Tuesday, November 15, 2016

To Ephesus: Return to Your First Love!

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious Disciple,

The world can be a bewildering place for you as you seek to live for Me in a culture controlled by the evil one. This environment was especially true for My disciples in Ephesus near the end of the first century. Their city was a melting pot of cultures, beliefs, and power.

At the throbbing heart of Ephesus was an evil and idolatrous practice that threatened great harm to My beloved disciples. This dangerous practice began as brazen courting of the Roman Emperor’s favor. Over time, this courting grew into a cult that worshiped the Roman emperor. Emperor Domitian insisted that he be addressed as “lord and god!” This phrase was essentially the same title Thomas had used to confess Me after My resurrection! (John 20:28)

My disciples could not honor Domitian, or any other person or image, with these words. When they went to the theater, bought meat in the market, tried to be part of a trade guild, or wanted to participate in political discourse, they could be asked to offer incense and make this confession about Domitian. They refused. They remained steadfast and faithful to Me. Domitian’s ego-stroking temple with his towering idolatrous image cast a foreboding shadow over this great city already awash in immorality, demonic magical arts, cult prostitution, greed, and slave trade. In Ephesus, along with the additional six towns I will address in other messages in the first part of Revelation, ostracism and persecution because of My disciples’ faith in Me were growing and becoming dangerous.

My precious disciples in Ephesus had been blessed by the strong leadership over the years from the apostle Paul, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, and the apostle John. They had been warned about idolatry, immorality, and false teachers. They had persevered in good “deeds” and in “tireless labor.” They had opposed false teachers and false emissaries who were not “true witnesses.” They had endured hard times “patiently” while “holding firm on behalf of My name.” They opposed false teachers known as the Nicolaitans, whose deeds they despised.

In so many ways, these Ephesian believers appeared to be exemplary disciples. However, they had lost the precious and vital central response to their faith. This loss was so great that I warned them that I would remove them from My presence if they did not correct their ways. No matter how many good deeds the Ephesian church did, no matter how many false teachers they rejected, no matter how much they faithfully endured, and no matter how tirelessly they labored, they were close to being removed as one of My churches. They had “abandoned” their “first love”! They had lost their deep and passionate love for Me, for each other, and for the lost around them. Without this love, their practices were mere religious exercises. Without this love, their zeal for the truth became little more than a self-righteous hatred of the practices around them and a self-righteousness about their differences from the people around them. My apostle, John, had tried in his letters to turn them from this loss of love (1 John 4:7-12; 2 John 1:4-6). Unfortunately, they didn’t heed his warnings. They had to hear from Me the futility of their efforts and endurance without love.

You see, dear disciple, My goal for you is a return to the paradise the Father made for you. He wants you in a loving fellowship with Him, and He wants to remove any break between you and your fellow believers. He wants you in His life of love.

I encourage you to be faithful. I urge you to resist idolatry. I want you to recognize and not follow false prophets. My will is for you to abstain from sexual immorality. I urge you to persevere in good deeds. However, don’t forget to do all of these in love. Love for me, love for each other, and love for the lost people in your world must be your motivation. As Paul said to the Ephesians many years earlier:

[B]y truth spoken in love, we are to grow in every way into Him [Me, Jesus] — the Anointed One, the head. He joins and holds together the whole body with its ligaments providing the support needed so each part works to its proper design to form a healthy, growing, and mature body that builds itself up in love.

(Ephesians 4:15-16)

Verses to Live

My precious disciple, I love you. I love My churches. I love my precious followers as you all struggle in the world often opposed to you and your values. So please hear this message to My Ephesian followers. The warning I gave them was not an idle warning. No matter how many good works you do, no matter how careful you are to teach the truth, and no matter what you endure, don’t lose your “first love”! Without love, all your actions eventually fall short of bringing My character and compassion to your world that so desperately needs both. “Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:35)

The One [Jesus]:
Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Ephesus.

“These are the words of the One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One Who walks and moves among the golden lampstands:

“I know your deeds, your tireless labor, and your patient endurance. I know you do not tolerate those who do evil. Furthermore, you have diligently tested those who claim to be emissaries, and you have found that they are not true witnesses. You have correctly found them to be false. I know you are patiently enduring and holding firm on behalf of My name. You have not become faint.

“However, I have this against you: you have abandoned your first love. Do you remember what it was like before you fell? It’s time to rethink and change your ways; go back to how you first acted. However, if you do not return, I will come quickly and personally remove your lampstand from its place. But you do have this to your credit: you despise the deeds of the Nicolaitans and how they concede to evil. I also hate what they do.

“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches. I will allow the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death to eat from the tree of life found in God’s lush paradise.”

(Revelation 2:1-7)

Response in Prayer

Almighty Father, pour Your love into My heart through the Holy Spirit. I want my love for You to overflow into every area of my life, especially the way I view and treat others who are not believers. Empower my passion to love others so that my love for them may more and more closely resemble Your love. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

from “A Year with Jesus”
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