Title: YOU HAVE EVERYTHING BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT
Text: Revelation 2:1-7
Shattered windows, dried-out shingles, peeling paint, overgrown grass, untrimmed shrubs…what are these the signs of? (A home that has lost its inhabitants) What a sad picture! And yet, a house that has become lifeless is not as tragic as a church that has become loveless. Imagine a congregation whose commitment has grown stagnant and indifferent. That’s what happened to the church in Ephesus. Read Text.
The believers in the church at Ephesus allowed their flame to grow cold and Jesus confronted them in no uncertain terms. However, He also provided them with a solution. If you have lost the fire for Christ, you can find the fuel to rekindle it in His letter to Ephesus.
Knowing the background of the church and city enhances our understanding of Christ’s sharp words to the church at Ephesus. The church there was founded by the Apostle Paul along with Pricilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18-26; 19:1-10). Paul ministered there for more than two years because of its strategic location and then left Timothy to carry on (1 Tim. 1:3). Ephesus was a major metropolis of that day – a city of 200,000, and was known for its wealth, study of the sciences and medicine, and was a center of many temples. The shrine of Diana is located here, and the ruins of the theater still remain. It was a center of emperor worship; there were temples to Tiberius, Claudius, Hadrian, Sererus, and Artemis. Each citizen was obligated to burn incense to the “god” Caesar annually and was then issued a certificate of compliance. Christians refused to burn incense and say “Caesar is Lord,” and as a result, they suffered intensely.
If Jesus were to write you a letter in this kind of situation, what would He say? Let’s find out.
- How are we to maintain our purity when we live every day in the company of sinful temptations and influences?
- How does Jesus identify Himself as the author of this letter? What is He conveying when He says He holds the seven stars in His right hand? (His is the protector, sustainer; He is the One to whom the church is ultimately accountable, yet we are always dependent upon Him.) How do we make Jesus the Head of the Church, really?
- What do you think Jesus is trying to say to the Ephesians when He says He walks among the lampstands? (It indicates His continual presence and He knows what is going on.) How often do you remind yourself that Jesus knows your every thought, hears your every word, and watches your every action? Ps. 139:1-6; Ps. 90:8; Prov. 15:3
- Jesus names three areas of strength in this church. What are they? (Hard working, perseverance, hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans) Remember what kind of community they were living in – were these little commendations?
Insight: See if you find something temporary about their society in ours. They lived among many cults; paganism and immorality ran rampant. But they didn’t huddle in the corner; instead they stood with the Gospel consistently. They grit their teeth and persevered the abuse they received. They knew their doctrine well and could recognize evil teachers when they saw them. Could Christ say this of you?
- Does anyone’s Bible give a footnote about the Nicolaitans?
Comment: They were a sect that practiced heresy. They claimed to be Christians, yet practiced idolatry and immorality. Their heresy started with a compromise with pagan practices, and then grew into a distinct cult that had left the ranks of Christianity.
How dangerous is compromise to the Body of Christ? How do we guard against it? In what areas do you think we have compromised in the church at large today?
- What kind of troubles do you think would crop up in a church where there is a false teacher/leader? Acts 20:28-31; Matt. 7:15-20 How do you test for genuineness in church leaders?
- Do you think Jesus’ words “you have left your first love” means they had no love for Him at all?
Insight: We can look to our own relationships to answer this question. The quality and intensity of our love for our spouse or family can weaken, yet we still love them. But to stand on the other side looking at our family member, we can sense the intensity and fervency just isn’t there any more. Jesus knows very keenly when we are drifting away. Notice what Jesus didn’t say here. He didn’t say they changed their doctrinal views. But when He placed His finger in their heart, the temperature was cold.
- Is it possible that our head may be right (correct doctrine) while our heart is going in the wrong direction? Anyone honest enough to say that you do it too? What’s the big deal about this that Jesus brings Ephesus this sharp rebuke?
Insight: Technically correct doctrine doesn’t win very many souls. Neither will a mere verbal creed you recite protect your love for Jesus Christ. What is needed is a fire in the fireplace of the soul – one that radiates a love that cannot be hidden – one that is obvious to a watching world.
- When our personal love for Christ cools, what’s the effect on other believers near you?
- What do you think Jesus wanted them to remember when He said, “remember from where you have fallen”? (Remember the life you once left when He first redeemed you. Remember the beginning roots of when you began to grow cold because you didn’t deal with it then.) How does this rekindle the lost love? (Rediscovering a lost love rekindles it all over again.)
- Can you rekindle your love for Christ if you are not willing to repent? 2:5 (Repentance leads to forgiveness, and without forgiveness love cannot grow.) Do you struggle with doing things in the church out of duty? Do you find the flame of your first love flickering?
Insight: To repent simply means to change your spirit and purpose of life. Return to the One who holds His arms open to embrace you.
- What does Jesus mean when He says, “do the deeds you did at first”?
Insight: Remember the days when you couldn’t wait to read more in the Bible? Remember when each word on the page was new and it was like Christ writing to you? Remember when prayer was as frequent as working with a close friend and you shared every thought with Him? That same Companion has always been there and He misses the enthusiasm of the love we once shared. It’s never too late to rekindle it when the One on the other side is anxious to kiss and make up.
- What does Jesus say He will do if the Ephesians do not repent? (Remove the lampstand from among them.) What do you think that means? (Remove the light of their testimony.)
- 2:7 Do you think everyone who hears, listens? Explain. What’s going on inside our mind when we turn off what the Holy Spirit tries to say to us?
- What’s an overcomer? (One who remains faithful to Christ to the end; one who follows Christ’s example.) What’s the promise to the overcomer in this letter? What do you know of this tree? Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24; Rev. 22:2
How’s the strength of your first love for Christ? When you think of the three strengths of the Ephesian Church, how are you doing? Are you hard working because your energy flows out of grateful love for all He has done for you? Are you patient with others because you know how patient He has been with you? Are you carefully discerning between good and evil and choosing that which honors Him the most?
In other words, if this letter were written to our church, which lines would you instantly think would apply to you? And what will change in you tonight because of the application of the two-edged Sword to your life?