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Rekindling the Coals of Love

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
January 5, 2024 12:00 am

Rekindling the Coals of Love

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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January 5, 2024 12:00 am

Access this series called Special Delivery here: https://wfth.me/special. The Church at Ephesus got so many things right. Their theology was sound, their discipline of sin was admirable, and their fervor was unquestionable. But in this message Stephen brings us the troubling truth that a Church who gets so much right can still get so much wrong.

 

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It's a sad reality that churches that were once healthy and vibrant have grown dim and ineffective. Our first love for Christ has turned inward. Our first deeds for others have turned inward. We now love ourselves. We now serve ourselves. And Christ says, look, if you won't remember, and if you won't repent, and if you won't repeat, I'm going to come and take away your lampstand.

You can carry on without me. I wonder how long it would take the average church before they realized their lampstand was gone. It's important that every church constantly be on guard. There may be many things that are going right and many things that are commendable, but if a church turns inward and begins to focus only on itself, its lights grow dim. The church at Ephesus got many things right. Their theology was sound and their fervor was unquestionable. But in this message, Stephen teaches the troubling truth that a church that got so much right also got so much wrong.

Welcome back to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Today's message is called Rekindling the Coals of Love. In the days of the Apostle John, there were seven postal districts in the province of Asia. And in each, there was a church that was about to receive a unique personal letter from God.

It wouldn't be written in one sentence and they didn't have billboards. It would be delivered by divine transmission to the Apostle John, exiled on an island and sent by messenger through that postal district of Asia Minor. In fact, the order of the letters written in Revelation, interestingly enough, follow the circular path of those seven postal districts in first century Rome. All of those letters could arrive at those seven churches on the same day. Now before we open the first letter in Revelation chapter 2 and read it for ourselves, let me make some general observations about these seven letters. First, these are open letters.

It's like they're mailed without an envelope. Everybody can read them, even the mailman. They're specifically written to a particular church, but every church can benefit. In fact, it was intended for every church to circulate these letters and apply their truths.

That's still true to this day. Colonial can discover herself in Ephesus and Pergamum and Smyrna and Laodicea. We can be encouraged by these first century letters and we can be warned as well. Secondly, you need to know that these letters are not anonymous letters. There's no question who delivered the content to John. Each letter begins with the signature of Christ. Look at verse 1 of chapter 2. The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands says this. If you work backward into chapter 1, you discover as we already have that this is the person of God the Son, the I Am, who delivers this truth. Each letter will begin by pulling one of those phrases from chapter 1 and reintroducing it at the beginning of the letters in chapters 2 and 3. Look down at verse 8.

The first and the last who was dead and has come to life says this. Again, Jesus Christ signs his name to the letter. These letters are not hit and run incidents. In a matter of 24 hours, seven churches will receive the letter of their lives and it isn't some anonymous ornery letter. It is from Christ with a purpose.

Number 3, each letter follows the same pattern. They all begin with a characteristic of Christ. Next, there is a compliment or two from Christ. Third, there is criticism from Christ. And finally, there is correction or challenge from Christ. You can almost think, as I have thought, that Christ has his own personal style of writing letters and this is his style.

It's a great pattern, by the way, to follow as individuals. When you review your employees or your children, it's compliment and then criticism and then corrective measure to follow. After reading the letter to the Ephesian church that we'll read in a moment, we shouldn't say, well, you know, that that church lost its love for Christ. No, it is, Lord have the coals of my heart's love for you grown dark and cold. These letters have both church-wide implications and personal applications. Look at verse 7 of chapter 2. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. By the way, don't miss the fact that this revelation has now been attributed to not only God the Father and God the Son, but here now, God the Spirit. The triune God is involved in this church and the Spirit brings the invitation at the end of each letter. He that hath an ear, let him hear.

What an odd phrase for the English reader. He doesn't say, he that hath good hearing. No, he that hath an ear. He that hath an ear, let him hear, is the biblical way of asking, are you listening? Are you listening to what the Spirit has to say?

Not so much do you have ears, but are you using them? In fact, it isn't really referring to hearing with your physical ear. It's really talking about hearing with your heart, having a submissive heart and a willing mind.

These letters will test that kind of hearing with the heart. Ladies and gentlemen, this mail is for you and me, and it's from God. And to the church in Ephesus, Jesus Christ will begin with four wonderful compliments. Before he tells them what they're doing wrong, he'll tell them what they're doing right. And again, this is a great pattern for the home, for the job, in the classroom where you teach. You recommend first, then correct, and here are four things he says that you are doing right in Ephesus. First of all, he commends their diligence.

Notice verse 2, I know your deeds. The church in Ephesus was energetic. It was active. It was bustling with activity.

It matched the dedication of its citizens to Diana, their chief goddess. You may remember the trade unions rioting when Paul delivered the gospel there in that city, in the Ephesian city. Many were converted. A leading craftsman named Demetrius said, very upset, not only is there danger that our trade will fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana be regarded as worthless, and that she, whom all of Asia and the world worships will be dethroned from her magnificence.

Acts chapter 19 verse 27. They started a riot. The city piled into that outdoor theater in Ephesus which sat more than 25,000 people. And for two hours they chanted, Great is Diana of Ephesus. Great is Diana of Ephesus. They were committed to their religion. Now Paul, who stayed in Ephesus longer than any other city, won many of them to Christ. Timothy would later come and pastor this church.

John the Apostle tradition believes, not only pastored, but wrote the gospel of John while working in this church before he was exiled to Patmos. These new believers filled the ranks of this church and they were as committed and dedicated to Jesus Christ as they had once been to the goddess Diana. Jesus Christ commends their diligence. Secondly, he commends further their determination. Verse 2 again, I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance.

The word toil is from kapas. It refers not just to work, but working to the point of physical exhaustion. Perseverance is a word that refers to bearing up under difficult circumstances.

Trying times. Jesus Christ says, listen, I know everything about all of the difficulties you are facing. Not just as a church, but as individuals.

And I see your determination to press on and I commend you for that. Further, Christ commends them for disciplining the unrepentant sinner and false teacher. Again, verse 2, you cannot tolerate evil men. And you put to the test those who call themselves apostles.

And they are not. How thrilled Paul would have been to hear this commendation from Christ. Paul is already with the Lord. This church that he had planted had kept their theological truths intact. They had kept the faith undiluted.

They had kept the gospel unpolluted. Paul had specifically given this church in Ephesus his farewell warning before he left them and later was executed by Nero. He wrote, I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Therefore, be on the alert. Acts chapter 20. So here we are 60 years later and Christ commends the church for their discipline of the immoral man and the charlatan, the depraved are removed for their unwillingness to repent of sin. And deceived teachers are put to the test of truth and they are found lacking. And they're removed. Later in this letter the Lord mentions the purifying activity in verse 6.

Look down there. He says, yet this you do have, you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans which I also hate. Notice you do not hate the Nicolaitans.

You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Who were they? Some scholars believe they were followers of Nicholas, one of the seven men chosen in Acts chapter 6 to distribute to the needy those that many believe would form the first diaconate or deacon. Whatever their origin, what they believed was well documented. They basically compromised their faith and testimony in order to indulge in sinful practices in Ephesus. They argued that the believer could dabble in idolatry. You know, you could buy the charms, you could visit the temple, you could participate in Caesar worship.

Let's not raise a ruckus, let's not be that different, let's fit in. They also allowed for sexual activity outside of marriage. Basically they said you could be a Christian and live and act like the unbeliever.

Does that sound familiar? Do you know someone who says they are a Christian but they pursue the idols of culture? It's lust for power and prestige and material things and they compromise and then defend their sexual activity outside of marriage as something certainly that doesn't mean you're not a Christian. Jesus Christ, look here at verse 6, commends this church for hating that lifestyle and he adds, surprising words, I hate that too. Can you imagine doing something that you defend but hearing Christ say, I hate that.

I despise what you're doing. This letter was written to you and to me. Clement of Alexandria, church father living 75 years after this letter was delivered to Ephesus said, the Nicolaitans abandoned themselves to pleasure like goats, leading lives of self-indulgence. And Jesus Christ said to this church, you want to be different and distinctive and pure. I commend that. He goes on to praise this body of believers not only for their diligence and determination and discipline but for their devotion. John records the words of Christ in verse 3, and you have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake and have not grown weary. You haven't quit.

Why? Did you notice back there? For my name's sake, not for your name's sake. Not so that everybody would know about your church. Oh, you're that church in Ephesus. Oh, you're the church founded by the Apostle Paul and pastored by Timothy. And John's a member of your church, the great inspired writer and author of the gospel. You are the only church in the New Testament to which two apostles addressed letters. You are the church. No, you've done all this for the name of Jesus Christ, the one you worship who is the first and the last, the one who was dead and is now alive, the A to Z, the living almighty God. Now after all that, commending them for their diligence and their determination and their discipline and their devotion, Christ says in verse 4, But I have this against you, you have left your first love. That's all he says.

What does he mean? Well, a clue is provided later in verse 5 where the Lord provides correction. When he says here's what you're to do, first remember where you fall and secondly repent. Thirdly, do the deeds you did at first. You could draw a circle around that first and draw a line back to first love.

I think it's a clue. It's the same Greek word. Do the deeds you did at first. Love like you loved at first, which then led me to ask the question, what was the church in Ephesus doing in the early days? What were they like in those early years from the book of Ephesians where he said, I have heard of the faith that you have in Jesus Christ which exists among you and I have heard of your love for all the saints. You see, the early church in Ephesus was known for its work of faith, its courage of faith, its love for Christ and the body of Christ, its love for the saints.

It was losing that. A church which ages is most likely to resist taking steps of what? Steps of faith. It can also cool in its zeal and love for Christ and for one another. The church here in Revelation 2 is about 60 years old.

It's beginning to cool. It has a past of faith. It's stepping forward to try now for the cause of Christ. Here's the correction in verse 5. Three verbs.

You ought to circle them. First, the word remember from where you've fallen. The problem began with our minds straying from the truth and our bodies followed. So begin the battle in the mind all over again. Remember, remember who you are in Christ. Remember the power of the gospel which saved you.

Go back to the beginning, those early years. Remember your perverse heart and the need to depend on Jesus Christ every day. Remember your sensitivity to sin. Listen, this is great and godly advice not only for the church but in its effort to rekindle the coals of love for Christ and the saints but for every husband and wife.

It's great advice. Husbands, remember what life was like without her. Wives, remember what life was like without him.

You're thinking peaceful. Remember the gift that she was from God. Remember how you made it through those early years without two nickels to rub together. Go back in your mind and remember. One of God's solutions for Israel over and over and over again was for them to just remember.

We forget. Remember what mattered most then. Second verb, you'll see it there, is the word repent. Repent, stop wondering. Turn your back on sin.

Stop calling it something else like the Nicolaitans. Refuse to ignore pride or excuse lust. Walk away from those material pursuits of your Ephesian culture. Take your hand off the back door. Refuse to accept any rationale for divorce.

Stop flirting with adultery. Repent. Do an about face, that's what the word means.

You're walking toward the world and the light is flickering and it may fail. Stop. Turn around. Retrace your steps.

Walk in the opposite direction. Third verb, do. Do the deeds which you did at first.

This would be a demonstration of true repentance, wouldn't it? Pursue your relationship with Christ. Make him the priority in your thinking.

You know how when you get up, begin a conversation with him that starts and stops and starts and stops but it just sort of continues throughout the day. Return to some of those activities. Some of you could tell me about what you used to do in your other church. You used to be involved. What are you doing now? Well, I'm just sitting.

I'm here. You can tell me about a past. You could tell me of a ministry. You could tell me of your prayer life.

You could tell me how you engaged in the deeds that honored God. But now? Well, that was my past.

The coals are growing cold. Here's the warning to the church in Ephesus and it chills my blood every time I read it. Verse 5 includes those ominous words, do this or else or else.

I will remove your lamb, stand out of its place. Simply put, no love, no light. The candlestick represents the testimony of the church shining into the community.

Now listen carefully. While Jesus Christ promised to build his church universal, Matthew chapter 16 verse 18, he does not guarantee any individual congregation some kind of permanence or effective ministry because of their past. Listen, today there is no evangelical witness from a church in Ephesus. We happen to have thousands of towns in America today without one effective church preaching the gospel and reaching their community with the light of the gospel. There are church buildings. There are congregations but no light. There are budgets and potlucks but no love for Christ and his gospel and no love beyond the superficial for one another.

They will meet today in this city, ladies and gentlemen, in this county. They will turn on the lights but Jesus Christ would say you have no spiritual light. Your lampstand was taken away years ago. It might have been at a board meeting where evangelism got nixed as too controversial. We don't want to offend people.

Let's stop that program. Maybe it was a congregational meeting where the members voted out a pastor for preaching salvation through Christ alone and with him went the lampstand. Maybe it was a pastor who preached that it was time to open the membership of the church to the sexually immoral. Jesus Christ effectively said you do that and the lampstand is gone. Maybe it was a ladies meeting where they sat and gossiped about the newest family in the church. Maybe it was the teen leader who took the kids to the beach and several of them and the youth leader got drunk. I'm giving you things that I am aware of just in the last month.

These are all real situations. Maybe it was one of a thousand churches surveyed not too long ago when asked, listen to this, what is the mission of your church? And 90% of them responded with answers that basically and categorically declared the church exists to serve my family and the needs of my family. In other words, the church exists for me.

It's for me. Our first love for Christ has turned inward. Our first deeds for others have turned inward. We now love ourselves. We now serve ourselves. And Christ says, look, if you won't remember and if you won't repent and if you won't repeat, I'm going to come and take away your lampstand. You can carry on without me.

I wonder how long it would take the average church before they realized their lampstand was gone and they had no light. I don't hear Christ speaking with anger here, by the way. I hear grief in this or else. I hear great sadness. Today, nothing is left of the church in Ephesus but a memory and a letter and a warning. Do you have ears to hear?

Are we listening? Christ closes in verse 7 with a reminder for those who love him and repent that they are overcomers. It's a term for believers. Their inheritance is heaven. That includes a new heaven and a new earth referred to here as paradise or literally the garden where they will one day have intimate communion with God just like Adam and Eve once had, eating from the tree of life. Revelation, we'll talk about that and we'll look at that more later.

But that tree will yield its fruit every month. Revelation chapter 22 verse 2. Now let me quickly make some closing observations from this letter to Ephesus and us. Number one, it's possible to be busy for God without being a blessing for God. In other words, it's possible to have religious efforts without redemptive effects. It's possible to have sacred activity without any spiritual value where we get involved in church work and we miss the work of the church which is to glorify our God, love one another, and reach our world as we grow up in him. Number two, it's possible to be persevering for orthodoxy and not have the power of deity. Paul would write to the Corinthians, If I have the gifts of prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge and I have all faith and I give my possessions to feed the poor and I surrender my body to be burned and do not have love, it is worthless. Defend the faith?

Yes. Hold strong your doctrine and however know all the while the Lord may be saying to us, I'm coming, I'm going to take away your lampstand not because of what you believe but because of how you behave toward one another and toward me. You behave without love. Third, it's possible to have a lofty reputation outside the church without loving relationships inside the church. Friends, it is possible to hide behind a reputation and a smattering of good deeds.

Christ began this letter and by the way he will begin every one of these letters with those words, I know, I know, I know all about you. Remember the priority of your love. Rekindle the coals that lie dormant from lack of attention and discipline and conviction.

Remember where you left them. Repent. Do an about face. Admit your need for rekindle devotion to God. Repent.

Get rid of stuff that pours water on the coals of your heart's love for Christ. Take steps today. Today, some of you may need to burn some bridges in your life that just might start a fire again in your heart. Repeat. Remember, repent and repeat. Start over where you veered off the road. Track your way back.

Solicit help of godly friends who will be honest with you. Trace the footprints that lead you back home and start over again. You know, it strikes me that Christ did not reproach this church for having to go back and start over. I love that. In fact, I'm convinced that the Christian life is filled with starting over again and again and again and again and again. Remember, repent, repeat. It just might save your marriage. It just might save your testimony. It just might save our church. That catchphrase, remember, repent, repeat, will help you live a healthy, vibrant Christian life.

It's a good reminder today. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey has a resource that goes along with this study. It's a booklet called, Understanding Revelation. This booklet is on sale during this series at a discounted rate. You can learn more about this resource at wisdomonline.org. Or you can call us at 866-48-BIBLE. Then join us next time to discover more Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-05 01:08:56 / 2024-01-05 01:18:42 / 10

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