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“If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  Considering the Lord had started the letter to the church of Ephesus with such words as… I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. … You have persevered and have endured hardships for My Name, and have not grown weary.”  The words of verse 5 seem harsh, suddenly harsh for a church that had been doing well except for one thing… “You have forsaken your first love.”  This harshness is a sharp reminder to them and to us that for all our deeds, hard work and perseverance… nothing counts if we have lost that first love.  And if a church does not repent of it, its lampstand will be removed.  So whatever you may think that first love is… what is important is that it must be there.  Consider this… the church in Ephesus was raised by Paul, the supreme Pharisee who had an encounter with the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ.  Paul was an enemy of the Gospel who was by his own admission imprisoning and killing saints, who was not only given a second chance but a key and central role in the early church… what do you think Paul taught about first love?

Would Paul have taught from the Old Testament love commands – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…”  “…love your neighbor as yourself…” – or from the love commands of Jesus – “Love your enemies…”  “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another”?  Jesus’ threat to the Ephesians that He would remove their lampstand if they did not repent of their first love despite all their hard work and perseverance is not because Jesus is harsh… but in His love for them, He had to make the supreme point… that without the first love within their ranks, nothing, nothing they did counted, for without the love of enemies, they were no different from any pagan who are just as capable of working hard and persevering in holding onto the faith they have with their god, being as zealous for their cause even to the point of death, not tolerating those they consider to be evil according to their values, whilst showing kindness to their compatriots and adherents.

You see, Jesus taught Matthew 5.44 about “Love your enemies,” saying, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  …what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?”  You see, pagans can agape those who agape them… you do not need to be a Christian father to lay down your life for your children or family… any father would do that.  And again, later in Luke 6.32-36, Jesus taught, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

In Matthew 5.45, Jesus said, “…that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven,” but in Luke 6.35, He said, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High…”  From ‘may’ to ‘will be’… from a possibility to a definite… and in between that He showed them not His power to heal, but His authority to forgive sins.  The power to heal is less than the authority to forgive, for a person forgiven is set free of his debt, but a person healed is not a person set free from debt… for freedom from an infirmity is not the same as freedom from debt.  However, since the power was to confirm the authority, any church or person who does not want to use their authority to forgive has no need of miraculous power.  So useless would the Ephesians be without first love… that they might as well be as blind as the pagans and sinners… they had no need of a lampstand or light.  Without the first love of enemies that sets them apart from pagans and sinners and which credits them, they could not have risen to that place from where they could have fallen as Jesus said, “Remember the height from which you have fallen!”

Until you have actually practised “Love your enemies” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5 and forgiven them their sins as Jesus did in Matthew 9 and Luke 5… so that you would practise “Love your enemies” as commanded in Luke 6, you will never experience the rising to great heights that Jesus spoke of in Revelation 2.5.  A rise that is not measured in reputation with the world or with demons or with an increase in wealth, riches or size of your ministry… but a rise in your stature as a son of God in the eyes of your Father.  The most important person to appreciate you as a son of your father is your own father.  The fall the Ephesians suffered was not the fall of their stature in the eyes of fellow Christians as much as in the eyes of the Father.  And how does one measure your stature in the Father’s eyes?  According to Jesus… when the world knows that the Father has loved you as He has loved Jesus.

Indeed, if being kind to those who love us or lending to those who repay us gives us no credit… then consider how we have always been ready to judge, condemn and disfellowship with each other and split from one another over doctrines; and as for the record of what ‘Christians’ have done to pagans we dare not mention credit, for the word there is shame.  Indeed, when we bless those who have not sinned, we are no more than pagans.  Is it any surprise then that Christianity is one of the great religions of the world… alongside Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism?  Look carefully at this sentence… ‘one of the great religions of the world…’ it is an insult!

Once we lost our first love… once we did not repent of that loss… we lost our lampstands, we lost our light and became just like the rest of the world… groping in the dark, inventing all sorts of theories, rules and doctrines just to give some hope to those who are in the dark.  Light does not give only hope, but knowledge.  But if one does not love one’s enemies, how would one come to know God as his Father?  Indeed, does one have eternal life if one has no light of knowledge by which to come to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent?

You see, Jesus clearly taught in Matthew 5.48 and Luke 6.36 that those who love their enemies would “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and would “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  The fastest way, the way to be as your Father is, and in being, come to know your Father, is to love your enemies just as He does through Jesus Christ who died for us while we were still enemies of God.

Learning and practising the love of enemies is the fastest way of any disciple to access the stature of sonship and become like his Father – perfect and merciful – and from that love of enemies inspiring them to forgive their enemies would flow the power that would increase their knowledge and their ability to imitate their Father… for God is not only perfect and merciful, He is also all powerful, for whom nothing is impossible.

The eternal life that any repentant believer of Jesus Christ has starts now, as He said, when that believer undertakes discipleship and in his discipleship makes the love of enemies his first love.

So what should have the Ephesians done with those who claimed to be apostles but were not?  Treat them like tax collectors and pagans?  No, not at all, for that privilege belongs to a brother who sins against you… and who are your brothers and sisters?  You should know that by now.  However, a false apostle is not a brother… but as Paul wrote:  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve.  What should they have done to those enemies?  For those false apostles being servants of Satan had in their plan to do harm to them, to curse them out of hatred, not love.  So what should they do?  Return evil for evil?  You see, a brother who sins against you is still a son of God… understand?  When Jacob sinned against Esau, Isaac did not disown Jacob… Jacob remained the son of Isaac.  But those false apostles were never sons of God in the first place… according to Paul who alone has written to us about such men.  They are not even antichrists as such, for antichrists come from within our own ranks to leave us according to John, like Jacob left Isaac and Esau having stolen Esau’s blessing.

Understand that false apostles – men who claim to be apostles but are proven false – are servants of Satan from the beginning.  So what should the Ephesians have done?  What should they have done as their repentance?  They should, we should, “…bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you…”  And if we have forgiven them… then turn the other cheek, do not stop them from taking your possessions, give to them what they ask, and if they take what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” 

The first three things are deeds of words and actions that may not need miraculous power, but the last four – turning the other cheek, not stopping them from taking your possessions, giving to them what they ask, and letting them take what belongs to you – open the door for a display of miraculous power that goes beyond healing the sick.  For the turning of the other cheek can result in the withering of the arm that strikes you (like the arm of Jeroboam as he reached out to the man of God from Judah), and giving what belongs to you can result in multiplication, for we do not know (it is not written) if the twelve asked the little boy for his fish and loaves or if the little boy gave his fish and loaves or if they took it off him.  Even if the little boy gave his loaves and fish, that is not what Jesus asked them to do, for Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?”  Matthew recorded:  “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered… thus giving again the false impression that the five loaves and two fish came from them, yet also recorded is:  …Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish…  But regardless whether the little boy gave or not, the replies of Matthew 14.17 and Luke 9.13 tell us that some of them had the attitude of taking the loaves and fish, for those two replies do not give credit to the little boy, yet what followed was a multiplication of the loaves and fish with twelve baskets leftover… the little boy was more than compensated for.  When you allow your enemies to take what belongs to you, giving to them what they ask for and not demanding it back, the miracle of physical multiplication can come, so that indeed your enemies, in taking from you, will have enriched you many times as much.

It is when we understand what false apostles really are and love them as we are commanded… doing to them and for them what we are commanded, and letting them do to us what we are commanded, even not resisting them after we have proven them false, but forgiving them as well… that the power of the Holy Spirit to help us testify to the truth of our message is unleashed without limit.  It is not because we have wise or more persuasive words or dogmatic doctrines that can help a false apostle see his error… no, you only end up with a war of words or worse… it is when the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and to do miracles that they cannot counterfeit that even those false apostles themselves might be saved.

You see, even the Babylonian commander acknowledged to Jeremiah, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place.  And now the Lord has brought it about; He has done just as He said He would.  All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey Him.”  Even the commander of Israel’s final enemy acknowledged they had no power against Israel if God had not given them the power because of Israel’s sin.

Likewise, our enemies have power over us because we have sinned and not obeyed the Lord.  The restoration of this first love for the Ephesians was so crucial that if they did not, the Lord would take away their lampstand, their light, and let them grope in the dark like the rest of the pagans, like the rest of the other great religions of the world.

It is when we do what we are supposed to do – love our enemies – and stop acting like pagans who hate their enemies and love their own kind that the world will be able to see by the light that should be within us what it truly is.  It is when the true light shines and turns all the other lights into darkness that those who have walked by the light that is darkness can see the filth and the deception they themselves have been under.

Jesus Christ did not die and come back to life to be represented by one of the great religions of the world.  He did not suffer six hours on a roman cross to start a religion.  The founders of the other great religions did not have to suffer a roman cross or come back to life after death.  No, Jesus Christ came to save the world and show us His Father and His God so that all who would believe in Him would come to know their Father and their God as well.  That is why He said to Mary to tell the eleven, “Go instead to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ ”   Mary Magdalene went…  And she told them that He had said these things to her.  When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it.  Anyone now who does not learn to practise the love of enemies does not believe this message either… and needs to repent.

The repentance of our loss of first love must continue until our lampstand burns again with such brightness that those who are groping in the dark will come… not to hear another message out of the dark, but come to see for themselves the glory Jesus has given to His disciples, that they may believe the message and know that God has sent Jesus and loves His disciples as He loves Jesus.

Love for our enemies even to the point of forgiving them and dying for them is the power of God that no earthly power can match.

If we ourselves should fail to repent because of the hindsight God has given us, which He did not give the early disciples, then indeed Jesus need not remove our lampstand so much as we should haul ourselves into the abyss for the shame and disgrace we have brought Him, and torment the king of the abyss with our repentance and praise.  Lord, forgive us once more.  Amen.

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