Over the next 7 weeks our church is going to examine our mission statement through the lens of looking at the seven churches of the book of Revelation. Our mission statement is “A church for all people to meet and deepen their relationship with King Jesus.” We are in year 3 of this mission statement and it has been helpful each of the previous two years to unpack it at the beginning of a new year. We do that to help remind us of the call and mission that God has for us as a church. And like all churches we are not perfect, and we are most definitely a work in progress. Somethings we do well and other things, not so well at all. So, let’s look at this church in Revelation 2:1-7.
“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. 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.’
“To the angel of the church.” The angel here is simply the pastors or elders of the church. These are the men who comminute and teach the Word of God to the people of God. In the letter to the church of Ephesus, Paul writes these words; “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (pastor or elder) and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood (man or women maturity), to the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Ephesians 4:11-14. God has called men into the ministry of teaching and equipping of the saints. Each one of these 7 letters are addressed to the pastors of theses churches, who are responsible for the spiritual growth of the congregation and the leadership of the people. As someone who is called into ministry and into pastoral leadership, these opening words catch my attention. The responsibility of each man called to ministry is to communicate the Word of God and the leadership of God to the people of the congregation. Here at White Oak that responsibility lays upon the shoulders of Pastor Tony as Senior Pastor and myself as Associate Pastor. If we are going to be the church that God is pleased with and to be the church that impacts our community, it on us to communicate the Word of God to the congregation. As part of that process that means we need time for study, prayer, and meditation as we seek to hear from God as we communicate and teach His Word. We do that so that we may equip each member of our church to be on mission for God daily.
So, what does the letter say and what is the pastor to read to the people? I believe that two important components are seen in this letter to the church of Ephesus. First, in verses 2,3,6, and 7 we find an encouraging word to the people. Secondly, in verses 4 and 5 we find a word of correction and warning to the people. Each one of these components have a multitude of details, so over the next few paragraphs I will only point out a few things. In no way is this even close to a detailed description of this passage but a brief look through my study and my heart.
The encouraging word here is one that should catch our attention. This a church that was faithful in its theology, works, and ministry. Heresy and Idolatry had not crept into this church, nor had laziness or compliancy. It was a church that knew the scriptures and one that desired to be obedient in word and action. It was a church who worked hard at being faithful in its ministry to each other and even to the city. It was a church to be modeled when it comes to the faithful work and theology.
To put it in our current climate it was a church that had great participation of the membership when it comes to helping with ministries and events such as discipleship programs, children and youth ministry, outreach to neighbors and neighborhoods, Fall Festivals, involvement in homeless ministry, and much more. It would be a church that would quickly react to a need within the church. For example, had a call for more help in the children’s ministry it would have a line of people willing to volunteer. Unlike many churches where it is like pulling teeth to get involvement from the people. It was an active church in ministry involvement! One that we should all desire to see happen here at White Oak! Which means we must be a congregation of people willing to work, toil, and labor for the Kingdom!
But it had something against it that was hindering the work. They had forgotten the purpose of why they existed and the center of the gospel. They had lost their love for Jesus and with that comes a loss of compassion, care, and love for others. Look at what John writes in verse 5; “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” All the right theology, ministry, and work was worthless without loving Christ. Without the deep desire and love for Christ within our hearts, our actions, our theology, and our ministry we are fruitless. We are fruitless because we are missing the key ingredient of a gospel life, a deep love for Christ. When our love for Christ is at the center it changes the way, we minister. At the center of everything must be a desire to show our love for Christ and the desire to see others have a deep love Christ. If our hearts passion stays on Christ, then we always remember who we were before Christ. We understand the ultimate grace and mercy that we received in salvation in Jesus. We don’t have to be reminded of our own wickedness because our ongoing desire to seek Christ, reminds us of who we were before Christ and who we are becoming because of Christ. Our love for Christ must be the driving factor in our ministry, theology, and works. Without the love of Christ at the center we become loveless and lifeless as a church even if we seem busy and hard work.
In closing, these words to Ephesus should lay heavy on our hearts. We should honestly search our hearts and examine our lives, motives, and actions. Pastor John Piper made this statement years ago in sermon that I heard, and it has set on my heart and mind ever since. “Do you feel more loved by God when he makes much of you, or do you feel more loved by God when he frees you and enables you at great cost of his Son’s life to enjoy making much of him forever?” At the bottom of our joy and love should be that we get the opportunity to make much of Jesus every single day. I honestly believe we lose our love for Christ when begin to desire and need the feeling of being made much of. We lose our love of Christ when we become the center of our relationship with Christ. Jesus is at the center of our relationship with Him and because of that He is the center of our love and joy. Our ministry and labor must be driven by our love for Christ. To be the church that God desires us to be we must remember our first love which is Christ and we must live according to that love as we seek to impact our community for Christ.