421: The Wicked Witch of Thyatira

421: The Wicked Witch of Thyatira

The Lord said some rather horrific things about the church at Thyatira.  In fact, His words to this sinning church should strike fear in all of us who have leadership positions in our own church.  Consider the following:

“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.  Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.  I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts.  And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:20-23).


The Sin of Thyatira

So what was the sin of Thyatira?  Was it Jezebel, or the teaching of Jezebel that led God’s people into sin?  Or was it the sin itself?  Was it the sexual immorality and idolatry the church freely embraced?

No, as sobering as it sounds, the sin in Thyatira was not Jezebel.  It was the church, and the leadership of the church, that allowed the teaching of Jezebel into the church.  They were asleep at the wheel.  There was no watchman on the wall.  No guard at the gate of the church.  No protective shepherd watching over the sheep.  Nothing.

So what does this say about our leadership today that allows all sorts of sin and false teaching into the church just to give the appearance of growth or vitality or acceptance by the culture?  What does it say about the prosperity gospel or multi-campus mega-churches or rock concerts disguised as worship experiences?  Where do we fit into all of this?

If you are concerned about how this letter to Thyatira applies to the church of today, then keep listening.

The following is a study on the Lord’s letter to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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419:  Thyatira – The Church of Sin and Corruption

419: Thyatira – The Church of Sin and Corruption

In our Lord’s seven letters to His seven churches, He says both good and bad things about three of the churches (Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira).  Two churches have only good things said about them (Smyrna and Philadelphia) and two have only bad (Sardis and Laodicea).  And when we look at how these seven letters lay out for us church history in advance, we would assume the church that represents the Medieval church, the church of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church, would have only bad things said about it.

But that’s not what happens.  In fact, incredulously, the Lord says some pretty good things about the church at Thyatira, which represents the Catholic church (along with some pretty bad things too).  For example:

“I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first” – Revelation 2:19.

Note this is the first time the Lord commends a church for their love (agapē).  Love?  How can He say that about a church known for corruption, false doctrine and the Inquisition?  And then He says the church that represents the Catholic church is actually getting better.  After all, our Lord says, “I know your works” and “the last are more than the first.”  Really?  How can that be?

How can the Lord have anything good to say about a church filled with so much corruption and have nothing good to say about the church (Sardis) that shed their own blood to remove themselves from that corruption?  How is that possible?  Is there something we’re missing?

I think so.  To find out more, keep listening.

The following is a study on the Lord’s letter to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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416:  The Church in a Bad Marriage

416: The Church in a Bad Marriage

The word Pergamos comes from a combination of two Greek words that mean “mixed, objectionable” and “marriage.”  Pergamos therefore means a “mixed marriage” that is “objectionable” to God.  Prophetically, it represents the marriage of the church and state where the state elevates the church to a place of acceptance or political correctness at the expense of the church’s devotion to God.

Look at what the Lord had to say about this church:

“But I have a few things against you, because you have there (in the church) those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  Thus you also have those (in the church) who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” – Revelation 2:14-15.


The Sin of Compromise

The church, although commended by Christ for the fact they have not denied His name under severe trials and suffering (Rev. 2:13), nevertheless dropped the ball and allowed those into the church who were heretics and sought to drive the believers away from God and into sin.  And the church did nothing about it.  Why?  Because, like the church of today, they allowed themselves to compromise with the world and allow all sorts of worldliness into His church.  And they also showed a glaring lack of discernment and church discipline.

Sadly, the same can be said of the church today.  Which raises a couple of questions:

How should we, as His church, respond to compromise and worldliness in the church?
What can we do as a congregation to foster a spirit of holiness in our time together?
What can you, as a member of His body, do to present yourself before Him spotless?
What areas of your life need to be addressed?
And what are you prepared to do about it?

The following is a study on Jesus’ letter to the church at Pergamos, Revelation 2:12-17.

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414:  The Blessings of Persecution

414: The Blessings of Persecution

Sometimes there are passages in the Scripture that confound even the most mature Believer.  These are the ones that seem to defy logic, ones that fly in the face of our cherished sensibilities.  For example, in Luke 6:30 the Lord tells us to “Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.”  But Jesus gives no qualifier in this verse.  The person who asks for your stuff may be a bum, a greedy businessman, or the government.  How are we supposed to follow that command?

Another example deals with how we respond to a personal attack.  Jesus said, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matt. 5:39-40).  How does this play out in real life in real time?  If the church followed this command the future of the legal profession would be in great peril.

But one of the hardest teachings in Scripture, especially to an opulent, narcissistic church like we have today, is the idea that suffering or persecution could be a good thing.  That sentiment is hard to swallow, let alone believe.  How could persecution be a good thing?  Ever?  To anybody?


The Church at Smyrna

In the second of our Lord’s seven personal epistles to His church, found in Revelation 2 and 3, He has nothing but kind words to say about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).   And the primary characteristic of this church was their faithful perseverance under extreme persecution that lasted centuries.  We would be well advised as a church, and as individuals, to emulate in our life what brought this church such praise from our Lord.

To find out more about the Lord’s letter to the church at Smyrna, and what we can learn about our own view of suffering, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Jesus’ letter to the church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Jude:  How Can Grace Become Sin?

Jude: How Can Grace Become Sin?


How Can Grace Become Sin?

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

In this verse, Jude tells us four things about these “certain men who have crept in unnoticed” in the church: (1) their condemnation or judgment was determined long ago, (2) they are ungodly, (3) they turn the grace offered by our God into a license to sin, and (4) they deny the Lord Jesus Christ.1

This is the inevitable outcome of someone who only sees one side of God’s character— grace.  When we only believe the nature of God is grace alone, we tend to see Him as an all-forgiving Father who puts up with the sins of His children and is either too afraid, weak or insecure to confront their behavior.  He becomes nothing more than a Get Out of Jail Free card whose only purpose is to clean up our mess, pay for any damages, and continue to give us access to His unlimited American Express to fund our carefree lifestyle.

He becomes, in effect, a bad parent by showing only grace to the willing sins of His children and not demanding repentance, accountability, responsibility, and retribution.

But God is anything but a bad parent.

When Jesus confronted the woman caught in the act of adultery, He first offered her grace, then repentance.

John 8:10-11 – “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, (grace) “Neither do I condemn you; (repentance) go and sin no more.”

Grace is only one side of the character of Christ.  The other side has to do with the consequences of rejecting grace.


Wrath of the Lamb

There is a chilling verse in the Revelation that should strike fear in those who take the grace of God for granted and use it as an excuse to sin.  This verse shows a different side of Jesus.  There’s no more “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” as the children’s song goes.  Jesus, referred to as the Lamb of God, now comes with something we’d never expect from a lamb— wrath.

Revelation 6:15-16 – And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

Did you catch that?  Those under condemnation for the sin and rejection of the truth were trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

Jesus, with His judgment, also brings wrath.

And He brings His wrath explicitly on those who take His marvelous, undeserved grace and turn it into lewdness.  The word for lewdness is asélgeia and means “debauchery, sexual excess, the absence of restraint, perversion, having an insatiable desire for pleasure.”2  It speaks of unrestrained vice, the very worst of sins.3

Jude was compelled to warn us to watch out for those who will embed themselves in the church, under the cloak of darkness, like a satanic sleeper cell, to turn the church away from the purity of holiness and run after lust, sexual sin, and deviance.  And the bait is a perversion of the grace of God.  It goes something like this:

“You can do anything you want because God loves you and must forgive you if you ask Him.  You can go and sin to your heart’s desire just as long as you remember to say your prayers when you go to bed and ask God to forgive you for what you did today.  As soon as you say ‘I’m sorry’ BAM!— your sins are forgiven and your slate wiped clean.  Then go and sin all you want tomorrow and say ‘I’m sorry’ and you’re forgiven.  You can do it again the next day. And the day after that.  As long as you say, ‘I’m sorry’ you can do anything you want. It’s all grace, grace, grace from a pushover God.”

This perversion of grace now becomes our motivation to sin— which is the very thing that nailed Jesus to the cross.


Repentance

Grace offers us the blessings of forgiveness.  And for forgiveness to take place, there must be repentance.  True repentance always, without exception, involves a change of behavior.  In other words, if there’s no definite change in action and attitude, there is no true repentance.  The grace we’ve been given to have our sins forgiven, when we repent, must include righteous living.  Otherwise, it’s just mere words.  Verbal garbage.  Smoke and mirrors.

But it gets worse.

Those who turn the grace of our Lord into an excuse to sin also “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  They mock His sacrifice, pain and suffering He endured to bestow grace to us.  Because of Christ, we have unearned, undeserved and unmerited favor with God who gave us His only Son to die in our place.  And then to twist this grace into an excuse to partake of the vilest of sexual sins is the reason Jude calls them “ungodly men” (Jude 1:4).  In fact, the term denotes a moral outrage against God and not just disbelief.4  We see more of them in vs. 15 where Jude uses the word “ungodly” four times to describe their shameless deeds and again in vs. 18 where he speaks of their “ungodly lusts.”5

Please understand, if Jude was warning the church in his day of this danger, he is also warning the church today.  There are these same ungodly men who have slipped in under the radar of your church and, by their actions and words, are attempting to amplify the lust in each of us to draw us away from the holiness of God and tempt us to do what we deem right in our own eyes (Jud. 17:6).

Be aware.  Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23).

And as “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

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Notes

1. Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 437). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 270). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
3. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (p. 161). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
4. Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (p. 44). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
5. Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 187). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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Jude:  We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

Jude: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us


We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

Churchill once said, borrowing from an old African proverb, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”  While there is much truth to that proverb, the opposite is also true.  “When the enemy is within, the enemies outside can hurt you.”  And they can hurt you bad.  Often permanently.

This was the situation Jude was warning the church about in his letter, and the same situation we find ourselves today.  The enemy has breached our walls and is now inside the camp.  What are we to do?


Who Are These Certain Men?

Jude, after calling believers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), begins to tell us why it’s so imperative to defend our faith.  He says, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4).

There are several words that need further scrutiny.

The first of these is certain.  The Greek word is tis and means “a certain one, some person whom one cannot or does not wish to name.”2  In other words, “It’s one of those guys.  You know who they are.  I don’t even need to call them by name.”

These certain men have crept (pareisdúō) into the church unnoticed, or by stealth.  The word means to “enter in craftily, under cover of darkness, like a thief.”3  They, like a terrorist sleeper cell, blend in with the others waiting for a time to attack from the inside, from the unprotected underbelly of the church.  They are most sinister.

But who are these guys?

Jude describes them as those “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  But we’ll look more into this at a later time.

They are, in effect, pastors void of holiness.

Businessmen, masquerading as pastors, who see the church as their next current startup.

They’re entrepreneurs, building their own product, brand, and empire within the church.

Jesus called them “false prophets”— ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).

And we don’t seem to care they’re among us, spreading like kudzu.


Bread and Games

We’ve allowed them to take root in the hallowed halls of the church.  We’ve let our guard down, chosen not to make waves, and go along with what feels good for a moment.  We’ve sat idly by and watched our church become a business where we offer a Sunday product of cotton candy to satisfy the sweet cravings of the carnal and uncommitted.  We’ve continually judged our success by how many tickets we sell to our Sunday matinee or how large is the crowd.  And we have no problem changing our preaching to make people feel good in their sin and apathy.  For us, bigger always means better.  But that’s not necessarily true in the kingdom of God.

It’s just like it was in Rome.  “Bread and games to satisfy the masses.”

How did they get in unnoticed?  Where were the watchmen on the wall?4

Pastors, over the years, sought after success defined by the likes of Rick Warren or Bill Hybels, and now Andy Stanley.  They became more concerned with their personal brand than with the gospel of Christ.

And the church bought into this “Bigger Means Better” mantra.  “If it works on Wall Street,” we reasoned, “it should work in the church.”  We hired, not Spirit-filled pastors and Bible teachers to reveal to us the deeper things of God, but Madison Avenue marketing gurus and visionaries, all promising to take our church to the next level.

But the pastor’s job is not to be a visionary.  That’s Jesus’ job.  The pastor is to simply implement the vision of the Lord, our Master, as a faithful slave, or doúlos to Him.5  Even if Andy Stanley says going to a small church is “stinking selfish.”6

Now, it seems, we need multiple campuses all watching our hip, relevant, popular pastor live-streamed on video.  And we call that community or family?  Far from it.


The Need for Watchmen

Remember, the men who’ve entered the church unnoticed, under the cloak of darkness, are defined by Jude as evil men, ungodly men, who long ago were marked out for commendation (Jude 1:4).  These are lost, unregenerate men, traitors to the faith, hidden sleeper cells, that have found a home in the church— much like the birds of the air found a home in the branches of the mustard tree (Matt. 13:32).

What are we to do?

Now it gets personal.

We need watchmen on the walls of the church.  We need those who will strive to keep the body of Christ as a “glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle” and contend earnestly to keep her “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

In practical terms, here are a few examples of what you can do.

If your pastor shows R-rated movie clips to illustrate a biblical principal or uses coarse language to seem relevant to the world, you must confront that carnality.  But you must do so with respect for his position as pastor, even if the man is disqualified (Rom. 13:1).  If nothing changes, remove yourself and your family from that gathering and let the Lord direct you to another church.

If the gospel and true biblical preaching is replaced with a sweet tasting, feel good message, have a frank discussion with your pastor and, if nothing changes, remove you and your family from that church.  Don’t worry about where you will go.  The Lord will direct you to a place where you can grow in your faith and understanding of the Scriptures.

And if you church approves of homosexuality, or any sin that is now culturally acceptable, it’s time to find a new church.  Now.  Immediately.  Post haste.

Remember this important warning:

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Or, to put it another way, “Bad company corrupts good character” (NIV).

Don’t let yourself be corrupted by certain men (and you know who they are) who have crept into your church unnoticed, or under the cloak of darkness.  Even if these men may be pastors or elders.  Point them out.  Contend earnestly for the faith.  Do all you can with respect and honor.  And if nothing changes:

“Adios amigos.”

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Notes

1. The title comes from a quote from the syndicated Pogo comic strip that was created by Walt Kelly (1913-
1973). The strip ran from October 4, 1948, until July 20, 1975.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 1385-1386). Chattanooga,
TN: AMG.
3. Ibid., 1117.
4. See Ezekiel 33.
5. Zodhiates, p. 483.
6. http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/march/dear-andy-stanley-please-be-small-churchs-ally-
not-our-enem.html.
7. Spanish for “Goodbye, friends.”

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