Recently I posted a picture of my wife and I from our high school days. We are high school sweethearts. After everyone got off the floor looking at the horrid 70’s clothing styles we were able to enjoy (some of us) the memories. One person mentioned, “My, you guys look the same.” Either they were being nice or they were blind. We are nowhere near the same.
It is the slow changes that make us think we are the same when in fact we aren’t. At any given time it is very hard for the human brain to fathom change and aging. It is true that if we look in a mirror today and never look in a mirror for 20 years we cannot comprehend what we look like. We always remember someone based on the last time we saw him or her.
Sometimes I think that is the same problem with the church. We really have changed. We just don’t want to look at it.
The church in America is at a major crossroads. It might not seem like it in the South with churches in every corner. The Bible belt seems to hold onto a sense of God, Country and Family. However, the experts as well as culturally attuned pastors realize the demise of the church and Christianity, as we know it.
Our church as well as others is looking at the issue. On one hand some things need to die. That is for another day. In the last few days as I prepared to preach about it today (the boss is on vacation), I find the same problem in the Scriptures. It is about the church of Ephesus.
They started so good. They were life changers. Great things were happening in and through the church. There is evidence the Christians in Ephesus rescued babies from a “baby dump” where unwanted babies were left to die often immediately after birth. The sanctity of life has been an issue through the ages. The Ephesian Christians would legally adopt them. Wow! That is a church in action.
Jesus confirms their good deeds but has a problem with the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. He says they “left their first love.” They needed to repent.
At first sight it doesn’t make sense. They were doing good things and it actually says they were commended for their stand against false theology. So what could have been the problem?
I do a lot of marriage counseling. Actually, too much if you ask me. Associated with every one is a sense of “lost love.” How does this happen? The list is endless…failed expectations, deceptive loves seeking to steal the first love, and living in a depraved world where priorities and love gets away from us.
It is no different with the church. Jesus says to return to the first love. I have spent too much time over the years trying to figure our gimmicks, sales tricks and consumer means to get people to return to their first love.
We are trying so hard we are missing a very simple yet hard reality of the Christian faith. It is the fact that this isn’t heaven. Life in Christ is hard. It is a constant battle between the glory of God and an easy way out. We teach easy fix it’s. We seek the lowest common denominator ignoring the pain we cause and the pain that flows through our world. Church on Sunday doesn’t want to say the bad news. In doing so it dilutes the good news.
The bad news…our depraved nature is constantly seeking to place the emphasis on “me.” I want Jesus and life my way. It better be easy. If my functional Jesus doesn’t please me than I will seek it on my own. I will then try to attach Jesus to it. In doing so, we leave our first love. The first issue we must face before we address the pain in this world is the pain and suffering I cause.
The good news…there is an answer. Return to our first love. Grasp how far we have fallen! Look at it! Grasp how great the love of God is to us through the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Return to the one who loves ferociously. He always welcomes the wayward one back to the family.
No more gimmicks. No sales job. No attempt to build an empire. No easy steps. We are wayward travelers seeking Shalom. Sometimes it’s hard to find. Church…I don’t need entertainment. I need a fellow traveler who can help me return to the one who loves…Jesus.
Scan 5