Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Pergamos: The Church That Married The World



Part 3 "Jesus Seven Messages To Us Today"
Pergamos: The Church That Married The World
 
Rev 2:12-17
(12)  And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
(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.
(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.
(15)  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
(16)  Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
(17)  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

The quick points of this message:
1.       You can make it in the worst places (satan’s seat/throne where he dwells)
2.       They were in it for the long run (dwellest meant permanently)
3.       Believers must not tolerate sin
a.       Doctrine of Balaam (idolatry and fornication)
b.      Doctrine of the Nicolaitans (who believed the flesh was evil and the spirit was pure and whatever your flesh did, your spirit was not going to be judged for)
4.       Repent: Change!
a.       Good results if you do:
                                                               i.      I will feed you with the hidden manna
                                                             ii.      I will give you a white stone
b.      Bad results if you don’t
                                                               i.      I will fight against you with the sword (Word of God) of my mouth.

Intro:  About Pergamos
Pergamos was the political capital of Asia the less and was a very religious city.  It had temples to Greek gods, Roman gods and three temples built to Roman Emperors.
It had a huge library with over 200,000 books in it and was known for the healing temple of Asclupious.  The symbol of that god was a snake, and in that temple they would keep live snakes.  A person who wanted to be healed could go and lay in the temple and sleep there that night.  If during that night a snake slithered across your body, you were considered touched by their god and healed!
When Jesus speaks to the church there, He says “I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where satan’s seat (Grk: thronos) is”

When we studied Smyrna, we found out there were those of the synagogue of satan, here we find he has a throne, and dwells here.

Question:  What made it a stronghold for satan?  What was his throne here? 

We don’t really know, it could be the altar of zeus that was 100 feet by 40 feet and some say it was in the shape of a throne.
It could be that they were so given to emperor worship that it was a stronghold for the devil.
It could be the temple of Asclupious where travelers would come from everywhere to be healed by a snake.

The greater question is:  What is it that makes a stronghold of the devil in our life?  What is it that creates a throne where he can rule from in your heart?

In 2 Corinthians we read:
2Co 10:4-5
(4)  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
(5)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

And after the word strong holds, we hear him saying: imaginations, things against the knowledge of God, and thoughts.

It shows us that strongholds are built in our mind through our thinking.

When your parents told you “You will always be that way!  You will never change!” that built a stronghold.

When your teacher said “You are hopeless!  You just don’t get it do you?” that was building a stronghold.

When you were betrayed and the thought entered into your mind “You are just unlovable, there is something wrong with you that no one will commit to you and be faithful” that built a stronghold in your mind.

From these thoughts, which are all against what God said about us, the devil endeavors to build a throne, a place where he could reign from.  This is why it is critical to tear down those strongholds, and to not give place (don’t give him a spot to work from) to the devil. (Ephesians 4:27)

He prompts the ideas “If I will never be able to change, why try? Why go to church or pray?”
He prompts the thought “If I am hopeless, there is just no use, I might as well medicate that with another drink, another hit, another drug.”

If it is too late for me, I may as well take my life, whether directly through a bullet, or indirectly by drinking and drugging myself to death.

He puts the thought in “If no one will be faithful to me, and they will betray me, I might as well live a promiscuous (player) lifestyle and stop expecting to be respected”

But the good news is the Word of God can pull down those strongholds!  Jesus described Himself as He that hath the two edged sword.  In Hebrews the Word of God is described as sharper than any two edged sword, (Heb 4:12) able to pierce to the dividing of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the THOUGHTS AND INTENTS OF THE HEART.  By reading, meditating and applying the Word of God to our lives, we tear down the strongholds of the enemy!

Unbelief is another stronghold that we must deal with.  Worldly wisdom can war against spiritual truth.  Reason always attacks faith.  

Reason can’t figure out a resurrected Savior!

Reason can’t understand a God who loved us so much He would send His son and die for us!
Reason will never be able to comprehend a man repenting and calling on God and having his heart changed in a spiritual way to where he is never the same again!

When the doctors say there is no cure, but God heals them, reason scoffs “Impossible” but faith receives the healing and praises God!

Strongholds are built by feeding the carnal man with worldly wisdom and starving the spiritual man from faith building food for his soul!

Here is the truth. In the middle of all of this, where satan’s throne was, where he dwelled, the church hadn’t denied Jesus, they hadn’t given in on the doctrine, they hadn’t surrendered and moved out!

Jesus said “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” we could rephrase that and say “I will build my church and the throne of satan shall not prevail against it…”
Dwellest (V. 13): Greek word meant permanently!  They were there to stay! The believers were not going to leave just because it was hard and there were many enemies.  They understood that God had put His most valiant soldiers in the hottest battle and that was all the more reason to stay and fight!

Antipas was my faithful martyr.  The word martyr in the Greek meant witness.  He witnessed or bore witness to the truth by dying for it.  This is another reason we can stake our faith on the Word of God and its truth, because men and women would not die for something that was phony or make believe.  They believed and knew it to be true! Antipas believed, he didn’t sprinkle the incense on the fire, he refused to worship the false gods, and he witnessed his faith, with his life!  Martyr didn’t mean what we understand it to be today, until years after, until the many who “Witnessed” with their life, changed the meaning to mean dying for what you believe.

While the church watched all of this, they refused to leave, or give up Jesus.
If the devil couldn’t destroy them by persecution, he would change tactics and undermine them through corruption. 

Doctrine of Balaam:

He taught Balak how to have the destruction of God upon the children of Israel.  If he couldn’t curse them, he would corrupt them! Get their young boys sleeping with the Moabite women, then the women will turn their hearts to the idols, it worked!
We see how fornication is a powerful force to destroy people’s purity, and to keep them enslaved.  Once someone gets involved, they are influenced by their partner, and their desires, adapting so as not to lose the relationship.  How many give up Jesus, or ruin their testimony, because of illicit sexual relationships?

This church had been so intermingled with the world it was rebuked by Jesus.
In Constantine’s time, there was a change, the heathen temples became Christian temples, the heathen priests became Christian priests, it wasn’t so much a change of the heart as it was a changing of the times and the people adapted to survive economically and to stay in the good graces of the emperor, but not repent to have a relationship with Jesus!

Nicolaitans:

They believed that your body was inherently evil and your soul was inherently good and so nothing that your body did could affect your soul’s wellbeing.  They thought it was separate and therefore you could do whatever your body wanted!

Jesus stern words indicates otherwise…REPENT!

He finishes the message to them with a promise: If you repent, I will feed you with the hidden manna.  I will give you a white stone.  If you don’t repent, I will fight against you with the sword of my mouth (The Word of God)

Discussion Questions
1.       What similarities do you see between the city of Pergamos and the city in which you live?
2.       What good traits were evidenced in the church of Pergamos? And how would this show in our church today?
3.       What strongholds does the devil try to build in our lives today? Are there some strongholds that God has helped you break free from that you care to share? How did you break free?
4.       In what way might a church today be guilty of “holding to the doctrine of Balaam”?
5.       What stands out to you as the main moral or message of this text?
6.       Are there any surprises found in this text that came as a shock to you? i.e. that Jesus would say to a Christian “repent or else”…

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Smyrna: The Rich Little Poor Church

Series: Jesus' Seven Messages
Part 2 Smyrna: The Rich Little Poor Church

Revelation 2:8-11
(8)  And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
(9)  I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
(10)  Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
(11)  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Last week we began this series with Jesus’ letter to Ephesus.  He told them that He knew all about their works, how they were so busy, but they had gotten far from Him in their heart, and had ceased doing the most important works.  He called them to repentance and history tells us that at least in the short term, they did repent.  They were known for their love.  Eventually it seems as if they slid back into the wrong routine and today the city of Ephesus and the church that was there, are gone.
That is one reason why the next church, in the city of Smyrna, is so special.  Of the seven churches that Jesus wrote to, only Smyrna, modern day Izmir in Turkey is still alive and still has a church with believers worshiping our Savior!
Smyrna is only one of two churches that didn’t get corrected by the Lord.  They got it right, and continued on!
But if you would line up the churches side by side and choose one that you would attend, I don’t think that Smyrna would be the most appealing at first glance.
They were a church that was poor.  They lived in a rich and beautiful city.  The motto on their money was “First City in Asia in size and beauty”
But Smyrna was fiercely loyal to Rome.   They had built a temple to Roma and another to Tiberius a Roman leader.  The people were required to take a pinch of incense and sprinkle it on the fire and say Caesar is Lord.  When they did that they would receive a certificate that allowed them to be a part of the civic affairs.  To not do that subjected you to criticism, having your things taken, violence and death!
***Imagine going to a baseball game or public event and when the National anthem was played, you saw someone, not raise their hand to their heart, or maybe they even turned their back while it was being played.  That person is going to be looked at crazy, and maybe even hurt!   Imagine that times a hundred in Rome!
This is probably one reason why the believers here are suffering such poverty.  They would only bow to Jesus, and not a political leader as Lord.
The other reason is they were suffering persecution from the Jews. 
Jesus goes so far as to say these people were really not Jews, but of the synagogue of satan.
Strong words from the Lord that remind us that just being in a church or appearing religious does not mean that a person is a true believer of Jesus!
Smyrna was known for its production of Myrrh.  The word itself is the Greek word for Myrrh. Myrrh was a plant substance that was used for medicine:
They gave Jesus wine mingled with Myrrh but He refused.
Mar 15:23  And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
Myrrh was also a plant used for its fragrance.  For Myrrh to release its fragrance, it had to be crushed.
So we find the church of Smyrna (myrrh) in a place of poverty and tribulation (crushing) that was releasing the fragrance of Christ to the world.
This church was in the right place, at the right time and Jesus is going to speak encouraging words to them.
                                                    
About Jesus:  Rev 2:8  And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Jesus can relate to the believers here.  The city itself had been destroyed numerous times and had been rebuilt upon its ruins.  Earthquakes, wars, disasters, whatever could come its way, did, and yet they would rebuild, and revive.
So when Jesus speaks to them of being dead and now alive, He is saying, I have been through what you are going through.  I know, I understand.
***One thing that a new husband has to learn is that his wife doesn’t always want a solution.  Sometimes she just wants to talk about the problem.  She wants to get it out and have someone listen to her.  She wants someone to know that someone actually cares enough to listen and not just to try and offer a solution.
Contrast that with the teenager who said “Home is where you can say anything you want, because no one is listening anyway!”
What it must have meant to those believers for Jesus to say to them “I was dead….and am alive!” “I KNOW your works, your tribulation, your poverty….”
God was not blind to what was going on.
That begs the question.  If they are true believers, than why is God letting this happen to them?
Why are they having to go through these trials, persecutions and hardship?
Because one of the best ways to separate true believers from the hypocrites is through trials and persecution!
Hypocrites won’t stick around during these hardships.  When the perceived benefits don’t outweigh the suffering and pain they have to go through, then they are gone!
What was it that kept the believers there, in the fire? 
They loved Jesus!  They could remember all that He had done for them.  They remembered how much He had loved them. 
***I spoke recently to my grandmother, who, while she was in the hospital watching over my grandfather, fell, and was hospitalized herself.  She was telling me that she had gotten a six pack of diet Pepsi, my grandfather’s favorite, for his refrigerator before she had left the room. She wanted to make sure he was taken care of.  I have always noticed the great care that she shows him.  He needs her to get out of bed, go to the bathroom, get seated in the living room, and I told her “Thank you granny for taking such good care of him and loving him.”  She replied “He has done so much for me and my children….”
That is the way a Christian feels about Jesus!
Why do we come to church Sunday morning and Sunday night? He has done so much for me!
Why do we attend small group bible studies and go soulwinning and pick up people? He has done so much for me!
Why do we pay our tithe and support the church? He has done so much for me!
BECAUSE HE HAS DONE SO MUCH FOR US!  OUR HEARTS OVERFLOW WITH LOVE FOR THE ONE THAT DIED FOR US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS!
This word tribulation, which means being crushed like a cart wheel running over grain, and this poverty (one of two words meaning poor and this meant totally poor (maybe like our “I’m broke” compared to being totally homeless)) didn’t push away the true believers, they didn’t quit or give up, they stayed right there, being crushed, releasing the fragrance of Christ.

Jesus tells them Fear Not! Be faithful!
The devil is going to cast some of you into jail, for ten days, to be tried.
When our trying time comes, will we be faithful?
Note that He said ten days.  There was an appointed end to the suffering.  It wasn’t going to last forever.  Just hold on!  Be faithful!  Don’t fear when you can’t seem to see me in the midst of the problem!

You are rich….
In the material realm, they were poor, but they had the things that really mattered.
·         Love for Jesus
·         True Christian fellowship
·         Forgiveness
·         Assurance of heaven
So if I would ask you this morning, are you rich? What would your answer be?  I don’t want to know the balance of your 401k or the value of your properties, but do you have the things that really matter?
Do you have a relationship with the one that can see you through the crushings of life? 

Closing: When Jesus told them to be faithful unto death, they would need to remember those words.
One example of their suffering comes to us from history, just a few years after they received this letter.  In 155 AD, the Bishop of the church of Smyrna, a man named Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the Beloved, was martyred for Jesus.  This man was arrested at the request of an angry mob that cried, “Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!”
                The old preacher, he was 86 at the time, was given the opportunity to renounce Jesus.  The magistrate, who did not want to see the old man die, said, “What harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar?”  But, Polycarp refused!  When they entered the stadium, where the executions took place, they tried again saying, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.”  Polycarp fixed his gaze on the crowd, waved his arms at them and said, “Away with the atheists!”  The magistrate again attempted to get Polycarp to renounce his faith and said, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ.”  To that, the old man cried, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
                After a few more attempts to get the old preacher to renounce Jesus, they led him away to the stake to burn him alive.  They were about to nail him to the post and Polycarp said, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”  So, they left him loosely bound and they lit the fire.  As the flames rose around him, he was heard to pray and rejoice in Jesus.  He died for his faith and in doing so he left an indelible imprint on the fabric of time.)

Those words must have echoed in his mind: “Be Faithful!”

People sell out so quickly, they choose a job over Jesus, sex over a Savior, a comedian over Christ.  

I wonder if you hear those words in your ears?  Be Faithful! Be Faithful!

---

Ephesus: The Church That Left Jesus

Series: Jesus' Seven Messages
Part 1 Ephesus: The Church That Left Jesus

(Pages 1-3 are the Leader’s guide, Page 4 is the handout)
Rev 2:1-7
(1)  Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
(2)  I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
(3)  And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
(4)  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
(5)  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
(6)  But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
(7)  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

When God wanted to straighten out the world, He didn’t choose to write to the politicians, or to the army generals, but He wrote to the churches.  If the churches are right, there is hope for the world, if the churches are wrong, we are in a dire situation!
About Jesus:
He is holding the pastors in His hand
Great privilege and great responsibility (Pray for your pastor)
God  protects them and tells us:
·         Psa 105:14-15
·         (14)  He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes;
·         (15)  Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.


To all children of God…
·         (2Th 1:6)  Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

He is walking in the midst of the churches
The good news is that God has not given up on His churches!
Churches are still God’s method for reaching mankind.
Gathering redeemed men and women into a place of fellowship and spiritual growth has been God’s plan and is still being carried out today.
He doesn't just form the churches and walk away, but He walks in them, among the believers, rejoicing and grieving, correcting and commending.  Calling us to repentance and lifting us with encouragement.

I know thy Labors
He knows what we are doing….and not doing.
He is going to tell them that they have to return to the first works, but yet finds them incredible busy! 
What is a church called to do?
Mat 28:19-20
(19)  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
(20)  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

What about social work?  What about caring for the poor etc.? 
Yes there are definitely commands in the bible that we should do good to them who are of the household of faith.  That we should care one for another.  Minister to the poor.
The problem is, those who consider themselves poor in America are not always quite as poor as they think.
If you can pay $100 a month for cable TV, but want me to buy your groceries for you…that isn’t going to happen.
If you have $20 a week for cigarettes and ask help for your electric bill….that dog don’t hunt.
But the fact that Jesus tells them to do the first works tells us they were busy about the wrong things!

We are to:
·         Teach
·         Disciple
·         Worship
·         Fellowship
But there is one thing that is to be more important than anything else.
There is one thing that Jesus called the “First Works” and that is to spread the good news of Jesus!  To witness to others of Him.

You have tried them
This church did the right thing.  It tried the spirits to find out is they were true apostles or true followers or not.
We are not to blindly believe everyone that comes down the pike and calls themselves apostle this or Minister that.  They are to have fruit that you can inspect.
Life that can be tried.
They did the right thing.
You have left your first love

They had left Jesus!
He was in the church and they were more concerned about something and everything else.
***Joseph and Mary leaving Jesus in the temple


 Repent or I will remove your candlestick

In every congregation, there are those that overcome, those that conquer, and those that are overcome, those that are conquered.


Handout

Discussion Questions:
1.      What does it mean to be so “busy for the kingdom, but have no time for the king?”
2.      The church at Ephesus was commended for their work, identifying false prophets, their patience, but reproved for leaving their first love (Jesus) and their first works (evangelism). What steps can we take to try to avoid the same mistake?
3.      If the chief marks of religion, are fear (eternal punishment) and pride (I belong and am better than you) what is the chief mark of a relationship with Jesus?
Mat 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
1Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Memory Verse: 1Jn 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.


Rev 2:1-7
(1)  Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
(2)  I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
(3)  And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
(4)  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
(5)  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
(6)  But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
(7)  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Ephesus
About Jesus:
He is walking in the midst of the golden__________________which are the _______________ and He is holding the seven stars, which are the ___________in His hand.
He is ever present.  To those that are doing right, that is a comfort, but to those that are hiding their sin, it is a fearful thing!  He sees it all, the good, and the bad.
About Ephesus:
This was a bustling city and a busy church.  Jesus commends their labors and yet tells them they had to do the “first works”.  Obviously, we can be busy about the wrong things.
What is a church called to do?
What is a Christian called to do?
How is it possible to be busy in a church and leave Jesus?
Jesus warns them to return to Him and to their primary purpose (evangelism) or He would remove the candlestick (church).  Apparently, at least in the short term, the Ephesians heeded this warning.  In the early second century (not too long after John wrote), Ignatius praised the love and the doctrinal purity of the Ephesians.  “You, who are of the most holy Church of the Ephesians, which is so famous and celebrated throughout the world . . . you, being full of the Holy Spirit, do nothing according to the flesh, but all things according to the Spirit.  You are complete in Christ Jesus.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 8.  From the Ante Nicean Fathers Volume 1, page 52)

Memory Verse: 1Jn 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.