In an effort to become more authentic in the blog, I’ve started doing something new, and joined Joy, a new writer I’ve come to know, in sharing about life: unmasked. I’m grateful for Joy’s allowing me to participate in this blog meme, and look forward to sharing some of my struggles, questions, and failures.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve written anything, possibly longer since I’ve really read anything. And it feels like two months. I keep waiting for something to come to mind, some conviction to come to my heart, but there is nothing. No words, no passions. Just quiet. Perhaps this is a good thing, as everyone needs a rest. But for someone who learns from reading and stays sane and focused by writing, the lack of the two means one thing: craziness driven by stagnation.
I’m one of those people whose brain doesn’t have an off switch. I’m always thinking about something. Always processing data to solve some problem, work out a solution, or convey a message to myself. The problem: What am I thinking about, processing, or conveying if I’m not reading and writing? Myself. My little world and my little problems. Sure, they may seem monumental to me, but I’m not the point. Christ is.
Revelation 2:4 has been on my heart for several weeks now, and I am grateful for this weekend’s message at The Village Church which explains this text in a way that provided more depth than my original understanding.
1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. [That's Jesus]
2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
In this text, Jesus says the Ephesian church has the right doctrine, tests and removes false prophets, suffers well for the name of Christ, and does all of this patiently. They even hate the evil works of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus also hates. Yet, despite having all of this going for them, they have one monumental thing against them: They have abandoned the love they had at first.
What’s interesting here, is Christ doesn’t just say “Go back to loving me with your highest affections” and leave it there. He tells them to repent “and do the works you did at first.” So, if we aren’t saved by works, so what is so necessary about the works they did at first? This brings us to Acts 19.
17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
We see here that the works Jesus commands them to return to are:
- Extolling the name of Jesus
- Confessing sins to one another
- Cutting off the way to go back to their sins and areas of weakness
The “works” He commands the Ephesian church to return to are nothing more than the natural responses of loving Christ supremely. When we really value Christ supremely, it’s going to be natural for us to exalt His name in all things, including publicly among believers and non-believers. When we love Christ supremely, we will see our sin as the horror it truly is, and will be humble enough to confess to God and others so they can pray for and fight with us against our sin and encourage us in our pursuit of Christ-likeness. The third natural response to loving Christ supremely we see in this text is coupled with the second: violence toward sin. When we see the horror and affront to God that sin really is, and when we love Christ supremely, we will strive to put our sin to death, as Colossians 3 commands us.
It is in these areas that I feel I have been lacking lately. I feel it is this lacking that is responsible for the lack of growth and higher focus. The gospel is surely powerful enough to care for my small problems, as it has already rendered powerless my biggest problem: sin and death. So, that is what I must focus on again: the gospel and exalting Christ in all things. In life, and on the blog.
Maranatha, Lord Jesus. Maranatha.