“Return to your first love, the angle and the lampstand”
October 23rd 2016
Introduction: Many an evil person came into the little congregations of the early Church. Jesus warns of the false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing in Matthew 7:15. In his farewell speech to the leaders of the Church in Ephesus, Paul warns them of the wolves that would seek to invade the flock (Acts 20:9). The Jews wanted to take control of the Christian movement and bring it under the power and leading of the Old Testament Law. The Jews followed Paul from town to town seeking to gain control. Remember that the early church was largely Jewish during it’s first century or so of life. If the Jews were on one side, there was a group on the other side that wanted to take the infant Church into all sorts of immorality brought in from other religions of the day. We still have struggles with such groups to this very day. There were also the beggars and the hangers on who prayed on the charity of the Church.
Ex. Still to this day there are those in the community that look at the Church as a place to get a hand out. I received a letter this week from an inmate claiming to have ties here and wanting money from the church. Two requests for assistance with rent money, this week as well.
The Church at Ephesus was even more open to these itinerant menaces and frauds than other early Churches because of their location on the main highway of Asia. Lots of strangers coming and going all the time. It always a struggle for the church to respond in a Christ centered loving fashion.
We are told to test all things in the Spirit and to be “gentle as a dove but wise as serpents.” John insists that those who claim to come from God should be tested. His test was that every true believer holds to Jesus the Christ, having come in the flesh. That is, they accept his incarnation in all its fulness (I John 4:1-3). Paul also insists that the Thessalonians should test all things, and then hold to on to that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:19-21). Paul also insists that when someone preaches, their preaching is tested with what other preachers or prophets have said already and that has been accepted to be from God (I Corinthians 14:29). Jesus used the hardest test of all in Matthew 7:15-20. “By their fruits you will know them.” The Church in Ephesus had faithfully applied these tests and so should we!
Last week we began this brief 3 part series of sermons based on Revelation 2:1-7 by taking a look at the community in which the Church in Ephesus was planted. A very cosmopolitan community, not unlike our own, right here in York Pa. Perhaps on an even grander scale than ours, but none-the-less, a city with similar positive and upbeat life as well as a seamy and dark underside that included prostitution and crime. One phrase stands out and I want us to focus on it each week in this series. The phrase is, “return to your first love” or “you have lost your first love.” The speaks to what has been an emphasis here at York First for the past three years or so of renewal.
I see two distinct and deep meanings in this phrase that I want us to hang on to. First, the enthusiasm is gone in the church at Ephesus, how is it here at York First? Only each one of us can answer that question. Second, that the sense of Christian love and fellowship are also gone from the Church. What does it mean for us to really love one another?
Ex. “Greater love has no one than they lay down their lives one for the other.”
There was no dissension in the early days of the church. Everyone was focused on the mission and purpose of the work of sharing the good news of God’s love for all people everywhere. As time passes and energy levels drop in a congregation so does the feeling of commitment and purpose. In returning to our first love we can recapture the focus of sharing the good news of God’s love for all people everywhere. It will require us to be open to renewal, being replenished, and the reawakening of our spirits by God’s presence in the person of the Holy Spirit within us.
I.) The Angle and the lamp stand
A.) In each of the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation there is a reference to an “angle” and a “lamp stand.”
1. Who and what are these?
2. First, the angle.
3. There has always been a great deal of speculation as to just what is meant by, “The angle of the church in Ephesus write:”
a. Could it be a person who John, under the leading of the Holy Spirit is writing to?
b. If it is a person in the congregation then who is it?
c. Paul was the founding evangelist of the church, is John writing to him? Perhaps, but then in each of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation he would be writing to Paul, since Paul was the church planter or evangelist that started each of these congregations I doubt that is who John is writing to.
d. How about Paul’s spiritual son, Timothy?
e. This is where Timothy served as pastor, and labored for the purpose of the Gospel. He would be a good choice as the “angle” wouldn’t he?
f. Or perhaps it is some saint that has been lost in antiquity?
g. Or perhaps the angel is not a person at all but rather the attitude of the congregation, just what is the congregation known for?
h. Vs.2 gives us the indication that Ephesus was a strong and faithful congregation who was cautious about the teachers they listened to and they were faithful to the work of sharing the Gospel.
i. The question should be asked of York First, and of every congregation, what are we known for? What is our ministry in the community within which we are planted? Who or what is our angle?
B.) The lamp stand
1. Easy to figure out right?
2. Lamp stand = light
3. Light = the ability to see
4. Seeing = the person of Jesus in the midst of the church or community of faith, seeing Jesus in the lives of the people within the community of faith.
5. Light enables us to see the direction that we are supposed to go under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
6. So it seems pretty obvious to me that the lampstand represents the churches witness in it’s community.
II.) Judging all things.
A.) We as God’s children, the church need to know and hear the voice of our Lord Jesus when he is speaking to us.
1. The are many “voices” in the world that would call us away from being faithful to God’s call on our life together, and not all of them are evil or mean, just that they would distract us from being faithful above all else.
Ex. How do we know which one to follow and listen too? Let’s turn and read I Corinthians 2:6-15
2. I want to share with you 5 points for judging things on a spiritual level:
a. The Holy Spirit exalts no one but Christ Jesus.
Ex. John 16:13 says “But when he the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth.” In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father accept through me.” It is nothing else but the very person of Jesus within the heart and soul of the believer.
b. The Holy Spirit always directs attention to Jesus.
Ex. The Holy Spirit serves as teacher and amplifier of the all that Jesus was, did, and taught, while here on earth in human form.
c. The Holy Spirit never violates God’s word.
Ex. The Word of God has final authority in all things, not some things, all things!
d. The Holy Spirit does everything unto edification and encouragement of the church and the believer.
Ex. I Corinthians 14:26 says – to strengthen and uplift the church. Positive and constructive not negative and destructive. Unity is one of the hall marks of Christ’s church and I believes it grieves God when we stop loving each other and acting selfish towards one another.
e. The work of the Holy Spirit withstands all examination.
Ex. The scriptures teach us to test, prove, and examine God and his Word. To taste and see that He is good and worth our time, energy, talent, wealth, indeed our very lives. The greatest gift that we can ever give is the investment of the most precious gift we have, time or life, depending on how you look at it. Life lived and governed by God’s amazing love.
III.) The community of faith is a community that overcomes.
A.) Each of the letters says something about what the individual church needs to overcome.
1. Verses 7, 11, 17, 26-28 in chapter 2 and verses 5, 12, 21 in chapter 3 talk about each churches need to overcome something and remain faithful.
2. No matter what God’s people face in life the role and work of the Holy Spirit is to help us overcome where and when we need to.
3. The things of this world, of this life will distract us and attempt to take us away from our faith and walk with Jesus, but the presence of the Holy Spirit, that same spirit that indwelt our Lord, is ours.
Ex. One of the most powerful lessons I have learned in my journey through life this far, is that no matter what happens to me, if I will hold onto my faith, hold on to Jesus, if I will trust in Jesus, in the midst of whatever storm it may be, I will be ok. Jesus gives us the victory because he is with us always even to the very close of the age!
Conclusion: An angle and a lampstand, judging all things and overcoming what happens to us in life. This is the church of Ephesus and of York First.