When We Do Right but We’re Not Right
Verse one of Revelation Chapter two makes it clear that Jesus is speaking to the angel, or the messenger (many believe to be the pastor, and I tend to agree) of the church at Ephesus. This letter was written to a specific person. It was delivered and read to the church. It was not written to a spirit being such as a holy angel from Heaven.
The seven stars we see in this verse are defined in chapter 1 verse 20 as being the angels (messengers) of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches themselves.
In verse 2, Jesus has some words of praise for this pastor. He acknowledges the hard work this pastor is doing. He acknowledged the perseverance of this person. The pastor had some very praiseworthy things to his credit.
Jesus saw fit to praise the fact that this man did not fall for every wind of doctrine—or new “move of God” by following false apostles, but rather that he tested those who claimed apostleship but in reality were not. This pastor had no problems exposing these liars.
Let me say here that I am not necessarily in agreement with the position that each of the seven churches in The Revelation parallel the church at different points in history. Profane history always validates Biblical history and Biblical prophecy, but should never be used to interpret scripture. The opposite is true, though, scripture can always be used to interpret history. History never has, and never will, contradict scripture.
The seven churches in The Revelation were literal churches that had issues relevant to the church as a whole at that time as well as throughout all history, at any given time.
Today, due to the ease of mass communication through media and technology, and accelerated demonic spiritual activity, we are faced with a proliferation of false apostles that would have sent the pastor at Ephesus into orbit. The numbers are staggering. But the problem of false apostles has been with the church from the beginning. Peter addressed the issue great detail, as did John and Jude.
In verse three of Revelation chapter two, Jesus continues to praise this pastor’s work, his patience, his perseverance for the name of Jesus. There is no doubt that this man contended faithfully for the faith—with accuracy—else the praise would not be there.
Nevertheless, in verse four we see Jesus throwing a big “BUT” in there. In essence, this is what we hear Jesus saying, “In most everything, dear pastor, you are doing great! But we have a problem—a BIG one.”
The man had good works, He was a hard worker. He persevered and did not falter with discouragement in spite of the fact that he lived in an incredibly sinful city. He boldly contended for the faith testing those who made claims to apostleship—then exposed them publicly for the liars they were. Jesus found all of this very praiseworthy. But all of this was apparently not enough for this pastor’s ministry, and his entire church, not to be threatened. We see that in verse five where Jesus threatens to remove not only him but also his church out of his place.
This is a very serious consequence.
The Revelation is a prophecy—all of it. And I believe that one of the reasons it begins with an overview of the church is because the issues the early church dealt with would be accelerated as the end of the age drew near. The church today faces everything the early church faced and to a greater degree. Scripture declares this to be so.
What was this, apparently “good” pastor’s problem—a problem so serious that Jesus threatened to remove not only his personal ministry but also his church (candlestick) out of its place? The Bible says we are the light of the world. That is only because Jesus dwells in us and we are to reflect his light. Our Candlestick is intended to be seen. It is intended to be a beacon of safety in a dark and very dangerous world.
The pastor of the church in Ephesus had a serious “heart” problem that no amount of “good work” could cure. He had left his first love. He was “doing” all the right things it seemed. And no doubt he started off right—the praise he received from the Lord verifies that—but somewhere along the way his motivations had shifted. What caused this shift? Scripture does not say. All it says is that this pastor had left his first love.
His relationship with Jesus had shifted from a relationship of love, loyalty and commitment, to one of simply compliance.
David understood the subtleties of this issue. He defined it in Psalm 51 when he said, “for thou desirest not sacrifice (i.e., compliance to your law); else I would give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
Serving God is always a heart thing. It is a love thing. Hating sin always begins with us—with being sorry for our own sin. This pastor at Ephesus was contending for the faith, he could not bear those who were evil. He was working hard and exposing the false apostles among them. This was a good thing. But he was also attempting to remove splinters from the eyes of others while he had a huge log in his own. And Jesus bluntly told him to get his heart right or else….
How many of us have experienced a motivational shift in our relationship and service to the Lord? We started out absolutely in love with Jesus, and our relationship with him was a joy, our work for him was a labor of love. But somewhere along the way something changed?
What could have caused the change? Fear? Do we now work hard “for Jesus” because we are afraid we will lose God’s approval, our salvation or our “ministry” if we do not?
Have we focused so much on “building a ministry” that the thing no longer belongs to God—is no longer a service to God, but the ownership of it has shifted and it now owns us instead, and our lives are spent doing what needs to be done in order to make sure “the ministry” survives? Jesus said, “You have left your first love.”
Do we give tithes and offerings because the Bible tells us too, but are resentful when we give the money? God doesn’t need our money, nor does he simply want our compliance. He wants our hearts. God loves a cheerful giver.
Could lust or ambition for power, money or some spiritual experience have caused a “shift?”
Issues of the heart, and our love relationship with our Savior, are so important to him, that he sees it as the utter rejection that it is when our affection cools and our faithfulness and loyalty shifts. When that happens, we begin to cheat on God. We begin to commit adultery. We take a lover while lying to our spouse. The Bible says our maker is our husband. We lie to our spouse, to ourselves, and to everyone else involved about where our true affections lie.
Jesus says to remember from where we have fallen from. He commands us to repent and do our first works over, or else he will come quickly and remove our candlestick (remember, Revelation 1:20 defines the candlestick as one of the seven churches). When a pastor or minister leaves his first love, it not only has a detrimental affect on him personally, but also on those who follow him. Jesus said so when he said, “The blind lead the blind and they both fall into the pit.”
Pastors, we need to take care that we do not become pied pipers, because that is exactly what happens when our motivations shift and we leave our first love—Jesus removes us, and often, we take the majority of our followers along with us.