I love my wife Hilary! Being married to her has caused me to know a deeper love than I ever thought possible. Knowing that she knows my deepest, darkest secrets, I know hers and that we still love each other is an amazing thing to be sure! However, imagine with me that our marriage was loveless. Imagine we followed all the “rules” like no cheating and helped one another but had no real love. Imagine that on the outside people would see loyalty, service and dedication but on the inside the marriage was loveless. How do you think we would feel about our marriage? Instead of love, there is a sense of duty. It would end up being lifeless and boring because a loveless marriage is a dead marriage, despite what it looks like on the outside.
This I believe is what has happened to the church in Ephesus and hitting closer to home: the church in America as well. On the outside the church in Ephesus was able to thwart much evil, as the church in America has also done. There was an evil culture of god-worship all around the Ephesian church but they were able to maintain a good bit of their original outside appearance. Sadly however, slowly but surely they began to lose their love and were a church married to Jesus but it was more or less a loveless marriage.
I believe the American church has also fallen prey to this loveless Marriage with Jesus, so we must ask ourselves: How can we avoid a loveless Marriage? As we look at this portion of Revelation, I think we can pull out three different keys to avoiding such a loveless marriage.
The first key this passage hits us with is the ideas of enduring and protecting.
I. Endure and Protect (Vs. 1-3)
We see this picture of Jesus holding the churches in his hands as well as walking among the churches (being in their midst) repeated again here for the Ephesian church (as well as for us!). John takes each aspect of the picture of the Glorified Christ and applies it to each of the churches. Here we are reminded of Christ’s presence among the churches. Next, we hear of God’s praise of the Ephesian church for enduring under the hardships of being in such an evil, sexualized and wicked society (sound like America?). The Ephesian church has “toiled” hard to remain pure amongst an impure culture and God applauds them for this toil. It reminds us that things will be difficult and we too will be asked to endure. Christ also admonishes the Ephesian church for their ability to protect the flock by weeding out the false teachers and the wolves within their flock. Not all teachers are teaching Christ and not all teachers desire to see Christ glorified. Because of this, many wolves are among the sheep seeking to take them away and destroy them and their faith. They are doubt seeders as well as people who pepper their words with truth but lead people to believe in other things more so than they do God himself. The Ephesian church was a group of people who knew the Word and were able to detect the false teachings because they knew the original teachings so well. The problem is that much of this was misguided and not based in love as it should have been, but rather a “pharisaical” attitude of duty.
Taking this idea of marriage still and looking at my marriage towards Hilary; how would it make you feel if you asked me “Why don’t you cheat on Hilary”? and I answered: “Because it’s my duty. I am bound by the laws of marriage to make sure I don’t cheat”. It sounds nice on the outside but it’s a weak basis! Does that mean if the “laws” of marriage changed, I’d be OK with it? A key component is missing, LOVE! It was so they would be honored that the Ephesian church was honoring Christ and was enduring but they had the wrong attitude towards it! They were not shunning evil because of their great love for Christ, but rather because they felt duty-bound. I think many American Christians have the same issue. They don’t avoid sin because of love, but rather because of duty and then they get big headed about it.
We are to avoid sin, but doing so out of duty, rather than love is not what it’s all about. So, how do we avoid a loveless marriage with Christ? First, we need to endure and protect, but for the right reasons! Next we need to regain our first love
II. Regain Our First Love (vs. 4-6)
We can see that God has a flow to his letters to the churches: admonition, correction and promise (we will see that next). God admonished the Ephesian church for enduring and protecting but now shares a fatal flaw within their church: the loss of their first love. Many commentators speculate much about what this means but there is a strong agreement that it means they lost their love for God as well as for one another and as Osborne says: “It is clear the Ephesians loved truth more than they loved God or one another” (Osborne, Pg. 116). Here he is stating that they loved to make sure everything was true more than they enjoyed the relationship with God and one another. The church is not meant to be an educational institute but rather a community of believers loving God and in turn loving one another. The love they have will allow them to live in the Spirit and will automatically cause them to detect lies from truth…but so many Christians MISS this reality! Many of us have “religion” but have lost the Spirit and in turn lost love.
“Typically, what is evident is that they contained the forms of RELIGION after LOSING the Spirit. They are corrected for abandoning their first zestful love of Christ…”(Peterson, Reversed Thunder, pg. 52).
Much of the American church today is politically or religiously influenced, but very rarely is it influenced by the love for God or one another. This has caused many to reject the church, which is sad, because it is clear through this book and other portions of the Bible that Christ established the church and He desires for us as the church to be the Lampstands for the world to shed light in the midst of the darkness! The third key to avoiding a loveless marriage with the Lord is to Listen to the Spirit.
III. Listen to the Spirit (vs. 7)
The Spirit is speaking to the church…are we listening?
“Listening is the common task of the church. Churches are listening posts” (Peterson, Reversed Thunder, pg. 48).
How do we avoid a loveless marriage with Christ? We listen to the Spirit and here the Spirit ends with 3 important things to walk away with.
- Remember- we are to remember 2 main things: 1.) Where we were without Christ and 2.) The joy of our salvation! The Ephesian church in the Epistle from Paul was reminded in chapter 2 who they were without Christ and it wasn’t pretty. Without Christ they remembered they had no hope, they had really nothing to live for, but once they found Christ they were changed…not by their own “righteousness” but His mercy and grace! They have forgotten this and are walking around looking good on the outside but forgetting who it was that changed them! Next, they are to remember the joy they received once they realized they were free from Sin and now connected to Jesus!
- Repent- They are now able to repent of the sin of doing it on their own and forgetting God in the process! We must repent or turn away from our mis-deeds so we can move on from them and so the Blood of Christ can cleanse us!
- DO- Now, once they are free once again from their own works and repented of the sins of their lost love they are free to no Do the works motivated by love rather than obligation.
We too must remember, repent and do because the American church for too long has lost it’s true motivation—LOVE and replaced it with a crappy, self-righteous religion that has begun to stink up the entire church and all people labeled: “Christian”. It’s time to HEAR what the Spirit is saying and Listen to His call for reform.
Now, it’s time to get real with yourself and God. Ask the Spirit of God to answer this question: “Have I lost my first love?” Allow Him to speak truth over you and into you. Don’t be afraid of the answer, just let it come. If you have and the Spirit shows how you’ve been living a religion and not a relationship, remember, repent and begin doing!