THE GREAT EXCHANGE - What if God was one of us

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus,
Tryin' to make his way home? 

- Joan Osborne 'What if God was one of us' 1995

 

No.1 in 4 countries in 1995, Joan Osborne's song has some interesting lyrics. 
It represents the way a log of people would feel about God.

He's up there... I'm down here... God doesn't understand.
If God was one of us - he would understand.
He would know what it's like for me, a regular person trying to make it through in the world. 

Christmas is a time to reflect on the impact Jesus had when he came for us when he did become one of us, and he does understand. 

 

1 Timothy 1:15 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy - so that in me the worst of sinners Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 

 

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,

Jesus came for us. 
He came to save us. 
He was one of us. 

He walked in our shoes - he loved people and saw great victories - but he also betrayed by one of his own and suffered a brutal death on our behalf. 

He understands us. 
He knows the joys and pain and trials of life - He won the victory of it. 
Let the great exchange take place in your life - your life for his. 
Jesus didn't come just to walk around - he came to set you free! The message of Christmas is that Jesus came for us - and that changes everything. 

 

of whom I am the worst

This is a very humble statement.
He could have said a lot of other things: I've had a few bad days, I didn't know Jesus back then... but He said, of whom I am the worst. 

Sometimes it's hard for us to humble ourselves.
Excuses are more popular than humbleness.
We live in a society that likes to justify what they do.
Everyone wants to justify what they are doing - justifying their sin. 

It's been a tough time for me... God knows what's happening with me... 

But Paul would lift his hand and say - that I am the worst of sinners. Paul owns his sin and accepts Christ's work of redemption. Salvation requires repentance. As long as we justify our own behaviour we cannot receive the redemptive work of Christ. 

The great exchanges requires a humble spirit. We lay down our life, our failures, our sin, our selfishness and we take up the life of Christ - of freedom, relationship and purpose. 

 

But for that very reason I was shown mercy - so that in me the worst of sinners Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life

Mercy is a blessing that is an act of divine favour. 
This Christmas, remember the mercy that has been shown to you. The divine favour that is upon your life. 

The reason Paul can be so bold about his failings, is that he knows what God has already done. In the great exchange, God takes our personal pain, our embarrassing past and turns it around. 

It becomes a testimony, an example of what God can do. If he can do it in my life, he can do it in yours. We can then speak of our failings - because they become a story of how God intervened in our lives. This is the great exchange, the secrets that we hide in silence turn into stories that celebrate Christ. We go from recipients of God's grace to ministers of God's grace.

 

Isaiah 61:3 To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 

 

3 Reasons Jesus Came

1 Freedom

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burded again by a yoke of slavery. 

Don't go back. 
Take your freedom. 
Live in freedom. 

 

2 Relationship

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 

Jesus wants a relationship with you. 
Don't just know about Jesus - build a relationship! Go deeper! 

 

3 Purpose

2 Timothy 1:7 He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 

We have incredible purpose in our lives because of Christ. It's a life worth living.

 

THE GREAT EXCHANGE - The end of Selfie

At least 27 people died in "selfie-related" incidents around the world last year - that's more than those who died from shark attacks. 

We live in a world of selfies... How is that selfishness working out for our society?

But here is the contrast... 

 

Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 

 

This is the great exchange: Our lives, for His. 
He came to earth and sought us out - he took the burden and weight of our sin and triumphed over it on the cross. He asks us to consider our old lives a loss to gain this new life. 
We can't have our life and his life - we have to choose which one we will consider a loss. 

 

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. 

What's more important to you? 
Your life, or relationship with Christ? 
Paul thought it was worth everything - he was willing to lose everything to pursue a relationship with Christ. 

What about our faith?
Is ours a radical faith and a counter cultural lifestyle?
Or are we trying to have it both ways - our life and Christ too?
A relationship with Christ without inconvenience to our way of life? 

A functioning relationship on any level requires equal investment. We cannot question Christ's investment into having a relationship with us, but what is our investment? 
He invites us to join him in laying down our life to gain this new life - let's get him back in the place of priority in our lives! 

 

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him

Paul says his old life is garbage - that he may gain Christ. Paul didn't have a bad life at all - he was a roman citizen, a pharisee and a zealot: he was the religious hero! But he traded it all and considered it garbage that he could gain Christ.

We live in a world obsessed with self - and we can catch the bug!
We can be tempted to place too much importance on our lives.
Have we bought into the world's idea of my life and my rights?!

We can all struggle. Having been in the ministry for 22 years, with the world's slogan of self... some days I want my life back!

But, where would I be without him.
Without Christ intervening in my life when I had nearly lost it - without the call of God. 
I think of a young man lost in this world: bad decisions getting him into a bad place. But one decision, to surrender all to Christ changed everything.  

His impact in my life has been complete and utterly transforming!!! 
I want to do my best to say my old life is garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him. I want to encourage you in your own life - to consider your life and your rights and your opportunity garbage that you may gain Christ and be found in him. 

Where else would you want to be found? This summer, in 2017... be found in him. 

 

How to have a relationship with Jesus Christ

1 Pay the price for the real thing

Surrender all to him.
Not some, not 50%... surrender all. 

We live in a world of fakes. The problem with fakes is that they don't last long and when you really need it... it falls apart! 

The difference between the takes and the real thing is always the cost. 
How much did it cost you? Don't go through the motions with God - that is just religion, it's fake. Pay the price. Surrender it all. 

Matthew 16:24 ESV Then Jesus told his discples, "if anyone would come afer me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

 

2 Seek him

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

You've got to put your whole heart into it if you want to find God. 
A relationship with God requires time.
Try to have any relationship without time - that relationship fades...

Every morning, get your time with God.
Get back into prayer, the word, worship.
Make it your daily habit - before breakfast or before the gym or before work.
Put Jesus at the center! 

 

3 Change

1 John 3:4 No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him

We have to change. Let a kingdom transformation take place in your life. 
We can't have a relationship with Christ and stay the same. 
For some of us - it's time to change! 
What is holding you back? What changes do you need to make right now? 

 

4 Stay the course

Walk in his pathway and don't give up.
Don't get offended.
Don't backslide. 
Continue to walk with him. 

Having walked for 30 years, you see so many give up. 
If you walk way, you let the devil win. 
If you walk away, you grieve the Father who paid such a price to win your freedom. 
If you walk away, you never get to find out what God had planned. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Stay the course. 

Get Your Radical Back

In an old Primal clip was a young radical leader who was sold out to the cause of Christ. He was radical. That young radical leader was me and I'm still here and in faith for the future. 

But we can lose somethings along the way and as Christians, our calling is to keep the faith, to keep our radical spirit alive or we just become a religious version of the world. 

 

Ephesians 4:1 NIV As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 

 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, 
Paul accepted the cost of serving God - in fact, he embraced it! The books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus are all testament to his commitment. It is Paul who writes some of the most inspiring words - from prison. Paul calls himself a prisoner for the Lord. 

Great soldiers are those who know they are dead already - Bruce Monk

Unless we are fully surrendered to the will of God: 
We will never see his power manifest in our lives
We can live with kingdom potential our whole lives but never see it realised

We are on a charge against religious Christianity - let us not be those that come to church sometimes, not connected, not serving... no mission! There is no power, no breakthrough in religion. 

 

I urge you
Paul is so passionate about people stepping out of their old life because he had the most dramatic transformation. He urges us to make the change.
To step forward into the kingdom life, into a life of faith. 
To reject the old life. 
To hear from God. 

The call of God is not a big billboard blaring its message. 
It is a whisper from God... and like a divine window that opens for you, there's always timing on it. If we miss that, we miss our future in God. Andrew and Simon dropped their nets and followed Jesus when they heard the call. 

 

Matthew 4:18-20 NIV As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him. 

 

Imagine if Peter didn't drop those nets! He could have made all the usual excuses: I'm just getting my life together, it's not a god time for me... 

The call of God never comes at a good time - it comes at God's time. 

Peter's nets were good - he had a job, he was being productive but it wasn't God's best for Peter. There would be no New Testament church without him leaving his nets! 

 

Leave Your Nets

Why don't more Christians respond to the call of God? 

1 We feel unworthy of the call
Christ made you worthy. You are worthy of his call. Don't try and earn God's favour - walk in it!

2 Fear to step into the call
Don't live on the fringe of the kingdom. Let your faith overcome fear.  

3 Discouragement
Every Christian has been here - Don't let one bad situation derail your future. This is an easy win for the Devil - discouraged Christians do not rise to the call. Offload discouragement - forgive and enter in. 

4 A busy life
If we are too busy for the call of God - we need to change our priorities! 

5 A good life/ordinary life
Christ did not save us so we could live a good life. He saved us out of sin and darkness so we could live int he light and be the light of the world! Don't settle for a normal life - reach out for a supernatural life! 

 

To live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 
We can't change the calling. This is the high call of God - don't try and bargain him down, instead let him lift you up! We only have one life that we can't live again. 

Let's get the radical back in our lives! You weren't born for insignificance. Get your radical back is getting back to the call of God upon your life.
Come back to the person God created you to be. 
Leave your nets and follow the call of God!

LOST & FOUND

Matthew 9:35 NIV Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 

 

The gospel is a call to go out and make disciples. 
To find people. 
A calling to reach the lost! 

Jesus went out to where the people were - he didn't wait in Jerusalem for them to come! He went out! This is why we have gone out to four locations across Auckland. This is why we have come here, because the Son of God came after us and we need to follow his example and go after lost people. 

 

Matthew 9:36 NIV When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

 

Busy people don't see. 
Are we too busy to see what God is wanting to do? 

Jesus had compassion. 
Have we lost our compassion? Has the world taught us not to care? Has our world hardered us so much that even the Christians have lost compassion?! Don't ignore what is happening around you - let it touch you and motivate you! 

Compassion moved him
Let our hearts be moved afresh with the love of God to respond to the great need. Our hearts need to be touched by what touches Jesus: people, lost people. 
Who are we if we take no interest in the greatest passion of the person we call Lord? 

Because they were harassed and helpless, like sheet without a shepherd
We can ask: Where were all the shepherds? Everyone needs a shepherd to help them. 
People are still harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd who need to know that God is real and has made a way for them. We have to build a strong church that can overcome the works of the devil and give people hope and encouragement. You and I are those shepherds. 

 

Matthew 9:37 NIV Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

 

Jesus acknowledges that the kingdom of God is short of workers. He shows us this contrast of thinking. Jesus says: The harvest is ready. It's the workers that are lacking. 

We see if the other way around: we think the harvest has issues that people don't want to follow God and that there are all these great Christians and Churches waiting for the harvest. But Jesus helps us understand that there is no problem with the harvest and that people are ready now... The people of Auckland are ready!

God is going to send people to the church who cares about the harvest, the church that raises up workers for the harvest field! 

 

Matthew 9:38 NIV Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." 

 

He is the Lord of the harvest.
The harvest matters to God.
We are part of that harvest. 

He asks us as recipients of the harvest, to help in the fields. Our church is called to the harvest - every week we see people standing and committing themselves to Jesus. Let's ask the Lord of the harvest for more workers! Let us be a church who are captured by the opportunity to be part of God's end time harvest! 

 

The harvest won't come without prayer & work

1 Pray

The harvest won't come without prayers. Not just 10 minutes of prayer - not even an hour of prayer, but regular, committed prayer. 

Pray for the church
Pray for your leaders
Pray for people

You'll be amazed at what happens when you commit to prayer. 

 

2 Work

We are the workers in that harvest field. 

The harvest field is: 
Your street
Your work
Your friends
Your family

You have to act = you have to work. Our friends and family won't just want to come to church - we have to work at it. God's harvest won't come without workers. 

Ecclesiasties 11:4 AMP He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favourable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap

 

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT - Use Your Gift

In 'The Matrix', one of my favourite parts in the movie is when everyone is telling Neo he is 'The One', that he has the gift... but he doesn't see it. He underestimates himself. But, just in time, Neo finally discovers that he has this great gift - that he has the power to overcome the enemy. 

He gets the revelation that he has a gift and he steps into it. He stops the bullets, and goes after Agent Smith. 

God has given us something and that something will have a huge impact as we begin to use it. 

 

2 Timothy 1:6-9
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.

 

There is a gift in you. It is a gift that God has given you for his purpose but it is not yet developed. Paul reminds us to fan into flame the gift because it needs development. 

We need to fan it. Which is what we do when a fire is just taking hold - we blow on it! The breath is the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit blow upon your gift. 

Through the laying on of my hands. Leaders help develop the gifts in our lives. Make sure someone is speaking into your life! You need to let kingdom development take place and some people never get their gift going because they won't allow themselves and their gifts to be developed. 

 

4 Ways to get your gift going

1 Discover your gift
Once you have the revelation that you have a gift, we should be eager to discover what we have been given and what our gift is! Do the spiritual gifts test and find out! 

A few years ago when I got Dylan a PSP (Play station portable) for his birthday, he didn't hold back! He realised: 'I have a great gift from dad!'. He ripped it open, plugged it in and was playing within minutes! There was no 'but I'm not sure if I'm ready... Maybe when my life is sorted out I will use my gift...'. 

Don't hold back! 

 

2 Pick up your gift
Start using your gift! This is what you were created to do: to use your God given gifts. It is a gift with great effect. 

In The Matrix, Neo starts using his gift and all of a sudden he is winning the battle. The same will happen with you. Your gift has been given so that you will win battles for the kingdom of God.

1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect your gift which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 

If you have neglected your gift - pick it up and do something with it! When I picked up my gift, it turned my life around from drifting around in the world, to having a purpose. 

 

3 Develop your gift
'Through the laying on of my hands'. Allow leaders to speak into your life and your gift will increase! Listen to what they say, get some input and develop it. Practice makes perfect - get your gift working to its full potential! It is so sad to see so much potential sitting in people who never develop what they have. Stir it up and be the best you can be. 

 

4 Serve with your gift
1 Peter 4:10-11 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 

Your gift will come alive when you use it for what it was meant for: to serve others. 
This is where your gift will become strong: as you use it to serve. 
This is one of the keys to life: use your gift to help people, administering God's grace. 

 

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 

 

Don't go to fear, go to faith! God has given you a spirit of power! God has raised you up to have a spirit of power, not a spirit of fear. People live in fear because they live in their own strength because the task is too great. but as you take up your gift, you take up a spirit of power. 

Don't look down upon yourself. You would be surprised at what God has planned for your life. The enemy wants to undermine your gift because if you step into it, you will be mighty. 

Let us not back down from what God has called us to do. 
We are called to make a stand for him. We have got a job to do today around our nation. Our nation needs people of God to rise up with power, unashamed of the gospel. Leaders with the gift of God, developed and ready. 

 

This month, fan into flame the gifts of God!

MULTIPLY - A Spirit of Increase

We are created to belong to a cause, created to be part of a vision to build something bigger than ourselves. 

As Christians we have the DNA of heaven inside of us. We are born to increase and multiply! Let a spirit of increase get upon your life. Acts 16:5 NASB So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily. 

 

Spirit of Increase

Anything that gets under the influence of God increases! 
As Christians we have a promise of increase. We need to receive it and walk in it! 

Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers. 

This is God's inheritance for us. Lets take a hold of it! 

 

so the churches were being strengthened in the faith
Faith builds our lives and faith builds the church. Without faith - it's just you, it's just your strength, it's just your plan. When we're in faith, we are connected to the Holy Spirit and the mighty body of Christ. You have access to the power of God and His plan. We need to keep the faith alive - keep it stirring in our lives! 

Christians need to be strengthened in their faith. Churches need to be strengthened in faith. This needs to be our pathway! As we are strengthened in faith, we naturally grow and build up. Let faith strengthen you! You cannot live a spiritual life without faith. 

When a church is strengthened in faith - something is going to happen!!! Something is going to happen in our church because we are in faith! We've seen it many times before, recalling Snowjam in the early 2000s when the youth of our church build a snow ramp and filled Aotea Square! It was a radical spirit that was upon our youth to pull that off. We need a radical spirit again. 

 

and were increasing in number
Let a spirit of increase come upon your life. We are created to increase. It is our natural state as Christians. As we are built up in faith, we are able to grow in God as we should. The first thing that God said to man: 

Genesis 1:28 NKJ and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

The first thing God says to man is: multiply/increase! We are God's field and in that field, things will grow. When Christians aren't increasing it is because they are listening to the world's voice more than God's voice. 

 

daily.
Daily - growth should be happening every single day. 
Your life is healthy if there is constant growth. Growth is evidence of the kingdom. 

God wants to increase us, but really what is on his heart is that we would come together and increase his church. This is his mission and vision for the world. A church that gets into a spirit of increase could grow daily! At least 365 a year!

 

4 Things that stop increase in our lives

1. Negativity
Your words create the future. Too many Christians speak negative words. Don't speak your fears, give them to God. Keep what you speak uplifting, speak life. If you keep pulling yourself down, you will get what you say. 
2. Disappointment
It cripples us, it breaks our heart and steals our faith. Don't carry the disappointments of the past around. It's time to offload them and get released from the past. 
3. Disobedience
People do whatever they want and wonder why God doesn't bless them. Stop resisting God, do things God's way. 
4. Unbelief
Hebrews 11 My righteous ones will live by faith.
Offload unbelief. Don't be a cynic, be a believer. 

People empowered by God will grow. We become who we are created to be. A spirit of growth gets on us, our lives will grow. Don't get used to being the same old - same old, with the same things happening, thinking the same things. 

When was the last time something new happened?

When you get touched by God, growth happens! The world gets in a rut. The kingdom grows. No one gets up in the morning thinking: I can't want to get back in my rut. 
Yet, many Christians end up in a rut - even when they have access to kingdom supernatural growth! Step out of the natural and into the supernatural. The church needs to grow to fulfill all that God has set in front of us. 

We all need to grow!!! 

I COME ALIVE - The Lord's Prayer 'Your Kingdom come'

"God does nothing but in answer to prayer" - John Wesley

This month we really want to encourage people in their prayer life.
God moves on our faithful prayers!
James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective
If we want to see God at work in our lives we need to be investing in, and seeking after him. 

 

The Lord's Prayer

As good as the were, God had a problem with their Christianity.

Matthew 6:9 NKJ
In this manner, therefore, pray: 
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed by Your name. 
Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 
And do not lead us into temptation,But deliver us from the evil one. 
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. 
Amen. 

This prayer is split into 3 parts: preface/Petitions/Conclusion

Preface
Our Father in heaven

Petitions - 6 (3 God focused/3 needs)
1 - Hallowed by Your name. 
2 - Your kingdom come.
3 - 
Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 
4 - Give us this day our daily bread. 
5 - And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 
6 - And do not lead us into temptation,But deliver us from the evil one. 

Conclusion
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 

 

Your kingdom come

This is an amazing request.
This is Christ's mission statement. 
It is why he came to earth that the kingdom of God might come. As we pray - it aligns us with Jesus and his mission for humanity. It is a powerful prayer that we should add to our prayer life. 

 

Your kingdom come

Whose kingdom are we seeking? It starts off his and can end up ours.
So often people are seeking God's blessing on their priorities. God I need this job, I need this promotion, I need this house, I need this situation for my kids. 

We can have so many opinions and agendas that we can often take the priority off him - and place it on ourselves. Our world is so self obsessed that we can lose our sense of direction. 

Prayer brings us back to God and his kingdom. The Kingdom of God is about seeking his priority. If you're finding your prayers aren't getting answered - it can be because you're seeking your priority. Start seeking his! 

Remember when you first found God - you sought him out. Renew your pursuit of God.
Let's shift the focus back to him. 

 

Your kingdom come

This was the central theme in Jesus preaching - the coming of the kingdom. 
The kingdom is essentially everything and everywhere that comes under the sovereign lordship of Christ. As we surrender our lives to Christ - we come into the kingdom. 
If our household surrenders to Christ - the kingdom comes into our household. 

In prayer we catch a vision of his glorious kingdom coming to earth. This is why Christ came and it should matter to us. As we see more of his kingdom - we see more of God. As the kingdom gets in us - the purpose of our lives in revealed! We can live in the day to day world - but his kingdom lifts us to our divine purpose. 

 

Your kingdom come

As we begin to pray - one of the things that always comes through is God's heart for mission. We can't spend time with God without catching fresh passion for reaching the world. What an amazing prayer we are asked to pray! 

To let his kingdom come
The mission of Christians the church is to let His kingdom to come
The great commission is Christ's prayer for his people to rise together and reach a lost world. Can you imagine what our world could be like if his kingdom came to earth upon earth in a greater measure! 

Because when his kingdom is not coming - our world is suffering. We are set free because the kingdom of God has come into our lives - we need to spread it out! 
We need to pray for it.
We need to preach on it.
We need to live for it.  

I COME ALIVE - I'm Coming Back

Revelation 2:1-5 NASB  The message to the church in Ephesus
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.

Ephesus was a mega city and housed the first Christian mega church - a shinning beacon of the kingdom in the ancient world. The church had done so much right - they had helped put Christianity on the map, worked hard, didn't tolerate wickedness, tested false apostles, endured hardship... the church was doing great things for God! 

 

But there was an issue... 

As good as the were, God had a problem with their Christianity.

Revelation 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love

If we lose our love for God - we have lost it all. Our love for God keeps our faith alive!
Think of the people who used to be so on fire... But they lost it. They got proud or disappointed or offended or distracted and are now doing their own thing. 

They stopped having an encounter with God. 
We all need a fresh encounter with God. 

When was the last time you had a real encounter with Him? 
Have you lost some of that fire? Have you lost your first love?

 

God wants to call us back

Revelation 2:5 Therefore, keep in mind how far you have fallen. Repent and perform the deeds you did at first. But if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

It's not a small thing to loose your first love. See it for what it is. Jesus Says to consider how far you may have fallen. Jesus is saying it is a gulf, which we should not minimise. 

Philippians 2:12 Work out your salvation daily with fear and trembling. If there is no fear and trembling anymore - a desire to be right with God, then salvation has also gone!

Even the mighty fall. Just like the great church of Ephesus.
David fell.
Peter denied Christ.
Samson let his passions overtake the call of God. 

 

Remember when you first got saved

For me - it was one of the greatest times of my life. I got saved and got filled with the Holy Spirit - I was on fire! I formed a band - we did out reaches, played on the streets, did street evangelism. We had late night prayer meetings to worship sessions on a Friday night. I was in a connect group and developed in God. I received the call of God. It was a time of God's transforming power. 

What happened for you? 
Did God get squeezed out somewhere along the line? 

 

Turn back towards God, turn around.

James 4:8 Draw close to me and I will draw close to you.

Come back into his presence. If you've been cruising in your faith, repent and come back. Repentance is the gate for salvation. Most of us come into church as a prodigal. I came back. From growing up in a large Pentecostal church, I left at a young age to do my own thing. But I came back to God. Maybe you need to come back. 

 

The key is to keep a humble spirit before God

James 4:6 God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble

Keep your humble spirit. Christians get into a zone of "I'm good". God Doesn't want you good - he wants you alive in Christ! He wants you abundant! A humble spirit will help you admit you have become distant from God and to come back to Him.

The apostle Peter came back.
David came back.
Moses came back.
Samson came back. 

 

People and churches who won't continue to turn back to God will loose his presence and his favour

The Pharisees were once God's people who got more interested in God's rules than God's presence. They ended up killing Jesus. 

In the end, Jesus removed the lampstand from the churches in Revelation. 
Today, Turkey is one of the least Christianised countries - 0.2% less Christians in Turkey than Iran, Iraq than in China and NOrth Korea. When Asia Minor/Turkey was once the home of all the seven churches and the hotbed of the church. The people lost their first love and became religious. 

 

How to have an encounter with God

1. Humble yourselves

2. Draw close to God
    James 4: 8 Draw close to me and I will draw close to you