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Love lost can lead to spiritual bankruptcy

BY PASTOR BRANDON YOUNG
This past Sunday at Harmony, we began a sermon series on the seven churches of Asia. I started with the first church of Ephesus and its inadequacies. We can learn a great deal from these churches. According to Christianity.com, “the Book of Revelation addresses seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) (Revelation 2-3). Each letter, as proclaimed by Jesus and recorded by John the Apostle, declares the triumphs and failings of the recipient churches and warns each congregation to repent. The advice in these letters is prophetic, forewarning present-day Christian communities of the snares that can lure us away from our faith.” It is very important that we take the lessons learned and apply them to our modern-day church. Let’s take a closer look at the church of Ephesus and its inner workings.
Christianity.com says, “Ephesus was the prominent commercial and cultural center of Asia. Christ’s letter to the Ephesian church praises the congregation for its “deeds…hard work…and perseverance,” and for its rejection of false apostles (Revelation 2:2-3). Ephesus was the fourth largest city of the Roman empire in the first century. A thriving commercial center and port city. Ephesus was also the home of a temple to the goddess Artemis. The amphitheater in Ephesus, which could hold up to 25,000 people, and was the venue of the angry riot against Christians in Acts 19. Despite its hard work and doctrinal integrity, Christ faults the community for having “forsaken the love [they] had at first” (Revelation 2:4). This “forsaken love” can mean that the Ephesians had become less devoted to Christ or that the work they did was no longer motivated by love for one another. The letter to the Ephesian church does offer the community hope if they repent and rekindle their love for Christian living (Revelation 2:5-7).”
When I have studied this church in the past, I have focused solely on the fact they had stopped loving God, but I did not see the complete picture. Yes, they continued to go through the motions and do the right things, but their motives were all wrong. Once their vertical love had waned for God, their horizontal love for each other was also gone. This lack of love had caused God to notice and give a major warning to this church.
The Lord proclaimed that cure for the Church of Ephesus was threefold: remembrance, repentance, and a renewed commitment to Christ and others. Without these three, Christ stated that he would remove the candlestick from the church. The candlestick represents the Spirit of God and the testimony of the church within the community. The loss of its power and testimony is directly related to the loss of brotherly love. Wow, that is something to think about for sure. When the church stops loving, it becomes irrelevant to the world around it!
Love for one another was not only commanded by our Lord, it was to be an essential element of their witness to the lost. Jesus said this in John 13:34-25, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The love of the saints for one another is a powerful witness to the presence and power of Christ. When this is lacking, our witness is hindered. We must examine our lives to determine if we have stopped loving God and others. It is easy to proclaim our love to God and others but showing that love is a different story. Here are just a few symptoms of leaving our first love.
1. You delight in someone or something else more than you delight in the Lord.
2. Your soul does not long for times of rich fellowship in God’s Word or prayer.
3. Your thoughts in leisure moments do not honor the Lord.
4. You make excuses for and justify doing things that displease the Lord, claiming to be “only human.”
5. You do not willingly and cheerfully give to God’s work or to the needs of others.
6. You cease to treat others as the Lord would treat them.
7. You view Christ’s commands as restrictions to your happiness rather than expressions of His love and security for you.
8. You have broken relationships with other believers that you are unwilling or have not attempted to reconcile.
9. You are self-righteous — more concerned about sin in others’ lives than in your own.
10. You find yourself becoming resentful over the hardships and demands of serving Christ and others.
I would like to close with Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “ If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”
On this Valentine’s Day, let us choose to really love by sacrificing our wants and desires for those of others. Love is more than a warm fuzzy emotion. Real love is an action that requires our commitment, and let me remind us all: Real love is never easy, but it is always rewarding!
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church and his associate, David Odom.)