The final messages of Jesus to his church are found in Revelation, chapters two and three as
Jesus addresses Himself to the seven churches of Asia. Over and over as He addressed Himself
to the things within the Church, He exhorts, "He who hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith to the churches." Perhaps some of the most important things for the Church to know
and to understand today are these messages of Jesus to his Church.
As we look at the church in Ephesus, we find that it had a lot of things going for it. Jesus first of all speaks of its works and labors. It was a church of bustling activity. A lot of works in the name of the Lord were being wrought in Ephesus.
Ephesus was, no doubt, a well organized, well functioning church. They probably had their
witness teams, visitation teams, pulpit committees, church growth committeesand all of them
were functioning well. The Ephesians were a model of organization and structure, but they had
one big problem. Though they possessed a well-ordered machinery, God never wanted machines
to do His work.
God never wants your work for Him to be mechanical. If God had wanted machines to do his
work, he would have created machines to do his work. If God wanted your service to be
mechanical, he would have created robots, and they could have done a better job than you're
doing. God isn't interested in mechanical responses. God is interested in a loving response from
your heart and from your life.
The second characteristic of the church of Ephesus was its patience. Now, throughout the new
Testament the churches had been exhorted towards patience, waiting upon the Lord to accomplish
His work and to fulfill His promise.
Patience is certainly a desired virtue. How I wish I had more of it! How often I am impatient with
the things of God. He isn't working quite as rapidly as I'd like Him to work, so I get in and try to
help Him out, always with disastrous consequences.
Throughout the New Testament the Church was exhorted towards patience in waiting for the coming of the Lord. I wish the Lord would come soon. I look around, and I have to confess I'm excited;
because I realize that the things happening in the world today could very well trigger the whole end
times finale. The worldwide economic system is becoming computerized. ID numbers will be
tattooed on your wrist. Iran is falling apart and has taken an anti-Israel stand. The Soviet Union
seems to be gearing up for a big move in the Middle East, with its takeover of Afghanistan. The
whole thing is coming together I get impatient waiting for the Lord. "Lord, this is a great
opportunity to return. You've got the whole thing lined up. Why don't You go for it?" And yet, the
Lord has His perfect timing. James said, "Have patience, brethren, to the coming of the Lord.
Establish your souls. The husbandman is waiting for the complete harvest." There is yet a harvest
to be reaped for the Kingdom of God. He is waiting for it. All I need is patience, as He waits for
his complete harvest. I often get so impatient with some of the stubborn-headed people who are
holding things up. I wish you'd get it on, so the Lord would get things over with!
The church of Ephesus had patience, an admirable quality. Not only that, the church wouldn't
tolerate evil persons. The Lord said of the church, "How that you cannot bear those that are evil."
One of the great weaknesses of the Church today is that the Church so often will tolerate evil people
just because they're wealthy. Churches are often seeking to win the favor of the rich, and they'll
sometimes tolerate evil people who are rich, or they'll allow the evil ones to become part of the
fellowship because they're famous. But there is always a weakening whenever evil or evil persons
are tolerated within the Church.
When a church body becomes so weak that it can no longer purge itself of the poisons in its system,
that body will soon die. The Church always needs to be strong. It needs to be able to purge the evil
from its system, lest it die. The church of Ephesus had that quality. There was a certain purity there.
They wouldn't tolerate those who were evil.
Finally, on the plus side, the Ephesians had a discerning spirit. The church could pick out those men
who came along claiming apostleship, but were not apostles. The Ephesians wouldn't allow
pretenders in the pulpit. John Todd would never have had a chance in Ephesus. (See Christianity
Today, Feb. 2, 1979, for expose on Todd). He'd never have gotten in the pulpit there, because the
church had a discerning spirit.
In spite of all of the good and positive aspects of the church, one negative aspect was so great that
it nullified all the positives. The Lord said, "Nevertheless, in spite of all these positive factors, I
have this against you-because you have left your first love."
You see, it is quite possible for a church to continue with all the motions, but be lacking in the chief
emotion of the Christian experience. We must be careful, because the Lord is far more interested
in what motivates our activity than in the activity itself.
Jesus tells us to take heed to ourselves, examine ourselves, and be careful when we do our righteous
deeds so that the motive isn't to be seen by men, to be a people-pleaser.
So often in our service for God we're concerned about what people might think of us. Sometimes
we're motivated by the desire for people to know how talented we are. I'll sing for the Lord or play
an instrument for the Lord, so that people will see how talented or how sweet and good I really am.
I want people to think well of me. I'll do certain things for God, so people will think that I'm just
a fine fellow.
Our motivations are often people-oriented rather than God-oriented. I should be far more concerned
about what God thinks of what I do, rather than what people think of the things that I do.
Jesus gave us a good test in the Sermon on the Mount: what do I do when nobody's looking? Do
I only pray when people are watching? Do I only give when it can be observed by others? If my
motives are right, I'll be praying in secret and giving in secret. I'll be doing things for God without
fanfare or bringing any attention to myself. I'll be serving the Lord just as easily and readily when
nobody knows and nobody sees, because my motivation now is God oriented. As Paul spoke of his
own prayer life, "God bears me witness."
God wants only one motivating force in your life, and that is love. If you cannot and do not serve God because you love Him, then don't serve Him. If you don't give to God because you love Him, then don't give. The last time the plate went by you, you may have thought, "I don't want the people in the pew to think I am a skinflint. So, I'll put something in." If that was your attitude, then for God's sake get your money back, because God doesn't want anything done for Him except out of the love of your heart for God. Whatever you dowhatever you give of service, time, or goodsif you aren't giving out of a heart filled with love, then don't give it at all. God doesn't want it. In fact, it's an insult to God.
Any time you go around moaning about what you've given up for God, what you've given to God,
or what you're sacrificing for God, then you're insulting God. And he says, "Keep it! I don't want
it!" He doesn't want you going around complaining about what He requires or demands of you. If
you can't do it with a heart of love, it's much better that you don't do it at all, because you'll find
yourself in the place of Ephesus. You'll be doing all kinds of work for God, but you won't have the
right emotion. You'll be going on in works, but God won't recognize them. God doesn't even want
Paul the apostle said, "For the love of Christ constrains me." If your works don't come with God's
constraining love in your heart, then surely you shouldn't be doing what you're doing, even if you're
doing it in the name of Jesus. Anyone doing anything for the Lord must examine the motives of his
own heart. "Why am I doing this!"
Paul said, "If we will judge ourselves, then we will not be judged of God." We're told that in the
day of judgment "our works are going to be tried by fire, to see what sort they are." What motivated
me to do it! Unless the motivation was my love for Jesus, then the works that I've done will be
burned. No credit, no reward.
This issue is so important that Jesus told the church that unless there were some immediate changes
in Ephesus, he would come quickly and move the candlestick out of its place.
Now, what was the place of the candlestick? "These things saith He who holds the seven stars in
his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." The candlestick was in
the presence of Jesus. Jesus is saying that though a church may do all kinds of works, may have
great patience, may purge itself of evil, and be able to discern the false apostlesif they're not
motivated by love, Jesus said, "I'm leaving."
The Lord isn't interested in all the hustle and bustle and activity of a church. He's interested in the
love that comes forth. Only those works and gifts that are prompted by my love for Him will He
accept at all. You may find many churches today with all kinds of social activities and concerns,
worshiping in elaborate buildings with glorious choirs, and presenting tremendous lectures. But
when you look around you won't see Jesus, except as He is depicted in the stained glass windows.
The Lord has long departed their fellowship, and the people are worshiping in a tombcold, dead,
religious forms, lacking the vitality of the love and life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "Unless you turn, I'll leave. I'll not stay around, unless the love is there." God
doesn't want anything from you apart from love. Love has to be the underlying motivating
factor of whatever I do for God. Jesus first wants me to give Him my love. Whatever else
comes must come as a result and in response to the love that I have. Otherwise there is no value
to it whatsoever.
The call of Jesus to His church was first of all to remember from whence they had fallen. Remember
the first love that you had for the Lord? Remember those days when you first found Jesus Christ
as your Lord and Saviour and realized that your sins had been washed away! Oh, how excited you
were! You wanted to go out to the beach, out in the streets, everywhere to tell everybody about the
love of Jesus. You were ready for any kind of a sacrifice and challenge, because the love of Christ
was burning in your heart and soul. Jesus said, "Remember from whence thou art fallen."
It's always a tragic and telltale sign of spiritual decay if you can remember a time in your life when
you were closer to the Lord than you are today. It means that you're on the spiritual decline.
"Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent." To repent means to turn. Turn away from
your cold indifference, mechanical responses, dead works, and let your love for Him again fill your
heart to overflowing. Fall in love with Jesus all over again!
He said, "Do thy first works over." Remember, repent, repeat. Go back to that first love, back to
those first works prompted by love, back to that reckless and careless abandon for Jesus Christ. It
doesn't make any difference what they say. It doesn't make any difference what it costs. Ah, just
the opportunity to serve the Lordand my love for Him burning within, driving me, pushing me
into those sacrifices and labors of love.
Unless the love took first place in Ephesus, the Lord said, "I'm leaving." You may stick around in
a loveless church, but He won't. He wants your love more than anything else. If you can't give Him
that, don't give Him anything.
Maybe it's time to say, "O God, I'm sorry!" Repent! Turn and offer yourself again to serve the Lord.
Maybe the serving you've been doing has become old, stale, routine. There's no life and joy in it
If your excitement and joy of serving the Lord has left, it's time to repent, time to go back to zero
and start over. Return to your first love, that first excitement of relationship, that first overwhelming
love and desire for Him. And may the things that you do for the Lord be prompted by a heart that
is overflowing with love!