First Love
Thursday, March 11, 2010

 

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according  to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  (Eph. 3:20-21)

                The Bible gives us three pictures of the Church at Ephesus.  The first picture comes as Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested and shipped off to Rome (over a period of time).  The second picture comes as Paul writes them from the Roman prison cell.  And the final picture comes some 30 years later from the mouth of our Lord to the Apostle John in exile on Patmos.  Each picture is descriptive of cycles in the modern American church.  Let’s look at those this morning.

                The first real picture of the Ephesian Church comes as Paul is on his final journey into Jerusalem.  Actually, this is the second encounter in Acts, but the first glimpse of the church after it has been established.  It is a tearful encounter, founded in the deep love and respect that can only be felt between a founding pastor and his congregation.  Everyone knew, including Paul, that this would be his last journey.  There were tears and pleadings and even admonitions of what the Holy Spirit had warned if Paul were to go into Jerusalem.  However, Paul was determined to fulfill his destiny there even though he knew it meant prison and death.  There is a captivating scene where Paul is preaching to the Elders, warning them of attempts by Satan to root its way in and destroy the body.  And this admonition was greeting with great love, and they were grieved that Paul told them he would never see them again.

                The second picture of the Church comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as he is sitting in the Roman prison.  He was delighted that they were courageously fulfilling the prophecy he had left them on that final encounter.  He rejoiced when he wrote, “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you.”  Obviously they had taken Paul’s message to heart and were faithfully serving the Lord and each other.

                The third and final picture comes in the Book of Revelation, which was written about 30 years later.  This time it is a different church.  It had become a church of works.  They did good deeds, they still worked hard and did not tolerate evil people in their midst.  They had even taken Paul’s advice and kept false prophets out of the church.  And here is the surprising part, they were still being persecuted and enduring it.  That is surprising because the next line is one of the saddest lines in Church history.  Jesus said to them, “You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the heights from which you have fallen.”  They were enduring persecution, but they had forgotten why.

                There is a cycle here that must be in the forefront of every church leaders mind -- first, dedication to the founding principles, second, obedience to those principles, and finally, forgetting why those principles were there in the first place.  As I look over the landscape of America, I see many church houses (sadly some are being converted to funeral homes and restaurants) from small rural churches to large city mega-churches.  You would think from all the buildings which adorn themselves with the cross of Christ, that Jesus would reign powerfully over our land.  But He does not.  He has been relegated to the margins of peoples’ lives; He is not allowed in our schools or public places; and maybe worst of all He is not allowed in many of our church houses.

                The church still does some good in our land.  They feed and care for people; they tend to the hurting and those in despair; and they even promote a general goodness in the land.  But clearly, the Church of America has forgotten our first love.  We have allowed ourselves to fall from the heights of glory which was present as our forefathers fought for freedom to worship Him and freedom to make Him an integral part of life in this land.  History is being now revised to eliminate His role in our foundations and we sit idly by and do not even enter the debate.  I did see a United Church of Christ pastor on the morning news, chastising the Texas School Board for even entertaining the idea of putting the impact of Christ in our textbooks.  How far have we fallen?

                I hunger for the church of early Ephesus who clearly understood that God was able to do immeasurably more than all they could ever ask or imagine and that also understands that His purpose is to do that through the Church.  But if we attempt to do great things for God, without God, we can be assured we will fall from the great heights and our church house will become just another funeral home or restaurant.  Wherever you worship on Sunday, as for you, remember your first love.


Kingdom Road Ministries
PO Box 503
10 South Main, Suite 201
Victor, ID 83455
903-262-5088
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