This sermon is from the series SEVEN DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHURCHES and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on June 1, 2014 by Pastor Paul Mims. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Revelation 2:18-29The story is told of a pastor of a large church who had a dream one night that really opened his eyes. He dreamed that he could see his own church worship service on Sunday morning. But there was something very strange happening.
The choir was singing. The mouths of the choir members were open……but no sound was heard. The people in the congregation were singing. But there was nothing from their mouths, either. The preacher himself got up to preach his typical Sunday sermon. He opened his mouth to preach…..but nothing came out.
There was absolutely no sound at all in the entire Sanctuary. Then, the pastor saw a little girl up in the balcony and heard her little voice singing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
The pastor was confused and suddenly woke up.
“Lord, what was I dreaming? It doesn’t make sense to me.” He asked.
The Lord spoke to his heart and said, “Pastor, you just saw a picture of what I see in your ministry and in your church every Sunday morning. People are singing and you are preaching…….but I hear nothing. Your heart is not focused on me. You are focused on yourself. The only one I heard in your church last Sunday was the little girl in the balcony who matters to very few people in your church. But she matters to me……because she came to church today with the right motive: to love me with all of her heart!”
The Lord looks down on our worship this morning. What does He hear?
Her name was Lydia. She was the first Christian convert in Europe. Paul met her in Philippi. It is recorded like this in Acts 16:13-15: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”
Lydia was from the city in the Roman Province of Asia called Thyatira. This letter is to the church in her home town. She was a seller of purple cloth. Purple dye was very expensive. It was made from the root of a plant found around Thyatira and from a shellfish. From the murex shellfish’s throat could be taken one drop of a component that made purple dye. According the historian, Pliny, it was so expensive that one pound of the dye would cost a working man the wages he would make in three years. So you can see that Lydia was a very wonderful Christian lady whose business dealt in the expensive frills of life in that day.
Do you know people in your home church in the town where you came from? There was another woman who was a member of the church at Thyatira who had great influence. Just as a man who betrays others is called a Judas, a woman is called a Jezebel. The only connection that we know of between Lydia and Jezebel is that they were from the same town. But it is entirely likely that Lydia returned to Thyatira and was instrumental along with her family in the establishing of the church there.
The “Jezebel” from which the name comes is the wife of King Ahab in the Old Testament. She was a Sidonian princess, the daughter of a king. When she became Ahab’s queen she brought with her the pagan gods that she worshipped. Ahab was king of Israel for twenty two years and did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. I Kings 16:31-32 says, “He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He setup an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.”
Elijah, the prophet, called for a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel with a contest to see which god would answer – the God of Israel of the god named Baal. God answered and Elijah had all of the prophets of Baal slain. Ahab told Jezebel about it and she sent word to Elijah and said, “By this time tomorrow you will be dead!” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He prayed and told the Lord, “I have had enough!” He wanted to die and end it all. But the Lord sent an angel to encourage him. This is the kind of woman that had control of the church in Thyatira. Let’s look at what Jesus said about the situation.
I. A WORD OF COMENDATION
“These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” (vv.18-20)
Jesus identifies himself as Son of God. His “blazing eyes” means that he sees everything that is going on in the church. His “bronze feet” means that he has taken a strong stand in power against the heresy in the church. A church that just gets a crowd of people is not always a real or true church. There was a severe threat from inside the church that Jesus wanted eradicated.
Notice that Jesus commends the church on their deeds, their love, their faith, and their perseverance. Jesus commends them for the good and faithful part of their lives. Look at the comparison to the Church in Ephesus who would tolerate no heresy but had lost their ability to love. The Thyatira church was commended for their love, but were tolerating the heresy of Jezebel. We have the same extremes in the churches of today. There is the loveless standing for orthodoxy and condemning of everyone who differs from one’s belief and on the other extreme is the gentle loving of those who differ in beliefs and tolerating their heresy.
II. A WORD OF COMPLAINT
“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” (v.20)
“She calls herself a prophetess.” Super spiritual people, either man or woman, are always a danger to the church. They claim to have insight that others do not. This Jezebel was most likely a Gnostic belonging to the Nicolaitan sect. They allowed immoral conduct with the approval of religion. They claimed to know the “deep things” of both God and Satan. One of their beliefs was that the deeds done in the body could not affect the soul so a person could be above sin. By this belief they could beat Satan at his own game. He could not touch them in their spiritual lives because body and soul were different. You can see the appeal of this to unstable Christians. They could have the assurance of salvation and at the same time the freedom to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. Superficial believers would love this.
Take this to the next logical conclusion. In their Christology they believed that Jesus only “appeared” to be a human being. He was not truly human. This, as you can see, attacks one of the most basic tenets of our Christian faith – that God through the Incarnation became a human being through his Son, Jesus. That is why the beginning of this letter it is stated, “These are the words of the Son of God.”
This belief denies the historical Jesus and makes the Sermon on the Mount and all of his teachings of no importance. So don’t worry about his ethical and moral teachings. They are no binding on you. You can live as you like. Just be spiritual. So today, we hear the mantra, “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual.” Oh yes, fortune telling is very spiritual. So is astrology. It is very spiritual to believe that your life is controlled by the stars for that takes you out from under the Lordship of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is very spiritual to believe in the Americanizing of Hinduism. It is very spiritual to believe in
So there she was – this woman who was most likely very attractive, with a gift of words and a charming personality. She had leadership qualities and teaching ability and the church at Thyatira gave her a class and she was teaching the women her Jezebel beliefs. And Jesus saw it.
Men have led churches into error, but this is especially true with women of the Jezebel type. Some of these are Spiritism, Christian Science, and Theosophy. This Jezebel claimed to have special revelations from God and she was recognized as having a spiritual quality to her teachings, but they did not come from God. On the surface she looked like a qualified teacher.
III. A WORD OF CONDEMNATION
“I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches the hearts and the minds, and I will repay you according to your deeds.” (vv.21-23)
Jezebel had advocated compliance with pagan mores. Evidently, members of the church had confronted her privately but did not have the courage to openly call her teachings the heresy that they were. So the church would not deal with her. Jesus said that he would bring her down through suffering. She would get sick and bedridden and would not be able to teach any longer. He had given her time to repent but she would not. Those who had believed her teaching and adopted the beliefs and lifestyles she taught will also be struck dead. The Lord is serious about those who trifle with his redeemed people. The church is not designed to be a pleasant paganism.
IV. A WORD OF COMFORT
“Now I say this to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold to what you have until I come.” (vv.24-25)
The Lord knows who is true and who is not. Those who are well grounded in the faith and are true worshippers of God he will protect and lead them on into the treasures of the deeper life in Christ.
They are the ones who will hold on to what they have and will be faithful to the end.
V. A WORD OF CHALLENGE
“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.” (vv.26-29)
This is a combination of several verses: Psalm 2:9 “You will rule them like an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Isaiah 30:14 “It will break in pieces like pottery…” Jeremiah 19:11 “This is what the Lord says: I will smash this nation and this city just as the potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.” Jesus is referring to the end of time when his redeemed people will triumph over the nations that have held them in obedience. The new age of Christ’s rule will bring about the breaking up of all of the old rebellious and sinful strongholds that have the unredeemed in their grip.
The overcomer will be privileged to know and serve Christ who is the bright and morning star as stated in Revelation 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
All of this is an ever present reminder that the Lord could return at any time.
Pliny was a governor and somewhat historian in the Roman province of Asia in the early second century. He was very puzzled about the Christians who were brought before him to be tried for their crime of believing in another King. He wrote to the Emperor Trajan asking for his advice about what to do with the Christians. This is what he found himself up against:
A certain unknown Christian was brought before him, and Pliny, finding little fault in him, proceeded to threaten him. “I will banish you,” he said.
“You cannot,” was the reply, “for all the world is my Father’s house.”
“Then I will kill you,” said the Governor.
“You cannot,” answered the Christian, “for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
“I will take away your possessions,” continued Pliny.
“You cannot,” replied the Christian, “for my treasure is in heaven.”
“I will drive you away in exile and you will have no friend left,” threatened Pliny.
And the calm reply was, “You cannot. I have an unseen friend with whom you are not able to separate me.”
What can you do with people like that? They are more than conquerors through him who loved us and gave his life for us.
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!