After all the darkness of 2020-2022, the lockdowns and the disruption to what we had known as church, some followers of Jesus have lost their way.
Others are being filled with new wine and are new flexible wineskins for it to mature in.
Wanna become fruitful?
Picture your feet crushing grapes with others – a new wine illustration
of our lives surrendered, crushed and blended as ONE in loving relationship
with God and each other through the new covenant in Jesus’ blood.
“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one,
and that the world may know that You have sent Me,
and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:23
Some amazing preaching is happening in The Future Church Series at Stairway Church Whitehorse – and this is available free to you:
I have been moved to share with you the picture of the Future Church preached by Shane Willard at Stairway Church on 29 May 2022.
This could change your life.
As you read the notes below, you may like to watch Shane teaching this message at New Hope Church this year: Letter To Ephesus (45 mins)
Commitment to Spiritual Formation & Love
Based on Revelation 2: The Letter to Ephesus: The Loveless Church
The following summary is based on my notes from Shane’s slides:
In the Revelation 2 letters, Jesus:
- Commends the local church for what they are doing that brings life.
- Corrects the local church for what they are doing that brings death.
- Offers restoration/reconciliation for the consenting wise.
- Paul started the church in Ephesus and then handed it to Timothy to run.
- Ephesus, in what is now western Turkey, was very important in the world market – the New York, Hong King, Singapore of the day.
- The central market in Ephesus and the world was the Agora.
The Letter to the Ephesians is dated between 60 and 62 AD. The death of Paul is dated most probably between 64 AD and 68 AD at the latest. Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus reigned from AD 54 until his death in AD 68.
The Book of Revelation was written by John the Elder sometime around 96 AD in Asia Minor. Ephesus and the rest of the Roman Empire was ruled 81 to 96 AD by the Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus. He demanded to be called “Lord and God” (Dominus et Deus) and established the Pantheon in Rome.
- Caesar printed news on the back of coins so it could reach the whole Roman Empire. When Caesar Domitian’s 10 year old son died, the coins depicted the deification of his son above the earth, holding up the 7 stars of heaven.(Rev 1:12-20)
The Ephesian goddess Artemis
- Artemis was known as the “lady of Ephesus.” She was said to have been born by descending from heaven and landing on the tree of life.
- They built her temple on what they said was the site of the event. The site of the temple construction was called paradise. In Christ, Love is Paradise.
- Artemis, the many breasted goddess, controlled finance, food and fertility – the ability to raise a loan, buy and sell food and prayer for safe child birth.
The Temple of Artemis
- In Ephesus there was 14 different temples to different gods but the main goddess was Artemis (also known as Kybele, Diana).
- Work on the third temple of Artemis started in 323 BC and continued for many years. This temple was 137 m (450 ft) long by 69 m (225 ft) wide and 18 m (60 ft) high, with more than 127 columns.
- The temple of Artemis functioned as the bank and controlled who got financing and who didn’t.
- The Caesar, Domitian was known as the Beast and he issued the “mark of the beast.” To gain legal access to trade in the banking/market functions at the Agora, people had to first worship Artemis and receive the mark of the beast which was ash from sacrifice to Artemis put as a paste on the forehead or hand of those who had worshipped.
- There was a legal system operating at the Agora. Before they could gain access to the market, the poor lower class also had to submit to systematic sexual assault by the 1% wealthy overclass.
- Wealthy males whose foot size exceeded the depicted footprint and who had money to drop into the associated slot could pay to sexually assault the poor.
2. They were commended for their Perseverance.
Can you imagine the constant pressure of the Imperial and Artemis cult?
3. They were commended for having No Tolerance for Wickedness. T
They risked everything by having nothing to do with the Artemis cult, the sexual assault and oppression going on there.
1. The Ephesians had forsaken their commitment to love.
2. Their biggest strength (orthodoxy, exposing wickedness, calling out lies) had become their biggest weakness.
3. They had become a church of loveless orthodoxy.
Now read Revelation 2:1-7 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’
Jesus’ Offer of Restoration to the Consenting Wise
The Artemis system was wicked, yet the city clerk in Ephesus could not build a case that Paul had spoken against it. Read Acts 19:21-41
Paul did not speak about what he was against. Paul spoke out what he was for!
Acts 19:8 “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.”
Read the book of Ephesians again to set how powerfully Paul offered restoration, freedom, oneness in the body and love to its persecuted people.
We as the church can be guilty of openly judging what we don’t agree with. The church is largely defined in the world today by what we stand against.
There is a difference between recognising a system that is evil, and dishonouring the appointed leaders or calling the people evil rather than loving them.
Shane compassionately identified Victoria’s suffering under Covid restrictions as systematic oppression, but it was not anything like the oppression under Artemis, that Paul refused to publicly condemn.
Shane depicted the common view of judgement – that one day God will “judge” us for our sins – revealing them openly as if on a large screen. He then asked if this was consistent with a loving God who has already dealt with our sin?
Shane, who was discipled by a Rabbi, said, the word “to judge” in Hebrew actually means “to anoint to set you free.” Instead of judging and condemning, we are to offer ourselves, each other and our world the hope of restoration; the grace of God’s merciful forgiveness – our forgiveness and freedom. See: i4Give
John 3:17“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
”What a relief!” is my response!
Rather than coming under the condemnation of the accuser of the brethren, we can receive the anointing grace of God that sets us free!
Rather than agreeing with and joining in the condemnation of the accuser, we can choose to think, speak and act from the perspective and power of God’s anointing – to see set others free also. This is love applied in action.
The Future Church cannot be a loveless church.
The Future Church will be known by the world for its love.
Shane said, he doesn’t use the term, “God said… or God told me… but has a deep inner knowing that we are to do what Jesus says.
1 John 2:9-10 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”
1. Can we proclaim the truth while protecting love at all costs?
2. Sacred objects never deliver. Stars, Caesar Domitian, Artemis, economic power etc Our opinions, even our doctrines can be false gods that we impugn with power but they will fail, divide and crush.
3. The true tree of life is found in the centre of Christ and His lampstand. A people of love.
4. Have we lost our passion for being loving by bowing at the altar of belief and the altar of our personal preferences? We often call our preferences “the will of God” -e.g. in worship music, doctrines. We can let our opinions, preferences and doctrines divide us – even our view of vaccination!
5. Jesus called us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Have we rationalised Jesus command away and in its place raised up our opinions, our opinionated beliefs which we perceive as orthodoxy?
Ask yourself: Is there any person that I need to rebuild loving connection with despite a difference of opinion?
We can discuss doctrine, but we are to defend love at all costs! We are not to love our beliefs or opinions more than our love for the other person.
The church is to be known for how we love, what we’ve done for the world, not what we believe, judge or hate.
It is very clear what Jesus has commanded us to love one another.
1 John 3:21-24 “Dear friends, If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his command and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
Shane added, to “keep” the commands is not to “obey” them, because this is demonstrably not possible. But as in a “castle keep” – our role to protect the commands, to be a “goal keeper.” We are entrusted with the life of another – as a “child keeper/minder”. We are to defend the commands and protect them. That means we to defend and protect our belief in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ and do it in a way that defends and protects our love for one another.
If we love others as Jesus commands, we are compelled to offer them all that Jesus has done for us.
Matthew 28:18-20 ‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.’
Shane Willard | Introduction to Revelation and Sardis
Shane Willard | Revelation Part 2: The Last Word hasn’t been said
Shane Willard Revelation Part 3: Fear Not and Write
Shane Willard | Revelation Part 4: A Call to Worship