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					Don’t compromise—difficult circumstances are no excuse. (2:12-13)
Don’t compromise, regardless of what is accepted in the world or the church. (2:14-15)
Don’t compromise—compromise has consequences. (2:16)
Don’t compromise— Don’t compromise—God offers something better than the
temporary satisfaction of sin. (2:17)

Revelation 2:12-29

Nicci and I keep our toothbrushes in a little cup up above the sink, it’s very cute—they’re
pink and blue (mine IS the blue), but the only problem with keeping them there together
is from time to time when I pull out my toothbrush, it also flings Nicci’s toothbrush out
of the cup. I watch it fall in slow motion, bounce off the edge of the sink and land
somewhere around the base of the toilet. And I stare at it for a moment, and I think about
how recently it was that we last mopped the bathroom, and I think about how careful or
careless any visitors to the bathroom in the past day or so might have been, and usually I
just rinse it off and put it back. It has happened, however, that Nicci has been present
when such an aforementioned event occurred. On one occasion her toothbrush bounced
into the bathroom trashcan. I don’t know what ends up in your bathroom trashcan, but
our bathroom trash tends to contain stuff that we pull out of the drain and a lot of
questionable wads of Kleenex and toilet paper. So, Nicci looks at the toothbrush there in
the trash, and she looks at me, and she says, “you’re going to go get me a new toothbrush.
That one has been compromised—it’s defiled, and will not be going back into my
mouth.” I don’t blame her. The toothbrush’s function requires that it be clean, and even
though it has sat in that clean cup for the last three weeks, those few seconds of being in
contact with garbage have compromised the cleanliness. They have ruined it’s ability to
function properly.

Today we are going to look at two letters to two churches which have a common theme.
Both churches were being compromised. They were letting their ministry and witness
fall into the dirt by associating with and tolerating sin, by accepting men and women who
not only engaged in sinful things themselves, but who led and encouraged others in the
church to compromise as well. And it wasn’t that these churches were all bad, or even
mostly bad—if we set foot in either of them, we would probably be impressed by how
much they were doing right—but it is like Paul wrote to the Corinthian church (another
church that was facing compromise) saying, “Don’t you know that a little yeast works
through the whole batch of dough” It only takes a little bit of bad to ruin a whole lot of
good, a little filth to ruin a new toothbrush, a little compromise to bring a whole church
down.

Jesus loves His church, guys. Jesus has bound His reputation to His Church. Jesus
doesn’t want to see His Church implode. That’s why He is so serious about sin—that’s
why He wants us to deal with sin quickly—to deal with it quickly in our own lives, and
when we become aware of sin in our brother or sister’s life that we act with a sense of
urgency to help them deal with it. This was the sin of these two churches—they felt no
urgency to help and to call to accountability those who were struggling with sin—they
found it more comfortable to turn a blind eye to sin in their midst than to address it and
deal with it in love. And Jesus says to them, I love you too much to let you stay down in
your own filth, and since you are unwilling to deal with this sin yourselves, I am going to
have to come and deal with it personally and decisively. That’s a little frightening. If
I’m messing with sin, I would rather you come to me and help straighten me out through
reasoning and accountability than for Jesus Himself to have to step in and do something
drastic to get my attention. That is what Jesus is saying to these churches—you guys
won’t do this the easy way, so it’s time for me to step in and show some tough love.

And Jesus’ words to these churches force us to look at our own lives, and to ask the
question—am I compromising with sin in some way—am I trying to live with one foot
following Christ and the other foot going wherever I want to go—Jesus is going to call us
to repent. And we also have to ask ourselves do I care enough about the people who are
close to me to approach them in love when I see them wandering down a dark path, or do
I help them to compromise their life and witness by refusing to say anything to them—by
having this attitude of “I don’t want them to feel like I’m judging them, and they’ll get it
figured out on their own sooner or later.” Jesus says, if that’s your attitude, you need to
repent for your lack of love for your friends, you need to repent for your lack of passion
for my holiness and truth.

Look at Jesus introduction of Himself-- You get a taste of His tone right away—He says
church at Pergamum, remember who I am: I’m the guy with the sharp sword. For an
enemy of God, this would be a fearful instrument of judgment. For a child of God, it is a
powerful tool of protection and safety—when I am surrounded by the enemy, when I feel
the cords of sin wrapping around me, it is a sword that is able to cut me free, a sword that
is able to cut a clean divide between me and the world so that I am holy and separated to
God—the sword of Christ should give us both comfort and fear.

But Jesus starts out saying, there are some things that I am really pleased with. You have
stayed true to me even though you live in a really hard place. Even though the city and
culture around you is so dark and depraved, even though you have gone through very
difficult and dangerous times, you have held fast to your faith and trust in me. (We don’t
know anything about Antipas outside of this reference—his life was not important
enough to warrant mention by any other historical writers, but he was very important to
Jesus, because he lived up to his name—Antipas means “against all.” He stood against
all odds and opposition to follow Christ to the very end.) So Jesus encourages this
church by saying you have held onto your faith in me, even though I know it has been
very difficult, BUT Jesus says, “I also know you have compromised your purity, and I
want to talk with you about that.”

Sometimes we think that difficult circumstances give us a free license to lower our
standards, to cheat a little, to allow a little sin into our hearts and lives. When we go
through something hard, we think that’s like a get out of jail free card. We think, I’ve
been working so much lately, things have been so stressful, I deserve to indulge in this
little thing I wouldn’t usually do. Or we think something like, our culture is so saturated
with this sin (sexual immorality, for example)—there is so much pressure to join in that
God understands if I give into the pressure every once in a while—He knows how hard it
is to live in these times. Yes, absolutely, God knows how hard your life is. Yes, He does
know how difficult it is to be holy in our culture, but difficulty and stress and pressure are
never an excuse to compromise. That’s our first encouragement: Don’t compromise—
difficult circumstances are no excuse. No matter how hard it gets. Christ Himself is
our example in this attitude—even when faced with death on a cross, He refused to
compromise His attitude of complete obedience and submission to the Father—and now
He asks us to do the same for Him.

And He goes on and says, here’s what I have against you vv.14-15. Balaam—maybe you
remember him from Numbers chapters 22-25. The Israelites were camped out on the
edge of the Promised Land, ready to finally enter in after 40 years of wandering in the
desert, and the kings of the land are freaking out, because they know that God is with the
Israelites, so this guy King Balak, ruler of Moab hires this prophet named Balaam to
come and he says, I’ll give you all kinds of money if you can put some kind of voodoo
curse on the Israelites, and so Balaam goes up on this mountain with king Balak and they
can see the whole Israelite camp in front of them, and Balaam goes through all his rituals
and prepares to utter this curse, but when he opens up his mouth all he can do is utter
blessings toward the Israelites—God won’t let him say anything bad. So King Balak is
mad because the curse didn’t work and Balaam is mad because he’s not going to get paid
now, so he comes up with a different plan. He says I can’t destroy them by cursing them,
but will you still pay me if I can figure out another way to destroy them. Balak says, I
don’t care how it happens, I just want them rendered weak and powerless. So Balaam
comes up with a plan to get the Israelites to compromise—he figures since he can’t
weaken Israel by manipulating God to turn away from them, he’ll weaken Israel by
getting them to turn away from God (that’s been a classic strategy of satan since the
beginning). He sends in all the prettiest girls from the pagan nations, and they come in
and start flirting with the Israelite men and they say, hey, I’ll sleep with you if you offer a
sacrifice to my gods. Maybe I’ll do something for you if you come with me and worship
at the temple of my gods. And the Israelites fell for it, they fell into idolatry and sexual
immorality (they began to destroy themselves through compromise while Balaam
laughed his way to the bank).

Jesus says, you’ve got a similar situation there in Pergamum. There are people there who
are leading you into compromise—who are introducing idolatry and sexual immorality
into your church, turning men and women away from me—and it is likely they were
making money off of it.

Maybe this was a lot more subtle than we’d think. A very possible scenario for how this
could have happened might have looked like this: at the time that the risen Jesus gave
these letters to these churches, in every city, there was what were called “trade guilds.”
These trade guilds were a little bit like modern work unions. For example if you were a
goldsmith, you would have to apply to the goldsmith guild, and they would investigate
your work license you if you were good enough, and they would help to get you business,
and they would also work to shut down any goldsmiths who were trying to operate
outside of the guild—and it was almost necessary back then, if you wanted to find work,
and practice your livelihood, to be a member of the guild. But where it became sticky for
Christians, is that each craft guild had their own patron god or goddess that they would
pray to for favor and success in their business, and several times a year, these guilds
would meet in the temple of their patron god or goddess and hold a feast—they would
start by sacrificing an animal and offering it to that god, and then they would proceed to
cook and eat the meat of that animal, and usually on hand as the night progressed would
be temple prostitutes who would go around and engage the feasters in illicit sexual acts—
and all this was part of this worship ceremony that all members of the guild were
expected to attend.

Now, you know how God would feel about going to these events, He would say have
nothing to do with that stuff, lose your job, lose your income, lose your life rather than
compromise your integrity and your witness for me. But can you see how easy it would
be for a person claiming to be a teacher or a prophet to come in and convince someone to
compromise: “the Lord gives you permission to go to this feast, and take part in it. He
knows that if you don’t go, you may lose your business and have no way to support your
family. God doesn’t want your family to starve. Just view it as part of your job, eat the
sacrifice, pray with the other people, do your thing with the prostitutes and go home. The
Lord understands that your livelihood is at stake—besides, you can build relationships
with other people at those parties and invite them to church, and all that money you make
from your booming business, you can tithe to the church or to my ministry so the church
needs you to keep your job—so you can keep donating money.” And they could go on
and on, until the guild member would feel okay about going and compromising their faith
and witness.

Perhaps you’ve been faced with similar situations in your own life where there was a
temptation to compromise, and you stood to gain a lot from it and you wanted to find a
reason to justify this loosening of your morals, maybe everyone else is compromising in
this same area, and you watch them all get what they want while you struggle with it.
People are encouraging you to compromise (get a divorce—it’s okay because you hate
each other, cheat on your taxes, our government is just wasting the money anyway) It’s
hard to be in that place. But God’s word here remains: Don’t compromise, regardless
of what is accepted in the world or the church — It is possible to follow Christ even
when no one in your city is, even when no one in your church is—you can do the right
thing because Christ lives in you to empower you.

And in this church, they should have been encouraging each other with these words—
don’t give in, your job, your money, your happiness, your life is NOT more important
than Christ! But instead, they just sat back while people dove into sin and compromise—
they said nothing when people encouraged others to jump into sin. Jesus’ issue was that
this church was just letting this continue and grow.

He says, repent—change your attitude and actions in this area of compromise—learn to
love these people enough to approach them. Change your apathetic and permissive
attitude about sin, or else I’ll have to come and I’ll have to deal with it myself. That’s the
third point: Don’t compromise—compromise has consequences. (story of little boy
whose father put a nail in the door every time he disobeyed—the nails are gone, but the
holes are still there. Your sins are forgiven, taken away, but how many of you have
learned the hard way that sin still leaves holes—it still produces consequences—and
Jesus is saying, I have taken the nails myself, they will never be held against you, but I
will not let you continue to put holes in your life—I love you too much to see you
continue to hurt yourself—so repent! address your sins now, or else I’ll have to come and
address them—but either way, my people are going to be a pure people, either way, I am
going to present to myself a clean Bride without spot or wrinkle. Even if no one else
does, I love you too much to let you keep putting holes in yourself.

Now Jesus is going to give us another reason not to compromise: v. 17. To him who
overcomes, who resists compromise, who loves others enough to tell them the truth about
the direction they are going, I’ll give you something. Hidden manna—spiritual food,
sustenance from God Himself—If you do the right thing, I promise that ultimately, I will
be the One who will meet your needs, no matter what you lose, I will be your Provider,
your Nourisher. I will give you food better than that food sacrificed to idols. And I’ll
give you a white stone. There were lots of uses for white stones in biblical times, but the
one that stands out to me is this—when an athletic competition was held, the winners
would receive a crown, and they would get a white stone. The white stone was a ticket to
a celebratory feast at the governor or the emperor’s palace. They would go there after the
games and present this white stone, and they would be invited in to this rich feast, this
celebration. And Jesus said if we overcome our white stones will have a new name, a
secret name written on it. Do you know who uses secret names—close friends. Have
you ever been part of a conversation with a couple of people where they just start calling
each other things that don’t make sense? Hey there Watermelon Bus! What’s up Kitty
Litter. And you’re like what are you guys talking about and they start out on some
story—you would have had to have been there, but one time we took a road trip to Texas.
And these secret names, these pet names, these nicknames that don’t mean anything to
anyone else sprout out of these shared experiences, these times of closeness. Jesus giving
us this white stone with this new name is Him saying, I treasure our time together, I enjoy
our shared experiences, I feel like there is a level of closeness and intimacy that we share
and that we will share for all eternity. Don’t all those things that Jesus promises sound
good. It’s hard to remember in the heat of temptation, when immediate gratification is
just within our grasp, but we need to remember that what God offers us is ultimately
more satisfying than anything sin could offer us. That’s our fourth point: Don’t
compromise—God offers something better than the temporary satisfaction of sin.

Some of you guys are a little concerned because we said that we’d be going through two
letters today. I won’t subject you to another forty minutes of teaching if you agree to go
home and really look at the next letter for yourself. Look at it and think about how
merciful and patient Jesus is, how He gives us time to repent—days, months, years and
years even. Think about how serious He is about dealing with our sin when we are
unwilling to repent. Please read it on your own. Call me up or e-mail me if you have
some insights or questions. I really just want to point out one thing: verse 24-25

				
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