Do you love the fight?
Listen to full sermon here: Art Azurdia – Loving God First. Revelation 2:1-7
The church of Ephesus was commended for its doctrinal fidelity and its faithfulness to the Gospel. They were serious about doctrine and theology and were quick to put on their spiritual boxing gloves. Whenever false teachers showed up they would immediately examine their teaching and lifestyle. If they found major flaws in their theology they would immediately expose them for who they really were. For this, they were strongly commended. But in their quest for doctrinal fidelity, they lost their first love. They loved the fight, more than they loved Jesus. It’s not that they didn’t love Jesus. But their passion for Christ no longer matched their passion for the fight.
‘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. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 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. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 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.’ (Revelation 2:2-7)
Here is the mistake so many Christians make when they read this passage. They go to the other extreme and give up the fight altogether. Instead, they end up tolerating false teachers for the sake of love. They make the same mistake that the church of Thyatira made:
‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:9-20)
Jesus commended the Ephesians for staying in the fight! The solution is not to stop fighting. The solution is to love Jesus more than the fight. God wants both, not either or. But our love and passion for Christ must be greater. Don’t stop fighting for doctrinal fidelity, but don’t stop loving Jesus either. And in the fight, don’t become spiritual bullies, fight with the view of bringing people to repentance because you love them and you love Jesus. And please, please, please, don’t become a spiritual pansy either. Don’t simply love and accept people where they are. That is the most unloving thing you could ever do. God does not love us and accept us where we are. He loves us and calls us into a life of discipleship and conformity into the image of His Son. If we really love people we would never let them stay where they are, but we would fight for them and pray until they come to the knowledge of the truth. But this all must be done with love, patience, and gentleness.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Keep on fighting! But keep on loving Jesus more!