October 20, 2008

Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

There are so many lessons to be found in the words that Jesus spoke to the seven churches in Asia that several posts would be required to even scratch the surface. Of the seven, only two, Smyrna and Philadelphia, were not in need of serious rebuke due to contrary goings on in their midst. The saints in Pergamos had allowed in those who embraced doctrines of Baalam along with that of the Nicolatians. The church of Thyatira had a lady who professed to be a prophetess but was seducing the saints to commit fornication. Sardis had a reputation of being alive but was at the point of death. Laodicea was in a lukewarm state as wealth and comfort had lulled them into a fleshy “going through the motions” form of christianity.

As I was typing the above passage, something occurred to me. As each church was addressed, Jesus comments on their strengths before revealing the areas which require repentance and restoration. This is always followed up with instruction on how to correct the problem, and what will happen if the situation is permitted to continue. As for sardis and Laodicea, there was no initial acknowledgment of strong points. They were both ready to die and had the Lord not intervened as he did, one can only imagine what may have become of these churches. All of the shortcomings mentioned above were things that should be easily recognized as contrary by anyone with scriptural understanding and discernment. One church, however, had a situation that was all but invisible. To anyone visiting the church at Ephesus, the initial impression would be that of a group of saints who were zealous for the deep things of God. They were firmly grounded in scripture, labored tirelessly and appeared to be very discerning

Revelation 2:2-3 “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my names sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.”

A church that was serious for the things of God above many of their contemporaries. Whenever we find saints who simply “love Jesus;” whose conversation is in heaven, and are focused upon the eternal, it’s special. They are spiritually minded and not consumed with the plethura of storylines that dominate headlines and water cooler chatter. Issues that seem urgent, but are merely a snapshot of a very temporal condition in a very temporal world.  The Ephesians were a body of saints who were focused on the things of God and were diligent in service. But something happened along the journey; a thing that’s all too common and has been the undoing of nearly every revival and movement. Their heart went from serving the Lord Jesus to serving the organization. They still looked the samed, sounded the same and acted the same, but their focus was now on the “doings.”

Revelation 2:4-5 “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

This problem was so serious that the Ephesians were in danger of their candlestick being removed; and yet on the surface nothing seemed out of place. I remember reading Frank Bartlemans account of the Azuza street revival in 1906. Prior to this revival, a similar one was taking place in Wales and he wrote extensively about it. Both revivals, he stated had the same demise. In time, people began to make decisions and become organized; thereby quenching the Spirit. It seems that in every movement of God; people unwittingly decide to plan things out until, finally, an organization is born. Today, in 2008, we see a landscape saturated with full gospel churches, but most of them seem to be operating in a very scripted fashion. Somehow, I simply cannot believe that when we gather with the saints, the Lord is done working in our midst at the exact same time each week. Nor can I buy into the idea that the Lord wants me to have a seven bedroom house, four cars, two boats, and a time share in Orlando while our homeless shelters are overflowing and souls from our community are entering eternity every day.

I fear that, while all of us daily profess our love for Jesus who redeemed us from everlasting death, a number of us, over time, begin to serve the organization. This morning, our youth pastor commented on the zeal for the Lord Jesus that our youth have while many who have been saved for years have become “stuck in a rut.” (Our church has a very small, but “very serious” group of teens.) The shift is ever so subtle that we cross the line without ever realizing it and in time, it can manifest in our conversation. One night, in a church where I fellowshipped a few years ago, a particular evening service was awesome like words cannot express. In the midst of it, the pastor unwittingly made the comment “Aren’t you glad you’re [insert denomination] tonight?” With a single phrase, the focus shifted from “look to Jesus” to “look at us.” Tragically, nobody seemed to notice; although many may have. This pastor loves the Lord Jesus and would never intentionally work contrary, which shows just how easy it is to become refocused.

This post is a very poor and scatterbrained attempt to address a very widespread problem; that of leaving our first love for religion. Anyone who has a chance to read “Secret believers” by brother Andrew is in for an incredible telling of people in a muslim country coming to Jesus under the most astonishing of circumstances. As the book progresses, a bible training center is established where new christians are trained up and sent out. The moment comes when the entire work is shut down suddenly by a series of events; set in motion by the islamic leadership and sanctioned by the government. One of the early converts, Ahmed, escapes to Cyprus and, in a phone conversation to Brother Andrew, laments at how the entire work in his country has been ruined. He was “focusing on the work” instead of Jesus. Brother Andrew begins to remind Ahmed of all the souls that came to Jesus during that season and how the word of God had reached the ears of so many. “The work” he stated, “wasn’t ruined at all. It was simply finished.”

Well, it’s time to go for now. We’re in very strange times and in the days ahead, may see things shaken that we once thought to be unshakable. Anything not founded upon Jesus, the solid Rock, will fail. I pray that all of us will do a thorough self-examination to ensure that our heart is focused firmly upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Because, as the song reminds us, “all other ground is sinking sand.”

I wish to all a blessed day in Jesus.



  1. I believe that the Lord is calling His people out of man’s religious systems, even the ones that use His Name as a stamp of ‘authenticity’. That call is more audible by the hour.

  2. Timbob,
    This is a well timed reminder to the church to remember from Whom we came.
    We’re not of a stream, we’re of Jesus Christ. That’s what Brother Andrew preached too. It was difficult enough to find ways to disciple new believers in Muslim countries without having to teach them now to be a particular brand of Christian.
    And it looks like to me that things are already being shaken. I pray that most will see it.
    God bless,

  3. Good evening Bro Johnny. This will sound really nutty, but when I see much of what takes place in many churches today, I’m reminded of a scene from a movie that I saw some time ago. This girl is reading aloud her list of things to do on the day at hand when she comes to the forth item. She reads “Number 4-try something spontaneous.” (I got a chuckle out of this) Many seem completely dependant upon physical stimulation and scripting that creates more of a show than sincere worship. NOT in every case, of course, but in more than a few venues.

    Thanks for droppiong by. It’s aleways great to hear from you.

  4. Good evening Bro jeraldd. The book was fascinating and proves that God is doing a short work upon the earth. I think that most of us view muslim countries as being all but closed off, but with God all things are possible. In fact, reading the book kind of reminded me of the trials facing the early churches. They were all in hostile territory at the beginning of their establishment.

    Thanks again for stopping in. I really like your blog and your title is one of the best that I’ve seen. Have a blessed evening in Jesus.

    have a blessed evening in Jesus

  5. I know you’ve read “Between 2 Fires” about Palestinian Christians and “Lilies Amongst Thorns” about the Chinese church.
    If you haven’t read them yet be sure to have a box of tissues handy when you do. And I thought Brother Yun’s story was incredible.
    I think that both of these books should be read by every church leader in America. It might help to spur them to start teaching the truth.

  6. Yes, it is so easy to lose focus, to take our eyes off Jesus and onto an organisation. Well, doesn’t matter what idol, we all tend to idolatory (including ‘non denominationalism’ or ‘out of church’ folk!)



  7. Hi Peter. Always great to hear from you. Indeed a person can become religious whether they are in an organization or just on their own somewhere. Likewise a person can be in an organization and yet have a close intimate relationship with Jesus. It’s a condition of the heart that’s all but invisible from the natural. As you allude to, it’s something that we all must watch for diligently.

    Thanks for stopping by. have a blessed day in Jesus.

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