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#9 Thyatira

August 12, 2008

We come this morning to the church of Thyatira, a church with its own self proclaimed ‘prophet’! Once again the theme is compromise. There were those in this church who called themselves believers and yet literally worshiped at the feet of the devil. They were of the idea that you can practice sin and still call yourself a believer. Problem was, they were influencing the true children of God to follow them. And this idea is still prevalent in our day. People ‘go through the motions’ of getting saved and join the church. But they continue with on with their sinful lives as if they had never met Jesus: which is the truth of the matter. And not satisfied with “their own freedom” they were seeking to lead others down the same path.

 

John condemned this whole line of reasoning in his first epistle and when I say he condemned it, I don’t mean the kind of condemnation you hear on T.V. when our government ‘condemns’ the actions of another government. In that situation what you have is mere semantics, mere words without teeth. It’s basically saying “I don’t like what you are doing, so there!” But John declared that those who practice sin are not Christians at all. Their sinfulness condemned them as imposters destined for hellfire unless they would repent. This was the situation in Thyatira! There was a faithful remnant who had not bowed the knee to Baal. But others had caved in to the influence of the false prophet and her false disciples who were ‘members of the church’ but who were anything but faithful to Jesus!

 

Our text is found in (Rev 2:18-29). “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: 19 ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22 ‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. 23  ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. 24  ‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. 25  ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. 26  ‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; 27  AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; 28  and I will give him the morning star. 29  ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

 

This is longest letter to any of the churches and it is quite a  mouthful therefore we will take it in two Sunday’s. Notice how  Jesus describes Himself in verse  18“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, Now we discussed this before but it bears repeating: Jesus Christ is everywhere at once. He fills His universe! He knows what is happening at every moment, in every corner of the globe. There is no place so dark that you can hide from Him.

In Psalm 139:11-12) The Psalmist puts this “hiding place” myth to bed when he declares that darkness is no haven from the eyes of God. He says, (11) If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” (12) even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

 

The scriptures tell us that the eyes of the Lord are in everyplace watching the evil and the good. You will not get away with your sins. Those flaming eyes see and know. They not only see the deeds you do but the motives behind the deeds, the planning that went into it and all the rest. He knows! Remember what Jesus said to the church of Pergamum? He said if you don’t repent I am coming quickly and will make war, that is, destroy those evil doers with the sword of My mouth!

 

The Justice system of our Lord is not like the perverted justice system of man where evil men can get off due to a technicality. In God’s court, there are no loopholes for those who practice sin. There are no technicalities. Those feet like burnished bronze are ready to stamp them small as the dust of the summer threshing floor. From (Isaiah 63:1-6) we read this frightening description of The Righteous Judge of all the earth. Ponder the imagery here and stand in awe of our Mighty God who will judge sinners and that judgment will be overwhelming! Isaiah relates this vision saying, (1) Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” (2) Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?  (3) “I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. (4) “For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come. (5) “I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld Me. (6) “I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

 

When judgment is passed, there is no court of appeals. God has the last word. 

 

This awesome, majestic, omnipotent Lord speaks to His church and He says this: 19‘I know your deeds, I can’t help but to repeat once again that there is nothing, good or bad that we have done, are doing or are planning to do that He does not see and know already. Jesus Himself said: “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. (Lu 12:2) Jesus knows those who are His! He knows who His faithful ones are: those who are serving Him because their hearts are filled with love and devotion for Him. He knows them because He personally saved them from their sins. He knows them by name, having chosen them before the foundation of the world. He Himself called them and they heard His voice and they followed Him.

 

Their devotion to Jesus is not a one time event either. They have come to know that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that He alone has the words of eternal life. They love Him! And they don’t readily give ear to the voice of strangers, false teachers, worldly wisemen, legalists and the like. They are His! Jesus also knows those who are merely wearing a “church suit” a mask. He knows whether or not you are a Christian or a hypocrite. He saw through the busyness of the Ephesians to the heart of the matter!

And He sees into your heart right now! He sees those who try to sneak into the way that leads to life by another path. He sees through all of those humanistic, legalistic, formalistic schemes that claim to be another way to heaven. Sinful men try to say “our way is just as good as yours” or “we’ve always done it that way. They may argue “we have a customary way to enter life and if need be we can produce testimony in support of our custom that will stand for a thousand years.”

 

But again, God is not interested in our customs: in our way of doing things! He is God, the One (Isa 46:10) Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” and “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ (Da 4:35) 

 

Here is an illustration of sinful men. They are creatures of habit. They love form, don’t like things to change ‘too quickly’ and cling to tradition. Unfortunately for man, God doesn’t do things our way. Though something has never been tried before by man, God simply doesn’t care.  He is doing as He pleases, for the glory of His Name. His ways are past finding out. Finite mankind can’t understand the things of the spirit of God. He is beyond our comprehension. This of course threw the children of Israel into many a panic during their wilderness wanderings! “What’s God doing now?” they’d ask. If there was a big sea in the way they threw up their hands and whined. But for God: no problem: He just split it! If there wasn’t any water, “why did you bring us out into this desert to die? But for God, snap: a drinking fountain from a rock. Food running low: “Oh who will give us food? God said, relax, it’ll rain bread in the morning.

 

Jesus had the same way of dealing with things. When His disciples were far from shore, it didn’t matter: Jesus just strolled over the waves. Problem with the weather? “Shut up wind! And so it went. Now consider the Jews. They loved their scriptures, (they wrote their own, adding to and taking away from God’s word) they loved their temple, their sacrifices, and their Sabbath. They loved their way of doing things. Too bad they didn’t care much for God to whom they claimed unfailing devotion! And Jesus ran up against the whole stubborn lot of them. They whined about every miracle He performed and every word He taught. “Did you see that? they’d say: Why, He healed on the Sabbath.

 

At every turn Jesus showed them the truth: even more, the glory of God.  But they kept getting hung up on His methods. These things just weren’t done: touching lepers, raising the dead, hanging out with sinners, (all which defiled the body) whipping the money changers, (who were working with the Religious leaders) He scared them to death! They might as well have said, “We don’t do things like that around here!” And that was a big thing for them. Jesus didn’t do things “their way.” You see, they had an orderly, ritualistic way of doing things. They had all of their traditions. But Jesus…why Jesus had the whole town in an uproar at least once a week! And the reason was that He disturbed their nice little religion, WITH THE TRUTH!!!!!!

 

Jesus revealed to the world who and what these people were, pompous and arrogant hypocrites. R.C Sproul said, “These religious leaders played at being holy and they pulled it off, until Someone who really was Holy, came to town. And His very presence showed them up for the hypocrites that they were.” The presence of God always does this. To the Church at Thyatira He says 19‘I know your deeds,

The word, deed speaks of their business, their employment, that which they were occupied with. It goes further to signify that which one starts to do or even agrees to do. Jesus knows their deeds whether done, doing or in the planning stages. He knows the thoughts and motivations of the hearts of these people. This is, without a doubt, intimate knowledge.

 

He goes further saying I know your deeds, “and your love… Now there are four words for love in the Greek language, Eros which is romantic love, Storge which is familial love, Phileo which is brotherly love and Agape, which is the love Jesus speaks of here and is characterized in selfless sacrifice for the good of others which love is Christ’s love for us. He laid down His life for our sins, paid our debt and changed us from dead slaves of sin into living saints of God. The good Samaritan also demonstrated this type of over the top, love. Jesus is saying that these Thyatirans were demonstrating this type of 1st Corinthians 13 love.

 

Continuing He says, I know your, deeds, your love and your faith… The Greek word here is Pistis which speaks of the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and ruler of all things: that He is the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Pistis faith is a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. It means to believe, to trust or have confidence in God. Jesus knows there were those who had true, saving faith in this church because He bestowed this gift of faith upon them. And He knows the level of their faith. He says I know your…service that is, the outworking of, or the demonstration of the faith they claimed to possess. James spoke of demonstrating, giving outward evidence, proving that we have faith by our deeds. These people were doing just that. And this wasn’t just a once in a while thing. Jesus speaks of their love and faith and service and perseverance, they were practicing their religion. They were really living their faith on a daily basis. Jesus speaks of the increasing, growing manner of their living faith saying, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 

 

But there was a problem: a serious problem in this church. Jesus says, 20‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. In studying the kings of Israel and Judah it is interesting that even the good kings, that is, those who were following God, would still leave the high places intact. These high places were used to worship Baal, Ashtoreth, Moloch and other idols. These places devoted to sin were ‘tolerated’ by men like Jehoash, Amaziah, and Asa: all called godly kings but who all allowed these idol worship stations to remain open. What are you tolerating in your life? What sinful indulgences have you let slide with a mere wink and a nod? There are those who would say “We’re not under law, we’re under grace.” This is their excuse for tolerating sin. Or how about this one: “Nobody’s perfect!” God will understand! No He won’t. He has clearly declared His will in the pages of Holy Scripture when He says “Be holy for I am Holy. That is, be set apart from this sinful world. Be separated unto Me. Be Christ’s men from head to foot and give no chances to the flesh to have its fling.

 

Ponder this statement from C.S. Lewis. “Christ says…I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I’ll have the whole tree down… the whole natural self with all of its desires: the ones you think innocent as well as the desires you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself.” We have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, our whole bad tree has been cut down and a new sapling has been planted. We are called to a life of holiness, a life that will bring glory to God! And this will be our hearts desire if indeed we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. As His children we are called to separation from sin and wholehearted devotion to our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in (Ro 6:13) and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

 

God has spoken plainly and really has no time for our excuses. There is no place for sinful indulgence. There is no place for compromise. Our Father has called us with a holy calling. He has saved us from our former way of life and He rightly demands and expects our obedience. And if we are truly His, our hearts desire will be to give it! An old preacher from the 1800’s said, “Examine thoroughly the state of your hearts and see where you are, whether you walk daily with God or with the devil. You must determine to examine your hearts.”This woman Jezebel had led the children of God astray into wickedness. She was obviously a very influential, very persuasive woman to have been able to deceive even the elect and to convince them that it was ok to sin. How can I say that the elect were led astray? Jesus Himself says “she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” He’s not talking about unbelievers here.

 

But remember who our adversary is. The devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His ministers masquerade as ministers of righteousness. They sugar coat their lies to make them palatable. They package their deception in biblical language to make it sound right. And even the strongest of Christians is capable of falling for it if he is not on guard. Consider Peter for a moment. Peter was an Apostle. He was a very influential man and others looked up to him. But during a visit to Antioch to see how the Church was doing, he suddenly separated himself from the gentile Christians. This was evil. Remember that he had received a vision from God concerning the gentiles. 

 

But Satan was at work here in the guise of Jews from James, and suddenly Peter was thumbing his nose at God. Suddenly it wasn’t proper to eat with these “gentile Christians. And his sin caused even faithful Barnabas to follow his sinful example. Paul had to confront Peter and give him a good scolding for his sin! Now if a man who loved Jesus could do this, think of what one who hates Jesus could do.Jezebel hated God. She stood in the place of God dictating what was good and what was bad. And many were swayed by her wiles.

 

What did she say? “I have received a mighty vision from the Lord. He has told me that it is ok for us to go to idol feasts and attend the orgies afterwards.” Perhaps she pointed to the church at Pergamum. They were doing it. Perhaps she used their example to say, “Look, everybody’s doing it!” Perhaps she said that there was a special blessing involved if they did what she said. This is the way of all false teachers. “Just do what I say and you will be blessed! I am a special channel of blessing and you need to get on board or you’ll be left out! But as I said earlier, there is hell to pay for such a life. God pronounces judgment on her but notice what verse 21 says  ‘I gave her time to repent, (the days of Noah)…  Maybe He sent real prophets to speak to her. Maybe some of the faithful remnant witnessed to her.

I remember reading about a meeting between Joseph Smith and a preacher of the true gospel. He warned Smith of his sin. God was merciful in allowing Joseph to hear the truth. But he did not want to repent. God had mercy and gave this evil woman time to repent and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. Does this not remind you of the children of Israel? They had the truth but continuously wandered away to commit fornication with idols. And God threw them into great tribulation. They suffered under hard bondage until they cried out to God for mercy. 23‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, the wages of sin is death and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. All the churches will know: all the members will recognize that God knows your hearts. They will understand that He knows who His children are and who the game players are. And they will see how He deals with both.

 

Examine thoroughly the state of your hearts and see whether you walk daily with God or with the devil. Who is on the Lord’s side, let him serve the Lord with the whole heart! There is no place for compromise. And remember the prodigal son. There is mercy to be found with our heavenly Father. If you are faithful, be faithful still. And remember that there is grace to be found at the Mercy Seat! (Psalm 139:23)  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (24) and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

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