Michael Youssef - Began to Drift
I want you to imagine with me this fictitious scenario. He's a 25-year-old young man who is very healthy; and, therefore, he would say, "You know, all this healthy eating and exercise, it's just so overrated. I don't do any of that stuff, and I am very healthy. I don't exercise, I don't eat well, and I can even eat lard, and nothing happens. I don't spend a moment in physical exercise, and I am healthy. I have no physical problems whatsoever. And thanks to my fast metabolism, I don't show that I'm overweight". Well, that goes on for several years, maybe 10 years, and 10 years later he still feels the same way. No heart attack, no health issues. Now, by now he's tempted to think, "I am right. I am absolutely right, and I'm invincible". Fifty years has passed.
Now, what's happening during those 50 years of life is internal destruction was taking place inside of his body, slowly, slowly, slowly, but not as far as he was concerned. As far as he was concerned, he's invincible, until one day his arteries of his heart are clogged at 90%, and he is in immense danger. Oh, probably some of you by now are saying, "Wait a minute, Michael. If I wanted to hear a lecture on health and dieting and exercise, I'll get it from a professional, not from you, because you only play doctor on television".
Actually, I don't even do that. But here's the point, and this is where I am an expert. The same thing happens spiritually. It happens spiritually. In fact, that's exactly what was happening to the believers in the church of Pergamum. Today, it's the Turkish city of Bergama. To the members of the church of Pergamum, they liked this fictitious character that I'm talking about, the 25-year-old. They were paying no attention whatsoever to the dangerous lifestyle that is beginning to spread in their midst. And that was slowly, but surely, clogging their spiritual arteries. Then enter the all-knowing and the all-seeing Great Physician, the greatest physician of all.
Then enter the one who can see with a million magnified best of MRI machines. And he says to them, "If you continue on this road in compromise, if you continue on the road to tolerance of sin, if you continue on the road of wanting to be accepted at any price, sooner or later, you'll have to face the surgeon's scalpel. If you continue under the guise of not being judgmental, of not judging sin, and turning a blind eye to this growing cancer, sooner or later you're going to come under the Great Physician's knife. If you continue to try my patience, and continue on the road to acquiescing to sin, sooner or later you'll face the consequences. If you continue on the road of wanting to get the applause of the world, not the applause of God, sooner or later you're gonna face destruction".
And that is why the resurrected, glorified Jesus is appealing to them. He's appealing to them. He's appealing to them to end their tolerance of sin and to stop calling sin by another name. Now, sometimes I give you three points; sometimes I don't, depending on the text. Today, I do have three points, because they loom large from this letter. But before we do that, I want to draw your attention to Revelation chapter 2, verses 12 through 17. I want to draw your attention to the screen. I want you to watch and listen to the letter of the Lord, resurrected Lord Jesus, to the church in Pergamum.
To the angel of the church in Pergamum, write: 'These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 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, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city, where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you. You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
Well, there's three things I want to share with you. The first thing you notice here that the Great Physician gives them a diagnosis. He's a great diagnostician. And secondly, he gives his disappointment, the source of his disappointment. And thirdly, he makes a decision, or give them the opportunity to make a decision. So, here you get it: diagnosis, disappointment, and decision. Easy for you to remember, right? All starts with D. Write them down. The first thing you notice is that our glorified Jesus' diagnosis of the condition of the church in Pergamum. Pergamum, it's about 100 miles from Ephesus and 50 miles from Smyrna. Pergamum was a city that was built 1,000 feet above the plain.
That's where the city was built. It contained the second largest library in the world at that time. The first of the largest was the famed library of Alexandria. In the library of Pergamum, there were 200,000 volumes, handwritten volumes. Above all, Pergamum became the center of emperor worship. Just to give you an idea, just to give you an idea of the pressure that these believers in Pergamum, the church in Pergamum were under: in the average region, they would offer a sacrifice to the emperor, whom they worshipped, Lord Caesar once a year. In Pergamum, they were offering daily sacrifice to the emperor. Just understand the pressure.
See, without understanding all of this, it's just another letter, and you say, "Well, you know, God, our Lord Jesus is just telling them some things". No, no, no, you have to understand that he knows, he knows everything. Imagine with me, imagine with me the incredible pressure, the daily pressure that these believers were under in this town. And that is why the glorified Jesus said, "I know where you live. I know where you live". This is not a threat like sometimes they say, "Well, I know where you live". But that's not the same here. This is not a threat. "I know where you live". No, this is a loving statement, "I know where you live," meaning, "I know your circumstances. I know your constant temptation. I know that Satan is in total control of your city. I know that Satan's headquarter is right next door to where you live".
Question: "Why is Jesus saying this"? Because Pergamum was not only the center of emperor worship, but also was the center of the worship of the god Asclepius. He was called the god of healing. Asclepius, of course, was a satanic manifestation. It was viewed as the son of Apollo. And the god Asclepius, represented by a snake, was a constant reminder for them, the believers in Pergamum, of Satan in the garden of Eden and the temptation, and that is why Jesus called their city where the Satan is. It's the headquarters. And yet in the middle of trying circumstances, in the middle of these trying situations, the believers continued to hold onto the essence of the gospel.
There's some faithful believers in that church who continued to believe that Christ died for their sin and rose again. They continued to hold fast in the name of Christ. They never denied the name of Christ; so much so, that one of the church leaders, by the name of Antipas, was martyred. And Jesus made a reference to him. The faithful believers in that church remained true to Christ in a very difficult circumstance, and that is why the resurrected, glorified Jesus commends them for it. He commends them for it. He praises them for it. He praises them for their faithfulness to the gospel under the most difficult circumstances.
Beloved, listen to me. Our God never takes anything we do in his service for granted. Our God always points out to our faithfulness, when we are; which brings me, secondly, to his disappointment with his servants in that church. In the church of Pergamum, there was tolerance of sexual immorality. Oh, it did not affect their faith of the faithful members of the church. No, it did not affect their loyalty to Christ. It did not affect their belief in Christ. Ah, but the risen, glorified Great Physician in his diagnosis said, "I have few things against you". What are they? Jesus said, "You are winking at sin in your midst. You're winking at it. You're accepting people into membership, even in leadership who are living in blatant sin".
They were knee deep in sexual immorality; and yet they are serving in the church, under the guise of being a welcoming church. There's nothing wrong with that. But under the guise of being a welcoming church, they turn a blind eye to some of their membership who turn the grace of God into license. They call it hyper grace. Jesus does not say that. Jesus does not say... he said this type of sin that Balaam in the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 22, 23, and 24, Balaam introduced that sin to the people of God. In the same way, in the New Testament, there was a false prophet by the name of Nicholas, he introduced that to the church of Jesus Christ. I'm going to explain all that. Nicholas was one of the seven deacons.
Remember, the apostles said, "We must give ourselves to preaching of the gospel, and prayer, and ministering". So, they chose seven deacons, wonderful men. The first martyr, Stephen, was one of them. Well, there's always one bad in the bunch. Even Jesus had one out of 12. Nicholas was one of those deacons. Both Balaam in the Old Testament and Nicholas in the New Testament, have promoted the same sexual immorality. Now just let me refresh your memories about Balaam, okay? I won't take but a few seconds, so listen carefully, very quickly. The people of God were redeemed from the slavery of Egypt, and they were on their way to the promised land. And the king of the Moabites didn't want this to happen. He wanted to stop them from going into the promised land.
So, what did he do? He looked around, and he found Balaam. Balaam was a prophet for hire. Balaam would do anything and say anything, if the price was right. Balaam was a prophet who was available to the highest bidder. And so the king of Moab hires him. God told him not to go, but the money was so good, so he goes along. And then he begins, he was asked by the king to curse the people of God, to curse them so they don't go to the promised land. And God says, "Don't do it, Balaam. Don't do it, Balaam". And every time the king of Moab hears him say, "I can't do it, I won't do it," he just thinks that this is Balaam's way of being coy and wants more money, and he piles more money on the table, more money on the table, and Balaam wanted to curse them so badly because of the money. But God says, "You can't do it".
And every time he opens his mouth to curse them, c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c, he blesses them. Every time he tried to curse them, he ends up blessing them. Every time he says no, the king of Moab adds a zero to the check. Balaam did not want to walk away from that pile of money. I mean, it's just too much money, and it looked so good. So, he came up with a diabolical plan, really diabolical. Only the devil himself, Lucifer, who served at the throne room of God before he was thrown out of heaven, would have come up with that plan, and it worked, it worked. Because Balaam knew, like Satan knows, that God is a righteous God, and his righteousness will not allow sin to run rampant in his body, in his church, in his kingdom, the people of Israel at the time.
And God's righteous anger, sure enough, burned against Israel because of that diabolical plan, and 24,000 men died. What was the plan? Get Moabite women that would entice the Israelite men, and they will not only commit adultery with them. They will actually bow to their gods. They're gonna bow to their idols. And that brought God's judgment on Israel. I told you diabolical, diabolical. What the false prophet of the Old Testament, Balaam, was to Israel was the false prophet in the New Testament, Nicholas, brought to the church. Question: "What was the Lord saying to them and to us, and to us"? Those who are so hung up on not being judgmental, don't judge sexual immorality, here's what he says: "Be forewarned. Be forewarned". Can you say that with me?
So, I come to the third, the Great Physician's verdict or decision. Let me remind you, it's diagnosis, disappointment, decision. Jesus said to them, the only remedy that is acceptable to him, the only remedy that is acceptable to him, the only remedy of any, any, any, any, any sinful behavior, it is not to discuss it, it is not to explain it away, it is not to rationalize it, it must be repented of. And the gracious, merciful King Jesus invites them to repent. Isn't the Lord gracious? Then he gives them a choice; but before they make a choice, he reminds them that choices have consequences. Choices have consequences. Can you say that with me?
If they refuse to repent, then the surgeon's scalpel, the word of his mouth will be penetrating deep into their lives, because Jesus will not allow falsehood to permeate his bride. Jesus will not allow cancer to infest his body, the church. No wonder the Apostle Paul warns us. That always gets to me. The Apostle Paul is warning. He said, "Don't confuse God's patience with his acquiescence". Because he's so patient, because he wants to lead us to repentance, don't think that he's winking at your sin. Don't think he's gonna forget about it.
So, the first choice he gives them is to repent. If they repented, there are two major rewards. The first is the hidden manna. I'm going to explain that. And the second is the white stone. The hidden manna was a reference to the jar of manna that God told them to save when they were supernaturally fed in the wilderness. In fact, the box, which called the ark of the covenant, had the staff of Moses, the Ten Commandments, and a jar of the manna. But God asked them to do this in order to remind them of his grace, of redeeming them from Egypt. Oh, but the real manna, the real manna, the real manna from heaven is Jesus himself. And he said so in John chapter 6.
And so my beloved friends, listen to me. When we repent and stop rationalizing, we are going to get no less than Jesus. And the white stone is what every winning athlete received after a game when they win in the games. And they have a little white stone with their name written on it. And when God had a special calling on someone's life, he changed their name. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul. Beloved, listen to me. I'm about to finish. God has a new spiritual name for you when you repent and lean on his strength alone. God has a new identity for every repentant sinner, and that name is engraved. I hope I get through this. That name is engraved on the heart of the cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ himself.