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Difficult Verses 3: Revelation 2.4-5 (part I)

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Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place

 

Revelations 2.4-5 has been used to condemn and beat Christians up.  A lot of verses are!  The carnal nature of man is always looking for hooks of fear and guilt to control other people.  And because we read any information or text through the lens of our mind, we can find whatever we want in the Scripture.  This verse is traditionally used to say: the Ephesian church had a problem, it stopped loving God.  It didn’t love God enough.  It didn’t love Jesus enough.  Therefore, it has fallen, and needs to repent of this lack of love for God and if it doesn’t repent it will lose it’s lampstand.

Then the application is made: you don’t love God enough.  You don’t love God enough.  You need to change and love God more.  If you don’t God is going to kill you – curse you – stop you – hurt you.  And the only way to avoid God ripping apart your lampstand is to love Him more.

There are a lot of problems with the traditional understanding of these verses, and we need to unpack each of them one after the other to create a new lens to see this verse properly.

You see the most common way this verse is used is “get back to loving Jesus the way you did when you first met Him”.  Normally, this is used as an emotional thing: have the same feelings as you did back then.  I can’t disagree more with this understanding of the verse.  I have been married 17 years now, and I love my wife more than I ever have.  When we first met, I was so nervous around her because I fancied her so much, I could barely speak.  That’s great – but you can’t do 17 years of marriage like that!  In the last 17 years, we have had 4 babies, faced the death of loved ones, planted 3 churches, fought false accusations, struggled with different issues and problems.  In all of that our love has matured and grown beyond all measure.  To give that up for an immature, teenage love again would not be a step forward it would be a massive step back!

It’s the same with Jesus.  I love Him more now than 20 years ago when we first met.  Together, we have faced adversities, seen the sick healed, and I have found out more about His grace and goodness than I ever had.  I love Him more now than ever.  It may not be the full rush emotional feeling I had back then, but that’s a sign of maturing not backsliding!  Growing up means realizing that romantic love is more than an orgasm, friendship love is more than going out and getting smashed together, and love for God is more than just a rush.

Last week, Dave Duell was with us at the Tree of Life Network.  He did a men’s breakfast for us.  A guy was prayed for who none of us knew and he started yelling and screaming how much he loved God.  It was loud, it was shocking.  I have nothing against that – but it was not a sign of maturity, it was a sign of starving.  If there is someone who is eating regularly, and I buy them a bacon roll, they will say thanks.  If I buy someone who is starving and who hasn’t eaten for weeks a bacon roll, then they will make a lot of fuss and noise as they eat it and be over the top in their thanksgiving.  It’s not maturity that makes them like that, it’s starvation.  I am not against loud and not against expressiveness, and not against any of that – but there’s more to love than just an emotional experience.  True love is about commitment, loyalty, humility and service; not screaming, shouting and blood rushes.  The guys in that room who are in church every week, in living church every week, serving the church, giving to the church – they weren’t shouting and hollering – their love is grown and mature.

So if that’s what Jesus meant when he said return to your first love, he would be telling us to be more immature.  That doesn’t make sense.

So to find out what forsaken first love means, let’s broaden the search and see what hte Bible says about love.  In Ephesians 3.18 Paul does not pray that the Ephesians would love God more, but that they would know more about God’s love for them.  God doesn’t love us because we love Him – but rather we love Him because He loved us first (1 John 4.19).

So if we only love in response to Him… what then is the FIRST LOVE?  It’s not our love for Him, that comes second.  The first love is His love for us.  The Ephesians were working hard (read Rev. 2.1-7), they were serving God, but they were not serving out of a revelation of His love for them.  That sums up a lot of churches today – doing a lot, but it is not rooted and grounded in His love for us.

And there is only one way to forget and forsake the first love – to mix some law in with the grace.  To pollute the blood of Jesus with the blood of animals.  To stop preaching the good news of the unconditional love of Christ and mix in some rules and regulations with it.  To stop proclaiming His complete work, and start addressing that people need to complete the work with some of their good works.  That is forsaking the first love: that is rejecting the love of God.

That is what the Ephesians needed to repent of.  They didn’t need to get on their faces and try and work up some immature rush of love.  They didn’t need to weep and wail and try and force themselves to love God.  They needed to change their thinking about Christ and Him crucified, and realize that His work is complete because His love is perfect.

You see without that you can do good works, but they are not the works of Christ.  Putting a bandage on a sick person is a good work, healing them is a work of Christ.  Feeding a homeless man is a good work, praying for him and seeing a supernatural job and house appear is a work of Christ.  Counselling is a good work, transformation through the preaching of the Word and seeing people released from addictions and depressions is the work of Christ.  Leadership training is a good work, bearing fruit is the work of Christ.

You can only do the works of Christ with a revelation of the love of God and an understanding of the complete work.  You have to repent from thinking you can or need to add to the complete work of Christ.  You need to return to your first love: His love for you!

If not then the lampstand will be taken!  That’s not a personal verse, it’s a verse to the whole church.  The lampstand was the light in the church.  You see if a whole church forgets the love of God, it will lose it’s light.  Not because God wants to punish a church like that, but because you cannot put new wine in old wineskins.  It doesn’t work… the skin will rip.  You cannot put the new wine of the love of God into the old wineskins of the law and performance.

Excerpt from Rivers and Wells (Pastor Benjamin’s book on the anointing)

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This passage is an excerpt from Pastor Benjamin’s book RIvers and Wells.  The book can be purchased here.

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On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given,because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7.37-39, NKJV)

Incidentally, I much prefer the King James rendering of the phrase as “rivers of living waters.” Some modern translations use the phrase “streams of living waters”. I prefer the imagery of rivers of water flowing out of me, rather than streams. It just seems more powerful. The Greek gives the idea of water with a current – water that is flowing to a destination. Incidentally the King James translates a few phrases a bit better than the more modern versions. In Ephesians 6 the King James Version tells us to take up the shield of faith because of the fiery darts of the enemy. The New International Version tells us the enemy has flaming missiles. I do not know about you, but I would rather be facing fiery darts than flaming missiles!

So, by comparing these passages we can see that in John 4 Jesus is talking about the new birth and says that at the new birth a well of gushing water is placed inside you. In John 7, Jesus is not referring to the new birth but rather the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and he says the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not like a well inside you, but like rivers that flow out of you. These rivers flowing out of you are your ministry to others: laying hands on the sick, casting out demons, speaking the Word to people. This ministry is not just for the full-time ministers but should be part and parcel of the life of every Christian. Jesus said that whoever believed in Him would do the works He did (John 14.12). I know a lot of people talk about the end of that verse (“greater works”) and many theological people have argued about what greater works means. I simply do not care what greater works means. I do not. I am staying on the first part of the verse: I will do the works Jesus did. When I am doing them fully, then I will find out what the greater works are.

It makes me laugh when I hear theologians discuss and argue about what the greater works are when they have never even done the works Jesus did in the first place. You, Christian, should be doing the works of Jesus. That is the power of God that has been placed inside you: rivers of living water. Not just one river, but many rivers. So you can flow in the power of God and minister life and healing to those around you. Mark 16 tells us that those who believe will lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover. It does not mention apostles and prophets and pastors! It says those who believe. The highest calling and anointing for any Christian is the anointing and calling to be a believer. There are many people who would call themselves (and it is them calling themselves, because God certainly has not done it) apostles and prophets, and yet they have never even once functioned in the anointing of the believer. They have never laid their hands on the sick and seen them recover! It is time the body of Christ stopped arguing over titles and pre-eminence, got over our jealousy of one another and started doing the works that Jesus did.

Every Christian should be casting out demons, healing the sick, ministering life and love to the world and doing good. This is the most important issue when it comes to the anointing, not the prophetic and apostolic anointings. These are real, and Christians need to know how to relate to these anointings, but there is far too much emphasis on them within the charismatic move today. Let us focus on the main issues: every Christian should be ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit and have rivers of life flowing out of them changing their worlds. The church is so far removed from this. There are so many Christians who do not know that the power of God is inside them, that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives inside them, that they can do the works of Jesus, that they can place their hands on a sick person and the person will be healed. And yet, the church is arguing about who is a prophet and who is this, and who is that. Who cares?

The fact is most of the world needs a church that is filled with faith and glory. God’s desire is for the whole church to be doing the works of Jesus and extending the kingdom and rescuing people from hell. We have made church a spectator sport, like a theatre show. You pay your money and you put your backside on a chair so the pastor can boast how many backsides are on chairs, but you are not expected to do the works of Jesus.

You know you are destined for more than a bottom on a seat. You were designed by God for dominion, for destiny, to rule and reign over fear and over sickness. To change lives and demonstrate the kingdom of God. You know that rivers of living water will flow out of you.

Say this out loud: No more am I merely a bottom on a seat. I am a child of God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in me. The greater One lives in me. I have an anointing from the Holy One. In me is a well of water, out of me flow rivers of living water.

You need to keep saying this out loud until you start getting excited about this. You need to be so confident of this that when you walk out your house and see someone sick you offer to lay your hands on them. You offer to minister life to them. When you see someone sad, you are going to cast the devil out of them. You are going to do the works that Jesus did. You are going to believe the Word of God.

Anger Management (Andrew Wommack)

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Have you ever been mad at God? Certainly, everyone has had anger rise up against a person. And there are a lot of people who are angry with themselves. Anger is a problem all of us have to deal with. Many people come from backgrounds where strife was just normal. Our culture is so full of envy and strife that it’s become part of life. We don’t realize how deadly it is. But realize it or not, strife will kill you. Listen to what James had to say about envy and strife: “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16) Think about what this verse is saying for a moment. Envy and strife bring EVERY evil work. That is quite a revelation! You could be giving tithes and offerings and trusting God in the area of your finances, but if you’re living in strife, you are opening the door to poverty. You could be trying to take care of your body and meditating on healing scriptures, yet envy and strife will negate all of that and bring sickness and disease. No one who is trusting God for victory in any area of their life can ignore dealing with anger and expect to succeed. It’s that important. This doesn’t mean we are supposed to be emotionless or totally passive people. There is a proper use of anger. If we don’t understand this and try to completely do away with anger, we will not succeed, and we will become passive in a way that allows Satan to run over us. There is a godly purpose for anger. GODLY ANGER Think of this: Every person on the planet has a temper. Why do you think that is? Do you think the devil created anger? No way! Satan never created anything. He doesn’t have the power to create. All he does is pervert the godly things God created. It’s God who gave us the capacity to get angry. Anger has a godly function. But with most of us, it’s been perverted. We don’t need to get delivered of a temper; we need to learn how to manage that anger and direct it the way God intended — not toward people, but toward the devil and evil. There is a well-known passage of Scripture that talks about a positive use of anger. Yet this passage is most often interpreted in a way that loses the true intent of what Paul was saying. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil”. This is usually interpreted as, “God knows you are only human, and you will sometimes get angry. That just happens. But it doesn’t become sin unless you let it persist. So make sure you confess and forsake your anger every night before you go to bed.” There is no doubt that getting over anger quickly has great benefit. Confessing and forsaking anger before you go to bed every night is a good thing to do. But that is not what this verse is teaching. It’s nearly the opposite. Paul is saying there is a godly anger that is not sin. God gives us a command to get angry with a righteous anger. Then he says, “Let not the sun go down on your wrath”. What happens when the sun goes down? Typically we stop working. The day winds down, and we rest and go to sleep. Paul is saying, “Don’t let this godly anger ever stop working. Keep it awake. Stir it up and keep it active!” Then verse 27 continues, “Neither give place to the devil”. If we don’t keep a godly anger active within us, we are giving place to the devil. What a revelation! There is a righteous use of anger. Not understanding this has rendered many Christians so passive, they don’t get mad at the evil in this world. Therefore, Satan is having a free shot at everything we hold dear and holy. Our society is under attack, and our righteous anger that God has given us as a weapon is kept in its sheath and not used. This needs to change. Look at what the Word of God has to say about a right use of anger: “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil”. (Psalm 97:10) “The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate”. (Prov. 8:13) “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom”. (Psalm 111:10) “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge”. (Prov. 1:7) “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”. (Rom. 12:9) These are just a few of the scriptures that speak of a righteous use of hate and anger. Look again at Proverbs 8:13: “Pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward [literally, perverse] mouth, do I hate”. Do we really hate those things? We should, but Christians as a whole do not hate evil. We don’t like evil, but few would argue that we literally hate these things. Some Christians don’t believe that we are supposed to hate anything, but that’s not what God’s Word says. Jesus was sinless, but He had hate and anger. In John 2:14-17, which took place at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and then in Mark 11:15-17, which took place the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple. He didn’t approach them meekly and say, “Guys, I’m sorry. I don’t want to hurt any of you, but I have to do this to obey my Father.” NO! He made a whip and beat the people and animals and turned over their tables. He was mad. Where were the temple guards? I’m sure they were there, but Jesus was in a holy rage that paralyzed them from action. It’s certain that Jesus never sinned, but it’s also certain that He got very angry to the point of action. Therefore, there is a righteous anger. We need to discover the righteous use of anger and channel all of our aggression in the proper way. So, there is a right place for anger. But what about the wrong use of anger? All of us have to deal with getting mad at people. How do we overcome our unforgiveness and anger toward people? UNGODLY ANGER Have you ever prayed that the Lord would remove someone from your life who makes you angry? Have you ever prayed that your circumstances would change so that you would be delivered from those things that make you mad? If you have, you are not alone. But it’s not what others do to you that makes you angry. You will never be able to remove all aggravating things and people from your path. That’s unrealistic. Satan has more than enough people under his control to keep an endless parade of annoying people coming across your path. You can’t always change circumstances, and you don’t have the authority to change others. But you can change what’s on the inside of you that makes you angry. That’s right. Our anger comes from the inside, not the outside. I know most people don’t like that. At first, it’s comforting to think that it’s what someone else did that made you angry, but that’s not true. If what other people do makes you angry, then you will always be angry because there will always be someone that treats you wrong. That makes you a victim and not a victor. Accepting responsibility for your ungodly anger puts you in the driver’s seat. You only have total authority over yourself. You are the only one that you can really change. If you are trying to remove all the people and things that make you mad from your path, you will never win. But if you deal with the things inside you that cause your anger, you will never lose, regardless of what others do. That’s the example that Jesus gave us. He was able to look at the very ones who crucified and mocked Him and say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34) Jesus not only suffered more than any of us ever have, He suffered more unjustly than we have. As God, He could have come off the cross at any time and wiped all of His accusers out. Yet He humbled Himself and even forgave His enemies. Some people think, “Well that was Jesus. I’m certainly not Jesus.” But Jesus wasn’t the only one who forgave those who wronged him. Stephen acted just like Jesus in Acts 7:60. As he was being stoned to death, he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep”. Paul commanded us to do the same thing in Ephesians 4:32: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. Not only are we supposed to resist anger, but we are commanded to forgive those who trespass against us. We can’t control others, but we can control what’s inside of us that makes us angry. The key is found in Proverbs 13:10: “Only by pride cometh contention”. It’s not what others do to us that makes us angry; it’s the pride inside of us that causes us to get mad. I know that’s not what most people believe, but that’s what God’s Word says. This verse doesn’t say that pride is one of the major reasons for anger — it’s the only reason. What a statement! I ministered this in Pueblo, Colorado, many years ago, and a man came up to me after the meeting and said, “I’ve got a lot of problems, but pride isn’t one of them. If anything, I have such low self-esteem that I hate myself. Yet I have a lot of anger. I just don’t understand how my pride is the source of my anger.” What this man was missing was a proper definition of pride. Many people think of pride only as arrogance. But that’s only one manifestation of pride. Timidity and shyness are extreme manifestations of pride. Pride, at it’s core, is simply self-centeredness or selfishness. Timid and shy people are extremely self-centered people. I know this to be true because I was an introvert. I couldn’t look at people in the face and talk to them. I was so consumed with me that I was always thinking, “What are they going to think of me? Am I going to make a mistake and look foolish?” That self-centeredness made me shy. If you have a testimony about what the Lord has done for you that could help someone, yet you would be timid about getting on radio or television and sharing it because everyone would be looking at you, then you have some pride issues that haven’t been settled. You may not be called to broadcast on radio or television the way I am, but we are all called to, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Pet. 3:15) So, pride is not only thinking we are better than others; pride can be thinking we are worse than others or just being self-conscious. It doesn’t matter if self is always exalting itself or if it’s debasing itself. It’s all self-centeredness, which is pride. Like it or not, understand it or not, pride is the source of all of our anger. As we deal with our own self-love, anger toward others will be defused. The only reason we are so easily offended is because we love ourselves so much. As we die to ourselves, we will be able to love others the way that Jesus did.

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