Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 10 2020 - Revelation 2:1-17 – Whoever has ears, let them hear ...

The church at Ephesus had notable history. It had been founded by the apostle Paul who had laboured there for some years. It was the 'mother church' and focal point of Christian activity within an area of Asia Minor. As John writes his letter, the church is commended by Christ for its soundness of doctrine and its hard work, even in the face of trials and persecutions; surely a model church? But Christ adds, "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:4-5).

Both churches and individuals can keep going through the motions of the Christian life even as the heart grows cold. We may retain a fine reputation with others, even be capable of debating and defining fine points of Christian doctrine, but that counts for nothing if the fire of our first love is all but extinguished; "Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that all of our work for the Lord is empty show without love, love for him who first loved us and a love for others that reflects the passion in the heart of God.

How much better is Christ’s verdict on the church in Smyna. They do not have the fine reputation of the church at Ephesus. They appear to be struggling in the face of persecution; “I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich!” says Jesus (2:9). They are rich because they continue to trust in a faithful Saviour who is Lord over the entire universe. Like him, they may have to face mistreatment and death, but he has conquered death and will give them also the crown of life.

In the letter to Pergamum we see another faithful church facing persecution, yet they are criticised for tolerating some who embrace false teaching, even teaching that encourages immorality. Christian discipleship requires both a keen understanding of the truth of God revealed in Jesus and passionate love for him expressed in faithful service.

Each of the letters to the seven churches ends with the plea, "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (2:7,11,17 etc.). This is a vital and timeless imperative. To live the life Christ calls us to live we must live by the Spirit; we need to be sensitive to his voice, obedient to his calling and dependent upon his power. Never more so than when we face trials that would tempt us to turn back from the life of discipleship or to tolerate evil.

Satan has many evil schemes for undermining the life and witness of the church; the enticement of false teaching, the pride of orthodoxy or the seductive suggestion that it’s just not worth going on, particularly if we have begun to falter. Satan has many devices but all have this one thing in common, they would turn us away from Christ. Do not listen to his lies. Open your ears to the call of the Spirit who discloses to us the precious character of our Saviour and the treasures of God’s grace and goodness that are to be found in him. If we would only listen to the Spirit we would never turn back or grow cold, nor would we accept anything that is not centred in Christ, for there would be nothing more attractive to us than him and the delight of following him with a glad and thankful heart.

Lord, give us ears to hear what you are saying to us today and a heart of love that readily responds to your call. Help us to discern the lies of the evil one and to go on living and walking in the truth. Help us always to encourage one another in the path of faithful discipleship. May our churches be places alive with love for you and rich with the sense of your presence, glory and power.

Peter Misselbrook