Revelation 2 presents us with the messages for four of the churches. I want to focus on the church at Ephesus.
Rev 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
Rev 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Rev 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
This somewhat feels like the evangelical church in America. Although I understand that church attendance is falling in general, evangelical churches are remaining steady, and the people who are deciding to remain in church are recognizing the need for figuring out what is true and what is not. I think that we are doing a better job of recognizing what is false teaching as people realize the necessity for moving beyond cultural Christianity in our society which is moving farther away from God.
That being said, I think the criticism is valid as well. We might be intellectually learning more and more, but we need to make sure that we are actually out there with passion. Knowledge is undoubtedly an important part of the Christian faith. We have to know why we believe what we believe. However, there needs to be that passion there as well. A relationship is also the most important part of the Christian faith. It is living a life walking with Jesus Christ. We need to make sure we remember that.
I know that for myself, I can easily become wrapped up in purely intellectual arguments. However, God is more than the conclusion of a logical proof, so it is important to remember that first love.
Paul visited Ephesus in Acts 20 for what he knew was the last time. As a result, he had some very important things to communicate to the people that had gathered at that church.
Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Act 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Act 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Fallen humans have a tendency to take that which is good and turn it into something that is not. People were going to enter the church, a good institution, and they were going to try to make people depart away from the message of Jesus Christ. We don’t necessarily know how or what they were going to do, but Paul seems to take this type of intrusion as a very serious assault which needed to be countered.
There are plenty of good things in the world today. However, it seems like people have a way of twisting them into something that is not good. For kind of a ridiculous example, food is a good thing. However, too much of it is not healthy for anyone. It is something good that has the potential to be turned into something unhealthy.
If humans are able to abuse something even that simple, then it should not be surprising that some of them were going to try to come to mess up something that is similarly good. It strikes me as the reality of living in a fallen world. The church was instituted by Jesus Himself, and it is a great institution. However, it is comprised of imperfect humans, and it is not surprising that these imperfect people make mistakes. It does not mean that what God has established is the problem however. That is the important differentiation to make note of.