May 28, 2017
“The Three “R’s” of Right Relationship”
Rev. Rick Langness
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours this day from God the Father and our risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now if you are old school, you remember the three “r’s” of basic education; reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic. These, of course, are the basic tools that one needs in order to grow in knowledge. Without them, it is difficult to engage in day to day life and business. As we finish this series on the seven churches in the book of Revelation, we are left with another series of three “r’s” that we cannot live without if we are to walk in the life and love that God has brought to us. These three “r’s” are; Remember, Repent, and Redo. Now if I were preaching on the text from Ephesians we would be looking at the three “h’s”; Hope, ‘heritance, and Horsepower. And these shall all come together as we focus on the ascension our Lord Jesus Christ.
“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.” (Revelation 2:1) Now these are truly the words of our ascended Lord Jesus. His time of humiliation is over and He is now ruling over heaven and earth and we see it in these very words. The verse just before this says, “As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20) Our Lord Christ holds the angels in His hand and He walks among the congregations. He walks among us. This is Jesus whose reign has begun and will continue until all things are put beneath His feet. On that day, that great Last Day, He will return and the restored creation will come forth as sin, death, and the devil are done away with, never to rise again.
So we remember. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.” (Revelation 2:5a) Remember first to whom this letter is written. It is written to the church, the congregation. It is written to this body of Christians who gathered in Ephesus. But is it is also written to you and me who are known as the congregation of Ascension in Littleton. It is written for us as the one body gathered here and it is written for us as the individuals who are gathered. We
remember, then, from where we have fallen as a congregation and
from where we have fallen as individuals.
Now if I were to say to you that you are just a bunch of worthless rotten sinners you might want to come back at me and tell me in the most gentle and polite ways that I was wrong. But remember the words of our Lord in this text. “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.” (Revelation 2:2-4) The issue, then, is not that you do not do good things. Rather, it may be that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Somewhere along the way, the security of God’s love may have overshadowed the need for it. It may have become an expectation rather than a hope.
We all are a bunch of worthless rotten sinners. And yet, at the same time we are risen saints of God who live in and under the very blood of the ascended Jesus Christ. This is ultimately the same congregation that St. Paul saw when he wrote these words: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” (Ephesians 1:15-18a) Paul knew that the Ephesians had faith and love but that didn’t stop him from praying for their ongoing growth and knowledge. They were sinners and saints just like us. And they were in need of remembering the love that God had for them and the hope to which He had called them.
Now it is generally believed that the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians around the year 60 A.D. and John wrote the book of Revelation around the year 95 A.D. It is also believed that John became the Bishop in Ephesus prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and remained there both prior and after his exile to the island of Patmos. Thus, Pastor John was now given the judgment concerning his own congregation. He knew that these saints were not perfect even as you and I know that we are not perfect. So for us to remember how far we have fallen is not a condemnation. Rather, it is an affirmation of the reality that we need the love of God given to us in Christ Jesus. We remember how far we have fallen with the knowledge that God has given to us the sure and certain forgiveness of sins. The hope to which we are called is not the hope of forgiveness but the hope that is ours because God has already called us to be His.
As you remember how far you have fallen, the knowledge of the hope to which you were called opens the door for true repentance. It is sin that breaks the relationship. It is unconfessed sin that keeps that relationship broken. You and I know far too well what happens when someone sins against us and we know what it is like when that offense is never resolved. Yes, we have the responsibility to forgive even if the offender never acknowledges their sin. But forgiveness given is never forgiveness received if the offender never confesses their sin. Thus, as we know the forgiveness given to us in Christ Jesus, we should never fail to confess our sins to Him for when we hold onto our sin we abandon the love of God first shown to us. This is the issue that Christ has with the congregation in Ephesus. They were good, but they were not good as confessing their sins. They were not good at embracing the love of God and receiving the gifts that God desired to give.
To repent is to acknowledge that our ways are not God’s ways. To repent is to acknowledge that we are indeed sinners in need of salvation. But with this knowledge of our sin there is also the knowledge of our inheritance. Again, Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…that you may know what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:16-18) It is in repenting from how far we have fallen that we come to see the glory of the forgiveness we have been given. We were created in the very image of God but we tossed that aside for the sake of pursuing our own desires. Adam’s sin is our sin. Adam’s fall is our fall and we have lived out that sin in many and various ways. This, we cannot and should not deny. But remember again where our Lord Jesus Christ is today.
Jesus Christ has returned to the glory that was His before His incarnation. We celebrate the ascension of our Lord because after suffering the judgment our sins deserved He has taken His place as the firstborn of all creation and is one with the Father and is truly at peace with Him as well. This, then, is the inheritance that is yours and mine. Where we were the lowest of the lows, where we were the dirtiest of the defiled, God has now exalted us to be one with the Holy of Holies. No, you are not, nor will you ever be God. But God has raised you up to be one with Him. This is your inheritance because of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You can boldly remember how far you have fallen as a sinner and in the hope of your calling you can repent and know the true glory of your inheritance as a saint.
The door stands wide open to redo. “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.” (Revelation 2:5) If you remember, there is a transition that takes place through these seven letters. It is a transition from a living active faith to a dead faith, or no faith. It is in this last condition where the lampstand is removed. Once the congregation ceases to have faith it is no longer the Church. Thus, if we are to remain in a right relationship with our Lord we cannot stop at the remembering and the repenting. There is still the work that God has called us to do from the beginning, the work of making disciples of all nations. Do you remember, then, what it was like when you first understood the love of God?
“I do not cease…remembering you in my prayers…that you may know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:16-21) Because Jesus has been seated at the right hand of the Father, you have horsepower.
Your calling is not a calling of weakness. It is a calling of great power. It is the power of God to redeem His creation. It is the power of God to die for your sins and it is the power of God to be raised to life again. It is the power of God raise us up from our fallen condition and restore us back to the very image of God. Thus, it is the power to do the works that we once did before. It is the power to find our life, our meaning, and our very being in our risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. So don’t just sit there. Remember, repent, and redo. The fullness of our Lord who has ascended into heaven is still head over His Church and He continues to fill all in all. Amen.