The book of Revelation begins with a series of letters from Jesus to seven churches that lined the main Roman road. The believers in these churches were suffering persecution for their faith and each one faced their own challenges. When we read these letters, we see glimpses of our churches today as well as struggles that we can relate to as individuals. There are valuable lessons in these letters that we can apply to our own lives.
Jesus begins with the church in Ephesus. They had been inundated with false teachers and surrounded by immorality yet they had steadfastly refused to be corrupted. He commended them for their hard work, their perseverance and their unwillingness to tolerate sin no matter what society around them was doing. He praised them for recognizing the false teachers that had crept in to deceive them. Despite the hardships they had endured, they had not grown weary.
The Ephesians lived in a society that is much like the world around us today. A society that believes that the Word of God is irrelevant and that “anything goes.” We can relate to their struggles because we face a similar challenge to remain strong and stand for our convictions no matter the cost. Jesus’ words to the Ephesians can encourage us to not grow weary despite the obstacles we face.
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.” – Revelation 2:2-3 NLT
But Jesus also had a warning for them. The Ephesian Christians had forgotten their first love. In their early days, they were known for their love for people. But as time passed, they became so focused on doing the right things that they forgot why they were doing them to begin with. They forgot that it was their love for God and His love for the lost that should be their motivation.
This warning is no less true today than it was then. If we are not careful, we can quickly forget that it is the sin that we hate, not the people being deceived by it. Our mission is to show lost and hurting people that there is a better way. People need to see that living life according to sinful desires causes pain and hopelessness that keeps them from experiencing the abundant life God wants to give them. Lost people need to find Jesus before they can experience freedom from the sin that holds them captive. It is the love of Jesus that will beckon them to come!
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” – Revelation 2:5 NLT
Jesus closes His letters to each of the churches with encouragement for the overcomers. In His letter to the Ephesians, He promised that those who overcome will receive the right to eat from the Tree of Life which is in paradise with God! (Revelation 2:7) This promise is our promise if we hang in there until He returns. The promise of eternal life is available to all who are victorious in Christ!