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Repentance From Dead Works (17)

In our last broadcast, we addressed those persons who are engaging in activities that would otherwise have qualified as good works, but which really are dead works, because they are missing a very crucial aspect; that is, they are yet to be qualified by God. These people engage in well-meaning activities like, caring for the sick and the aged, helping the poor and the homeless, fighting human trafficking and prostitution, providing legal aid for those who cannot afford it, taking clothes and food to motherless babies homes, engendering freedoms which unscrupulous men have denied others for personal gain, giving to church building projects, meeting the physical and financial needs of ministers of the gospel and ministries, and so on. Without doubt, good works are always rewarded in heaven by God; but the reward can only be received after a person has first entered into heaven; and this is where being qualified for heaven comes into play. To be qualified for heaven, a person must first be born againa term used to describe a person who has accepted Gods offer of salvation through the sacrifice which Jesus Christ made when He died for the sins of the world on the cross at Calvary. It is only after a person is born again that his works, usually, that which is done after he or she is born again, is then assessed as to whether or not it is good works. We saw the example of Cornelius in Acts 10, who was doing good deeds, but who lacked qualification for his good deeds; and how God asked him to send for Simon Peter, one of Jesus apostles, to tell him what he must do to be qualified. And as Simon Peter preached the word of God to Cornelius and all the people that he had gathered together, the Holy Spirit fell upon them all, signifying that they had been qualified for heaven. The same must happen to anyone who is intent on doing good works. Unfortunately, there are some people who believe that the works they are doing is by itself sufficient to qualify them. This is unfortunate. The bible says in John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The bible says, whosoeverGods way of qualifying a person; old or young, rich or poor, known or unknown, literate or illiterate, high in society or low on the societal ladder, is through their acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lordan act requiring repentance and repudiation of sin.

Also, in our last broadcast, we promised to review Gods assessment of seven churches in Asia Minor in the 1st Century A.D., with a view to understanding how God assesses the deeds of those who are born again. As we noted at the time, the seven churches were in existence in what is today known as the nation of Turkey, when the Lord Jesus sent His message of assessment to them through John, one of His apostles. As we engage in this study over the next few weeks, we shall see how God assesses our deeds, and we should be able to correct some misconceptions about what good works, and the marks of righteousness, truly are.

Without much ado, let us make our first stop at Revelation 2:1-7. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his 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 hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, 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 will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, 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 in the midst of the paradise of God. The Lord acknowledged that the church in Ephesus, or put more succinctly, the believers in Christ in Ephesus, were engaged in works, which He seemed to be happy with; that they were labouring in the preaching and teaching of the gospel; and that they patiently endured the contradictions of, and persecution by men, and, their sufferings for Christ. In Hebrews 6:10, the bible says that God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye shewed towards His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. This verse of scripture makes it clear that God cannot forget our worksacts and activities done in His name, and for His glory; neither will He overlook our labour of love in meeting the needs of believers in Christ, which had been done both in time past, and at the present time. Indeed, everything we do in the kingdom of God will not go unnoticed by God; He notices all our deedsfrom the tiniest to the greatest; and from the seemingly insignificant to the overtly prominent. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, the bible tells of how the work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father of the believers in Thessalonica were constantly in the remembrance of Paul, the apostle, and his team. Imagine then, how much of our deeds are constantly being remembered by God, the Creator of all things? This verse of scripture also tells us that our works must be works of faithactivities done on the basis of our belief and trust in God; for whatever is not of faith is sin, and as such dead! Our labour must be borne out of love for God and His peoplehere, we are talking of the tireless and inconvenient involvement in soul winning and bringing converts to maturity in Christ, out of our unfeigned love for God. Our patience must essentially be in our continued expectation of the coming of the Lord, regardless of what may seem to be to the contrary.

Furthermore, we see from Revelation 2:2 & 6, that the Lord noted that the Christians in Ephesus did not tolerate evil people, neither did they swallow hook-line-and-sinker, all who came claiming to be ministers of God; but rather subjected them to an examination, and proved themwhether or not they were genuine or false. Where the so-called ministers were proven to be false, they did not commit to them, but were averse to them! The Lord also commended them for their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also hated. The Nicolaitans were followers of the teachings of one of the first seven deacons in the church, Nicholas, who taught that the liberty which Christ gave to the church included eating meats sacrificed to idols, licentious living, such as fornication and adulterythey taught that to eliminate jealousy, even married women could be had by anyone. What is significant about the Nicolaitan movement is that they were of the Christian church, and yet taught things contrary to the teachings of Christ!

But for all the commendable deeds of the believers in Christ in Ephesus, the Lord had one unsavoury comment: thou hast left thy first love. So significant was this failing that it threatened to rubbish every good deed the church in Ephesus had done. Hear what the Lord said, Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. The Lord considered the first love as the first works; meaning that if it is not present first, everything that you do, is meaningless! The phrase first love means a love, affection, or act of benevolence that is foremost in time, place, order, and importance. So, we could translate first love to mean the foremost and most important affection or act of benevolence. Such affection is directed towards God as its Object and Subject; hence, some translations of the bible regard the term first love as meaning our love for Christ. First love could also mean the love or affection we had at the beginning of our relationship with Christ, as a result of our being born again. This indeed, is the story of many Christians todaythey no longer love Christ as they once did when they first got born again. Indeed, there is lethargy in the body of Christ today! So intense is this lethargy that some believers in Christ, regard the work of God, and even church attendance as wearisome, and a burden, from which they would rather be loosed. How sad!

So, for all the work, labour, and patience endured by the believers in Ephesus; for all their hatred of evil people; for all their aversion to false ministersfalse teachers, false prophets, false apostles, false evangelists, false pastors; and, for all their hatred of the deeds of the licentious Nicolaitans; the one thing that threatened to rubbish their good works, was their lacklustre love. This lacklustre love, which the Lord spoke of as thou hast left thy first love, had put in jeopardy, all the good deeds that they had done. This lacklustre love threatened to negate their hard work, their labour, their endurance of persecution, their hatred for what Christ hated, and so on, calling to question their affection toward God! In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul, the apostle, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. The word charity is the same as love in word, thought, and deed hence, it means affection from the heart, or benevolence toward another, especially, toward a person who does not deserve such affection. Charity is an act that is dependent on the love of the person giving a thing, rather than on the merit of the person being given. So, the Holy Spirit is saying to you that even if you are highly spiritual, prophesy accurately, teach the word of God with sound knowledge, exhibit faith that moves mountains, sell all that you have and give them all to the poor, and even pay the ultimate price of allowing your body to be burned, for the sake of the gospel, there is no profit for all such deeds, if there is no sincere affection in you for the person or persons for whom it is donein this case, both God and man. Simply put, any act that you engage in for God or for man that is not borne out of a deep-seated love for God is dead works! Remember that when Jesus died for man, we were not worth dying for, for we were still steep in sin when He died for usthis is the kind of love that God wants us to have in our work, labour, endurance, etc.

It is sad to say, but today, a number of Christians give gifts to God, because they seek the pastors recognition; a number of Christians are labouring in the vineyard of God, because they hope that as a result of their labour, God will give them that plum job they are seeking, that life partner they want, that child they have been asking for, and so on; a number of Christians are passively enduring persecution only because they have no choiceif they find a way out, they will take it! Are you showing kindness only to people of your tribe? Are you doing works in the church because the pastor is good to you? Are you giving generously to the work of God because you want God to meet a need for you in return? Is your affection toward God being shared by something elseyour spouse, your children, your job, your goals, your ambition, and so on? Some well-meaning people preach the gospel not out of love for God or man, but as a matter of course. This then is the message for you today: examine yourself, and see if the love, the hunger, the desire, the affection, you had for Christ when you first got born again is still there. If it has faded or is fading, you need to return to that place where you lost itthat place of unfeigned affection and unequivocal desire for Godand in true repentance, ask God to rekindle His love in you by His Holy Spirit. The alternative, which is the nullification of all your works, labours, endurance, etc., is not palatable! Return to God now!

Let us pray!