The Danger of Drifting

Before reaching an unwanted destination, let’s be sure we’re going in the right direction.

Change that occurs slowly is difficult to detect. For instance, the earth’s crust moves an estimated 1 to 10 centimeters per year, but we don’t notice until two tectonic plates push so hard against each other that they suddenly shift, causing an earthquake. A similar process can happen spiritually as well. We think we’re doing fine until God shakes us awake with a situation so big it makes us stop and wonder what’s happening.

Since drifting is such a slow process, we may unknowingly become lax in our walk with Christ and veer from His path. Instead of immediately recognizing that we’ve gone astray, we become accustomed to the new path and consider it normal. The further we go on the detour, the duller our spiritual ears become. At this point, we can’t hear God calling out, “You’re going the wrong way! Come back to Me!” That’s why He sometimes has to send an “earthquake” to grab our attention.

Certain churches, which were recipients of unexpected messages from the Lord, probably felt their world was being rocked. Jesus had appeared to the aged disciple John and instructed him to write Revelation. Included in this book were letters addressed to seven churches. For five of them, Christ’s message was like a megaphone from heaven calling, “Repent!”

 

Read Revelation 2:1-29, Revelation 3:1-22

Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from this passage. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?

Tucked inside these letters are guideposts to keep us on God’s path, warning signs to alert us when we stray, and Christ’s road map to help us find our way back to Him.

 

Guideposts

The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia were commended for doing what’s right. By following their example, we’ll be able to stay on course with Jesus.

• Smyrna was facing tremendous persecution, and Jesus told believers there not to fear suffering but to be faithful until death (Revelation 2:8-11). When life gets hard, the Smyrna guidepost says, “Look up.” With an eternal focus, we can remain faithful no matter what we encounter, because this life is a mere breath compared to eternity.

• Philadelphia was commended for obeying Christ and for not denying His name (Revelation 3:7-13). Their guidepost reads, “Keep My Word.” Knowing and obeying the Scriptures help us align our lives with God’s will so we don’t go astray.

We think we’re doing fine until God shakes us awake with a situation so big it makes us stop and wonder what’s happening.

 

Warning Signs

The remaining five churches each received reproofs, which serve as warning signs to us. The believers in …

• Ephesus left their first love (Revelation 2:1-7).

• Pergamum had begun to listen to false teaching (Revelation 2:12-17).

• Thyatira tolerated a false teacher who led them astray (Revelation 2:18-29).

• Sardis didn’t know they were spiritually dead (Revelation 3:1-6).

• Laodicea were complacent and unaware of their condition (Revelation 3:14-22).

We should recognize the downward spiral in these warnings, as we have potential to fall into the same pattern as these churches. Even while we’re faithfully serving Christ and holding to truth, our love for Him can cease to be a priority. That’s dangerous: Once love for God wanes, so does love of His Word—and a well-maintained scriptural foundation is what protects against sin (Ps. 119:11). Knowing that misplaced spiritual priorities cause damage, God urges us to seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). Otherwise, we can become self-deceived so gradually that we’re eventually unable to recognize our own spiritual stagnation.

 

Road Map

Christ tells these straying churches to repent—a word that conveys a change of mind and direction. He wants us to:

• Remember the heights from which we have fallen.

• Recognize and reject any teaching that contradicts Scripture.

• Keep what you have received and heard—God’s Word.

• Wake up; strengthen what remains.

• Admit your spiritual poverty, and invite Jesus to rule over your life.

 

Reflect

Write your thoughts in a journal.

• The problem with drifting is, we’re unaware of it. How do we know if we’ve left our first love for Christ or been deceived by false teaching?

• According to John 14:15 and 1 John 4:21, what two actions confirm that we love Christ? What effect does love for Him have on our life (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)? When love for Jesus is our top priority, what behaviors and attitudes characterize us (Rom. 12:9-18)? Cite specific examples from your experience.

• Read Colossians 2:1-8. In verses 1-3, what is Paul’s desire for the Laodicean believers? What must they do to guard against deception (Col. 2:4-8)?

• When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, what did he say characterizes those who walk in love and truth (Eph. 5:1-17)? What were they to pursue? What were they to avoid?

The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia were commended for doing what’s right. By following their example, we can stay on course.

 

Respond

• Self-examination can be challenging since it often calls us to change in some way. Do you recognize yourself in any of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3? If so, which one(s)?

• Which guideposts or warning signs have you failed to heed? What changes is God calling you to make?

 

Revisit

• Sometimes when God convicts us of a needed correction, we feel remorse yet fail to follow through with true repentance. Despite an initial effort to change, familiar ruts lure us back to the same old path.

Repentance can’t be achieved by good intentions and self-effort alone. God does expect us to put forth energy toward obeying Him—to make choices in keeping with His calling on our lives. But primarily, repentance is the result of God’s divine work, as He progressively sanctifies us into Christ’s likeness. While following through in obedience, memorize Philippians 1:6. Then pray the verse to God, asking Him to grant you genuine repentance.

 

Related Topics:  Doubt

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What happens to my notes

1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

2 I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;

3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.

4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.

6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'

8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

9 I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'

12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

13 I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'

18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:

19 I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.

22 Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

24 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them--I place no other burden on you.

25 Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;

27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;

28 and I will give him the morning star.

29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

1 To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: `I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:

8 I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.

10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.

16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

17 Because you say, I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

9 I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'

7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:

8 I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.

10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

11 I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

2 I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;

3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.

4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.

6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'

12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

13 I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.

15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.

17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'

18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:

19 I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.

20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.

22 Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

24 But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them--I place no other burden on you.

25 Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

26 He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;

27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;

28 and I will give him the morning star.

29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

1 To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: `I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.

16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

17 Because you say, I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;

15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,

13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,

2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself,

3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.

5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.

5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;

4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;

8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),

10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

14 For this reason it says, Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,

16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

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