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Miranda Writes: Lights Out! Part II




by Omar Miranda



Last week we began our time together with a true story about a streetlight that’s not working in my neighborhood. We talked about how important it was for us not only to be present but to shine our bright light of the love and power of God in this dark and evil world. We also talked briefly about what happens to us if we stop shining. I introduced you to the story of the Ephesian church found in Revelation:

“This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Ephesus:

“I am the one who holds the seven stars in my right hand, and I walk among the seven golden lampstands. Listen to what I say.

“I know everything you have done, including your hard work and how you have endured. I know you won’t put up with anyone who is evil. When some people pretended to be apostles, you tested them and found out that they were liars. You have endured and gone through hard times because of me, and you have not given up.

“But I do have something against you! And this is it: You don’t have as much love as you used to. Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first. If you don’t turn back, I will come and take away your lampstand. But there is one thing you are doing right. You hate what the Nicolaitans are doing, and so do I.

“If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will let everyone who wins the victory eat from the life-giving tree in God’s wonderful garden” (Revelation 2:1-7, CEV).1

Let me give you a brief summary about this passage. Basically, Jesus isn’t happy with the Ephesian church. They started out strong and “on fire” for Him, but then they got lazy, lost their focus, and ultimately lost the one thing that gave them the power to live for Him: the Holy Spirit. In response to that, Jesus threatened to take away the Holy Spirit unless they didn’t do four specific things needed to come back to Him. It is these four things that we’ll discuss today.

Before we do that, I want to give you some background on the Ephesian church. This passage of Scripture is a letter that was written to the believers in the city of Ephesus. Now, Ephesus was the capital city of Asia Minor. It was a center of land and sea trade, and along with Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria, it was one of the three most influential cities in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. The temple of Artemis, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was located in this city, and a major industry was the manufacturing of images of this goddess.
The church at Ephesus had become a large, proud church. They were proud of their accomplishments both inside and outside of the church. The Ephesians had bragging rights: Paul had ministered in Ephesus for three years, which would seem to indicate that the work there was especially fruitful. Paul spent more time at this church than at any other place in his recorded missionary journeys. Christianity appears to have been preached there first by Paul. When the book of Revelation was written, Ephesus must have been one of the leading centers of Christianity.

Consequently, it was fitting that Christ’s first message through John should have been addressed to this church. Its central location, with respect to the Christian world as a whole, suggests the fact that its spiritual condition could well be characteristic of the whole church during the apostolic period (the era of Christian history reaching approximately to the end of the first century). Jesus spoke to this church first, not because of its size, or the number of members, or the wonderful needs-based outreach ministries that they were doing. No! Jesus addressed this church first because of the seriousness of the sin they had committed. Jesus’ message had to get their attention, and it did. He had to remind them of right and proper priorities, of what was really important. Deeds are not going to get us to heaven . . . a relationship with Jesus is. The problem is that many of us have religion without relationship. The secret is relationship, not religion.

So after reading this passage of Scripture in Revelation, we see the keys to regaining an intimate relationship with God. I call them the four Rs:

1. Recognize the problem.
2. Remember the relationship.
3. Repent of our sins.
4. Reprioritize our lives accordingly.

Before we begin to break this passage down, I want to give you two pieces of background:

Jesus Himself gave the words to John (Revelation 1:12-18). Jesus cared about what the churches were going through, and He still cares. He loves you and cares very much about what you’re going through. Jesus is a personal God.

The seven lampstands mentioned in this passage of Scripture are the seven churches (verse 20). All of these churches had a very important part to play in the life of both Christians and non-Christians all over the world.

Now that we’ve got that information, let’s move on with our examination of the passage. The first thing that we must do in order to keep a vibrant and intimate relationship with God is that we must recognize the problem. Revelation 2:1-4 tells us clearly what the problem is. God says, “I know your deeds . . . ”(NIV).2 Listen, you can never hide the truth from God. He knows why you’re doing the things you’re doing. The church’s deeds weren’t the problem; the problem was that their focus on what was most important had shifted. Their motivation wasn’t right. Where has your focus shifted? Are you too busy doing “good” things for God and not taking enough time to connect with Him daily?

The next thing that you must do to ensure that you have a vibrant relationship with God is to remember the relationship. Revelation 1:4, 5 says “you have forsaken the love you had at first”(NIV). “Forsaken” in the original Greek language of the Bible means “deserted, abandoned,” “to have divorced.” Can you imagine getting to a place in your relationship with God that it seems as if you divorced Him? Many of you reading this today come from families that have been ripped apart by divorce. When God uses this term in the Bible, it’s not good.

The word “first” is translated in the original Greek as “before,” or “most important.” The word “love” in the original Greek is the word agape. That’s the kind of selfless and totally sacrificial love that Jesus had for us that drove Him to die on the cross in our place. That’s the kind of love that we should have for Him—and for others! The word “fallen” in the original Greek literally means “failed,” or “to die.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my relationship with God to die. And if it’s dead, I want God to bring it back to life.

We must have daily communion and communication with God to maintain a vibrant and intimate love relationship with Him. Is reading and studying the Bible and praying a bore to you? Then ask God to give you strength and excitement again. David in Psalm 51:10-12 states, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (NIV).

The next step that we must do to revive our relationship with God is to repent of our sins. Revelation 2:5: “Repent and do the things you did at first” (NIV). Once you ask God for forgiveness, you’ve got to start doing something different than what you did before. The only way you or I can be saved is by faith, and faith is trust. You can’t trust someone you don’t know. What’s the only other option? God continues in verse five, “if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (NIV). The word “remove” in Greek means “disgrace, scorn, insult, or offensive.”

In other words, if the church didn’t make a radical change, it would forfeit its status as a real representative of Christ. Remember that Revelation 1:20 tells us that the lampstand represents the church, but Zechariah 4:2-6 and Revelation 4:5 make it clear that the oil that allows the lamp to burn symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Don’t miss it: the church—and the person—would continue to exist, but the power that made it distinct and effective would be missing. Now, how does that apply to you and me? Are we just going through the motions?

For Jesus to “remove your lampstand from its place” would mean that the church would cease to be an effective representative of Christ. Just as the seven-branched candlestick in the Temple gave light for the priests to see, the churches were to give light to their surrounding communities. But Jesus warned them that their lights could go out. In fact, Jesus Himself would remove any lamp or candle that had been extinguished. The church as a whole had to repent of its sins.

The last thing that we must do to revive our relationship with God is to reprioritize our lives accordingly (Revelation 2:7). There’s no point in hearing the Word of God if you’re not going to do anything about it. This passage implies that those who hear will do so with understanding and action. Hearing God’s Word is meaningless if the life is not immediately changed to the pattern of what has been heard. 

Just as when a guy and girl fall in love, so also new believers rejoice at their newfound forgiveness. But when we lose sight of our relationship with Jesus, we lose sight of the seriousness and separation of sin, we begin to lose the thrill of our forgiveness. In the first steps of your Christian life, you may have had enthusiasm without knowledge. Do you now have knowledge without enthusiasm? Both are necessary if we are to keep our love for God intense and pure.

We must have continual daily communication and communion with God to keep a vibrant and intimate love relationship with Him. If we don’t, we’ll stop being a light in a dark world for all to see. Instead, we’ll be a candle with no light; a streetlight that doesn’t work—good for nothing! We’ll stop being part of the solution and become part of the problem. Let me ask you a question: do you love Jesus with the same power and passion as when you were a new Christian? What did you do differently previously that you’re not doing now?

As we have seen, the Ephesians needed a wake-up call. They thought that they could coast into heaven on their works—their religion, instead of their relationship. But God required of them something deeper, something more: an intimate, daily love relationship with Him. He needed them to have a relationship, not just religion. He asks nothing less than the same of you and me today. So I have one final question for you: Is your light out? If it is, do something, and do it quick, because if you don’t, Jesus will.

Until next time, remember these things: God’s way is always the best way. Life is full of decisions, so make yours good ones. Put God first in your life, and you can’t go wrong.

Feel free to contact me: you can e-mail me at omiranda@rhpa.org; or you can keep up with me on Facebook; or you can read more of my stuff on Miranda Writes, at www.insightmagazine.org.

In Christ,
Omar Miranda, editor, Insight Magazine

1 Scripture quotations identified CEV are from the Contemporary English Version. Copyright © American Bible Society 1991, 1995. Used by permission.
2 Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Omar Miranda is the editor/director of Insight Ministries and a Christian counselor and with more than 20 years’ experience working with youth in public and private middle and high schools. He’s married and has two kids. He enjoys teaching the youth at his church, reading, writing, gardening, and camping. He’s a recovering knucklehead who spent a lot of time in the past doing stupid stuff away from God. He’s been back with God for years now and is eager to share what he’s learned from his experiences by answering any questions you may have about life, the Christian life, Jesus, spiritual matters, and relationships in his column, Miranda Writes.





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