Tony Evans — A Challenge to Higher Standards
And when He sees you come back to it, He can now respond to you based on your present condition at whatever level He feels appropriate. And so, we want a church that will take its stand for God regardless of whether we get more members, regardless of whether we have more money, regardless of whether we get more notoriety. It is the divine standard that we must hold to at all costs.
Welcome, friends, as we talk to you about "The Jesus Challenge." This is Dr. Tony Evans with "The Urban Alternative," and I'm so excited to be with you again as we look at these seven churches in the book of Revelation, and their impact and implications for your Christian life and for your church even today.
Today, we're going to see who God calls churches to a higher standard. He does not want you living at the lowest level of expectation, but he wants you to rise to the level of conviction and commitment that he is calling all of us to.
So, let's get to Revelation chapter 2, beginning at verse 18, the church of Thyatira, and see what he has to say to me and to you to maximize the high calling that he's given to us.
Well, today in Revelation chapter 2, the Lord is going to talk about the intolerance of an overcomer. If you are going to be an overcomer and not an undercomer, if you're going to be a winner and not a loser, if you're going to be victorious and not live in defeat, you must have your toleration limits.
There are certain things you will not tolerate, you won't accept. It's outside of the boundary. He writes to the church at Thyatira, he says, beginning in Revelation chapter 2, verse 18, "To the angel," that is the messenger, that is the pastor, "of the church at Thyatira write, 'The Son of God who has eyes like flame of fire and his feet are like burnished bronze says this.'"
So, he introduces this designation to the church at Thyatira, so let me tell you about Thyatira. Thyatira was known for its guilds they called them then, or unions. In the midst of these unions and this city called Thyatira, a church was established.
The beginning of that church is summarized for us in Acts chapter 16, verse 14, when Paul the apostle comes across a woman named Lydia. And Lydia was a seller of purple, it says, purple dye. Thyatira made purple dye, and these dyes was part of couture clothing for the uptown shoppers. And Paul came and led Lydia to Christ in Acts chapter 16, verse 14.
Out of that grew a church, Thyatira Bible Fellowship. It grew out of the salvation of Lydia. And so, a church begins to grow in the midst of this secular city called Thyatira.
Well, Thyatira is known for its guilds and its unions, but let me tell you about a couple of aspects of the unions because that will help you to understand what Jesus is getting ready to say to the church. Not only were the unions connecting people who had the same occupation for protection, and for privileges, and for rights, but each union had its own god.
So, the unions had a spiritual or religious aspect to them. So, if you were part of Thyatira's teachers union, then you were expected to give recognition to the teachers union god, or whatever god was tied to that union. So, that was one part of it. So, Thyatira was a worker's union, but it had a religious aspect. But it not only had a religious aspect, the unions in Thyatira also had a social aspect.
Well, the problem occurred when people became Christians and belonged to the union, and they were expected to recognize the union's god, and to party with the other co-workers, that it involved things that went against the Christian faith. And that created a crisis for the Christians in these secular occupations.
I am sure many of you can understand the crisis because many, if not most of you, have been in the crisis where, working in a secular occupation, you've been expected, challenged, and sometimes even demanded to compromise spiritual values in order to keep your job or to get a raise on your job. You had to go along to get along.
Verse 18 says, "The Son of God, the one with eyes of fire and feet of burnished bronze, says this."
Jesus Christ has already been introduced as the Son of man, but on this occasion in verse 18 to the church at Thyatira, he's not introduced as the Son of man, he's introduced as the Son of God. And of course, Jesus is both, the virgin birth.
So, Jesus Christ now presents himself to this church as the all-seeing authoritative one to these Christians who are caught in these unions that are being demanded that they tolerate certain beliefs and practices that compromise their Christian faith.
So, that's the dilemma. He compliments them in verse 19, where he says to them, "I know your deeds, your love, your faith, your service, your perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than your deeds at first."
So, you are doing better, you are growing. You are a congregation that I see wants to do the right thing. So, I want to commend you for that. But after commending them, he now criticizes them.
He says in verse 20, "But I have this against you." Do you have your seatbelt on? I got one problem, but it's a doozy.
He says, "I have this against you, even though you got all this good stuff, that you tolerate," that is our message, the intoleration of an overcomer, "that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. And she teaches and leads my bondservants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols."
What's Jesus' problem with this church? His problem is what they tolerate. He says, "You tolerate the woman Jezebel."
The problem was toleration. So, you had this prophetess self-proclaimed, 'cause she called herself a prophetess, God never called her one. She's a self-proclaimed prophetess, and she's going around speaking on behalf of God, leading church members astray.
Stay with me here 'cause I'm going somewhere. Leading church members astray, but because she's a prophetess, she's got God's name all up in the discussion 'cause a prophet speaks on behalf of God.
So, she's saying, "God said this, and God thinks that, and God feels this," and she's making it sound all spiritual, wrapped in all Christianese, and she's making it sound like it's holy and like it's coming down from heaven. And in the name of God, prophetess, she's leading people astray.
Well, no, the Son of God says that in my house, based on my standard, that's not how you roll. Not only is it not how you roll, you don't even agree with it.