Service Video Message Video Message Audio %} Lakeside Christian Church · The Worldly Church | Dear Church episode 03 Scripture Verses Revelation 2:12-17; Matthew 10:28; Deuteronomy 8:1-20 Worship Playlist Your Name by Paul BalocheGreat Are You Lord by All Sons & DaughtersHoly Spirit by Bethel MusicJesus at the Center by IsraelThere's Something About that Name by Bill Gaither Downloads & Resources The Worldly Church Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/6/2023 We’re calling this current series, “Dear Church.” In Revelation 2-3, we find seven short letters Christ wrote to a cluster of churches scattered across Asia Minor. The first letter was written to Ephesus—a congregation that had grown cold in its love for Christ, and her love for people. The second letter was written to Smyrna. Just as myrrh was crushed to release its sweet fragrance, so the church was being crushed by affliction. Christ commends them for their faithfulness, and encourages them not to fear death. This morning we find the letter Christ wrote to Christians in Pergamum. Pergamum was the northernmost of the seven cities or churches mentioned in Revelation. The greatness of this city once rivaled that of Alexandria, Ephesus and Antioch in culture and commerce. The city was filled with towering monuments, temples, and buildings constructed of high-quality white marble in the finest Hellenistic style. Some are still standing today. Pergamum invented, and was the first to use, “Parchment.” In ancient times they boasted a library with hundreds of thousands of volumes (a library second only to that of famed library in Alexandria, Egypt. It would later go up in flames)! Pergamum was the center of ancient medicine. It was center for theatre and arts. The city has so much acclaim—it’s a spectacular place to visit even today. For our purposes, one huge historical note to consider, is that... as the Roman Empire rose to prominence, Pergamum was the first of all the cities in Asia Minor to concede power (to accommodate, to assimilate into) Rome. In time, they became the capital and center of Roman power in all Asia Minor. They even built a temple to Caesar and became known as the capital of the cult of Caesar worship. They also built beautiful temples to the four great gods Zeus, Dionysus, Athena and Asklepios. For these reasons and many more, the rise and fall of Pergamum would be inextricably connected to rise and fall of Rome. Through and through they were married to Rome, to the Greek culture, and to the gods. Here is what Christ’s says to the church there. Revelation 2:12-17, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.” 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” You know twice Jesus alludes to Satan. In verse 13, Pergamum is “where Satan has his throne” and is “where Satan lives.” This is place where everything antithetical (that rivals) God’s holy nature, character, and purposes, has metastasized. This city didn’t just accommodate Caesar thrones, they had accommodated Satan’s throne. They weren’t just the capital of Rome in Asia Minor, they were the city of Satan, seat of power for the Satan’s Kingdom. Presumably, this was one of the hardest places to live for Christ, in all the ancient world! Let me just ask. Where is the hardest place to live for Christ today? How hard is it to live for Christ today, in Springfield, IL? Or maybe you commute from a smaller town, or from the country. When you consider all the places you’ve lived, or visited… When you consider all the great cities in the United States, or around the world… where might Satan dwell today? Where might his throne be most established.. his presence and power most prominent? One of the ways we might answer this is to consider the subversive manner in which Satan’s reigns. Well first let me say, Satan can be as overt as he wants to be. In verse 13, Christ speaks of “Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city.” These Christians had remained true to Christ’s name. Like the Christians at Smyrna, when pressured and bullied, even under threat of death, they didn’t bend. They learned the truth of Christ’s words in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul, rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Fear is Satan’s greatest tool. It’s the tool of the terrorist, the authoritarian, governments, entertainers, the scientist, the marketing agency, even parents! Fear of death, rejection, missing out, loss, punishment, fear of this, fear of that. Antipas didn’t bend to fear, he was filled with faith. Satan’s servants martyred him, but they couldn’t destroy his soul! Amen! But look how Satan subverts God’s people. I know it sounds obscure, but consider Revelation 2:14-15, “There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Nobody really knows who the Nicolaitans were, or what they were doing. What we do know is that they’d become susceptible to Satan, in the same way (in the OT) Israel had become susceptible to Balaam, who’d become susceptible to Balak, who’d become susceptible to Satan. There was a chain of influence. Verse 15 exposes the crux of the matter: “They ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.” *If Satan cannot compromise God’s people with fear, he’ll always compromise us another way. The aroma of meat, sacrificed to idols. The seductions of sexual immorality. It's interesting that a debate emerged around the 4th Century about what caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. The charge was leveled by some that Christianity corrupted the once great empire to collapse. In his classic work City of God, Augustine rebutted the charge. As one commentary says, “Augustine believed Rome fell because its sins were piled as high as heaven and because the commitment of most of the Christian population remained too shallow to restrain God’s wrath.” Satan doesn’t have to kill, destroy, or martyr. He only has to weaken his enemy. In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the white witch exploits Edmund's cravings for the magical Turkish delight, to get him to betray his family, and put them in danger. Only later on does he realize his error, and feels terrible. The more we’re monopolized by our appetites, the weaker we become. Sure, we could mention any number of addictions plaguing our lives or families. But most often it’s the seemingly simple pleasure—the warmth of apple pie—or the mystical lure of Turkish delight that causes us to drift from God. Really anything we desire more deeply than God (even good things) can compromise our devotion to God. At the end of this Letter (in verse 17) Jesus urges the believers to hold out for the good stuff, for the “hidden manna” which God will give you. This made me remember God’s warning to Israel in Deuteronomy 8:1-11. Take a listen: “Carefully follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase, and may enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to your ancestors. 2 Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these forty years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your ancestors had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these forty years. 5 Keep in mind that the Lord your God has been disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. 6 So keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams, springs, and deep water sources, flowing in both valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat food without shortage, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you will mine copper. 10 When you eat and are full, you will bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” But God gives them this this warning: Deuteronomy 8:11-20, “Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep his commands, ordinances, and statutes that I am giving you today. 12 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, 13 and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, 14 be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 15 He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous[a] snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint rock for you. 16 He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your ancestors had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. 17 You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ 18 but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve them and bow in worship to them, I testify against you today that you will certainly perish. 20 Like the nations the Lord is about to destroy before you, you will perish if you do not obey the Lord your God.” *And that’s how Satan can use even good things to soften or corrupt us, to fill us with pride, to cause us to forget God is the true source. Perhaps what Augustine said about the Christians in Rome is true of many Christians in America today? Could it be that our devotion to Christ remains too shallow to restrain God’s wrath? Like Rome, will America collapse? Will the shallow, overly contented, evangelical church perish right alongside the wicked? I had another thought as I read this letter. In Scripture, Satan’s power and throne always seems to be concentrated in “cities.” The power of culture to corrupt a soul is on full display in the city. In the city, every vice, every perversion can not only find shelter, and satisfaction, but also community. There’s always a corner where deviant behavior gets applauded, if not normalized. The cities are Satan’s playground. His power is overtly on display in our cities. But let me warn you—Satan’s “throne” no longer needs to reside in our cities. Through modern technology, he can now dwell, reign, live, rule, entice, pervert, corrupt us… he can have his way from our pockets… through our portable devices. His power is not on display just in our cities, but on our cell phones. If you think the danger of apple pie, or the smell of smoked meat poses danger in your relationship to God. How much more might the danger of sexual immorality pose? How much more might 24/7, non-stop, streaming sexual immorality pose? Hard-core, soft-core pornography? How much more the constant barrage of suggestive (if not explicit) images, song lyrics, videos, memes, tweets, tik-toks, Instagrams… Satan doesn’t have to martyr anyone. He just has to keep buzzing our devices, pinging us with whatever entices the flesh, turning us into digital zombies who cannot escape the glow of our screens. Jesus’ word to the compromised American Church is “REPENT.” Long for the “hidden manna.” Long to find deeper satisfaction in right relationship with God. This was his word to the Israelites too! Don’t Forget. Remember your God and he will remember you. By the way in the city of Pergamum, everything important was built of enduring white stone, marble. Even today some of these structures still stand. You can even still read the names, inscriptions of people from ancient times. Christ’s invitation is that not only do we long for true manna, true food, true satisfaction in God…. But that we be remembered by God for eternity. Imagine your name, etched for eternity on white stone (marble) in heaven. Nations will rise and fall, but those who are faithful to God, only rise more and more.