May 19, 2024 | Brandon Cooper

Brandon Cooper counsels maintaining strong love for God and others in the church by remembering one’s “first love” when first becoming a Christian. Jesus’ letter to the church in Ephesus in Revelation warns about losing love for God and others while commending their rejection of false teachings. The sermon encourages persevering in faith through serving others joyfully and balancing loving doctrine with loving people who disagree. By remembering God’s love, Christians can overcome trials through faith in Christ’s victory and be sustained to the end.


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Good morning church. Grab your Bibles, you can open up to Revelation chapter two, Revelation Chapter Two, we’re in verses one to seven this morning, Revelation two, as you’re turning there, one of the best parts of my job. And there are many parts that I love. But one of the best parts is counseling, young couples. premarital counseling. In particular, I’ve done even with some of the couples in this room, always very fun or dating advice had a couple of those conversations recently as well. What makes it fun is because these are two young people who are just so in love, and it’s kind of like fun to see, you know, they can see no flaws and the other person or like it, well, maybe he’s too wonderful. That’s the only issue I’ve got with him. And as a 20 year veteran of this institution, I’m like, you might not think that later this year, we’ll see. But one of the worst parts of my job is on the other side of that conversation, marriage counseling, especially if that marriage counseling is quickly evolving into divorce, counseling, even if there are legitimate biblical grounds for the divorce, it is still heartbreaking, of course, to see a marriage come to an end. And what’s so challenging for me is to think these are the same people. Like not literally in my case, I haven’t done that whole thing. I’ve been here long enough for it. But just knowing that at some point, these couples were the young married couples who could see no flaws. Like no one goes into marriage thinking, oh, yeah, he’s got a real anger problem. I can tell he’s going to be abusive later. Or she’s a tremendous nag. In a few years, my life will be absolutely insufferable. I’m sure of it. So what happened? What changed? Exactly? And we could point to many, many things. Of course, you know, she wasn’t who I thought she was. He just stopped trying, we both changed as a result of changing circumstances. But at its root, of course, the issue is just lost love and unwillingness to love any longer, which is not just a feeling but an action, of course. And you know what the the same thing can happen in our relationship with Jesus. Love can fade, because exactly what Jesus says to the church in Ephesus. So as Kyle mentioned, we’re in a new series this week, starting the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation. This is John, the apostle, who is writing this at 9095, somewhere in there under Emperor dome mission and this persecution that’s being loosed on the church. It certainly is written to these seven churches that we’re gonna get to learn a lot about in the next few weeks, but it is written for today, too. So Dennis Johnson, he’s writing about the West Coast churches, he says, West Coast churches face a lot of problems. As you can probably imagine, I mean, they’re not hostile environment, large chunks of the culture would really rather that Christianity just be purged from the land. They’ve got, you know, some affluent communities that breed the sort of self sufficiency that doesn’t really depend on the Lord, a lot of people who prefer personal peace and comfort to the rigors of discipleship. You know, people trusting in money are stained by sexual immorality. And that is Johnson is not talking about California, if that’s what you had in your mind. He’s talking about first century turkeys west coast, which is where the seven churches are, these are all the issues that we’re going to come across in these seven letters. And yet, they’re exactly the same issues where you know, that’s not just California, of course, he talked about churches here in Chicago that have those same issues. These are universal struggles being met with universal truths. So what John is writing to these seven churches what Jesus is saying that the seven churches, he is certainly saying to us, the murder of Torian cannon, which is an early document really important for establishing the 27 books the New Testament says about this, it says, John writes, indeed, to seven churches yet speaks to all. And so he is, I mean, just think for a moment, if Jesus were to write a letter to Cityview, what would he say? That’s what we’re being invited to consider in this series. And as we read these letters, now, all seven letters follow a similar format. So we’re actually going to follow the same structure for all seven weeks. So you’re gonna get this kind of outline here of Christ, who Jesus is going to tell us something about himself, then church, he’s going to talk about the church, The Good, the Bad, sometimes just the good sometimes just the bad usually both though, some sort of challenge in response to that, what does the church need to do and then some cheer, a promise that will encourage them to persevere. So let’s take a look at that starting here with the letter to emphasis starting with Christ. And our first point here, what we’re gonna see is presence and protection Jesus is present winds and protection. I’ll just read chapter two verse one for now. Revelation 212, the angel of the church and Ephesus right? These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. So little context, because we are picking up in chapter two, not chapter one, you can see and will was very helpful and read some of this for us already. So we got it but you know, chapter one, verse 11, John is being told to write on a scroll what he sees and send it to the seven churches here in again, western Turkey, the province of Asia Minor, but Turkey is what we think of today. And then we get this description of Jesus right, John turns around, he sees Jesus and describes him to us and Jesus says a few things about himself as well. All that we’re gonna get in the in this first part of the seven letters is drawn from this description of Jesus. In fact, look at chapter one, verse 20, the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands is this, the seven stars the angels of the seven churches in southern lampstands are the seven churches. So he’s already drawing this imagery from chapter one in the letter to FSS. Now, if you’re looking at a Bible like mine, at least when it says Angel, in chapter two, verse one or chapter one, verse 20, there’s a little footnote and says, or messenger, which is kind of important, actually. So this is just the Greek word on gloss, we get Angel from there, but on gloss doesn’t mean a spiritual being with wings, and a halo and stuff plays a harp on a cloud, none of which is true anyway, but it just means messenger. And since angels often delivered messages, like you know, Gabriel, with Mary, something like that, the word came to mean Angel as we think of it today. So it could be either one. In other words, this might just be the person who’s delivering the message to these churches. Could you be the pastor Honestly, these are pastoral epistles that we are reading here. Maybe that’s Jeremy right boy, I’ll quote him some of this series. That’s how he takes it Herman banquet on my favorite theologians that look how he takes it. Angel pastor doesn’t really matter. The point though, is that this is a message for the churches. This is a message that they need to hear that we need to hear. In fact, when it says these are the words of him who holds the seven stars, it reads a little bit more, you know, literally, as thus says, The one who holds the seven stars as in thus says the Lord, like this is This is Old Testament, prophetic authority, prophetic message that we get here. So what is the Prophetic Message for emphasis? All right, first church on the list here is Ephesus why Ephesus, first because it’s the the route that a mailman would take. So that’s where we’re going here. The seven churches, it’s just this little circuit that they’re going to run through in western Turkey there. But it’s, there’s some important symbolism as well. Number seven and revelation, you should probably go okay, there’s symbolism here. We’ll talk about that a little bit and week four, so you got to hang on until then, apologies to the Moody’s. You’ll just you’ll never know I’m sorry. But we start with Ephesus also because it is the foremost city in Asia Minor population of maybe 200 250,000 people it’s got the Temple of Artemis in it if you’ve read the book of Acts, you know that Temple of Artemis is one of the wonders of the the Ancient World Seven Wonders the ancient world, very wealthy town as a result of this temple. It’s a seaport on the Aegean Sea, right where the coaster river flows through, which is actually kind of fun, because it was a sea port on the Aegean Sea. But because this river brings so much sediment with it, the ruins of Ephesus are now eight miles inland from the sea kind of incredibly, nothing to do with Revelation just I like geography, so I get to inflict it on you. So a lot of pagan worship in this town. Like there’s temples to, you know, the Caesars, of course Artemis, you know all these other gods, but it’s still impressive church. It’s founded by Priscilla and Aquila, with a palace there as a teacher as well. Paul, of course, spends about a year and a half teaching every day in the School of tyrannis, which are explore our one of our tracks is named for that. So he’s discipling all these people who are then sent out to reach all of Asia Minor with a gospel, of course, later on Paulson’s Timothy to be pastor of this church. And if church tradition is correct, and there’s a lot of tradition here, then John himself was pastor of Ephesus as well. Like this is way better than Moody Church in terms of famous famous pastors that it’s had in its tenure.
So in each letter, as Jesus speaks to these churches, then he’s going to remind the church of who he is, and it will be a specific view of Jesus that the church needs. That is these are not just letters about behavior, you know, we need to tweak some Some actions here, the theology is so important theology actually precedes action. We didn’t know who Jesus is, that’s what will change us. So what two reminders diseases give the church of emphasis here. First, Jesus says that He holds the seven stars in his right hand. The pastor is really the churches, the cells. This is drawn from chapter one, verse 16, right in his right hand, he held seven stars, exhibited, it’s actually a different word there. So in chapter one, verse 16, it is the word hold, or even just has he’s got seven stars in his right hand. But when we get to chapter two, verse one, the word is much stronger. It’s like grips. Jesus holds tightly. The seven stars at this point that he’s holding tight to his people reminds me of John’s gospel, and what Jesus says as the Good Shepherd where he says, no one will snatch my sheep out of my hand. That’s what he’s saying, here he is, protecting his people. The second thing Jesus says is that he walks among these churches walks among the golden lampstands, taken from 113. among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, here’s Jesus walking among the lampstands, he is not a distant, but a present king. He knows his people, well, he’s knows what’s going on. And he knows what they need. In fact, the concerns that he raises in these letters stem from what he’s seeing, because he’s present to them. He’s got intimate knowledge and understanding of all that’s going on. So why does Jesus remind them and us of this? Because we so often forget who and where Jesus is. And that is the reminder we need because if you forget who Jesus is, and where Jesus is, that leads to discouragement when things go badly. Maybe he is it isn’t that maybe he doesn’t see maybe he doesn’t care that can lead to prayer, listlessness, and self sufficiency, and pretty soon we’re seeking fleshly solutions to spiritual problems. It’s a bad idea. So it’d be like kids, you know, at the end of a camping trip, you know, going, Hey, we’re on our own. Now. I don’t know what happened to mom and dad, like, we’re gonna go Swiss Family Robinson, like you’re in charge of building the fort. You go hunt, I’ll fight the pirates. And meanwhile, mom and dad are like 20 yards away pack in the car, like, No, Jesus is still here. You are not on your own. He has not left us as orphans. I mean, think we just did the series last week where it just wrapped it up. Right. But I mean, the Spirit of Jesus is in the room right now. Right here. Shouldn’t that change how we think and act when it comes to ministry, but just to life in general? Of course, that’s the reminder we need well as he walks among them, what does Jesus see that he wants to talk to the church about? That’s our next point. So church, verses two to four, we’re going to see two kinds of keywords here are endurance and enmity, endurance and enmity may read it for us. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles, but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary, yet I hold this against you, you have forsaken the love you had at first. So in light of the Hall of Fame pastors that this church has had, it is no surprise that the church is doing well. They are well taught and well equipped for the Christian life. You see this especially in how they handle false teachers who come and try and lead the church astray. They were equipped for this because Paul himself told them that hey, this is coming. So Paul, in Acts chapter 20, he meets with the Ephesian elders, and lets them know they need to be on their guard. Here’s what it says. So acts 2028 to 31 keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers be shepherds of the Church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock, even from your own number. Men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard. And what do we see here? They listened. They listened to Paul, they took him seriously and so they have tested the claims of these false teachers and discern whether they’re true or not. They rejected the false apostles. Just a good reminder for us we’re to do this still today of course, because History repeats itself halls teachers are always arising. I mean, John himself first John four verse one says, Do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Paul says something similar, something similar First Thessalonians five, do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all. Hold on to what is good. Implicitly reject what is not good, of course. So we’re to test all claims made by teachers against the the only objective standard we have, which is the authoritative word of God, the Bible. So people come and they make claims and they go, well hang on. Now, let’s open up the Bible and see if match. If somebody comes up to you and says, Hey, God told me you go, maybe, maybe, alright, we need to we need to seek this out together. But that’s exactly what the Ephesians have done. So when Paul’s prediction came true, the false apostles came, they defeated error by holding to the truth. They’re actually world famous for this. So Ignatius, Bishop of Smyrna, writing just a little bit after this time, this is what he says about the Ephesian church. He commends them here specifically, I have heard that some strangers came your way with a wicked teaching, but you did not let them so it among you, you stocked up your ears to prevent admitting what they disseminated. They’re famous for doing just this. And their model for us in that, of course, our first core value as a church is God’s word. And here’s why. Right, because we always have to go back to okay, what’s the standard? What’s the authority here? Well, in addition to holding fast to God’s word, rejecting false teaching, we see that their stalwart ministry, Jesus says, I know your deeds, your perseverance, and your your hard work. Like there’s no cheap grace here in this church. This is a church that gets Jesus’s words and Mark 834. You know, if you’re gonna follow Jesus, you’re gonna have to deny yourself, take up your cross and actually follow Jesus would open here that Jesus makes it actually it brings these two ideas together, it says, you know, verse two, you haven’t tolerated their false teaching. And in verse three, you have endured a hardship tolerated and endured are the same word. You translate it like you haven’t put up with our false teaching, but you have put up with hardship for the sake of Jesus’s name. You’re reading this and you’re thinking, Who wouldn’t want to be in a church like this? This is a good church, you got sound doctrine, and committed discipleship, church looks great. The church looks great. And that’s the issue. As part of our problem, even today, of course, is that our definitions of success are often at variance with God’s definitions of success. So we look at things like finances, attendance, how many journey groups and community groups do we have? Do we launch any new it’s all the stuff we’re gonna talk about tonight at recall, by the way, so I’m feeling very convicted. But that’s kind of how we roll but but I’m reminded of what God says to Samuel. As Samuel is getting ready to anoint David as the next king. We just had Saul Saul’s like six, six, and tall people think they’re better as kings. I don’t know why Jake has this problem already. So we’re gonna have to knock him down a few pegs, okay. But everyone looked at Saul and what? Well, of course, he’s a king, look at him. And then Samuel looks at David, the pipsqueak Shepherd and says, of course, he’s not a king. And God says, you look at the outside, I look at the heart. So how is Ephesus heart? And the answer is not so good. Jesus has something against them, because they have forsaken the love they had at first. Which sounds important, by the way, because love is the summation of the law. How many times have we said that here? It’s in the Sermon on the Mount, right? There’s just one thing we have to do as Christians love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. So to say we’re doing well except when it comes to love. Means we’re not doing well. Okay, like we’re missing the only thing that really matters now. What love are we talking about here? Are we talking about love for God or love for people?
That’s a fair question. It could be God, certainly. If so it’s probably drawing on Jeremiah two almost seems to be quoting Jeremiah two. So in Jeremiah two verse two, God is speaking he says, I remember the devotion of your youth how as a bride, you loved me. So like going back to remember the love you had at first like that, you know, premarital counseling. You saw nothing but wonderful things in me just a little bit later. Verse 13, same prophecy My people have committed to sin. As they have forsaken me the spring of living water and have dug out for themselves cisterns. They forsake it’s a word right forsaken me. So it could be that we’ve stopped loving God. It could also be other people though. Jesus even warned against this once persecution and trouble come, what happens, and the Olivet Discourse when Jesus is talking about what happens in the end times a lot of revelation taken from it. In fact, Jesus says, because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. Of course, it would, in the midst of trials like these, when you’ve got things like persecution, and heresy, and, you know, schisms and factions that are threatening the church, there’s gonna be distrust, and that distrust breeds a lack of love for others. And certainly see this in the church today. The rise of digital world, social media has made it exponentially worse. When you get people who are self appointed heresy hunters. They’re just looking at what what’s this pastor saying? What’s this church doing? Where is it wrong, so that we can attack them? And why is that, because of our culture wars, because the church is under threat, our culture does not universally love the church. And so because we feel under threat, now we get defensive, and you get in that defensive posture. And love quickly goes out the window. So you have people sent Well, of course, that church is no good, they’re too woke, you’re just getting into Cultural Marxism. Or on the flip side, that church can’t possibly be any good. They care so much about their theology, that they’re not committed to the things that Jesus was committed to, like justice. Fighting for the oppressed. I saw an example of it this week, it was heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. A pastor whose name you would know if I said it, came out and said that mental illness is made up. It’s not a thing. There’s no such thing as mental illnesses. And you understand where that’s coming from? Because that’s a defensive culture war response. We live in Philip briefs phrase, the an age of the triumph of the therapeutic, and a lot of it is ungodly. Of course, like the most important thing is that I feel good all the time. And I think there is a certainly like we can talk about this with nuance, right? There are people who want a diagnosis to excuse their sin, or the sin of their children. That’s real. That is a real thing. Absolutely. You know, what else is a real thing? Mental illness? Like, how do you hold to something like total depravity and go yes, sin has wrecked every part of the body except the brain. That’s the only part where nothing could ever possibly go wrong. It was so unloving what this man was saying. Because the love of most grows cold. When we’re in the middle of conflict like that, we want to make sure our churches got doctrine, right. So that’s what we’re talking about here now which is so is it the loss of love for God and the loss of love for people? And the answer is both of course, we don’t have to choose because the two are always connected. You cannot separate them again, what does John say first John 411 sins God so loved us we ought to love one another. Right? God pours his love into us our hearts overflow with love for him and that becomes love for other people. But our good works the deeds that Jesus is talking about with Ephesus here that we’re gonna peter out if I’m gonna borrow Tom shiners phrase here, if the oil of love no longer lubricates our relationships with one another, you will not keep doing good deeds, if you have forgotten your love for God, and others, reminded of Martyn Lloyd Jones, saying he said, Often I spend half my time telling people to study doctrine, and the other half my time telling people that doctrine is not enough. That’s almost exactly what Jesus has said to emphasis here because what’s needed beyond doctrine is love. Which, of course, is the fruit of sound doctrine, true doctrine, a right understanding of the gospel of God’s love for us will always produce love in us. We said that and then Kyle just walked you through the three L’s here that we’ve got our discipleship pathway, you learn from Jesus, what happens next? You love like Jesus. That’s just inevitable. It’s inevitable. That’s how it goes. One last point before we move on to the next section. There’s just this reminder here. And it may be important for some of us that there never was a golden age of church history. That’s a myth. Everybody’s always like, man, wish we were back in x. And you’re like, really like x chapter five and and Eisenerz Vyra you want they’re all that early church like Corinth and Galatia. And what we see here, even in Ephesus, so don’t get discouraged because I know there are times when it feels like the church is going to hell in a handbasket. I know that. This is one of the Those times for sure, there has always been trouble. There have always been problems in the church and the church has always persisted. Why? Because Jesus holds the seven stars in his right hand. No need for discouragement. Third point, the challenge. So what does Jesus say we’ve got enmity, right last loss of love and an endurance, which is good. But what does Jesus then say to the Ephesian? Church? What do you need to do in response to remember and repent? Maybe verses five and six, consider how far you have fallen, repent, and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor. You hate the practices, the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. So they have forgotten what it was like at first. So what do they need to do? They need to remember so the word there is translated consider but either way, right? Consider remember, like, remember from how far you’ve fallen, like look up used to be on the summit. And now you’re not that should cause you some concern. So remember, and then change, repent, like change your direction, at this point, start climbing again. This feels like marriage counseling. Do you remember what you guys used to think of each other and now see how far you fallen? Okay, let’s move back in this direction. So Justin buzzard, wrote a delightful little book a few years back called date your wife, where she did a men’s retreat here about seven years ago. Now on that book date. You’re right. The whole point was like, start doing the things you did at first he says this, I’m going to quote him and ladies, just hold your amens to a minimum, please. Okay. Men are idiots. Men work hard to date and pursue their girlfriends. But once they marry, it all stops. The man who dated wooed and passionately pursued his girlfriend degenerates into a husband who merely shares a home bills, conflict and problems with his wife. So the whole point of the book again, start doing what you did at first, when you were first in love with your wife back when she was your girlfriend used to write bad poems for her. And she loved them, even though they were terrible. And you would bring flowers not just on the days, like Mother’s Day, or some like you’d bring her flowers whenever you saw her, because you’re always thinking of her, you’re useless at work, because you couldn’t focus on anything used to tell her how much you loved her and precisely why you loved her. So go back to doing that. Now, this is good advice, of course for marriages. But marriage is not the application, but just an illustration here. Let’s bring that mentality into our relationship with Jesus. Do you remember how you felt when God first saved you? Remember how overwhelmed by grace you were at that moment? I got to talk to two different guys this week, younger guys who are newer to the faith. And this just came out of them. Like they could not believe God would save them. And they talked over and over again about how much they wanted to know Jesus more. Like all that stuff. Kyle was just talking about like, Man, I gotta, I gotta I gotta get with a group of guys or hold me accountable. Like I want to. I want to know the Bible and know how to pray more. I want to I want to tell people about Jesus, they were expressing all of that. Does your heart still thrill at the thought of your salvation? Are you still desperate to know Jesus more? To study and pray like that? Like, how long has it been since you felt the weight of your sin and the judgment you deserve? You come to the Lord trembling in the fear of the Lord knowing what you deserve, and yet they’re in His presence. Contemplating the height and depth and breadth and width of his immeasurable love for you the cost of your salvation, the cross of Jesus Christ, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We talked about this last week. We are now his adopted children crying out Abba, Father.
The Lord who is omniscient, who knows all things chooses to forget some things. You know what he chooses to forget your sins, if you belong to him, and he says, As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far I have taken your transgressions away from you. Does that reminder change your heart at all? Does that reminder change your heart towards others at all? Toward the last where you think they are, but for the grace of God, go i and they need to know this message. Does it change your heart toward the church? Let me just real quick say maybe you are here this morning and you actually have never felt that. Don’t consider yourself a Christian. Maybe even. Let me just encourage you to think about that now. Like, how will you make up for your misdeeds, which we all have, when we will be really honest that we all fall far short of the standard because the standard is perfection, and you have not loved perfectly. You have been selfish, I’m sure that there’s only one perfect man, the God man, Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and humanity who gave Himself as a ransom for us all. So that we can experience this beautiful exchange Paul talks about Second Corinthians five, God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. You could trust him, even now. turn from your sin and trust in Jesus and He will forgive your sins and you will experience that first flush of love. And you can let it change you because change you it will, remembering God’s mercy will make you merciful. Right? Remembering Jesus’s service, the Son of Man had not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. We know what that looked like. Because in John 13, Jesus, like removed his outer garment, he’s dressed like a slave, he kneels down, and he washes the feet of such undeserving men, including Judas, who has already betrayed him at that point. And yet he washes the filth muck from their feets, as a sign that he will wash the filth of sin from our hearts remembering his service will make you want to serve. Can we be honest for a moment? Sometimes church can feel like a burden. Right? You’re getting emails from Caitlin saying we need more nursery workers. It’s all Caitlin’s fault. Or, you know, you get the community group potluck lunches that we used to do after Sunday service, but who’s gonna set up because I did that last time. And I’m not wiping the tables this time. So maybe we’ll just let them die. Are we getting text from the church that we need transportation help for Safe Families, and it just feels like a lot. But that would be like an old man, thinking that his wife is a burden. Because she wants time, and affection and service from me, I got to change the light bulb? What? What a terrible husband that would be. And yet that’s how we can treat the church who Christ bought with his blood, by the way. So what does this look like you remember the first flush of your love and you’re gonna have a choice and opportunities to serve, to love with a costly love to outdo one another in showing honor to one another? Like this looks like initiative, how can I serve. So maybe that means you look around at some of the young married couples in this church with little kids and you think yourself, there’s no way they’ve had adult conversation in a year or two. I can watch the kids and see offer to babysit so they can have a date night because he’s trying to date his wife again. It maybe looks like inviting people to sit with even the difficult people, the people that talk too much and not read social cues, well inviting them to sit with you during the service and to go out for lunch with you after the service. It looks like volunteering, where you can wear their needs in the church. And that not reluctantly or begrudgingly. Because remember, Jesus knows the Ephesians deeds, they did it. Their volunteer forms were full. I guarantee you that the nursery was staffed and Jesus still had this against them. Like there is no credit I can promise you this. If I’ve got an attitude of like, like a fine, Amy, we can go out on a date this week. Or when the boys come up, you know, can you read me this book? Like there’s no credit there? That’s not love. That’s the point. No, if we’re truly motivated by the gospel, even self sacrifice will be joy. Joyful service will mark us as Christians. But then notice verse six, because this gets really interesting, right? But you have this in your favor. You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. In the perennial love versus truth debate, Jesus says both and always both. So they’ve got this ongoing battle with this sacked the Nicolaitans about which we know absolutely nothing. The only other place they show up anywhere is to letters from now to Pergamum. And all we know is that Jesus talks about balem, the False Prophet right beforehand. So if their sin is anything like the sin of balem, and Prophet false prophet from numbers, then it means that they’re encouraging sexual immorality that leads to idolatry. Maybe that’s what it is, I don’t know. What I do know is that they defeated the false apostles back in verse two, but they’re not done yet they need to defeat the next heresy. But it is so interesting that Jesus who just said you forgotten. Love goes on to say, I still appreciate that you hate the deeds of these false teachers and false believers. Now, it is so carefully worded as the Bible always is, by the way, it does say you hate their deeds, not them. And I think that is actually key, right? And understanding how this connects to the idea of love to contend against heresy and immorality is the loving thing to do. If you truly love people, you will hate what is destroying them. You have probably seen T shirts or bumper stickers that are much more colorfully worded than I could say, in a church service. Or even if you got me alone in private, talking about cancer. But I understand the sentiment, if you’re gonna throw F bombs, which I don’t, but if you’re gonna throw F bombs, cancer is a fine target. Because why why do people hate cancer, because it kills the people you love. But here’s the thing, sin is so much worse. Because cancer can only kill the body. But sin can destroy the body and the soul and that for all eternity. So of course, we have to contend against immorality, and ungodly teaching. It is such a tricky balance. It is such a tricky balance. Right to love right doctrine and wrong people at the same time. It is so easy to fall off the horse on both sides. You start to compromise on doctrine, because you just you know, you want to be nice to people, it’s very different from loving them. Of course, you want to be nice to people, or readers go charging into conflict because you’re so passionate about doctrine that you don’t care about persuading people to believe right doctrine any longer. It’s interesting, Jim Davis and Michael Graham in their book on D church. And they they talk about churches that do this, they get so passionate about doctrine. They leave people behind as one of the reasons that so many in the younger generation, especially have left the church, and they talk about it in terms of revelation to listen, they say when a church has more zeal for right doctrine than for showing people Jesus it has lost its first love. walls go up and no longer sees itself as sent into the world but focuses only on protecting itself and its doctrine from a hostile world that wants to snatch them up. And their kids especially like so we need to get this balance, right. And can I say, as your pastor, I think you do this so well, here at Cityview. Collectively, I’m sure every one of us are is on one side or the other of this divide. But collectively, I mean, you think for 115 years, this church has held to the truth unwaveringly, even during some difficult periods, like in the 1940s, when the denomination split because people compromise on truth. And this church is one of the founding churches, and the new denomination that came about clinging to truth, clinging to right doctrine was now venture church network, of course, and yet at the same time, at least now, I don’t know the church back then. But now, this is a church that loves people. So I hear two things from people who are new to this church over and over and over again, you come to any tour of the city, I guarantee you hear these two things. You love that this is a church that teaches the Bible. And this is such a warm and welcoming community. That’s it. Isn’t that what we want to be known for that right there. So my message to you guys, let’s
keep on. Let’s keep on doing this and we keep on because it is serious stuff. Notice that Jesus says in verse five, if they don’t repent, the Jesus will remove the lampstand probably talking about the Second Coming here that Jesus would when it comes again, basically refused to acknowledge them as a church, that sort of mean to take the lampstand away and and so they would have proved that they are not really Christian. In other words, because they’ve lost their love for God and love for neighbor. That’s a strong warning, but it is a strong warning because Jesus hopes for better you know, the warning is they’ll get you back on track. And so he follows the warning up with the promise and let’s close with that. This is the cheer section verses seven. And what is that last reminder is to listen and live. If you listen, you will live. That’s the promise to seven, Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God. Note, first of all this is meant to be read aloud in the churches. It does not say whoever has eyes to read, but Whoever has ears to hear. And this is one reason the reason we gather publicly as the body of Christ is so that we can read Scripture aloud together. That’s why we read passages here. I was thinking back as I was meditating on this passage this week and thinking, we’ve done some long books he here, and we have read every word of Genesis aloud, or every word of First Samuel aloud. Why? Because there’s something so powerful about the public reading of Scripture is why we do it in community groups, as well. Note also it says, what the Spirit says to the churches, which is so interesting, because Jesus is talking here. So I won’t get into all that cuz we just did this series, but you can see they are distinguishable, but inseparable, Jesus and the spirit, but it’s also what the Spirit has to say to the churches. It does not say listen to what the Spirit has to say, to the church emphasis what he’s saying to you guys, he’s saying, listen to all of it, as we certainly should, too. But what happens when we hear when we listen in the sense of heed, obey, which is you know, often the word listen or hear means obey. And Hebrew thought, what happens when we listen, God strengthens us to overcome. Perseverance is the main theme in the book of Revelation. We’re gonna see that in January, we’re gonna do the rest of Revelation. So we’re heading this direction. Okay. But that’s it. That’s the whole theme, right? There is perseverance. And so what happens to the one who endures is faithful even in the midst of persecution and is victorious? What happens is our victory is the same as Christ’s victory. First, John five, verses four and five. Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world. Even our faith, that’s so interesting. I would think the resurrection is the victory that overcomes the world right now. It’s our faith. But that also means that nothing we do our victory is not our fight, but our faith. It’s our trust in something that Jesus did. Who is it that overcomes the world, only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, we overcome because Christ overcame, and we are in Christ. But then think for a moment, how did Christ overcome sin and death, the powers of darkness in dying, are we seeing it here right across meant to kill is my victory. That’s a strange paradox. Revelation talks about this to Revelation 1211. John describes, you know, a vision of the the martyrs who are gathered around the throne worshiping the Lamb who was slain that says that they overcome by the blood of the Lamb. So again, the lambs shed blood and by the word of their testimony, which doesn’t necessarily mean they died, except that it goes on to say they didn’t love their lives so much as to shrink from death. We overcome and dying, also, dying to self certainly, but maybe even dying, physically, Georgia and lead, one of the foremost commentators on Revelation in history says the Conqueror is the victim of persecution, whose death is not lost, but is in reality, his victory. And death is indeed victory. We see here, because then you get to eat from the Tree of Life, which planted in the paradise of God. This is a vision of our heavenly glory. Now, I mentioned to all the description of Jesus that we get in that first section Christ is taken from chapter one, all of the promises that we get in the cheer sections are taken from Revelation 21 and 22. The end of the story, this is how the world and and so what is happening, John is Jesus, really, they’re taking this vision of the future, future reality and bringing it into the present, knowing that’s what we’re going to need if we’re going to persevere to the end. It’s like a little kid pedaling up a hill. Why is the only reason he didn’t keep pedaling is because they’re Dairy Queen at the top. That’s kind of what Jesus is doing for us here except it’s just infinitely better than Dairy Queen. And so we persevere to the end. What is the end the Tree of Life, which revelation 22 tells us is growing on either side of the river running through the New Jerusalem, bears fruit each month. In other words, it bears continuous fruit and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. And all of this is in paradise, which takes us back Back to the beginning, right Genesis one and two and we dwell with God brings an end to the devastation of Genesis three when we sin and we are exiled from the garden. And it is not a stretch to say the rest of the Bible from Genesis three on is just trying to answer the question, how do we get back to the garden? How do we get back to dwelling with God in paradise? And here is the answer. That is a promise that would sustain us in love and to love even in Seoul testing trials, like persecution, and conflict. So what’s the key? Like, what’s the takeaway? What is it that we really want to remember so that we do this? Well, we already heard the word really we just got to remember to remember. So there’s your main idea as we close. Remember your first love. Remember the love you had at first, remind yourself of God’s love for you. That’s the truth, and then let it move you to love God and others. Well, let’s pray that that would be true.Amen.

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