40 blogs of Lent – Day 6
The loveless church
Messages to the churches – Day 4
Ephesus – Day 3
“‘I know your works … But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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.
All the right stuff for all the wrong reasons
It is said that you never forget your first love, it changes you forever. Even when you are apart there is someone else so important that you would do anything for them. That feeling never goes away.
Last week we had Ash Wednesday, which also fell on St Valentine’s Day, that day when you must send a card with a romantic message to the one you love, or so the card sellers tell us. Or shower them with chocolates. Or the man has to buy his love flowers.Those newly in love do not need the nudge from Hallmark, Cadbury’s or Interflora, they will instinctively pour out their love to the one they love on any given day. There is something romantic about surprises.
There is a link in scripture between the love of God, love for God and romantic love. The Song of Songs, in the Old Testament, goes beyond that in that it is also sexual in an erotic way. You can learn a lot about how to approach God by being in love, and vice versa.
It is the same in Christianity. I love seeing the enthusiasm for the Gospel of new Christians, they may lack Biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity, but their wanting to do something for God out of love for him is both wonderful and encouraging. Like a person newly in love or a parent of a newly born child, their thoughts and actions are focussed on someone else.
But things calm down. Things become routine. A romantic relationship becomes one where there are no longer surprises. We do things at certain times, maybe on pay day, the routine of spending more time in work in order to pay for things comes along, especially when there are growing children to look after. Sex becomes the same positions on the same days. Everything is still going OK. But the focus has changed.
WHEN A RELATIONSHIP BECOMES A RELIGION
It is the same .with a relationship with God. What was once focussed on God becomes routine, we pray at the same time, worship at the same time every Sunday in the same building, ad read the Bible out of habit. Now these things are all good of themselves, there is a lot to say about regularly praying, reading the Bible and worshipping with others. But the focus can shift from the love of the one worshipped on to the practise of doing things. A relationship has become a religion.
So finally I get around to the Ephesian Church addressed in the passage. They were doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons, which is OK as far as being religious in concerned, but not with God. What God wants is a relationship. A relationship with those who get things wrong is better than not having a relationship with those who get it right. He wants those who do things right.
Take Jesus’s parable of the pharisee and tax collector. The pharisee’s prayer is full of evidence that he has got religion right, but he asks for nothing – he gets nothing. The tax collector, in contrast, boasts on nothing, but asks for God’s grace. He too gets what he asks for. Of the two, the tax collector, the one who gets things wrong, is the one God justifies. (Luke 18:9-14)
So look at yourself, are you doing the things of God without regard to God. Are you strong because of what you do or because of what God can do and has done? Is it time to come back to loving God?
“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.
“‘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. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.