Message 3
John Myer
February 16, 2008
Goshen, Indiana

[00:00] I got married when I was 21 years old, and Aleisha, my wife, was a tender lass. I had to negotiate with my mother-in-law to be. Part of the agreement was that I would bring her home every year, at least made sure she got to see her mother on a regular basis. And of course, since I wanted to get married very badly, I just agreed, anything you say right now. I should have agreed to let her talk to Aleisha on the phone whenever she wanted.

[00:40] But anyway, what that has boiled down to is that every year I get in the car and make the 18-hour drive to Louisiana. And the first fourth of it is really good. Aleisha and I are getting caught up on things going on, and talking, and venting and laughing, and all that. And then sometime after Nashville, between Nashville and Memphis, I start wearing down. And between Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi, I go comatose. It’s just a carrot driving the car by the time we’re getting to Jackson. And I think that you know what I’m talking about. You’re driving. You’re not sleeping, but you’re just like this. And in that weird kind of mental state, it’s like you’re sleeping with your eyes open, and you start having these weird thoughts like, “I wonder if I’m ever going to be bald.” Strange stuff. And you’re kind of in that zone. And somewhere, somehow—you ever done this?—when you’re in that kind of state you hit something. And I mean you hit something. You hit it just hard enough.

[02:20] There are three reactions that occur in the car. The first reaction is, your whole body…it feels like somebody opened your head and poured in a bucket of adrenaline, all the way down in your feet, you can feel it in your fingertips. OK, that’s reaction number one. And you’re looking up in the rear view—what that was, what that was. The second reaction is Aleisha who is sleeping next to me wakes up and says, “What are you doing!?” Then I got mad because she got mad, and I said, “Oh, nothing. I just did 70 through a McDonalds drive-thru.” Reaction number three: Elizabeth, who is sound asleep in the back of the car and been that way since we left, wakes up and says, “Dad, did we crash?” Then you’re looking up in the rear view mirror trying to figure out what is that thing that you ran over. And you’re also looking to see if your muffler is back there. There’s a dark shape in the middle of the road. What was it? Keep doing this, and you’re swerving. Actually the danger is ahead of you now, it’s not behind. But you want to know what that thing was, what that thing was. And Aleisha says, “Maybe you hit a piece of tire,” and I don’t know, that thing had hair on it. It’s funny. Everybody in the car has observations about what that was. What was that thing we hit? Elizabeth has her observation, which I ignore. “I don’t think that was a piece of tire. I think…” Everybody’s got an idea.

[04:23] This whole thing, if you haven’t figured it out, is an analogy, because as a group of people, we ran over something. We hit something. And it seems like that we were kind of peaceful, just kind of cruising along and then voom, and then everybody in the vehicle has opinions about what that thing was. Everybody’s got feelings about it. What was it? We’ve even got ideas about where the problem might have started. And oh, incidentally, in case you’re brand new in the room and you just don’t know what we’re dancing around here, let me just say it outright for you. This church, as well as a number of other churches, were in a global coordination with a particular ministry and a number of other churches, and we suffered a fracture and a break, and it was really, really difficult on a lot of us. I personally got sued, not just as part of a church corporation, but I was sued as an individual. Oh, that was fun. You pull up, and there is this love note inside your door. He’s calling you to court, and it’s not to say, “I do.” This thing’s in there, and these people that sent it to you are praying. They’re saying, “O Lord Jesus, let us win. Let us have victory.” In other words, let’s win in court and put this guy’s family on the street, and that’s kind of what the feeling is when you’re going through that type of thing.

[06:06] Now some of you didn’t get touched directly by it. You heard all kinds of terrible things. Well, I was in ground zero, OK? I was part of the lightening rod of it. So I’m a little qualified to air out some first person experiences related to this. I didn’t hear about it, I was that. I was one of the ones driving the car when it…boompf…ran over that thing, or I got ran over. Somebody looked in the rear view and said, “I don’t know what it was, but it had a Southern accent.” It had hair on it. It wasn’t long.

[06:57] What this has caused many of us to do is to kind of begin to sort through some things. That is difficult, especially if you feel like you bought a package. It’s kind of like, “Excuse me. I bought the deluxe Recovery package, you know, with teachings, and attitudes, and all practices included. You know, I paid dearly for that.” Now I’m trying to laugh so we don’t all cry about it, but the fact of the matter is we burned bridges, we offended in-laws, we lived in difficult places, like I’ve lived up north—that’s hard. They call Louisiana the sportsman’s paradise, and I’m living up in Ohio. OK, if you have got to break ice, you are not fishing. Sorry Rob. That’s what you call making an ice ____(?). <It’s called walking on water.> This is hard. And again, I’m sorry if you feel like I’m being too light about it, but I feel like sometimes you’ve got to laugh, otherwise you’ll cry over it.

[08:28] Now the good news is this, and I think Vern brought this out, and I believe it’s very, very appropriate to say: Not everything behind us was a bad thing. Let’s face it. I remember many times I did stuff because that’s what the thing was doing. Well, I kinda wish I hadn’t done that. But there were many, many, many, many times the Lord Jesus, and I know, the Lord Jesus led me, spoke to me about things, and I did them. You know, it’s funny how He can just get into any situation, even if it’s a difficult church situation, even if it’s a movement kind of situation, and He can still get in there and speak and work in your life. So the good news is this: You have not wasted your life.

[09:13] Now, you may have a harder time if you, in fact, did just buy the farm—“I’ll just buy everything without question. I’ll do everything that everybody else does without question. I’ll let peer pressure make me do things I know I shouldn’t have done. I’ll disobey Jesus in the name of pleasing the program.” Alright, well maybe now it’s going to be harder for you because you might have given up some very, very precious things.

[09:40] In fact, some brothers, hopefully not too many of them—I know one or two where I’m from—just felt it was too hard to do the sorting through thing. Now I believe Vern brought this up too, the idea of, “Could you just tell me now what are we doing? Just define it for me. Come on. You know, just tell me what this thing is now. What do I believe now?” Again, if I’m making light of this, I’m poking fun at not only you but me, too. There’s something in all of us that just feels like it’s just more comfortable being told what to believe, and as long as it’s somewhat rational, OK, I can believe that. But now that we’re being forced to sort through things again, that’s difficult. Some of us feel like, “I just can’t go back to being a seeker again. I can’t go back. That was a romantic phase in my past, and I just can’t go back there. It’s too hard.” Well, I’m telling you that you’ve got to go back. You’ve got to recover that.

[10:57] You want to talk about recovery? How about let’s recover this: seekers status. You know, seekers are really something. They have a hunger for the Bible that won’t quit. It seems like they have boundless energy to pray, because they’re terrified, because they don’t know what’s next. Think about it. I want you to think back to your romantic days with Jesus before a blanket or whatever it is got thrown on top of you. How many times—“Oh, should we move there? I don’t know.” It’s not like, let’s call brother So-and-so and see what he says. It wasn’t like that. It’s kind of like, “Let’s read the Bible. Maybe there are answers in the Bible. And let’s pray. And darn it, I’m not getting through, I’m not getting through.” OK, those are seekers’ kind of experiences. We’ve got to come back to that.

[11:47] As the brothers alluded to, we’re kind of covering this whole topic of going forward in three stages. One is Peter’s point of view, the other was Paul’s point of view. Now I’m going to cover John a little bit. Appropriate, right? I’m going to cover the apostle John, and I’m going to cite as an example the church in Ephesus.

[12:14] Think about the church in Ephesus. When you think of Ephesus, what are you thinking? I think of six wonderful, power-packed chapters right in the middle of the Bible. Right Vern? After Vern spoke, that’s what we’re thinking about: six chapters packed with revelation, the deepest book in the Bible. As a matter of fact, I think I heard once—I hope Tom doesn’t mind if I quote him, Tom McNaughton—but it’s kind of like you’re reading your way through the Bible, and you get to Galatians, and you open the door, and there’s this room with this big solid object in it, and you kind of <moves around a big object>, and then you open the door, and there’s Philippians. Ephesians is deep. When I think of Ephesians, I think of the book of Ephesians. I rarely think of the epistle to the Ephesians in Revelation chapter 2. I don’t like to think about that one. I like to think about the former one.

[13:22] And now listen, if your church happens to be Ephesus, or let’s change the name. If your church happens to be Goshen, and that book got written to you, that’s saying something. If I can write Ephesians to your church…if I was Paul, and I could write Ephesians to your church, that’s saying something about your ability to receive. That means you’ve got some seeing ability. The eyes of your heart, they either have been enlightened to a certain extent or they are about to be. You got chosen to receive the deepest book of the New Testament. Congratulations. Now, you would say if the church has that on its resume, that church is doing well. That’s not going to turn into any lame group anytime soon.

[14:14] Now I want you to keep that in mind, and please turn to Revelation chapter 2. Revelation chapter 2 verse 2. And now, this is Jesus talking, the ascended Lord Jesus who’s looking at the church in Ephesus, and He has something to say. I’m using the New King James Version, if you don’t mind. I like it. Revelation 2:2 says, “I know your works.” Now this is the Lord talking to Ephesus, the church in Ephesus. “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and you cannot bear those who are evil.” That sounds pretty good so far. How about a church like that? Jesus Christ Himself looks at that church and assesses it for its notable works. Works means all the particular things that you do. Labor means a bunch of works strung together to get to a long-range goal. And then He says, “Your patience”; I don’t give up very easily. Then He says, “You cannot bear those who are evil.” How about a church like that today? We don’t put up with immorality. We don’t put up with behavior that’s under ethical standards and things like this.

[15:54] Alright, He continues, “You have tested those who say they are apostles and are not.” Now you’re clear about who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s on, who’s off. That’s not bad, to have some level of discernment. “And have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience”; there’s that perseverance and patience being brought up again. “And have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” Sounds like a tremendous resume. This church has profound truth and activities. This is the kind of church that kind of feels like based upon what we got in our earlier epistle in the book of Ephesians. “We’re going to go everywhere and do everything. We’re going to take the earth.” (You kind of know where I’m going with this.)

[16:56] But then He says in verse 4, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Not a big deal. It’s a little thing compared to all the other stuff over here stacked on the other side of the scale. And then there’s this one tiny little nit-picking element—just nit-picking element over here. For sure, the balance ought to weigh on the side of all the big stuff, the good stuff, the things just mentioned. But it’s funny how you can have—now, I’m not a mathematician—but you can have all these numbers: 10,000 times10,000,000 plus 200 and times this times that, and at the end, times zero. All you gotta do, anywhere in there, just take your pick, just plug that “times zero” in there anywhere you want, and it just seems to null the whole thing out. And that’s exactly the situation as it was being dealt with here.

[18:08] Look. Skipping down a little bit, the Lord says in verse 5 that He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. You know what that is? That’s nulling out, turning to zero, all the things the church has. Now I used to wonder, “What does that look like when a church loses its lampstand? What does that look like?” Because you’ve got the image in your head of someone just coming along, picking up lampstand, and, “That’s it, I’m going home.” And then there’s a couple of clueless guys looking after the lampstand. But remember, that lampstand is a picture of something, it’s a sign. And I think this is a legitimate interpretation. Once you look at that lampstand, it means that the gold, the shining, the shape of it are expressing something to the world. It’s making people know who the Triune God really is. So for the Lord Jesus to take that away, it’s just like saying, “I’m going to null out your impact on the world. You’re not going to have any more strength to show who I am to your community, to your city, to your world. I’m going to take it away.” All because of that one little nit-picking thing. Now of course you know I’m being facetious when I talk about nit-picking.

[19:49] Now, what this ought to do is, it ought to impress on us the primacy, the absolute, utter importance of our personal, and I would say then, our corporate preference for Christ over anything else. You know, He said that they left their first love. They were loving something. Just look at the life they’re living. They’re loving something, but unfortunately…You know, believers can lose their first love for Jesus and manage to be full of energy to do all kinds of things. Listen, I just lived through it. Those guys wore me out. I was just sick of all the talking and the defending and everything else, and at the end I just felt, “Well, just go ahead and hang me. It’s too much trouble.” Actually you can love…it’s funny how loving certain things, for instance a movement, loving a cause, can actually, yes, drive a person to fly a plane into a building. And there’s no God involved in it, just somebody convinced that their way is the right way, and they must thrust that upon you at all cost. So they end up committing suicide, doing all kinds of horrible things—lying, bending the truth, cheating (I saw it), modifying truth, doing all kinds of unethical things. And then here we are trying to behave like gentlemen, “Well, you know, we’re open. We love everybody.” And the judge’s gavel is coming down…all that long talk about “I love you…” Wow!

[21:43] Actually, you can multiply works loving things other than Christ. That is not the issue—are you busy or not. In fact, think about it this way: If the Ephesians had never received the book of Ephesians, if they had never gotten that profound truth, and if they didn’t do so much and weren’t so clear about everything, there was a possibility that they still could have kept their lampstand. I want you to think about it. What ought to eclipse our attentions, our passions, our feelings is a Person, not a thing. Do you know, I’ve heard people say, “Well, I did this for the sake of the Body.” And it’s almost like that there’s this headless entity called the Body. Really. That’s what it starts sounding like. “I’m acting on the behalf of the Body.” Does this thing have a head? Could we talk? Does this thing have a head at all?

[23:09] Ultimately, do you know the reason why you got involved in the Christian life? I got involved with the Christian life. I read the book of Matthew, the gospel of Matthew, I read it and thought, “Wow! There’s the Man!” I didn’t say, “Wow! I’m special, better than other Christians!” or something like that. “Oh, I can give my life to being an elitist.” I didn’t do that. Neither did you. Neither did you. You fell in love with the same Person who has charmed millions and millions of people. As a matter of fact, after you believed in Him, when you ran into some of His other people in places like the grocery store, you did dumb things. Like you said, “Oh you’re a Christian! I’m so glad!” “Brother, I am glad to meet you.” Here he is—he’s Pentecostal, he’s very different than I am, he’s trying to get me to speak in tongues, he’s trying to get me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and I don’t care. I have no problem with that. That first love will make you do that because we all fell in love with the same Head of the Body.

[24:29] So then, the Lord Jesus says, “Repent.” He always graciously provides a way out. There’s a way out of this building right here. There’s several out there, but at least there’s one right here. And if you could look, over the door of the situation of the church in Ephesus there’s a sign that says, “Unless…I’ll take your lampstand away unless….” And then He points this out—there’s an unless. You can chose not to be involved in a kind of lackluster church situation.

[25:12] And I think that sometimes instead of being absolutely enthralled with the Lord Jesus’ person, we may spend a little too much time trying to dissect what it is… “Let me pull my car over, and get out, and go back and look at this dead animal that I ran into. There’s the thing laying in the road. Wow, look at that thing. It’s nasty. Hey Honey, you got a dustpan in the car? You scoop the thing up, you put it in a plastic bag in your trunk, and then you drive it around, and everybody…Let me show you what I ran into on the highway. It’s awful. Such happens when we just can’t let what’s behind us be behind us, and then go forward with a brand new resolve that I’m just going to love Jesus.

[26:15] You know, sometimes God lets these things happen just to wake you up while you’re driving, because probably you would have done this <nod off> and killed everybody in the car. Really. There comes the time where people give up every bit of volition and common sense and all that, and they just follow the leader or group over a cliff. They just keep going and keep surrendering their free will and common sense thinking and all this, and boom, they just, over the side. So in a way, you have to thank the lovely Lord Jesus for letting us run over something. And yes, it was scary and we’re all arguing in the car what that was and where the problem started. How do you like this one: “The problem all started when”—you know there’s always this insider kind of thing—“The problem started, I was in Anaheim trying to give a testimony. Somebody stood up and said, ‘Brother, save time for others.’ That’s when Jesus left the building. It was over after that. After that, the meetings just….” Come on! We’re dealing with a very complex situation, aren’t we? I think that everybody in here is entitled to their opinions about what happened when and why and who and things like that. That’s OK. But hey, don’t forget the reason why you got involved in the Christian life.

[27:50] So He says, “Repent and do the first works.” He’s not saying, “Repent, just love Me, and be idle.” I like this, because it’s a balanced word. He said, “How about, go back to a time, think back to a time where when you were so in love with Me you did all kinds of things. I like those works. I like those works. But this other stuff that came along, um, I don’t think so.” This kind of cause-related thing and this duty-related thing and this peer-pressure-related thing and guilt—like, “I won’t be one with So-and-so unless I do this and unless I raise my hand and say I will go to Jababaland and stand there.” That is not what He’s looking for. The Lord Jesus is looking for those multiplicity of works that come out of our being in love with Him first. And believe it or not, you’re asking, “John, when are you going to get to a punch line where we can get a handle on this?” OK, could you just forget that for a minute? I’ll get to that tomorrow. This element changes everything and puts everything back into a kind of proper order. When He is Head, that puts everything back into a proper order, and I believe that’s what we’re looking for.