Jonathan Sax, a former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, “When it was hard to be a Jew, people remained Jewish, when it was easy to be a Jew, people stopped being Jewish.” Same for Christianity. We get comfortable, complacent, apathetic.
The church in the Revelation was commendable, but regarding what mattered most, they were lacking.
To whom was this written, the congregation? The angel, is it a messenger? A pastor of the church? Who is the one who holds the seven stars and walks among them. Jesus gives us a very clear message to the church and this message impacts our journey.
Good people doing good things (Revelation 2:2-3) Jesus acknowledged their behavior locked in a specific lifestyle. I KNOW YOUR LABOR, I KNOW YOUR PERSEVERANCE, which speaks to their unction and then their character.
Labor – you work to the point of exhaustion, the church was very busy.
Perseverance and endurance – your character, setting the evil straight, Acts 19 and the story at Ephesus, unbelieving Jews and the sons of Sceva, no brought in by their false testimony. Demetrius and his silver idol business, and they worked hard through it all. They do not grow weary. Good people doing good things.
George Zulu from Zambia interned with Ken, held a church calendar in his hands and said, “You people are busy. With all this activity, how do your people go out into the world and just be themselves?”
Good things making empty routines (Revelation 2:4) I have something against you. Always beware the “but” or “however,” which will nullify all that you have just heard or done.
Downward spiral toward apathy:
1) First is being settled. Active people get settled, and comfortable, on the couch. They became settled in their activity. Their busyness was affirmation they were righteous enough.
2) Losing sight of the main thing, their purpose, their mission. Apathy reflects a coolness and a loss of passion.
3) Sacrificing the best on the altar of good things. They thought they were a loving congregation but they lost their first love. Hard work and good doctrine is never enough to satisfy our sacrificing Savior (Matthew 22:36-40, John 13:35 – love God and loving others, then the world will know that we belong to Jesus).
1 John 4:2 – to say that I love God and not others makes God a liar. Hate is when we withhold love from someone.
Calvin and Hobbs illustration, good is not defined as just the absence of bad.
Empty routines challenged by intense commitment (Revelation 2:5) Remember, Repent, and Return. This is easy to preach yet hard to apply.
Remember: how they travelled with Paul and went house to house and how the church was founded. Have I forgotten from where I started, and how far I have fallen?
Repent: turn away from mere activity and turn to your first love. Grief over our short comings is often not present. The deeper the sorrow, the deeper the repentance. A preschooler saying “I’m sorry” is not repentance. Am I going through the motions? It there no real emotion or feelings for God and for others?
Return: go back to when we first met. The intensity, love, passion, purpose. Jesus needs to be our motivation for good deeds.
Conclusion (Revelation 2:6) Nicholatians, evil people, promiscuous leaders, false teachers. “Don’t just hate what Jesus hates, love what Jesus loves!”
Mother Teresa quote: Gods love for you is infinite, your disregard for the church is finite, “focus on the infinite and allow it to overcome the finite.”
Questions for Further Study:
- Why does love—even the most fervent and committed love—sometimes grow cold over time?
- What are some mementos or heirlooms you are especially attached to?
- What is something you remember loving dearly as a child that you eventually outgrew?
- If Jesus were to write a letter to our church, what do you think He’d say?
- If Jesus were to write you a personal letter, for what would He commend you, and in what ways would He correct you?
- What do your actions say about who or what is most important in your life?
- What do you think Christ meant when He said, “You have forsaken your first love”?
- What does it mean to repent?
- What about our faith are we prone to “outgrow”?
- At what time in your life did you feel closest to God or the most dedicated to God?
- How would you assess the health of your relationship with Christ right now?
- What can cause us to lose our love for God?
- How can we keep our commitment to Christ from waning over time?
- Besides knowing all the right answers and doing all the right activities, what do we need for spiritual vitality?
- In what concrete ways can you show today that Jesus Christ is your first love?
- What is one step you can take this week to build the quality of perseverance in your faith?
- What can you do or say to encourage a Christian friend to remain loyal to Christ?