I had originally intended to go to chapter 2 of Revelation and the instructions to the seven churches. But something began to bother me. Was I ignoring Jesus in favor of His instructions?
The first church that King Jesus speaks to in Revelation is Ephesus. In spite of a largely positive “report card”, He actually threatened to remove their church: “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.”
The Ephesian church had started emphasizing doctrine without love. That can easily turn us into Pharisees, priding ourselves on our performance, instead of being the humble living examples we should be of the God Who is love. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
The fault of the Ephesian church comes too easily to me. I need to change that.
Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1st Corinthians 13:1)
Love was the reason for the terrible death on the cross of the King of Kings. The love of God for us and the love of King Jesus for His Heavenly Father drove the world’s most astonishing, most successful rescue mission.
Love is what draws people to God. The basic doctrines are necessary and must not ever be compromised, but if our first emphasis is not love, we will be “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
You can’t love someone distant and cold, who only makes very difficult demands on you, only requires you to follow rules. You can’t love someone like that when you are in the midst of the worst pain or trouble of your life and all you know of them is the Ten Commandments, or the Pharisees’ ten thousand commandments. So we need to get to know our God and Savior.
You have to spend time with someone to get to know them.
An odd but useful place to start is in Revelation, with the vision that John saw that day on the Isle of Patmos:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me. I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like the son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ “
John was “the disciple that Jesus loved“. He had been with the Lord from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John was one of the brothers Jesus called “the sons of thunder“. Not a timid man, then. And well acquainted with Jesus. But only Jesus as a man. Even on “the Mount of Transfiguration”, John saw nothing like this. “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:10-18)
This is the Risen Christ. Your Lord and Savior – a terrifying vision!
But look! “He laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not!“
The first thing we need to know about our Lord is that, although His power is beyond our ability to imagine, we don’t have to be afraid of Him. Respect Him, yes, more than any other person except God the Father. Honor Him, yes, more than any other person except God the Father. But fear Him? Read the 23rd Psalm. Matthew 9:36. John 10:11. 1st Peter 2:25. Revelation 7:13-17.
The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, when Jesus for the first time officially presented Himself as Israel’s King, in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Look! Your King is coming to you! He is just and having salvation,
Humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Not like some arrogant conquering tyrant. Humble! The King of Kings! The Creator of all that exists! The world should have fallen at His feet and worshipped Him – and many did, and we will – but the King of Kings, Who created the earth and has the power to destroy it, Who has never committed one sin, came to His own people in humility.
No, we don’t need to be afraid of Him.
How do we get to know Him? Through time spent in the Bible and prayer. There’s no shortcut. At least part of the time that I have been spending writing for the Heartbeat and commenting here will be spent in those activities.
We’ll understand His instructions better when we know Him better. And be better able to accept His instructions. Heavenly Father, grant us the discipline to become well acquainted with You and Your Son, so that we may have the strength and wisdom to walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus and not be ashamed to face You when we leave this life. In the name of Him Who died for us, amen.