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Sheep Among Wolves

• Dan Kent

Jesus addresses the church of Ephesus in the first letter to the seven churches, telling them what they did well and what they need to work on. Specifically, Jesus confronts the fact that they have abandoned the love that they started with. They were good at orthodoxy, but struggled to live a life characterized by love. This is an important message for us today in the midst of perpetual divisiveness over ideological differences.

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This is the first sermon of our new sub-series in Revelation called “Dear Church,” where we are expounding upon Jesus’ progress report to seven churches. This sermon addresses the first letter, written to the church in Ephesus. Jesus first speaks about the strength of this church, which is their ability to protect right thinking about matters regarding God. They know how to defend the faith. Then he challenges them regarding the fact that they have walked away from their first love, which had been so central at the beginning of their journey with Jesus.

There are two main points to recognize. First, it is important that we defend against wolves. We see this from Paul’s word to the Ephesian church in Acts 20:19-20. It is crucial that we maintain the truth of who God is and protect this truth from distortion. We must test teachings that lead us astray. There is a singularity of truth that we must focus on, but there are many untruths that will attack that truth.

Secondly, the church in Ephesus had forsaken their first love. While they emphasized the truth about God, it appears that they have focused on orthodox beliefs so much that they have fallen short of love. It might appear that they love God because of their beliefs, but love is no longer central to their way of life. Orthodoxy demands nothing, but love costs us everything. We might defend the truth of orthodoxy, but the power of Christ is not found in orthodoxy. Love is actually what conveys Christ’s power.

According to the book of 1 John, love of God and love of one another cannot be separated. The love of one another is the mark of God’s people. Orthodoxy by itself is not enough. Only the action that comes through love fosters the life that orthodoxy aims to bring us. In Ephesians 4:13, Paul says that the goal of our faith is to grow into the “measure of the fullness of Christ.” This is not merely about agreeing with an orthodox set of beliefs. It’s about embodying a way of life that reflects the way of Jesus.

In our culture today, we are living in the midst of division, criticism and intolerance. The fullness of Christ is about compassion, patience, unconditional love, mutual understanding and forgiveness. While orthodoxy is important and should not be ignored, love is paramount. We can get the former wrong in some ways, but we must understand that our ideas do not make us Christlike. 1 Corinthians 13 makes it clear that ideas without love are of no value. Orthodoxy is meant to serve as a foundation that fosters love. It’s not meant to stand alone.

We need to heed the instructions to the Ephesian church and return to the way of love. We do this in a myriad of ways, like valuing people over our ideology, delighting in others, and praying for enemies. In our world today, it will take focus and effort, but it will produce fruit in our lives.

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Topics: Community, Love, Relationships

Sermon Series: Dear Church

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The MuseCast: January 23

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 2:1-7

    “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are 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 endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring and bearing up for the sake of my name and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember, then, 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 is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

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3 thoughts on “Sheep Among Wolves

  1. Jerry says:

    Dan, powerful sermon!

    Key points that caught my attention:

    We need to love one another and that demands action – Our culture has mastered critical thinking skills however unfortunately this includes criticizing one another – we pressure ourselves to be right.

    I ran into this recently which might be considered another fly in the ointment to loving one another.

    There is a disease [PLEONEXIA] affecting the Western culture that ensures we are always an end and never a MEANS which is so destructive in that our culture does not see this as a threat because it is so shuttle however it robs our lives of [meaning and purpose].

    The Parable of the Rich Fool: Luke 12 13-21 ….. 15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of GREED; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” The Greek [PLEONEXIA] is translated as GREED….. 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” We need to become a [MEANS] to an end that doesn’t just end with us.

    God speaks to our conscious not the easy path but the more challenging one that when we fail to take not only is it bad for us but even more so for others.

    I struggle with being tormented by the voice from the side of chaos [the flesh] that whispers Jerry it’s all about you.

  2. Dan says:

    Thanks Jerry.

    That concept of Pleonexia sounds intriguing. The idea that self-centeredness [SELF-AS-END] logically entails meaninglessness and purposelessness seems true and profound.

    1. Jerry says:

      Thanks, Dan, your comment is spot on.

      How did we [the West] get to PLEONEXIA?

      Comers’ book: “Live No Lies” may have some insights.

      One hundred years ago 90% of Americans were on farms living off the land heating and cooking with wood and trading with neighbors for anything else that fell into the category of what they needed [NOT wanted]. Money was a rare commodity.

      Freud comes along saying humans are not as rational or autonomous as you might think in that we make irrational decisions based on ‘unconscious drives’; what Paul coined the ‘flesh’.

      The Nazis picked up on this to shape a propaganda machine appealing to these ‘drives’ and adding to this Hitler was a master of fanning the two most basic human emotions: I want and I fear.

      A war came along reshaping the American economy starting with urbanization and its twin industrialization which by the end of the war created what Eisenhower dubbed ‘the military-industrial complex’; however with the war calming down what do you do with all those factories and the people they employed?

      Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays came to America with Freud’s ideas stating how the Nazis manipulated people in wartime business owners and politicians could do in peacetime and coined this as “public relations”.

      From his book ‘Propaganda’:
      The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute [an invisible government] which is the true power of the country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we never heard of…. In almost every act of our daily lives…. We are dominated by the relatively small numbers of persons… who pull the wires that control the public mind.

      So taking heed to this idea the tycoons of big business, the shadow politicians of DC, and the madmen of New York City conspired to remake the American economy and with it a culture called “consumerism” from a needs to a desires culture….people being trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed shaping a new mentality that man’s desires must overshadow his needs.

      Dan as you said, the unveiling of the deception of Satan’s’ cult, [an invisible government] cosmic, in nature, is calculated and over-shadows just the human element pulling the wires.

      A previous post I made on the site “RING THEM BELLS” https://whchurch.org/sermon/the-gift-of-gods-faithfulness/#comment-252382 has insights on this invisible government.

      Greg has a book: ‘Myth of a Christian Nation’ and just maybe every nation has an angel and they are all fallen.

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