“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [material possessions].” —Matthew 6:24, emphasis added
The church at Ephesus had been loyal to God and His Word in spite of being surrounded by strong materialism in their city. Because of the nearly universal worship of Diana, no one would dare to rob her; thus, behind the altar was the World Bank. One might say that Ephesus was the New York City of the ancient world. Perhaps the evil influence of this materialistic environment may have gradually weakened the first love of some of the Ephesian Christians. For lusting after money and possessions is certain to cool a believer’s love for Christ.
How did the devoted Christians at Ephesus resist Satan’s stronghold of materialism? As Paul said in Colossians 3, they set their affections on things above, not on things on the earth. As specific biblical principles were followed, they broke free of the lust for money and possessions. These same principles apply to us today as well.
Live for your new inheritance reserved in heaven: In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).
Rejoice in your secure inheritance: [The Holy Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:14). God is safeguarding our inheritance! After the Resurrection, Jesus went back to prepare a place for us. In light of the fact that it took Jesus only six days to make the whole universe, the heavenly mansions He is preparing must be spectacular (John 14:2).
Rejoice in your magnificent inheritance: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:18). What Christ has in store for us is far greater than we could possibly ever imagine, for His riches are unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8)!
Rejoice that your wealth in Christ is more than can be counted: In the ages to come He [will] show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). The only way to get victory over the lust of materialism is to rejoice wholeheartedly in Jesus himself—and the richness of what Christ has in store for you. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Our greatest treasure is to be Jesus—whom we are to worship with our whole heart, mind, and soul. In contrast, the full worship of Diana involved silver “letters” (the images made and sold there), which led to very alluring, sordid, and ecstatic worship. How did the Ephesian Christians keep from getting caught up in such false worship? They saw that their access in Christ was instant and universal through prayer, and not localized to a pagan temple. They understood that true worship is spiritual: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24; see also Ephesians 5:18-21). Diana’s temple fell into ruins, but Christ’s church can never be destroyed: The whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord”(Ephesians 2:21).
Now then, what seems to be the root cause behind the Ephesians’ loss of their first love? Although materialism may have cooled the passion of some for Christ, I believe the root cause is that they stopped worshiping because they were so busy. Regardless of what competes for our affections to rob us of our first love—even service for Christ himself—we need to repent and return to the way things were at first with the Lord (Revelation 2:5).
Jesus says, “Worship before You serve Me! You can’t worship Me ‘in spirit and in truth’ if you have left your first love! And see to it that you maintain your passion to be with My people every time they meet!”
Do you have “an ear to hear” His voice speaking to you? I pray so!