Building your Emerging Church from Revelation 2: 12-17
Again, John is reminding them and us who Christ is and what He has done. He is depicted here as the One in authority who can look into us, pierce us, and who knows who we are and what we want. Then, Jesus calls us to Him and away from ourselves and selfishness. Just as a sword is sharp and piercing, so are our wayward ways when we seek to do life and run His church by our own means, apart from His ways and commands. Such thoughts and actions separate us from God and others, just as our judgment for sin, without receiving His grace, will separate us for eternity. God doesn't want us separated, but He will do this to protect His other children, just as He will separate those who seek to harm us. This is His protection, and it is our choice to draw to Him or draw to our inclinations and sin.
The people in this church at Pergamum were willing to die for the faith, but they were not willing to live for the faith. They were on a teeter-totter of loyalty, holding on to the faith through persecution on one side, while allowing those who were treating others with deception, compromise, and manipulation to continue on the other. We walk on dangerous ground when we say "faith" with our mouths yet do dastardly deeds with our hands. Even to tolerate those who are being deceptive and scheming to others is sin, and will cause extreme dysfunction in our churches. We can come up with all kinds of excuses why we need not attempt to stop such a person, as did the church in Pergamum. But, we need to take seriously the warning from Jesus, who is our Head. He does not want His people manipulated or lied to. Jesus does not want our churches to be places of contention and hurt. Rather, He calls us to make them safe havens of rest and comfort as we worship and mature in Him, and to be secure in Him and in companionship with others. If we are being manipulated or are manipulating others, worship and healthy relationships cannot be nurtured or grown. How sad that would be for us and our community to have a church of dysfunction rather than a place where redemption and sanctification are carried out.
This church at Pergamum was tolerating false doctrines and people who were scheming against others, causing them to follow sin, trends, compromise their faith, and not reverence or trust in Christ. Even though they were faithful in persecution, their steadfastness wavered with those who were deceptive. They were being what we now call "politically correct," that is, tolerating ideas that were wrong or contrary just to be what they thought was mature and wise. Thus, they were in danger of being judged harshly if they did not repent. We have to see that we can be tolerant to a point, as long as it does not counter our character or the Word. They were following a person and not the Lord, or following human reasoning, pleas, rational, or logic, and not God's Word. No matter how good or bad a Bible teacher might be, we are always to test the word of people against His Word. We are to follow Christ and not people; we are to learn from people, team up with and honor them, but not venerate them so that we take our purpose and direction from them rather than from God. Here, the Christians were being taught to compromise and placate to the city rules, forsaking God's precepts and call.
Twisting God's truths to fit our whims and rationalizing our sin is blatantly evil. Do not allow this in your church! We have to be willing to prevent and discipline, even kick out manipulative and deceptive people in our churches.
Why would a Christian be manipulative and say he or she is serving Christ? Our human condition, our sinful nature, is susceptible to what psychologists call "Cognitive Dissidence." This Cognitive Dissidence is where we perform one behavior while at the same time harbor a contradicting behavior. This is a common, human characteristic that God desires that we root out. We cannot be healthy and at the same time harbor contradictory views; this cannot be done. Psalm 10 tells us that we cannot have pride and God occupying the same heart, yet we keep trying! We cannot be a growing Christian, practicing prayer and spiritual disciplines, while at the same time making judgments on our neighbors and friends or causing others to compromise and sin.
Let us not fall into the trap of putting on a performance-of acting out the Christian life. Let us not play a Christian; let us be a Christian. Let our actions respond to the transformation of Christ's grace by living honest lives. We must allow Christ's amazing grace to root out all the evil within us, especially the hypocrisy that causes so much destruction, or else our church will be just like Pergamum.
Jesus knows us intimately; He knows our situation, our struggles and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love so we can focus upon Him and lean on Him both in our jubilations and also in our struggles. The key in this passage is to stay faithful in our Christian identity and our leadership of others, and to remain loyal to Christ. We are not to allow our doubts, fears, or state of affairs to occupy His place in our hearts and minds.
1. Have you ever faced similar pressures that the Church of Pergamum faced? Perhaps, you have been forced to compromise your morals or be "Politically Correct" on a subject you know is wrong. How do you balance being "Politically Correct" yet be a faithful and good witness for Christ?
2. Why would Jesus take the time to give encouragements and blessings as well as condemnations to these churches? What are some encouragements, blessings, and condemnations your church would receive from Jesus?
3. How does it make you feel that Jesus can look into you and pierce you, and also know who you are and what you want? Does this give you more strength, or fear? If it is fear, why?
4. What does it mean for you to walk away from your self and selfishness? How important is loyalty to Christ for holding onto the faith?
5. How do our wayward ways pierce Christ, such as living life on our own or running His church by our own means apart from His ways?
6. Why would someone be willing to die for the faith but be not willing to live for the faith? What would cause someone to compromise his or her faith?
7. Why would being tolerant to those who are deceptive and scheming cause extreme dysfunction in your church? What would be some of the excuses some leaders would use for not attempting to stop such a person?
8. What would happen if your church became a place of contention and hurt? Why is it so important that our churches be safe havens of rest and comfort so that people can worship and mature in Christ and be secure in Him and in companionship with others?
9. Can you compare what is going on in this passage with the postmodern "politically correct" ideologies, as in tolerating other's ideas that are wrong or that are contrary to God's Word? How would someone rationalize the compromise of morality as being mature and wise?
10. Jesus knows our situation, our struggles, and our opportunities. He wants us to take hold of His grace and love and succeed in our faith and life. How can this help inspire you to persevere when times are tough?
11. What would your church look like if most of the people took to heart and practiced the Fruit of the Spirit to their best abilities and endeavors? What can be done to make sure your leadership sets the tone for faithfulness?
12. What can you do to make sure that your purpose and direction in life is from God and not from people or trends? What can your church do to help instill loyalty to Christ in their hearts rather than allowing doubts, fears, or state of affairs to occupy His place in their hearts and minds?
In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. Psalm 10:4
For more see the Bible study on this at: www.intothyword.org
© 2006 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/