’t going with them.

Was Moses content with that? Would he be like the church in Ephesus that was going about its duties, perfectly content with success, even though it was without the presence and power of God? Hardly!

Exodus 33:15 (CSB): “‘If your presence does not go,’ Moses responded to him, ‘don’t make us go up from here.’”

Moses couldn’t conceive of a plan in which he would accomplish a divinely given task without the presence and power of God in their midst. Yet, the church at Ephesus was perfectly OK with that same scenario.

Friend, what about you? Are you striving to be obedient to the teachings of Scripture without experiencing and enjoying the presence and power of God on your life? Is your church like the church at Ephesus – doing some really good stuff while not experiencing and enjoying the presence and power of God?

This isn’t a small matter. Insist on being like Moses. Refuse to move unless you know that God’s presence and power are upon you? If it seems as if God is not present, then do some serious, passionate, persistent soul-searching to find out why God is not in your midst. Resolve to remedy the problem, no matter what it might require of you or your church, so that you can enjoy God’s presence and power again.

If you want to do some further reading on what it looks like for God’s presence and power to rest upon a Jesus-follower, let me recommend a relatively short book to you. I am currently, prayerfully devouring a book entitled, “They Found the Secret: 20 Transformed Lives that Reveal a Touch of Eternity,” by V. Raymond Edman. I would highly recommend it to you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord Jesus, I want to live for You. I want to be obedient to Your commands. I want to do the things that You desire for me to do. But, I join in Moses’ words as I conclude this prayer: “If Your presence does not go (with me), don’t make me go up from here.” Amen.

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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