Thyatira: The Church of Cultural Tolerance
When Ancient Meets Current: A Study of the Seven Churches of Revelation
By Todd Stiles
Bible Text: Revelation 2:18-29
Preached on: Sunday, July 31, 2016
First Family Church
317 SE Magazine Road
Ankeny, IA 50021
Take Home Truth: Accommodation and tolerance of sin to avoid the cost of identifying with Christ is short-lived deception that ends in long-term destruction.
So last week we looked at the third church in the list of seven ancient churches described in Revelation 2 and 3, it was the church of Pergamum. Today we’re going to look at the fourth church in this list, it’s the church of Thyatira, and if there was a difference it would be this, that the church at Pergamum was infamous for its compromise, the church in Thyatira is infamous for its tolerance. I share that difference with you because there are many things in this passage today that are similar to last week’s passage. I even kind of warned you last week that we would be spending some time on the same subjects, on the same themes, but I felt it important to bring to you one of the differences and that is that the church at Pergamum was one about compromise and the one at Thyatira about tolerance.
Let me see if I can show you the difference symbolically. We’ll see the difference textually in a few moments. Here’s how we kind of picture this symbolically. Notice that the compromise symbol is that of atomic energy or the atomic symbol and by that I mean to say this, that when an atomic bomb goes off or when there is an atomic explosion, the damage it does is from the outside in. It explodes and we suffer for it, so to speak, and this is true with compromise. Compromise is essentially pressure from an external source that seems to make us want to give in. As in Pergamum, it was those who held to the teaching of Balaam, the Nicolaitans, all from the outside leaning in on this church saying, “Hey, don’t believe what you’re believing. Practice sexual immorality. Hold to our false doctrine instead.” So there was pressure from the outside to compromise but with tolerance as we’ll see at the church in Thyatira, it’s really an issue of ingestion and so we’ve chosen the symbol of poison because in Thyatira, they had allowed inside their ranks a false prophetess, one who was from the inside out teaching false doctrine and calling people to sexual misconduct and unbiblical practices. So here’s how I see the difference, compromise is an external pressure, tolerance is an internal presence. In compromise, the external pressure is corrupt and leads to destruction if we give in. Intolerance, the internal presence is corrupt, poisonous and leads to destruction in the end. So they both lead to the same dead end road but their difference lies and how they start and so I think that’s one of the primary differences in these two churches as we’ll see in Revelation 2. We covered Pergamum last week, go back and listen and watch the video. You can check it there. We’re going to focus mainly on Thyatira.
Here is the church in Thyatira and you’ll see their cultural pressure, you’ll kind of pick up on it. A few words about this city. I kind of want to analyze the city, then the church, and then I want to look at the beauty of Christ in this text. Here are some things about this city. It is mentioned in verse 18, do you see it, Thyatira? This message is written to the church there but some things about the city, it’s the smallest of the seven cities so if you look at the seven on a map, it is situated in a valley whereas Pergamum was kind of up on a citadel of sorts, kind of 1,000 feet elevation. This one is in a valley. It was overthrown a lot then rebuilt and then overthrown. It was kind of in the middle of many military conquests and campaigns so they knew a lot about war. They were always having to rebuild. It’s a very small city. It’s the longest letter, however, over 10 verses. The longest letter of the seven. This city was known for its manufacturing, it’s industry, especially in regards to fabrics. In fact, Dr. Luke chose for some reason to tell us about Lydia, that she was a seller of purple and that she was originally from Thyatira. So in this city they made a number of things and they sold things and their industry and manufacturing and commerce was quite vibrant. As a result of that, they were known also for their trade guilds. They were very prominent. You might use the word labor unions, and this led to something, though, that the Christians within Thyatira who had a business who were also part of a trade guild found themselves in a quandary because many of the trade guilds, many of the labor unions were forcing the people to adopt pagan practices and embrace pagan beliefs in order to keep their business going. So they were being kind of like, “Do I adopt and participate in these festivals and these services to these pagan gods and to these things that are basically orgies and sexual immorality situations with these prostitutes and what they would call priest and priestesses? Do I engage in that or do I say no and I take a hit with my business, with my trade?”
I’ve often wondered this, I’ll just share this, this is strictly my opinion again, I often wonder if this is why Lydia actually moved to Philippi because in the Bible Lydia was actually in Philippi, helped the church there get started, but she was from Thyatira. Now, Acts was written a couple three decades before Revelation, I think, but I wonder if maybe persecution wasn’t strong in the trade guilds and the labor unions. Maybe Lydia felt that as a Christian. I don’t know. We know that she didn’t become a Christian probably until Acts so maybe that wasn’t part of it but I just wonder how long she was at Thyatira and when did she move and maybe that was part of it.
Who knows, but we know this that both in history, tradition and in Scripture, there seems to be an indication that it was costly to be a Christian in Thyatira, and I think that explains why Christ describes himself in this way in verse 18. Are you with me there? You’re in your Bible, right? Look what the Bible says here, the words of, “The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” It’s a good description. It’s taken from chapter 1, probably around verses 14 and 15. All the seven letters, by the way, when they describe Christ, they repeat traits that were found in chapter 1. So what John is saying here is here is this one who will come into this church of cultural tolerance, they are accommodating sin in the church, he is going to come with pure, accurate, final judgment. His eyes are like a flame of fire. They will see through whatever is in the way and when he makes his judgment, he will make it with feet of bronze, in other words it will be steadfast and immovable, it will be final. Here’s a picture of Jesus the Judge that you really don’t see hanging on walls very much, do you? The one you see is the halo, long hair, he looks somewhat tame.
This is Jesus the Judge and he says to Thyatira, “I know your works.” And here are some things about the church. We’re going to see this, we’re going to see this church that he knows so well, that they are going to be an excelling community. Three things we’re going to see about them: they are an excelling community, but they’re also a tolerating cluster within this community which means that they have become a split congregation. So there are three things that I want you to see here and we’ll do this kind of briefly because I think it will lead us to see the main point. But notice first of all how he describes this community. They are excellent in some things they are doing.
He says, “I know your works,” and then he describes their works. I don’t see this as a list of five things, I see it as a list of one thing described in four different ways. Look what he says, “I know your works,” and then he says, “your love and your faith and your service and your patient endurance.” In fact, let me show you how I see this list. I think the Lord commends them for this lifestyle of serving him and others through four ways: love that produces service and faith that produces patient endurance. Now, why do I think that? Because love and faith are both inner qualities, you might call them fruit or traits of the Spirit, and I think that in these people it produced service to God and man that came from their love for God and man, and the patient endurance was something that kind of stemmed from their faith. They trusted God and so they endured the hostility and the persecution. All of that together is what John and Jesus referred to as their works.
Wouldn’t you admit with me this is a very attractive faith community? A vibrant, growing church. How do I know that? Because look at the last phrase, he says, “your latter works exceed the first.” Now this is opposite of Ephesus. Remember Ephesus, they started off strong but then it says they lost their first love. Here Thyatira, they started strong and it says they just got better. I mean, that’s inviting. Can we just admit that? What a good church. You go to it and they are serving God, they are serving man, they love each other, they are enduring faithfully, they have inner and outer qualities and they are getting better at it. They are growing in these. Wow.
Yet inside this church, Jesus spots a cluster of falseness that he says they should not be tolerating. Now, I want you to notice something in your Bibles, verse 20, can you see the word “but” there? Circle that, would you? And then go down to verse 24 and circle the word “but.” I think these two contrasting words kind of bracket off for us the tolerating cluster that exhibited even in this really good and growing church. In fact, I would say to you that prior to verse 20, Jesus describes this church in positive ways and beginning in verse 24, he describes it in positive ways, but right in the middle of this description is this exposition, we’ll call it, of things in the church that aren’t good.
Here’s how he describes it, he says, “But I have this against you, that you will tolerate that woman Jezebel.” Wow. So they’re kind of permitting, they’re allowing, that’s what the word “tolerate” means. It’s a pretty forceful use of the word. It just means to let something go on even though you are aware of it. It has the sense that, you know, you permit it, you have allowed it because you don’t want to make anyone angry. You want to try to get the best of both worlds. Some of this is involved in the nuance of the word and the sense of it.
So Jesus here says, “You are tolerating that woman, Jezebel.” This is what he has against them. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? It’s a hot word in our culture, tolerance. I mean, you cannot be intolerant these days, can you? What’s so funny is those who preach intolerance are very, what? They are very intolerant. The new tolerance may be the most intolerant thing I’ve ever heard, to be honest with you. Can I just pause here and say to you that I do not buy the culture’s definition of tolerance. I do buy the biblical definition of the word which I think involves, among other things, courtesy, respect, civility, politeness, as much as we can live peaceably with all men, right? Submit to those who are ruling over you Romans 13 says, so I think there is a tolerance that we should embrace that is biblical but our culture means one thing by tolerance, accept and approve, and when we can’t, we’re labeled intolerant. So I know no other way around that but to be misinterpreted and this is where I find my frustration with many churches and pastors. They try to build a bridge over that chasm. Can I say to you with all frankness, I don’t think that’s possible. There is not a bridge to be built over a chasm when they want us to approve and accept unbiblical, ungodly practices. I don’t know what that bridge is made of. I’m not that good of an engineer. I think the thing is this, do you know what? We don’t think it’s right, you think it is, you’re going to call us intolerant and we’re going to live with that. It’s a badge we wear. It’s not true. I don’t like it necessarily, but misinterpretation comes with the game sometimes, people, okay?
And this is what was driving the thing here. They could not imagine being misinterpreted as saying sexual immorality and approval of these pagan practices, that’s wrong. No, we can’t say that. We may lose our business. We may lose our funds. We may lose clients. Jesus says, “This is what I have against you, you are tolerating.” You are tolerating and he names this woman, Jezebel. Now, I don’t think the woman in this church was actually named Jezebel. She could have been, I tend to think it was a woman who was a false teacher, but I think John uses the name Jezebel harkening back to the Old Testament, and here’s why: Jezebel was a lady, a foreigner who married an Israelite king and found her way inside the people of Israel and corrupted and led them astray from the inside out. She was a poison to the people. She led them to worship Baal. She led them to practice sexual immorality. She did this all through her husband, first of all, manipulating him and threatening him by killing other Israelites. She killed a man named Naboth one time just because he wouldn’t give his vineyard. Jezebel was an insidious, poisonous infiltrator of God’s people and here’s what she did. Now I’m going to say this just once, listen to me: she used God’s mechanisms against God’s people. She actually got into the system. She was part of the group and then used that position to actually hurt God’s people. That’s why I think John calls this false prophetess a Jezebel. She had worked her way in. She had infiltrated and permeated the church and she was an insidious poisonous person bringing down God’s people. So John I think harkens back and says, “That’s just like Jezebel.”
She “called herself a prophetess and she is teaching and seducing my servants,” notice that phrase “my servants.” They were God’s people, amen? They were God’s servants and they were being seduced by this false teacher. Jesus took this very seriously. I wouldn’t mess with Jesus’ people, amen?
He says, this Jezebel, you are seducing and teaching my servants, “to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” Now, that’s the exact same thing that the doctrine of Balaam was teaching and the Nicolaitans, however, in this church’s letter, it’s in reverse order. To Pergamum, it was food sacrificed to idols and then sexual immorality. Here at Thyatira, he says it is sexual immorality and then food to idols. What’s the difference? I think it’s simply a matter of what I would call emphasis. Here’s my opinion on this and some would see no difference in the list, I do. I think in Pergamum the outside pressure to compromise was great and so they joined in the festivities to pagan gods, they kind of went to the festivals and the different services, they ate the food, they partook of the meals. “Yeah, we’re okay with worshiping Zeus. Yeah, we’re okay with that.” Then that led to sexual immorality. That’s what took place at the festivals and so when you drop that first barrier, they probably thought, “Ah,” and I don’t want to use the word they got caught in it but it was like one thing led to another. But in Jezebel’s situation, in the case at Thyatira, I think the end game has always been sexual immorality and this false prophetess whether her name was Jezebel or not, I think her goal was to corrupt them sexually and she did that through feasts and festivals to pagan gods. So I see it as really the Jezebel situation, she’s more emphasizing and prioritized around illicit unbiblical sex whereas in the one at Pergamum, it may have been more about honoring a false God and they ended up in illicit sex. That’s my opinion on that. Either way, we have the same result and that is the judgment of Christ on them.
Notice what he says about his judgment on Jezebel personally, he says, “I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation.” Now, notice something about this, first of all, the judgment on Jezebel seems final. The sense of this verse is, “I gave Jezebel time to repent. She did not so here is her judgment, I’m throwing her onto a sickbed.” And incidentally, the very bed in which she thought she was enjoying the pleasure of sex, that very bed was the very bed that took her life. The word “sickbed” here is that place of terminal illness. It’s where you lay a corpse. It’s where you lay someone who is dying. There is no hope. Throw them in the sickbed. Make no mistake, the sin that you think is so alluring, so satisfying, really has a noose around your neck. It will strangle the life out of you if you tolerate it. That’s why I have been encouraging you for years, don’t manage your sin, let Jesus kill it.
He says, “I gave Jezebel time to repent, she did not so here’s what I’m going to do.” But to her followers, he seems to be extending the opportunity for repentance. Do you see that? Because he uses the phrase, “unless they repent,” in verse 22. Then notice this striking use of a pronoun here, “unless they repent of her works.” The sense of these verses is, “I’m done with Jezebel. She has crossed the line. Her works have proven what she is. I’ll judge her. If you’ve been seduced by her teachings, there is still time if you will repent of what she is going to be judged for.” That’s kind of the sense of these verses.
Here is what is so beautiful about this church, listen very carefully, three times in these few sentences, the word “repent” is used, and we hear repent in our culture, preachers who preach repentance, they can be labeled as hard, narrow, but can I say to you without any sense of timidity or shame, repentance is a beautiful word. Do you know why? Here is what repentance means: it does mean to change your mind and your actions but what and who enables repentance? It’s God. In fact, we’re told to pray that God would grant repentance to those who are still lost. So watch this, church, listen very carefully, don’t miss this: repentance is a beautiful picture of God’s graciousness to us; that you plunging headlong into sin, proceeding down your lost and wayward way just like me, not giving God a second thought but enjoying your sin, not knowing it’s going to strangle you and drag you to hell, God in the middle of that reached down to you and said, “I’m going to turn you around.” And he gifts you with repentance. He regenerates you. Why would God do that? Out of his gracious love for us.
So can I just ask you to change your mind about the word “repentance”? Can you repent of a wrong view of repentance? Man, repentance is the word that describes for us the gracious act of God in mercifully saving us from hell. It’s what we do, yes. It’s his work in us and so when we respond, it kind of how it shows up in our life, but I will preach repentance until these lungs give out. Man, repentance and faith are necessary. Does that make sense, guys? So we embrace repentance. We call people to repent. In fact, I think it’s Paul that said, “God commands everyone everywhere to repent.” Why would his messengers speak any less? So we repent to salvation. We turn from sin. We change our mind. By the way, we repent on a daily, weekly fashion. We repent individually. We repent corporately. Repentance, man, that’s the clothes we wear. We repent in our small groups. We are sharing. We get close and personal. What does James say? “Confess your faults one to another.” I mean, guys, can we just embrace the fact that repentance should not be a word that is strange to us. Repentance should be like, “Oh, that’s the word that tells me how much God loved me. He saved me. He picked me up out of the miry pit.” I love repentance, don’t you? You should say yes to that, right? Man, repentance, what a beautiful work of God’s word.
This is what he’s calling them to, to repentance or else his judgment. He says that when he does judge Jezebel and then those who follow her with great tribulation, I think that’s an eschatological meaning, by the way, that there is something still to come of a great tribulation in nature. I don’t know all the details, something we hold somewhat loosely in regards to end times. But there does seem to be some type of indication there that there is a future thing for this church if they don’t repent. It’s synonymous with this idea of striking her children dead in verse 23.
All of these are scary phrases but when this occurs, to those who don’t repent, the churches will know that I am he who does what? “Searches mind and heart, and will give to each of you according to your works.” That’s an interesting phrase, that here’s God, here’s Jesus who with his eyes from afar can look through any kind of façade to the real issue and then he will give us according to our works. Who is the “us” in this passage? Is it you? I think not. I think to be textually correct and accurate, the word “but” in verse 24 prevents me from attaching the last phrase of 23 to anyone who is a genuine believer because God is not going to judge you according to your works if you repent. If you repent, God will judge you according to whose work? Christ’s. But this passage says that if Jezebel, since she didn’t repent and then her children, if they don’t repent, he will give to each of them according to their works and what will their works demand? An eternal payment in hell. That’s what all of our sinful works demand if we don’t repent because how else can an unholy rebellious person towards a holy infinite God, how can those two ever match if there is not a payment for sin? They can’t and as a finite sinful being, you’ll never fill up the payment for your sin thus that’s why I believe in the eternity of hell. It’s a continuous payment from an unholy person towards a holy God.
But here’s a much better alternative, church, repent and let the work of Christ fill up all of God’s wrath against your sin. Why does his work suffice and yours never will? Because he was holy. He was God and God gave himself to us at Calvary and when he died and said, “It is finished,” for all who believe and repent, your sin will never ever be held against you. Amen? That’s good news. So I don’t believe that he’s speaking here to Christians, I think he’s speaking here to those who proved not to be Christians. They don’t repent and he will actually give them according to their works which is what? Payment in hell.
Verse 24 describes those who actually weren’t buying into this false teaching though, which is why I think they won’t be judged according to their works, they’ll be judged according to Christ’s work. He says in verse 24, “But to the rest of you in Thyatira,” here’s the other part of the divided congregation. You have not held to this teaching, you have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan. He is commending them again, much like verse 19. He says to them, “I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast to what you have until I come.” Now, here’s what I think he’s saying here, I think the burden he’s laying on them is the burden of holding fast. You might could read it like this, I think this is a correct textual rendering, “I do not lay on you any other burden than this, only hold fast to what you have until I come.”
And what did they have and what were they doing while they were holding fast? Look at the next verse, “The one who conquers and who keeps my works.” I pause there, do you see the word “my works” in verse 26? What were they commended for in verse 19? Doing what? Works that were out of love and faith. Here’s what God is saying, “If you’re in this church and you have not given into the seduction of Jezebel, these false teachings, just keep doing what you’re doing. Hold that fast. Keep serving me. Keep serving others in love. Keep enduring in faith and when I come it will be worth it. Don’t trade eternity for the momentary.”
That’s why the remainder of this chapter really speaks of this idea of sharing with Christ’s authority. It’s a great trade, church, can I just say that to you? It’s a great trade to fight sin, to resist sin, to ward off false doctrine, to say no to Satan. That’s a worthy trade for the authority that Christ will share with us in the end. It’s definitely a long-term benefit in some short-term pain, alright? It’s not easy in the short-term.
Look at what he says here, though, “if you conquer and you keep my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earth and pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. I will give him the morning star. And if you have an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” We could analyze these phrases, they do speak somewhat of the kingdom rule of Christ. By the way, regardless of your view of the kingdom whether it’s the timing of it or how you see it figuratively or literally, we would all agree with this, that there is a reigning with Christ that we will do. Those who endure to the end will reign with Christ so let’s not let minor preferences about timing or symbols take us off track. Christ says this, “It is worth it to endure. It’s not worth it to trade eternal sharing of authority with Christ for momentary enjoyment of sin. It’s just not worth it.” You see, this is the poison that tolerance brings to us. “Oh, it’s okay. Accommodate sin. Live with it.” But it’s actually a noose around our neck. It’s actually a poison that kills us in the end. How much better to hold fast what we have, orthodox solid doctrine backed up by orthopraxy, a solid life, and to keep hold of that and to keep doing that until he comes and then share in that authority as bright morning stars. This is what he is called, by the way, earlier and later in Revelation. A beautiful picture of Christ’s willingness to share his authority with us in the coming consummated kingdom.
So here are these verses and there are a lot of them in this letter. What do they say to us? I think in a nutshell that tolerance in the church is a poison and it is short-term enjoyment being traded for long-term judgment. But if we flip-flop that, if we can deal with sin in the church that we are allowing in the church and we won’t tolerate it, then we have long-term enjoyment with Christ and only short-term pain. That’s always the trade-off, church. Are you listening to me? Bearing your cross now and following Christ, yeah, that’s short-term pain for long-term gain and it’s always the devil who tries to switch them. Remember what Moses said in the book of Hebrews? It’s said about Moses actually that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, ah, last three words, “for a season.” And the devil always wants to make you think, “Hey, this is the life.” What he means to say to you is, “This is the life that leads to death,” but he doesn’t tell you the last part. He didn’t tell Adam and Eve that either, by the way. “Yeah, eat it, you’ll be good, you’ll be like God. Oh, I forgot to tell you that when you eat it, you’re going to start dying.” The devil is always lying to you. He’s the father of lies so he tries to seduce you with momentary enjoyment thinking, “Hey, I can probably hold these two incompatible things, unbiblical sexual conduct, unbiblical societal approval, yeah, I can hold these things and still follow Christ.” That’s the devil lying right to your face to try to drag you to hell. Say no to short-term deception. Say no to the poison of tolerance and yes to the eternal benefits that Christ offers.
Let’s put it in a single sentence, can we? I’ve got to wrap this up here pretty soon. Let’s see if we can kind of put our hands around a way to kind of say all this. In fact, you can leave out the middle phrase, I only inserted that because it helps us identify and kind of speaks to the exact text here but the truth is the parts around it are true even moreso. Let’s read it together, can we? Accommodation and tolerance of sin in the church to avoid the cost of identifying with Christ, is short-lived deception that ends in long-term destruction. Now, let’s leave out the middle phrase, can we do that? Because I think it’s true, it’s most accurate based on the text. Thyatira, the trade guilds, the labor unions, they were really pressured to give in. I think this fits with that passage but in an applicational way, we could just take out from the words “to” to the word “Christ” and it would speak to us just as well. In fact, let’s try that. Can you do this on the fly? Let’s try, ready? Accommodation and tolerance of sin in the church is short-lived deception that ends in long-term destruction. And tolerating sin in the church is a poison. That’s why – watch this, church – that’s why even with kindness and politeness and courtesy and respect and civility, we don’t have room to just cave on issues that God has settled, and I’ll use the ones in the text, sexual issues that God has settled. We don’t have the right or prerogative to adjust those so the church fits in. We don’t get to add genders. We don’t get to add bathrooms, okay? We don’t get to add types of marriages. We don’t get to add different elements of who you can and can’t love. When God has spoken, ours is to proclaim his message, not adjust it. To do differently is to tolerate sin and that will end in long-term destruction.
It is the job of leaders and the job of the church to call this out in the church and notice what I just said: in the church. In fact, if you were to ask me, “Todd, identify the most important words in our take home truth,” I would say it’s the words “in the church,” because you see, we sometimes think that dealing with sin and handling our tolerance issues starts by engaging the culture and I completely disagree. The way to deal with sin and the tolerance problems in our culture is to examine the church. This is exactly what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5. In fact, Paul in a rhetorical fashion asked this question that some of you and I, we might even feel free to ask but he asked it, he says, “What have I got to do with judging outsiders?” Can you see him just kind of smirking and saying this? 1 Corinthians 5. Then he says, “Hey, do you know what? It’s not my job to judge on the outside. God will judge those. Our job is to examine the church.” And here’s where we have gone astray, here’s where our tolerance is poisoning us: churches that allow sexual misconduct and I speak here specifically in the text that we’re looking at, sexual misconduct and practices that are unbiblical in the church are not to be tolerated but we don’t address that by pointing fingers out there to the culture. We should address that by asking ourselves where are we tolerating this sin? Does that make sense, guys? It’s hard preaching, I know. We mentioned it last week. We’re kind of hitting it again this week but our job is to make sure that we’re not accommodating sin and allowing and approving it in the church. What did you expect from the culture after all, right? They are pagan. They are lost. That’s what they do, they sin, but we’re distinctly different inside and out. I didn’t say better, we’re different. By God’s Spirit we’ve been regenerated and we don’t live like the old man so the church should be distinctly, radically different; called out from the culture. Yes, you should be clear that you’re a Christian. This is what it means to not be tolerant, not so much pointing the finger out there but being one to put yourself under a microscope and say, “God, purge from us those who would allow and accommodate sin because in the end that poison will destroy this church.” This is what church discipline is all about. I know it’s not a popular topic but it’s part of the Bible and so lovingly we walk through it with people, alright?
A few more things and then I’ll need to move on. I need to wrap this up. I keep saying that. I’ll try. I don’t know. We’ll get to it. I want to clarify something with you and you can leave that slide here, Maryanne. That’s fine. I’ll get to that in a second. I don’t know that the issue is sin in the church. We say that phrase a lot but I don’t know that they had a problem with that because the truth is, this gathered crowd means there’s sin in the church. The fact that you’re here, guess what? There is sin in the church. The fact that I’m its pastor? We’ve got sin in the church, okay? The question is unrepentant allowed sin in the church. Could you agree with that? And that’s where churches go astray. We all deal with sin everyday. On our knees before God, we deal with sin through the cross and the power of Christ. Hallelujah! It’s when we refuse to deal with sin and start allowing it and accommodating it and approving it that we become a tolerating church. So don’t ever be afraid to bring your brokenness to God. Church, listen to me: don’t ever be afraid to lay your sins out. I even say this as I know it’s true. To your church family, to God, our Chief Shepherd, don’t ever be afraid to say, to confess. Nobody deals with sin better than Jesus, amen? What should scare you is when we stop dealing with our sin in the church.
Now, speaking of compromise and tolerance and the idea of not dealing with sin, here are four things I think will help us. These are taken from this letter and the letter of last week but I’ve kind of succinctly just listed them in this way. We should, first of all, guard the leadership gate. Hey, no Balaams and no Jezebels, alright? You don’t get to lead here. We’re going to watch the leadership gate. We’re going to stick to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1. If you want to lead, you’re going to have to hold to orthodox doctrine, have a life that’s met the standards. That’s what elders and deacons are required to do. We’re not dropping the bar. I have discovered that lowering the bar for leaders means you’re crushing the people. So we’re going to maintain a high bar, we’re going to guard the leadership gate just like the New Testament calls us to do.
We’re going to inspect all competing doctrine. We’re going to be like the Bereans. First Family Berean Church, okay? And if you bring something to the table, if you say, “Here’s a new book I read, here’s this new thing, can I teach it?” We’re going to say, “Well, let’s check it by the Scriptures.” And if it is in error with orthodox doctrine that is taught in the Bible, if it doesn’t match up with what’s revealed by the apostles and prophets, guess what? We’re throwing it out, okay? We’re going to inspect all competing doctrine because we don’t want to err towards poison or pressure on the outside.
Identify God’s people. That’s right, and if you don’t think this is a true action point, read 1 John. The man who wrote Revelation also said in 1 John that here is how you can know if someone is a Christian, they believe that Christ came in the flesh and they love God and they love man and they hate sin. John in five chapters calls out genuine Christians. This is why I love so much what we’re doing in this series with reading creeds. We’re hearing you say in creed and living out in your conduct what has been taught in the Bible for centuries and you’re saying it together as a corporate body. It’s beautiful. It’s a little strange for some of you. You’re like, “I don’t think I’ve ever done this before.” You’re singing songs that you didn’t know were written back in the 1300s or the 800s or in the 1800s but do you know what? It’s showing that we have a lot in common with those who have gone before us and we’re calling and identifying God’s people because they believe in creed and behave in conduct just like the Bible says. Let’s identify them, amen? Let’s call them out.
And lastly, lift up Christ’s character and conduct and really this should be the first point because churches only make progress as Christ is pre-eminent, and you will never leave behind all of the idols mentioned in Thyatira and in Pergamum, you’ll never let go of all of those incompatible objects unless you see Christ clearly which will lead you to treasuring him supremely. The reason a lot of churches don’t treasure Christ supremely and they often look for other idols is because they have never seen him clearly but Revelation is the apocalypse of Jesus. It’s the unveiling of our Savior and that’s why in every one of these letters he’s describing certain ways and I just want to make sure that we lift that up as much as we can. Here is Christ as the fair, accurate, just and final Judge. Let’s see him clearly and then let’s hold fast to him dearly.
I think these four things will help us as we continue to thwart compromise and tolerance that wants to invade us from our culture and poison us.
You’re listening to a message delivered at First Family Church from the series “When Ancient Meets Current: The Seven Churches in Revelation.” For more sermons and resources, visit firstfamily.church.