I didn’t set out to write a series based on Revelation 2-3. As I began reading the book of Revelation during my quiet times, I wanted to find truths written to the churches that apply for my life. What came from that desire to find one thing in each letter . . . is this series.
The churches to whom John wrote dealt with many of the same issues we face in an increasingly godless culture. Just as the early churches made choices about whether they would live for Jesus or themselves, so too, do we.
We have the gift of being able to look at back at their strengths and weaknesses and learn from them.
This isn’t an in-depth theological rendering of these letters. Rather, each post reflects what God has taught me through studying both the letters and the churches. As we walk through Revelation two and three over the next seven weeks, I hope you’ll be encouraged and share your thoughts here!
When our pastor’s wife asked me out to lunch, I was excited . . . and nervous. What would we talk about?
Through the course of our time together, she asked if I would be willing to work in our church’s women’s ministry department. The request humbled me.
She wanted me?
There was something gratifying, yet somber about the thought of taking on the mantle of women’s ministry. I prayed hard about this decision.
Thought about it.
Used the question, “If I say no and look back in five years, will I regret not doing this?”
This was a good question to ask. It gave me a measure. But it didn’t necessarily get to the heart issues.
I believe God brought this opportunity to me. I learned a ton while I worked there. But, did I say yes for the right reasons?
Was I loving God most or me most?
I had some motives in saying yes, that only God knew about. And they revolved around the chance to be affirmed by “serving in ministry.”
In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus talks to the church of Ephesus. He applauds them for all they’ve done right. They’ve worked hard, persevered through challenging situations.
They did not tolerate wicked people.
They tested apostles and kicked out those who proclaimed false teachings.
They persevered and endured hardships for Jesus’ name.
And they didn’t grow weary.
What an amazing resumé of walking faithfully with God!
. . . Or is it?
Jesus looked beyond their actions.
He looked straight to their hearts.
He said they had forsaken their first love. That they’d fallen and needed to repent.
But look at all the great stuff they did! How they persevered, didn’t allow false prophets to lead their church astray.
But, they’d left their first love—Jesus.
Jesus held the church of Ephesus to account because they’d left their first love. Instead of doing all those good things with a heart of love they had other motivations. Perhaps they loved themselves more than Him?
We can do right things for the wrong reasons . . .
To get ahead
To impress someone
Because it’s “what we do.”
Our God is a relational God. More than our acts of service, our good-things-done, He wants our hearts in sync with Him.
He wants us to love Him more than we love ourselves.
Our godly actions and words can be a blessing to Him. But God looks beyond the action to the motive. What in our hearts prompted us to do this?
My prayer is that I might do and say things because I love Him first and most.
I’m discovering I need to check my motivations. Sometimes, maybe it’s better I not do something because my motives are for me rather than for God. The person impacted may not know this. But God does.
We all do things for the wrong reason, at least sometimes. Maybe it’s time to ask God to show us if we’ve left our first love? If we do the things we do because of how much we love Him?
Even when we do things for the wrong reason, God is still gracious. What may begin as improper motivations can be transformed and used for God’s glory.
Though I may have initially said yes to our pastor’s wife with some selfish reasons, God used that season of working in women’s ministry to refine me. He brought friendships into my life that challenged me to grow closer to Him.
And, in the process He taught me how to love Him more deeply. He taught me humility. He revealed wounds within my heart that He wanted to address.
It took being in a place where I was serving others to bring me to a point of seeing my own need for Him.
What about you? How has God challenged you to keep Him as your first love? When have you seen God redeem something you did with wrong intentions?