Manage episode 194422562 series 1874289
We’ve been looking at the seven churches Jesus addresses in Revelation, and so far we have looked at Ephesus and Smyrna. The next church in our series is at a town called Pergamum.
These three towns were royal cities in Asia Minor, Smyrna was the great commercial center, Ephesus was the great political center, and Pergamum was the great religious center. That’s why Jesus referred to this city as “where Satan’s throne is.” For Ephesus Jesus addressed losing their first love, Smyrna was about faithfully standing under persecution and today’s Church, Pergamum, is about little compromises and this will speak to all of us, wherever we are on the road with Christ.
Revelation 2:12-17 (ESV Strong's)
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
“‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (Antipas was the first martyr in Asia, tradition says he was slowly broiled alive inside a big pot shaped like a brass bull)
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
This city was very much a temple city, and Jesus calls it the throne of Satan. It was the headquarters of satanic opposition and a Gentile base for false religions. On the acropolis in Pergamum was a huge, throne-shaped altar to Zeus. In addition, Asklepios, the god of healing, was the god most associated with the town. His snake-like form is still the medical symbol today. The famous medical school connected to his temple mingled medicine with superstition. One prescription called for the worshiper to sleep on the temple floor, allowing snakes to crawl over his body to infuse him with their healing power.
This was an intensely evil and satanic city, and the church at Pergamum was commended for holding fast to their belief in Christ and not denying a Him, even if it meant hardship and poverty like we saw with the Church at Smyrna.
And I wonder, looking at our society today, if we are not living in Satan’s hangout too. Look at the stuff being pushed upon us, look at the pressure to compromise our beliefs in God and the family unit. And you know the scary thing? We Christians are at times like the frog being slowly boiled alived… we get so use to sin and debauchery we think it’s normal!
2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV Strong's)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Certainly our society, like the city of Pergamum, is blinded, but the fear is that we Christians will be blinded by the enemy also. Now more than ever we must be on our guard, we must be totally loving to others but totally unbending in what we believe is right!
A FEW THINGS AGAINST YOU…
Then Jesus goes in the offensive with this Church in Revelation 2:14, and He doesn’t mince words! He equates their acceptance and tolerance of the Nicolaitan sect, which we think was an early gnostic heresy in the church, with a guy from many years past called Balaam. The result of the Balaam thing was the church permitted the eating of food offered to idols and sexual immorality.
So they stood up for the big things. They made a stand for what was right in a very dark place. But listen, you can make a stand for Christ but still be compromising. So let’s have a look at Balaam, at the sins of this ancient prophet, and see compromise in all its limited power…
BALAAM.. A PROPHET FOR PROFIT
Numbers 22… Balak was a Midianite King who was threatened by the presence of the Israelites in their exodus journey. So he summoned a prophet called Balaam and asked Balaam to curse the Israelites. For this he would get riches and honour, and Balaam liked riches and honour!
Now Balaam was a prophet who could definitely hear God. We have people in this church whom I believe definitely hear God in this prophetic way. It takes time for us to connect as leaders and learn to trust them, and some of you here I definitely trust with regards hearing the voice of the Spirit. These prophetic people are given by God to be a blessing to the church and to us as a Church leadership, but frankly sometimes they are not a blessing at all. There is a fine line between using a genuine spiritual gift to bless others, and misusing it to further your own desires, opinions or aims, as we shall see with Balaam.
Now I want to have a good look at how Balaam acted in this whole situation, because there are some great lessons we can learn about how we react to God’s clear direction, and how we must use our spiritual gifts to serve rather than self serve.
When asked to curse the Israelites, Balaam says he will enquire of the Lord. A good start, don’t you think? But then God says this… and this is pretty clear direction…
Numbers 22:12 (ESV Strong's)
God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”
Now call me crazy but I’d have thought that was pretty definitive. God said no, not maybe, not possibly, but definitely no! Now, notice what Balaam says when he reports back to Balak…
Numbers 22:13 (ESV Strong's)
So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”
The implication is, “Guys, I’d love to do it, but the Lord won’t let me.” Is that true obedience? Is that absolute trust and love for God, or is he leaving the door ajar here? Remember, partial obedience is total disobedience!
BALAAM… IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…
If at first you don’t succeed, sky diving is probably not for you. Some things you just don’t want to persist with, and disobedience is one of them, as Balaam is about to find out!
So Balak sent more princes, higher princes with the same request, but notice Balaam’s answer…
Numbers 22:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold (hint, hint), I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.”
Now Balaam had already asked God and been given an answer. But he really wanted this, so he thought he’d try again. Maybe he can figure out how to twist God’s arm to get what he wanted!
Strangely God gives permission for him to go, but to strictly say only what God commands. Just a chapter later, Balaam Himself prophesies this…
Numbers 23:19 (ESV Strong's)
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?
Listen, if God tells you no, don’t keep going back asking. If you want something so bad you’re prepared to keep asking and disobey God, you’re in for a world of heartache! So although God let him get what he wanted, He was super angry at him. And sometimes God is like that… He allows us to reap what we sow and gives us what we want, even though it’s going to cause us pain.
I’ve seen people who want a partner so badly they settle for someone God never wanted them to have, and convince themselves that this is their last shot at happiness. The result? Mostly heartache and pain for years. I’ve seen people who will do anything to get ahead in business, and finish up in jail. If God says no, and you keep asking, often the consequences for your sin is simply that He takes His hands off the wheel and lets you get what you want!
Romans 1:24 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
The Greek word PARADIDOMY for “gave them up” means to yield, to surrender, to let them have their way. Trust me, in life, you will reap what you so, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
BALAAM… MAKES AN ASS OF HIMSELF
So Balaam heads off, and an angel with a sword is waiting for him. His donkey sees the danger, and tries to save Balaam, but he finishes up beating the ass. Then he has a conversation with his ass, who is not trying to be a pain in the proverbial but is actually more aware of God than the prophet is!
When he sees that death awaits him, Balaam understands at this point that God is angry, and turns and heads home, right? Wrong! Balaam wants his own way so badly, listen to what he says to God…
Numbers 22:34 (ESV Strong's)
Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.”
If it is evil… who is he kidding? Beware if God says no but you persist and get your own way. Balaam was given plenty of opportunities to relent, but he refused, and made an ass of himself! Then in Numbers 23, Balaam pronounces 3 oracles over Israel, but instead of cursing them he actually blesses them! Balak keeps offering more and more money and honour, but Balaam cannot do what he is asked. This prophet, who had a genuine gift, who could genuinely hear God, used the gift to feather his own nest, to drive his own agenda. For prophetic people, the temptation to use your gift to drive your personal preferences and agenda is very strong. Prophets, learn the difference between your opinion and the genuine voice of God!
So Balaam goes home, Balak is angry and the children of Israel are not cursed. But there’s a twist…
BALAAM’S END GAME
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and so it is with the persistent and insistent Balaam… he had an evil plan. Look at what happens in the very next chapter…
Numbers 25:1-3 (ESV Strong's)
While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
24,000 Israelites died, because the people compromised themselves sexually and allowed the wrong influence into their lives. But where did this come from? How did Balak suddenly get this alternative strategy for overcoming the Israelites? I’ll give you one guess…
Numbers 31:16 (ESV Strong's)
Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.
Balaam wanted the cash, so while God forbade him to curse Israel, he had a more sinister plan. He made his payday because he advised Balak how he could compromise the Israelites, using Moabite prostitutes to lure them into compromising their walk with God and worshipping Baal.
Incidentally, this wasn’t a once off… Balaam continues to be in cohorts with Balak and the Midianites, and was eventually exited with them…
Numbers 31:8 (ESV Strong's)
They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.
STANDING STRONG BUT WITH SECRET SINS
And so here we are centuries later in the church at Pergamum, and nothing’s has really changed. Satan is still trying to lure this church into compromising, and is using lust to do it! The same applies to today’s church. I believe it is a message for us also.
There is a difference between taking a stand and compromising… they are not the same thing. Jesus commended this church in verse 13, (ESV Strong's) “Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith” but then zeroes in on their compromising.
Many fine Christians make a stand on something big, but then compromised in another area. Martin Luther King Jr for example, was a Baptist minister who made a famous and influential stand for civil rights, but he was also a serial adulterer, and the FBI used this to try and discredit him. Aimee Semple Macpherson, a mighty woman of God, prophetess and preacher who started the 4 Square Pentecostal denomination disappeared for nearly 2 week’s, and claimed she was kidnaped. Turned our she had shacked up with a married man. Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, there is a long list of Christian leaders who took a stand in one area yet compromised and were found out in another.
If we in this church take a stand in one area, that doesn’t mean the enemy will not attack and try to get us to compromise in another area. In Balaam’s case, and in Pergamum as well, lust was the point of attack. But lust is not exclusively about sex…
1 John 2:15-16 (ESV Strong's)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
We can compromise by lusting for things to satisfy our flesh, and this includes sex. In a sex soaked world, with sex splashed across every TV screen and the entire internet, there is a constant temptation to compromise in this area. Men, if you don’t feel the tug to compromise you are living under a rock! We must be diligently on guard!
But we can also compromise with the lust of the eyes, where we look at things that others have and long for those. It might be a car or house or job, it might be their husband or wife, it might be their great marriage relationship or it could be their ministry.
And of course, we can compromise in the pride of life. Pride is at the root of all sin, and we most often fail to repent of things we need to repent of because of our pride. Pride gives rise to things like anger, temper, dishonouring others, gossip, and so on.
THE LITTLE FOXES, THE LITTLE COMPROMISES
So beware any teaching that compromises you, even in the small areas where no one else knows you are sinning. Remember, you can make a giant stand for the Lord but still compromise somewhere else. Now please understand, I’m not saying we never sin, because we are all human, and we all compromise and all sin at times. But we must be aware of the enemy’s schemes and fight hard to never compromise our walk with God, even in hidden or seemingly insignificant ways.
Song of Songs 2:15 (ESV Strong's)
Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
The little foxes, the little sins, they are the ones we overlook but which the enemy uses to bring our walk with Christ down. And aren’t they cute? Hey Lord, I’m basically a good person and I stand for what is right, I voted “no” in the plebiscite and go to Church one week in three, can’t you just overlook the little compromises?
I’m a good person, I love the Lord, but yes I still have that temper, I still watch the wrong TV shows, I still get envious and wished I had something my friend has, I still gossip just a little, but hey, God I’m a Christian, right?
Listen, 99% faithfulness is by definition unfaithfulness
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Let everyone who thinks they don’t have a problems with small compromises beware! No matter where your life or your ministry is at, we all face the same temptations, and we all are at risk of falling. I remember visiting a man who had morally fallen with a pastor friend, and afterward the pastor suggested that he would never be like him. I actually rebuked this pastor, because that is pride, and we are all sinners saved by grace. Far from arrogantly claiming it would never happen to us, we need to humbly say, there but for the grace of God goes I.
Luke 18:11-14 (ESV Strong's)
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Little sins creep in, folks, and we must guard against these little compromises.
CONQUERING THE LITTLE COMPROMISES
Missionary statesman Hudson Taylor said it this way, “Small things are small things, but faithfulness with a small thing is a big thing.”
Revelation 2:17 (ESV Strong's)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
The manna speaks of God’s abundant provision, and the white stone is thought to represent victory, because triumphant athletes received a white stone. Interestingly these conquerors receive their reward in secret, very personal, with a name known only to you. The world can’t see these rewards, but we know they are there. Wisdom, character, righteousness, honour, many humble believers receive these, and most of the world misses it.
But I am concerned and I believe the Lord is speaking to us about our little compromises, the ones nobody else sees, yet the little foxes are the ones that spoil the vines. These limit our growth in the important things of God, and they can limit our character development and even can leave us exposed to public humiliation. And listen, those little compromises have a habit of growing into bigger and bigger sins, and you cannot hide even the little ones, even the little thoughts from God…
Numbers 32:23 (ESV Strong's)
you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.
No man sets out to commit adultery and get divorced. It starts with a little look, here and there, a little flirting, and before you realise it you’re hooked. No one sets out to be a gossip, but they start talking about others in small ways behind their backs, and before you know it your reputation is gone. No believer sets out ruin their church, but by pride and grabbing for power many people have destroyed what God was building in a church. They might gain control of it, but it is spiritually dead!
Proverbs 28:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Ignite Church has taken a stand on many issues, and we’ve taken a stand on the big issues of our day including the family, same sex marriage, how our children are taught and abortion. We know what God’s Word says, and we stand on that 100%, no matter the consequences.
But that’s not enough, Church! If we tolerate little compromises in the hidden sins, if we turn a blind eye to little acts of disunity, little conflicts, or little sins no one else even knows about, then we risk losing it all, including our ability to reach our nation for Christ! Our witness for Christ will be destroyed if we tolerate the little compromises.
Jim Rohn once said, “Neither a marriage nor a business fails overnight. Cataclysmic failures generally come from a series of small, correctable failures.” The little compromises, not dealt with!
STAY ON TARGET
Remember Star Wars, and the big attack on the Death Star? The rebel fighters drop into the channel, and the Imperial fighters are shooting at them. I distinctly recall one of the pilots saying over and over, “Stay on target, stay on target.”
So I did a little research. Pilots tell us that if they are one degree off course, for every 60 km they fly they will be 1 km off their target. And of course, the longer the flight, the further from the target they will finish up. If a plane is 1 degree off when flying Brisbane to Singapore, as I am about to so this week, we will either land in Indonesia or the South China Sea. I’m kinda hoping they get this right!
Yet pilots also tell us that every plane flying is off course 99% of the time. How does any plane travel any distance and arrive at the right place? They constantly readjust their course, and they do not tolerate any little compromises, but when they are made aware of them, they correct them immediately.
Sometimes great victories can be undone by seemingly small sins. We need to be consistent in our walk with God, making sure that all areas of our lives are yielded to him. Even the smallest sin or bad habit can lead us off course over time. We consistently need to see the truth of where we are spiritually and ask God to redirect our course back in line with his will.
And it’s a constant battle. But the Bible says,
Proverbs 4:25 (ESV Strong's)
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Isaiah 30:21 (ESV Strong's)
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Little course corrections keep you on target.
Little compromises are little turns off course, and we cannot tolerate them if we are to become great for Jesus. I speak to myself as much as to you. Those little compromises, those little foxes will destroy everything if we do not keep short accounts with God. All of us, no exceptions.
Balaam compromised a little bit to get what he wanted, the Church at Pergamum, despite their great stand for Christ, let sin in the back door and let those little compromises kill them. I don’t want this to happen to me, or to you, or to our church.
STAY ON COURSE DAILY
So this morning, I’m going to ask you to clean house in your life. You don’t have to come up here and tell me what the sin is, but I’m asking you to clean it out. No matter how habitual, no matter how embarrassing, no matter how trivial you might consider it, today is the day we deal with the little foxes.
1 John 1:8-9 (ESV Strong's)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What little compromise do you need to confess today, to move you back on course? Will you commit to keeping short accounts with God, doing daily quiet times, reading His Word, making those small adjustments to keep on target? Commit or compromise, that’s the choice. It’s always been the choice.
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