Both/And: Living as Conquerors in Truth and Love

Several months ago, I finished reading through the New Testament. I’ve done so a number of times before, but I decided not to rush and really savor it this time around—making observations, journaling, and praying that the Lord would work its truths deep into my heart. 

When I reached Revelation, I opened the book with some inner trembling. From past experience I knew that I wouldn’t be able to read through it—especially the warnings to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3—without being convicted and challenged. It didn’t take long for me to be proven correct. 

My Bible margins bear witness to the fact that there was no shortage of thoughts being stirred as I read, pondered, and prayed through those chapters. But one particular observation is a theme that, months later, brings a certain tension to my soul. I wrote, “The warning to the church at Ephesus is almost the opposite of the warning to the church at Thyatira.” 

Essentially, one was heavy on truth and soft on love. The other, heavy on love and soft on truth.

Ephesus was commended for holding fast to truth, not tolerating evil or false teaching, and for persevering under trial. However, they were rebuked for abandoning the love they’d once had (Rev. 2:1–7). God issued them a serious warning to repent and return to that love. 

The church in Thyatira, on the other hand, was commended for their continual display of love in action—for their increasing faithfulness and service toward others. However, they were rebuked for turning a blind eye to certain sins being committed by those who claimed to be spiritual leaders but were actually deceiving others (Rev. 2:18–28). 

The warnings to both churches show that the diminishment of love and of truth are equally egregious in the sight of God. 

To this day we see the same proclivity among varying Christian circles to lean either heavy on the truth to the abandonment of love, or heavy on love to the compromise of truth. In my own life I’ve felt convicted of swinging to both of these extremes at times. In Scripture we read that God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is truth (John 14:6). These cannot be separated from one another, and to diminish one is to ultimately diminish both. But in order to be faithful witnesses to Jesus, we must fight our natural instincts to conform ourselves to the world. Instead we must surrender ourselves to being transformed by God’s indwelling Spirit, accurately representing Christ to those around us (Rom. 12:2). We need the Lord to teach us what this looks like, not just in our heads but lived out daily in the details of our lives. 

3 Ways to Grow in Truth and Love

1. Don’t seek balance: seek Jesus. 

It can be tempting to reach for some kind of balance between love and truth, depending on a perceived symmetry to guide our words and actions. But in reality, we can’t know what truth and love look like when applied to life without fixing our eyes on Jesus. Our own reasoning is finite and insufficient. As the much-loved verses of Proverbs 3:5–6 say, 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
and do not rely on your own understanding; 
in all your ways know him, 
and he will make your path straight.

Because Jesus is the definition and source of both love and truth, we have everything we need to understand and live these virtues out in a way that brings glory to Him. Our heart cry every day should be “Give me Jesus!” as we set our hearts to seek Him through His Word and in prayer—in constant communion with Him throughout our days. He can and will give us more of Himself—increasing both love and truth in us—in the process. 

2. Have listening ears.

Again and again throughout the warnings to the churches Jesus says, “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

Our spiritual ears should be wide open to what is being spoken, with our hearts in a continual posture of humility and ready repentance, knowing that we’re just as susceptible to these sins and blind spots as those churches were then. We need to be able to echo the words of David in Psalm 139:23–24,

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns.
See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the everlasting way.

These listening ears God is looking for are those that are wide open to transformation from the inside out. Love and truth will abound in lives with ears like this.

3. Live in hope.

Near the end of each statement to the churches there is a sentence that begins with, “To the one who conquers” followed by hope-filled words about what awaits those who turn from their sin and endure in the faith (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). After such strong admonishments (and considering the persecution some were facing), I’m sure there was trembling and sorrow in the hearts of many hearers. God in His grace doesn’t just give the warning but leaves them with a vision for the glory that comes with repentance and perseverance to the end.

When the Lord convicts us of a lack of love or the fear of standing boldly for truth—or any other sin for that matter—there can be temptation to cave to discouragement. We know in the depths of our being that we can’t change these things about ourselves, and that’s exactly where the enemy wants to keep our eyes: on ourselves. But as Christians we aren’t called to rely on our own ability to grow. We have God’s Spirit who both brings the conviction and gives us the grace to repent and overcome. When we turn our eyes to Christ and His finished work on the cross, we are filled with renewed hope that His power rests upon us and “is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Because Christ has conquered sin and death, we are conquerors too. Yes, we’ll see it in its fullness when Christ returns, but we get to experience glorious slivers of this reality today as we surrender ourselves to be conformed to His image. As we peer into the darkness around us, feeling the pressure to compromise just a little or lose sight of the “why” (namely, love for Jesus) in our fight for truth, we can have confidence that He will hold us fast. He will never leave or forsake His own, and He will equip us to live out truth and love in every detail of our days. 

Want to learn more about Jesus’ letters to the seven churches? Walk among the seven churches of Revelation with Overcomers: Lessons from the Churches of Revelation, a short study adapted from the teaching of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. We’ll gladly send you a copy as our thanks when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts this month. 

About the Author

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer is a wife and mother of six living in northern Colorado with a passion for encouraging women to love Jesus. She is the author of Expectant: Cultivating a Vision for Christ-Centered Pregnancy, and has also written for Set … read more …

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