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The Church that Relied on its Past
Today folks I want to share with you about a church, who in the past, stood strong for the Lord. They were faithful, would not deny they were followers of Jesus and would not deny his name. However these people have fallen away from God, allowed false doctrines to enter into their church and even turn them away from being so devout. Am I describing your church or denomination? If so, this message is for you.
As we started on this series of messages we explained how that while John was writing to specific churches in Asia, it described a time period of our history but also it describes churches that are found in the world today. Today’s time frame historically was from about 313 AD to about 606 AD when the Roman papacy was firmly established. This was during a time when false teachers were abounding and even taking over “the church”. This is also something we see happening in many of today’s churches. You may even be being led astray by one or more of these false teachers we have been warned about. These are people who are bringing much of the false beliefs into the church even as had happened to Pergamos.
Revelation 2:12-17 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 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. 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. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 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].”
Here we clearly see the church being told that he remembers their works and how they were faithful IN THE PAST even when there was a martyr among them. He remembers how strong they were in the faith but what has happened? He tells then he knows they are in a place where Satan dwells and how they are hanging onto his name but something has happened in their church. They have allowed members to come into their midst who teach the doctrines of false gods. People who said it was ok to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication among them. They also had among them some that held the beliefs of the Nicolaitans which we previously mentioned in our lesson on the Ephesian church. Remember the Nicolaitans believed it was ok to do all the things mentioned above and more “in the name of Christianity” and the church at Ephesus was praised for hating the works of the Nicolaitans.
By the second century this belief was becoming more encompassing and adopting more of the thought that it didn’t matter what you did after you were saved because “God loves you and once you believe in him then your soul is safe”. In other words once you “pray the prayer” you can continue to do whatever you want. This is nothing more than heretical teachings and yes it is found in churches today. We are supposed to let our lights shine through us and by our works but not relying on our works. Remember that is what the church at Ephesus got rebuked for.
Now chances are these people had come into the church a little at a time. This church would have been strong enough to withstand a straight on onslaught. We know this because they didn’t deny Christ even when there was a martyr. So what happened? These false teachers and leaders would have come in and perhaps have one small thing that was considered sin but no one ever said anything and after a while it became accepted. Perhaps it was a leader in the community no one wanted to offend. Perhaps this leader had a big party and had entertainment that “wasn’t godly” but wasn’t openly something that would have been considered “evil”. So when the people became comfortable with that, then it went a step further and before long these people have become the “leaders” who are accepting of all things. Perhaps they used the saying we hear so often today “If you’re really a Christian you’re not supposed to judge me, it’s between me and God”. Satan is the master of lying and tricking people and twisting God’s word all out of context to fit his desires.
This belief of you can live however you want and God’s mercy will make sure you are ok got its roots in this very movement. It is something very prevalent in many of the bigger denominations and churches today. We see groups that only preach about God’s love and never any responsibility to living how he calls us to live. We see churches where it’s acceptable to become drunk at church functions. We see groups not only allowing the homosexual to worship among them but actually WELCOMING them in as worship leaders and even ordaining them as ministers because “that is between them and God”. We see denominations that a mere 100 years ago preached against all forms of sin that we see being the ones today that are open to accepting it and even embracing it. Things that were sin 100 years ago have become ok to the church leaders today. How is this any different than what is in the message John was delivering to the church at Pergamos? It isn’t. He was telling them that these false teachers were among those leading them astray and they needed to repent and turn away from the beliefs they were being led astray into. It has just slipped in because they weren’t watching out for it.
We see here John is delivering the message from Jesus that says (in our way of speaking today) “you better turn away from these things that you KNOW are sin and straighten up”. The word of God tells us what is true and what is not and that is what we are supposed to live by.
But after all this warning and rebuking of the church for their behavior, once again how do see this message to this church ending? It ends with a promise that those who overcome will be blessed. Those who ARE willing to stand up and overcome the sin are the ones that will partake of the manna and receive a white stone with a new name. Those are the ones who will be standing up in the church world today crying out “This goes against the word of God, turn from the evil ways. It is sin”. They aren’t relying on the history of their church or denomination to get them in, they are the ones who are going to be standing up for what the Bible says and telling people that the end is near, repent. These are the people who will be kicked out of the “liberal church” for being narrow-minded. These are the overcomers.
Ask yourself today; am I in a church like the church of Pergamos? Does my church preach against evil or does it quietly allow it preaching only “Jesus loves you” regardless of how you live and its all ok...
Can you all think of any of the ministries out there today pushing this message forward?
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