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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - July 4, 2008

  • 2008 Jul 04

The Loyalty Christ Seeks


“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Revelation 2:2-3, 6 emphasis added


The Ephesian church was tremendously nurtured by Paul, Timothy, and John. Paul wrote 1 and 2 Timothy while Timothy was the pastor at Ephesus. Paul had sent him to that church and, as church history records, Timothy stayed until a mob brutally murdered him for his strong preaching against sin. After that, until the apostle John was taken prisoner by the emperor and banished to Patmos, he shepherded that great Ephesian church, which had become the largest in Asia Minor (about 5,000 saints!).


The saints in Ephesus were loyal to Christ’s church, and this particular assembly had a tremendous history. Church history also indicates that Mary, the mother of our Lord, moved from Jerusalem with John, and later died there. This city had an honor no other knew: Ephesus was the only church that had two apostles, Paul and John, who wrote them inspired letters—Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians and John’s writing down of Christ’s personal letter to this assembly.


A generation from its founding, the church and the Ephesian Christians were mature. Two generations from Pentecost, the church at Ephesus had perhaps the richest history of any church in the ancient world. They were loyal to God’s standards. Jesus approved their purity in the midst of a wicked culture.


In our own culture, just a generation ago people had to search to find anything that was off-color or pornographic. But today you have to work to not find that wickedness. Yet we are not that much different from the society in which the Ephesians lived. Ephesus was a city much like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, and when you entered it, they might as well have had a sign saying: WELCOME TO SIN CITY! What I want you to see is this: their purity in the midst of a wicked culture is the reason Jesus approved of the Ephesian church.


It is also notable that the saints at Ephesus were not followers of Nicolas—a deacon (Acts 6) who later became an apostate and led the church astray into immorality and wickedness. Instead, the Ephesians were doing what Christ wanted them to do: they were toiling to exhaustion, pouring themselves into the work for Christ. They refused to even eat with someone who was living in immorality and disobedience. When things got tough, they did not let go of Christ, they kept going. They had patience even in persecution, and there was plenty of it!


How can gross immorality, such as existed at Ephesus, be overcome? The Ephesian Christians learned how to be overcomers through Paul’s letter to them forty years earlier. Let’s look at the principles he taught so that we can apply them to our own lives.

Repent of your past: We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 2:3; 5:3-4).


Having renounced all connection with their old ways (Ephesians 5:12), they would not even talk about them, or remind others of what they used to do. (That principle is something to bear in mind when giving a “before and after” testimony of salvation.) A simple application is this: do not let your mouth go back to the old ways of telling or laughing at off-color stories, double meanings, or the innuendo. Do not quote the TV shows. Instead, use your mouth to give thanks to God. Have you fully renounced your old ways and repented of your past?


Learn that your calling is different: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Have you truly comprehended what a special calling God has given to you?

Learn the spiritual secret of putting off and putting on: Put off your former conduct [lifestyle], be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). In the streets of Ephesus, Christians were exposed daily to carved symbols of various immoral deviations that were to be followed to the place where those lusts could be fulfilled. But they “put off” those lusts by the grace of God. Have you learned their spiritual secret of putting off the old habits and putting on the new in Christ? Are you being renewed by getting God’s Word deep within your heart?

Resist evil influences: Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). Because the Temple of Diana was the most revered site in the ancient world to literally millions of worshipers, a custom had arisen that anyone, regardless of their status, was “free” within a 200-yard security zone. Thus, criminals came from far and wide to find a haven, and their presence only permeated the city with evil. Do you resist all evil influences?

Commit to truth and kindness: Putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:25, 32). Are you committed to honesty and kindness? Are you willing to humbly forgive—even when ill treated?

Release anger and pride to God: Be angry, and do not sin, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice (Ephesians 4:26-31). Have you released your anger and pride to God?


Jesus addresses His people with authority. He says, “I have the message—the eternal gospel. I am the One who holds the message in My right hand, and I walk in the midst of the church; I am examining what you are doing with it. I am looking at how you are living in light of the message you have received.” Are you, like the saints at Ephesus, loyal to God and His Word?


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