Jesus wrote letters to seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. He spoke to the Ephesian church about their strengths and weaknesses. Ephesus was a very wealthy and independent port city. It was well known for trend setting - a very cosmopolitan city with oversized streets of marble with covered areas and columns on either side. The sea was dredged to allow ships to dock at the edge of the city. People would bustle to and fro on the street leading into town. They would disembark from their travels and were greeted by tradesmen and marketeers set up along the sides of the street. They would glare at the grandeur of the temple of Diana, which was one of the seven wonders of the world at the time. Their eyes would fixate on the massive sports and entertainment colosseum in the distance. Enormous for its day with seating for 50,000 people. The city was self-sufficient, grand, crowded, and steeped in pagan idolatry. A church located here would be a needed yet difficult outreach. Its leadership would have to battle against the lure of the city, the ingrained paganism and the temptation not to allow the culture of the city to infiltrate the culture of the church.
Jesus wrote through John to the church at Ephesus - not the city of Ephesus. Our surroundings and exterior influence can never be allowed to set the temperature for the church. The compliment given to the Ephesus church was that God himself had taken notice of five things. He commended them for their hard work ethic, their patience in suffering, the shutting down of false prophets, their refusal to accept false teachings, and their suffering for the gospel without giving up. These are all powerful attributes, but we can’t build our Godly relationship on these five positives alone. As powerful as they are, left to themselves, they create leaks in the system.
The Lord loves for us to flow in these five characteristics, but notice in Revelation 2 and verse 4, these things are not enough to keep the outside from filtering in. They are not enough to keep the city out of the church. The church is the vehicle God has chosen and ordained to spread the message of Christ to the cities and world. The moment our guards are lowered is the very moment the culture of the city sets up its camp in the church. Jesus warned to the Ephesians church that they had drifted away from the message - away from why they were there to begin with. The charter members of the church had likely passed away, and a new generation of leaders had emerged. They had become busy, drifted away from their initial intent and allowed too much of the church to look too much like too much of the city. The more we tolerate, the more we accept. The more we accept, the weaker the message.
Jesus warned the Ephesian church that a little drifting today would result in a massive separation tomorrow. He was so against their new direction that he threatened to remove their church rather than allow them to teach a mixed and watered down message despite their good qualities.
We can never build a relationship with Christ on a few good attributes. A positive message can never be a substitute for the message of the redemptive power of the blood of Christ. Hard work cannot supersede hard love, and the city around us will always want to infect the church in us given the chance.
The questions we must ask ourselves are, what good thing do you see in yourself, and how many of those can you add up? If we are not picking up our crosses daily and following after him, if we are not dying daily to ourselves, if we are not decreasing and allowing Jesus to increase in us, then we may have a few leaks in our message that need attention - a few leaks that will cause ultimate failure later. Foundations cannot be built on good intentions and positive messages. They must be established in the blood of Christ.
Remember, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an opportunity to repent and get back on track. He gave them a promise of eternal life if they did. He also warned them of the time limitation. We are the only ones that can right our own ship. Let us help you with that change, and I challenge you to join us for a deeper look into each of these churches -seven messages that Jesus thought enough of to give personal attention, rebuke, and correction with his last recorded words.
We are Christpoint Church. You can find us open every Sunday and Wednesday, on the square in Sparta. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.