Monday, July 11, 2011
THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS: THE 'SUCCESSFUL' CHURCH
Reverend Johnny leaned back on the revolving chair in his church office and grinned. Delighted to have finished the latest one year plan for next year although it was only July, he whispered a soft, “Thank you, Lord.” He felt a vibration from his side pocket that held his one of the two hand phones. He glanced and saw several missed calls from home. Delighted that he had a fantastic meeting with a large committee for a big conference coming up entitled “Either you build or you will be torn!” he called home reluctantly, slightly agitated by the disruption of his time spent in the glow of success.
“Hi Honey! Still haven’t slept yet?” Johnny said softly. “I have been calling you. Our son is not feeling well and I need you back. Anyway it is okay as I had taken him to clinic already. I am tired. I need to go,” Irene, his wife, answered. He could hear the frustration in her voice. “Okay. Should be back real soon,” he chipped. Johnny felt that a little sacrifice from the family should be alright for the work of the ministry. “God would bless my family as I serve Him,” he would often think.
He closed his eyes and began to journey back his many years of serving God. In the stillness of his office, he reminisced how he had success after success in handling the work for the Almighty. He often preached about the fear of God in not serving Him. Out of the many subjects he preached, his favourite theme was, “Either shape up or ship out!” For Reverend Johnny, there were no two ways about it. Always the either or! Through the years, the church had been filled with activities of either or!
He too had many share of oppositions and difficulties in the church as a pastor. He remembered how he had to excommunicate some false apostles who were out to cause dissension. Those were friends and it was a hard decision. He reasoned that the church belonged to God and every life must not be wasted with infighting! Every church member must be seriously living for God!
Then he thought about a group that called itself, the Nicolaitans. They did not believe in living for Jesus. Having the spirit believed would be enough to attain salvation. Johnny hated their idea of “You can then sin up a storm!” He had to dissolve two house groups and kicked out few leaders from the church. He gave them the ultimatum, “Either you change or you leave!” All those incidences had toughened him quite a bit.
Over the years, due to busyness of the ministry and the increase of activities in the church, he became disinterested in counselling problems with either leaders or members. “I think everyone should know how to live for Jesus and serving God by themselves,” he often thought to himself.
As he began to lift himself up from the ‘success’ chair, he saw a white bright light shone directly at him. A figure looked like an angel stood beside him and he quickly knelt down, waiting to receive a message from the throne room of God.
A strong voice spoke,
“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”*
Reverend Johnny almost could hear Jesus said, “Either you shine with love or you shine not at all”
Fear of God rushed into his every vein. Tears began to flow like something in him had turned the tap on. He couldn’t remember when the last time he cried like this. The message directly from heaven had softened his insensitive heart towards intimacy with God and His love. When he was able to calm himself down, his next thoughts were his wife and his children. He rushed home, driving and saying “God, I am sorry” incessantly. For the last couple of years, he had often come home finding his family asleep. He intended to make it right this time. He got home and found a note on the dining table. When he read it, he slumped onto the sofa, covering his face with his palms. The wife and children had left him. That night was the last straw for Irene.
*The verses above are taken from Revelation 2:1-7.
As we inch closer to the coming of the Lord Jesus to take control of this broken world, we must be prepared to live righteously before Him so that when He does appear, we will not be ashamed. PS Bible Ministry takes a fresh look at the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. They reveal to us many aspects of today's churches. Here, the Jesus we are so accustomed to as the loving Saviour now speaks as Christ the Judge. He speaks not only to the churches as a whole but also to everyone of us in every generation, how we ought to be watchful so that we will not turn away from God, thus escaping the wrath of Him that will come upon the sons of disobedience.
In the time of the apostle John, whom the visions and words of the book of Revelation were revealed, the churches mentioned were real, functioning churches in Asia Minor, under the Roman Empire. Although all we see are ruins of these churches in modern day Turkey, churches obviously as a whole have not been obliterated, only changing and evolving with environments and times.
(Rev 1:20) The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
This verse reveals how close churches are to the heart of Jesus! A lamp does not have light in itself, it is only the instrument of giving out light, and it must receive both oil and fire before it can shine; so no Church shines on its own. It must receive all from Christ as head, or else there will be neither light nor life.
In other words, churches need to stay close to Him. In Rev. 1:13; 2:1, Jesus walks among the lampstands where He takes care of and provides for the churches! Every church and every member of its family are His heartbeat and He loves them fervently!! Not only that, Jesus wants the lampstands (churches) to shine brightly!! All Christians to be witnesses for their Saviour! And Jesus gives us power so that the churches (hence every individual) are influential in whatever they say and do, wherever they may be.
Next: CHURCH AT SMYRNA: THE SUFFERING CHURCH