Thy word

Restoring the fallen brother

People read James and they see "works and faith" but there's so much more. As we come to the close of his epistle James stresses the importance of saints who have fallen away. Some say that James 5:19,29 are verses for the unsaved, but I can make the case that these are for the child of God. For example Warren Wersbee believes that this passage applies to restoring the wandering brother back to the Lord. He says the word convert simply mean "to turn back." We could just as easily apply this to the lost.

We have to be careful when we talk to a brother. Most of us should say nothing to a weaker brother. Why? We need to be careful to approach a brother with compassion, sensitivity and love. If I can't do that then I shouldn't say a word otherwise I am no better than a Pharisee. We have to be careful when we start to think that a brother or sister is not where we think they should be. The key in these verses is to restore. Restore here means "to bring back." If I am willing to restore the brother then I have to be willing to sacrifice some of my time. It I can't make the time for him, then I shouldn't bother. A better approach would be to first go to a brother or sister that we love and trust. I need to be accountable to that brother and give them permission to tell me when I'm falling away.

"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."

James 5:19,20

The first word of these verses is "brethren" which always refers to people of the faith. he never refers to unsaved people as "brethren." But then he goes onto say "that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death." You can see that he is talking about those who are unsaved and those who are saved.

It is our responsibility to reach out to the brother who has fallen away and restore them. It's a responsibility that many of us have not taken seriously. This is not to say we should walk around looking for the weaknesses in our brothers and sisters. When I have that attitude I'm a backsliden Christian. That is the attitude of a Pharisee and I need to take the plank out of my own eye before I take the speck out of a brothers eye.

I can not go to a brother unless the Holy Spirit convicts me. If God convicts me, then he has already prepared a way to talk to that brother. If I go in my own strength, by brother is going to think "who in the world does this arrogant person think he is?" I'm only going to drive him further away. I need to be sure that the Holy Spirit is telling me to go to that brother. Not everybody should talk to another Christian. Let's look at Galatians 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." How can I do it in the spirit? It says I must do it in the spirit of "meekness" which means I am going to go to the brother with compassion and caution that I am not falling into the same sin. In verse 2 it says "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." If I'm not willing to share that brother's burdens I'm being egotistical, I'm being a Pharisee. It's going to cost me some pain and some time to restore that brother. I must be careful not to gossip about the brother. I must be careful not to see myself as more spiritual than they are.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men." The word "patient" is really "long suffering" which means I will suffer long. In other words it might take me a while to restore the brother or sister. He will notice in that time that I really care for them. He will notice the time I spend with him. He will notice the love I have for him. Part of being a spiritual person is being meek. We need to restore the brother or sister in humility and love. The key to being effective is "don't gossip." We should not look for praise for working with a fallen brother or sister. My concern needs to be the consequences that will befall my brother or sister if they stay on their current path. We must remember hat we have all backsliden at some time in our lives. We need to remember when we first got saved and how much joy we had then. So we are all backsliden to a certain degree. Many who wander from the faith don't even know they're backsliden. If I go to the brother or sister they may get angry that I would suggest that they are backsliden. So I don't' go to him unless God tells me. 1 John 16,7 "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." What this tells us is that I have no fellowship with God when I stray from the faith and chase after my own desires. It means that when I'm fighting the battle, God is not there helping me. God will allow me because of my free will to get messed up in order to chasen me. We are unaware that we have drifted away. We ask God why is this happening to me? Haven't I been tithing? Haven't I been coming to church every week? The wandering brother or sister is in danger because some sin can lead to death. We cannot wilfully continue to sin. I have a loving God, but I also have a righteous God who demands payment for sin. 1 Corinthians 11:28-30 "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Their sin was punished and some even died. Remember just because I'm a Christian, I don't have the right to go out and sin knowingly. Luke 12:47 "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." Being in sin brings a more serious punishment for a Christian. Some scholars believe that there is a time when God will stop calling us and allow us to endure the punishment of our sin.

"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Hebrews 10:26-31

What this is saying if we willfully sin and there's "no more a sacrifice?" He means that there's no more protection for us and we will pay the price for our sins. I am a sinner, but I'm not sinning the same sin over and over again. There's a grace that God has given us, but it's almost like we are spitting on that grace. It's almost like becoming my own god. God is saying he wants to be merciful but I have to accept that mercy. Will I accept that grace and turn from my sin? If not there will be a fearful expectation if I don't turn from the sin because I know that God has to chasen me. I have trodden under foot the blood of Christ. Who am I to make light of all the Jesus went through to make light of His mercy? Who am I not to be the best that I can for a savior who did it all for me. If we willfully sin we make His blood of no affect especially if there's an unsaved person who knows that I'm supposed to be a Christian. We mock the blood of Christ when we continue in sin. The Bible tells us that judgement will begin with the house of the Lord. That's you and me. I think he has more sympathy for the unsaved because they don't know any better and less sympathy with you and me. Again, can this person lose his salvation? No! Once saved always saved. But that doesn't mean I'm going to walk this life without his chastening in my life. It's an awful thing to fall into he hands of an angry God.

I need to understand the fallen condition of a fallen brother and it should make me want to talk to him in a loving way. I should talk to him the same way he talks to me. The same mercy Christ is showing me, I need to show you. We cannot go to him in a condescending way because that brother of sister will never hear me.

So the question remains "how do I restore a straying saint?" It requires special attributes.

1. People who are spiritual as in Galatians 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

2. Those who are producing the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22,23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." You are not qualified to restore the fallen brother or sister if you don't have the Fruit of the Spirit. You know we all can embrace the love, joy and even the meekness, but we all say "wait a minute, God never meant for me to go through long suffering." In real life, if you have the Fruit of the Spirit you're going to have brothers and sisters who are going to hurt you. We have to go to our brother in the spirit of gentleness. It's like soul surgery because everything is delicate. We need to be careful,. We need to be "scrubbed" so to speak. I need to have clean hands. Remember the woman taken in adultery? Jesus said to them "he who is without sin let him cast the first stone" and one by one they walked away. Jesus did not judge her, He simply told her to sin no more. Do we have an attitude of Christ or do we have a Pharisee attitude. In order to do that I have to constantly look at self, otherwise I'm in big, big trouble. I've got to be willing to bear my brother's burdens as in Galatians 6:2. If my brother is hurting I better be hurting with him and loving him. I've got to be willing to spend time with my brother.

3. I need to have humility. This is implied in Galatians 6:3 and is stated outright in 2 Timothy 2:24-6. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." Please remember that people will not accept correction from an arrogant person. We have to look at our own sin and confess it before God. When we gossip about a fallen brother we do it to make ourselves feel good but others will see us as hypocrites so you're better off not saying a word.

In some cases there may have be a church discipline involved. And if the brother or sister doesn't respond to the discipline we need to move away from that brother. But we are still to call him "brother." I love that brother enough to pray for that brother and ask God to be merciful to him. We need to be on our knees for that brother.

4. We need to accept the fact that the work of restoring the saint may be unpleasant at times, but there's the potential for great joy. 3 John 1:2 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." That's what we should be saying. "I have no greater joy than to see my brother or sister walking in truth." It comes down to this: how much do I love God? When is the last time that you went on a visitation to a brother that hasn't been coming to church for a while? How will the brother know that you care for him if you're not willing to spend time with him? You need to visit that saint so they will know that you want to restore that person in love.

1 John 3:16-19 "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."

How can I say I'm a child of God if I don't show love for my fallen brother?

Two kinds of wisdom

You may not have noticed before, but the book of James talks about 2 types of wisdom: godly and worldly wisdom. Warren Wiersbee says that wisdom was very important to the Jewish people. Wisdom is applying the knowledge you have in a proper way. What good is having all kinds of knowledge if you don't know how to apply it?

Proverbs 3:13-18 Proverbs 4:7-9 encourages us to seek after wisdom. As Christians we should understand that wisdom is important to anything we do. Ephesians 5:15-17 exhorts us to walk with wisdom.

"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descended not from above, but is worldly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." James 3:13-18

James wrote his book between 45 and 50 AD, but look how relevant it is today. Think about that. Most people today don't want to think about godly wisdom. Most people today want to live in a world that pleases them. Most people want to live in a world that pleases "self." "If I feel like it I'm going to do it and if I don't feel like it I'm not going to do it." The "self" becomes number 1, yet this is foolishness to God. In 1 Corinthians 1:20 "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" Worldly wisdom appeals to the senses, emotions, and passions. Wisdom that "feels good" does not necessarily make it right. So often Christians will say, "but it FEELS so right." They will go with their feelings and it ends up costing them. The Bible tells us "the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things." When I'm working off of the heart more often than not I am going to be wrong. Going with your heart says "I want to please me not God." But in reality they just doing what they want to do. This type of wisdom according to James it "demonic" or "devilish." Why? Because we allow Satan to control us. Read James 3:15 again. Just because we are saved it doesn't mean that we can't be controlled or influenced by Satan. Satan will never posses us but he can influence our thoughts.

As Christians we can be on the narrow road or the wide road. We often find ourselves on the wide road because we want to do what we want to do. Sooner or later we get into trouble and the first thing we want to do is blame God. "I'm a Christian! Why are you doing this to me, God?" But the problem is that we have been on the wide road.

So how do we get godly wisdom? Godly wisdom is from God (James 1:17). James tell us we need to pray for the wisdom (James 1:15). God promises to give as much wisdom as we want. If I don't have godly wisdom it's purely because I want wordly wisdom. It means I'm not praying or reading God's word. In the end we try to blame God when it's really our fault we don't have godly wisdom. wordly wisdom is full of bitterness, envy and strife. In other words, whenever I have wordly wisdom I can never be content. If all I have is wordly wisdom I'm always looking at people and blaming them for my problems. I'm always envying them. I'm always looking at them to try and build me up. According to James, if I have wordly wisdom I'm a bitter person apart from Jesus Christ.

Godly wisdom will lead me to praise God for the success of others. I am not bitter or envious. "Hurt people hurt people" describes the person who lives by wordly wisdom. Godly wisdom is never possessive; never self-seeking. wordly wisdom makes us prideful. It prompted the disciples to argue over who is top dog; who is the best in the kingdom. wordly wisdom prompted Satan and his angles to rebel against God. Proverb 16:25 it says "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." This is the consequences of wordly wisdom. Striving for wordly wisdom is just destroying yourself and in the end you're going to lose. You can never please self because the Bible says all you have is filthy rags.

Godly wisdom is pure. It seeks after God's wisdom and truth. It seeks God's will. It keeps me from seeking power, prestige and position. I already have position in Christ. Godly wisdom is peaceable. I don't have to argue with people. If I am arguing with you then I need to look at what kind of wisdom I have. Godly wisdom makes an effort to find peace. Remember the commandments Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. You can state it another way.

Your priorities should be in this order:

1. Jesus
2. Others
3. You

The first letter of each word spells "Joy." The only way you can have joy in your life is if Jesus Christ is first in your life. You will be miserable otherwise. Godly wisdom speaks truth in love. It doesn't speak truth to hurt you. Godly wisdom is going to shut my mouth before I can hurt you. Godly wisdom says you're my brother in Christ. Godly wisdom says I'm going to be gentle and kind. 2 timothy 2:24-25. I need to ask myself how am I in dealing with others. Do I deal with them honestly? Do I deal with them as a brother of sister in Christ? Do I have a soft answer? Grievous words stir up anger. Godly wisdom is always looking after God's truth. I'm not going to argue over things unless they're biblical things. I'm not to argue over opinions. Churches are split over opinions and not over the Word of God. Church split over worldly wisdom, "I can do things better than you."

We yield our rights to godly wisdom. We no longer say it's my liberty to do what I want to do. People will say to us "God give me liberty to sin if I want to." This is not godly wisdom. But there's one law that's higher than the law of liberty and that is the law of love. The Bible says I am not to offend the brother. When I offend the brother I sin and if I cause him to sin, I'm in trouble. Romans 14:19-21 we are to put others first. Godly wisdom if full of mercy. Godly wisdom is full of mercy and quick to forgive. Whoa!! You mean I've got to forgive others? Yes because that's what godly wisdom teaches. When I sin don't I want people to forgive me? If I'm a merciful person I know people are going to be merciful towards me. If I want mercy I've got to give mercy. I reap what I so. Am I holding onto bitterness in my life. It will destroy me not the person I'm angry at. If you're holding onto bitterness you're never going to have the peace of God.

James 3:13 Our conduct has a lot to do with our faith. That's exactly what James is saying when he says I'll show you my faith by my works. If I work at a job where I call myself a Christian and yet I swear, I tell dirty jokes, or look at dirty magazines people are going to look at me and say "you're a Christian?" Sometimes unsaved people know more about how a Christian should act than a Christian. But on the other hand if I'm working in a place and I refuse to listen to those jokes or swear, people will respect who I am and respect my Jesus. It ain't about me, it's about who I'm serving.

Godly wisdom shows no partiality. It is no respecter of persons. There's no favoritism or cliques. There is no hypocrisy. It's not an act or show. It comes from the heart. It's a desire to please God. I don't care about what people think of me I only care what God thinks of me.

The fruits of godly wisdom and wordly wisdom are in stark contrast. wordly wisdom does everything for the self. "I want to please me." "I only care about the fruits for my benefit" according to James 3:19. Godly wisdom is at first pure. It's peaceable and gentle. It's willing to yield. It's full of mercy. It produces good fruit. Is that the kind of wisdom I have? What kind of fruit do I have? If I have wordly wisdom, I'm going to boast about self and my accomplishments. I'm going to tell everybody what I'm doing for God. I'm going to tell everybody what I'm doing for you because I want you to praise me. But godly wisdom says I want to please Him. I do it for the glory of God not me. Godly wisdom doesn't want to be noticed.

We have to demonstrate our godly wisdom with our walk and not just our talk. If you don't you do harm to the Kingdom of God. You hurt other Christians who are trying to walk their talk. What kind of response do we make to the Word of God? wordly wisdom makes no response to the Gospel. If they do, it's only what's convenient for them. Godly wisdom receives the commands of the Gospel joyfully and obediently. We see that in Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 2:38.

In light of what we read in James 3:13-18 are we demonstrating godly wisdom in our lives?

- Pastor Fred Ferreira

Faith and works

The Christian is to walk by faith. James 2:14-26 talks about 3 different kinds of faith: there's "dead" faith, "demonic" faith and there is "dynamic" faith. But only one kind of faith can saves us. Just as important, James explains the relationship between works and faith.

James 2:14-26 contains some difficult verses, but by carefully looking at them we can understand what James is trying to teach us. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

The first kind of faith James talks about is "dead" faith. In verses 14-17 James tells us that dead faith is the kind of faith that substitutes words and deeds for real faith. They talk a good talk, but that's all they're doing. People who hold this kind of faith may know all the right scriptures and Bible doctrine, but so did the Pharisees. They knew all these things, but they only had intellectual faith. Paul had a knowledge of God before he got saved, but it wasn't a saving Faith. I can say I'm a Christian but that doesn't make me a Christian just like sitting in a garage for a couple of days doesn't make me a car.

I need to have more than words. I need to back up my words with actions. If I'm not living up to what I say I believe I am defiling the name of Christ. It's important that I have the works to show I have real faith. Warren Weirsbee says, "No man can come to Christ by faith and remain the same anymore than one can come in contact with a 220 volt power line and be the same." 2 Corinthians 5:17 says "I'm a new creature...old things are passed away." I am not saying that we are saved by good works. If works could save us then Jesus was a fool to go to the cross. Ephesians 2:8-9 says "by grace are ye saved and that not of yourselves it is a gift from God." It is impossible to be saved by works, but living faith is evidenced by a transformed life that bares fruit in good works. And Christians who live their faith will draw men to Christ by their works.

The second kind of faith is "demonic" faith. It is a faith that is based on intellect and emotion, but doesn't have the power to transform a life. James discusses this in verses 18-19. There are no atheists among the demons. They believe in hell and judgement as mentioned in Luke 8:29-31. The demons also believe that Jesus will be the judge Mathew 8:28-29. The demons believe and tremble. They know God is a just God and they know their ultimate end. Their faith is not a saving faith because it does not transform them. In spite of their faith they are still demons. We can believe all the doctrines taught in the Bible, but if we try to twist those doctrines to our purpose we don't have a saving faith. If we believe all the doctrines but do not believe the one most important doctrine we do not have a saving faith. We can have all the emotion we want. We can have a "feel-good" faith, but it will not save us.

Am I bringing glory to God? Has my life been transformed by my faith? If not, your faith is no better than the faith of the demons.

Finally, faith that saves is "dynamic" faith; it is the one true faith. True saving faith leads to action. It leads to obedience in doing works. Look at 2 people who seem to have nothing in common: Abraham and Rahab. Abraham was the father of the Jews. Rahab was a gentile. Abraham was a godly man while Rahab had been a sinful woman. Abraham was the friend of God while Rahab belonged to the enemies of God. What did they have in common? Both exercised saving faith. Abraham demonstrated his faith by his works. Abraham knew that God would give him another sacrifice so he wouldn't have to sacrifice his son. But before he performed the works, he already had the faith. Rahab demonstrated her faith by her works. She let down the spies because she believed that God would spare her.

Do people believe you when you tell them you're a Christian? Does your faith express itself through action? Are people drawn to Christ because of your works?

- Pastor Fred Ferreira

Pure religion

What is pure and undefiled religion or as Schofield called it the "test of true religion?" When we read this we should ask some questions about ourselves: what kind of a religion do I have? Maybe it's like a spare tire used only in emergencies. Maybe it's like a wheelbarrow easily upset and must be pushed. Or maybe it's like a bus, ridden only when it's going your way. Whatever religion we have is no value to us unless it's pleasing to God. The things that I do in my Christian life are of no value unless they are pleasing to God. In James 1:26, 27 he tell us "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." We find the definition of pure religion in these verses from James.

What is pure religion?

1. Pure religion must be a practicing religion. It doesn't just happen by sitting at home and doing nothing. I am to "visit the fatherless" and not just sit at home watching TV. True religion involves me doing God's will and not my will. True religion puts God first. Verse 22 says we are to be doers of the word and not just hearers. Jesus said in Luke 6:46 "why do you call me Lord if you don't do what I command?" In Christianity we are not to play church we are the church. we all seem to have excuses for not doing what God wants: we're too old, too busy, I'm retired, etc. In God's service there's no such thing as retired. Moses started serving God when he was 80-years-old. Abraham didn't start the Jewish nation until he was 100-years-old. Many people in our church are retired, but they are out doing the will of God.

Why are our church pews empty? Are we witnessing at work or to our friends and families? It's not just the Pastor's job it's our job. Revival starts with God's people. It starts with us when we are humble and get out and share God's Word. Are you serving your Lord? Look at what Jesus did for you on the cross and then say you can't tell people about Christ. How much do you love Him?

Paul said in Galatians 6:10 "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." In Titus 2:14 Paul tells us: "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." We are to be zealous to do good works. When is the last time you told someone about Jesus Christ? It doesn't matter what people say about you and call you a Jesus freak. It's what we need to be doing. When we are obedient to Jesus, people will come to us when they are hurting. It's happened to me and to Pastor George. In 1 John 3:17,18 we are instructed to show compassion to others "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." How can we say we love God and not show compassion to the lost?

2. Pure religion is a personal religion. This is evidenced by the use of the personal pronoun in the book of James "he", "himself" or "his". What James is trying to tell us is that if my religion isn't personal it isn't real. We only take care of those things that belong to us. They are our personal property. If my religion isn't personal we are not going to do a good job of sharing it or living it. This is most apparent when it comes to giving to the church. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul says "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." Giving is important, but it does not take the place of doing something personally for someone else. We have a personal responsibility to do something for those in need not just praying for them. It's more than just a financial need.

Our faith must be pure and unspotted, without blemish as it says in 1 John 1:8. How can we have purity in our faith? This is only possible through the blood of Jesus Christ. We need to talk less about being a sinner and more about the fact that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We are born again and new creatures in Christ; walking in the light as He is in the light.

What kind of religion do you have? Is it a practicing religion? Does it go beyond the walls of the church? Does it go beyond the printed pages of the Bible? Am I doing? Am I reaching people with compassion? If your religion is not personal God will never be number one in your life. Does your religion include repenting of your sins? When was the last time you were an encouragement to somebody?

What kind of religion do you have?

- Pastor Fred Ferreira

You left your First Love

One of my favorite places to turn to in the Scriptures is the book of Revelation. I enjoy looking at what God, has to say about the churches. I believe, that we can always, get something special from them. Especially when we ask, the questions like, what is God, saying to me and how, can I apply it. When you and I practice this, scripture, seems to come alive. This is something Pastor Burt taught me a long time ago.

So with that lets turn to Rev. 2:1-7 "Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; these things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in is right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou has tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and has found them liars: and Hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, Because thou hast left thy first love Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I come Quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast , that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolataitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is the midst of the paradise of God." This is a message from the risen Christ to one of His churches. In fact, the church at Ephesus was one of the best, and one that Paul founded as recorded in Acts 19.

Paul had come from Corinth, and had found some believes at Ephesus. He instructed them in the Lord for two years, and so mightily grew the word of God and “prospered” we see this in Acts 19:20 Ephesus was a city of great prominence. As the Roman writer put it, “Ephesus is the first and greatest metropolis in Asia.” Ephesus was also a pagan city. The temple to the goddess Diana was located there This temple was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus was a magnificent city indeed. We could liken it to a city like N.Y.C. or Boston, with all its glamour, or maybe Hollywood with all its bright lights. Yet the church of Ephesus, had nothing to do with any of this, one would think this was a separated church, for the glory of Christ.

Lets see what God has to say about this church. I first want us to notice, that before He says something negative. He complaints them

  1. Their works in verses 1-3 of Revelations 2, Christ praises this church. He says "I know thy works." The works here means "hard labor." It means the kind of toil, that takes all the energy of mind, and muscle, This was a very active church, Her weekly calendar was full. The members gave themselves to their church work with great energy.
  2. He reminds them of their patience. This word means "steadfast endurance." This was a type of steadfast, or endurance, that turns hardship, and suffering into grace and glory. I mean they were doing what needed, to be done.

One would think the blessing they must be getting from God. But instead of blessing, there was condemnation. Why? They had become a backslidden church. "How" The word against this church, they had lost there first love. "WOW" The Ephesians’ zeal in the Lord had grown cold. You and I need to be on guard. We can become so concerned about programs and works that the Spirit is forgotten. I need to ask myself, what about me, have I lost my first love? Have I lost some of that zeal and love I had in the lord when I first believed?

I remember my first love. It magnified my sin; It kept me faithful in daily bible reading, I couldn't get enough preaching tapes to listen to. It made me fervent to win my family and friends to Christ. Remembering and repenting is not of value, unless, we return, to our first love. That brings about those first works.

Lets read verse 5 of Revelation 2 for a moment. Lets read it carefully. "Remember therefore from whence thou are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." The word "works" here is not the same as the word in verse 2. In verse 2 it is hard labor and grinding toil. Here the word works means “occupation,” the job you have to do according to one writer. Here he said, Christ was telling them to return to their first business, their first responsibility, their first charge. And for any church, that ought to be the work of evangelism—reaching and winning people to Christ.

How, are you doing in that area of your life I know when I first got saved, I would tell anybody I see, and not care, what they would say. What happened, what changed in my life? You might say I have backslidden in this area of my life. Or we may ask how do we know if we backslide? How can we prevent it?

Ray Stedman gives good insight in this area. He said there are always symptoms, and signs, of this happening. He gives three of them. That Is what I want to share with you this morning. The first one, visible at first only, to the individual It is the loss of the joy and glow of the Christian life. It soon becomes humdrum and routine. You begin to feel like you have heard it all already. Even the church service loses its impact. It seems mechanical, routine, dull and drab. That is a sign you are beginning, to lose your first love.

Second, you lose your ability to love others. One of the great revelations, of the Scripture, Is that the reason we love others is because we have first been loved ourselves. We especially see this In the book of 1John When we lose that consciousness of the wonder of Jesus’ love for us as an individual We also lose our awareness of others and find our first love for them fading. It is difficult to love. We become critical, inclined to find fault. In other words, we become judgmental and complaining.We begin to choose our friends more closely and only associate with those we like. We lose the compassion that once reached out to them.

Third, we lose healthy perspective of ourselves. We become more and more important in our thinking. In our wants and in our needs instead of what the Lord wants and what will please Him. Gradually we become sensitive and touchy, unable to bear criticism. This begins to make divisions and often separation in a congregation. Another words cliques. You know those people who think like me. Individuals in the church are no longer interested in evangelism. They are no longer concerned about about those around them without Christ. But are focused on themselves, their own comfort, their own pleasure. Self-centeredness sets in. Those are the marks of the loss of the first love and this is what was happening at Ephesus.

When a whole congregation begins to reflect that atmosphere it loses its influence. its lights go out. Its lamp has been removed. What do we do when this happens? How do we recover from this? Our Lord gives three clear, specific steps to take: Remember, Repent, and Return. There it is.

Remember, the height from which you are “fallen.” Look back. Remember what it was like when you first came to Jesus. Remember the joy you had in the Lord. Remember the closeness you felt to Him and Him to you. Remember the inner support you leaned upon in times of pressure and trouble. Remember the ease with which you prayed. Remember the delight, you took in other Christians and in the reading of the Word and the hearing of it. Remember how you could hardly bear to miss a service, Because you were learning so much truth, about life. Remember that? Look back. Think back. Our Lord says, “Remember the height from which you have fallen."

Repent and change your mind. That is what repentance means. Change your mind about what has taken the place of Jesus in your life. Renounce that ambition, that pride of position, that longing for approval. That has become all important to you and is motivating your work. Give up your critical spirit, your complaining attitude, your reliance on your knowledge or your training to make an impact in life. Put the Lord back in the center and focus of all your endeavors. Repent. Change your mind.

And then, return! "Do the things you did at first,” Jesus says. What are those things? Well, you read your bible with eager eyes. You could not get enough of it. You longed, to find out what, the word of God said. And you prayed about everything even finding a parking place. You responded to the hurts and needs around you with compassion and with love. And you did not count it an imposition. And above all, you praised God from your heart. You loved to sing praises, to His name and to think about His grace to you. Now do that again, Jesus says.

Start here. When we look at this letter from church history, we see this lost, of first love, becoming widespread in the churches after the apostles had passed away. During that time the churches were drifting away from a warm, loving, compassion-filled ministry. To a church getting involved with doctrinal controversies and theological discussions; making that there main stay rather than evangelism and focusing on the love of Jesus Christ our first and only true love.

The shame of this is we still see it in our churches today. “To him who has an ear,” to the one who is willing to listen to the voice of the Lord. What about you? Do you have an ear to hear what Jesus is saying to you? Do you respond with sympathy and obedience to the word that He gives us? Do you have an open ear? Are we listening to God or to self? Then this is what He says, To him that overcome I will give, the right to eat, from the tree of life. Which is in the paradise of God. Our Lord is Himself that tree of life. This is a symbol of Jesus, says Ray Stedman.

-- Pastor Fred Ferreira