Tony Evans - A Challenge to Higher Standards
How do you become an overcomer and what can you expect as you function as an overcomer, not an undercomer? One who is operating in victory and not operating in defeat. Now, in order to be an overcomer, that means there's got to be something that you have to overcome. There's gonna be something that's gonna be a challenge in your life. There's gonna be opposition that you're going to have to supersede.
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 gonna be a winner and not a loser, if you're gonna 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 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 so the purple dye, she was a manufacturer of it. She was a distributor of it. She was a wholesaler of it. And Paul came and led Lydia to Christ, in Acts chapter 16, verse 14. Out of that, grew a church.
So there was a social aspect to the unions. So there was a working aspect tied to a religious aspect, tied to a social aspect. So you got together with the people that you worked with and you partied with them and you enjoy a good time with them because you share the same occupation. 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. 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. Mary's egg was fertilized by the Holy Spirit so you had undiminished deity poured into sinless humanity so that Jesus Christ is called both the Son of man and the Son of God. Jesus's eyes of fire penetrates the façade. He knows when you're really Christian and he knows when you're faking it to make it because his eyes of fire penetrate to the reality of a thing. It says he has feet of burnished bronze.
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, and so I wanna commend you for that. But after commending them, he now criticizes them. He says in verse 20: "But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads my bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols". What's Jesus's problem with this church? His problem is what they tolerate. Well, he says, "You tolerate the woman Jezebel". The problem was toleration.
Watch this now. Jesus the Son of God says, "I got a problem with you, Thyatira Bible fellowship. Not only are you doing good things, but you are tolerating other folk doing bad things". This is God's house and in his house there are certain things he accepts and certain things he doesn't accept and neither does he want the other family members to accept it. He says, "You tolerate it. You accept it", and he says, "It is unacceptable". And that involved two things. It involved worshiping a false god. He says, idolatry. The unions worship the idols.
He says, "While the unions may worship the idols but I'm the only true God, you don't get to worship the idols. Just 'cause everybody else is doing it". Then there was a lifestyle issue. He says, "Your morals are askew". So just 'cause everybody else in the fraternity and sorority are acting crazy, are drugging it up, are sleeping around, and are doing this and doing that, just 'cause they're doing that as part of the union and that's the way they roll, 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".
In other words, they should know your stand. You shouldn't be such a hidden Christian that they don't think it matters to you because you are clear on where you stand. What he's saying is that this church tolerated Jezebel. So let me tell you about Jezzie. We find Jezebel in 1 Kings chapter 16 and verse 17. Jezebel was married to Ahab, the king of Israel. Jezebel was the daughter of a king and she was a worshiper of the god Baal. Baal was the fertility god and the god of the pagans. She talked her husband into worshiping Baal. So we got a strong-willed woman married to the king who comes to the king and says, "Well, if you gonna be married to me, you've got to go with my god".
So he compromised with her and when he compromised with her, he's the king, he's leading all of Israel in the compromising with her. And she got Israel to compromise. That's why Elijah asked 'em, "How long will you halt between two opinions"? How long you gonna go both ways? How long you gonna be one way in church and another way at work? How long are you gonna be one way with the family of God and another way in your sorority or fraternity? How long you gonna be one way with your spiritual family and a whole 'nother way with your biological family? How long you gonna go both ways? 'Cause he wants you to know as long as you go both ways, you'll never be an overcomer because you are not operating on his standard.
He says, "You tolerate it, you accept it". Even if you're not doing it, you are allowing it and it's going unaddressed. It is shameful today what churches are beginning to allow. It is shameful today, 'cause this woman is in the church. She's a powerbroker in the congregation. It is shameful today how churches are dumbing down God's standard because they don't want to offend, they don't want anybody to call 'em intolerant. He says to them, "You have tolerated Jezebel. You've tolerated her, and she's doing damage to the church". And God says what? And I'm not even being mean about it. Look at verse 21: "I gave her time to repent", oh, "and she does not want to repent of her immorality".
Now, we're gonna get back to this thing of repentance 'cause it's one of the most powerful words in the Bible. It's a powerful word because it opens up the door of God changing his relationship with you. So repentance, it means to turn, okay? He says, "Even though this woman, Jezebel, is been promoting immorality, been promoting idolatry, I gave her an opportunity to fix it". So God creates windows of repentance, opportunities within a timeline before he moves. He says, "I gave Jezebel, even though she was involved in this kind of wickedness, I gave her a window of opportunity to turn". What was her problem? "She does not want to repent".
Now, sin is bad but not wanting to repent is worse 'cause now you've entered into the category called rebellion. This woman was not struggling; she was a rebel and she was influencing other people and other folks were around there saying, "Well, that's her business. I ain't got nothing to do with that". Or here's the way we say it: "I'm not supposed to judge", okay? So let's get this straight. Let's get this straight 'cause people are confused on this thing. You are to always judge the distinction between truth and error. You must judge. You must judge legitimately. You must judge biblically. You must judge lovingly.
You must judge responsibly and then you get the sympathetic thing, "Well, God is a God of love". Yeah, well, that's half of God. That's one side of God. Romans 11 says: "Knowing the goodness and severity of God", so you must hold in your hand two things: truth and love, and the two must be kept together. You don't give up truth for love and you don't give up love for truth. You have to hold both of them simultaneously. He goes on to say, "I will throw her", Jezebel, "on a bed of sickness and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of her deeds".
So that's bad news and good news. The bad news is he says, "I'm gonna throw her on her bed of sickness". One way God disciplines us is with sickness. He allows sickness. All sickness is not due to discipline but some sickness is. And one of the ways he disciplines, he says, "I will throw her on a bed of sickness", so let me tell you what happened to Jezebel. Jezebel kept going, kept going, would not repent, would not repent, and then she crossed the line, okay? She crossed the line. And God said, "That's it". So one day she's sitting up there in her window, she falls out of the window, hits her head, blood splatters everywhere. She laying on the ground and she dies from the fall, okay?
This is in 2 Kings chapter 9, verses 30 to 35. And so, she's out there, blood is splattered. So the men come to get her body to bury her. But when they come to get her body, there's nothing left but her skull and her feet 'cause the dogs have devoured her. Not only did God take her life, it was the shame of being eaten by a dog because you would not repent. And he says, "And for Jezebel and her followers", these are those who are practicing what she was doing, there would be the discipline of God.
You say, "Well, I don't believe God is like that. That was in the Old Testament". Well, this verse is in the New Testament. And so is Hebrews chapter 10, verse 30 and 31 because Hebrews chapter 10, verse 30 and 31 makes it clear. He says, "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will judge my people". I will judge my people. Not to be mean, but to bring corrective measures into their lives. There must be a standard that the kingdom of God holds to that we get back in line with if we're out of alignment so that the church of Jesus Christ is distinct in the culture. Because no longer will it be popular to be one of the culture. Used to be popular.
You could be one of the culture but now, you take a biblical stand for life, you take a biblical stand for marriage, you take a biblical stand for water, you take a biblical stand and you gonna be on the out. Now, why would this be a problem if you were working in Thyatira? Well, now, if you belong to this union and this union says to keep your job, to get a raise on your job, to get promoted on your job, you got to go along to get along, okay? If you don't party with us, the way we party, nothing wrong with a good party, but unless you've made that decision in advance, unless you've decided in advance that there's certain boundaries I will not cross, then what you have to understand is that you are making a choice between the true God, the Son of God, and the false gods who will not be there when your world crashes.
So I'm gonna tell you that now 'cause those false gods are not real. They're just convenient. 'Cause let me tell you something about an idol. Folks only pick idols they can control. See, folk pick idols 'cause they can tell a idol what to do. The problem with our God is, you don't get to control him. See, that's why folk don't want that God 'cause that God can't be dumbed down to the culture. And so he says to them, he says, "I'ma judge the children", but he still gives them an out. He says, "Unless you repent". Repentance would remove the fact of the judgment of God. But he makes it clear. "I say to the rest", verse 24, "who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching", watch this now, "who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them, I have no other burden on you".
Okay, let me talk to you a little bit. To the rest of you, who are not compromising, who are repenting, to the rest of you, he says, who do not accept the teaching of the deep things of Satan. So that raised a question, didn't it? What are the deep things of Satan? So there are not so deep things and there are deep things. A satanic thing is an invitation to disobey God. That's a satanic thing and we all face that. We all have fallen short in that, where we've disobeyed God. That's satanic. But let me tell you what a deep thing of Satan is. A deep thing of Satan is not only when you disobey God, when I disobey God, when we disobey God. A deep thing of Satan, when you've really gone down to hell to hang out with him, is when you call evil good. Now, you didn't just go into the bottom of the pit and you're hanging out with the devil.
See, as long as you call evil, evil, you're saying something true about it. But the moment you go to call evil, good, this is legitimate. This is okay. That's why Romans 1 says things got worse and worse and worse. Not only did people do the things but they applauded those who did them. In other words, they gave approval and you see today what we clap for, what we affirm, what we celebrate, and we call wretched, good, and we celebrate the most evil of people, the most evil of lyrics, the most evil of terminology, the most evil of actions, but we applaud it and we say, "Ain't that nice", and "Ain't she great", and "Wasn't that funny", and "Isn't that nice", and we go along and all of a sudden what we used to shun at and say, "Ooh, boy, that's nasty", we now say, "That's the deep things of Satan". You've now gone and you now partying with the devil.
But it says: "For those who do not accept the teaching of the deep things of Satan, who don't call evil, good". He says, "I have no greater burden for you". This is a great statement. "I have no greater burden for you". See, what I've been talking about today, based on what he's talking about is kind of weighty. You can feel this, you know? You know, I might not get a raise, I might not get a promotion, if I don't do what they say do. You know, I could lose my job, I mean, what's gonna happen? And it can be weighty per se. I'm gonna be this serious Christian, this full-time saint and not part-time Christian. I'm gonna be God's person, responsibly in this situation.
That can be a little weighty, particularly if you in a union, if you're in employment, if you're in a sorority or fraternity that's gonna expect something that you can't go along with. It's weighty. He says, "But if you do not accept the teaching", teaching of Jezebel, that foreign teaching, that deep thing that Satan teach you, "I have no greater burden for you". One of the things that God says about his commandments is that they are not burdens but that's a striking statement because I'm feeling the weight. I'm feeling the weight. They are not burdensome. He says, "But I have no greater burden for you".
Remember what God told Adam and Eve? He told 'em, "From every tree of the garden you may freely eat but the tree in the midst of the garden you may not eat it lest you die". You know what Satan did? He made that one tree the only tree. He acted like there was no other tree. I've got all these trees in the garden. I can get to 'em all, but he only wanna talk about that one. And he created a weight on her like God was ripping her off 'cause she couldn't get that one tree. God says, "If you reject the teaching of Satan, then you will lift the burden from you". How will rejecting that teaching when it could cost me my job lift the burden from me? Because now, the Son of God is working for you and not working against you.
Now, the Son of God, the one with the eyes of fire and the feet of bronze, listen, I don't wanna be misunderstood. If you take a stand for intolerance where God is intolerant, there may be some negative things, for those who are godly in Christ Jesus, the Bible says, will suffer. "Hold fast 'til I come", verse 21. "The one who overcomes, and he who keeps my deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations". You may get some of it now, you'll get most of it later, but he says I'm gonna give you the ability to rule with me, "and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, so I also have received authority from my Father; I will give to him the morning star", that is intimacy with Christ, based on Revelation 22. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit of God says to the churches".
What he's saying to you and me is to take your stand with love, with kindness, but with clarity. That there is a boundary here, and that boundary we do not cross. And when we do cross it, we repent and get back in line so that we can continue on and have the eyes of the Son of God. 'Cause just like the Son of God saw you leave it, the eyes of God saw you come back to it. 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.
Now if you really are serious about being a person of conviction, then that means you must be a person of standards, right? You've got to have the right standard to be convicted about. I mean, if you follow the wrong crowd and they give you the wrong standard, you may have conviction but you're convicted in the wrong direction. Many of the problems we would not have in our lives if we didn't change our standards. You see, we've got a lot coming at us that want us to enter into their world view, their standard, their belief of what's right and wrong.
So let's get something straight. If you want the right standard, you've got to have the right standard bearer. By two immutable things God can't lie. He is truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". In other words, he wants to be the standard. God has spoken and he has not stuttered. Did you know there are two answers to every question: God's answer and everybody else's; and everybody else when they disagree with him are wrong. If you and I would make God's way setting the standard for our decision making, and then we have conviction of that, then we're having the right standard for the convictions we espouse.
Look, we're concerned when our kids come home and their peers have given them a standard, a goal to reach for, different than what we've taught them. We tell them, "No, that's a low standard. What they're telling you to do, asking you to do, telling you to go, that's not what you wanna relate to". The mere fact that they wanna be like everybody else ought to wake us up to say, "Ah, they're going after not a high enough standard. We want them to follow our guidelines". Well, we have a Father who wants his children to follow his guidelines. Make God's standard your standard. Become convinced that that is the right standard. Go for that standard and let's see what winning looks like because you're going after the right goal.