It was a solid church. The members were faithful, patient, discerning, and very careful to search the scriptures. They had persevered in the face of evil and persecution. They were hard workers for the kingdom of God, and did not grow weary in well doing. They were active. In fact, they even displayed a righteous and holy hatred for a group of so-called believers who believed they had special freedoms to engage in immorality and idolatry. In other words, they were dedicated to biblical principles and upheld righteousness, holiness and purity. However, in all of their dedication to the kingdom; to holiness, righteousness and the principles of the Word of God, they left out one thing:
To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. Revelation 2:1-5
God feels so strongly about this that He even tells the church of Ephesus that if they fail in the following three areas He will literally remove their lampstand.
The three things He commanded them to do were:
1. Confess that they were a fallen church
2. Repent of their lack of love
3. Go back and repeat their first works again (exhibit the zeal they once had, but lost when they grew religious in their duties)
What did the lampstand represent?
Their light in a dark world. The presence and anointing of God; without which they would cease to be effective at all or relevant to the people they were ministering to.
This is a great danger for any church. Especially for churches that are extremely dedicated to evangelism and discipleship. They have great vision, strong dedication, a passion to reach the lost, and a burning desire to carry the gospel to world. However, in all of their dedication and hard work, they fail to stoke the fires of their own hearts; they become so busy doing the work of the ministry that they fail to allow the Holy Spirit to keep the fire of love burning in their hearts. After a while they burn out, but their dedication to the ministry prevents them from giving up, so they continue to labor out of religious duty and not love or zeal for the Lord.
And this is exactly the place where enemy wants the church of God to be for 3 reasons.
- Religious duty is void of the power of God.
If we truly want to be effective ministers, we have to have the power of God moving in our hearts. If we do not have the power of God fueling our ministry, then we can accurately say that we are ministering in our own strength.
We cannot minister in might nor power, but only by the Spirit! Furthermore, if the Lord is not building the house (anointing our ministry) then we are laboring in vain.
- Ministry without love is useless.
We have looked extensively at the fact that all we do for the Lord and our relationship with the body must flow from the fountain of love. If it doesn’t, all we do for the Lord is useless, irritating, and amounts to nothing.
God is love and so if we are not operating and ministering in love, and if our ministry is motivated by anything other than love, then we are ministering out of useless religiosity.
- Religious service void of the love of God will not be blessed.
God’s message to the church of Ephesus was clear: confess your fallen state, repent, and return to your former zeal – return to your first love – or your light will be snuffed out and your ministry rendered ineffective.
If we want to be a blessed and effective church we must have the love of God at the center of all we do. If we are not motivated by love, we may continue to do the work of ministry, but it will not be blessed by Him, it will not be effective for His kingdom, and we will fail to bring His light to bear in a darkened world.
Have you forsaken your first love? Has your labor for Him become a religious duty? Have you lost your zeal for the Lord?
Take heart! There is a way back to your First Love.
Take some time over the next month to fast and pray. Set aside blocks of time where you can rise early or stay up late so you can spend time in the presence of Jehovah allowing Him to stoke the fires of your heart!
Read the Bible for you – not for ministry. All the Lord to speak to you, rather than only through you. And ask the Holy Spirit to refresh and fill you once again.
Then purpose to continue doing this on a daily basis.
In order to minister we must be ministered to. We must allow the Holy Spirit to regularly keep us fueled with His love, which happens only in His presence; in the Holy Place where He dwells and where He wants us to dwell with Him.
When we continually dwell in that secret place – that holy place – we can be sure that all we do and say will be saturated with His love and our service for Him will be fueled by a fervent holy zeal for His kingdom!
And our ministry will flow from the fountain of First Love!
– an excerpt from my book 14 Days of Agape
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