Have you ever forgotten something important? Maybe a cell phone, car keys, or your wallet? We can all be prone to forgetfulness at times and the church is no exception. It’s easy for churches to start well and have a reputation of positive influence, but struggle to keep that zeal through the years.
The book of Revelation begins with seven letters to seven different church communities that forgot some very important things. In this article, I am going to outline seven ways that the churches noted in Revelation forgot something significant and what we can do about it today.
1. A passionate love for God. In Revelation 2:1-7, John writes to the church in Ephesus, and the voice of Jesus declares, “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first. Turn back to me and do the works you did at first!” (Rev. 2:4). It becomes clear that the church in Ephesus, which was very influential in the first century, started well, but over time had lost its zealous love for God.
To be sure, the church was still doing good things, but it had lost its primary motivation. On the outside, the church was still performing acts of love, but they were no longer motivated by their love for God. Don’t forget your first love and let your love overflow to everyone around you inside and outside of the church.
2. A willingness to remain faithful. In Revelation 2:8-11, John writes to the church in Smyrna, and the voice of Jesus notes, “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” In the first century church, it was common for Christ followers to suffer and even die because of their connection to the church and their refusal to worship certain Roman Emperors demanding their allegiance.
Those of us in the 21st century will likely not be put to death because of our faith, but it’s good to ask ourselves the powerful question, “If I were being persecuted and tortured for my faith, would I buckle under pressure and deny my Lord, or would I remain faithful?” Don’t forget to remain faithful in a culture that is persuading you to give up the values of the Kingdom of God.
3. A commitment to maintain sound teaching. In Revelation 2:12-17, John writes to the church in Pergamum, which was allowing false teachers to permeate the church. In the letter, the voice of Jesus mentions several specific examples of false teachers who were promoting a doctrine that blended cultural spirituality with the message of Jesus. This bending and blending of other spiritual ideas did not make Jesus happy. Jesus gives the church a sharp rebuke and calls them back to his core teachings of the faith.
Let’s be honest, sometimes the teachings of Jesus and the Kingdom of God are hard to follow, and it would be much easier to appease the crowds and align ourselves with the values of the culture. Yet, we can’t allow our opinions to compromise the teachings of Jesus. Don’t forget to align your theology with Jesus’ teachings.
4. A desire to constantly improve. In Revelation 2:18-29, John writes to the church in Thyatira. Like the church in Pergamum, Jesus also counsels them to get rid of the false teachers, but Jesus also notes how he sees their “constant improvement” (Rev. 2:19).
Like many things in life, it’s easy to become complacent and stop growing and learning new things about life in the Kingdom of God. Don’t forget there are always new dynamics to learn about God’s character and God’s kingdom life.
5. An action-based lifestyle. In Revelation 3:1-6, John writes to the church in Sardis, which was known as the sleeping city. The voice of Jesus beckons the church to, “Wake up!” (Rev. 3:2). I love a good night’s sleep, but I also know if I were to sleep the day away, then I won’t get much accomplished.
Sometimes churches can look awfully sleepy to the surrounding community. It’s good to prioritize being over doing, but we also need to recognize that people will see our good works and praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Don’t forget to have an active faith and serve those around you.
6. A persevering attitude. In Revelation 3:7-13, John writes a positive word of encouragement to the church in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Even though the church didn’t have much strength, they were obedient and persevered through a great time of testing.
Whether it’s a leadership transition, a tragedy, or a global pandemic, there will be times in our lives and in our churches where we will be tested. It’s during these times that our faith is deepened and matured. Don’t forget we were never promised an easy life, but we were promised an abundant life.
7. A useful disposition. In Revelation 3:14-22, John writes to the church in Laodicea, and the voice of Jesus proclaims, “I know the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other!” (Rev. 3:15). The Laodicean church was lukewarm and Jesus wanted to vomit them out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16). Like the city’s water system, they were not cold or hot—in other words, they were not very useful.
To be sure, the church was there, but they weren’t making any difference. Don’t forget to use your time, talents, and treasure for God’s mission in the world!
The seven letters in the book of Revelation are filled with many rebukes and words of encouragement. May you have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today.
Are you interested in learning more about Jesus’ message to his churches in the first century, and what that might mean for us today? Ed Love has written a book titled, Revive: How the Seven Letters of Revelation Can Awaken Your Soul. Get the Bible study from our store here.
- Sunday school classes
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In these pages you’ll:
- Be encouraged to persevere in your faith, no matter the cultural or political conditions
- Learn the ancient historical-social context behind the message of the book of Revelation
- Discover the timeless relevance of this often misunderstood book of the Bible
About the Book
The world is desperate and wondering if those who claim to follow Christ are able to stand the test of time. Is there anybody willing to weather the storms of life and still honor God? Is there anybody who won’t bow down to the idols of our modern culture and stand strong in the face of opposition and persecution? Is there anybody that will allow Jesus to be their guiding authority in life?
Taking the seven short letters to the churches at the beginning of Revelation as a guide, Dr. Ed Love unpacks their messages of revival and explores what they might mean for our lives. This book is for anyone who desires the vibrant passion they once had for Jesus, the Scriptures, and the mission of the church. If you are ready to be reawakened with real faith and hear the words of Jesus directed to these ancient communities of faith, Revive is the study for you.