Faithlife
Faithlife

What Am I Missing?

Letters to the Churches  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you are all getting out of church early today! The bad news is why: I feel terrible this morning, which is why I have not been shaking hands, and why the kiddos and I are heading home right after church. I will be heading home to bed, and Stacy’s careful ministrations, which likely include copious amounts of tea, some ibuprofen, and eccenatia/goldenseal. Pray for my stomach...

Mawwaige. Mawwaige is what bwings us togevah today.

You know, relationships are hard, and I believe that this applies especially to marriages. Think about when you and your other half were dating or courting. What was life like then? Things were pretty easy, right? I mean, guys, we were constantly on the worry about how we looked, how we treated our special lady, and how we smelled. Let’s be real: we wanted to make a consistent good impression. How many people here were wealthy or very well off when they were dating? Did that change at all when you first got married? NO! You were broke! You didn’t have anything and it was okay! You were married and finally got to do that one thing that you waited for marriage to do. You know what I’m talking about…But marriage is hard. It was easier when you did not know anything about each other’s bad habits, or annoying idiosyncrasies. How easy is it to see the trats that you used to see as being so cute and/or endearing as becoming something close to a deal-breaker? Her outspoken and independent nature has just now become loud and obnoxious. That adorable way she would take food off of your plate during dinner is now annoying and irritating. Speaking of dinner, have any of you gentlemen had the following conversation: “Hey sweetie, what do you want for dinner?” “Oh, anything sounds good. I’m just hungry.” “Okay, what about [insert name of restaurant you like here]?” “Oh, absolutely not, I hate that place!” “Oh, okay, and then where do you want to go?” “Oh, anywhere.” And it doesn’t have to be so dramatic; spontaneity becomes reckless and responsible, their feet on the dash is no longer hot and attractive, but just another distraction in your already busy life, or their endearing stubbornness has become refusal to compromise and their one track mind is now immaturity. But it’s not all that bad. Usually, it’s a matter of things just being okay. Not bad and not great, but just okay. And that stretches on for a few weeks. Then months. Then maybe years. Years of no particular highs or lows. Love becomes apathy.
Now I want to ask you a poignant question: what does it look like when the relationship is not with you and your spouse, but with you and God?
Let’s turn back to our Scripture reading for today, in :

“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.

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.

So, what do you notice about the church in Ephesus?
Listen to their answers
Anybody notice words used like “your works” and “your patient endurance” and how “you cannot bear” and “you are enduring patiently” and “you have not grown weary?” A lot about them and what THEY are doing. Sure, it even says that, at least as far as their endurance and bearing up that they are doing it for the sake of Jesus’ name, but does that mean He is actually in it? I would argue not, based solely on what accusation Jesus levels at them: that they have abandoned the love they had at first. See, it’s for reasons like this that I am not a fan of the King James and New King James, because it reads “thou has left thy first love.” If I left something, it’s because I forgot it, or I absentmindedly set it down somewhere, etc…It implies that I am not entirely at fault for it not being in my presence. The problem is that the word is “abandoned” or even better “forsaken.” This is much more purposeful, and it really was so. They were so happy with what they were doing, and how they were doing it, that they forgot what brought them to Christ. They forgot how they were welcomed into the church with love, and how Christ lovingly accepted them into His flock, and what that felt like. Their descent into legalism was swift. An intolerance for false teachers and bad doctrine, and shunning of all evil turned into a lack of love for fellow Christians and each other. They were enacting discipline for the sake of rules as opposed to doing it for the purpose of loving correction.
Sadly enough, our own church has fallen into much of the same trap. Out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, there is actually a church in our conference that is disciplining a family for Sabbath breaking. Sabbath breaking, ladies and gentlemen. And although I cannot go into the reasoning, please trust me when I say that they are not enacting this so-called discipline in a loving Christian manner. This family is being made an example, and I can promise you this: it’s just plain wrong. What about you and I folks? How harsh and judgmental have we been with one another, or even fellow Christians? When we do have an issue, do we follow for how we deal with someone?
I imagine that if many of us were to take a good hard look in a spiritual mirror, we would find what we see as something that would not be pleasant to the eye, and that would make us ashamed to all ourselves a follower of Jesus. So, with that, what do we do? How do we remedy this spiritual disease? Well, just as Jesus gave the Ephesians a cure, that same cure applies to us, and make no mistake, the cost of not doing this is the same as the cost to the church in Ephesus: He will come to us and remove our lampstand. Ladies and gentlemen, although I direct this sermon at my own district here in Nebraska, the same applies to our world-wide church: we don’t want our lampstand removed. The cure for this is: we must keep remembering, we must repent, and we must do the first works.

Keep Remembering

Verse 5 begins with the command from Jesus to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen...” Do you remember life before Jesus? I sure do. And even better than that, I remember my life as I accepted Jesus into my life. Do you remember that feeling, as you were putting on the baptismal robe? Remember that feeling when you stepped into the baptismal font? Remember that moment standing with the pastor, his hand up saying “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!” and then lowering you into the water, and that feeling when you came up out of the water? Remember that feeling right after you changed back and came out to all of the smiles, the congratulations, the handshakes? Remember the fire and the passion you had for the next long while afterwards? The word used is better translated to “Keep Remembering.” We are to keep remembering all of this, and continually, so we can continually have that joy, that love, that passion for Jesus.
The wo

Repent

Once we remember the love that we have previously abandoned, we need to repent, which means that we need a radical changing, a radical turning away from where we were. Have you had any visitors in your church that never returned? Did you show them enough love and joy, and that you were indeed glad to be there and to see them come to church? Have you had that conversation with a non-believer, where they went away thinking that you may not have been the Christian you claimed to be? Ever get a little frustrated with someone in traffic along the highway, and say some things under your breath that would make your mom blush? All of these moments, when we had the opportunity to show the love of God and His Son’s love for humanity but did not, that is what we are to repent of, turn away from. Let’s be honest, although we were still being sanctified after our baptism, none of these things would have been an issue right after our baptism, or if we are honest, right before it.

Do the First Works

Once we keep remembering, and have repented, we need to go back to the things we did back then. We need to go back to the passionate work for Jesus that we were doing when we first began on our journey of faith. Remember wanting to do all the outreach, all the evangelism, all the witnessing for Christ? That’s what we are to go back to. Remember how faithfully we gave our tithe and offering? That’s what we need to go back to. Remember how, if there was a need at church, regardless of how big or small, that we would jump at the opportunity to serve and in doing, know we were serving the Lord? That’s what we are supposed to go back to. See where I’m going with this? And here’s the thing: it’s not the works that are doing anything, but the love that we abandoned and forsook that causes such an outpouring of wanting to DO the works!

Amen!

Jesus told the Ephesians “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Let us remember our life before Jesus, and how e came to Him, let us repent of our forsaken love, and let us go back to the good works we had before after we had been baptized. Let us commit to this, lest our lampstand be removed, and so that we may eat of the tree of life, which stands in the Paradise of God.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
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