Live A Life Of Love
By Rich Carmicheal
Scripture Reading: Revelation 2:1-7
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus refers to churches as lampstands. This imagery is reminiscent of His words, "You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16) and the Apostle Paul’s words, "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…" (Phil. 2:15-16). What a glorious calling those of us in the Church have to be sources of light for a darkened world! We are, after all, "the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
The Lord’s Love for the Church
The significance of the Church in the Lord’s sight is evident from the price He paid to redeem her. He loves the Church so much that He gave the greatest gift He could for the Church – Himself! "…Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). He bought the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He gave Himself up for the Church "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:26-27). We belong to Him. We are His people, His body and His bride. What a difference it would make in our lives if we could fully comprehend the depth of the love Christ has for the Church! No wonder the Apostle Paul prayed for God’s people to "…have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…" (Eph. 3:18-19).
How Far the Church in Ephesus Had Fallen
With all of this in mind, how it must have broken the heart of the Lord to share with the church in Ephesus: "…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" (Rev. 2:4-5). The church in Ephesus did indeed have a great beginning. The Apostle Paul had spent three years with the Ephesians, more time than in any other place during his missionary journeys. He spoke boldly in the synagogue about the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8), and then moved to a lecture hall where he had daily discussions with disciples for two years (Acts 19:10). The Lord did extraordinary miracles through him (Acts 19:11) and many people became believers and openly confessed their evil deeds (Acts 19:19) and the "word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:20). The impact of the Gospel was so significant, a riot broke out among those who felt that trade associated with the temple of Artemis, and the goddess herself, were in danger of being discredited (Acts 19:23-41).
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reveals how strong the foundation of the church in Ephesus was: "…you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit" (Eph. 2:19-22). Paul’s letter also reveals the depth of their first love. He writes that "…ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (1:15-16) and he closes the letter with these words: "Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love" (6:24). The Ephesians were marked by their love for all the saints and their undying love for the Lord.
But along the way they had lost their first love. What makes Jesus’ rebuke so significant is that love is essential and key to everything. Jesus teaches that all of the Law and Prophets hang on the two commandments to love God and love others (Matt. 22:40). Paul writes in Galatians that the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6). He writes to the Corinthians that even if a person can speak in tongues, or prophesy and fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, or have faith to move mountains, or give away all his/her possessions to the poor, or even face martyrdom, if that person does not have love, he/she is nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). In other words, love makes all the difference! While Jesus could commend the Ephesians for their deeds, hard work and perseverance (Rev. 2:2), these were overshadowed by the sad reality that they had lost the heart of their relationship with the Lord and with others. And because of this, they were in danger of ceasing to be a lampstand for the Lord.
Love Is What Matters
I have heard it said that life is like a grindstone that either polishes you up or grinds you down. Or, put another way, life either makes you better or bitter. Jesus’ words to the Ephesians can serve as a reminder to us to make certain that through the battles of life we keep our love alive and fervent. In the eyes of the Lord, love is the heart of the matter. It is what counts. If we lose love, we lose everything. Our God is a God of love, and love is to be the key mark of our lives as His people. We are to love because He first loved us. It is by our love that others will know that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).
A good way to check the quality of your love is to consider how closely your life matches the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...." You can ask yourself, "Am I patient, kind, humble, polite, concerned about others, slow to anger, forgiving, truthful, protective, trustful, hopeful and one who perseveres?" If so, offer praise to the Lord and ask Him to keep your love aglow. If not, ask the Lord’s forgiveness and for Him to rekindle your love. We can find hope in the fact that God is eager to fill us with His love. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us" (Rom. 5:5). His desire is to make our love increase and overflow for Him, for each other and for everyone else (1 Thess. 3:12).
Paul’s words to the Ephesians seem to sum it all up: "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…" (Eph. 5:1-2).
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Thank You for Your Love
As I consider the significance of love, I cannot help but think of those of you who show such love toward the ministry of Herald of His Coming through your prayers, gifts and encouragement. Your acts of love are of great worth as they help this ministry share the Lord’s message with many readers who are so grateful to freely receive what they could not otherwise afford. Consider the love of this brother who recently sent a gift to help with the outreach of the ministry: "For the past few months, the Herald ministry has truly been on my heart and in my prayers because your magazines have given me much needed encouragement during this transition. As such, I wanted to donate a few of the dollars I had left to help in any way possible. But this too proved trying as I didn’t have a stamp. So I prayed. The next day I was blessed by a Christian brother here with two stamped envelopes. To God be the GLORY! Please accept this small gift. I know it’s not much, but it is truly sent with all my heart."
One of the greatest joys of this ministry is the privilege of joining our hearts together with brothers and sisters like this dear brother. Some Herald friends, like him, are able to share smaller gifts, others are able to share larger gifts, and still others are unable to offer financial assistance, but faithfully uphold this ministry in prayer. Though the gifts may vary, the common factor is that they all share with hearts filled with love for God and others. And for this we are deeply thankful.
If you would like to help the Herald ministry send salvation and revival literature freely to others, we invite you to write to the address below. Every act of love truly makes a difference!
Herald of His Coming
P.O. Box 279
Seelyville IN 47878