For this brief article, I would like to share with you something that has been weighing
on me for quite some time –on a private, personal and corporate/community-of-our-church
level. Now, by this admission, it would be easy to dismiss the content and implications
of my words as me just projecting my own problems, successes and worries onto the
church group – seeing what I want to see, providing myself with some perverse comfort
– however, I would beg that you bear with me and even fully set about proving what
I say to be wrong (especially in letter format, as it would add some more excitement
to further issues of the magazine!!)!
Do we truly love God? And, what’s more, do we truly love God as He deserves (Luke
10:27, Matt 22:37)? Do we have a living, breathing relationship with the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit (Matt 11:27, 1 Cor. 6:19-20)? Do we fear God (Prov. 9:10, Ps.
111:10, 2 Cor. 5:11, 1 Pet. 2:17)? It would be very easy to say a simple “yes” or
“no” to each of these questions, but I would honestly challenge you to read the passages
contextually and to REALLY work through your answers. It would be an easy way out
to surmise the answer “not enough,” then put them to the side, but, certainly, “not
enough” could be said of any Christian. It is, however, a necessary exercise to be
involved in - appropriate self-examination - to “fan the flames” of your practice,
or search, for faith (2 Tim. 1:6 – while linked, is taken out of the context). Though
speaking of trials and temptations, James 1 gives appropriate reasons to do so –
to test faith, bringing perseverance, then maturity and completion. At every stage,
then, we should compare our thoughts, beliefs, actions and reactions – like the Bereans
(Acts 17:11). A far greater exposition of this may be found in and around 2 Corinthians
13:5 – I would plead with you to spend time pondering around this particular chapter
and consider the gravity of the implications of both passing and failing the test
– not only on a private level, but also in the family and Church settings.
There is an awful lot in the Bible about the Church (that is, the true Body of believers
– the bride of Christ), with numerous references in the Old and New Testaments. Similarly,
there are very specific references to individual Churches (as in gatherings of believers)
in the New Testament – in fact, the New Testament was written and compiled for the
benefit of the Churches (not unbelievers, since it was the responsibility of the
Churches by life, word and action to evangelise – and this is by no means me brushing
off the magnificence of the Lord that He has brought salvation to non-believers through
His Word)! As the letters and epistles testify, the early Church was not perfect!
They needed guidance, they needed reproof and, as in the aforementioned 2 Corinthians
13, there are plenty of warnings to the Church groups – to keep them from falling
(especially since the Adversary “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone
he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8)).
For now, however, I would like to draw your attention to the warnings to Revelation
2 – 3, focussing specifically on Rev. 2:1-7. Please take time to truly consider the
messages to each of these Churches. Also, please bear in mind that Revelation is
a very difficult book to understand and, to be honest, I often avoid reading it as
it ties me up in knots – seeming to switch between different levels of language,
images and metaphor. Furthermore, many cults have arisen, claiming foreknowledge
relating to the “End Times” and matters of eschatology - so it is with asbestos and
Kevlar-reinforced gloves that I would, and would encourage you to, approach these
Through the former suggested self-examination and consideration of our Church, can
you see attributes shared with at least one of these Churches? The parts that truly
stand out, to me, from this segment, lie in three general areas:
1) That these Churches - no matter their grasp of theology, tradition, belief or
practice – had a fatal flaw which the Lord would hold against them, unless they repented
and put that repentance into practice.
2) That each had trials and troubles specific to them, according to the consequences
of their actions and belief.
3) That the Churches who did not take the warnings would have their candles removed
– or, more distressingly in some translations, their candles would be “snuffed out.”
Now, whether or not these describe the specific geographical Churches of the past,
present or future, or are in reference to types of Church communities is yet to be
seen, but, regardless, we should take heed of these warnings and apply them as soon
as we identify any problem within ourselves or our Churches (through appropriate
channels of course, as described by the Lord when dealing with matters of conflict:
Matt 18:15-17). The really important bit not to miss, however, is what unites the
repentant and faithful – the love, reverence, prominence and awe of Jesus (Rev 3:7-13)!
When the Lord returns (guaranteed to be when nobody expects Matt. 24:36), will our
works be found to be imperfect (Rev.3:2)? Will we distance ourselves from the Lord
to make life easier for ourselves? Even to survive (Rev 2:10)? Do we have compromised
after compromise, after compromise, tolerating things that go directly against the
Word of God, because we just can’t seem to reconcile them with what the modern world
demands (Rev 2:12-17)? Will we have created, lived in and preached a lifestyle that
promotes or tolerates the sins that grieve the Lord (Rev 2:18-29)? Worst of all (and
possibly the root from which all other problems and transgressions have sprung) -
did we stop loving the Lord (Rev. 2:4)?
Do we love God? Do we truly love God? Do we worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John
4:20-24)? And if we say we do, do we genuinely put it into practice (Mark 12:30-31,
James 2:14-26)? Do we honestly believe what the Bible says about anything?
I know I have asked many questions during the course of this article, but I would
beg forgiveness to continue asking more, and continue to ask you to this of yourself
and your Church – do you come to Church expecting to meet with the living presence
of God, to truly worship Him and celebrate His Grace upon Grace, in Spirit and Truth?
I ask you to consider this, as I ask it of myself almost every day – not through
some false modesty (though entirely possible, and I am willingly ignorant of this),
but through a genuine desire for our Church to be known as the place where the Lord
is – not just the building, but where the people gather together (Matt 18:20). I
challenge my beliefs and faith (appropriately and likely inappropriately as well,
though that is for a future discussion) and would encourage you to do the same -
as, like charity, revival begins at home. If we want our Church to grow, we must
be right with God – on a personal and corporate level. We must exercise our faith
(James 2:14-26) - we must put our faith in Him. Most importantly, we must seek His
Will and, whether or not we like it, must do what we can to walk in His Way. God
MUST always be placed first and foremost.
So, then, how do we put this into practice? How do we return to our first love (Rev.2:4)?
To follow the advice in verse 5: “Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen;
repent and do the first works...” Let us set aside time each day to be with the Lord
– time to be still and know that He is God (Ps.46), to meditate on His Word in prayer
and in Scripture, to listen for the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). Let us
again fan the flames of love for the One who set us free (Gal. 5:1, Is. 61, Luke
4:14-21), for the One who loved us before the world began (Jer. 1:5, Rom. 8:28-29).
Loving God is the most important thing we can do and set our hearts, minds and bodies
to. It will affect our thoughts, our actions, our prayers, our societies and our
outlook on life, for the better – though we may have many struggles, ultimately,
we have nothing to worry about (Matt 6:24-34)!
Originally, I had thought to end this with Matthew 4:17, but, instead, I would turn
you to what is likely the most well-known, profound and awe-inspiring piece of Scripture
in the world: John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten
Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God does not love us for any qualities in ourselves, He does not love us for what
we do or have done – God loves us, because He loves us. God so loved the world that
He sent His Son to be a substitutionary atonement sacrifice for us (Rom 3:25), so
that we could be made right with God, because Jesus was right with God, by faith
in God through Christ (Rom 5:1). In awe, fear, surrender, joy, love, humility and
blessing, let us then seek the presence and Persons of God, with all our hearts,
bodies, minds and spirits (Phil. 2:12b, Matt. 6:33, Matt. 22:37).
Let us love God. Together (1 Cor. 12).
Richard Nelmes 2011