Michael Youssef - Biblical Confusion
If you forget everything I say today, if you forget everything, there's one word I beg you and I pray to God you will never forget, not just this week, not next week, not just, for the rest of your life, and that word is discernment. If you do not have discernment, if you are not exercising discernment, if you are not practicing discernment, if you think that one preacher is as good as the other, then you need to carefully listen to the message of Jesus today. More than any other time in my lifetime, more than any other time, the most desperately needed training is in the area of discernment. Discernment is not just to distinguish between right and wrong. Discernment, not just that, of course, but it's not only to distinguish between the truth and fake and falsehood.
It's not only to distinguish between what's primary with what is secondary, but also, more importantly, to distinguish between what is necessary and what is unnecessary, to distinguish between what is paramount and what is transient. Discernment is between what is okay and what's the best. Without the hard work of discernment, I can tell you right now without hesitation, God is my witness, I can tell you that that person, any person for that matter, will drift away from the truth. Without that discernment, any person, any person, without that discernment, he will drown in a sea of confusion. Without discernment, that person, any person will wake up one day in the agony of the consequences of her lack of discernment. That person is going to pay a tragic price.
Now I want to show you the important of discernment, not from me, but from Jesus. We always go back to Jesus. And so I want you to turn with me, please, to the book of Revelation chapter 2, 18 to 29. The amazing thing about this letter, it's the longest letter of all the seven to the least significant town of all the seven. Thyatira was a town of least significance, when you compare it with the others, Ephesus and so on, the ones we've been looking at. Thyatira was approximately 40 miles from Pergamum. Let's put the map we've been looking at. And as you see, John is in Patmos in exile, and he's writing almost like a mailman making the rounds, and not quite a circle, but he started in Ephesus, went to Smyrna, and then Pergamum. Here he is in Thyatira, delivering that letter to the church in Thyatira. Thyatira was a town that was founded by Alexander the Great.
This little town, this Thyatira, its only claim to fame is that it was the headquarters for all the trade unions, all the trade unions. I'm not gonna get into that, but I'll tell you some more about these trade unions in a minute. They're very important in this situation. Thyatira's main industry was wool and dying of wool, particularly the purple color, dying of wool. The patron saint... well, actually, in every city they're called the patron god, the patron god. The god of Thyatira was the god Apollo. Read all about Apollo when you have time. But in order to understand the extreme danger that that church was in, in order to understand the extreme danger that many a church in the 21st century is in, you must understand the nature of those trade unions in that town. You see, to hold a job in Thyatira, you have to be a member of the trade union.
You say, "Well, so far, so good". If you are a leather worker, you have to belong to the leather workers union. If you are in the business of dying wool, you have to belong to the dye workers union. Dye, that's spelled differently. Dye workers union. If you are a bronze maker, you have to belong to a bronze workers union. But that's not where it stops. Each trade union organization had their own patron god, their own god. Every union has their own god, but that's not the worst of all. Each patron god must be worshiped and honored in a pagan festival. That's not the worst part of all yet. Wait, wait, wait. As soon as that festival is over, you have to eat the food that was offered to these idols. But that's not even the worst of all yet. Because Paul said we are free. You can eat or you don't eat, depending on your conscience. But after you offer the sacrifice to that god, and after you eat the meat that was offered to that god, then you have to participate in the sexual immorality with temple prostitutes at that festival.
Now you understand the incredible, severe challenge that the church's members in Thyatira were facing. For the Christians in Thyatira who refused to participate in these pagan festivals with its sexual immorality, to follow means that they lose their job. What would the believer do? What would believers do? What would the church members do? What would the megachurch pastors say? Well, one of them, a false teacher, said, "No problem, no problem".
See, I come from that part of the world. "No problem. You need to be part of these festivals so you can witness to them. See? No problem. How else would you witness to the pagans without being there, participating in these things, which run contrary, contrary to the Word of God and the nature and creation of God? You can actually have the best of both worlds. You can practice sexual immorality in their festivals and then go to church on Sunday. It's okay. No problem, no problem. You actually can invite them to come to church with you and invite them to come to church, because our pastor is so progressive, he never talks about sin, so they will feel good. They'll get them feeling good about themselves. He never convicts people of sin. He never tells them about sin. He says that's old-fashioned".
Don't miss the irony of this false prophetess who was propagating this deception. We're going to come back to her in a minute. But this particular church, the church of Thyatira, they were facing the biggest threat, their biggest threat, the biggest threat. Their biggest threat was not from the pagans. Their biggest threat was not from the hostile, religious, blindly religious Jews. No, no, no. Their biggest threat was not from the government. Their biggest threat was coming from the church. That may make you want to weep. It's coming from the inside, church. What was happening in the 1st century church, the first church, is happening in the last church. I believe with all my heart we're the last church before Jesus comes back. And full circle in 2,000 years, what was going on in the first church now is happening in the last church.
Today, I don't have three-point sermons. I have four. Those of you who are taking notes, write them down. First of all, in verse 19, you see Jesus's commendation. Again, I'll give you the first letter the same so you can remember them. In verses 20 to 23, you see Jesus is concerned, deep concern. Well, concern is really kind of anemic, but I had to get a word that goes with C. Thirdly, in verses 24 and 25, you see Jesus's command. And then finally, verses 26 to 29, you see Jesus's counsel. And here you have it: commendation, concern, command, counsel. Remember those.
First, you look at Jesus's commendation. He praises them for their love, faith, and service, and perseverance; and, in fact, they're progressing and doing well with that. The believers in Thyatira, the faithful ones are really working hard, and we are seeing throughout this series of messages, I've been telling you that nothing you do for Jesus is wasted on Jesus. And he said himself in the gospels, not even a glass of cold water that is done in his name is gonna be forgotten, not one, and that is why the Bible said that God loves a cheerful giver. Do you think God loves the stingy giver? Ah, hello. Yeah! But he has a soft spot for the cheerful giver. That's really what the word means.
Something else I don't want you to miss, please don't miss this. This church in the 1st century was commended by Jesus for their love. Ah, like other churches we've been looking at, that church was faithful to Jesus. This church was not ashamed to identify with Jesus. This church was never denying their faith in Jesus. They would never say, "I'm not a Christian". They'd always identify. And like in the south, they're probably going to church. All of these qualities about them was commended by Jesus, was commended. These people did not just talk about love, they practiced love. They were faithful in practicing their love. They probably had soup kitchens for the hungry. They probably had a homeless shelter for the homeless. They probably gave generously to the needs of others.
Now, their faith and love was in action. And Jesus said, "This is great, this is wonderful," according to Jesus. That is why he immediately goes to his deepest concern about the church. Secondly, he's concerned. He moves quickly to say, "I have this against you". What is it? "You are totally lacking in discernment, and your lack of discernment is showing in accepting false teachers in your midst. They have baptized immorality into the church. They have confused the truth with falsehood. Their lack of discernment allow false teachers to teach in the church unabated". And here's that indictment. It's indictment by Jesus, not by anybody else, not by another preacher, but it is by Jesus. Verse 20, "You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself prophetess, and she teaches and leads many of my servants..." He's talking about believers now. "Leading my servants astray, so much so that they are up to their eyeballs in sexual immorality".
Of course, we cannot be sure if that woman, actually, name was Jezebel or it was just a throwback to the Queen Jezebel, the wicked, evil Queen Jezebel, who was married to that weak and vacillating King Ahab, the king of Israel. Queen Jezebel was not Jewish. She was Syrophoenician. She came from the north in the Lebanese area, and was not Jewish, and she worshiped Baal, and she brought Baal to be worshiped by the Jews, by Israel. And King Ahab just let her walk all over the nation. You remember that this was all happening during the prophet Elijah, and you remember, and Elijah called fire from heaven, and God sent it, and then he destroyed all the prophets of Baal and made her so mad, she wanted to kill him.
That false preacher in Thyatira, like her Old Testament counterpart, succeeded in misleading believers, leading believers astray. Just like Queen Jezebel of the Old Testament that brought Baal worship into Israel, this false teacher was bringing disaster to the New Testament church. In the 1st century, there was a dreadful, dreadful heresy that was invading the church, and that's why you're gonna understand all of this teaching when I tell you about it. It's called dualism, dualism. Can you say that with me? Dualism. D-U-A-L-I-S-M. Dualism. What is dualism? It was deadly teaching. It is deadly teaching, and it's invading many a church today. It was in the mainline denominations when I used to be part of that.
Now it jumped into the evangelical church. Here's how it goes. Since God is really interested in the spirit or the soul of the person, therefore, watch out, this one. As soon as they get to "therefore," you need to run. Therefore, it doesn't matter what you do to the body, right? I mean, it sounds good, doesn't it? It's a lot of poison. So, you can do with your body whatever you want. My body, my decision, right? You heard that? And Jezebel was saying, "Hey guys, don't deny Jesus. Hey, guys, don't renounce your faith. Hey, guys, don't turn your back on your Christian faith, as long as you remember that God doesn't care about your sex life".
Please listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6. He said, "If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me..." We're not talking about people outside. "Those who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have around his neck one of these millstones and be drowned in the deepest sea". That's why when I stand here, even though I've been preaching for 50 years, I stand with trepidation. I never want to mislead anyone. If it's not in the Word of God, you're not gonna hear it from me. Beloved, lack of discernment is no excuse, because it will lead people astray. So, when you hear a preacher say, "All that sexual immorality stuff in the Old Testament is all associated with pagan religions, but now in the New Testament, God doesn't care, and grace will cover it all. Sin to your heart's content".
And when you hear that, you do what? And that is why, thirdly, Jesus commands them. He commands them. He doesn't suggest. He's not say, "Hey, here's something you can take or leave". He's not, "Here's a recommendation". No, no, no, no, it's a command. He doesn't give them an option. He commands them. He commands them to do what? He commands them to repent. Isn't gracious, our God is? How gracious he is. He's gracious. He's gracious. He gives them one more opportunity to repent. He gives them one more opportunity to turn around. He gives them one more opportunity to turn their backs on sexual sin. He gives them one more opportunity to turn their backs on that false teaching. And if they don't, they will face the bed of suffering.
I'm gonna go quickly to what he says to the faithful ones. The faithful ones who refuse to be defiled by this false teaching, he said, "Hold fast until I come. Stand firm until I come". That was his commendation, concern, command. Finally, his counsel. Look at verse 26 with me, please, verse 26. To those who overcome, he will give them authority over nations. Now, beloved, that's incredible. Just think about it. You know, I hear the media sometimes, you know, they say the president of the United States, most powerful man on earth. He heads up one nation. They call him the most powerful man in the world. Jesus said the faithful ones are going to rule nations, in the plural, in the plural, not just one nation. Some believers sometimes get so bogged down, they forget that we're gonna reign and rule with Christ. Some believers are so busy with the trash of this world, they forget about the gold that awaits them.
Some believers are so bogged down with the mud of this world, they forget the awesome power that will be ours to exercise. Amen. Why is Jesus saying that only the faithful ones are gonna exercise power over nations? Don't miss this. Why, why only the faithful ones, why, why only the faithful ones? Why are they? Because the faithful ones, when they reign and rule with Christ, they're gonna enforce the righteousness and the holiness of Christ. They're gonna have Christ-delegated authority. We have some of his delegated authority now, but then we're gonna have the full delegated authority of Jesus.
Question: "How in the world will the unfaithful believers enforce the righteousness and the holiness of Christ, when they're not living it here and now"? They will make a mess of it. They will make a mess of it. They're making a mess of it here; they will make a mess of it there. My mother literally drummed into my ears, "Those who honor me, I shall honor, says the Lord". And, beloved, Jesus repeatedly in the gospel, repeatedly, I don't know how many times, I didn't count them. It's saying he who is faithful with little is going to be faithful with much. He who is faithful with this earth's goods is gonna be faithful with the eternal goods. He who is faithful in this life will be given greater authority in the life to come.
And secondly, Jesus said that he will give his faithful ones the morning star. Can you say the morning star? What's the morning star? Jesus! You're gonna have no less than Jesus himself. It means that we're gonna share his glory. Glory to God. Listen, please. When you turn your back on the darkness of this world, you will receive the light of his glory. When you give up Jezebel, you'll receive Christ. When you resist the allure of Satan, you can receive the morning star himself. When you turn your back on sin and compromise, you will receive the glory of Jesus. I don't know about you. You don't want to shout? Give him glory.
I'm about finished. Two things I pray to God you will never, never, never, ever forget. Discernment will keep you from falling into false teaching. Don't forget that. Please don't forget that. Write it down. Write it in your Bible. And secondly, faithfulness to God's Word will give you a share in his glory, will give you a share in his glory.