How would you feel if a consultant came in to evaluate your church and delivered a report like this one?
I have seen all that your church is doing. I saw your love for each other. I saw your faith, your service to each other and to the community around you. I saw your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you do not get involved in the sin of the world around you and that you have tested those who claim to be teachers of God’s word but had succumbed to the philosophy of the world, and have found them false. While other churches have not remained faithful to God’s teachings, you have remained true to Christ. You did not renounce your faith in God. You have persevered and have endured hardships for the sake of Christ, and have not grown weary. From others that I interviewed, you have a reputation of being a church that is alive and you are a growing church, doing more now than you did in the past.
If this is what was said about my church, I would be praising God!
Would you say that your church looks like this and has this kind of reputation?
If your answer is no, then I would be careful and hope that your leadership would have a serious spiritual check up.
And yet, if your answer is, “Yes, that is exactly how my church is!,” then, I would also be careful.
What? Why would I say a thing like that?
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 God did an evaluation of seven different churches in Asia.
One of them failed miserably and two of them seemed to be doing okay and just needed some encouragement. Four of the seven churches received reviews just like the one above: loving, serving, working hard, standing up for truth, having a great reputation, growing. Tremendous reviews! Does anyone hear a “Yet…” coming?
What had started out as an encouraging evaluation took a sober turn, as Jesus told one church that, even though he saw their hard work, careful doctrine, and impressive perseverance,
“You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
Look at all we are doing, how much we are serving, how busy we are! Look at how we love each other. When someone is sick and needs a meal, we provide it. Someone needs clothes? We make more space in our closet. Someone needs food? We get it for them. Jesus sees it all and still says, “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far 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” (Rev. 2:4-5).
Really, God? Did you get your notes mixed up with some other church?
As I meditated on how such a seemingly good church could receive such a harsh warning, this thought came to me: They seem to be more consumed with the doing than with the being. In all their activity, doing the right things, something had happened to their heart.
I remember back when I first fell in love with God.
I could not get enough of God. I devoured his Word. Everyday I wanted to get to know God and Christ better and better. In my discretionary time, I spent more time reading and studying God’s Word and talking with him than anything else I did.
Yet over time, I let life crowd out God. I was still at church every time the doors were open, I was active in the work of the church, I was a faithful member, and I loved God. Yet I drifted away from being in love with God. God gradually moved from being my life to being a part of my life. And one day I heard God say, “Wake up! Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Maybe you’ve heard of a person that was the perfect weight, exercised daily, had the best diet, and everyone admired them for being the epitome of being healthy. And then one day we learn they died of a heart attack. They had looked so good and had felt so good, but they had a heart issue that–had it been recognized and dealt with–would have saved their life.
So, I ask the question: as an individual and as a church, are we healthy and how are we determining that?
Take some time this week and ask how much you are “exercising”: are you active in loving and serving? Think about your “diet”: are you attending worship services, classes, and small groups? Yet, even with those activities in place, is it possible that an evaluation of your life and your church would resemble the church we saw earlier who thought they were healthy when in reality they needed a spiritual heart check?
Take some time this week and look at how much time you spend in recreation: How much time do you spend watching TV and movies? How much time do you spend doing religious activities–which, although good to be active in, aren’t a substitute for a relationship with God. Then ask how much time you spend getting to know God better, time between just you and God, reading and studying his Words, talking to him in prayer, growing in your relationship with God.
Ask yourself, “What occupies most of my thoughts? What do I think about the most?” Is it about the things of this world? As you go to church and spend time around other Christians, what do you spend most of your fellowship time talking about? Is it the latest sports news, what you are doing around the house, that new fill-in-the-blank that you just got?
Now may be the time to fall back in love with God, like we were when we first fell in love with God and Christ.
This means having God and Christ involved in every aspect of our daily life. Having a relationship once again where we long to spend time together.
Imagine what would happen if we fell in love with God again and spent so much time with him that, when we were with other Christians, we could not help but share what new thing we learned from God this week, how God had blessed us this week, how we saw God working in our lives and the lives of others we know this week.
Imagine what would happen in Christ’s church if we fell in love with God again and our relationship with him became so deep that, when we find ourselves around those who do not have a relationship with God yet, we cannot help but share what new thing we learned from God this week, how God had blessed us this week, how we saw God working in our lives and the lives of others we know this week.
Here are some verses to meditate on as you rekindle your love for God.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)