Thursday, September 1, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “As the Deer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV).
“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.
“‘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. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’
Jesus Christ is speaking to the church today in many different ways. To some he is speaking words of encouragement, hope and healing. To others he is speaking words of comfort, strength and endurance. And, to others he is speaking words of correction and conviction, and he is calling them to repent of sin or face divine discipline (judgment). In many cases, he speaks a message which combines some or all of these messages together. And, that is the case here in this letter to the church in Ephesus.
These letters to the seven churches in Asia were not meant just for them. They are for the church of all time, as is applicable in each situation. There are many congregations or gatherings of the church today in specific locations where this letter would apply. It may also apply to some of us individually. So, as we read these letters, we should ask ourselves if any of this is true of us, even to the slightest degree. And, we should pray and ask the Lord to open our hearts to receive from him what he has to say to us from the teachings in these letters. I pray this for myself today.
I guess the first question we might ask ourselves is, “What am I doing that I know is pleasing to my Lord, that is in his specific will for my life?” Then, “What am I doing that is just me doing for God, hoping he will be pleased by them?” And, then we need to wait for him to show us the answer.
You see, salvation by grace, although not of ourselves, and not of works, lest any of us should boast that we somehow attained our own salvation, is not absent of works (See: Eph. 2:8-10). The difference is whether we are doing “good works” of our own choosing, in our own power and strength, hoping to earn our own salvation, or whether we are “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). Do you see the difference? One is of our own choosing, and in our own power and strength. The other is of God’s choosing, and in his power and strength. He is not pleased with the former, but he is pleased with the latter.
Yet, even if we are doing what we know is God’s will for our lives, i.e. even if we are doing the works he has called us to do, and for which he has equipped and empowered us, and even if we are doing it in his power and strength, is it possible that we could still have, even in some small way, abandoned our first love, or the love we had at first? If so, what would that look like?
I believe it is possible to be operating in the Spirit, doing the works God has called us to do, and for which he has equipped and empowered us, but that we might compartmentalize it into a category called “ministry,” rather than see “ministry” as our whole (entire) life. Does this make sense? I believe it is possible to obey God in many areas, and to be calling on him, seeking his guidance, and even receiving it, but then other times we might just do what we do each day without thinking about whether or not that is what he wants.
In other words, when many people come to faith in Jesus Christ, if it is genuine faith, they are excited beyond measure that Jesus has set them free, and they want to tell everyone. They are in love with Jesus, and they drink in every word from his lips, and their desire is for him, to please him in all that they do and say. But, over time, especially if things are going well, and they are not faced with much opposition, they might, though staying strong and faithful in some areas, become less committed in others, and become less conscious of God’s presence with them at all times.
The bottom line to all of this is that relationship with Jesus Christ means total commitment. It means he is Lord (owner-master) of our lives, not just in some areas, and not just in some hours of our days, but in all areas, and at all times. 24/7 we should be calling on him, listening to him, and obeying what he shows us and what he calls us to do. As well, we need to inquire of him before we volunteer for things or agree to things that may not be his best for us. Sometimes we are so busy doing “good works” that we miss the best he has designed for us, and for which we were created.
Is Jesus truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives, or do we only give him part of our lives? Are we only part-time servants, or are we full-time servants? That is really the question here, I believe. Is he truly our all? Is he truly the only one who is our heart’s desire? Do we honestly want him more than anything? Do we sincerely worship him in spirit and in truth 24/7? Do we genuinely worship him by giving him our whole being on the altar of sacrifice, living holy lives, pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways of this world, but being transformed in the renewing of our minds so that by our lives we prove (show) what God’s perfect will is for our lives? If our answer is “No” to any of these, then we need to yield to God’s Spirit in our lives today, recommitting our lives to the Lord to be his only 24/7. Amen!
As the Deer / Martin J. Nystrom
Based off Psalm 42:1
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You
You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You