March 2, 2022
We have to go back fifteen hundred years to see the principle established in Leviticus and even Numbers that applies here in Pergamum. Leviticus is, essentially, a manual for worship. The point is that Israel is called to holiness because God is holy. There shall be no pagan worship or adoption of pagan ways. In fact, many of the specific rules and regulations were put in place by God to remind His people that they were different… they were set aside to be different from their neighbors. That included principles for human sexuality as well as distinct roles for men and women. It's good to be different.
These letters to the seven churches are written within the context of timeless truths from Leviticus and Numbers. God's people are called to behave differently from their neighbors. "Don't defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled…As for you, you are to keep my statutes and my judgments," says Leviticus 18:24 & 26. In other words, don't be like the pagan culture in which you find yourselves living.
Today we see many churches working hard to be as much like the culture as possible. For decades it's been popular for pastors and church leaders to build a church on splashy worship events and meeting people's felt needs. If something is popular culturally, then the church has to offer something like it in order to attract people. Relevant and contemporary churches are more affirming than convicting, sentimental rather than theological, entertaining rather than edifying, frivolous rather than worshipful. I have to confess, sometimes I have erred on the side of wanting to be more attractive to the unchurched or marginally churched. You get the point. Some pastors and church leaders think that if they can just get close enough to everything people enjoy in the culture, then they can somehow win them over.
Whenever someone says, in advocating for cultural relevance, that, "We don't want to be on the wrong side of history," 99.99% of the time, they are pushing for an unbiblical worldview.
There's a megachurch in Florida, and another one in Georgia, whose worship bands, both professional quality, played compilations of Led Zeppelin songs in worship in the past year or so. Don't get me wrong. I was a huge Led Zeppelin fan. My friend and I went to one of their iconic concerts, I think it was in 1973, at the Los Angeles Forum. One of the best concerts I've ever been to. But I don't want that when worshiping the One, True, and Holy God. As previously stated, some pastors and church leaders think that if they can get close to everything people resonate with in the culture, they can somehow win them over. The Revelation to John would disagree.
Here's the bottom line - As the pagan world becomes more hostile to the truth of God, as it becomes more hostile to the people of God, pastors and church leaders will compromise. They will compromise to be more attractive. They don't want to be mocked…they don't want to be ignored… they don't want to be rejected…they don't want to be marginalized…and so they'll fall in line with worldly expectations. They'll court the world by being like the world.
Notice in 2:13 how "my" is used three times. Jesus is claiming personal possession of his people…of his truth…of his witnesses. The word for "witness" is martus, from which we get "martyr." What a comforting thing that is. Jesus is our Savior and we belong to him.
Balaam, from verse 14, means "corrupter of people." According to Deuteronomy, he was a renowned sorcerer from a place called Pethor in Mesopotamia. Balaam was a sorcerer who was in it for the money. You can read more about him in Numbers 22 & 24. Not a good guy and not good times for Israel. But that's what happens when you give in to pagan culture.
Verse fifteen mentions the Nicolaitans. Two early church fathers - Irenaeus and Alexandria - wrote about the Nicolaitans:
They live lives of unrestrained indulgence, abandoning themselves to
pleasure like goats, leading a life of self-indulgence.
The church at Pergamum had people living like pagans, which the church tolerated. Even their teaching was corrupted.
May we be so immersed in God's Word that we want to be faithful. And when we're not, we want to be penitent. We want to confront sin, deal with sin graciously, lovingly, mercifully, but directly. The last thing we want to do is court the world. Jesus has rescued us from the world and all its idols, and its immorality, and its corruption. That's the kind of church Revelation 2:12-17 calls us to be.
And now, three unrelated pearls of wisdom:
"Worrying only makes you suffer twice."
"If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company."
"Is People Pleasing like setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm?"
Finally, your Moment of Spurgeon:
Spiritual sickness is very common in the church of God, and the root of the
mischief lies in distance from Jesus, following Christ afar off, and yielding
to a drowsy temperament. Away from Jesus, away from joy.
With Much Love and Affection,