Rev. 2:18-29: Keep doing good, but don’t tolerate evil.

Introduction:

 

[Get a bag of apples and let them go for a few weeks, take one bad apple and put it in a bag of good apples]

 

These apples were all good one week ago, but this one bad apple ruined the other apples.

 

Navy Admiral ‘Turns a Blind Eye’ to Order

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “turn a blind eye,” which means to ignore undesirable information. The saying comes from a 19th century British naval battle. On April 2, 1801, during the Battle of Copenhagen, the British fleet was attacking the combined navies of Denmark and Norway. Three British ships ran aground, so the admiral, Hyde Parker, decided that the fire of battle was “too hot for Nelson to oppose.” So Parker sent an order, through signal flags, that the younger admiral Horatio Nelson should “Discontinue Action” and withdraw.

When Nelson heard his own signalman relay the order, he pretended not to hear him. Mesmerized by the thrill of battle, Nelson had no intention of obeying the order. He turned to his captain and said, “This day may be the last for us at any moment,” even as a Danish cannonball struck his ship’s mainmast, scattering splinters all around him. This was typical of Nelson’s stubborn and aggressive approach to war. In fact, he’d already lost sight in his right eye in a previous battle. So when he pressed again to respond to Parker’s order, Nelson told his flag captain Thomas Foley, “You know, Foley, I only have one eye—I have the right to be blind sometimes,” and then Nelson held up his telescope to his right eye and said, “I really do not see the signal!”

Sometimes we are all like Nelson, with one good eye and one blind eye, and when an order comes through from God, we hold up the telescope to the blind eye. As a result, we willfully ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit.[1]

 

That is exactly what happens in our churches and that is exactly what happened in the church at Thyatira. They were commended by Jesus for doing many good things, but they overlooked certain belief issues. They condoned sin in their church. They tolerated EVIL!

 

My theme today: The Letter to the Church at Thyatira (2:18–29): Thyatira: Keep doing good, but don’t tolerate evil.

 

The application: We must make sure we do not overlook or condone sin as a church.

 

Let’s read Revelation 2:18-29. Please turn in your Bibles to the passage.

 

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

This church is divided into 3 parts:

  1. Jezebel and followers (verses 20-22)
  2. Those who do not participate in the activity but tolerate (verse 22 and notice the word “tolerate”)
  3. Those who do not tolerate this teaching (Verse 24)

 

 

  1. The church is commended, notice that in verse 19: I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
    1. Once again, notice that Jesus knows. He knows that bad and the good that we are involved in.
    2. They are commended for their love, faith, service, perseverance. They are also growing in these ways.
    3. However, it appears that they are still not quite right. They “tolerate” Jezebel.
  2. Let’s talk about Jezebel and her followers.
    1. Jezebel was a real woman in the Old Testament. She was the queen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and she led King Ahab and many others astray. She killed many prophets and set up worship of baal. (1 Kings 16:30-33; 19:1-2; 2 Kings 9)
    2. It seems that in this case there may be a real woman or group who are metaphorically called Jezebel.
    3. We do know what they are doing. Verse 20: Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
    4. She is misleading them into sexual immorality and eating of food sacrificed to idols.
    5. These likely went together. It seems that they would participate in sexual immorality at the pagan temples while they ate the food which was sacrificed to idols. This likely happened while being in a trade guild.
    6. It could be likely that the Jezebel group would tell the others that something was okay when God’s Word already spoke to the issue.
      1. Does this sound familiar?
      2. Do you know anyone or group saying something is okay when God’s Word says otherwise?
      3. We must listen to the Bible over the other voices.
      4. We have the same issue, sexual immorality is not okay, God speaks to it through the whole Bible. Try 1 Cor. 5:1 and 1 Cor. 6:13 for instance.
      5. The Word of God is our foundation and it topples every world system. We have that theme in Revelation, we must believe that today.
  • There are also those who are not a part of the Jezebel group but tolerate them (verse 20).
    1. Notice how verse 20 specifies that they “tolerate.”
    2. We are not to condone sin in the church, whether in belief or in action.
    3. This is not talking about a simple error or a mistake, this is talking about a condoned behavior.
    4. Remember these apples, they were all okay until the bad apple was misked in with them.
    5. These people are not all participating in the sin and/or the belief, but they are guilty by condoning.
    6. We, as a church, must watch our doctrine closely in order to make sure it is correct.
    7. We, as a church, must not condone behaviors or inappropriate beliefs.
    8. See 1 Cor. 5:9ff: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
  1. Then we see that there people who are pure, they are not condoning this behavior or belief system.
    1. In verse 24 it reads: 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you…
    2. I hope our goal is that we are like that group.
    3. They are encouraged to hold fast, Jesus is coming again. (verse 25)
    4. Verse 26: They will receive authority over the nations, I am thinking this is in the new Kingdom.
    5. Verse 27 has a Jewish image.
    6. The rod of iron is a Jewish image of the way Jesus is to rule. Psalm 2:9: ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ ”[2]

  1. This is talking about God the Father and now Jesus is talking about the same description.
  2. Everyone thought Rome was solid, but Jesus, in this passage is saying that He will break Rome, like clay pots it will shatter.
  3. Every fallen system, including the U.S., will someday shatter because Jesus is the ultimate ruler. Dr. Mulholland of Asbury Theological Seminary was teaching Revelation in the Soviet Union in the 80’s and he would tell them that their fallen Babylon was the Soviet Union, he had people in his group who were arrested and who lost loved ones as they disappeared being taken by the Communist. He would say that the Soviet Union would crumble, but they did not believe it. They thought that it would never happen, but it did. During this time, no one would think Rome would crumble, but it has.
  4. Jesus will rule and if we persevere, we will rule with Him.
  5. Jesus says that those who persevere and do not participate in this Jezebel system, will receive the “Morning Star.” The Morning Star is Jesus, we see that in Rev. 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
  6. It pays to persevere, eternally, it pays. It pays eternally to not condone sin and give in to the systems of this world.

 

Conclusion:

So, what is our final application.

 

We must keep doing good as they were commended for.

We must not tolerate evil, but we also must not give in to evil with the church. We must not condone evil.

 

This means that we must be in the Word of God so we know truth.

 

Up here I have monopoly money:

Is it real?

How do you know it is not real?

Really, how do you know?

Would you know that this was not real if you never saw real money?

So, if I had a store, just pretending, if a few people, just a few people want to pay with this money at my store, should I allow it? No, of course not. If I start allowing bad money in my store, it would start affecting my store.

But I must know what real money is and not tolerate fake money.

I commend you as the Word of God commends you, know the Truth. Get in the Bible, live the Bible, do good, don’t condone evil and wrong beliefs within the church. That is a church application and you are part of the church.

The application for you:

Search your heart, spend time in God’s Word and in prayer asking God what you are in that is not right. Repentance is part of all of our lives, always.

 

Then, be encouraged: living for Jesus means reigning with Jesus.

 

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

[1] Submitted by Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Christopher Hibbert, Nelson: A Personal History (Basic Books, 1994), pp. 260-261

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 2:9.

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Pergamum, stay true to Jesus and watch out for false teaching

Intro:

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now.
In the old days, when there was less education and discussion,
perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God.
But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.
Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean
that you have no ideas about God [i.e., theology].
It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones —
bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.

— C.S. Lewis 

I recently saw an article which stated that bad doctrine is what led to the apartheid in West Africa. This made me think it is wrong beliefs that have always plagued the church and caused much of our problems. We used Scripture, though wrongly, to justify slavery. On the other hand, many don’t even care about Scriptures; therefore, we have our own problems for lack of study. Most of the Bible is fairly easy to understand, if we read it and read it and read it more. When we make the Bible part of us, the Holy Spirit will really guide our lives by His Own Words. Then there is the problem that happened with slavery, this happens when we read the Scriptures trying to make them say what we want them to say. That is called Eisegesis. We can make the Bible say the wrong things instead of letting the Bible speak.

But generally, the problems come because we don’t know any better. We don’t know any better than the wrong beliefs, the wrong doctrine that is taught.

As we look at the church in Pergamum we see that they held true to the faith, even in persecution, but they tolerated false teaching. They tolerated false doctrine.

Let’s look at the good and the bad of Pergamum and apply this to our lives.

Theme: Pergamum stuck with Christ, but they tolerated false teaching.

Application: Stick with Christ and watch out for false teaching, know correct teaching.

Please turn to Revelation 2:12-17 and we will look at the verses as we talk about them:

  1. Learn: Let’s learn about this church and then we will be encouraged and apply.
    1. The church at Pergamum was an important city: The Life Application Study Bible says it very well:
    2. The city of Pergamum was built on a hill 1,000 feet above the surrounding countryside, creating a natural fortress. It was a sophisticated city, a center of Greek culture and education, with a 200,000-volume library. But it was also the center of four cults, and it rivaled Ephesus in its worship of idols. The city’s chief god was Asclepius, whose symbol was a serpent and who was considered the god of healing. People came to Pergamum from all over the world to seek healing from this god.[1]
    3. We get our word parchment from Pergamum.
    4. Just as a note, back then libraries were not for lending. You went to the library and you would read the scroll there and actually books, called, “Codex,” were not yet invented. The book form, codex, were likely invented by Christians. That is another way Christians might have changed the world.
    5. In verse 12, we, once again, see the idea of the two edged sword. It reads: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
    6. Then we come to verse 13: I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
    7. Notice that Jesus knows, we’ll come back to that.
    8. The church in Pergamum is kissed before they are hit, isn’t that nice? In other words, they are encouraged before they are rebuked. They are commended because despite the area where they live, they have not renounced their faith. They stayed true to Jesus’ name. May we stay true to Jesus’ name.
    9. Pergamum was called the city where Satan had his throne.
    10. They were in heavy persecution, but still did not renounce the faith. We don’t know much about Antipas, but there are thoughts about him: “Antipas is said to have been a dentist and a physician, but the Aesculapiades suspected that he was propagating Christianity secretly and they accused him of disloyalty to Caesar. He was condemned to death and was shut up in a brazen (or copper) bull, which was then heated until it was red-hot.”
    11. This idea of satan’s throne. It is thought that there was all this pagan worship, but there was also imperial worship and in Revelation satan’s throne, or the ways of satan’s are the ways of the Roman culture. So, to give into Satan’s ways means to surrender to the dominant ways of the culture. James 4:4 says that Friendship with the world is enmity against God.
    12. Verses 14-15 show that there are a few things against them: Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
    13. This is where we come to teaching. Teaching matters. Doctrine matters. I don’t know if this is a literal teaching of Balaam or not. You can read about Balaam and Balak in Numbers chapters 22-25 and and 31. Balaam was told to curse Isarel by the local king Balak, but God would not let him and he only blessed them. However, in Numbers 25 we see that the Israelites intermarried with the Moabite women which was forbidden and we see that Balaam realized if you get them to intermarry then you can take down Israel internally. (Deut. 7:3; Joshua 23:12; 2 Cor. 6:14) We receive some of this information from the Jewish Historian Josephus. This could be a metaphor for what is going on here. In this case some Christians are participating in worldly practices. The passage says that they are eating food sacrificed to idols and participating in sexual immorality. Paul dealt with this in Romans 14 and 1 Cor. chapters 8-10, but the problem is not the food. The problem is what goes on with the food. When the food was sacrificed there was pornographic sexual activities, temple prostitution and pagan, idol worship. It was not just the eating, it was the festival.
    14. The problem was that many times the trade guilds or business unions would have their own idol and to have a job meant participating in these trade guilds, but for the Christian participation in these guilds meant idolatry and sexual immorality.
    15. This means that part of the persecution meant that Christians could not work.
    16. This may be a definition of the Nicolaitans in verse 15.
    17. Verse 16: Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
    18. We once again see the idea of the Word of God. The Word of God is Truth and it exposes and takes down the falsehood of the imperial and satanic systems.
    19. Verse 17: Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
    20. We are not dumb, fake idols. We have ears, listen. The Holy Spirit is speaking.
    21. This idea of hidden manna likely is the idea of The golden pot of manna was “laid up before God in the ark” (Ex. 16:23). It was believed that Jeremiah hid the ark, before the destruction of Jerusalem, where it would not be discovered till Israel was restored (2 Macc. 2:5ff.). Christ is the true bread from heaven (John 6:31–33, 48–51) and that may be the idea here.
    22. In Roman times they would vote with stones. A white stone was a positive ballot and black was negative. So, a white stone means that we overcome and we have entrance into Heaven.
  2. Be encouraged
    1. As I look at this passage I am greatly encouraged that Jesus knows.
    2. I see that Jesus knows that though they are in a city of satan they are holding fast to their faith. (verse 13)
    3. Jesus knows about their persection and the death of Antipas. (verse 13)
    4. Jesus knows what we go through as well. Jesus knows if we are persecuted. He knows if we are making stands for our faith and how difficult it is to stand strong. He knows.
    5. I am also encouraged that Jesus gives opportunity to repent. Jesus gives second chances in this life.
    6. This opportunity to repent is for us as well. This instruction is for us. Be encouraged that Jesus has given us this instruction. (verse 16)
    7. Overcoming means eternal life. (verse 17)
  • Apply: Let’s make some final applications.
    1. Stay true to Jesus’ name (verse 13). I see hear that they are commended for holding fast to the faith. This is an application for us.
    2. If you are with your family, your friends, or your co-workers, stay true to Jesus.
    3. Staying true to Jesus means that you don’t actually deny the faith.
    4. Staying true to Jesus means that you don’t fail to say anything about the faith. Sometimes we deny the faith by omitting to share when we need to.
    5. Sometimes we deny the faith by not living as a Christian. In their case they would have denied the faith by going into the idols temple and participating. Are we participating in things like that? What about pornography? What about the sexually explicit and crude conversations? What about how we are entertained? I used to like the Big Bang theory as well, but that is likely the type of thing I shouldn’t be entertained by. That type of conversation, that type of crudeness is what sent Jesus to the cross. Turn it off. Ask God to Create in you a clean heart… (Psalm 51:10) Don’t deny Christ in commission or omission.
    6. Teaching matters, doctrine matters (verses 14-15). Learn the Gospel, the true Gospel. Learn doctrine, read the Bible. They are essentially rebuked because of false doctrine. We can know false doctrine by learning true doctrine. Just read the Bible.
    7. Twice have a reference to the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit. This is in verse 12 and 16. (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12)
    8. Repent: if we are involved in these false beliefs or lacking the faith repent. Jesus has given us a second chance right here.

Conclusion:

I stand by my belief that false Doctrine, which means incorrect and improper beliefs, are what hurts the church and hurts people. When we have wrong beliefs we harm many in the name of a supposed religion, we harm ourselves. So, don’t be afraid to get into the Bible and know the Truth.

Right now we are coming up on the most important holy day of Christianity and that is Resurrection Sunday. It is a true and major part of Christianity that Jesus lived, died and rose again. That is doctrine, that is the correct teaching of the Bible about Jesus. But people have tried to thwart it. (1 John 4:2) This is why we must stand on the strong foundation of the Word of God. We must stand for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1:2, 9)

Stand strong in your beliefs and in not denying Christ.

Prayer                                                                     

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1] Tyndale House Publishers (2011-08-01). Life Application Study Bible NLT (LASB: Full Size) (Kindle Locations 161746-161749). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Loss

Tonight we experienced the sad moment watching our Dodge Grand Caravan drive away. We sold it for 500.00 to someone who will likely put a new used engine in it and get some more life out of it. Two weeks ago we heard a loud noise from the engine and upon investigation we were quoted a large price to replace the engine. That was more than we wanted to spend. Fortunately, we got a good deal on another used vehicle (thanks mom and dad). 

But isn’t it funny how “things” can form memories? I had already thought of it. We formed family memories with that van. We moved up from Cincinnati with the van. We moved again, just a few months later. We put the seats down and we could get a lot in there. Actually, in 2012 we moved a whole couch with the van. But who cares about those memories. What about bringing Mercedes home after she was born? What about getting her up early Christmas morning to travel to Dayton? I remember her cute 16 month old giggle as we put her in her car seat and she saw the dog next to her. I remember a trip to a conference in October 2012 when I was so annoyed with Elmo and Sesame Street teaching her to count on the van DVD player. Oh, I can go back further, Mercedes was about three weeks old and colicky. We couldn’t get her to stop crying. We buckled her in her car seat and then in the van and went for a drive. She fell asleep, until we got home and the dogs greeted us, LOUDLY. 

(By the way, I know those memories are only Mercedes. You would think we have one child, but we actually have two. The weather was bad and we brought Abigail home after she was born in the Expedition. When we purchased the Expedition the van began sharing time more. Many of our family trips were with the Expedition because of various reasons.) 

Anyways, tonight we watched the van drive away. I knew what it meant. But what about dear 4 and 1/2 year old Mercedes? I came inside as Mercedes was asking Meagan about the van and she had red eyes, like she was going to cry. I heard her say to Meagan, “You mean we won’t get it back?” We explained to her that it was going to have a new home and how things eventually break down. She was fine in a few moments and back to herself climbing up the walls, singing Frozen songs, etc.

But, what a reminder. What a teaching opportunity. In a counseling class in seminary I read that when we were an agricultural society kids learned death because they saw it in the livestock. But how do they learn death today? I am not beginning to compare our van to Sally the cow being slaughtered, but it is something. I think there are at least two lessons:

1) Things break and our treasure cannot be in them. Jesus said this: 

Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

2) Things will break, sadly, people will also die. But we can have eternal life in Christ. 

John 14:6:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

See also Rev. 21

Just thoughts, 

Steve

The letter to the church at Smyrna

Introduction:

Psalm 23 is probably the most memorable and memorized:

Let’s say it together:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

    he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk

    through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

    for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

    my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

    forever.

The reason I invited all of us to read it together is because those words must have been so important to the church in Smyrna.

Today’s Theme:

In pulling back the veil Jesus encourages the church in Smyrna. Jesus tells them that they will have trouble but they will receive a crown of life.

Let’s read Re. 2:8-11:

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

  1. Come! Take Your Crown. That is the main point.
    1. As we look at these verses we see a Goal—A Crown of Life Won by Jesus Awaits Us.
      1. I believe that is to be encouraging. Who hear does not want to receive a Crown?
      2. Don’t you want to receive a crown from King Jesus?
  • Do we want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 and 23)
  1. I once heard of a son who may not have said it but he wanted his father to be proud of him. No matter what, he wanted his father to be proud of him. His father, was always expressing his pride in his other son, but not the younger one.
  2. Isn’t it encouraging that we can receive a Crown from King Jesus. However, receiving this crown may not be easy. Actually, I dare say that it isn’t easy.
  3. Let’s pause a moment. Is this Christian life easy?
  • Is the Christian life supposed to be easy?
  • 2 Timothy 3:12: In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
  1. Matthew 10:16-23: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
  2. The Christian life is not the easiest life. We will face hardships. Those are simply two of the passages regarding this.
  3. So, let’s look at what Jesus says regarding this.
  1. Persecution: many frightening things stand between us and the Crown of Life.
    1. This is what Jesus says. There will be difficult times. However, we are to stand strong. We are to stay the course. We are to persevere.
    2. This instruction is first and foremost to the church at Smyrna, but I believe it is to us as well. I think these letters represent all of the churches as well as specific churches. Let’s consider Smyrna.

Smyrna was a beautiful and important seaport boasting a population of about 200,000, quite large for its time. It was a center for science and medicine, and the birthplace of the noted author Homer. It was also a regional center for emperor worship in the first century, whose citizens were expected to burn incense to Zeus once a year.[1]

  • Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna was born in A.D. 69 and could have known the Apostle John whose writing he quotes. A defender of orthodoxy, Polycarp was martyred about A.D. 155 because he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
  1. Marcion will later deny that the God who created the world is the Lord, Jesus Christ. He will claim that there is nothing to God but love, than an evil, false god was responsible for the suffering and death of Jesus. Valentinus will convince many that everything physical Is evil, that the spiritual world alone is good, that heaven is made up of “aeons”— angel-like, almost divine beings, one of which fell into sin and created the world. To Valentinus, even Christ is an aeon that adopted a human body.
  2. Many will consider this nonsense to be wisdom, but Polycarp will know better. He will defend the truth of the Trinity, the truth of the Divine and human natures of Christ, the truth of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for sinners.
  3. The year was A.D. 155, and the persecution against Christians swept across the Roman Empire and came to the city of Smyrna. The proconsul of Symrna, swept up in this persecution, put out an order that the Bishop of Symrna, Polycarp, was to be found, arrested, and brought to the public arena for execution. They found Polycarp and brought him before thousands of spectators screaming for blood. But the proconsul had compassion on this man who was almost a hundred years old. He signaled the crowd to silence. To Polycarp he said, “Curse the Christ and live.”
  • The crowd waited for the old man to answer. In an amazingly strong voice, he said, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How dare I blaspheme the name of my king and Lord!” With that Polycarp became a martyr.[2]
  1. So, Jesus calls these people a “Synagogue of Satan.” That is pretty strong. What does that mean. Citizens of fallen Babylon worship the beast
  • A synagogue of Satan may mean that they are aligning themselves with the Roman culture.
  1. Consider Paul’s ministry. He would go to the Synagogue first and declare Jesus the Messiah. Sometimes he would be there one week or three weeks or months. He eventually gets kicked out and goes to the Gentiles and evangelizes Gentiles.
  2. In Roman world the Jews were a legal religion.
  3. In 48 B.C. Julius Caesar passed a law prohibiting all new religions except those of ancient standing. From 125 BC until that time Rome had been in civil war and the new religions were the hot beds of the war. So, he got rid of all new religions. Judaism predates the Roman Empire. Romans could trace their history to about 700 BC but Jews could trace themselves back to the second millennial. There were many court cases where Gentiles would drag Jews into court saying that they were illegal, but every time the Jews won as an ancient religion. They were allowed to govern themselves from their Torah. They could not be drafted into the army. They had to be able to have stalls to buy their own food at the market. There were limits: If the Jews are proselytizing or getting into the Roman government then Rome puts their foot down. In 17 A.D. The Jews are expelled from Rome: The Roman Historians and Josephus say this is because a high level Roman official becomes a proselytite. Later in Acts the Jews are expelled again from Rome by Claudius. Historians tell us this was because of a disturbance from Cristus. In Acts when Paul and Silas are in Philippi they are arrested and accused of being Jews and disturbing the status quo. The worst thing to do in Rome was disturb the status quo.
  • Paul would go to the synagogue and then be kicked out.
  • He then proselytizes Gentiles. To the Romans this makes it look like the Jews are proselytizing. This puts the Jewish community in threat from Rome. So, in several places in Acts the Jews align themselves with the political leaders.
  1. In Revelation: The Jewish community aligning themselves with Rome against the Christians makes them a Synagogue of Satan.
  2. This only appears in two places: Smyrna and Philadelphia: the two good churches.
  3. The source of the persecution of these churches is the Jewish actions.
  • Smyrna is also where Polycarp was martyred and if you read the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp the Jews were instrumental in his martyr.
  • Lastly, regarding this, Jesus say that they will be persecuted 10 days. In their time, 10 was a number of completion much like the number 7. This is from the Jewish pool of imagery. They will be persecuted until the time is complete.
    1. Means: Because Jesus died and lives again, our crown of life awaits us.
      1. If we can persevere to the end, if we can stay strong, if we can overcome, then we will receive the crown. Now, if we notice this crown of life means that we will not receive the second death.
      2. Let’s go a step further, what is the second death? I notice that John does not tell us what the second death is.
    2. John is wanting to leave us hanging. This was common in their culture. In literature they would introduce an idea and let it wait. In Rev. 20:14 we find that the second death is the Lake of Fire.
    3. Notice that in persevering that will receive a crown from Jesus.
  1. Some applications:
    1. I find it very encouraging to know that Jesus knows what I go through.
    2. In verse 9 Jesus tells them that He knows. He knows what they are facing.
    3. Jesus knows when we are facing troubles having to do with our faith.
    4. We are now in a post Christian society and when we have to standup for our faith, Jesus knows. If you need to stand and have integrity at the work place and you face negative ramifications, have no fear, Jesus knows.
    5. If you lose friends because you don’t care about drunkenness and sexual immorality, have no fear, Jesus knows.
    6. If you witness for Christ and you lose friends for that or face ridicule, have no fear, Jesus knows.
    7. If your business is in threat because of your Christian integrity have no fear.
    8. If you, your family, your morals, are in threat because you stand for life and marriage, have no fear, Jesus knows.
    9. This post-Christian culture has been a surprise to us, but not to King Jesus, He knows.
    10. It is going to be okay.
    11. When we overcome there will be a crown of life eternal.

Closing:

Psalm 23:4: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is with me.

How can you fear the valley if your Savior has trod its path ahead of you and returns to carry you safely through it.

The American missionary Adoniram Judson arrived in Burma, or Myanmar, in 1812, and died there thirty-eight years later in 1850. During that time, he suffered much for the cause of the gospel. He was imprisoned, tortured, and kept in shackles. After the death of his first wife, Ann, to whom he was devoted, for several months he was so depressed that he sat daily beside her tomb. Three years later, he wrote: God is to me the Great Unknown. I believe in him, but I cannot find him.

But Adoniram’s faith sustained him, and he threw himself into the tasks to which he believed God had called him. He worked feverishly on his translation of the Bible. The New Testament had now been printed, and he finished the Old Testament in early 1834.

Statistics are unclear, but there were only somewhere between twelve and twenty-five professing Christians in the country when he died, and there were not churches to speak of.

At the 150th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into the Burmese language, Paul Borthwick was addressing a group that was celebrating Judson’s work. Just before he got up to speak, he noticed in small print on the first page the words: “Translated by Rev. A. Judson.” So Borthwick turned to his interpreter, a Burmese man named Matthew Hia Win, and asked him, “Matthew, what do you know of this man?” Matthew began to weep as he said,

We know him—we know how he loved the Burmese people, how he suffered for the gospel because of us, out of love for us. He died a pauper, but left the Bible for us. When he died, there were few believers, but today there are over 600,000 of us, and every single one of us traces our spiritual heritage to one man: the Rev. Adoniram Judson.

But Adoniram Judson never saw it!

And that will be the case for some of us. We may be called to invest our lives in ministries for which we do not see much immediate fruit, trusting that the God of all grace who oversees our work will ensure that our labor is not in vain.[3]

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

[1]   (2014-03-15). The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 82566-82570). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] Leith Anderson, “Can Jesus Trust Us?” Preaching Today, Tape No. 126.

[3] Adapted from Julia Cameron, editor, Christ Our Reconciler (InterVarsity Press, 2012), pp. 200-201

Rev. 2:1-7 Don’t forget your first love

Think with me for a moment about when you first fell in love with your spouse, your children or someone else. Think with me about love. It can be a love for a friend or sibling as well, but it cannot be a love for an object. Studies will show that when you first fall in love your whole mentality changes. The brain actually, literally changes. When you are new in love you have more energy and this is why you can stay up late at night to go on dates and spend time together. Employers will complain about employees that were once good employees until they met that someone. Love changes us, and to an extent that needs to happen. Pastors will often not officiate a wedding for a couple that hasn’t been together longer than six months because they have yet to realize each other’s idiosyncrasies. You know what I mean. Many of you have raised children and maybe you have had to have that conversation with your daughter. She is saying, “I love him.” But you are saying don’t you realize that he is wanted in six states for something…” She doesn’t get it, because love is like a drug.

But, then things change. You stay together and get married. Maybe you have children. Eventually, maybe you think, “Do we love each other?” This is because we associate love with that euphoria we once had. The euphoria changes but that does not mean the love isn’t there. Everything we do for each other is because of the love that is there. This is also true of our commitment to Jesus. Let’s talk about that.

In Rev. 2:1-7 The Church at Ephesus is exhorted to not forget their first love.

My burning theme today is that we love Jesus.

My burning application is that all we do stems from our love for Jesus.

Let’s read Rev. 2:1-7:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.Consider how far 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. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

 

  1. All that we do must stem from our love for God.
    1. The church at Ephesus persevered (verse 2), we see this in verse 2. By the way, there was a real church at Ephesus, but I do believe these letters are to apply to all the churches. In fact, if you look at verse 7 it says for us to hear what the Spirit says to the “churches,” plural.
      1. This likely included persecution.

Actor Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the movie The Passion of the Christ, suffered during filming. He was struck by lightning more than once. Carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, he fell, separating a shoulder. The harsh Italian weather, grueling days on the set, and hours in the makeup chair every day, contributed to his battles with pneumonia, and hypothermia. During the brutal whipping scene, the actors playing Roman guards accidentally missed the board protecting his back—twice—causing severe pain and wounds.

During the filming of the crucifixion, Caviezel hung on a cross, buffeted by stiff winds. The cross swayed as much as three feet in either direction, aggravating his shoulder injury. That was when Caviezel wondered if he had made a mistake.

For the first time, I started questioning whether I had done the right thing. More important, I wondered whether it would be possible to finish the film.

I actually had the thought that this cross is killing me…. It wasn’t funny at the time. I was in pain and I was freezing. Then something happened. It’s hard to explain, except to say it might be what an athlete goes through when he seems to be thoroughly beaten and defeated, and then he finds the strength within him to overcome and win.

You know in what I just shared with you Jim Caviezel persevered. He pressed and as we get into these letters to the seven churches in Revelation I see that we are also commended to press on. We must persevere. But we must not forget about why we are in this. We must remember that it is all about Jesus.

  1. We will face hardship and maybe persecution, but we must persevere as well.
  1. The church at Ephesus did not tolerate evil (verse 2), we see this in verse 2. It actually says “evil people.” I would refer you to 1 Cor. 5:9-13:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolateror slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

  1. The issue is when we condone evil within the church.
  2. The church at Ephesus would test the apostles and would not tolerate false apostles (verse 2)
  3. Testing church leaders is critical.
  • 1 John 4:1-3: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.[1]
  • 2 Cor. 11:13: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.[2]
    1. The church at Ephesus endured for Jesus and did not grow weary (verse 3).
    2. The church at Ephesus hates the Nicolaitans as does Jesus (verse 6).
    3. It is difficult to say who the Nicolaitans were but they were some form of cult that may have denied moral values during that time, or it could be metaphorical of something else. We could get into that at another time, or give me a call or an email if you want more answers to who they were.
  1. The church at Ephesus neglected their first love (verse 4)
    1. This is the key application for us. Let’s break it down.
      1. We can be very good about a routine of studying the Word and prayer, but we must do these because of our intense love for God.
      2. Our Christian life must not be simply about blind orthodoxy. Orthodoxy means correct beliefs.
      3. We must be careful about always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the Truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
      4. We must love Jesus.
      5. We must desire Jesus.
      6. We must be satisfied in Jesus.
      7. Loving Jesus means that we do love His Word because we want to be close to Him and being in His Word means that we are listening to Him.
      8. Loving Jesus means that we Iove prayer because this is communicating with Him.
      9. Loving Jesus means that we love the church because He loves the church (Eph. 5:25-26)
      10. This means that we must be a part of the church. In connecting with the church we are connecting with Jesus indirectly and directly. (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 and chapter 13)
      11. We must remember our first love, we must remember the Gospel which saved us (verse 5)
  • The church at Ephesus is called to repent.
    1. Repent is listed twice (verse 5). Jesus is giving them a chance to repent. This is showing that there are second chances.
    2. If they don’t repent the Lampstand is removed. Remember the Jewish pool of imagery. I like what the Life Application Study Bible says: For Jesus to “remove your lampstand from its place” would mean the church would cease to be an effective church. Just as the seven-branched candlestick in the Temple gave light for the priests to see, the churches were to give light to their surrounding communities. But Jesus warned them that their lights could go out. In fact, Jesus himself would extinguish any light that did not fulfill its purpose. The church needed to repent of its sins.[3]
    3. Kierkegaard wrote: There are, in the end, only two ways open to us: to honestly and honorably make an admission of how far we are from the Christianity of the New Testament, or to perform skillful tricks to conceal the true situation.[4]

Watch this video clip:

Play the video clip from The Fiddler on the Roof

“Do you love me?” Clip

All that we do must stem from our love for Jesus. How do you know whether you really love Jesus? I think in your daily walk with Him examine yourself, think about it. 2 Cor. 13:5 says to examine yourself and see if you are in the faith.

When we think about love I notice that with my children there was instant love. Earl and Jane Johanson came to visit us in the hospital and Earl said, “Are you going to keep her!” He was kidding, as I knew. There was no question about it. Here are some pictures of Mercedes and then Mercedes kissing Abigail. Now, four years later Mercedes is in the dentist hair. Instant love.

I recently heard a message where Ravi Zacherius talked about his grandson. He was at Moody’s Founder’s week and said that one of Winston Churchill’s military commanders once said, “I never told you about my grandchildren.” Winston said, “Yes, thank you.” Ravi said that he was going to tell about his grandchildren. His oldest is Jude and he is four years old. He has a great vocabulary. A few weeks ago, Ravi’s daughter was missing her keys. She was looking around and she commented, “I’m losing my mind.” The four year old, Jude, said, “Don’t lose your heart mom, I’m in there.”

We are in the heart of God, He loves us. Don’t forget your first love.

I struggle with the question of my true love for Jesus. I struggle thinking to be sure that I am satisfied in Him. Reflect and pray.

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Jn 4:1–3.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Co 11:13.

[3] Tyndale House Publishers (2011-08-01). Life Application Study Bible NLT (Kindle Locations 161702-161705). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] Soren Kierkegaard, “What Madness,” in Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (Plough, 1999), p. 180; submitted by Mark Galli, Glen Ellyn, Illinois