Christians all want to do what God wants of us. We also want to not do what God does not want of us. Of the Ten Commandments that God give us, eight are about what we should not do. Knowing what not to do is more important as God is trying to change us. In another example, when he tells us what love is, he only uses two words, “love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor. 13:4) Then he goes on to tell us what love is not. Love “is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant; does not act unbecomingly; it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor. 13:5-6) The rest refers to how love behaves, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7) By holding fast on how love behaves, we have often missed on what love is not. When we ourselves, or others, are jealous, bragging and arrogant, acting unbecomingly, and rejoicing in unrighteousness, we often bear it, believe and hope that it will be better, or simply endure it. We are not honest with ourselves, or afraid that we will hurt each other, if we deal with the negative things we have done or are doing. True change in our Christian lives mean we are moving out of something we are doing, and, instead, replacing it with something God wants us to do. You can change from something, and change to something, but change implies you are already doing something that the Lord is not happy with. The preponderance of God’s instructions to us is to change us from what we are thinking or doing. He is dealing with who we are. It is much harder for us to see, because we have put ourselves as ‘Lord’ of our lives. We have put ourselves on our own thrones. That is why we cannot see the log in our own eyes. If we have truly been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), then when he tells us what not to do, we will simply comply. We will listen to our conscience. Understanding whatever hurts Christ today as we mature is no longer taking the milk of the word, but solid food. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14) In maturity, we must have a discerning Spirit to know what is good and what is evil. We use the word of God to help us discern. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piecing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) What are some of those things that God does not want us to do as a church? Of the seven churches in Revelations, only two of the seven churches God had no complaints with. Five churches God had difficulties with. What are their problems?
In the church in Ephesus, he said that they “have left [their] first love.” (Rev. 2:4) Our love for God is the predominant aspect of being a Christian. It doesn’t matter how we love him. Just love him. In his resurrection, Christ asked Simon three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15-17) The first two times, he asked Simon to return to him the ‘agape’ love, the selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love that Christ loved us with. Simon, as the son of John, the son of a man, could not. He could only love with a ‘philia’ love, a brotherly love that is of man. Only ‘Simon, son of God,’ could love with a selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional ‘agape’ love for Christ and his body, his church, which Christ called his “sheep.” So the third time he asked Simon, Christ used the word ‘philia,’ settling for the brotherly love of man. So it does not matter. When we are young, we love him with a ‘philia’ love. “When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18) Only in maturity, are we “crucified with Christ,” allowing him to dress us and carry us where we do not want to go. However, no matter if we are young or old, just don’t forget our first love for him. God wants our love not only because it is a pleasing aroma to him, (2 Cor. 2:15) but it constrains us to live the proper Christian life that he desires. (2 Cor. 5:14) That is why we should not leave our first love for Christ, who is the head of the church. His love, expressed by the Spirit dwelling in us, will cause us to grow to maturity, forming “God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:6-9) with other believers. So let us not leave our first love. Just love him.
In addition, the church of Ephesus also “hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Rev. 2:6) There is something that the Lord hates. This is rather a strong word used by God. Nevertheless, he hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. ‘Nicolaitans’ is a compound word meaning ‘victory’ for ‘nico,’ and ‘laitans,’ from which we derive the word laity. These people have ‘victory,’ or rule over the people of the laity. This is the separation between the priesthood and the laity found in Numbers, “So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.” (Num. 3:10) Due to the unbelief of the children of Israel, God said, “I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn.” (Num. 3:12) God’s plan was to have every firstborn of the sons of Israel form the priesthood, but instead he settled for one of the twelve tribes of Israel, so the Levites would be “wholly given to him from among the sons of Israel.” (Num. 3:9) Today we are all supposed to form the priesthood because we are all born of Christ. The Spirit we have received is alive and living, and should be expressed in each member of the body of Christ. This Spirit should live out of us in whatever we are, whatever we say, and whatever we do, as a totality of who we are, in our spirit, our soul, and our body. “When you assemble, each one had a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.” (1 Cor. 14:26) He wants to be expressed in each one of us because his Spirit lives inside each one of us. Realize Christ lives inside us, so we form his “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (1 Pet. 2:9) Only in our small groups, may we see this happening, where we all share how God has touched our lives. In our big meetings on Sundays, we have instituted a clergy – laity system again. The whole congregation does not function or have the realization that they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. Somehow, the message we have sent is that people can sit in pews on Sunday, hopefully worshipping God, and live their lives during the week, learning how to be good to people, and that is all God wants of us. Where are “the true worshipers who worship the Father in spirit and truth [reality]”? (John 4:23-24) Where are the people who do good because they are constrained by his love (2 Cor. 5:14)? Our teachings has to help us realize the fullness of Christ that we have all received (John 1:16), to realize the Christ that is in us (2 Cor. 13 :5). Have we missed the mark? Are we doing something that the Lord “hates” (Rev. 2:6)?
“To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7) When we “have left [our] first love,” (Rev. 2:4) we are no longer eating from the tree of life. We no longer rely on him as the source of our life supply. Our efforts come from ourselves and not from him. Our source of strength is in ourselves and not of God (2 Cor. 4:7). We are depending on our human abilities and not on the divine power of the Spirit. We must return to feed on the tree of life. We must feed on Christ within. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 2:6)