Pleasing God, Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Three Competing Loves

REVELATION 2:1–6 – “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

THEME OF THE DAY. THREE COMPETING LOVES. Most Christians are familiar with today’s scripture. It is often preached as a warning to believers and churches. And rightly so. The letter Jesus wrote to the church at Ephesus should make us pause often with the question, “Am I like these believers? Is my church dangerously drifting to the spiritual condition of this church Jesus addresses?” To remind us, the warning is this – don’t allow our Christianity to become mere head knowledge of right doctrine and mere function of doing all the right things but tolerating a loveless heart for the Lord Jesus. And don’t underestimate the ease of drifting into this God-displeasing condition of practicing external Christianity while allowing the heart to be far away from white-hot love for the Lord Jesus. However, today’s nugget isn’t about the warning. What I want us to consider are three competing loves that are sure to create the sad spiritual condition found in the Ephesus church and receiving Jesus’ firm condemnation. And here is the principle; if we are not safeguarding first love for the Lord Jesus by doing battle against these three distracting, even sinful loves, then we will become “Ephesus-like” in our lives and churches. We find these three competing loves in the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy . . .

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Each one of these loves put forth tremendous drawing power upon our hearts. Without attacking them with Spirit-generated strength, they will replace first love for the Lord Jesus. And an important truth is that we cannot for one second allow them to simmer in our hearts or try to share them with first love for the Lord. This is an either/or situation. We either maintain first love for Christ by slaying these loves or we allow them to replace Him in our hearts as the chief affection in our hearts. The three competing loves Paul identifies are “lovers of self”, “lovers of money”, and “lovers of pleasure.” Are these not the characteristics describing our culture? Unbridled selfishness, obsession with materialism, and over-the-top addiction to pleasure. And for the believers, these are deadly to our spiritual lives for each one is in direct contradiction to the call of Christ to follow Him. Each of these sinful loves are in direct opposition to the chief principle of living the Christian life – self-denial.

So, a good way to close today’s nugget is to ask the question, “Are we fighting diligently against the three competing loves seeking to replace first love for Jesus?” If not, we may have just discovered why our Christianity is boring, stale, and simply “going through the motions” of external conduct and morality.

PRAYER: “Father, help me be sensitive not to allow my Christianity be mere outward function.”

QUOTE: “Guard against the three loves which quench love for Jesus; love of self, money, and pleasures.”