Tony Evans - The Conviction of an Overcomer
Let me tell you a little bit about Pergamum. Pergamum was a city some 45 miles north of Ephesus, a very wealthy city, but a city controlled by the devil. A very progressive city, a very noted city, but it was a city run by hell. Jesus starts and he speaks the first and the last, which he said about himself in Smyrna now says in verse 12, "The one who has the sharp two-edged sword says this. The one who has the sharp two-edged sword says this. The one who has the sharp two-edged sword says this". So Jesus Christ is talking but he describes himself as the possessor of the two-edged sword. This is not the first time we've seen that phrase, chapter 11 verse 16 of Revelation. "In his right hand he holds the seven stars and out of his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword".
In chapter 19 of Revelation verse 15, "From his mouth came a sharp sword," verse 21, "And the rest were killed with the sword which came from his mouth". It says, "Out of the Lord Jesus Christ's mouth comes a very sharp two-edged sword". This is spoken by the risen Christ after he rose from the dead and ascended up to heaven, and now he speaks back to his church, not as a baby in a manger, nor as a man walking the streets of Galilee, but now as the risen Lord. And he says, "How I'm operating right now is with a sharp sword with double edges coming outta my mouth. The sword has two edges, both sides are sharp. That can cut you going and coming. It's sharp for blessings and it's sharp for judgment, it's sharp for help, but it's sharp for correction. It's sharp for your benefit, but it's also sharp to deal with you if you need to be dealt with".
So when you read about Jesus having the sword, he is speaking about the authority. Matthew 28, verses 19 and 20. Jesus says, "All authority belongs to me in heaven and on earth". Translation, I'm in charge now. So when Jesus says, "A sword is coming out of my mouth," he is laying claim to authority from heaven to history, from eternity to time, from heaven to earth. So Jesus Christ sits as the risen Lord ascended on the right hand of the Father speaking to his people, the church at Pergamum and he says, "I'm in charge here and I have a sword". Where is the sword? "It's coming out of my mouth". Hebrews 4:12 says that "the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword". It is piercing and penetrating in its ability and power to affect change for good or for judgment.
Now the problem today is that we, and by we I mean any men, even many Christians have lost faith in the power of the sword that comes out of Jesus's mouth. We have lost faith in the power of the Word. Christians in particular and certainly the society at large has lost confidence in God's Word they are going to every other word. They may sprinkle a little Bible on it to make it sound good, but they're going to every word and they're wondering why the Word is not working because the Word that works must be the Word coming outta his mouth not the word coming outta your mouth. But see, what we have today are folk changing books or dumbing down the book to please other books dulling the sword from being able to cut anything. He says, "The sword from my mouth is sharp and if you are uncut, it can't be coming from my mouth".
You follow the logic? If you are unaffected, unchanged because the way you know you're affected is you're changing. So if there's no change, you've not been affected no matter how much you enjoy the Word you heard. 'Cause if you cut, you bleed. He says to the church at Pergamum, "The sword that comes out of my mouth, my Word, is sharp, it cuts, it has authority". Having said that, he now commends them in verse 14, "I know where you dwell". "I know where you live, I know where you have church, I know the community you're in". He says that through Pergamum Bible Fellowship. "I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is and you hold fast my name and did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas, my witness, my faithful one who was killed among you where Satan dwells".
You and I are living in a time, in a post-Christian era where identification with Jesus Christ is increasingly becoming a negative. As you're seeing this onslaught of the rejection of the Christian faith as it now becomes to be a Christian and to hold his Word is now being called hate speech. That you are now living in a world and a society that now is antagonistic to the claims of Christ. Where it's not some easy thing anymore in increasingly large places to be identified with the second member of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. But he wants you to know before he gets any deeper into this, "I got the sword in my mouth and it's sharp". But he compliments them and he says, "You're doing this where Satan dwells, you're living in a hostile environment".
But now he comes to verse 14. He says, "But I have a few things against you". "Okay, now I like the fact that you're still claiming me, you're claiming my name, you're claiming Christianity in a hostile environment but I have a problem, because there some who hold the teachings of Balaam. Who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality". He says, "Here's my problem. While you still claim me, you compromise". You still will say, "I'm a Christian," but you will tolerate compromise. So the issue with this church is a lack of conviction. You will compromise like Balaam.
Now the story of Balaam is found in Numbers chapters 22 to chapters 25. So let me summarize the story of Balaam. Balaam is a prophet, Israel is on the march. Balak not Balaam, Balak who's the king of Moab, he's a little scared 'cause Israel's gotten so large and so powerful, he's gotta do something. So he contacts Balaam. Balak contacts Balaam. Balak says, "Balaam, I want you to curse God's people and we gonna give you some change to do it. We gonna give profit for the prophet. We will pay you to curse God's people". Balaam consults with God and God tells him, "You can't curse my people they're my people". Balak ups the price. "We'll pay you a little more if you will curse God's people". Balaam gets on a donkey. Balaam is riding this donkey to meet with Balak. On the way, the angel of the Lord stands in front of the donkey.
So the donkey starts backing up. The donkey, Balaam hits the donkey. Says, "Giddy up," 'cause Balaam doesn't see the angel of the Lord. He just sees the donkey's backing up. Wham! It says, "The donkey sees the angel of the Lord again and moves over to the side". Balaam, wham! Whacks it. "Get going". Donkey gets going again, sees the angel of the Lord, then falls down. Balaam whacks it for a third time. This time the donkey is tired of getting hit. So according to Numbers chapter 22, the donkey looks back at Balaam and says, "Why you keep hitting me"? So we got a talking donkey, all right. It gets even worse 'cause Balaam talks back to the donkey. So the donkey's talking to Balaam, and Balaam is talking to the donkey and he says, "Why are you not taking me where I need to go"? Then all of a sudden the angel of the Lord appears to Balaam. It says, "God was behind this 'cause I don't have one donkey, I have two," if that's the word, we wanna use.
And I can say that and still be Christian 'cause it's in the Bible, okay, all right. Balaam can't curse the people of God. God keeps blocking the curse. So Balaam tells Balak, "I'm not gonna be able to curse 'em. I know you offered me a lot of money, but God's blocking this thing. So if you wanna get him, here's how you got to get Israel, make them compromise". Says "Intermix them with your women, get them to marry, they will adopt your gods if you will just get them to compromise, then God will curse them for you". Oh, so much theology there. I can't curse them 'cause they're God's people, but God's character can't stand compromise. So if we can get them to compromise because God's character won't accept compromise, God himself will do for you what you're asking me to do that I can't do, God will interject 'cause God won't accept compromise.
And so that's exactly what Balak did. He got them to interconnect, he calls it immorality leading to idolatry which brought God's judgment on Israel so that God was no longer operating for the people. What's that got to do with you and me and why is he telling that to them? Guess what he's telling them? Compromise will keep God's Word from cutting anything in your life. So many Christians wonder why God is not moving because of compromise. You compromise spiritual value, you compromise with other gods, you compromise, we compromise with lifestyle, we compromise in so many ways. Well you need to understand once you do that, the God who is for you can no longer be for you. He says in verse 15, so you also have some who in the same way hold the teachings of the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans were doing the teachings of Balaam.
So here's their problem, they tolerated compromise. He says you have some in your midst who are teaching this and you are not saying anything. So wait a minute. Even if you are not compromising but you tolerate compromising, you tolerate the Nicolaitans that is infecting the church by saying it's okay to compromise your standards, compromise your morals, compromise your deities. You can compromise and God understands. Let me say it another way. They misunderstood grace. One of the greatest words, the greatest word in the Christian language is grace. It means unmerited favor. But they did not use grace properly. They were using it like Romans chapter 6, verse 1, "Shall we sin that grace may abound"? Let's put it another way. "Shall we sin just 'cause we know God will forgive me"? And you've heard people say that: "Oh God, God will forgive me," okay.
So they were using grace as an excuse to sin. That is both a misunderstanding and misuse of the greatest word in the Christian language. Here's how you know you are using grace properly. You are using grace properly, not when it frees you to sin but when it is so powerful it's freeing you from sin. "Shall we sin that grace may abound"? He says, "God forbid". He says at the end of Titus chapter 2, "Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness not be comfortable in it". That's called having the grace of God in vain. The grace of God is designed to free us from compromise, not make us comfortable in compromise. Refusal to compromise can cost you money, refusal to compromise can cost you relationships, refusal to compromise can cost you position, refusal to compromise can cost you notoriety.
So I don't want to stand up here and tell you that if you don't compromise, it's all gonna work out right then and there and there will be no price, it cost Antipas's life. But if you wanna see the two-edged sword, you don't just wanna have church, you don't just wanna be, you know, sing songs and clap your hands, you want the sword and not dulled, then he says it can't be with compromise. He says, and you tolerate the teachings of the Nicolaitans. That's why whether it's a pulpit up here, or whether it's a Sunday school class, or whether it's a small group, false teaching that contradicts the Word of God is not to be accepted. Nor does God want a little bit of his Word and a little bit of the world stirred together to make the word more palatable. Like putting 10% poison arsenic in food to kill rats. All you need is 10%. The rest of the food can be solid but that 10% will do 'em in.
We're living in a day when more and more churches are compromising to please the world. They're compromising on biblical standards as though God is open for negotiation. The Word of God is not open for negotiation. Not when God has spoken clearly on a subject. There are two answers to every question. God's answer and everybody else's and everybody else is wrong. He has spoken and he has not stuttered. So he says to them, "I have this against you and it's such a big issue," compromise is. "It's such a whopping issue," he says, "Therefore repent or else I am coming to you quickly and I will make war with them, with the word of my mouth". And he's talking to his church, "I will make war with them". Who's the them? The Nicolaitans who were teaching the false doctrines. "So if you care about them, you better go talk to them".
And then he comes to the great verse, verse 17: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna and I will give him a white stone and a new name written on the stone, which no one knows but he who receives it". Okay, "He that hath an ear let him hear". 'Cause just 'cause you have an ear doesn't mean you hear. We've all talked to people who can repeat what you said, but you know they weren't paying attention. So that means pay attention, this is big. "He that hath an ear," so now while he's talking to the churches, he says, I'm speaking to every individual. So now it's self-examination. "To the one who overcomes". That's our word "Niká", Nike. Overcomes what? Overcomes the temptation to compromise or to tolerate compromising. To the one who overcomes, to the one who operates by divine conviction, particularly among believers 'cause he's talking to what was happening in the church.
You can't control what non-believers do but in the family of God, the care for one another means that we need to correct, help, challenge one another when we are compromising on biblical principles. "To who one who overcomes". Here's what I'm going to do, "I'm going to give him first hidden manna". Hidden manna. Okay, remember some things God does, some things God does, some of it is in time and some of it is in eternity, okay. We don't get it all now, we get some of it now, some of it later, okay. But if you overcome, what I'll give you is hidden manna. So let's talk about manna. Manna was corn flakes from above, okay. When Israel was going through the wilderness and it ran out food, God rained down corn flakes from above or manna. the Hebrew word manna means is a question. What is it? Okay, that's what the word manna means. What is it? Okay. Why would he call a food a question? Because he wanted them to answer the question. What is it?
Well, it was a supernatural provision of God that stayed hidden until God was ready to release it. When they went through the wilderness, there was the ark of the covenant that was a little chest where the law was in it and there was a jar with manna in it, with some, these cornflakes in it. The reason he put the jar in the box was so that they would remember that God was their provider. Just as he supplied manna, he will be your provider, okay. The manna was hidden 'cause it was up in heaven until he was ready to release it. "To the one who overcomes, I will give him or her hidden manna". What that means is God's got some stuff he wants to do he ain't ready to show yet. It's hidden. He not ready to show it yet, he's not ready to let you see it yet and it won't be released until he sees an overcoming.
So if you're compromising, you could be holding back something God wants to release, but he can't release 'cause it's hidden 'cause you haven't given him freedom to release it because of compromise. And to those who overcome, when they stand before the Lord, they will get the reward of special provision not available to every Christian. Saint John chapter 2, at the end of the chapter it says, "And many believed on him, many got saved," but it says, "But he would not commit himself to them". Because even though they were saved, they weren't committed. And what God has today are a lot of saved uncommitted people. A lot of Christians who love the Lord on Sunday and compromise on Monday. Who love Jesus in the praise service, but love the world in their weekly activity. Who if they were accused of being a Christian on their job, there would not be enough evidence to convict them because they compromise it like everybody else on the job. And he says for that, the manna stays hidden.
There will be some things when you get to heaven, God will say, "I would've done but there was too much compromise, so I wasn't free". And these are the rewards you lose out even then. He says, "And then I'm gonna give the one who overcomes the temptation to compromise, I'm gonna give him a white stone". That's what he says in verse 17. "I'm gonna give him a white stone. Give him hidden manna, then I'm gonna give him a white stone". Okay, so are you married ladies you have a wedding ring on. You got a diamond on your finger, or if he was cheap, cut glass that looks like a diamond, okay. But you have a stone on your finger. That stone means you're special, okay. The stone means you're not just one of the crowd, there's a special relationship. "On the stone," he says, "I'm going to write a name nobody else knows".
Verse 17 says. A secret name. And how special you are will determine some of what you get now and some of your rewards then predicated on how you view your commitment of compromising. So you carry my name, I like that, but you compromise and tolerate compromising. Now none of us is perfect, but he's talking about a toleration of it rather than a resistance to it. One day the king of kings and Lord of Lords is gonna step forward and when he steps forward, all of the believers will be around the throne. But don't you wanna be one of the folk, you know, "Oh, Billy, I see you over there, Billy. You walk with me during your life. Ruth, I see you over there, Ruth. You are a faithful servant of mine. Betty, I see you over there. Betty, girl, you hung in there for me. Daniel, I see you over there, Daniel, I thank you for hanging in there with me". All of us will be a core part of the crowd who know Jesus Christ, but only some will get their names called because they refuse to compromise and stood up for the values of the kingdom of God.