December 24

Ezekiel 33:31-32 (NIV) 31My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.

They were going through the motions of worship without letting it transform their hearts. It wasn't that they didn't attend. It wasn't that they deleted the Word from their worship. It was a matter of the heart's desire. They had ears, but they did not hear with their hearts. There is even more condemnation toward those who sit and hear the Word read, yet go out without letting the Word change their hearts. They know they are acting in opposition to the Word. They know what God expects and yet are refusing to have anything to do with His right to Lordship over their lives.

They are likened to those watching a performance. God has a lovely voice. He plays His love song so beautifully. "What a great performance! Now let's go home and go on about our lives." We choose to forget how intensely personal His song of love is. We refuse to allow it to penetrate our hearts, for there it would create a love that demands a response. We would lose some of the control of our life. We would surrender some of our decisions to the One we love. What an honor to be loved by Him, yet how lightly we take it.

The next time you enter into a place of worship, whether it is a Bible study or a church service, consider this passage. Take a moment to bookmark it right now to remind you. Corporate worship is not a performance. It is about your Creator's intensely passionate love for you.

Consider: Will you respond by hearing the Word with your heart, so that you put His Word into practice?

December 24

Revelation 2:3-5 (NIV) 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Jesus dictated seven letters to churches in Asia Minor. Each is addressed to the angel of that church. Elders oversaw the early churches. The elder that was to speak that week was sometimes referred to as the angel (messenger). The messenger for that week was to deliver Jesus' message. This remains true today.

This passage was written to the church in Ephesus. It was the church that John would oversee when released from exile. Jesus commends them, and then gives them some instructive discipline. They had endured hardships without growing weary. That says a lot! What is our normal reaction to hardships? The flesh wants to run away, and if we can't, we complain and grow weary. This wasn't true of the persevering church in Ephesus.

They did the outward correctly, but there was something wrong in their hearts. They had left that love they first had when they were saved. When they were first redeemed, they had a revelation of God's love that captivated their hearts. Now those fires were only embers. Oh, they are still serving and worshipping faithfully, even in the face of difficulty, but something is wrong in their hearts.

Jesus is after our heart above all else. Service is just an overflow of the heart. They may be enduring now, but if their hearts continue to cool, they will no longer persevere. It is true for every Christian and every church. Have you fallen from a great height?

Consider: Is your love for Jesus stronger than it has ever been, or do you remember a time when...? Return to your first love!