Letters to the Churches (Revelation 2:1-7)

Examining The Question, "What Does It Mean To Truly Love Jesus?".

Matt Stokes
Nov 22, 2020    46m
Ask yourself, have you replaced your love of Jesus with doing good works in His name? If so, this message out of Revelation will remind you what is important to Jesus, and what it means to truly love Jesus. Video recorded at Ocean City, New Jersey.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Matt Stokes: 00:00 Yes, so again, we are in the Book of Revelation, and I would love for you to turn there right now in your Bibles. Can you raise your Bible up and let me see if any more people brought their Bibles? Oh my goodness, better than last week, thank you so much. Yes, give yourselves a woo, because that's pretty awesome. Continue to bring your copy of the scriptures. Get a nice wide margin on, if you're going to purchase a Bible, so that you can write in there, and you could have underlined things, and circle them. And open your app too, you can have the study questions, the verses are there. But I really want to continue to create the culture where we're bringing our copy of the scriptures back to church.

Matt Stokes: 00:39 I want to welcome all of you that are watching online from wherever you are, that one person out in Phoenix, right on, glad you're with us. Or from wherever you are watching, even around the world. It's remarkable how many people actually are ministered to through Coastal. Jessie and I were just online yesterday with India, and we were talking to 78 pastors at one time. At one point there were 83 pastors, but the connectivity was a little bit loose, and we ended up with 78 pastors. And what happens is those 78 pastors take the message that we were sharing, and they'll take it to their churches, of course there's a time difference. But when Sunday comes for them, they'll take that message, and they'll share it with their congregation. So what I'm sharing with you now is something Jesse and I actually shared online yesterday, and this message goes to 78 pastors, which goes to 78 churches. And if you think each church may have somewhere loosely around a hundred people, that's 7,800 people that are actually being ministered to just by the online ministry, of which you're a part of, and which you support. And I just want to say thank you for that, it's kind of remarkable how the ministry of the gospel is really going around the world.

Matt Stokes: 01:53 So without any further ado, I got into this first gathering, and didn't realize how fast I ran out of time. So let's get right to it. We started, just a few weeks ago, we went through Revelation chapter 1, where there's an introduction to the Book of Revelation. John explains who he is as our brother and partner in suffering, he's on the isle of Patmos, then he receives this revelation from Jesus Christ. That's why we said, that's what this is, this is a Revelation from Jesus Christ, it's of Jesus Christ.

Matt Stokes: 02:24 John is dictating what Jesus is saying, and you can take these churches and you can really look at what's being said, there's an interesting format to it all. I wrote it all out. It's like, you have a vision, then a commendation, then a correction, and then instruction and promise. Jessie said, dad, that's going to be too complicated for the people in India. Why don't you just say, here's who Jesus is, and this is what Jesus says. I'm like, eh, okay, you're right. So that's what we're going to do. We're going to look at who Jesus is, and then we're going to look at what Jesus says. It looks like we're only going to have time to go through the Book of Ephesians. I thought we would be able to go further, but we're going to do one church, and it's the Book of Ephesians.

Matt Stokes: 03:10 So if you want to look with me, keep this in mind as we begin, big churches have big problems. Which is a really important thing to remember, because we think when a church is big, and every pastor wishes he had a bigger church, the bigger your church, the bigger your problems. Like when you're a little church, you're the pastor, and you're the worship leader, and you're the custodian, and you're the counselor. Like there are certain complexities that come with being a little church, but when you're a bigger church, man, the complexities only actually increase in terms of how many problematic situations you're trying to face at any given time. And Ephesus is a really big church, Ephesus was probably the largest and most prestigious city back in the ancient times, in what we say today is modern day Turkey.

Matt Stokes: 04:02 In fact, when you look at Ephesus, Ephesus is a lot like Philadelphia. So as you're reading this, you can picture something just like Philadelphia, it was a major city, it was a fishing port. So, hey, have you ever been over the Walt Whitman or the Ben Franklin, and you see these enormous cranes, like not construction cranes, but cargo cranes. They pick up cargo crates, you know, and they move them from trains, onto those giant ocean liners that just can carry like hundreds of those giant box crates. So it's a major fishing port, so was Ephesus. So when you have, watch this, when you have a major fishing port, you also have a major amount of people coming and going. So you have all kinds of merchants that are coming and going from the town, staying there for several days, selling their wares, moving on. Right? So what happens? You also have a lot of different faiths. You have Eastern mystics coming from different regions from the East. You have the ancient Oriental religions. You have Greek philosophy, Roman philosophy, you have Hebrew Jewish philosophy, and then you also have what was growing in terms of Christianity. You have the Romans who just worshiped any God of the time, they even worshipped Caesar himself, they're all coming together in Ephesus.

Matt Stokes: 05:25 So with this church, you've got a massive amount of people, but you also have a massive amount of complexity when it comes to sharing the gospel, when it comes to proclaiming your faith, and that's the church to which he writes. So keep that vision in mind, as we go through these few verses in this short time we have today.

Matt Stokes: 05:44 I'm going to begin in verse 1 of chapter 2, God bless the reading of your Word, “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands." Now in my Bible, I circled the word, and I want you guys to do the same and get into this practice, I promise you won't regret it. I circled the word holds, and then I circled the word walks, and I connected them. Because he holds the seven stars, which we saw last week are the seven messengers. So the seven leaders of the church, hey, they're in God's hands, he's holding them, he's keeping them secure, he's protecting them, he's watching over them. How beautiful is that? But what's even more applicable to you and I is this, "He walks among the seven golden lampstands." And you saw last time we were together that the lampstands are actually representative of the churches.

Matt Stokes: 06:46 And not only did we see in the last chapter, not only do we see that Jesus is standing in the midst of the lampstands, but here we see in this opening chapter, chapter 2 in the first verse, he's walking among the seven golden lampstands, he's in motion, he's in motion. And by the way, this is very specific, every time he starts to talk to one of the churches, he refers back to the vision in chapter 1. And in this particular place, you might remember, he was wearing a white robe with a gold sash. What is that symbolic of? Remember we talked about apocalyptic literature? Revelation is the only apocalyptic literature in the New Testament. Apocalyptic literature is literature that's written, not like the gospels with historical narrative or the letters to the churches, which were just memoirs, and corrections, and help, and encouragement. But apocalyptic literature contained symbols, and analogies, and typography, and word pictures. Which isn't to confuse you, but it's meant for the biblical reader to actually study, go back into scripture, and have understanding of what it is they're actually reading. It causes them to become students of scripture.

Matt Stokes: 08:03 That's why Jesus says, let him, who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit is saying to the churches. The way that you would have an ear to hear what the spirit was saying to the churches is, one to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and then number two, to actually go back and try to understand what's the imagery, what's the metaphor, what's the symbolism that's happening in this scripture in which I'm reading. And if you were, or they were students of scripture, you'll understand the white robe with the gold sash, symbolizes Jesus as a priest. The flames of fire, the two-edged sword out of his mouth, his hair is as white as wool, this is all a symbol of power and majesty, but his white robe with the sash is a symbol of him being a priest. Now lean into this with me, as priest, he's walking through the churches. And the longing in his heart is to make sure, if you know the office of a priest, read the Book of Leviticus, the priest's responsibility was to make sure there was oil in the lamps. Watch this again, the responsibility of the priests was to make sure there was oil in the lamps. Why? So the lamps would stay lit, and they would shine forth light from the house of God. What's the symbolism? What's the metaphor?

Matt Stokes: 09:31 Well, if you're, again, a student of scripture, you know that oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. When someone was anointed for ministry, particularly in the Old Testament, they would anoint that person with oil and it was symbolic, the Holy Spirit is upon this person's life. Like when David was anointed to be King, and other places as well. When the priest was anointed to be the priest, they would have oil. he would actually have oil, an anointing oil, placed upon him. And it was symbolic of the Holy Spirit, sealing this person, acknowledging that this person is called to ministry. And here oil also goes into the lamps and keeps them lit, okay, so that's the interpretation. This is just an interesting observation, and maybe you want to turn this into an application. I'm going to propose to you that one of the greatest longings in a heart of Jesus Christ is to make sure that he walks in the midst of us, and sees that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ wants us filled with the Holy Spirit. Why? So that our lamps stay lit, and that we shine forth the light of Christ. Doesn't say in scripture that light of the knowledge of Christ might shine forth from within you.

Matt Stokes: 10:51 We are the church, and would to God....And I'd like to say this about every church in the world, but I can say this as I sit here responsible for the three gatherings that come to this place, would to God that the Coastal Community would be filled with the Holy Spirit. So much so, that we would break forth from this place, and the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ would shine forth from the life of every person in this room, so much so that the lost would be saved. And they would say, as it says in the ancient scriptures, behold, I saw a great light that shine forth unto the Gentiles, right? That was a symbol of Jesus. Jesus said, I'm the light of the world, the one who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. Jesus also said, you are the light of the world. He said, when you light a light, you don't put it underneath the basket so that no one can see it, you put it on top of a hill, so the whole world can see it.

Matt Stokes: 11:53 And I'm saying, listen please, are you filled with the Holy Spirit today? Are you crying out to God for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit? I know every one of us is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, the day you come to Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells you. But according to my understanding of the scriptures, there is a difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which comes upon every believer. And the filling of the Holy Spirit, when he comes upon you in a way that is so remarkable, that you do what you would have never done without him, you say what you would have never said without him, you go to places, you would have never gone without him.

Matt Stokes: 12:33 And Peter, was Peter filled with the Holy Spirit? Most of us would say, yeah, the Apostle Peter, sure, filled with the Holy Spirit. But no, in Acts chapter 2, it said the Holy Spirit came upon Peter, and Peter filled with the Holy Spirit stood up and said, men and brethren, and then he preached one of the most powerful sermons in the New Testament. And the people said, what shall we do? And he said, repent, every one of you, and be baptized, for salvation, and for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit came upon him and he did something remarkable. And I just want to pray, Oh God, fill us with the Holy Spirit, and let the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ shine forth from you. Amen.

Matt Stokes: 13:22 All right, next verse, "I know all the things you do." Holy moly, okay, he knows all the things I do. Like, okay, first of all, I told you that's a terrifying thought if you're living in the flesh, if you're living in compromise, if you're living in compliance with the world, if you're living in carnality, that's terrifying that he knows everything I do. But if I'm laboring for him, and I'm loving him, and I'm crying out for the Holy Spirit, and I'm overlooked, I'm not noticed, I'm insignificant in the eyes of the world, how comforting. Because Revelation is a book of comfort, not a book of fear, how comforting is it for Jesus to say, I know everything you do. How comforting is it for him to say, Hey, lean into this, I know everything you do, and I love you. There is no person, you like that? That was really great. I mean, there is no person on earth that knows everything I do, and still loves me. Most people that know everything I do can be annoyed by me, right? There's only one person that says, I know everything you do, and I love you unconditionally. And I'm saying, that's true of every believer in this room, and if you really believe that to the core of your being, you would just go change the world right now. Like right now, if you really believed, he knows everything you do.

Matt Stokes: 14:53 Now watch this, he goes on and explains those things, but be encouraged when I'm telling you this, because only Jesus knows the heart. Maybe you want to write this down, put this in your margin right there, only Jesus knows the heart and the health of the church. Only Jesus knows the heart and the health of the church. I went to a church not long ago, and I'm telling you the music was off the hook, like every song was out of the park, awesome. Okay, the speaker, top-notch. I mean, key note, I mean everything he said, and not only that, just the way he looked, he was just cool. And guess what? Just two weeks ago, and I don't need to mention his name. Because if you're watching the news, you know who I'm talking about, and where I'm talking about, he fell morally and was relieved of his position as a pastor. What's my point? Only Jesus knows the heart and the health of a church, because on the outside, everything was just so epic and awesome. And the truth is on the inside, when it came to the infrastructure and the leader, it was crumbling. So I'm saying let's be on guard, pray for your pastors, pray for your leaders, pray for the infrastructure of the church, pray for us that our unity, pray against gossip, pray against slander, and let's continue to live a life where we are passionately in love with Jesus Christ.

Matt Stokes: 16:31 And I'll tell you why that's most important, watch this. "I see your hard work." Hard work is [foreign language] It's where we get the word energy from. I see your energy, right? I worked out this morning on a machine called an ERG. Does anyone know what an ERG is? It's that rowing machine, right? It's called the ERG, it comes from [foreign language], it means to work hard. "I see your hard work and your patient endurance." ypomoní_, that is in the Greek, it means to bear up under intense amounts of pressure. "I know you don't tolerate sinful or evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars." Which is amazing, you know, the word apostle actually means messenger. Last week, we talked about the word, Apostle means messenger, it also means a messenger who was sent. Last week we talked about [foreign language], angel means messenger, but apostle means messenger who was sent. The easy way to remember that. and you can write it in your margin if you like, is the word, apostle has the word postal in it, do you see it? Like a letter that's sent, just remember apostle a postal, it's someone who sent with a message.

Matt Stokes: 17:46 So here come these people off these ships, whether from Phoenicia, or Philistia, or Crete, they're coming in to Ephesus, and they say that they are apostles, and that they say that they've got messages from God. And the people of Ephesus, they listen, and they study, and they discern, and they go, no you're not, you're a liars, you're liars. And Jesus is saying, I'm just want to call you out and say, I want to commend you and say, I'm proud of you for being able to discern that. "You have patiently suffered." That's the word [foreign language] where we get the word tribulation. "You've patiently suffered for me without quitting." How many people quit? How many people quit, just give up on their faith, on their walk, on their ministry?

Matt Stokes: 18:38 Pastor Chris Einwechter, who all of you know here, this guy does not quit. He continually is serving and ministering to people, making phone calls. If you were baptized at this last baptism, you got a call from Chris. The guy does not quit, every day he's working, every day he's working for God. Then you have Matthew Glancey, our student ministries director. He's not here right now, do you know why? Because he's at the tabernacle taking care of your children. And I love to talk more about, please, getting involved and inviting you to be a part of the children's ministry. But when he started, he was doing student ministry, and I remember him outside the building having to correct a kid who was vaping during student ministry. And he's like, look, you can come in here smelling like a pack of Marlboros, I'd love to have you here. But I can't have you vaping around other students outside, drawing them away from what it is that God's trying to do in here. Guess what? He didn't quit, he still at it. I mean, how about, does anyone here know Pastor Gene Wilkins, the guy's 83 years old, and he will not quit. We've actually gently encouraged him to quit, and he will not do it. There he is at a Bible study, there he is in a connect group, there he is visiting somebody at the hospital. What are you saying I can't come in, I'm 83 years old, can't you give an old man a break, the person's dying. He will not stop, this guy, Pastor Gene Wilkins. We've got a fellowship of ministers who just don't quit. Matthew Maher, like an endless amount of energy, just bringing it Thursday, after Thursday, I'm surrounded by a team of people that are not quitters.

Matt Stokes: 20:18 So rejoice in that, and be excited about that. But yet, however, watch what happens next, "But I have this complaint against you. " Now, I don't really appreciate the New Living Translation here because it uses the word complaint, and the Bible says, do all things without complaining. It's actually not in the original language, the original language says, "But this I have against you." I mean, obviously it's negative, so in American English, they decide to use the word complaint, but that word really isn't there. "This I have against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first." Oh, you know, like talk about being shot through the heart, and you're to blame. You give love... We could sing that at church, in a gospelesque type of way, in light of Revelation 1:2. All right, this is what happens. See when I have no papers, all bets are off, I don't know where we're going to go. But that's the point, I mean, that's like piercing the soul to hear, like, your love is lacking. Like when I look at this, if you lean into this with me right now, when I look at this, I'm like, man, this church is solid. Look at what they do, hard work, patient endurance, you don't tolerate evil people, you examine these people who say, they're apostles, you say, though, you're liars, you suffer patient, you don't quit. But there's this one thing that I have against you, you don't love like you used to love.

Matt Stokes: 21:59 And then the next verse 5 says, "Look how far you have fallen!" That word, look, means to remember, or to look back. Jesus, writing to John says, this is what I want you to tell them to do, I want you to tell them to just remember, I want you to tell him to look back and see how far you have fallen. So would you take a moment of introspection right now, and think about that. "Think how far you have fallen.", he says to them. We have this expression we use in American English, we call it falling in love, right? We fall in love. And there are times, and seasons, we go through in our marriages where we feel like we've fallen out of love.

Matt Stokes: 22:43 And whether you're like a 20 year psychotherapist, or you're just a life coach trying to help people along, there's a simple question you almost always use when you find someone in this particular place. And the first question you almost always ask after you get through the data gathering of the situation, the first question you must always ask is this, do you know what it is? Well, what did you do when you were in love? Let's revisit that, tell us about what you were doing when you first fell in love. You know how it is, if you're here and you're married, it's like when you went downstairs to make a cup of coffee, you didn't make a cup of coffee just for yourself, you made a coffee for your spouse. And so, you know, when your spouse said, can I have a cup of coffee? You're like, already there, sweetheart. Right? Because you're like, you were in love. Somehow when you went out on a date, it ain't no double dutch, your wallet magically just comes out, and you're throwing down credit cards, and cash, and whatever else, because you're in love. You don't even think, it's not even a sacrifice for you. You're just like here, I got that, I got that. Because you're in love, and pursuing just who this person is becomes one of the greatest pursuits of your life, because you're in love.

Matt Stokes: 24:08 And Jesus, here, as he uses John to write for him. He says, think how far you've fallen, you've fallen out of love. So let me just ask you, have you fallen out of love? Because there's a big difference between serving and singing with a heart filled with passion. There's a difference between even suffering and sacrificing because you love. There's a difference between labor and love. There's a difference between purity and passionate love. The Book of Leviticus uses the word purity, or purify, over 125 times just in a handful of chapters. And what happens, then it gives rise to the priesthood. Who is so pure, everything they do, they're ceremonially pure, their robes are pure, their language and prayers are very pure. And then in Isaiah, Jesus, the rebukes because their hearts aren't right. And Jesus years later says, "Well-spoke the prophet Isaiah, when he said to you, you praise me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me." What a rebuke, what a correction.

Matt Stokes: 25:25 "Come out from among them and be ye separate." You ever see that verse in the Bible, like people use that all the time, like, don't be a part of the world. But listen, listen, there's a huge difference between separation and adoration. And there are some churches that brag about how separate they are from the rest of the world. And you know that thing, we don't smoke, and we don't chew, and we don't date girls that do, or however that went. Like, you're so cool because you're so separate, but in your separation, somewhere along the line, you missed adoration. And what I'm saying to you is you could be here today filled with celebration, and still not be loving Jesus.

Matt Stokes: 26:19 So, you know, Jessie's here, I don't want to put him on the spot, but this was something that he said yesterday, in this talk with India. Like when Jessie first surrendered his life to Christ, like real surrender, he would get up before anyone else in the house. And he would go into this room downstairs, it's like this catch all room, it's off the side of the laundry room. It's the most un-prestigious room in our home, in the basement. Right? And he would lay down this gnarly yoga mat, and he would get down on his knees and he would pray. And I know this because he would pray out loud, because my office is on the other side of that wall. And as I'm just barely opening my eyes, trying to get that first cup of Maxwell house down, he singing by himself in his little room. And by the way, and if you don't mind me saying this, Jessie's no Pavarotti. Okay? But that didn't matter to him, because it was like, you know why? Because he's in love with Jesus.

Matt Stokes: 27:29 Here's the point that he was making yesterday though, and I reiterated it with him. There comes a time in all of our lives where you might remember, and maybe you applaud because you resonate with that, there's a time when you remember like you were so fresh, and alive, and the fire was burning, and you were sticking gospel tracks in bologna sandwiches to your husband, because you wanted them to come to Jesus during lunch. Like you were just so on fire, right? But imagine if there came a time where Jessie just couldn't worship because the atmosphere just wasn't right, he's singing by himself, but now he comes to a place where he can't worship anymore because the singers just really aren't the best. And, you know, he's listening for the voice of Christ, but now he really can't hear it, because the speaker from the front is not really giving great pontifications from the platform to which he decided to come on that particular day. And by the way, someone's sitting in his seat, and that's his seat, and how dare they sit in the spot he always sits.

Matt Stokes: 28:36 I know there's a little chuckle across the room, but that may be because you're all too familiar with those churches, and those people. And I'm saying would to God, that that would never become us, because it is very, very possible, and it can happen very, very quickly. Where you can take every one of those Matthew's stockings, and you can clear them, and you can take every feather off of the turkeys for the Thanksgiving initiative for hungry people, and not have the love of Jesus Christ in your heart. And you know what it's worth? Nothing. Well, wait a minute, I mean, it's a lot of stockings and Turkey feathers, it's got to be worth something? No, it's not, it's not worth anything. Well, wait a minute, I mean, the kids are going to get the gifts, you're saying. How can it be worth nothing? Well, Jesus said, it's not worth anything. You're like a vine that's not attached to the branch. Paul said, if you don't have love, he said, then you're nothing. Right? He said, if I know all the mysteries of heaven in earth, if I can have the faith to move mountains, and I give my body to be burned, but have not love, I am nothing. In fact, I'll go as far as to tell you, you're worse than nothing. You know what you are? According to scripture, you are a clanging gong, and a sounding cymbal, like in the ears of Jesus you're actually annoying, if you think you're doing great works for God, but you have no love for Christ. So please take every stocking in the foyer, and the resources that were raised for the Thanksgiving initiative to feed those hungry families that are a part of this fellowship, and even some that aren't a part of this fellowship. Amazing, remarkable, you guys are awesome, but don't lose your love for Jesus. Because according to this, it says, that's the one thing that matters to Jesus more than all these other great, fantastic, phenomenal works, it has to come from a foundation, it has to be rooted, it has to be grounded, it has to be sourced in your love for Jesus Christ.

Matt Stokes: 31:08 So you might say, okay, so that, okay, wow. That was really great, good, good talk, how do I recapture that love for Jesus? Because what does it say next? Here's what he says, "Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first." That's why I said get back to the things that you once did, get back into the word, get back into prayer, get back into worship, get back into surrounding yourself with people that are really loving Jesus. Because the way that you can return to your first love, here's the ultimate way, write it down with a pen because this is so deep and so easy to write, fall love with Jesus again. Meditate, contemplate, the love of Jesus for you. When you meditate, when you contemplate, when you close your eyes and consider his shed blood on the cross, that Jesus Christ condescended from the highest heaven to dwell among us, just so that he could live that sinless life and then sacrifice himself for us in order to shed that blood, to purchase something for us, that we could never purchase on our own, and that's our forever forgiveness. And then rise again from that grave to let you know, not only did I purchase your forgiveness, but I also want you to know that you have a home in heaven because as I live, so shall you live? I don't know, you can tell me I don't know, I've never met anyone who has a steady, consistent, contemplation on the depth of the love of Jesus Christ for them, and is living a nominal Christian life. Comme ci, comme ça, they say in French. [foreign language] is how they say it in Swahili. How do I say it in Spanish? Somebody give it to me in Spanish, say it loud? Así así. Right? Right. Like God forbid that I stand before Jesus on the day that I am brought into heaven and he goes, my son, Así así, your faith was mezza mezza, [foreign language]. I want to step into his presence, and I want to wrap my arms around the one who has loved me all the days of my life, and I loved him too. And I'm hoping the same for you, and that happens by coming back and not letting anything get between you and Jesus Christ.

Matt Stokes: 33:53 "If you don't repent." Okay, like there's a word we don't really like very much. Right? But you see earlier, look earlier it said, "Turn back to me and do the works you did at first." In my Bible, I circled the word turn back, and then I circled the word repent, and I drew a line between the two. Because these words are very similar. The word repent metanoia in the Greek, literally means to turn, to turn away, to turn back, to turn back to God. "If you don't repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches." Okay, so what does that mean? Does that mean that if you don't repent of this action, that you're going to lose your salvation, because he's going to come and quickly take away the lampstand? No, what it simply means is this, this church is in danger of losing its light. And how many churches today are in danger of losing their light? How many churches do you know that have already lost their light?

Matt Stokes: 34:56 I can tell you this, you can go today to the city of Ephesus, and it's just a pile of rubble. A hundred years after this was written, Ephesus was still a thriving city, today, nothing, just rocks, nothing there. This church was in danger of losing its light. And so if you've got a pen, and there's one thing I want you to write down, I don't have a slide for this. Just one thing I want you to write down, please write this down. The greatest enemy of your relationship with God...This might be the most important thing I'm going to say today. The greatest enemy of your relationship with God, may be work for God. Right? Because you do so many things, you're grabbing the stockings, you're taking the feathers, you're involved in the cleaning ministry, you help with the children. And somehow you think because we're so linear, because we're so human, we think that all those works are actually equating to something. And Jesus is saying, no, they don't mean anything to me, because the greatest enemy of your relationship with me has become your work for me. I don't want my kids to work for me, I want my kids to love me. And if you've got kids, you know what that's like. I can say, do the dishes, take out the trash, and if I show enough anger and say, you better do this, or I'm going to remove the lamps, like, they're going to do it. But how much better is it when they do it out of a heart of love, and appreciation, and passion, and gratitude, because they love their Father.

Matt Stokes: 36:43 "But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do." We don't have the time right now to get into the details of who the Nicolaitans were, we'll talk about them again a little bit later, they show up again. I'll just tell you this, the Nicolaitans were false teachers. And it doesn't say that Jesus hates the Nicolaitans, it says that he hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans right? It's important distinction to make, right? Remember God hates the sin, but he loves the sinner, right? He hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans, and they were false teachers. In fact, some scholars believe that there was a leader, he was actually a deacon in the early church, and his name was Nicholas. And Nicholas rose to such prominence as a leader, he actually had a sect of people that he drew to himself, called the Nicolaitans. And they say that Nicholas was actually the one who drew the distinction, watch this, he drew the distinction between clergy and laity. Like there's a difference between like the important people that sit on stools, on big platforms, higher than everyone else, And then there's the little people. And Jesus is saying, John, I want you to write something, I hate that. I hate that mentality.

Matt Stokes: 38:01 My name is Matt, and I've been given a gift, right, And my gift is to take the scriptures and unfold them. And because I have a certain gift giftedness in that, if you think I do, you might not think I do. I'm gathering that you think I do, that's why you're here. Because if you didn't, you'd be somewhere else. But if you think that I do, you've got to understand that my gift is no more important than yours. My gift lends me, because of the technology and the seating, it lends itself to me having to sit on two steps higher up on the stool. But it's no more, or less, important than the person who's helping your children right now get a passionate desire to grow in Jesus in their discipleship down the street, or the person who takes a fistful of Matt stockings and helps children that don't have any gifts, or those of you who took feathers to feed people at Thanksgiving who don't have any food, like the blood of Jesus Christ that washes and cleanses sin. I needed no more or less blood of Jesus to wash and cleanse my sin than you did. My gift may bless you, and I hope that it does, but your gift also blesses others in ways that my gift cannot, will not, that's why we need each other. And when we see the body of Christ being cut up, like a body being cut into parts, if you heard of such a thing, you'd say that's sick, and that's wrong, and it's evil and wicked. And that's what God's saying, don't cut up the body of Christ. Oh they're clergy, and they're lady, no, we are sons and daughters of the living God, he's made us all the light of the world and the salt of the earth. And don't see it any other way, fall into the trap of these people called the Nicolaitans

Matt Stokes: 39:52 There's some nasty cartoons on that channel, on cable. Your kids should not be watching Barney or
Teletubbies or anything else that's...Never mind, Sam, you know what I'm talking about from the eighties, and those Rug Rats, don't get me started. That was an honest mistake by the way, I really do not have...these people actually will, people...SpongeBob is borderline, it depends on where your heart is Jesus. But like people will actually email me and be like, that was really funny about the Nickelodeons, did you put that in your notes? Like no, like,

Matt Stokes: 40:42 All right, let's finish up here. "Anyone who has ears to hear?" Just check right now, anybody, just pull up right here. Everyone got one of these. Okay. Because if you saw it today, or you can feel that you got one, then what's about to be said, this is for you. I have one, too. "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the spirit and understand what he is saying (resent continual) to the churches." (Plural) This what I was saying earlier, this is written, present, continual. This is written so that anyone has ears to hear would listen today, if they are a part of the churches right now, this is for us. "To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God." Remarkable, that word victorious, your Bible might use the word overcomes, anyone who overcomes. Then he says, I have a gift that I'm going to give to you. And this word overcome simply means in the original language, someone who wrestles, and then has the victory. So if you're someone, and also it's also in the present continual, you're continually wrestling, but you're continually trying to overcome. Sometimes we fall, but we're also working towards overcoming. And if you're someone that has an overcoming spirit, he says in the midst of this, I have a reward for you. And that is, that I'm going to actually give to you of the tree of life, in the paradise of God.

Matt Stokes: 42:10 Now there's some people that get really wrapped up in all of this, in the tree of life, like what's the tree of life. And now is this the Revelation tree of life. I don't have the time to get into all of that, you can do the research, Google it, Wikipedia, whatever, tree of life. All I can tell you is, it's fascinating because of course it's in the Book of Genesis, the tree of life. And then it's in the Book of Revelation, and people just find it fascinating that the book ends up on both sides of the entire scope of scripture. If you recall, Adam and Eve ate from a tree, that tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And because they sinned an ate from that tree, God actually sent an angel to guard them from paradise, to keep them from the garden of Eden, because he didn't want them to eat of the tree of life and live forever in that sinful state. Because listen, here's why, the tree of life is symbolic of something, it's symbolic of fellowship. And God could not have access to them in their eternal state while they were in a sinful state. The tree of life is symbolic of restoration. The tree of life is symbolic of access to God. And what he's saying is, if you overcome, if you're someone that's continually living a life where you're desiring to overcome, I'm going to actually have fellowship with you. You're going to have access to me. There's going to be restoration between us. So you might ask the question, well, what do I have to do to overcome? And the answer to that is pretty simple, it's right here in this verse. And it says, the way that you overcome is by making sure that your love for God prevails in everything you do. That your love for God is the source of the words you say. That your love for God is the source of the ministry of which you are a part. Let the love of Christ prevail in your life.

Matt Stokes: 43:59 So, that's it, that's all we have time for today. So I just pray that as you go forth from this place, that you go forth knowing that Jesus is walking in the midst of us. And one of the greatest longings of his heart, is to make sure that there's oil in your lamp, and that it stays lit. That the Holy Spirit is coming upon you, and that there is a light of Christ that's shining forth from you. His heart is that you would return to him and love him like you once did. And the greatest enemy of your relationship with God, may very well be your work for God. Trials are coming, he says it in here, he wants you to be prepared. I want to challenge you as much as I'm challenging myself, wrestle, and overcome, walk in victory, because today is a great day to change the way you're living.

Matt Stokes: 45:06 Let's pray. Father, as we look into your word, and we just center down on just this one particular church, and we see how far they have fallen. Before a single person in these gatherings today begins to judge, I pray that we would look at our own hearts, not in a morbid kind of way, but with a sacred introspection on where we really are with you in terms of our passion, in terms of the depth to the degree to which we've really sought to understand your love for us. I pray that it would blow our minds, that it would ruffle our feathers, rock our boats, shake our world. That the love of Christ would be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that's been given to us, and that we would overcome whatever obstacles in front of us, and we wait for that day where we eat from that tree in complete and total utter access and fellowship with you. Amen.

Recorded in Ocean City, New Jersey.
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