These Things Saith He – Overcoming Ephesus

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).

What is it that Ephesus must overcome if they are to avoid having their candlestick removed out of its place? What is their call to repentance?

Jesus says,

Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

The first love of a Christian is Jesus Christ Himself. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation on which we stand. However, this is a gospel of the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ by which we have the forgiveness of sins and a promise of life from the dead.

This is not a gospel of hunting down our neighbors and executing swift judgment upon them. This is not a gospel of having the correct teachings according to the letter of the law yet neglecting the larger commandments of Jesus in Spirit that focus on love towards God and towards our neighbors.

It is by grace that we all stand, and if the grace of God is for us, who can be against us? Why do we judge one another who stand by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?

Many judgments within the household of the faith concern secondary or tertiary issues of which many within the faith disagree. With these judgments, we begin to excuse and condemn one another. We begin to consider ourselves to be more righteous than another—forgetting that the righteousness we hold is not of our own works, but of the works of Jesus and the perfect life He sacrificed for us.

There is a time for taking a stand against corruption within the Christian faith. However, this must be done with diligence and great care to ensure that the judgments we make are just and needful lest we find ourselves falling under the weight of our own judgments.

If we want gracious judgment, we must give gracious judgment.

This begins by learning to weigh what matters most for us as Christians.

What teachings are indeed necessary for salvation? It is not difficult to connect any teaching we like to the issue of salvation, but if we seek the Spirit to help, He will show us how to remove our biases so that we can judge rightly—not according to the corruptions of our spirit—but according to the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit.

When all else fails, we can fall back on Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Of course, much is built upon this, and as Paul the apostle instructs, we must “take heed what you build,” and what are we building if not Christ-like Christians? We might have some debate about what it means to be Christ-like, but to a large degree we should be of one mind and one spirit by the unity of the Holy Spirit.

However, when dealing with our brethren—and we must remember that they are brethren of whom Jesus upholds and walks among—taking the most humble and gracious position will not be frowned upon by our Lord.

He would rather that we stand up for what we believe is true, with a willingness to agree to disagree on secondary and tertiary issues, than for us to fuel accusation, slander, division, and strife among His house.

We must have faith, knowing that if the grace of God is for us, then He will work all knowledge in us and our brethren according to His perfect timing and methods by the Spirit of God in us. We do not have to force the matter.

In humility, we can accept that none of us knows all truth as we aught to know it, and one day we will. We can accept that every Christian will give an account of themselves to Jesus, and He will set all things right. In so doing, it is likely that all of us will marvel at His judgments, fall on our faces before Him, and thank Him for how incredibly patient, gracious, and merciful He is with us all.

This idea applies to more than the household of the faith. However, judgement begins from within and thereby we can have the right heart as we go out into the world, doing the work of our Lord and not the works of this world.

To that end, we have things to overcome as well.

When dealing with contentious issues, we need to remember Who we serve first. From large-scale conflicts on the national and global sphere to daily disagreements with people in our lives, Jesus comes before our worldly disputes—and He would have us to deal with one another in a fashion that mirrors His dealings with us.

As with Ephesus, it is not wrong to test ideas, sift the good from the bad, and take a stand for what is right. However, if we are not doing so with the leading of God and His Spirit according to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, then we have “left our first love” in pursuit of another. No matter how good this other might be, it is not Jesus Christ our Lord.

How should we deal with people during disagreements? We should be quick to listen and slow to speak, quick to mercy and slow to wrath, humble in our own righteousness and wisdom and gracious towards the goodness and intelligence of those with who we disagree.

Stand up for what is right. Rebuke evil. However, do so in love, self-control, and the goal of persuasion instead of the goal of condemning others as you exalt yourself because of how right you are. Repay no one evil for evil but do good to all and trust in God who is the Avenger. Hope in mercy.

This is a high calling, but with persistence we can learn to stand up for what is right and in the right way. We can seek the Lord to forgive us of our pride, anger, resentments, fear, envy, and all other evils of the heart and spirit that cause us to leave of first love in favor of another. Jesus knows our frame and He forgives. He can see when we value what is right according to His Spirit as we wrestle with the sins of our flesh.

However, let us not deceive ourselves.

Seek the Spirit to test our hearts, reveal things to us, and lead us to repentance by the patience of God that we all need.

Seek strength to perform that which is not natural to man. What is natural to man is to kill, steal, and destroy for the sake of what man deems to be right, good, and true. This is not the Christian way and this is not the way of the gospel: a gospel of peace and grace through faith in our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7).

From the beginning, man has killed man with their knowledge of good and evil that came from a forbidden tree. Because of this, man must die. In Jesus we have forgiveness and the promise of eternal life within a truly righteous kingdom.

We cannot build paradise using our own knowledge and strength. We cannot build paradise by joining with this world and the ways of this world that destroy all who stand in its way. We wait on our first love, Jesus Christ. He will come and He will make all things right.

However, the Wicked One comes first—and He “was and was not and yet is.” He tempts us using our pride, self-righteous indignation, resentment, fear, and impatience. When He comes in a full way, the spirit of Ephesus unrepented of leaves this church vulnerable to great deception. If we follow the spirit of Ephesus, we are already fallen away from the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ in some measure.

In Jesus, we can overcome. We can repent and return to our first love, and the good news is that if the grace of God is for us, we will.

The above is the draft version of the fourth chapter to a book I plan to write and publish in a manner that is free of charge to the public.

I wrote in These Things Saith He: Contents that I will publish the drafts here first and offer opportunity for others to share their thoughts before the final work is completed.

I’m open to and greatly value the insight, experiences, and thoughts of my Christian brethren because we are a body knit together in Christ that is meant to work together without over reliance on our leaders. I am not your leader, but I do try to be faithful to what I have received to the best of my ability, and I look to Jesus for gracious judgment of my service and the service of all who truly love Him.

PREVEIOIUS CHAPTER: These Things Saith He — Ephesus Overview

All Chapter Drafts: These Things Saith He

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