The God Who Knows Your Heart Rev 2:1-7
Good morning! Last week, Pastor Mark concluded our journey through Romans 8, and who else is appreciative of the work heput in to edify our congregation? Thank you again, Pastor Mark for leading us through that glorious chapter.
This morning, we’re going to open the Scriptures to Revelation, chapter 2. Eddie and I were talking a couple of weeks ago, and I told him I’d be preaching out of Revelation, and he asked me if I had a death wish. I told him, “Don’t worry, it’s one of the safe parts of Revelation.” Over the past 2000 years, it’s fairly safe to say that this book has resulted in many arguments, misunderstandings, and divisions. But the passage I’ll be covering this morning shouldn’t result in too many theological bricks being thrown.
As you open your Bibles to Revelation 2, did you ever think about why do you do what you do? Why did you get shower and get dressed this morning? Why did you have that oh-so-glorious first sip of coffee? Why did you come to church today? Why are you watching this service online? There will be a variety of responses to these questions, but in your response, is love for Christ involved? Is love for people involved? Think of this as I read this morning's text, Revelation 2:1-7, from the English Standard Version.
As we go through this passage, we’ll be considering two things about activity as a church, and three lessons about the Lord of the church. And I ask, if you are able, to stand at the reading of God’s Word:
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
As we consider this passage, I want to remind you that ACTIVITY ISN’T WRONG. At no point in this passage does Jesus say, “Stop
being my hands and feet.”
In fact, He says, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary" (v.2-3). Jesus is telling the congregation that He knows they are serving faithfully. He knows they are enduring trials for being disciples of Jesus.
He knows they are standing against heretical teachings, and affirming the gospel of grace. In verse 6, Jesus goes on to say,
“you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
There is little that we know of this sect, aside from what we find in
Revelation. It's possible they were attempting to mingle Old Covenant rituals, or possibly pagan rituals, into the worship practices of the early church, but that is purely guessing. All we know at this point is that Jesus hates what they are doing! So, we can see that the church in Ephesus was an active church! For those who serve our congregation, and if you wonder if what you are doing matters, it does! Even if it feels like no one notices what you do, from cleaning, to providing snacks, to encouraging others, to making sure the pews are stocked with pens, prayers cards, and offering envelopes, please know that what you are doing matters.
While we can see that ACTIVITY ISN’T WRONG, in and of itself, we must be conscious that ACTIVITY MUST BE MOTIVATED BY LOVE. I just said how important the work everyone contributes to in the church matters. In addition to that, the reason we serve is also important.
In Revelation 2:4, Jesus says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
While it isimportant to be serving others, teaching, and otherwise being the hands and feet of Jesus, we cannot do it purely out of a sense of
duty and obligation. You’ve heard many times from this pulpit that the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and private worship should be a part of your day, and I hope and pray everyone who hears me practices them. But if you are doing them to “check something off of my to-do list,” you may want to spend timereflecting on where that thinking is coming from. If you serve out of a sense of obligation only, and have no compassion for
those being served, why are you doing it? What’s the why behind the what of your activity?
There was an event in Luke’s gospel that speak to this very issue. In Chapter 10, Jesus is at the home of Martha, who is busy making preparations, and was serving. In fact, she was so preoccupied with serving, that the ESV says she was “distracted with serving,” and tried to guilt-trip her sister, Mary, into helping her by telling Jesus to tell Mary to help her. What does the Lord say to her? Does He say, “Mary, don’t you know the devil finds work for idle hands?” Does He say, “Mary, you know they say 20% of people in the church end up doing 80% of the work. You really need to do your share!” Is that what He says? Instead of chiding Mary for sitting at His feet, He addresses Martha.
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (v 41-42).
Our congregation is blessed with many who are willing to serve. I’m not saying don’t serve, but also don’t become so focused on the act of serving that you do it purely out of a sense of duty.
So, we’ve looked at how while ACTIVITY ISN’T WRONG, ACTIVITY MUST BE MOTIVATED BY LOVE. Let’s say what you're doing isn’t motivated by love for Christ or His people. Maybe you’re serving out of obligation, or sense that there’s no one else stepping up. If that’s where you are this morning, I just want to remind you of three truths about the God who knows your heart.
First, The One who knows your heart is YOUR CREATOR AND REDEEMER. Back to Revelation 2, the passage starts by speaking of Jesus as
“Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1).
The very One who knows the whats and whys of your activities has you in His hand! Keep your place in Revelation, and turn to Genesis 16. We
say we’re a people of the whole book, and today we are covering Genesis and Revelation. In verse 13, We see Hagar, the servant Sarai, who is with Abram’s child, Ishmael. As angel comforts Hagar, she says,
“’You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’”
God sees us, in our circumstances. He sees the hurts, the heartbreaks, the frustrations, the exhaustion. He sees when we serve out of duty, rather than delight.
This brings us to our next point which the One who knows our heart, who is OUR LORD, is the One who CALLS US TO TURN
We have a church word for ”turning back.” We say ”repent.” Back to Revelation 2, Jesus clearly states,
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (v 5).
This is serious business. Jesus is saying, in effect, “Unless you serve others out of love, I will shut this congregation down.” I don’t see this happening in our congregation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility. This is something we must be praying for every day.
Several years ago, Matthew West had a song, “The Motions.” The part of that song that “gets me” every time I hear is the declaration made at the end of the chorus, “I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I gave you everything instead going through the motions?’” If we ever sense the attitude of “going through the motions” creep into our hearts and minds, may we turn back to Christ in repentant faith.
Lastly, the God who knows your heart is the One who gives ETERNAL LIFE. This morning’s passage ends with a promise.
“To the one whos I will grant to eat of the tree of life,which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7b).
What is this Tree of Life? I’ll give you a hint; this isn’t the first time the Tree of Life is mentioned in the Scriptures. In Genesis, we see eating from this tree means living forever, and is forbidden. In Revelation, it is promised to those who overcome. Does this mean that if you just try hard enough, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you’ll earn the right to eat from it? Not at all. In fact, at the end of Revelation we see that the fruit of the Tree of Life is given to those who have been cleansed.
This morning, I’ll ask one of the questions I opened with. Why do you do what you do? As I was writing and praying over this message, it really hit home for me. As many of you know I love studying and teaching, especially in a small group setting. I would definitely say that if I were to find a way to get paid to lead small groups, I’d never retire from that. But the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart, asking, “Would you still love me if you never taught again?” “Would you still love me if no one heard you speak again?” “Would you still love me if no one would know what you’ve learned about me?” I’m still working on the answers to those questions, but it does give me pause.
These questions remind me that as good as activity is, it needs to flow of my love for the Savior and those who bear His image. It reminds me to remember that The Holy One of Israel is the God who knows my heart. And when I am prone to wander, to leave the God I love, He is calling me to turn back. And my turning back is a mark that I will be granted to eat from the Tree of Life.
As I close, I want to read the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13.
I’m going to read it from the JB Phillips New Testament in Modern English.
If I speak with the eloquence of men and ofangels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing.
We can be the church that’s known for being the hands and feet of Jesus to the least, the last, and the lost. We can be known as the First Church of the Ukulele. But above all else, I want us to be known as the congregation that loves God, and loves people.
He who has ears to hear, let them hear. Let’s pray.