Jack Graham - A Call to Purity
Take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Revelation chapter 2. This is our series called "SEVEN: TO THE VICTORS", and it concerns the church and what Christ thinks about His church yesterday, today and forever. In Revelation chapter 2 we have a church corrupted. And it is a church at Thyatira, a place that you've probably never heard of, but after today I promise you, you will remember what Jesus said to the people then and to all of us today. And it's all about toleration. You get what you tolerate. And Jesus was concerned that this congregation was tolerating sin and wickedness in their midst, primarily idolatry and immorality.
And so He gives a very clear warning that He will expose sin and how we are to respond as a church in teaching truth. And so look in chapter 2, beginning at verse 18: "And to the angel (that's the pastor, the leader) of the church in Thyatira write: 'The words of the son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze'". Now let's just stop right there. Jesus introduces Himself and He is speaking, "Let him who has ears, let him hear" what Jesus, His Spirit is saying to the churches. So Jesus is speaking. And when He's speaking, He's speaking with authority. This is the Son of God speaking! Now when Jesus introduced Himself in the Gospels often He refers to Himself as the Son of Man. That is a reference to the human side of his being. He was God but He was also Man, the Son of Man, which speaks of His service and ministry and His identity with man, the Son of Man.
But now Jesus has died on the cross, He has risen again and now He is glorified in heaven, reigning and ruling in heaven, and now He proclaims Himself the Son of God! Not a son of God, not a religious guru, but Jesus, the Son of God! That means that He is God, that He is one with the Father, one with Spirit, co-equal and co-eternal with God. This is the essential confession of the church, the essential, vital, confession of a true believer. Jesus is God! When Jesus asked His disciples, Matthew 16:13-16 "Who do people say that I am"? Simon Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God"! And that is the rock-like, foundational, principle confession of the church and of any Christian because Christianity is Jesus! Christianity is Christ! Our confession of Him, who He is and what He did when He died for us and rose again, and ascended and is coming again. That's Christianity!
And then it says His eyes are like eyes on fire, and His feet like burnished bronze or brass. That means here, we use the same kind of terminology, eyes flashing! So with flashing, penetrating eyes, speaking of His omniscience to see and know everything; that Jesus sees undercover. He sees all of us. He knows all about us. He looks right through us. And if we think we're covering something up from His penetrating eyes, we've got another thinking coming. It's just not going to happen. Jesus sees. And it's like a cat scan. You go in and take a cat scan and they see everything. You know, I've had a few of those and I don't like doing it. I'm afraid they might find something, right? But those things, they look right inside of you and see what's really there. Well this is like a cat scan. Jesus spiritually is looking into this church and in to every believer's life, and He knows and He sees, and with flashing eyes He is exposing sin! He is exposing evil!
Now that might make you nervous. It really shouldn't bother you as a believer to know that Jesus sees and knows all about us. In fact the Scripture says, 2 Chronicles 16:9, "The eyes of the Lord are searching too and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are steadfast for Him". Look, Jesus knows the best about me; He knows the worst about me, and loves me. I mean, you don't really know me but Jesus does and He looks within. And so it's a good thing to know that He knows me and He loves me. But if you are in sin, if you're living in rebellion against God, if you are an unbeliever then guaranteed that He's going to see the sin within.
Hebrews 4:13 says "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account". Paul said in Romans 2:16 that "God will judge man's secrets through Jesus Christ". So Jesus is speaking, Jesus is seeing, and Jesus is standing. It says He has feet of bronze, feet of brass. Somewhat a reference to military boots. You know, spit-shined boots. They are glistening like brass, but really brass or bronze in the Scripture is illustrative, symbolic of judgment. So when He says "I am Jesus, eyes flashing, seeing all things, mouth speaking and standing," it means that He is standing over all! That He has all authority, that He has the executive right to rule, to reign and to judge! Speaking with power and authority, risen, reigning, ruling, standing over all!
Why does Jesus reveal Himself like this, and specifically to this church and churches like it? Because people were tolerating sin. They were sleeping with the enemy and this is a wakeup call to the church to holiness and purity, because God wants His people to walk in purity and in holiness. And Jesus is looking out for us, but yes, He's looking in to us and He stands ready to discipline us and to judge the world when we bed down with sin! That's the Christ that is pictured here. A lot of people don't like it because that's the tolerance mode is what trends in our culture. Everybody's equal and self-esteem is the ultimate value! Parents are telling their children how smart they are. "Oh, you are so smart, you are smart, smart, smart". And you've participated in sports, everybody get a trophy.
And there's even an educational format which takes away the red pen from the teacher. You wouldn't want to dare mark a student's grade down with a red pencil or a red pen! We think by elevating the self-esteem of a child that it's going to work, but it's not working. We all believe in self-esteem, the right esteem of ourselves. Jesus Himself taught it, but not as it's taught today. It's the form of toleration and in a research study that I just read, kids actually respond, listen to this, kids actually respond better when their work is affirmed, not just who they are! Yeah, children who are affirmed in everything, win, lose, or draw, perform more poorly and they give up more easily, plus they have no incentive to get better! And here's the point: God loves you, Jesus died for you, He believes in you! But He doesn't approve of everything you do!
God's love is greater than our sin. But if we refuse to repent of our life, sins and failures, then there is judgment to come. Now again, this church at Thyatira is a case study in this. Real quickly, a couple of things about Thyatira. It was an insignificant town. Of all the cities of the seven, this is the smallest and most unknown. You most likely have never heard of it. It was a blue-collar city, filled with trade guilds, think trade unions, so it was a union city. It was also a pagan city, but the church of Jesus Christ, as the message was moving forward, is established in this place and a church is planted. Many of us believe, including myself, that it was planted by a lovely lady by the name of Lydia. She was a seller of purple. A business woman, who left Thyatira, and Thyatira was known for its purple dye that was created there. She sold this purple. She went over to Macedonia and at Philippi in Macedonia this lady, down by the riverside, in a Bible study heard Paul preach the Gospel of Christ and God opened her heart. Beautiful picture of salvation, right?
You hear the Gospel and God just opens your heart. God opened her heart, and she responded and invited Christ into her life. She repented of her sin and received Christ. She was baptized and her entire family. And ultimately many think that she returned to Thyatira, her hometown, with her family and that little core, that little family became the startup of that church. So this church had a great start. And there were many excellent qualities about this church and Jesus noted them. Look again in verse 19 of Revelation 2: "'I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, that your latter works exceed the first.'" Jesus applauded them! Praised them! He said, "I see your loving ministry, your faithful love, your hopeful endurance".
You know, Ephesus they were working hard but they didn't have love; they had less love. But this church had a lot of love for Jesus and people and they were serving actively. This is their faith in action, because faith without works is what? And so this is a living faith and the church is called to do ministry. When we become believers and followers of Jesus, we do what Jesus does, and that is to minister, serve the poor and to minister to the hurting and to bind up the broken and to care for the dying, and to visit the sick, and to love the unlovely. And this church was doing that! I pray that Jesus is pleased with you and me, church, in terms of our faithful, active ministry for Christ, that He could applaud each of us, and as a whole that He could say to our church, "I see your virtuous works, I see your faithful endurance".
That's hope. I see your ministry with people. And that phrase which is says that "your latter works exceed the first". That means you're doing more, you're doing better. You're not resting on your laurels; you're not living in your past accomplishments. And that's my prayer always for Prestonwood, that the latter, that which is coming, the future will be better than the past; that we will do more and sacrifice more and live better and that we will accomplish more for the glory of God in reaching our community and the world for Christ! Amen? I mean, that the greater glory will be not the past, but the future! This church had it going on! But He said, I have this against you. Verses 20 and 21: "I have this against you, because you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess".
She was not called by God but she was called by herself a prophetess. She was a self appointed prophetess. So you have this godly woman, Lydia, and on the other hand you have this ungodly false prophet Jezebel in this church, and watch what she is doing: "teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols". Who is Jezebel? The original Jezebel shows up in the Old Testament in the period of Elijah and the prophets. She was a vile, debauched, the most degenerate woman in all of the Bible. That's saying a lot. She was a Baal worshipper and with the Baal worship, it was a cultic religious practice that included not only idolatry, plus immorality, and sexual perversion of many kinds. This was Baal worship, a Canaanite religion. And so she married the king of Israel, Ahab, who was the most wicked king that Israel had ever known.
So when you put them together times two, this wicked, heinous couple led Israel into idolatry and compromise and worldliness and sleeping with the enemy. Jezebel kept and funded, she had a budget in Israel for 800 false prophets of Baal. You remember the big encounter with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel with Elijah and the false prophets of Baal were slaughtered when the fire fell from heaven. That's Jezebel's doing! Jezebel, she would kill any prophet of God that she could get her hands on. She threatened Elijah. Wicked, witchy woman! While she's been gone all these years the spirit of Jezebel, the evil, wicked spirit of Jezebel still exists today. So this woman in the church, her name probably wasn't Jezebel. Jesus was saying this Jezebel, that woman! And she was teaching doctrines of demons, seducing the people of God, compromising them in not only idolatry, eating meat and participating in the idolatrous worship of its day, but sexual immorality.
So the church was being seduced, God's people were being corrupted with spiritual adultery and ultimately sexual immorality. They often go together, right? Once you compromise spiritually and begin to think differently about the Bible and what God's Word says, and you compromise, from compromise comes corruption. And if you start listening to the world and the Jezebel-spirit that is in the world, and often even in the church then the next thing you know, you're listening to the world and doing what the world says to do instead of what God says to do. "I can watch porn if I want to watch porn. I can commit adultery if I want to commit adultery. I can fornicate if I want to fornicate. I can be a homosexual if that's my lifestyle choice. And still be a Christian. God won't judge me. God loves me. He affirms me, He approves. It's okay. God says it's okay. Everybody's okay".
That's what this Jezebel and the spirit of Jezebel is teaching. And Jesus says, "I'm not okay with this! I'm going to judge this". He said, "Church, you cannot tolerate sinful immorality in your midst! You cannot affirm it; you can't approve this"! And we know this is a sex-crazed culture and we live in a sexually saturated society. But, you know this rampant immorality that's around us, it's really a symptom of something else, something deeper. This passage later talks about the deep things of Satan. This woman was teaching the secrets of Satan, deep things of God. It's a problem that goes deeper. It's because people are starving and craving something more on the inside. A man who's starving will eat anything put in front of him. And because people are starving spiritually and craving that which is real, they'll start eating whatever is put in front of them. If you don't have the real thing, then you'll settle for cheap, course, corrupted substitutes.
Vick Pence is a friend of mine. He went to China with us when a number of us went over with Billy Graham in November. He preached on this passage; called it "Sex: Sacred and Profane", and he explained why God's way is always better than the world's way. Here's what Dick said: "When it comes to matters sexual, less is more. When it comes to love, it's less experience that's desirable. How romantic it is when someone says, 'I know so much. Let me show you all the stuff I've learned.' This is one area where going pro is not a plus. It's far more romantic to be a stumbling, bumbling amateur in matters of love".
And then he offers this illustration to drive it home. He says: "When you think about an orchestra, can you imagine a musician saying, 'You're not going to tie me down my whole life, playing the violin. I've got to play the tuba some nights. And some nights a clarinet or an oboe, and, of course, I'm going to go through my trombone phase.' You guarantee you will never be a virtuoso and you will always be mediocre until you give yourself to one totally and completely and devotedly to one and only one for the rest of your life". Look, we're not smarter than God! God has a plan for life and family and marriage! God has an ethic, a morality, His way, which is the best way. Always God's way is the best way! And the cravings that are deep within you, are cravings for Jesus!
Now you can have Jezebel or you can have Jesus! To the victors, Jesus said, "If you judge this sin in your midst and get it out of your church and out of your life, to the victors, you will reign with Me". It's down there in the bottom of this passage. He said, If fact we need to read it. Look down in verse 26 and following: "The one who conquers and he keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. We will rule with Him, we will reign with Him in His kingdom, His eternal kingdom. He will rule with a rod of iron, (That is, he's going to crush his enemies) even as I myself have received authority from my Father". And watch this, verse 28, "And I will give him the morning star". So to the victors, Jesus says, "I will give you authority with Me over the nations. You will reign and rule with me".
Did you know that? That's coming. Jesus said, "I'm coming". In fact in this passage He says, "Hold fast till I come"! It's the first announcement of His Second Coming in the book of Revelation. Revelation 2:25, "Hold fast till I come"! Don't compromise with sin; don't allow corruption to enter your life. Don't get in bed with the devil! Or the daughter of the devil! Because if you do, judgment is going to come. He judged this woman in the church. He said, "I'm going to send judgment and discipline and even death to her and all of her children", meaning her followers. "Everyone who adopts this and adapts to this and approves of this kind of living", Jesus said, "I'm coming and I'm judging". And He said, "But to the overcomers, to those who hold fast". We gotta stand up! Hold on to the Word of God! Not tolerate things that are intolerable. Look, you lay down with dogs, you're going to get fleas! So get that stuff out of your life! Repent!
So in these dark days, Christ is the Light who shines in the darkness. But ultimately in heaven He is the Light of the City, at the bright and morning star. And when it says, "I will give you the morning star", listen to it, church, "I will give you the morning star"! That means, I give you Myself. That means you have all that you need! Crave Him! Don't crave the Jezebels of this world; don't crave the sinful pursuits, the self-indulgence of this life. Don't live on the crumbs when you have the Bread of heaven! Don't live in the darkness when you can live with Jesus and live in His presence and know forever you have the Morning Star! Who has it better than us! But if you have sinned and maybe more than once, you can be cleansed, you can be changed. God's grace covers every sin and every shame. You just can't keep going to bed with Jezebel if you want to be happy, if you want to be fulfilled, if you want to be right with God. So Jezebel or Jesus? I'm taking Jesus!