Would it not be “profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16) to make a list of what Jesus “likes and dislikes” about His churches? There is a list of likes and dislikes that He revealed in the letters to the churches (Revelation 2-3). Likes and dislikes are not the same as love, for the covenant love of the Lord for the Church He “washed in His own blood,” does not wane or change. It does not have a tidal ebb and flow. His love, like Him, is constant and unchangeable.
My wife and I have likes and dislikes, but they do not change the vows of a covenant marriage relationship. In His letters to the seven churches of Asia, Jesus reveals a glorious picture of Himself as Head, making covenant promises to each church, coupled with many likes and dislikes. Like a Good Shepherd, “He leads us beside still waters to restore our souls,” but with tough-love care that “disciplines for our profit.”
What does the Master Craftsman want from the church He is building, “a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle,” the Church He will present as a “chaste virgin” to Himself? “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2). He desires the intimacy of “first love,” its delightful and ravishing desires, and the fragrant love of espousal that draws you away and captures your heart with a longing desire for communion.
Note that in His letters to the seven churches of Asia, little is about the administration of the churches, perhaps because there are “different administrations, but the same Spirit.” However, enough is said to make a list of things Jesus likes and dislikes about the character and governance of each church. These relate to His character and His assured covenant promises. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to read through chapters two and three of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, making a two-column list of things He likes and dislikes about each church. All you need is your Bible and a prayer, “Lord, open my eyes. ‘Prove all things, hold fast the good.’”
Jesus likes an intimate relationship, the love of espousal, and “that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9). Jesus desires all to know His love, and He confirms that “all men will know you’re My disciples by your love for one another” (John 13:35). He chose the word to know (ginosko) by experience. As a result of the observable oneness and practical love that you demonstrate toward one another, “the world will believe the Father sent Me” (John 17:21). Jesus “likes” it, even “loves” it, when you “love God with all your heart,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Edifying love is greater than puffed-up knowledge, or even faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13). “Above all these put on love, the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14). Jesus likes loving unity.
“Love never fails.” Jesus likes what love produces:
- Deeper worship
He likes, not a mechanical routine, but an unhurried rest, sitting at His feet, reading His word and praying ardently or fervently for His will to be done.
- Joyful obedience
Love is a purposeful commitment, but there is that emotional element of joy. If obedience is the thermometer of love, joy may be the mercury. “If you love Me, keep My commandments. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:15, 21). His commandments are not grievous, but the joy and rejoicing of our heart. He likes a church that lovingly obeys, which joyfully seeks to do His will above all else.
- Sacrificial love
He likes love’s essence of self-sacrifice. True biblical love longs to enrich its object, not to possess it in a self-serving way. You can’t hate your brother and claim you love God (1 John 4:20-21). “How does God’s love abide in one who does not love in deed and truth by meeting needs in practical ways” (1 John 3:17-18)? The worldly notion of love is, at its best, a reciprocal and mutual benefit, but the Christian notion is to give to others out of an overflow of God’s amazing grace. A loving church is sacrificial. Jesus rejoices (2 Thessalonians 1:3), “because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” He likes a church that is growing in love.
Jesus obviously likes “works, labor and service,” especially when the “latter works are more than the first.” Work is a good thing. Part of being created in His image is our fulfillment in working. He has planned “good works from before the foundation of the world,” works He intended us to walk in. Being “His workmanship” includes walking in the works He has planned. Like Paul, we “lay hold of why He laid hold on us.” He also uses the words “labor” and “service.” The most common word in the New Testament for servant is bond-servant (doulos) or free-slave (Exodus 21; Psalm 40; Hebrews 10).
Jesus was the ultimate bond-servant (doulos) of God. Moses was called a servant (therapon) in the house of God (Hebrews 3:5), which is much like an honorable and watchful squire. A servant (diakonos), such as deacons are termed, is focused more on the accomplishment of a task or specific ministry. Paul asks, “Who are you to judge another’s servant (oiketes)? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). Here, the word servant (oiketes) refers to one born in the house, one who is, you might say, part of the family, honoring the Father’s wishes. There is also another servant (huperetes), a servile under-rower of a ship who awaits exact and specific commands.
These five words encapsulate the labor of our servant-hood. Your service in every capacity of a “doulos,” “therapon,” “diakonos,” “oiketes” and “huperetes” is something He likes. Why else would He choose five different ways of describing such service? We are called and bound by love to serve as free slaves, constrained to perform the traditions of our Father’s household, to gladly do it with a willing spirit, fully surrendered and absolutely subordinate to our Superior, “the Head of the church.” Jesus likes the various administrations of “works, labor and service.”
May there continue to be “different administrations” but the “same Spirit” of humble, loving service in “the church of the living God,” because He likes it.
3. Patience and Perseverance
Jesus likes a church that demonstrates patience and perseverance. “Faith works by love.” Faith has a relationship to patience and perseverance, because Jesus expects us to live, “by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.” He commends those who have, “kept My word, and have not denied My name,” and also those who “have kept My command to persevere,” even in the midst of worldly pressures to compromise. Like Abraham, be His friend, and fully believe in the “Person and Work” of Jesus Christ, counting the cost to stand firm and seal your testimony as a martyr by not loving your life unto the death.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Jesus likes the faith that relies upon His resurrection (Philippians 3:10), patiently persevering to the end with unswerving assurance in His character. Isn’t it reasonable to trust the trustworthy? It is more than reasonable to faithfully and patiently persevere in the WORD of one who has proven trustworthy. He likes this testimony: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God-Father” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Jesus likes to keep account of every aspect of “the trial of your faith, which is more precious than gold.” He likes your persistence. Press on, because He likes it.
4. Do Not Tolerate Evil
Jesus likes those who do not tolerate evil, but test false apostles, and hate what He hates, such as the deeds of the Nicolaitans and the doctrine of Balaam. Jesus likes it when we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and bear with the weak (Romans 14:1), while at the same time not bearing with the false! “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know (epignosis) them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15). Jesus likes it when the church “tests the spirits” (1 John 4:1), proves all things, and abstains from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22). Like John who received this revelation, be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (2 John 9).
He likes this kind of vigilance. Bishop Ignatius of Antioch wrote to Ephesus: “Ye all live according to truth and no heresy hath a home among you; nay, ye do not so much as listen to anyone if he speak of aught else save concerning Jesus Christ in truth.” (Ramsay, p.241). Jesus likes it when a church “cleans house.” He likes it when you (Hebrews 12:3-11), “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord… endure chastening… if you are without chastening, you are illegitimate and not sons… He corrects us for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” The Prince of Peace likes no appeasement or toleration with evil.
5. Bears Tribulations
Jesus likes it when a church bears up under pressures and tribulations, rejoicing in every blessing of the true riches, while experiencing physical poverty, measuring its wealth by a true perspective (Philippians 3:10), “the fellowship of suffering,” and rightfully reckoning the “present sufferings that are not worthy to be compared to the coming glory.” It was said of Him that, “He was poor, yet making many rich,” so we are those who live as, “having nothing yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Jesus commends this kind of loyalty under pressure. He says, “I know your works, tribulation and poverty (but you are rich).” The word poverty (ptocheian) means “destitute.”
Imagine how much Jesus liked the poor church of Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:2), which cheerfully gave “out of their extreme poverty, and overflowed in a wealth of liberality.” He must have really liked it when Paul and Silas, even as suffering prisoners, were singing (Acts 16) after being beaten and imprisoned. As Peter said (1 Peter 2:20), “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” Jesus likes it when you follow His example of commendable suffering.
6. Do Not Fear
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… the fear of man brings a snare.” Do not fear imprisonment, persecution or even death, but overcome fear with fear. Proper fears will, “Fear Him who can cast body and soul into Hell.” Jesus asks that we be strong and courageous by that perfect love that casts out fear, in order to “hold fast to My name, and not deny My faith.” His faith is the faith that works by love. True biblical faith and the wrong kind of fear cannot coexist, so He advises the church of Smyrna, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.” The purifying fires of suffering cause the lamp of testimony to shine ever brighter. History reveals that the blood of the martyrs was the “seed” of the church. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Jesus likes welcoming home the un-fearful. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” He likes those who express a strong biblical theology, who believe that even through death, burial and resurrection we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
7. Be Watchful
Jesus commends His church when they, “do not defile their garments,” but are “watchful, and strengthen the things which remain.” He likes it when a church obeys His command to (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1). “’Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Jesus appreciates the value of separation, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. Therefore, put away from yourselves the evil person” (1 Corinthians 5:11). Jesus likes a clean-hearted, single-minded, Christo-centric church that commits to personal purity.
Jesus likes Repentance. He commends those who are passionately committed, who heed His counsel, who zealously repent and open the door of their heart to dine with Him. “I stand at the door and knock.” Jesus does not force Himself upon you, but He likes to politely draw you, patiently pleading, “Open to Me. I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, ‘Open for me, my love, my dove, my perfect one’” (Song of Solomon 5:2). “I have taken off my robe; how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; how can I defile them?” If you hear Him knocking, initiating real relationship, respond quickly, lest (5:6), “I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and was gone.” Make no excuses, but reciprocate this relationship, which is more than merely, “Let’s do lunch or coffee.” To “sup” or dine was the main meal, and it was the time to invite honored guests. God requests the honor of your presence at His banqueting table, promising, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
Jesus dislikes distractions and anything that interferes with the oneness of intimacy. A good thing can oftentimes keep you from the best thing, such as choosing to “sit at His feet,” in order to hear His Spirit, and lovingly obey His commands. How many times has a “good” thing kept you from prayer? He dislikes interferences with “first love.”
He dislikes compromise with the world, “being unequally yoked,” and the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitans (nicao-rule and laos-laity), which refers to either the high church hierarchy or to the democratic opinion of the people. Jesus dislikes both. Clerical hierarchy is often associated with the impurity of licentious antinomianism.
He dislikes the hypocrisy of profession without possession, those who masquerade, pretending to be something they are not. Jesus has a “woe” for all hypocrisy!
4. Stumbling Blocks (Sexual Immorality)
He dislikes the Doctrine of Balaam’s stumbling blocks and sexual immorality.
The Doctrine of Balaam (Numbers 31:15-16) is to intermarry and compromise in worship.
The Way of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15) sells the gift of prophecy to make ministry about money. If Jesus visited your church today, with the same passion with which He turned the tables of the money changer over on the Temple Mount, would He upset anything?
The Error of Balaam (Jude 11), “to run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit,” Jesus has clarified dislike, for “you cannot serve God and mammon.”
5. Seduction (Deception)
He dislikes both the seductions of Jezebel and her usurping of authority. “She calls herself a prophetess,” meaning she “usurped authority.” Historically, Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, was the daughter of Ethbaal, a priest of Ashtaroth, the queen of Zidon. She was the equivalent of the Greek goddess, Aphroditus, and the Roman goddess, Venus, the sex goddess. Eight hundred and fifty of her prophets killed as many righteous prophets as they could. “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord to anger than all the kings of Israel before him” (I Kings 16), for by marrying a pagan Queen, he was “unequally yoked.” Sadly, Ahab allowed her influence, built pagan idolatrous temples and also allowed temple prostitution.
Jesus dislikes “unfulfilled works” and those who make a name for themselves, who do not strengthen the weak, and those who do not watch in readiness. Temptations come like a thief in our unguarded moments: “Watch that you enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). “Watch alertly against the wiles of the devil” (1 Peter 5:8). “Watch, grievous wolves will invade the flock” (Acts 20:29-31).
Jesus likes for us to guard against these signs of deadness:
. If He loses preeminence to a church’s own history.
. If He loses preeminence to a great “man’s” name.
. If the philosophy of ministry becomes more prominent than Christ Himself.
. If there is more concern about material things rather than spiritual things.
. If the members produce no opposition, then you know it is a dead church!
7. A Lukewarm State
Jesus dislikes having to rebuke the lukewarm indifference of those who do not see the naked reality of their spiritual poverty. However, He lovingly does it, despising the dislike. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord… if you are without chastening, you are illegitimate and not sons. He corrects us for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12). Endure. Healing is often accomplished with pain. Love cares enough to, “speak the truth in love, reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering.” Poetically put, (Song of Solomon 5:2), “I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, ‘Open for me, my love, my dove, my perfect one.’” Make no excuses! “I have taken off my robe; how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; how can I defile them?” If you hear Him knocking, initiating real relationship, then respond quickly. We all dislike, “I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had turned away and was gone” (5:6).
Bottom line: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Although His love for His Church will never change, there is much that Jesus “likes and dislikes” about His churches. Jesus heard what the Spirit says, “He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear, to hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away” (Isaiah 50). Let us also hear!