"But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality." (Revelation 2:14, ESV).
The primary message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 is the call to love God with all our hearts. Pergamum was a church that overlooked sin and did not address it. Jesus is not OK with us overlooking sin, whether it is our own or the sin of others. Here is what he had to say in Luke, "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." (Luke 17:1–2, ESV)
Those who cause others to sin are in grave danger! But remember, Jesus is addressing the Pergamum church because she was aware of what was happening but 'turned a blind eye.' Pergamum was letting false doctrines deceive and lead people away into sin. Therefore, Jesus was bringing correction to their compromise.
Jesus loves His bride, the church! He is passionate about her and unwilling to turn a blind eye to the defilers in their midst. The church that ignores sin is not loving well
"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Revelation 2:4, ESV)
The primary message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 is the call to love God with all our hearts. At times, things stand in the way of our loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The church of Ephesus had lost its first love.
If you do not stay intentional about growing together, you will drift apart. Jesus is coming to the church of Ephesus to remind her of His love and to reveal to her that she had drifted from His love. The word used in the passage is 'abandoned' or 'left behind,' your first love.
How do you abandon your love for Jesus? There are many ways for us to leave our love for Jesus behind. Familiarity is one of the biggest destroyers of love relationships. We start taking our relationship with Jesus for granted. We forget the price He paid to have a relationship with us. We let the 'specialness' of that relationship fade away. We also leave the love of Jesus behind us when we let something else or someone else take His place. The enemy will always tempt us with things that are 'more appealing' than Jesus. A third reason is that we drift away. The problem with drifting away is that we usually do not recognize we have drifted from Him.
Let us n
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John" (Revelation 1:1, ESV)
The primary message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 is the call to Love God with all our hearts. The Book of Revelation gets its name because it is a revelation of Jesus' heart to His people. The majesty of Jesus is overwhelming to John the Apostle! He writes thirty descriptions of Jesus and twenty-two rewards which are found in the first three chapters alone.
The revelation of Jesus and revealing of the rewards to those who overcome equips the church to shine, endure, and be encouraged despite the challenges of the time. They cause the church to cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus!" As we meditate on the majesty of Jesus, like young lovers, we long to be with Him.
Jesus corrected the church of Ephesus for neglecting to love Him. Sardis had a reputation for its dedication to Jesus but had become spiritually dead. Laodicea was required to repent of their lukewarmness to Christ. Thyatira and Pergamos were also rebuked for their adulterous ways toward Christ.
Clearly, the letters to the churches of Revelation were written to them out of God's mercy, calling them to return to Jesus wholeheartedly. How tender is your heart towards Christ! Does anything stand in the way of His love?
"The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5, ESV)
Paul tells Timothy that the whole purpose of his teaching and preaching is that love would flow like a freshwater spring! Paul expects that love to flow out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. It sounds much like Jesus telling the rich young ruler to love God with all of his heart, with all of his soul, and all of his mind.
Again, love is the central theme! It is the main thing! Therefore keep your heart pure, your soul (emotions) clean, and your faith sincere, and you will minister out of a heart and life of love! Timothy, we aim to provoke you, mentor you, and disciple you into a place where when you minister, love oozes out of you; others see love in you; love is what others experience having encountered you.
Paul is after the same thing in the church, that the church would increase in love. Paul wants the church to be God's expression in the earth! We must keep a holy watch on our spirit man, doing nothing to grieve the Holy Spirit. We must not allow our emotions to become defiled. We must always express our faith in sincere ways. If we do this will be able-bodied ministers who administer God's love to others in powerful ways! This is our aim!
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34–35, ESV)
Francis Schaffer, in his book, “The Mark Of A Christian”, said, "...it is possible to be a Christian and not show the mark. But, if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.' A mark is something that others can see. A mark is also an identifier. In two verses, Jesus said three times, "Love one another."
Love towards others is to be the true mark of a Christian. You get a tattoo of a fish or cross. You can wear an 'I love Jesus' T-shirt. You can even have a 'Jesus is Lord!' bumper sticker. All of those things identify with the Christian faith, but they are not a true mark of the faith. What is the true mark of a Christian? The way we love one another is a true mark of a Christian.
You can be a Christian and not show the mark. But what good is that? We want the mark of how we love one another to be clearly visible for all to see. For others to see God, we must be Christians that love one another well. This is the whole point of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Love one another
"For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6, ESV)
If you are like me, you have heard much preaching through the years about faith. But honestly, I have heard very little preaching on faith working through love. Love expresses faith because faith is working through love. The Amplified Bible says, "...faith is activated and energized and expressed and working through love."
Love is the way faith expresses itself. So if we say we are saved, our faith will be expressed in how we love others. Love is the way that faith proves itself real! Faith is dead without love! It is love that motivates faith to action. This is why James would say, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17, ESV)
When love is absent, faith is dead. Our faith is dead without love! "We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death." (1 John 3:14, ESV) When our love is real, our faith is real. The greater our love, the greater our faith! Love moves us to take great steps of faith. Remember our Lord? He took a great step of faith to be born a man, die on the cross, and the third day be resurrected! Why? Because He loved us so much! Yes! Faith expresses itself through love!
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:8–10, ESV)
Paul said there is one thing that all believers owe other people: love. Live to stay free of any debts but the debt of love to others. Why do we owe this debt of love? It is because Christ saw our worth and loved us even when we were unloveable. Therefore we are called to love others with the same love Christ loved us.
The commandments are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Paul goes on to say, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." Paul sees love as so crucial between people that when it happens, he calls it the fulfillment of everything God taught. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
This is massive in our Christian faith! Think of what Paul is saying! Do you want to live the Word? Then love your neighbor! Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is anyone you encounter in your day who needs the love of God!
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22:36, ESV)
A wealthy young man approached Jesus one day and asked, "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" What is the most important commandment in the world? Jesus gave him two keys to the Kingdom of God. The first: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." The second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
These two commands are inseparable! You can't do one without doing the other. Can we just be amazed for a moment as we think about these two commands? If you do them both, you are keeping all of the law and the prophets! It is in keeping them that others see God's goodness and experience God's love through us.
Loving God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind is loving God with everything we have. Loving our neighbor is like the first command. We are to use the same intensity! These two commands are not suggestions that Jesus hopes we will do. They are commands that He expects us to obey. They are also easy to keep when you are filled with the love of God. You actually look for ways to love others as you encounter them. May we learn to love well, both God and others.
"Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8, ESV)
God is love! A thought we take for granted until somehow reminded of the immensity of that statement. God is love, and everything that flows out of Him or comes from Him comes out of His love, for He is love. Love is not God. God is love! Think of all the words you might use to describe God. He is kind, beautiful in holiness, protector, provider, keeper, joyful, steadfast, giver, helper, faithful, and more! Yet all of these things come out of His love!
John, the Apostle, understood the love of God. Paul, the Apostle, understood the love of God. Both Paul and John wrote much about the love of God in their letters, encouraging us, the Saints, to abound in His love. Paul said it this way, "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment" (Philippians 1:9, ESV). The word abound means “over-abundant”, “excess”.
We are to abound in God's love so that everyone who encounters us encounters the overflow of God in us. To Paul, love affects everything Kingdom! Evangelism, pastoral care, missions, marriage, workplace relationships, and relationships with people you often share conflict with. Wherever you encounter people, people are to encounter the love of God in you.
To understand God's love, we must get to know God more. God is love! May you genuinely become over-abundant and excessive in His love. Overflow!
...The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him..." (Ezra 8:22, ESV)
What does it mean to have the hand of God upon you? Ezra uses this expression several times, and each time it is good. In Ezra 7:6, the hand of God referred to God's favor on Ezra's life. In 7:9, the hand of God referred to safety and protection. In 7:28, Ezra took courage because the hand of God was upon him. In 7:18, Ezra was given a team member of profound understanding because God's 'good' hand was on them. In 7:22, Ezra rejoices because he knows God's hand is upon them and that all things are possible if they trust Him.
God's invisible and intangible hand is also upon us who believe and seek Him. Just like Ezra, we should expect favor, safety, protection, courage, wisdom, and joy—all because we know His hand is upon us too! Like Moses, God hides us in the cleft of the Rock and covers us with His hand. Take time to think of moments throughout your life when you know God's hand has been upon you. Give Him praise! Thank Him!
I feel like all of my life has been lived with the hand of the Lord upon me, even when I was not a follower of Jesus. It is hard to explain, but I know I have had the favor of the Lord upon me for a long time. "...The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him..." (Ezra 8:22, ESV)
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