Battle lines are being formed – ‘the kings of the earth’ are setting themselves up against the Lord.
“Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” – Ps. 2:1-3
At a time when end-time pressures abound, and the church languishes in weakness, when individual members are not fulfilling their ministries, indeed when few even know their ministry — it is time to remember! Jesus wrote to the church of Ephesus in Revelation –
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” – Rev. 2:5
The church of Ephesus had left their ‘first love’ and in view of the seriousness of the consequences, we must seek to know what were the ‘first works’ and how did they leave their ‘first love’?
An examination of this letter will show us that they saw themselves differently than God saw them. The Ephesian Church of Revelation 2 saw themselves as industrious and active in the Gospel. They were concerned with doctrinal purity and, they endured opposition but, God saw them as fallen! They had somehow left the love of God they had at the first.
Jesus told a parable about a group of people in the end-time that thought they were doing fine; prophesying in His name, casting out demons, and other works of power but, Jesus will say “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:22,23).
Now there is nothing wrong with laboring in the Gospel or being concerned with doctrinal purity but, it won’t replace the ‘first love’ we have for Jesus. So, what is the answer?
We must return to the beginning of the Church, when the Holy Spirit was first poured out.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – Acts 2:1-4
Thousands gathered to witness this strange event and Peter stood up to preach as the others bore witness.
“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” – Acts 2:34-36
After many words and telling them to “save themselves from this untoward generation”, Peter commanded them to repent and be baptized and he declared they would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised.
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” – Acts 2:41
Not all who heard that message were called into the kingdom that day. They had to choose! Some were not interested in the way; some were interested partly but not enough to surrender their lives totally; but, some were so convicted that they turned their lives over to Jesus that day.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” – Acts 2:42
They wanted to learn the apostle’s doctrine, because it was the words of Jesus made real. He alone can give life to the word of God. As they continued ‘breaking bread’, which was taking the Lord’s Supper, they began to understand that they were members of the body of Christ on earth. Since a body is made of many members, each having its own part, unity is essential for the proper working, so this naturally led to fellowship. Fellowship joined them to one another and prayer joined them to God and the Holy Spirit was their heart beat pumping life giving blood throughout the body. All other functions of the body were important but only secondary to the heart. This was the ‘first love’ that propelled them into bold witnessing, healings, and miracles where they had all things in common and none lacked.
Today, we have many like the skeptics of Peter’s day who didn’t believe the message and we also have many who have shown interest in the kingdom of God but, are not all the way in. Like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) of that day they had no fear of God and were more concerned with man’s recognition than with God’s. Ananias was in bondage to his possessions. When we are not free to give as God leads, we are not able to possess without bondage. They were like Elisha’s servant Gehazi, who took money for God’s healing of Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-27). Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on Gehazi –
“Is it a time to build kingdoms for yourself” Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee!” – 2 Kings 5:26,27
From the halls of higher education to the halls of Congress these same attitudes are ruling. Teaching without the ‘fear of God’ that our original colleges had. Or making laws and regulations for sectarian and personal gain as politicians do today. They need to relearn the message of Elisha – if we lust after this world, not only will we grieve the Holy Spirit, but we will also receive the condemnation that is pronounced upon this world.
If we would do as Peter preached and “save ourselves from this untoward generation”, we must return to the teaching of Jesus and love God with our whole mind, soul, and body and love our neighbor as ourselves. We must be born again and receive the Holy Spirit the way the 120 disciples of Acts did. And then we must continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers, as they did. We will find that when God has more of us — we will have more of Him.