True New Testament Revival: Getting Back to Our First Love, Part 14 (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #292)
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
In our series of homilies from the book of Ephesians, we focused on reviving Christian families. Now, I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages from the book of Revelation, specifically targeted at reviving the church. If our country is to be awakened, the family and the church must be revived first.
TEXT: Revelation 2:1-7:
1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
John Wesley said, “Value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “The cross is going to judge everything in your life — your eating, your drinking, your sleeping, your spending, your talking. Everything in your life will be cross examined.”
In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “Before Robert Haldane left Geneva, however, a pastor agreed to take him to visit a local tourist attraction. The evening before the tour, the pastor came down with a severe headache but arranged for a young divinity student at the local college to accompany Haldane. During the tour, the Scottish preacher and the student began discussing theology. Haldane wrote in his journal: I found him profoundly ignorant, although in a state of mind that showed he was willing to receive information. He returned with me to the inn, and remained till late at night. Next morning he came with another student, equally in darkness with himself. I questioned them respecting their personal hope of salvation, and the foundation of that hope…. After some conversation, they became convinced of their ignorance of the Scriptures, and of the way of salvation, and exceedingly desirous of information. I therefore postponed my intended departure from Geneva. After listening to Haldane for a day, the student told a friend, ‘Here is a man who knows the Bible like Calvin!'”
In life, there are many things that the Christian will need to overcome. For the Ephesian church, they had to overcome the deceit of the Nicolaitanes, the legalism that was cropping up in their church family, and the complacency that caused them to turn away from their first love. Could they overcome all these things? Yes, they could. They could overcome all things if they relied on Christ for strength.
When we think of the word “overcoming”, we typically envision an external enemy — physical or spiritual — that becomes a threat to the progress of our walk with Christ. But, for the most part, the enemies that we must overcome in the Christian life are internal. We must overcome our own pride, hatred, envy, unbelief, unforgiveness, bitterness, and leaving our first love. These are all things that can tear us down from the inside. And we need the power of Christ to overcome these things just as we need the power of Christ to overcome the devil and human beings used by the devil.
Christ tells the church at Ephesus that there is a reward waiting for those who overcome. He says, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Dr. John Walvoord said, “This tree, first mentioned in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:22, is later found in the midst of the street of the new Jerusalem, where it bears fruit for the abundant health and life of the nations. It is especially appropriate that those who hate the world’s evil deeds and idolatrous worship are given the reward of abiding in the abundant life that is in Christ in the eternity to come. The gracious nature of the promise is designed to restore and rekindle that love of Christ known in the early days of the church.”
God wants all of His churches and all of His children to be overcomers. There is no elite group of Christians who are overcomers. The word “overcomers” can also be translated conquerors. This word implies that there will be a struggle. We will face false brethren like the Nicolaitanes. We will also face the temptation to let other things take the place of our first love. But the Bible says “we are more than conquerors” through Christ. Nothing can permanently defeat us or undermine us. We always possess the power to overcome anything that we face because “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.” And greater is He that is in us than our selfish, fleshly will that is susceptible to turning away from our first love.
We must trust in the power of Christ the Overcomer in order to navigate the pitfalls of the Christian life and emerge victorious on the other side where we can partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.
Charles W. Naylor wrote:
Be an overcomer, He who stands with you
Is a mighty One, who is always true;
In the sorest conflict you shall win the day,
Face the legions dark till they flee away.
Be an overcomer, you are heaven’s heir,
And a crown of life you may ever wear;
So with courage press the battle to the gates,
Till you gain the prize which in heaven waits.
Be an overcomer, forward boldly go,
You are strong enough if you count it so–
Strong enough to conquer through sustaining grace,
And to overcome every foe you face.