The month of August entails doing staff evaluations, a.k.a., reviews. These processes are always helpful but not always easy. You see, the tendency for some to walk in with an overconfidence because we in our pride believe that what we do is pleasing to God (of course) and no dings could possibly exist. This is the problem of blind spots. Reviews, if done fairly, will expose those blind spots and will serve as a great corrective for a better course ahead.
Christ comes in and reviews each church, telling them what they do well, but mainly exposing the blind spots. They did three things well:
The first thing we see is their toil, almost to the point of exhaustion. They were busy with church life. Sam Storms rightly says, “It no doubt had all the programs and activities we normally associate with a church that is spiritual and passionate. They were truly diligent and conscientious.”
The second is their patient endurance, that is, their perseverance. Regardless how their society went, especially when the Temple of Diana was so prominent, they stayed faithful.
Lastly, and best of all, they did well in holding to truth. In verse 2, they did well by not bearing “with those who do evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” In verse 6, Christ commends them for not holding to the works of the Nicolaitans, “which I also hate.” Who are these Nicolaitans? We do not know, but we do know that when Jesus addresses the church in Pergamum, they are connected with both idolatry and adultery, meaning that whatever they were teaching led to this. And Jesus hated this.
Do we have what Jesus hates and love what Jesus loves? The only way to know is not to assume we know, but to read His Word prayerfully and carefully each and every day. And clearly, when it comes to various aspects of understanding truth, they have done rather well.
But this is about balance, isn’t it? Take a look at our Fighter Verse for this week: Ephesians 4:15.
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
You see, they lost their way when it comes to love of others. A.W. Tozer once said, “You can be straight as a gun barrel theologically, but as empty as one spiritually.” We see this happening with those who are believers or have been in church world a lot, our hearts love the truth but grow cold to those who do not love the truth we love. Even when the truth says to love God and love neighbor with all you have, if our neighbors don’t love those truths, then we lose our love for our neighbors. If we love the truth, we must love others who have not yet embraced the truth of Christ.
On the back of your sermon notes, you see that our commitments are to “grow in the Word” and to “love one another.” Growing in the Word means that we engage and embrace the truth of who God is, what He’s spoken, and what He has accomplished through Christ. Loving one another is connecting with others selflessly as Christ has connected with us. The Great Commandment tells us to love God with all we have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus is our first, first-love. But the balance is to love the truth He’s spoken (and thus to love the One who speaks the truth) and to love those who are fellow imagebearers.
The church at Ephesus has lost that. Have we? How can we tell?
- Are the times where we gather together simply to process the information dump that may come from our teachers, or to prayerfully process it by the Spirit to show us how to love others?
- Do we get to love the programs and ministries that the church offers for our own enjoyment and consumption, or do we love it in order to serve our neighbors and make disciples?
- Do we love religious activities, but fail to spend time with God in prayer, Scripture reading, and living for Him?
Paul told Timothy to keep watch on his life and doctrine. Is having solid doctrine a problem? Absolutely not! But that love for God (not information about God, God Himself) in Christ and all that He is which is found in Scripture must be used by the Spirit to transform our thinking.