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“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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 2:4,5).

THE CHRISTIANS IN EPHESUS, TO WHOM THE ABOVE WORDS WERE WRITTEN, WERE IN A DANGEROUS POSITION. Having been faithful to Christ in the past, they no longer loved Him as they used to. And Christ was clear: if they did not repent and come back to Him in their hearts, He would sever His connection to them.

If Christ did end up removing their “lampstand,” the members of the church in Ephesus probably continued to call themselves Christians, at least for a while. They would have listed “Christian” as their religious affiliation, and might have thought of their salvation as being secured by their allegiance to “Christianity” rather than some other religion. But in reality, the word “Christian” would have been only a label and nothing more.

Today, when we speak of “nominal” Christians, that is what we mean: people who are Christians in “name only.” They self-identify as Christians, and may even attend a few church services now and then. When it comes to defending the “true faith,” they may be militant, but inwardly there is no substance to their faith. They are the modern embodiment of the mentality God spoke of in Isaiah’s day: “[They] draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).

Wherever Christianity becomes safe and socially acceptable, the number of name-only Christians will increase. They’re not truly religious, but Christianity will be their “religious preference.” And nothing could be more offensive to the Lord. To the Laodiceans, the Lord said, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

So in cultures where there are many nominal Christians, evangelism often amounts to converting the “Christians” to Christ. This is the hardest kind of evangelism by far. But think of the power that would be unleashed if even a few of those who have been wearing Christ’s name actually became His people!

“If we were willing to learn the meaning of real discipleship and actually to become disciples, the church in the West would be transformed and the resultant impact on society would be staggering” (David West).

Gary Henry — +

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