Monday, November 1, 2021

The Right Motive for Doing Good

 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” – Revelation 2:4

Years ago I visited a local church for a special evening service. During the worship time I noticed the sound mix in the room was terrible. Some microphones were turned up too high. Others were turned down too low. So, I did what many of us do when we don’t like the sound quality—I turned around to glare at the sound man.

As I glanced at the sound booth, I immediately diagnosed the problem. The sound technician was standing in the booth with her eyes closed and her hands lifted high in praise. So, I thought to myself, “Well, she’s busy worshiping and loving Jesus, so I guess I’d better leave her alone.” You see, sometimes we’re so focused on doing good ministry, we forget why we’re doing it in the first place. That woman hadn’t forgotten.

In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus writes seven short letters to seven different churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Since He is the Son of God, Jesus Christ has both the power and the insight to do what you and I can’t do—to perform a spiritual X ray of every church in order to diagnose its true condition. Within each letter to the seven churches, Jesus tends to follow this basic three-point outline. First, He praises the church for at least one thing its members are doing RIGHT. Next, He rebukes the church for at least one thing they’re doing WRONG. Finally, He makes a promise to the church.  

Jesus follows this outline to a “T” as He addresses the first of the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-7: the Church at Ephesus. First, Jesus praises them in verses 2, 3 and 6. When you take a closer look at these three verses, you’ll discover that the Ephesian Christians were doing a lot of things right. In fact, Jesus offers them nine compliments that can be summarized this way: They didn’t put up with bad teaching or bad behavior; they stood firm in their faith during times of persecution, and they protected younger Christians from exploitation.

Sounds like a great church, doesn’t it? And—considering how wicked the City of Ephesus was—it’s remarkable that the Ephesian church was so morally strong and faithful to Christ. The Ephesian church didn’t cave to the pressure to conform to popular culture.

But as Jesus inspected the hearts of the Ephesian Christians, He found something inexcusable—something that, if not addressed, would bring about the church’s downfall. Jesus addresses it in verse 4: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” The New Living Translation says it this way: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first.”

So, what was the Ephesian Christians’ inexcusable sin? Somewhere along the way they had stopped loving God and people. So, Jesus basically tells them, “Christians, do you remember how you used to love Me? And do you remember how you used to love each other? Something has changed, and I’m not sure you even realize it. Your love has grown cold. You do so many things right, but you do them for the wrong reasons. You work hard, but there’s no love in it. You don’t put up with bad teaching or bad behavior, but there’s no love in it. You patiently endure persecution, but you don’t do it out of love. You’re not doing your good deeds as an act of love for Me or for the people around you.”

Do you remember what Paul wrote in the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13—the “love chapter”? “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Wow! Don’t miss what God’s word is telling us. It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working or how many good deeds you’re doing or how much persecution you’re enduring for Jesus; if there’s no love in it, it’s MEANINGLESS. And in Revelation 2:5, Jesus tells the Ephesian Christians (and us): “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

Friends, what we do for the Lord is important, but so is why we do it. There could be a hundred different reasons why we do the good deeds we do. So, Revelation 2:4-5 serves as a clarion wakeup call for you and me. Jesus calls us to turn away from cold, loveless Christianity. It there’s no love in it, our ministry is meaningless. So, it’s imperative that you and I get back to loving Jesus Christ as we once did—with our whole hearts. So, if doing good ministry ever gets in the way of loving Jesus, I believe God’s word is clear. We need to follow the example of the Jesus-praising sound technician: Take a short break from your ministry in order to get your priorities and motives back in check. Love God first. Do good ministry second. And once we put the love first, we can once again do both together.

Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. His new book, “Buoyed Up: Jesus’ 8 Steps to an Unsinkable Life,” is now available on Amazon in paperback, e-book and audiobook. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live or YouTube. For more information, visit

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