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Rainbow Divider
MCM Broadcast

TV Broadcast #1200

First Love
Part One

October 4, 2015

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Transcript of message from TV Broadcast 1200 -- taken from Closed Captioning Text

— Brother Phil Enlow: Good morning.

( congregational response ).

The other day my mind was drawn to the book of Revelation, and truthfully I don’t spend a lot of time there. A lot of people think they’ve got it all figured it out. I haven’t run into anybody yet that I’m convinced has it figured it out. But there’s still a lot of profitable things in there.

And, I just began at the first part of the book, but you don’t go very far before you run into the letters to seven churches that were part of Asia Minor. Apparently there were seven congregations in seven cities within that province. And, then as I thought back about what I had read, my mind was drawn to the first one.

And, I’m confident that what I have been thinking about with respect to the letter to the church at Ephesus was for me, but I don’t think I’m the only one. I think it’s part of a message of what the Lord is wanting to give to His people about the very nature of His Kingdom and about things that are issues that are relevant in our individual lives, in our corporate life, in the world as a whole. And so, I’m just gonna go ahead and begin by reading this letter.

You know, John had been serving the Lord faithfully, and…every apostle except John wound up being killed for their faith. And the only reason John wasn’t killed for his faith was it didn’t work when they tried. They literally did something to him…I forget whether it was boiling oil, or fire, or whatever it was, it was supposed to kill him. I mean, that was what they intended and it didn’t work. The Lord had a reason for preserving him at that particular time.

And so, instead what they did to get rid of him was to send him to a rather desolate island called Patmos. And that’s where he was when he wrote the book of Revelation, when the Lord gave him all of these amazing visions.

And so, it begins with him on the Lord’s Day, and all of a sudden he hears this voice behind him that sounds like a trumpet or a just amazing sound. And he turns around and he sees this incredible vision of Jesus, only He’s not the Jesus that he remembers. There are certain…undoubtedly there are symbolic elements to what he was seeing. But, he saw this incredible bright, brilliant figure with a voice like many waters. And, he did what any self-respecting person would have done. He fainted.

( laughter ).

And the Lord brought him to and said, don’t be afraid. I want you to tell the churches what I’m showing you. So, this is where it began. And it says in chapter 2 of Revelation, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.

“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 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.

“But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (NIV).

So that’s quite a letter, isn’t it? And, the church at Ephesus was one of the main churches in that region of the world. It was in a port city. It was a large city. It was a Greek culture. They were devoted, the city itself, to the worship of a god, a goddess, I should say, who was variously called Diana or Artemis. And the central point of all the worship of that city was a very lustful, heathen religion.

And, I think it’s in chapter 18, just to give a very quick summary, of Acts. You find Paul traveling with, or…yeah, I guess he was traveling and he went to Corinth, and he ministered there for a while. But then he met up with a couple called Aquila and Priscilla. And what drew them together was that Paul was a tentmaker and so was Aquila.

And so, it’s obvious that from their relationship that Aquila and Priscilla became stalwarts in the young church and very faithful to the Word, and they understood it. Paul taught there for a couple of years, and had a fruitful ministry and the church of Corinth was born. And then we find him traveling to Ephesus and there’s where Aquila and Priscilla settle, and Paul goes on.

And there’s a short period of time where there was a Jew named Apollos. He had been born in North Africa. But he was a very zealous, gifted man, a good speaker, and he was very zealous to tell people about Jesus and the baptism of John. He just didn’t have the whole picture. He had never really gotten where the Gospel was going, where this message of Jesus coming, and what He did and what it was about, and the fact that people were literally meant to enter into a relationship with God Almighty where He literally comes to live on the inside and impart new life.

And so. Aquila and Priscilla take him aside and explain more perfectly what the Gospel is about. And it’s very quickly evident that he becomes a valued servant of God, traveling around, later associated with Paul. Some believe he’s the author of Hebrews. He would be a good candidate for that.

But in any case, then Paul comes back to Ephesus. He had stopped there briefly and the Jews wanted him to stay at that time. And he said, no I’ll come back if it’s God’s will. Well, he came back and he finds these disciples that…he senses something missing and he finds out that all they ever knew was the baptism of John, which was just repent and be baptized and get ready because Christ is coming.

And so, he introduces them to the real Gospel, and they are baptized, they are filled with the Spirit, and then Paul begins a ministry that’s over a period of two or three years of just really establishing a church. The Gospel went out with great power. There were miracles upon miracles that God performed through him as a testimony to that heathen culture. And, he ministered to the Jews for a while until they kicked him out and said, we don’t want to hear this anymore. And then he went next door and for about a period of two years he taught every day, and the disciples would gather.

And so, they had quite a foundation in that church, didn’t they? Here’s the apostle. And, you get the picture later, as Paul is determined to go to Jerusalem—he feels like the Lord wants him to go to Jerusalem for a testimony and also to carry an offering for saints there who were really having a hard time because of persecution. And so, he passes through the port city of Miletus…Miletus, ever how you say it. I think Miletus is probably right.

But anyway, he sends word…he doesn’t want to spend time because he’s in a hurry, but he wants to talk to the elders. And he calls them in and he says, I’m never gonna see you again, but you remember how I didn’t hold anything back. I told you the whole deal. I gave you everything that God gave me. I didn’t hold anything back.

And he just encouraged them and warned them. He said, the time is gonna come and there’s gonna be people try to come in among you. Watch it, watch yourselves and watch the flock that God has put you over. And so, he encourages them and then he goes on.

And somewhere within this narrative, you find Paul continuing to be concerned for the church there. And of course, the book of Ephesians was written to them and what rich truth is there!

And, a lot of people don’t really connect it, but the book of 1st Timothy was really directly connected with the church at Ephesus because Paul had sent Timothy there to establish them and to teach them and to help them and encourage them in the faith. And you see the things that he’s teaching Timothy have everything to do with Timothy, watch out, there’s people with false doctrines. You need to help them in this area. You need to…here’s what it means to be an elder. You need to help them really establish elders.

So this may well have happened before this visit that I mentioned where Paul passed through. And, they even had, apparently, some lady there who felt like she was a prophetess and was trying to usurp authority over the men. And it wasn’t just that she had this gift, it was that, hey, I’m God’s messenger, you’ve got to listen to me. It was a sense of control that she was trying to establish. And he dealt with that question in Timothy.

But whatever…all these issues that are practical things where you’re taking people out of a heathen culture and trying to teach them what the Kingdom of God is like and how to be the Body of Christ. But you can see reflected in this letter that there was a strong foundation. Not only do you see Paul and Timothy, but John the Apostle, himself, from witness outside of scripture was very likely a resident of Ephesus. So…you think of the apostolic foundation that they had.

And you know, as I was thinking about this letter, it just is amazing to me…if you and I were going to try to categorize what we thought a really good church would be, I think by our measure…I mean, here they were, they were strong on doctrine. They didn’t tolerate sin. I mean, nobody could come in and just live a sinful lifestyle, and okay, it’s okay. They were strong in all these areas.

And if we had been going down our checklist, we would have said, ‘hard work, check,’ ‘perseverance,’ man that’s a great one. They don’t give up. They run into hardship, they just keep on going, ‘check.’ I know that you don’t tolerate wicked men. Oh wow, that’s great! You listened to what Paul said, you are protecting the flock, and you tested those who have claimed to be apostles.

You know, that was what he was concerned with, with Timothy. All these crazy doctrines, Satan had attacked them in a lot of different ways, just like he’s done through the centuries. He had all these approaches. I’m gonna create hardship. I’m gonna send people in there and see if you will really stand up for righteousness. I’m gonna send people in here who claim to be sent from God, but they’re gonna have doctrines that are gonna kind of deviate from the path. That didn’t work either. Boy, ‘check’! This is a great church!

And so on, and it goes down and says, you, “…have found them false. You have persevered…” He uses that word again! “…And have endured hardships for my name….” So, again, you see the sense of the Devil…I can’t get them this way, I can’t get them that way, so I’m gonna persecute them. I’m gonna really make life rough for these people. Well, that didn’t work either, did it? They’ve endured them and they, “…have not grown weary.”

So there’s some really strong qualities in these people. We would’ve said, wow, this is, phew! You just go right down the list. This is an awesome church. But listen to what follows. “Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love.” Now, if you and I had been grading this church, we would’ve said, ‘A-A-A-A.’ Okay, well down here, we’ve got to work on this one a little bit. You know, we’ve got to get this ‘love thing’ straightened out a bit. But you’re a great church! Wow!

But that isn’t what Jesus said, was it? It’s an amazing revelation when you realize what God values versus what we value. It’s not that these other things were bad. They were wonderful. The Lord commended them for them. That wasn’t the issue. But what had happened was, they had forsaken their first love! There was something that supplanted, not ‘what’ they were doing, but the spirit in which they were doing it. They were doing the right things, but the heart was not the same as it had been.

You know, I can just imagine what the church would probably have been like when Paul first went there. I mean, it would have been composed of people who were ignorant of a lot of things. They had a heathen background. There would have been a lot wrong. The Lord could not have said probably all of these things that He had said, or half of them, at that time.

But yet, there was something they did have that apparently God values a lot more than all of these things put together. There was a reality, there was a relationship with God that had generated something in their heart and their spirit that was real! It was not about stuff and doing things and doing it right. It was about a personal, intimate relationship with God that was founded upon love!

( congregational amens ).

And somehow…and it’s not just the enthusiasm. You know, when I was thinking about this, I was thinking, oh boy, we’ve got to maintain this white-hot feeling. I don’t believe that was what it was. But there was something that motivated them to do what they did. It was living! It was real! It was the forgiveness of sins! The fact that God could reach out in love and what He did on the cross, and it was just real! And it energized what they did! It colored all their relationships one with another and with God. It gave them an impetus to go out and share the Gospel. There was a passion about it. That’s what the heart of the whole thing was!

And God said, you’ve lost that! You’re doing the right stuff, but what’s behind it is not the same. And it wasn’t just a drift, I mean, in a sense it was. But He didn’t just say, Satan’s kind of drifted you off. He said, you have forsaken. You know, I thought about that. Forsaking is a choice.

( congregational response ).

And what the Lord is getting at is that somewhere along the line…it may not have been some cataclysmic moment where you said, I’m gonna do my thing and I’m gonna keep on pretending. I’m gonna keep on doing the right stuff, but I’m gonna do my thing, and that’s the priority, that’s gonna become the priority of my life. I don’t believe that happened. I believe that this church was probably shocked to get this message. What do you think?

( congregational response ).

Yeah, they would’ve been shocked! Look at what we’re doing! We have really got it. We have listened to your servants and look at all the stuff we’re doing and we don’t give up! We’re just marching right along. But somewhere along the line, something had happened in individual lives, and somehow it percolated through the assembly, where little choices came along where it becomes “what I want.” I’m gonna do what I want in this area. But it’s okay, because I’m still doing all the “stuff.”

It’s getting quiet. Maybe I’m not the only one. Little choices, and one leads to another and leads to another and leads to another, and first thing you know, you’ve got people who are smiling, and they’re in the assembly, and they’re doing all the right stuff, but yet the priority of life has shifted. Because you get down to the bottom, and Jesus didn’t say, hey, we need a little bit of tweaking here, we need a course correction. He said, repent. Do you know what repent means?

( congregational response ).

It meant that church, in spite of all the things that looked good, was going exactly the wrong direction. That is a road that has been traveled throughout the centuries by one religious movement after another, one church after another, one life after another.

And it is a…it is just something that we have to contend with if we’re gonna live in these…we do live in these bodies. But living in these bodies, we have to reckon on the fact that we’ve got a nature that’s gonna find a way to have its way, and yet, you’ve got habit, you’ve got belief, you’ve got things that are kind of ingrained. You’ve got a sense that, hey, I’d better stay okay with God, now. Let’s be careful how far we go here. Let’s…well, it’s compromise—it’s a spirit of compromise.

( congregational response ).

But it’s so subtle that we walk right into it and don’t even realize it’s happening. Boy it doesn’t take long, does it? And you see, throughout the scriptures you see examples of what happens when people go down this road. You look at the Israelites. Man, it was just perpetual, constant. There was just this constant pull of “what I want” and “what I think,” and next thing you know what they were doing was just going through the motions. It was a form.

And after a while, they got tired of that and said, the heck with this. We’re just gonna do what we want to do. But it just started with that little turn of the heart towards my will, what I want, am I pleasing myself, or am I serving God?

I’ll tell you, God doesn’t just come in and wham, the first time. There’s a heart that’s reaching out. I mean, does He value the things that He commends them for? Of course He does. But what good is it if the heart’s not there, or if it’s drifting, or if it’s just that you’ve broken your life up into the sacred and the secular? We carve out a place for us and then the rest of the time, okay I’m gonna do the right stuff. So, I’m okay. Oh Lord, help us, help me.

You know Ron read a scripture from Isaiah chapter 66 last week. I believe that was you that read that. And it was talking about what the Lord was really looking for. And this was written, as so often was the case, in a time of great apostasy when people were, evidently there were at least some that were still ‘doing’ the right things.

They were offering the sacrifices and the prophet enumerates four different things that they were doing and he compares them to things that they would have found utterly disgusting! You know, cutting off a dog’s neck, or…I forget what the specifics were, but they were terrible things! They were heathen things in some cases. He was saying, you’re doing all this stuff I told you to do, but when I see it, this is what I see! It doesn’t make a bit of difference. You might as well be sacrificing a hog!

( congregational response ).

For all the good it’s doing. Oh, I want the Lord to have…I want to have, not just the outward, I want to have what goes behind it.

( congregational response ).

And you think about Amos and all that the Lord was telling them. There was one place where he talked about the songs that they were singing. Man, they probably had a great choir. I mean, David was the one that established the idea of having singers and that being a regular ministry. Well, apparently they were still doing that! They probably had a great choir, great arrangements…I don’t know.

But when the Lord listened, He didn’t hear beautiful music, He heard noise! He said, take it away! I’m sick of it! I don’t want to hear it anymore because there’s nothing behind it! It’s just a form! It’s just you going through the motions of all this stuff you’re trying…you say you’re serving me. And it’s just worthless. In my ears, it’s noise…take it away!

Come on, get with the program! Let your heart be right. Let justice run down like waters. I’m looking for the heart. I’m looking for what’s real. I’m looking for relationship.