Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sermon--Revelation 2:12-17--Jesus Walks In Pergamum

Revelation 2:12-17 Letter to Pergamum

Gov. Rick Perry said recently that Texans who are legally licensed should be able to carry their concealed handguns anywhere, including churches, bars, courthouses and college campuses.

“I think it makes sense for Texans to be able to protect themselves from deranged individuals, whether they’re in church, or whether on a college campus or wherever they are,” he said.“The idea that you’re going to exempt them from a particular place is nonsense to me.”

Religious leaders argue against guns in church

Bill would allow conceal-and-carry option for those OK'd, trained

Three bishops representing 200,000 Kansans denounced Thursday a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons into houses of worship.

United Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal bishops said in a joint statement to legislators that a Senate-passed bill should be amended to include churches on the list of places where people couldn't take concealed guns.Private entities, such as churches, could prohibit concealed weapons on their property if they placed conspicuous signs declaring that policy."

The idea of someone armed in church makes me uncomfortable. What if my sermon is too long? We also need to realize that we do have someone who is armed in church with us today. Jesus is armed—and He doesn’t try to hide the fact—though we usually ignore the fact.

He walks among the Church with a Sword—He is armed—this should be a good argument to use for those in TX where they want the conceal and carry law to apply to churches as well.

1:16--16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

This is Jesus as we rarely see Him or look at Him. He is no longer defenseless, He is no longer like the sheep before the shearers—no longer unarmed. He is not a wimp.

He carries a double edged sword—which in many ways symbolic of Life & Death. The weapon Jesus wields is not the same as one held by the nations—it is held in His mouth. His weapon is His word.

Sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God—Ephesians 6:17-- Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Sharper than any double edged sword—Hebrews 4:12-- For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This sword acts more like a surgical scalpel that can slice away the diseased tissue, leaving the good and healthy parts behind. Jesus carries a sword for a couple of reasons. One because.Jesus walks among us and knows the Spiritual Darkness of the Community

He knows we’re in a bad neighborhood.

Where Satan has His throne—could be a throne to Zeus, the 2 Emperor temples, or the god of Healing, Asklepius, who had a temple that was practically the Mayo Clinic of the ancient world—More and more, I’m beginning to think this was the one that John was referring to.

This god was represented by a serpent wrapped around a pole—sometimes the god would be holding it like a staff—other times it would stand alone. The god was supposed to be the patron of physicians and healers—to bring life back from those dying. Interesting that the serpent in the earliest biblical text does not bring life, but death—so there is a reversal—something is worshipped as a bringer of life when the serpent brought death to all of creation.

Progression of pictures--the god held a staff with a snake curved around it.It could also be represented merely with the snake curved around the pole.In some depictions, they are place 2 snakes entwined around a pole with flying creatures on either side.Perhaps it will look more familiar in a modern context.

this same serpent-staff concept was adopted by the American Medical Association in its development of the symbol "Caduceus," which looks something like a winged flagpole about which a pair of serpents is entwined.

He knows the persecution, the death, the ridicule, the hardship and the faithfulness. He knows everything about the situation they are living in and He commends them for remaining faithful through it all by not abandoning their faith in Christ.

The city of Pergamum had a tremendous spiritual darkness in control—one strongly opposed to faith in Christ. It was a stronghold of evil, of idolatry. Jesus knew exactly what they were up against. And He commended them for remaining faithful even in the face of persecution and execution.

Once again we see that faith in Christ does not remove us from Darkness, rather our faith may take us into the heart of Darkness.

Listen to Jesus’ verdict-- John 3:19—“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

The smallest light is blinding in total darkness. And we are called to be Light in the Darkness—Ephesians 5:8--For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

In the same way, I know Jesus walks among us here In Macomb and knows the Spiritual Darkness in our Community. It may not be as violent, it may not be as deadly or physically dangerous, but it is still spiritually dangerous and there is still an indifference to the things of God. Jesus walks up and down our streets and sees the drunkenness, the avoidance, the neglect, the abuse. He also sees the pain, the hurt, the fear—all those things that take us away from the true and living God—He sees, He knows, He is aware of the obstacles we face.

His desire is that we not remain in Darkness. John 12:44--Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

Colossians 1:13--For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He knows we live in a rough neighborhood—and He is armed, but not just for out there.

Jesus Walks Among Us Even With Our Compromises

In spite of all this great faithfulness, this unwillingness to walk away from Christ—what they were able to withstand physically, they were not so faithful spiritually. And in many ways, Jesus could not look at one and ignore the other.

I hold this against you

Rev. 2:14-15—NASB-- “But have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”

This is a church that has compromised either in Belief or Behavior

What is John referring to when he talks about the teaching of Balaam and Balak—it depends on who you read and talk to. There are all kinds of attempts to identify exactly what it is. I believe they are missing the point. The specific teaching is not as important as the result—becoming a stumbling block for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

In this particular instance—it had to do with their previous life in paganism—would they leave it behind and follow Jesus exclusively or would they play both sides of the fence? Every day they had before them the choice—just walking through the market gave it to them. Do I claim the name of Christ and live just like I always lived—or do I let Christ Change Me?

Those that tried to live with no real change were making it hard on all the others. They were becoming stumbling blocks in the larger church.

Stumbling Block to your brothers (NASB, HCSB)—

RO 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

RO 15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

1CO 8:4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

1CO 8:7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

1CO 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

1CO 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God-- 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

2CO 6:3 We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.

I am convinced that the principle is what is important for us today, more than identifying the particular false practice or deceit. The problem is the attitude and immaturity and over-indulgence of the Christians practicing it—by claiming freedom, by claiming “it won’t hurt anyone”, by claiming God’s standards of righteousness don’t matter in this day of Grace, by not leaving behind things we are called to leave behind, we are compromising our faith and become a stumbling block—to people coming to faith at all, to people truly struggling to be who Christ has called them to be..

By eating food sacrificed to idols—going on with their pagan life as if X had not changed them—they were not considerate of those who had given them up and were still coming to grips with the fact that these are false, that they are not even real.

Much of the pagan worship and lifestyle was centered around sex and promiscuity—it was ritualized and socially expected. That kind of ritual had to be left behind in faithfulness to X. Those things are not compatible with the Xn faith

Perhaps they thought they were strong enough and could resist the temptation so they could still go to the parties and ceremonies. Perhaps they thought it was no big deal—they wouldn’t compromise themselves despite the fact that everyone who saw them there assumed they would. Perhaps they thought that type of behavior was ok for the church and they wanted the church was becoming just another place to hook up with new partners

You may be looking at me funny right now, b/c the world has certainly changed. We don’t deal with the idols, we don’t deal with sex as a competitive worship—those are not stumbling blocks for us.

But we haven’t changed so much that we cannot be a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters in Christ, either in belief or in behavior.

How many times have you had a drink in your hand and someone thought it was alcohol, or thought you were drinking to get drunk. Alcohol is not evil in and of itself—but our culture has a problem with it, college students, many of your friends have a problem with it—and if they see you as a Christian—they’re going to assume that you’re doing the exact same thing they are. It becomes a stumbling block to unbelievers and believers—with their own indulgence or their increasing judgmentalism.

How many times have you suggested, shown or gone to the movies with crude, degrading humor, with excessive cursing, with sex and violence. You’re lying to yourself if you think it has no effect on your spirit. You’re lying to yourself if it doesn’t cause some confusion in the hearts and minds of those who are impressionable.

How many times have you spoken of a prayer need, and proceeded to gossip about someone else’s life?

How many times have you become a stumbling block to a brother or sister in Christ who looks to you for maturity, for leadership, for the example of what a Christian is supposed to be—and they are reeling because they cannot reconcile this claim of Jesus Christ and this behavior.

For us to be true, faithful, overcoming Witnesses—we must not be compromised in Belief or Behavior

The enemy is not always “out there” it is also within

We complain about the world “out there” and the culture in decline when we tolerate the culture of the church declining—the church that is Compromising. We are no different. We divorce the same, abuse the same, lie, cheat & steal the same, cuss the same. It can be pastors, deacons, leaders, lay members—just know that Jesus walks among our compromises and He sees them clearly.

The sword Jesus holds is not just for the world out there, but the life of the church “in here”. Jesus walks among us, even with our weaknesses—but His goal is to root out our compromises so we may live true to Him. The Victors are the ones He fights for, not against.—the sword separates, it disciplines, it escorts out those who are unwilling to conform their lives to the holiness of Christ—much like the whip He used to cleanse the Temple.

Belief and Behavior both must be true to Christ—do we believe things that are contrary to true faith in Christ, do we believe the right things but fail to live the right way?

Once again, the remedy is repentance—once again it is turning away from one way of life and believing and living an uncompromised faith that does not cause anyone else to stumble.

The only stumbling block that people should have is the Cross, the Resurrection—it is a “stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”—1 Peter 1:8

The Cure for our Compromise is Repentance

Jesus Walks Among us with Promise

Hidden Manna—the Bread of Life, Hidden Fellowship—the blessing that the rest of the world may not see, recognize or understand. This is the blessing of Fellowship—or God’s full and abundant provision—His sustaining when everything else has been taken away. Where they were not to compromise and participate at the pagan festivals, where they suffered socially b/c they wouldn’t party like they would; the faithful are fully and completely welcome at the table of Christ and true fellowship with God.

White Stone—in the day when emperor worship was mandatory—they would give out some kind of marker saying you have done your duty to sacrifice at the temple. They needed this in order to be full citizens to buy, sell or trade. It was like a driver’s license or a Membership Card. In some cases, it would bear the name of the emperor and was good for one year. To carry such a document, or in some cases a stone was Proof of their loyalty and fidelity to the pagan gods. To not have it could cause arrest or fine.

This stone was a stone of compromise and one which would do nothing for their eternity or relationship with God. They will be given their own stone by faithfully following Christ. It is a stone of promise, that will never expire, that will grant them access to Almighty God. With this stone, unknown to the world, known to those who believe, they will ensure full participation in the True Kingdom of God and they will not be excluded

New Name—New Name—the Name of the True Emperor & Creator of the Universe. That stone is supposed to be the cornerstone of the temple of your heart—and it has the name of your Savior written on it signifying that you are an Uncompromised, Unashamed Temple of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God.

I hope that Foundation Stone has been laid in your life. Everything else that survives into eternity will be built off of that foundation. If you are trying to build on your own name—the structure will fall—but if you are building on the Rock of Christ Jesus—nothing will shake it.

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