In our eagerness to perform, have we lost out in that which is most essential?
The church at Ephesus had many things going for them. They were commended in three areas:
They passed with flying colours in three P’s:
1. Performance – excelled in good works.
2. Purity of doctrine – being discerning, they managed to fend off false doctrine.
3. Perseverance – able to endure hardship.
But they failed in one area: First Love.
So it’s PASS for three P’s but FAIL for one F.
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 people, 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 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. (Revelation 2:1-5)
Now what exactly is ‘first love’?
It is the glow, excitement and enthusiasm that we had when we first believed in Christ. We could serve God and testify for Him with great joy.
But down the road in our spiritual walk, things have turned dull and monotonous. We no longer seek him as earnestly as before or spontaneously burst out in worship.
Jesus taught that “whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). If that were so, weren’t the believers at Ephesus through their good works keeping God’s commands and, in effect, loving God?
Yes, that is a valid point. But good works must be motivated by love. It must not be mechanical, or driven by selfish or ulterior motives like money, fame, power or pride. Good works should not be “generated” when we are running empty inside (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Truth be told, we need an abiding relationship with God (John 15) from which good works spring forth. We need to be like Mary first; and then, spontaneously, we will be like Martha.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10: 38-42.
The danger of performance without ‘first love’ (or an intimate relationship with Christ) is that our ability to witness or impact those around us will be taken away – when our lampstand is removed from us.
Peak performance and statistics have always been the name of the game in business and corporate circles. It is the method by which we monitor success. Sadly, this kind of thinking has also been creeping into church circles.
Undeniably, good response is often a sign of God’s presence. It tells us God is moving as is evident during Pentecost when Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the first sermon and thousands were saved.
But carnal men – without the spiritual reality – can use soft music, psychology and various ways of “beating the spiritual drums” to fan spiritual activity in order to produce awe-inspiring statistics. But is God pleased? Is performance the sole determinant of success in God’s eyes?
The ultimate danger of performance without a relationship with God is found in this passage:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! (Matthew 7:21-23).
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