The Church of Pergamum

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Historical Background

Missions month.
RFD yesterday
Next week Pat is visiting to talk about the ministry.
RFD offering next week
Life Choice Pregnancy Center baby wipes supplier
Let’s read the passage first and then see how it fits with the historical context.
Revelation 2:12–17 ESV
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Capital city of Asia Minor
Had the authority, from the Roman government, to carry out capital punishment by the sword. Jesus says that He is the one with the sharp two-edged sword
Central place of worship of pagan gods
The alter to Zeus called their savior looks like a huge throne. It sat high on the top of the hill over looking the city. There was nowhere that you could go in the city without seeing this alter.
So, when Jesus calls it the city of satan, he was clearly aware of the pressure from the city to worship gods other than the one true God.

Be a church that stands strong in the face of external pressure.

We see that Christians are being strongly persecuted here.
We see a church that faithful witnesses stand strong even to the point of martyrdom.
Imagine the honor of being named a martyr by Jesus in God’s holy word...
Jesus tells that that they have not denied His name even when that happens.
Have you thought about who its worse for. Imagine a Christian leader right here in this community get murdered by the government, right here. Death maybe painful and life on earth maybe over but it is quick and your stood strong even to the end.
However, to see that happen to one that you love and know that you could be next, must have been really difficult. You look at your family and imagine how they would be if you were gone. You think about how difficult it would be on your children. What if they were next? All I would have to do is deny my faith. What if I said it and didn’t mean it?
Seeing someone killed for the sake of Christ and knowing that you and your family could be next must be incredibly pressure to deny your faith and protect yourself and your family.
But Jesus commends them for standing strong. Those who weren’t killed, did not deny His name. That took extremely strong faith and strength.
I’ll say it again that we in America do not know persecution or face martyrdom like theses men and women did. However, there are Christians in the world today that are being killed for their faith!
According to a 2021 study, 4,761 Christians were martyred for their faith across the world. That is up 60% from a 2019 study. Christians all over Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Congo are point blank being asked who they believe in and are being killed on the spot. This does not include the larger number of injuries, imprisonments, denial of resources, and churches that are attacked across the world.
We have to admit that we live in a safe little bubble protected from this. We are not pushed with the pressure to be strong enough to stand firm in the face of being killed for the sake of Christ.
Now, we can see that as a good thing or a bad thing. Its a good thing in that we are not facing death and persecution and your children are safe but its a bad thing because lack of pressure causes us to be relax and complacent in our faith.
It is a proven point throughout history, that pressure and persecution in a county causes Christianity to spread like wildfire. It grows and explodes. People grasp the complete surrender taught in scripture because they know what they are risking and they know that Jesus is worth it. They experience peace, love and provision is deep ways that others can see in their lives and people desire in their live. And the gospel explodes in places like China, North Korea, and Africa.
Pressure causes us to lean into the Lord and grow and trust Him more. No pressure and complacency is a recipe for lazy Christianity.
Now, I as a pastor can stand up here and say that “we as a church are going to stand strong in face of external pressure.” But that is not a “we” decision. We are a congregation of individuals. I can say it and teach it but you have to choose it and live it. While it is my job to challenge you to grow your faith and show you ways to be strong in the face of persecution, its your job to live it! I can’t make that decision for you! I can only make it for myself.
What is clear, is that Jesus desires us to be strong and faithful in the face of persecution and martyrdom. If that is coming for us, will you be ready?
Are you growing in your faith? Are you pushing into surrendering all that you have for Him? Are you making the decision that Jesus is worth dying for?

Truth is freedom

Verses 14-16
Jesus commends them on standing strong in the face of external pressure but he has against them that they are not standing strong in the face of internal pressure.
Balaam is a reference to Numbers Chapters 18-25. The story of Balaam’s donkey and his prophecies. Balaam was a prophet that was called to curse the Israelites by the Moab king before the Israelites entered into the promised land and conquered the people there. Its an interesting story in that Balaam couldn’t curse the people of Israel but he did convince Balak the king to let his women go and seduce the Israelite men. The Israelites were not supposed to do that but there was a stumbling block put in their way and Lord had to punish them because they did stay faithful to the commands or the truth that the Lord told them through Moses.
In the same way, it seems, some in this church were listening to things other than the truth. Men were standing up inside the church and teaching things other than the truth that was taught.
Nicolaus was one of these men. Jesus also referenced hating his teaching in the letter to the church is Ephesus.
Nicolaus was a man that they should have been able to trust. Scholars believe that this is the same Nicolaus from Acts chapter 6. That he was one of the 7 men ordained to feed the Hellenistic widows alongside Stephen, the first martyr in Christendom.
He was chosen by God to be in the service of the church but he was at some point seduced by compromise and a doctrine other than the truth.
The two specific areas of compromise that Jesus points out is eating animals sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality.
Eating animals was a common compromise that was made or taught in the early church, apparently. Paul addresses this exact issue to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians chapter 8.
It was common in that day to have a social dinner or business dinner and to start that dinner, they would sacrifice an animal to a false idol of their choosing. It was custom to burn some of that animal to the god and then feed and eat the rest of the meat for dinner.
The argument of compromise was basically, whats the harm? Its a false idol made of wood or metal. Its not really worship because its not really a god.
However, the custom to eat that meat was a custom of showing that you are in alignment with the worship and belief of that god. It is a perception issue that Paul talks about being a stumbling block to others.
But there is another aspect to this, we must consider. To align yourself with a god other than Yhwh God, moves things in the heavenly realm. That god may be false but the enemy, who is real, has been successful is getting you to honor someone other that the one true God. And we shall have no other god before Him.
While eat the meat at dinners and parties got you into the business of that community and not eating caused you to be pushed out of the business world, Jesus is stating that choosing between worshiping a false god and being successful in business, should be a no brainer for us.
In such a pagan community, sexual immorality was rampant and deeply apart of that culture. Many of these believers in this early church were coming out of that pagan lifestyle. So, when someone comes and preaches compromise. It must have sounded great to them!
The same for our current society. We live in a community that sexual immorality runs rampant. And just the same as in the early church, people are coming to Christ from that society. And church leaders the world are saying that it is acceptable to compromise away from the truth that God created sex and created it to be enjoyed in the marriage between a man and woman. Of course, that must sounds great to the world today.
But Jesus is calling us to repentance. Jesus is calling us to not compromise against truth. He is not calling us to hate those who do because remember that if you lust after someone in your heart you have commited adultery. He is calling us to love all of our brothers and sisters but not to compromise in the speaking of truth.
Its not an accident that Jesus calls Himself in the beginning of this letter “the words of Him who has the sharp two-edged sword.”
This references chapter 1 verse 16 and Rev Chapter 19 verse 15.
This also a reference to Jesus
John 14:6 ESV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 1:14 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Its also a reference to
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Jesus is obviously a huge proponent of the truth! He can not stand lies.
In fact, He says
Revelation 2:16 ESV
Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Jesus says that He is going to war against them! Why such strong words?
Because lies cause enslavement.
Darrell Johnson says,
“Why does Jesus speak this way? Why is Jesus so intolerant? Because Jesus loves truth, He speaks truth, He is truth. And because falsehood and deception of any kind enslaves people. Jesus is passionately intolerant because He is passionately intolerant of people being enslaved. And He is particularly intolerant when it is done in His name.”
John 8:31–32 ESV
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Lies cause enslavement but the truth sets us free! Jesus is willing to fight over it.
We must be a church that stands for the truth from external pressure and internal pressure. We must not compromise the truth in God’s word.
It is my job to as pastor to protect and stand for truth inside the church. We have policy at our church that in order to teach in any capacity, weather its adults, youth, or children, you must be a member of the church. This isn’t just to get you on a list but membership class is a class on what we believe is truth as a church. You hear what we believe and why we believe it. You can ask questions or decide you disagree. But in order to teach, I as the pastor and shepherd of this church must make sure that the teachers of this church agree with the truth. We are doing our best to not allow lies and false teaching to come from within our church, just as Jesus is warning us from here.
So, even after this message, if you have questions or want to discuss what we believe, I would love to sit down with you and discuss that.
We are going to be having a membership class on November 6th at our Columbia Campus. I am going to be leading that class. You are welcome to come listen. There is no pressure at the end to sign and become a member. We encourage you to pray about that before making that decision.
We are also going to do one down here is February.
Sorry brief announcement.
There is one more point, I believe the Lord wants us to grab a hold of here.
In our minds and in our lives, we are assaulted with lies from both external pressures and internal pressures.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the importance of holding everything that you listen to up to the standard of truth that is God’s Word. Hold me accountable to that. Hold Facebook preachers to that. Hold books that you read and bible studies to that. Hold words of advice to that.
As we allow people to speak into our lives, we should stand strong on truth and reject lies that try to come in.
But some of the worse lies that I listen to are from within my own thoughts. Weather its from temptations of my flesh, lies of my own insecurities, lies about judgmental thoughts about others, and lies about arguments in my head that have never happened! Anyone else have an entire fight with your spouse or someone in your mind and get mad and they never said a single word??
We as Christ followers must do what what He said in John 8:31-32
John 8:31–32 ESV
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We must abide in His word. We must meditate on His word, day and night. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God and it is how we fight the lies from external pressure and internal pressure.
The challenge is this today.
We must be a church that is ready and willing to give our lives to Jesus and for His kingdom. We must grow in our faith and grow in His strength to able to stand against all of the external pressure that is to come.
We all must be abiding in His Word. In order to fight lies in our lives, in our families, and in our church, we must all be so absorbed in God’s Word that we will be able to stand together against lies that can rise up even in here.
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