Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time

As we begin this new year, before we get back into our study of the gospel of Luke, which we will commence again next Sunday, along with our series on doctrine next Sunday night, I wanna talk to you just personally and pastorally a little bit. Last Sunday, I spoke on 1 Corinthians chapter 10, on the danger of spiritual privilege, from the verse, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” How that those who are singularly blessed can become smug about that blessing, and thinking they’re firm in their stand can be headed for a serious collapse.

I wanna follow up on that same perspective today, because I feel like part of the ministry that I must discharge before the Lord, and you, is a ministry of warning about danger. Our church is not in particular danger from some dominating iniquity. It is not in particular danger from some infiltrating heresy. It is not in danger from some loss of resources financially, or human. Everything you can see on the surface looks to be good. And we would have every reason to think that we stand, and still be on the brink of a fall.

And following that idea up a little bit, we have to go to the real core of what it means to be a Christian. And I, from my perspective, believe that the church in our day is completely losing this simple perspective. I think the Christian life is essentially a simple thing to understand. It is a life of loving Jesus Christ. I know that sounds probably pretty basic, and indeed it is, but just that simple statement has been lost to us. The Christian life is best defined as an ongoing relationship of love between the believer and Christ. We don’t need to talk about his love for us. That’s fixed. The issue is our love for Christ.

Evangelical Christianity has all but lost this perspective on the Christian life. Most people have the idea that the Christian life is about how much God loves me and wants to fulfill my dreams and my desires and my ambitions and my goals and my objectives. And what he wants to do is make something wonderful out of me, and life me up, and elevate me, and fulfill all the hopes of my heart. It’s more about God loving me so much that he wants to do all of this than it is about me loving him.

But in reality, the Christian life is about loving Christ. Is about loving him singularly. It is about loving him totally. It is about loving him sacrificially. It is about loving him obediently. It is about loving him worshipfully. It is about loving him in terms of service. It really is about loving Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s that you now commit your life to loving him.

Now, if you understand the Old Testament, the great commandment was to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the sum of all that God requires, and your neighbor as yourself. But it starts with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, which is just a way of saying loving God comprehensively, totally, completely. Now if that’s the sum of the law, then that has to be the sum of the relationship. That can’t be altered when it comes to being a Christian. It is still the purpose of God that we would love the Lord, Jesus Christ, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Being a Christian is about loving Christ so much that you wanna know him, so much that you wanna exalt him, so much that you wanna please him, so much that you wanna serve him, so much that you wanna be with him, so much that you wanna tell others about him. It’s about this overwhelming, consuming affection for Christ. This is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

And so, the real question to ask people, when you talk about their spiritual growth, or their spiritual condition, or where they are in terms of their life, is how much do you love Jesus Christ? How much do you love Christ? Are you growing in your love for Christ? Do you love him more now than you have in the past? Do you desire him more now than you did in the past?

Paul say that, “I may know him.” He was driven to know more about Christ. To know everything he could know about Christ. To grasp every reality concerning Christ. To understand every word he said, every deed he did. To understand the fullness of his purposes, his redemption. To grasp completely the mind of Christ. To know how he thought about everything. Paul was driven to serve him, to exalt him, to honor him, to proclaim him, because he loved him. This is consistent with the Biblical definition of what it means to be a Christian. It is to love Christ. To love him as the one who first loved us and gave himself for us.

Listen to the language of the New Testament. Here are the words of Jesus inMatthew 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” It starts out with loving Christ more than you love anybody else, even those that you most naturally love. It’s about loving Christ to the point where you’re willing to take up your cross. Where you’re willing to lose your life. Where you’re willing to hate yourself and all your dreams and ambitions, hopes, desires. It’s loving Christ singularly. The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 that it’s the “love of Christ that constrains us,” or controls us, or drives us, or motivates us. The Christian life is about a heart attitude much more than it’s about theology or conduct. And that heart attitude is an attitude of love. Listen to what the apostle Paul said at the very end of the Ephesians Epistle, a verse that often gets overlooked. “Grace be with all those who love our Lord, Jesus Christ incorruptibly.” How do you define a Christian? One who has an undying, incorruptible love for Jesus Christ. Paul understood that. So did Peter. Peter wrote, in1 Peter 1:8, “And though you have not seen him, you love him.” And in chapter 2, verse 7, he said, “he is precious. He was the cornerstone. The rock. He’s to us, precious.” John, the apostle, also understood this, in 1 John chapter 4, in verse 16, “We have come to know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love.” We know that. We know God is love. We know God loves us. We’ve come to believe that. But further, verse 19, “We love because he first loved us.” That’s why we can say, in verse 20, “I love God.”

How do you define a Christian? By their love for God. By their love for the Lord, Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 16:22looks at it from a negative side, “If any man love not Lord, Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” There are only two kinds of people in the world: the cursed and the damned, and those who love Jesus Christ.

This is the compelling reality for the Christian. It’s a very simple thing to understand what it is to be a Christian. It is to love Jesus Christ. It is to love him singularly. It is to love him selflessly. It is to love him to the degree that you’re willing to deny yourself, abandon everything you have, even hate yourself, you’re willing to say goodbye to your family, your friends, your fortune, whatever it is, Jesus laid it all out. And the issue is to love him singularly. To love him so that you desire to obey him, to honor him, to serve him, and to proclaim him.

And that really is the question. The question is a heart question. Do you love the Lord, Jesus Christ, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength? It was he who said, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” It was he who said, “If you love me, you’ll keep my word.” It was he who said, “If you love me, you’ll feed my sheep.” That’s the issue. That is the issue. That is the heart issue in the Christian life. It’s about loving Christ.

And so, the right question, I suppose to ask all of us is, what is the condition of our love for Christ right now? InJohn 16:27, Jesus said, “The father himself loves you because you have loved me.” That’s right. You love Christ, God loves you. In fact, that’s basic to experiencing God’s love. Listen toJohn 14:21, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me, and he who loves me shall be loved by my father, and I will love him.” Do you love Christ? Do you keep his commandments? Do you keep his word? And because you love Christ, the father loves you. This is what the Christian life is all about.

It is living the life in which you are literally attracted relentlessly to the beauty and the glory and majesty of Christ. That’s why the Bible features him. That’s why even the Old Testament is about him. Search the Scriptures. “They which speak of me,” he said. That’s why you have four gospels, not just three synaptic gospels going over the same history so that everything is confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses, and so that you have all the nuances. But so that you have a vast amount of material on Christ because of the glory of his person. People ask me all the time, what’s your favorite thing to preach about? It’s easy. My favorite thing to preach about is not a thing, it’s a person. My favorite person to preach about is Christ, the most compelling person whose ever lived. The most magnificent. The most glorious. The most wonderful.

And why do you keep preaching? And why do you so relentlessly go through Matthew and John as we have now through Luke? Why with such care and such detail? Because every Sunday you get a glimpse of Christ. It adds to the wealth of understanding that you have to illicit that love, which is essential to Christian life. And it’s not just the gospels. The rest of the New Testament defines the power of loving Christ in the Book of Acts, and begins to unfold the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ for us in the Epistles and the glory of Christ in the Book of Revelations. It’s all about him. And he is so inexhaustible as to his glory that I have been preaching all my lifetime and haven’t even begun to touch the fullness of the glories of Christ.

Christian life is about loving Christ. And the right question to ask yourself as you begin the New Year is what is the state of my love for Christ? And I’m not asking you about your doctrine. I’m not asking you about your Orthodoxy. I’m not asking you about your ministry or your service. I’m not asking about that. I’m asking the heart issue question that shows up on those other fronts, what is the condition of your love for Christ? And I am concerned about it. I’m concerned about it because as you go, so goes the church. So goes this church, and all the people this church influences. You say well, don’t we all love Christ? Yes. We all love Christ, to some degree. But the level of that love can change.

And I wanna draw you to a Scripture that serves as a warning to us, the second chapter of Revelation. It’s not about nearly loving Christ. It’s about fully loving Christ. And in the second chapter of Revelation, you have a letter from the Lord, himself, to a church. The church at the city of Ephesus. You remember that in chapter 1, there is a vision of Christ, really an amazing vision of Christ. He is clothed in a robe, verse 13, “reaching to the feets. Head in his like white wool, like snow. His eyes like a flame of fire. His feet like varnished bronze, as if they were glowing in a furnace. His voice like the sound of many waters crashing against the rocks, the thunderous roar of waves. In his right hand, he has seven stars. That is, he holds the leaders of the church, the pastors of the church. And out of his mouth comes a sharp, two-edged sword to defend his church. His face is like the sun shining in the strength.” I mean, this is an immensely traumatizing vision, and of course, John falls over like a dead man when he sees it. That’s the first of many visions in Revelation. But it pictures Christ moving in his church, the seven golden lamp stands are the seven churches, says in verse 20. So you have a picture of Christ, in all his glory, moving in his church. You see him empowering his church. You see interceding for his church as a high priest. That’s what the robe and the girdle mean. You see him purifying his church with his flaming vision and varnished bronze feet. You seem him commanding his church with his voice. You see him reflecting his glory through his church like the sun shining in it. Here is Christ moving in all his glory in the church. He is the center. He is everything in the church.

Now, out of this vision of Christ in his church comes seven letters for seven churches. Those seven churches are listed back in verse 11, with Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. Those are actual cities in Asia Minor, modern Turkey. Actual cities. And they really are a postal route, the general postal headquarters throughout Asia Minor followed the circuit from Ephesus ending up at Laodicea. So they were in those cities where churches were founded. They were basically planted by the Ephesian church, which was the first and the strongest and the mother church planting the rest. They are actual churches, and the Lord gives to John, the apostle, on the island of Patimuswhere he was when he received the Revelation, a letter for each of these churches. And these letters are contained in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. Seven churches, real churches, each unique with its unique characteristics and unique problems. Two of them, no set issues. Two of them were just honored churches. Five of them were seriously flawed churches. They were real churches, actual churches. They’re not metaphoric or symbolic. But they do identify the kinds of churches that exist in all ages, even today. So that they stand as models or examples for churches. And therefore as warnings as well.

And the first letter goes to Ephesus, the main church, and the first church on the postal course. And it is written to the angel, or the minister. Probably on the island of Patimus there were delegates from each of these churches that had come to visit John, and each of them got a copy of the Book of Revelation to take back, with particular attention to the letter written to their church. This letter goes to whoever was the unveilas, the minister or the servant or leader of that church. The messenger is what the word really means. And tell them this, the writer is the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one that walks among the seven golden lamp stands, he says this, and that’s of course Christ as I just described in chapter 1. “Christ has a message for your church,” now that’ll get your attention, wouldn’t it? The messenger comes back and says folks, I have this wonderful book of Revelation. It tells all about what’s gonna happen in the future. But right in the middle of this first opening section, chapters 1-3 being the opening, there’s a letter to you from the Lord himself. He has something to say to your church. That would grab your attention. This is what he said, verse 2, “I know your deeds, and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles and they are not, and you found them to be false, and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember, therefore, from where you are fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first, or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent. Yet this you do have that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

This first letter is addressed to a strong church. The church of Ephesus, very strong, sound in theology, earnest, zealous, busy, evangelistic. In fact, this church had a really incredible beginning, not too many years before this, and it’s recorded in the 19thchapter of Acts, verse 1 says, “Paul, having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus.” So God uses Paul to launch this church. Down at verse 8, it says, “And he entered the synagogue and he continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” Can you imagine that? He had access to the synagogue because of course he was a great Jewish teacher. But he went into a Jewish synagogue in a gentile city of Ephesus, and for three months, he preached the gospel in a Jewish synagogue persuasively. But verse 9 says, “Some were becoming hardened and disobedient, and speaking evil of the way before the multitude.” The Jews began to get harder and harder, and then they began to speak evil of Paul before people who would listen, so “he withdrew from them and took away the disciples,” by the way, the disciples were mentioned in verse 1 has already having been there. We don’t know whether there were any converts in the synagogue. There were some disciples in verse 1 when he arrived, and there are some in verse 9. We don’t know whether any came out of that synagogue, and he moved his whole operation to the “school of Tyrannus.” Some man had a school, and Paul took over the place, and used it for teaching, and did it for “two years.” Can you imagine these disciples under the tutelage of the apostle Paul for two years? And it was so powerful, “that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” They didn’t have television. They didn’t have radio. They didn’t have a printed page. How in the world did everybody in Asia Minor know what was going on in the school of Tyrannus with the few disciples from the city of Ephesus? Because the power of his preaching was so great, that everybody who heard him spread the message. And what even added to that was, verse 11, “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.” There was so much power exploding through the apostle Paul that even in his absence people were being healed and delivered from demons. You’re talking about a phenomenal movement of God in the city of Ephesus. I mean, they would remember the beginning of their church like no other church would ever remember it. Unless perhaps it was that first church in Jerusalem. An explosion of miracles. Power. It was so powerful, that “some of the Jewish exorcists,” you know, that made their living purporting to be able to cast out demons started using the name Jesus. They thought Jesus was the magic word. And so, these exorcists began to say, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Starting to command the demons in the name of Jesus. And of course, the demons said, Jesus we know, Paul we know, but who are you? Well, you remember the story. The power of the gospel began to take over the city. And verse 18 says, “Many of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.” “The name of the Lord, Jesus,” verse 17 says, “was being magnified.” Verse 19 says, “those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them,” they had a huge citywide book burning of all the magic books, “in the sight of everybody. It was up to 50,000 pieces of silver.” Perhaps a drachma, 50,000 drachma would be a day’s wages. That’s a lot. “The word of the Lord,” verse 20, “was growing mightily and prevailing.” It was victorious.

And of course, a big battle ensues. And the business in town — the big business in town was the Temple to Diana and Artemis, same god, Diana, Artemis, two names. This massive temple dominated the town, Pagan temple. And with the gospel spreading, and everybody burning their magic books and turning to Christ, the business at the temple was falling off. And they said, in verse 25, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.” And what they did was, they made little gods, and people came to the temple, bought the little gods, took them home, and kept them so that they would have a representation of the gods at home. And the business of making the little idols began to fall off as people were coming to Christ. And verse 28 says, “People were filled with rage, they began to cry out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” It’s kind of like a riot starts. “The city was filled with the confusion. They rushed with one accord into the theater, dragged Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.” They dragged them out of the theater, “And Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. They repeatedly urged him not to go to the theater”, because it was a total riot. And the riot was directly a result of the powerful explosion of the gospel.

Could you imagine being part of a church plant like that? Great beginnings. Incredible power. The whole city in confusion. The whole city in chaos. The whole business of idolatry crashes. This is big stuff. Temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We’re talking about a major place. Seven wonders of the ancient world. Massive. I’ve walked through the streets of Ephesus, one of the best-preserved set of ruins in the Middle East. Staggering to see a tribute to idols that existed in that place. I’ve even been in the theater where I’ve actually preached Acts 19about the riot that occurred there. The temple was massive. Scores of eunuchs, thousands of prostitutes, priestesses, unnumbered heralds, singers, people playing musical instruments, dancers, and the worship, according to historians, was a kind of hysteria where people worked themselves into frenzies of shameless sexual conduct and mutilation. And huddled in the middle of this environment was a little church. And that little church turns Ephesus upside down. Wow, what glorious beginnings. How those people’s lives must have been revolutionized. What kind of joy did they experience? What kind of bliss? What kind of peace? What kind of satisfaction? What kind of fulfillment? What kind of exhilaration to be delivered from all of that?

And then, when Paul wasn’t there anymore, they had Timothy for a pastor. And they had Aquila. And they had even Apollos, the great Old Testament teacher. And they had the best beginning imaginable, and the best leadership. And it showed. They were strong. And it says in verse 2, “I know your deeds. I know your works.” I know what you do. And it’s commendable. And then he kind of splits it out. What were their deeds? What did they do? Well, “your labor,” or your toil, cappas, that is a strenuous labor to the point of exhaustion. I know how hard you work for the kingdom. I know you toil for Christ. I know your work is diligent, consistent.

And there are a lot of Christians who do nothing. But not in Ephesus. They worked. They worked for the kingdom. And it wasn’t always easy. That’s why he says, “I also know your perseverance,” your hoopa monet,from words that means to remain under. Your ability to stay under pressure. Your ability to stay under distress and hardship and difficulty and keep courageously gallantly what you should. It isn’t that you’re just doing it because it’s easy to do. It isn’t that you’re doing it because the skies are fair. You faithfully work to the point of exhaustion against the grain, and you stay there, and you stay under it. Perseverance.

There’s something else good about this church, and you cannot endure evil men. You have a very limited tolerance for sinners. You are intolerant of sinners is what it means. Very sensitive to sin. In fact, in specific, look at verse 6, he says, “This you do have. You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The best we can do in reconstructing the Nicolaitans is that it is a sect attached to a man named Nicolas, and early church fathers say that Nicolas started this sect apparently within Christianity, which was given over to immoral, lewd, licentious conduct. Clement says that, “they had the morals of goats,” whatever that means.

But this church didn’t have any tolerance for that. They hated any kind of libertinism, any kind of doctrine that allowed for immorality to be tolerated, any kind of antinomianism. Anything that was against the law of God. Hard working, enduring, persevering, suppressing evil. I’m quite sure that hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans came down in church discipline. I’m sure they had to deal with people in their church who were sinful, and they did it according to Matthew 18, and according to the prescription that was laid out by the Lord himself, as well as the instruction of the apostle Paul in several places.

I mean, everything about this church up to this point is so good. And then he adds this, “And you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” This church was strong doctrinally so that it had discernment. Very discerning. Worked hard, relentlessly, in serving the Lord. Endured opposition difficulty, challenges, and persevered. Suppressed evil and sin wherever they found it, and held up the truth and held everyone up to the truth. They has discernment. They recognized the false prophet. And that wasn’t always easy to do, because false prophets disguise themselves, don’t they? You can wish for a church like this, really. You can say this is the dream church. The dream church. And discernment is at the heart of it. Boy, it’s so important to be discerning. People say to me, what’s the biggest problem in the church nowadays, I say a lack of discernment. I am floored by the utter absence of discernment in the church.

Where is discernment today? It’s just not there. Well, not at Ephesus. They would have seen it. They would have understood it. They would have discerned it. They held everybody up, and they measured them, put them to the test, and they had the stuff to determine who was false. In verse 3, he says again, “you have perseverance and you have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” And this is sort of the final comment. And all of this is continuing right now. All of this commendation is going on right now. This is a church to die for, folks. If we put up – this has the basic description of the church that was looking for a pastor, and put it in the lobby of the seminary, they’d kill each other to get the phone number, right? This is the perfect church. They’ve got it all.

Then verse 4 comes like a bomb, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” You left your first love. It’s all become duty. The penetrating gaze, the laser eyes. Mentioned back in chapter 1, verse 14, “eyes like a flame of fire,” had penetrated through to the core of that church, and the Lord found a fatal flaw. The hearts were growing cold. They had left their first love, first love for Christ. Oh, they were doing what they always did, because that’s what you do. That’s what’s expected. That’s what’s planned. That’s the way the program’s laid out. That’s the way people are gonna evaluate you and respect you and honor you, and they did it, and the theology was in place. But the honeymoon was over. It was like a marriage can be. Everything was there. Faithfulness was there, and duty was there, and responsibility was there. But the passion was gone. No great scandal. No great organization blunder. No loss of resources financial or human. But the heart was cold. The thrill was gone. The enthusiasm was drying out.

Those are the kind of things that I think about, because I think this church, if I were to have to compare it to a church in the New Testament, this church has those very characteristics that Ephesus had. I mean, you work hard, you persevere, and you have for years faithfully. You can’t endure sin, and you don’t. And your doctrine is strong, and you know heresy when you see it, and you’re willing to expose it, and you never grow weary. You get an A for all of that, and an A for faithfulness. But the Lord can see what we can’t see. He can see your heart. And I know we’ve been at it a long time. We’re moving towards our 50thanniversary. We’ve outlived the life of most churches to remain vibrant and faithful and strong. I’ve always wondered when, or if it would crumble. I used to read things about well, when you hit year 20, it starts downhill, or when you get air conditioning, it starts downhill, or everybody’s got an answer to that. Or when you get into the third generation, third generation Christians who know nothing but other Christians, and Christian schools and churches and all that, they become apathetic, indifferent, almost distant in their Christianity, and that’s when it begins to crumble, and people become apathetic. Well, I don’t know about all of the wins, but I do know that the warning of Scripture is that you can be doing all the right things, and believe in all of the right things, and have your heart grow cold, right?

You say well, how does the church get like that? A church gets like that when its people get like that. We’re just a collection, and you’re part of it. We become like that when you become like that. So the real question to ask yourself now, as you look at a new year is, what is the condition of my relationship to Christ? How would I describe my love for Christ on a 1-10 scale? Am I consumed in his glory and his honor and his word and his pleasure and his will? What is the description of my Christian life?

I don’t really worry about some massive scandal striking Grace Church and bringing it down in a crash of simple corruption. I don’t really worry about this church wandering off into heresy. My goodness, if I misquote a verse, somebody comes up afterwards and tells me about it. Thank you for doing it. I’m not worried about this church all of a sudden running out of human resources. Our church is growing and flourishing. We have a great history behind us. We have a great influx of new people, hundreds and hundreds of them, who came in last year all with high expectations and anticipation. We have no great fear that all of a sudden we’re gonna lose our way in terms of ministry programs and what we do, and something’s gonna come apart at the seams. Those aren’t the things that concern me. The things that concern me have to do with the heart. It has to do with you becoming indifferent to Christ, and therefore compromising and falling into sin, and bringing destruction into your own life and your own family, and eventually into the church. It has to do with where I can’t go, what I can’t see, and neither can anybody else, except the Lord.

People used to say to me in the early years when I was at Grace Church, oh, you’re in the honeymoon. It’ll end. And I used to end, well, what does it mean when the honeymoon ends? What is that? When the passion is gone, and the joy is gone, and the exuberance is gone, and it all just becomes duty and doctrine. Well, I’ve done my best to make sure that honeymoon never ends. It hasn’t ended for me. I don’t know whether your experience is the same or not, but if enough of you have found the end of the honeymoon, then we’re in some serious trouble, because if we go down this road, the end of verse 5 says, the Lord told Ephesus, “I’m coming to you, and I’ll remove your lamp stand out of its place”. Literally, I’ll shut you down. It’s amazing to think about the Lord being an enemy of his own church, isn’t it? And you know what happened? That happened to Ephesus. The Lord shut that church down. It’s testimony disappeared, and there’s none there even now. Oh, there were some overcomers, verse 7, who listened to what the spirit said. There were some believers there, true believers, perhaps most, and they would eat the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. They were headed for heaven. It’s not that they weren’t believers. I would venture to say that most of them had to be believers. They were headed for heaven, but they were still gonna lose their ministry because they lost their love.

What do you do? Well, three things. Verse 5, remember. Remember. What he’s saying to them is hey, go back, remember, remember your Paganism. Remember how lost you were. Remember how desperate and destitute you were. Remember what it was like to worship idols. Remember the immorality that you were involved in. And remember what happened when the gospel exploded and the power of God was seen everywhere in the midst of miracles preaching of the gospel into your heart, and you were given faith to believe and repentance, and your heart was turned around, and literally replaced, and you were transformed. Remember the joy, the exhilaration, the satisfaction, the overwhelming peace. Remember. Remember what it was like to see the city completely overturned, chaos, as the gospel triumphed over idols. Spiritual defection can come from forgetting. That’s what makes it hard. That’s why we talk about second and third generation, they got nothing to remember. And sometimes I say to people, go ask your grandparents how it was before they came to Christ. Go ask your grandparents to tell you the story of that transformation. Find somebody that’s been transformed. Hang around new Christians. Remember. Bible constantly calls for us to remember all the feasts and festivals throughout the Old Testament were designed to teach Israel to remember what God had done for them so they would never forget.

Peter said, “I write these things to put you in remembrance.” Go back and remember what you felt at the beginning when you were overwhelmed with joy, you couldn’t get enough Bible teaching. You couldn’t get enough time alone with the Lord, couldn’t get enough Christian fellowship. You couldn’t talk about Jesus to the people around you enough. You couldn’t get enough of him. Remember the flashes of first love, because if you don’t, you follow the path of a diminishing love. You follow it right into compromise, and then into corruption. Look at your life. Is there anything you love more than Christ? Is there anything you want more than Christ? Is there anyone that you want to serve more than Christ? Anyone you might wanna honor more than Christ? Anyone you might wanna proclaim more than Christ? If there is, you left your first love. Go back and remember how it was, or find out how it is for people transformed from a Pagan environment.

Secondly he says, “not only remember from where you have fallen,” and by the way, where you have fallen indicates this is sin. Leaving your first love is sin. That’s why you have fallen. It is a fall. And when you have fallen into sin, you need then to repent. He says repent there in verse 5, and he repeats it again at the end of the verse, “unless you repent, the judgment will come.” The second thing is to repent. See, it is sin. Confess the sin of losing your first love, or leaving your first love. Confess the sin of your coldness. Confess the sin of the sort of routine approach to worship and everything else in your Christian life. Confess the sin of serving the Lord without exuberance, without joy. Confess the sin of only doing your duty. Confess the sin of doing what you do because you think somebody wants to see you do it, and therefore somehow will think well of you. If you love your theology more than Christ, you’ve left your first love. There was a time when you didn’t know enough theology to love it, and you just loved him. Paul says that, “I may know him.” He loved him so much he could never get enough of him.

And so, repent. And thirdly, he says, “repeat”. Do the deed you did at first. Go back. When you were swept up in prayer and Bible study and fellowship and witnessing and worship, and it was all so exhilarating, pretty simple little path, remember how it was, how it is, for people transformed. And if you have fallen, repent, because it’s a sin not to love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I don’t know if you often ask for forgiveness for that sin, but you should, and so should I. And then begin to repeat the things you did at first when you were swept up in the joy of salvation.

It is a disaster, but it’s a silent killer when a church leaves its first love. And the church doesn’t necessarily see it. Stop loving Christ and making him the focus of everything, and you will descend in the compromise with the world, and the whole idea of loving Christ will disappear from your vocabulary. And then you’ll go from compromise to corruption. In a word, you’ll go from Ephesus to become a church like the one in Pergamus, to become a church like the one in Thyatira, to become a church like Sardis, which was dead. And it starts here.

We look at a new year. My prayer, my desire for all of us is that the Lord would grant us an increasing love for Christ. Let’s Pray. Thank you, Father, for the power of your truth. We have nothing that we could say, no thought could ever come out of a human source that could even come close to the power of divine truth. We thank you for the letter to the church, to our church, to us, that reminds us of the fire, the flames of love for Christ. May we be a church lost in wonder love, praise, and service to our Christ. And now, Lord, we do ask that you would grant us grace to be the people you want us to be. The spirit is shining bright in our hearts, and is the source of that love to which we must yield. Cultivate that in us that we might, instead of leaving our first love, find that first love increasing constantly into a fuller love for our Christ. In his name, we pray. Amen.

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Orignal Title Top 7 Bible Verses To Show Appreciation For A Pastor

Do you like being appreciated for what you do? Most people do, and it is most significant when accompanied by words of affirmation and gratitude for a job well done. Parents, teachers, employees—everyone deserves some kudos for their efforts and job performance. Spiritual leaders and pastors likewise deserve our encouragement and support, so here are my top 7 Bible verses to show appreciation for a pastor.

Numbers 6:24-26 “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” 

This is the first verse that came to mind when thinking about how to bless my pastor and show him my appreciation for all that he does for the church. Pastors and shepherds work tirelessly on behalf of their flocks, and it is imperative that we speak and pray blessings over them. These verses in Numbers are part of an Aaronic blessing that Moses’ brother, Aaron, spoke over the Israelites, and it is very appropriate for our spiritual leaders as well. They are priests, and they deserve to be blessed by the Lord and to receive his peace.

Deuteronomy 28:2 “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” 

Pastors sacrifice a great deal on behalf of the sheep, and another way to show them appreciation is to remind them of the amazing blessings that God has in store for them. I love what it says here, because it explains that God’s goodness will overtake them if they obey his voice. True obedience to God will ensure that future blessings will come upon them and even go ahead of them.

Deuteronomy 30:16 “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” 

Shepherds and spiritual leaders are about doing their Father’s business. They combine all the talents that God has given them to build up, encourage, mentor, disciple, and mature other followers of Christ. Oftentimes, that leads them to sacrifice so much that they neglect their own well-being. Pastors try so hard to love God and obey his commands, rules and statutes that they forget about the rewards the Lord has promised to give them. It is up to us then to remind them of how valuable they are to the Kingdom of God and what they have to look forward to one day in heaven as well.

Jeremiah 3:15 “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” 

Everyone questions their calling on occasion, especially when they are going through rough times. Pastors likewise might doubt whether they are hearing from the Lord about their life’s work, so this passage is a perfect way to encourage your spiritual leader. Remind them that it is the Lord that has raised them up to feed the flock with knowledge and understanding. He has also seen their hearts, and recognized himself in them. God has appointed them as pastors, because they are shepherds after his own heart.

Esther 4:14 “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

Another way to encourage pastors in their day to day life, is to remind them that they have been called by God for such a time as this. Even when things are tough and hardships abound in the church or among the flock, the Lord wants pastors to know that they are an important part of his plan for the body of Christ. Like Queen Esther, pastors are called for a certain time and place of ministry, because God knows their hearts and love for him.

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” 

Spiritual leaders from every church want to have a close relationship with God, and this is a perfect verse to use to encourage them in their search through God’s word. It is so affirming to know that as pastors call to the Lord in prayer, and as they read and study his word that he will answer them. And not only will he respond to them, but he will also show them great and marvelous things. These truths can then be shared with the body of Christ.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

Bible verses to show appreciation for a Pastor

My final verse to encourage pastors is this one found in the book of Matthew. Everyone gets discouraged and might even question their calling, but this verse is a wonderful reminder that if we seek the kingdom of God first and his righteousness, then all the other questions and things we need will be given to us as well. God’s blessing will surpass even our greatest expectations if we put him first in our hearts and in our lives.


Encouraging and supporting one another is a valuable part of our Christian walk. How much more important is it then to affirm and bless our pastors and spiritual leaders with words, verses, and acts of appreciation? I believe that this is something that should never be neglected, and I recommend making it a priority even today. Go and encourage your pastor right now!!  

Written by Karla Hawkins

God has been good to me over the years, and I have much for which to be grateful to Him. First of all, I feel blessed to be the pastor’s wife of a thriving church in northern Michigan and the mother of four amazing grown children. It is also very rewarding to be a Christian author, editor and translator for the Kingdom of God. Some of my favorite pastimes include supporting my children’s contemporary Christian band ONLY9AM, singing on the worship team at church.

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We are living in a corrupt world which will only become more corrupt. Christ came to set us free from sin. We must repent and trust in the blood of Christ. Believers are not to be conformed to this corrupt world, but we are to model our lives after Christ. We are seeing more and more of this world infiltrating Christianity, which is causing unbelievers to slander the true believers.

25 Important Bible Verses About Corruption

Scripture clearly warns us that we will see corrupt churches, pastors, and many false converts. It is only going to get worse from here so we must expose evil and spread the truth.

Deceitful people from this evil world are coming into our churches spreading lies and false teachings into Christianity.

While there are corrupt churches in America, there are also many biblical churches as well.

We should never let corruption, which is a scheme from Satan cause us to lose focus on Christ.

We are not to let it cause us to make excuses. Even though corruption is all around us, let’s walk by the Spirit and continue to grow in Christ.


“The world’s corruption is a result of its defiance.”  Warren Wiersbe

What does the Bible say?

1. Hosea 9:9 They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.

2. Isaiah 1:4 Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

3. Galatians 6:8  because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Corruption in the world.

4. Genesis 6:12 God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt.

5. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 You must realize, however, that in the last days difficult times will come. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unfeeling, uncooperative, slanderous, degenerate, brutal, hateful of what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. They will hold to an outward form of godliness but deny its power. Stay away from such people.

6. Deuteronomy 31:29 I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt and will turn from the way I have commanded you to follow. In the days to come, disaster will come down on you, for you will do what is evil in the LORD’s sight, making him very angry with your actions.”

7. James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Escaping the world through Christ. Repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation. He will make you new.

8. 2 Peter 1:2-4 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

9. 2 Peter 2:20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.

Put off your old self: True faith in Christ changes your life.

10. 1. Ephesians 4:22-23 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;

11. Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

12. Proverbs 4:23  Above everything else guard your heart, because from it flow the springs of life.

Scripture warns us that there will be many false teachers.

13. 2 Peter 2:19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

14. Romans 2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

15. Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.

 16. 2 Peter 2:2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.

17. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

Greed is the cause.

18. 1 Timothy 6:4-5 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

19. Proverbs 29:4 A just king gives stability to his nation, but one who demands bribes destroys it.

20. 2 Peter 2:3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Corruption in speech.

21. Proverbs 4:24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.


22. 1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

23. Psalm 14:1 Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” They are corrupt and commit evil deeds; not one of them practices what is good.

24. Revelation 21:27 Nothing unclean, or anyone who does anything detestable, and no one who tells lies will ever enter it. Only those whose names are written in the lamb’s Book of Life will enter it.

25. Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

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ONTARIO, Calif. — While appearing at an event with Baptist news reporters on Wednesday, Southern Baptist International Mission Board President David Platt told those gathered that he was sorry that an amicus brief supporting the construction of a New Jersey mosque had caused division.

“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” he said. “I can say with full confidence that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”

As previously reported, the Mission Board, the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty were among 20 groups that had joined the 2016 legal filing, including the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Sikh Coalition, the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques and many others.

The matter centered around the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, which had sought to build a mosque in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, but was denied following community opposition. It sued in March of last year, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty assembled a coalition of faith groups supportive of the Society’s rights for an amicus brief to be filed with the court.

“It’s good when we can join hands with … folks we are sometimes on the other side of,” Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, told Baptist News last May.

The International Mission Board outlined on its website that it joined the legal brief because it supports religious liberty for all people, and believes that if Christians only support freedom for themselves, it could be detrimental to the furtherance of the gospel.

“IMB supports freedom of religion for all people both in the United States and around the world. IMB signing the amicus brief regarding the New Jersey mosque is an agreement that all people deserve religious liberty, but it does not in any way support the mosque financially or with human resources,” its FAQ section explains.

“If one follows global news (e.g., Russia’s restrictive laws signed earlier this year, on-going battles in places like Egypt, Malaysia, or India on the right to convert to Christianity, etc.), it’s apparent that religious liberty is an ongoing global issue. IMB’s call on the government of these other countries to support the religious freedom of their citizens will ring hollow if, in the USA, we only support freedom of religion for Christians,” it states.

However, in November, Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church of Morristown, Tennessee and trustee on the board, resigned from IMB due to his disagreement with the board’s part in the legal brief.

“I understand the religious liberty aspect of the entire argument. But I do not understand why the International Mission Board, with our mission to reach the world for Christ, would have to jump into the fray of a mosque being built in New Jersey,” he told reporters.

“If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, are we not helping them speed down the highway to Hell?” Haun said. “I want no part in supporting a false religion even if it is in the name of religious freedom. Our Baptist institutions’ names will be on this brief setting legal precedents and supporting the right of mosques to be built all over our nation for years to come.”

Last month, in light of the controversy, Platt advised that the board had changed its policies about taking part in such legal briefs in the future.

“As a result of discussions among IMB trustees and staff over recent months, we have revised our processes for our legal department filing any future amicus briefs. IMB leaders are committed in the days ahead to speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission,” he told the Baptist Press.

Platt, author of the best-selling book “Radical” and former pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Alabama, then told reporters on Wednesday that he was grieved that the matter had caused a distraction, that it had drawn the focus of discussion away from missions work.

“I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting,” he said. “And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”

Platt noted, however, that similar briefs had been filed before he became president of the board.

“Going back to at least 2010, so far before I stepped into this role, our … legal department has filed various similar briefs related to religious liberty. And since 2010, all of those matters have been handled by our legal department,” he stated.

He said that in the future, any amicus briefs will be filtered through his office and the board’s trustees.

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