An Uncompromising Church
Resources: Wiersbe; MacArthur; Vines; Criswell; Robertson; eSword Software
In the book of the Revelation, our Lord Jesus Christ wrote letters to seven churches of Asia Minor. In these letters to these churches the Lord gives us some very helpful instructions about the kind of church we ought to be. We established in our very first message that God wants every believer to be a part of a church, so these letters help us understand the kind of church to which we should belong.
When we looked at then letter to the church of Ephesus, we learn that we are to be a loving church. We want to be a place where the people love Jesus and love one another and they love lost people. From the letter to the church of Smyrna, we learn from that we want to be a church where there is faithfulness. The Lord said to the church of Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.” We want to be in a church where people are dependable, totally committed, and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we are going to learn something else from the letter to the church of Pergamos about the church and the Christians God wants us to be. About 15 miles from the Aegean Seain a lush valley sat the magnificent city of Pergamos. Today there is a small village named Bergama.
Pergamos was the capital city of Mysia. It was a center of political authority, a center of intellectual sophistication, and a center of unabashed paganism. There was intellectual pride. Some of the greatest minds from all over the world came to study at Pergamos.
Pergamos had a magnificent library of about 200,000 volumes, second only to the library in Alexandria, Egypt. In fact, the city of Pergamos tried to hire their, and when the Alexandrians found out they were trying to do, that they put him in jail so he couldn’t go.
It was an intellectual center, but it was also a medical center. In the city of Pergamos there was the temple to Aesculapius, the god of healing, with its symbol a serpent wrapped around a pole. It is still used today as the symbol of the medical profession.
Pergamos was also a center of unabashed paganism. They worshipped Roman gods and their own rulers. All citizens were expected to participate in civil religion or they would be suspected of disloyalty against the state. So this church located in this city of Pergamos was a church that was in danger of compromise in their lifestyle and seeking to be what God wanted them to be.
There is a real message for us in the letter to the church of Pergamos. We are living in a day where compromised living on the part of many who profess to know Jesus hinders their testimony and soils the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and His churches. We want to be a church where people genuinely love the Lord, where they are growing in grace and faithfulness.
Sadly, in our church there may be some Pergamos members whose lives aren’t any different from people who don’t know the Lord. The way that they live and the language that they use make it hard to distinguish between them and people in Springfield who do not know Jesus.
Yet you will find in our church some people who are living consistent Christian lives. Oh, they are not perfect, but they are in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. It impacts The way they live and the way they talk and the way they love others. They are uncompromising in their testimony for Jesus. We want to be a church where people are loving Jesus, where people are prioritizing their relationship with Him.
There are three aspects of this church that Jesus identifies that will help us learn the kind of Christians and the kind of church Jesus wants us to be. I want to call your attention first to:
I. THEIR TESTIMONY
Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
He begins in v13 by giving a positive word about their testimony. You will discover that their testimony was in a difficult place. He says to them in v13, “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest.” They were living in the city of Pergamos surrounded by all of these pagan temples and surrounded by all kinds of loose pagan living. Jesus says, “I know where you are living. You are there where Satan dwells.”
There were two words that were used for “dwell” in those days. One was a word meant to pass through, like staying over a few nights in a hotel. The other word meant to settle down and live, to make your home. Jesus is saying is “I know that you have settled down in a very difficult place.” You can’t get out of the situation. You are dwelling, you are living, in a difficult place.
Jesus says in v13, “I know where you are dwelling.” You might say, “Pastor, you don’t understand. You just don’t know where I have to work. I don’t have any other place to work.” “Pastor, you don’t know what kind of family or what kind of home I’m living in. I’m stuck there.” I may not understand and I may not know, but Jesus says, “I know where you live.” Jesus knows what you’re going through. He knows all about it. When I was a teenager, I used to dream about being part of a different family than I was raised in. I thought others had it better than I did. But God made no mistake. He had me just where He wanted me.
This passage reminds us that Jesus intends for His light to shine even in the the darkest places. Maybe God has you working in that job where you are because He needs a light for Jesus in that place. Maybe He has you living where you are because He needs a light in that difficult place.
“I know where you live. Even where Satan’s seat is.” Isn’t that an interesting statement? They were living in the headquarters of paganism. Pergamos had a giant altar of Zeus (120 by 112 feet) that overlooked the city, and some have suggested that this is the background for “Satan’s throne” in this verse. But I want you to notice that the devil’s throne is not in hell. The devil’s throne is on this earth. I think it is safe to say that Satan’s throne is wherever the ideas are formed that shape the values and the standards of a society.
The Lord Jesus Christ says “I know where you dwell.” You dwell where Satan’s throne is. A lot of people have the idea that what God’s people ought to do is just pull themselves back and be isolated from this world. The Lord Jesus Christ never taught that God’s people are to be isolated from this world. We are to be insulated from the sin of this world. We are to be in this world but not of this world. We are to go into this world with a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is Mother’s Day. This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom. I think every mom wants to be a blessing to her children. Moms and dads, we know that the world we live in is a place where Satan is way too often getting his way. We know the devil is after children just like he’s after moms and dads. Some families have the blessing of giving their children a Christian education. Some families don’t have the option or have made the choice to put their children in public schools.
Here’s the great news. Jesus Christ some of His lights teaching in the public schools. This gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has enough power that it can equip boys and girls to impact these schools for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that God wants us to be a church determined not to let one boy or girl or young person be claimed by the devil without a fight, regardless of where they get their education. God bless all you moms on this Mother’s Day!
This church at Pergamos was a light in a difficult place. He said, “I know where you are.” Their testimony was difficult, but their testimony was also definite. He says in v13, “…And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.” They were faithful to Jesus Christ.
There are churches today where the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is not even mentioned. Because He is everywhere, in every church Jesus is present, . In some churches Jesus is prominent. But in every church Jesus Christ wants to be preeminent. CSBC is a Jesus church! We want to always lift up Jesus. If you are a part of our church you will hear about the Lord Jesus Christ in the songs, in the sermons, in the preschool and all the way up in every age. We want Jesus to be preeminent at Cherry Street Baptist Church.
Jesus said of this church that they “have not denied my name” and they “hold fast my faith.” They believed in the inerrancy of God’s Word. They believed in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross as the atonement for our sins. They believed that the Christian life was to be lived to the highest standards of commitment and excellence. They believed God’s Word!
He says, “I know where you dwell. I know you’re in a very difficult place. You have a definite testimony. Then He mentions Antipas. Antipas was evidently a member of that church, and there’s tradition about him. He is called here the faithful martyr. That term faithful martyr is the same Greek phrase translated “faithful witness” in 1:5 and 3:14, used of the Lord Jesus. Here Antipas was a man in that congregation who was living like the Lord Jesus Christ. They had a temple in that city of Pergamos, a temple to Caesar. It was required by Roman citizens that once a year they were to go into that temple to drop incense on the fire and say, “Caesar is lord.”
It was said that Antipas, a faithful witness refused to compromise in that direction. The tradition is that they put him in a brass bull and set it on a fire and heated the bull until Antipas was roasted and martyred for the faith.
We see through this example that this church has a real testimony of faithfulness. This church is faithful in difficult places. It has a definite testimony for the Lord. We learn from their testimony that the Lord wants us to be a light for Him no matter how dark it is around us!
II. THEIR TOLERANCE
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
In v14 Jesus says, “But I have a few things against thee.” He talks about their tolerance. That’s a good word. There are positive ways in which we should be tolerant.
One of the things I like so much about our church is we are willing to tolerate differences in one another. We don’t all think alike, or react alike. We love people where they are, regardless of what they look like. I believe our church has learned to avoid many of the difficulties that other churches have experienced because we have learned the right kind of tolerance – that is marked by love without compromise. We have learned to treat each other with grace in areas that are non-essential.
But this church at Pergamos made a mistake. They were tolerant of some things that they ought not to be tolerant of. He mentions two doctrines they were tolerant of. In v14 we see the first thing He had against them. He says, “You have those who hold the doctrine of Balaam.” What was the doctrine of Balaam? It was the doctrine of corruption in membership. Do you remember the story of Balaam in the Old Testament? Balaam is that prophet in in Numbers 22-24 who was so bullheaded that the Lord had to talk to him through a donkey.
Balak was the king of Moab, and the children of Israel were coming through the land of Moab and they wanted Balak to let them through and he wouldn’t do it. So Balak hired Balaam to curse the children of Israel. On four occasions he tried to curse the children of Israel, and every time he opened his mouth, instead of cursing them, he blessed them.
God is not going to allow to be cursed those whom He has blessed. What Balaam decided to do was if he couldn’t curse them, then he would corrupt them. As you read the account in the Old Testament you will discover what happened was that Balaam was able to get those people to compromise and to get them worshipping idols and immorality. What he could not do by cursing, he was able to do by compromise and corruption.
That is what the devil is trying to do with many Christians and churches today. It is the teaching that you can live any way you want to live as long as you sprinkle a little religion on it, and you can get by in your sins. Compromise in lifestyle and compromise in the behavior of the people of God has done probably more to damage the witness of the Lord Jesus Christ than anything.
If you can live in sin and live like the world and go to the places of the world and do the things the world does, it raises a question mark of whether you have truly received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and have a new nature. The Bible says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.” If you are truly a child of God and you live like the world, you won’t be happy in it. We ought to be a church we call Christians to a higher and holier life.
Then Jesus talks in v15 about the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. We talked about this last week. This was a doctrine of confusion in leadership. The Bible teaches that all God’s people are priests before the Lord; and though we have spiritual leaders who guide us and direct us, the Bible teaches that every one of us has a responsibility to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes in a larger church with a staff, churches get the idea that somehow the staff is to do it all. “Let the professionals do it.” The Bible teaches that God has a ministry for every member. You have a work to do. You are a spiritual leader in your capacity. Get busy and do something for the Lord Jesus Christ.
So this morning we have learned from Jesus letter to the church at Pergamos that God wants us as a church and as believers to be testimony, a light for Him shining right were we are living.
As a believer, we must learn practice the right kind of tolerance – how show grace on issues of personal preferences but remain rock hard solid on biblical convictions. There are some things that are rock solid like Jesus and His word. There are some things that are deeper than life itself like faithfulness to the Lord in the way you live. We are to never let your life be a hindrance to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their testimony and their tolerance…finaly:
III. THEIR TRIUMPH
He tells them how to win through the whole thing. He says in v16, “Repent.” There are Christians who need to repent. Maybe some listening to my voice. You have trusted Jesus as your Savior, but you’ve gotten yourself into a lifestyle that’s not pleasing to the Lord. You have been living in the devil’s world instead of in the Lord’s world. You need to repent and ask God to forgive you.
Jesus said that if you don’t do it, “I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Jesus loves you too much to let you wreck your life, to let you ruin your testimony, to make you miserable as you can possibly be.
In v17 He talks about overcomers, “him that overcometh…“ There are two things He says about the overcomers. If you make up your mind that you want to be an uncompromising Christian, a Christian totally sold out for Jesus then He makes you two wonderful promises.
First He says, “I will give you to eat of the hidden manna.” In the Old Testament God fed His children with manna in the wilderness. Then it was put away in that Ark of the Covenant – a hidden manna. Manna is a picture to us of the written Word of God, the Bible. It is a picture to us of the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. He says that if you will live for Me and serve Me, you’re going to have a nourishment, you’re going to have a food this old world knows nothing about. It’s hidden to them.
Ravi Zacharias told the story that long before there was a war in Vietnam, there were Christian missionaries proclaiming the Gospel to the Vietnamese. Hien Pham was a Vietnamese Christian who worked as a translator for missionaries in the 1960’s and 70’s during the war. After Vietnam fell, Hien was captured by the Viet Cong and imprisoned. He was also told that he had been brainwashed by the Christians, and that there really was no God. The authorities took away the Bible that he loved and forbade him to speak English, the language that he loved. “There is no such thing as God,” was the message that his captors drilled in, day after hellish day.
For a long time, Hien held on to his faith, remembering the words of his Bible that he could no longer read, and, saying his prayers every day. But finally, Hien began to wonder, “Maybe they are right. After some time he decided “When I wake up in the morning, it will be no more God for me and no more prayer.”
The next morning, Hien, the newest atheist in the camp, stood in line as the commanding officer of the prison barked out the assignments for the day. Hien’s job that day was to clean the latrines, the ultimate form of indignity for the prisoners. He would be spending the entire day amidst that filth.
Soiled toilet paper was not flushed through the primitive plumbing, but was put into waste baskets. One of Hien’s last jobs of the day was to empty these waste baskets. All day long he had labored with reminders to reinforce his new belief thatthere is no God. But as Hien’s work for the day was coming to an end, something in the last trash can happened to catch his eye. It was a piece of paper with printed type. As Hien looked closer, he saw it was in English. Anxious to read this language once again, he looked around to make sure no one was watching. He then quickly rinsed off the filth and tucked the paper into his pocket.
That night after everyone had fallen asleep, Hien carefully took out his flashlight and removed the still damp paper from his pocket. In the upper right hand corner he saw Romans 8. Amazing! This was a page from the Bible. In a state of shock, Hien began reading. The first verse he read was Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What a miracle to find a page of the Bible on that very day that he had decided to forget about God; and then to read first of all that verse that spoke right into Hien’s situation and into his heart. Hien read on: “What then shall we say then? If God be for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?… In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuadeded that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hien began to cry. Of all the Scripture verses he had known, these were the ones he most needed to hear in his present situation, and now they had come back to him in a most incredible way. “Lord,” he prayed, “you would not let me out of your reach for even one day.” Hien then gave up the thought of atheism, and went back to his faith and his daily prayers.
The next morning, when Hien saw the commanding officer before the daily line up, he asked him, “Sir, would you mind if I cleaned the latrines again?” The officer stared at him, puzzled.He decided Hien was trying to be a smart aleck, so he said, “All right, you are going to clean them every day until I tell you to stop.”
Each day, Hien would find more pages, and each day, he would rinse them clean, hide them in his pocket, and read them at night. In this way his faith was sustained and strengthened. Life seemed hopeless to Hien as he cleaned those prison camp latrines, but there among the filth he found a word of hope.
After a while, Hien was released from prison.In time, he escaped from Vietnam and eventually was able to come to America. Whenever possible, he looks for opportunities to tell people about how good God has been to him. Jesus said, I will give to eat of the Hidden manna. Food to eat that this old world knows nothing about.
Finally in v17 He says, “I will give you a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.” Probably this is a reference to something that friends did at that time. Sometimes friends would write a special word on a white stone and then they would break the stone. Each friend would have a part of the stone. Regardless of how far apart they were or how long they were apart, when they came back together they put the pieces of that stone together and they were reunited. It was a reminder of their relationship.
CONCLUSION: Jesus says that there is an intimacy with Him that is more special than anything this world can offer. You can have a relationship with Him that will meet the deepest needs of your heart. You can know Him. You can have fellowship with Him. You can be friends with Him. There’s nothing this world has to offer that compares to a walk with Jesus.
Dear members of this church and those of you who are looking for a church, we want to be an uncompromising church, a church totally sold out for Jesus. How is your testimony? Are you tolerant in the right way or the wrong way? To triumph – do you need to repent, get back to the hidden manna of the Word. Is your friendship with this world or with Jesus most important?