This week, Radiant Church’s Lead Pastor Keith Welton preached on Revelation 2 for his sermon entitled, “Spiritual Renewal.” Below, you can listen to his sermon, watch our whole service, and use the outline for a reference.
Missed last week’s sermon from Pastor Welton, entitled “Doers of the Word”? You can listen to it and watch the whole service here.
Every night just before I go to bed, I do one thing before I walk up the stairs to my room. I go over and I plug my phone into the charger. If I do not do this it won’t last the next day. All the technology in this thing is rendered useless. GPS does no good when your phone is dead. So this device, as powerful as it is, is dependent on being replenished with energy each night. Its energy gets used up through all the tasks we ask it to do.
We are like this phone in the fact that we need regular renewal– physical, emotional, and also regular spiritual renewal. And those interconnect more than you may think. Many people have great workout/diet plans and yet they have very little for their spiritual health.
We are going to look at spiritual renewal. The Bible ends with the book of Revelation. It is the last book. The book of Revelation ends with an address to the churches that were founded by the apostles. They were all in need of renewal and redirecting. They were still fighting the fight, but their battery was low. I want to look at this passage to understand spiritual renewal.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'”
Spiritual renewal comes from looking (and relooking) to Jesus to give you life.
1. Look to His Presence
Let Scripture interpret Scripture. (Revelation 1:20)
The seven stars are the angels/messengers of the seven churches. This has been interpreted as angelic beings to the pastors or overseers of the church. The seven lampstands are the seven churches. Jesus is holding the stars and walking among the lampstands. The church is important to Jesus, it is where he is. You have to wonder why more Christians don’t see this today.
Here we are told (v1) that the angel of church of Ephesus is being addressed. And yet Jesus is the one who holds the angels in his right hand. And he walks among the churches. In the Christian faith, we don’t need intermediaries. We have a Savior who is sovereign, all powerful and omniscient, knowing all things, and who is also accessible. Because we have been forgiven we have access to him. Things that might disqualify us from his present have been taken away. We don’t need angels and intermediaries. We need Jesus. But we also acknowledge that he may use such things to strengthen and encourage us.
Seven churches. It’s considered a number of perfection, so speaking to individual churches whose experience makes up the experience of the whole church.
He holds the stars. He walks among the lampstands. He provides them light. Don’t get it from anyone else. Rev. 1:20 says that “the face of Jesus is like the sun shinning in all its brilliance.”
Don’t look other places. If you look other places you are not looking to him. You are looking into darkness.
Eternal life is being in his presence.
2. Hold Up His Name
We typically think this is an either/or thing. We think, “Jesus is with me = no hardship. If I experience hardship, he is not with me.”
“Jesus knows their every deed/works.” Nothing is hidden. He knows what sites they have visited online and things said when no one else is around. But here he says specifically, he knows their hard work and perseverance.
He knows every drop of sweat/toil. strictly beating; (1) as exhausting physical or mental exertion toil, labor, work (JN 4.38); (2) as exhausting and wearisome difficulties encountered trouble, burden, hardship
evil, base, wicked. The Roman world was pluralistic and very immoral. In the city of Ephesus was the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world, and to which a focus of worship there was prostitution with a female priestess. When this church was founded a riot broke out because the people of the city who made idols of Artemis felt Jesus might challenge their sales so they stirred up a riot and threatened Paul’s life. It was also the place where some people are trying to deliver a demon possessed man and the man rises up, beats them, and sends them away naked and bleeding.
All types of wickedness. Just like what we see today, riots, shooting, anger. Jesus is present.
Problems outside the church but also problems inside the church. Those who claim to be apostles but are not. They are having to sort through what the Scriptures say and who is getting it right.
Hate the practices of the nicolaitans. the spiritual descendants of Nicolas of Antioch, who had been ordained as a deacon in Acts 6:5. Nicolas was a convert to Judaism, probably a pagan. It’s speculated these people were probably those who had one foot in the world and one foot in the church. Nicolas’s deep roots in paganism may have produced in him a tolerance for occultism and paganism, things contrary to God’s word. There was Judas for the disciples and now there is a Nicolas for the apostles, pretending to be something he is not.
They are enduring this. Not once. Not twice. A regular practice. We have a call to love people. But it is appropriate to hate the practices of some. Hold the newspaper up, and it is clear there are things going on in our society. We live in a time where a godless and destructive sexual ethic pervades our nation and world.
It is not popular to hold a different view. Some people fear losing their jobs over this. They are not seeking to belittle those of the opposite view, but they simply cannot give in to the pressure to assent with it.
Endurance. steadfastness, constancy, endurance, the characteristic of a man who has not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings:
“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance,” (Rev 2:2 CSB)
“You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name, and have not grown weary.” (Rev 2:3 CSB)
The only way you can demonstrate endurance is to have your faith tested, and for the test to last for a long time. It is a long time waiting for God to do what you hope him to do.
This looks like waiting and hoping that the person making false accusations against you will stop, waiting and hoping the person spreading lies about you will stop, waiting and hoping that you may have a child, waiting and hoping that you might find that special someone.
**They are enduring for Jesus. Holding his name up,** and not seeing the results they would want to see. It is an act of worship for him.
We do not love others just because they love us. We love those who hate us. We do that because Jesus loved us when we did not love him. Jesus changes everything. He shows that we actually find life not by fighting for life now, but by laying it down.
The early church theologian Origen envisioned the world as a great theater filled with spectators, all of them watching to see how Christians respond to persecution. In the theater a wide variety of people, neighbors, friends, scorn the believers “shake their heads at us fools.” The way Christians play their part in this spectacle is critical to their witness. God is with them– they must never forget; when under torture” the eye of God is present with those who endure. Jesus laid down his life for Christians, so let us lay down our lives for others.
What you sacrifice in honor of him is not forgotten.
It is one thing to lift up the Emmy award and give Jesus praise for allowing you to be such a great actor. God’s word certainly points us to how we can do things for his glory and I believe equips us to be the best that we can be. We want to do all things for his glory. That is a worthwhile investment of your life you can be proud of.
But do you know that God can be just as glorified by the one who never holds up the award? Do you know how powerful it can be to hear one say, “I won this award and it means nothing to me apart from faith in Jesus.” It is also powerful to hear one say, “Life did not go the way I wanted but Jesus is sweeter to me than all the other stuff.”
We do it for him and his name. Not for recognition in the world. He knows it. It is not unnoticed.
3. Remember Your First Love
They have some great achievements. But Jesus also has something against them. They have forsaken their first love. The love they had at first slipped away.
Why did they let it go? Why do people lose the love they once had? newlyweds are excited to be together, excited to serve one another. They are simply amazed that another person who is so brilliant, so fun to be with, so good looking would ever want to be with them. Excitement, excitement, excitement.
But years later they can view the other person with little appreciation. They’re seen them make bad decisions, walked through hardships they couldn’t prevent. You lose some hair, lose your physique, and good looks. You become more aware of hurts and disappointments than anything else and just take them for granted. Never do anything special. Just making it one day at a time.
I think it’s understandable that there is relationship between all the hardship and losing your love. Hit a bump in the road. Carrying too much baggage. If I’m with you then I’m good.
The solution is to return to that love. Repent. It is not, “Why don’t you go out and find another that fits your needs better?” It is not that maybe you have changed and outgrown, you are still finding yourself and who you are. It is to go back to what you had in the beginning. To be reminded of who they are and what they have done.
- Jesus is perfect. He has not changed.
- He laid down his life for you. That has not changed.
- He is resurrected to new life. That has not changed.
- He still offers you forgiveness… even for all the ways you neglect him.
- Do you still stand amazed at that? Or are you more aware of what he has not done for you? The place where you see your salvation is greater than anything else.
If our relationship to God is the basis and the motivation for how we love others, forgive others, correct others, guide others, then when we grow cold toward that, we grow cold toward loving others, forgiving other, guiding others. It is foundational.
There is debate on if this is their love to Jesus, their love for others, their witness. Commentators have written why it is specifically all of these. Love to Jesus is expressed in commitment to his body, his people, his church. If you want to show your love to him, then love what he gave his life for. When you love something you can’t help but talk about it.
People have pressed for a specific application. When you love someone there are actions and communications that express that.
Love God has shown. He has forgiven you. I will never forget hearing that for the first time. I will never forget God calling me out of the darkness I was in. l will never forget him opening my eyes to his word. Maybe you’re in stalemate in marriage and feel like there’s a wall that you can’t get around and don’t know what to do, and you realize you’re holding on to things you shouldn’t be. For some reason things that are not most important have become most important.
Remind yourself what he has done for you. Preach the gospel to yourself. Tell yourself and others what he has done for you.
You can share with others really simply with a 15-second testimony. It looks like this:
There was as time in my life I was ___ and ___.
But then I trusted in Jesus
And now my life is __ and __.
You don’t need something new. You don’t need to find some new esoteric knowledge that no one else has ever discovered. You don’t need to leave everything and find a new identity, a new thing to fill the void in your life. This is what the culture tells us. This is why so many people are unhappy today. This is why suicide rates continue to climb. This is why depression and mental illness continue to climb for those experiencing gender dysphoria.
Renewal: Repentance. Turning away from wrong thinking, wrong living.
You have an expectation of how life ought to be for you. Everyone today has an inflated expectation of life. Now you are sad and depressed.
Do what you did at first. Go back to devotion to others, devotion to church. Your devotion to the things of God is an indication of your love for Jesus. What does your love for the church say? There are heart breaking statistics of kids who lose their faith in college. Studies show those who keep their faith were taught to read their Bible themselves and prioritized church. I encourage you to do that. Part of renewal is plugging into the community of God’s people.
4. Look to the Life Ahead
The one who overcomes will eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Those who do no repent will have their lampstand removed. The church will be taken away. There is judgment for them.
Those who pose the threat are mentioned as receiving eternal death at the end of Revelation in 21:8. What are you upset at and what is wearing you down? There maybe legitimate things you need to address and change. But you also need to see if that thing is allowing you to have a better eternity then may it be.
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
What can you endure now if you know what’s in store for you?
Plug yourself into what God has done and is doing. You need some recharging. Stop listening to yourself and start preaching God’s word to yourself.