A man bought a new hunting dog. Eager to see how it would perform, he took it out one day hoping to track down big game. No sooner had they gone into the woods when the animal picked up the trail of a bear, with the hunter following close behind. Suddenly, the dog stopped, sniffed the ground and headed in a different direction. He had caught the smell of a deer that had crossed the path of the bear. A few moments later, he halted again. This time he was captivated by the scent of a rabbit that had crossed the path of the deer. And so, on and on it went until finally the breathless hunter caught up with his dog—only to find him barking triumphantly down the hole of a field mouse.
Many new followers of Jesus start with the determination to keep the Saviour first in their lives. Sadly, their full attention is diverted, sooner or later, to things of much lesser importance.
The Apostle John had been banished to the Island of Patmos by the Roman emperor Domitian when he wrote the Book of Revelation. John recorded letters to seven churches from the largest Roman province, Asia, in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. John had lived there for many years and was well known to the churches of this area.
Though suffering terribly during the first century B.C. civil wars, Ephesus enjoyed great prosperity under Rome during the first and second centuries A.D. with about a half-million residents. The Apostle Paul spent a long time in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.
Would you please take a couple of minutes to read the Lord’s message to the church in Ephesus from Revelation 2:1-7?
Jesus says, “This you have done well.”
Paul had travelled to Ephesus and found some followers of Jesus. Paul stayed on to teach these people the Word of God for three years after they received the Holy Spirit. Just before Paul was arrested and taken to Rome for eventual execution, he warned the leaders that false teachers would come in and try to destroy the church (Acts 20:29).
The church in Ephesus had done well over the 40 years since Paul had been with them—by doing a lot of good works, by persevering through time and hardship and by providing good teaching. The Lord applauded the Ephesian believers for all of these excellent characteristics.
The Lord is always careful to affirm His people for what we do right. I am so glad for the Lord’s encouragement!
Jesus says, “This you lack.”
God loves us enough to accept us just the way we are; and He loves us enough to call us to change and grow.
When we read Revelation chapter 2 we ask, “What were the Ephesians doing that was so wrong? Why would the Lord call them to repent and to ask Him to forgive them for their sin?”
As commendable as all of these characteristics of the Ephesian church were, they had forgotten this principle: Good works have their place but should flow out of an intimate love relationship with the Lord.
What was at stake if the church in Ephesus refused to repent? The Lord warned that He would remove their candlestick from the lampstand. He was saying that the church there would cease to exist. The church at Ephesus did not repent, so it died; and there was not a single follower of Christ in Ephesus for ages.
Peter Gillquist commented on the need for renewal in the church in America (in Faith & Renewal, July/August 1992):
“Of course, of the seven churches discussed in Revelation, five needed renewal; and that was only 60 years into church history! So this problem is nothing new.”
A garden left unattended will accumulate weeds and yield a smaller harvest. A marriage left unattended will grow less passionate. A soul left unattended will drift away from God without time, energy and adjustments. Are we giving attention to this relationship?
Jesus says, “This you can have.”
Did you know that you could have a taste of paradise beginning here and now? The Lord plans to restore what we spoiled: the beauty of His creation, the innocence of sinlessness and the fulfillment of intimacy. If we continue walking with the Lord through the rest of our days, He will unveil His paradise when we meet Him face to face.
Life sure gets busy. It is tempting to neglect relationships with all of the demands and options we face.
Use this checklist to monitor your heart’s condition:
• What gets you most excited?
• Is your faith based on being with God or doing things for God?
• How are you going to feed your relationship with the Lord?
Jesus explained, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible lead us closer to Jesus. Let’s return to our first love by immersing ourselves in the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. Let’s make sure that our relationship with Jesus is the top priority.