We got trouble in our churches--a lack of loyalty. A tough question needs to be asked of ourselves, are we being "harlots" with His Church?
Read Revelation 17-18
Yes, there are far better ways to make a point than to use the "harlot'. However, this is the word God uses, and it may wake us up to our dysfunction and the predicament we have in how we lead and manage churches these days.
Look at it this way. If you want your church healthy and lined up to God's call, commands and precepts, you have to be loyal! That means being trustworthy, faithful and devoted to Christ as LORD and His Truth! That means more than just placing Him first or ignoring the relativisms in our society. It means a defining quality that I am fully engaged to be in Christ, to follow Christ and lead others to Christ. In contrast, if we are not loyal; then, we are betraying. As a pastor, my first and foremost job is to point people to The Shepherd. So, the point of this message is simple. We have to recover our churches from the desires of what I want, from the false trends, away from betrayal of Christ's Lordship, to turn back to the true Truth of Scripture that glorifies Christ as LORD!
If not, if we dare to go to our pulpits, boardrooms, small groups, classes and families with what I want to say and ignore Him, we are in fact being disloyal. If we dare teach what is false, give only half truths and merely feel good messages, like "sermonettes for Christianettes ," we are in fact being prostituting His Word and Truth.
To see if my premise is correct, let's take a look at this passage in Revelation--a passage that a lot of misguided Bible teachers use to amuse and shift the meaning away from the truth and point of it. The theme is this great 'harlot' blasphemes God and puts her trust in materialism and immorality and leads others to do so, too. In so doing, she is not ashamed, but rather boisterous and proud of sin. Our first thought on this, well, that will happen in the last days, I do not need to fret. I certainly do not do that! But, we need to pray and think this through. Perhaps it is so. Read the passage, and seek Christ in humility, is there an application, am I being loyal to Christ or to myself and trends that would ashamed our Lord?
What is going on with that passage? John is clearly writing to the seven real churches and, consequently, to people in extreme hard times, then being persecuted by Rome. He was dealing with infighting, disloyalty, false teachers, church members being cut off from their families, social circles, and trade guilds so they could not work, this, starving out his people and preventing them from functioning and others forms of persecution. The main enemy from outside of the church was Rome. It was a blood-thirsty, pagan empire that oppressed its people, especially Christians, who were considered criminals and slaves and used for sadistic entertainment. Rome was extremely corrupt and fell because of it. The enemy from within, which was even more dangerous, was false teaching and being treacherous to Christ by distorting His precepts and call.
What is the Bride?
As we know, the Bride is the Church. This is Christ's identification with His people and an image of our Redeemer's intimacy and the community between God and His children. This is beyond a mere metaphor as it is about the life, love, and joy that a first century marriage celebration represented that Christ shares with us and calls us to share with one another in our covenant of Grace. And in Revelation, this is also a contrast to the divorce of the harlot and a stern warning to John's people in his church, to not to cheat on our Lord by way of our pride, false worship, false teaching, or our apathy or arrogance, or anything that gets in the way of us pointing His Bride to the Redeemer (Ex. 22:16; Is. 54:5-7; Hos. 2:19-20; Matt. 9:15; 22:2; John 2:1-3; 3:29; 22:2-14; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32; Heb. 2:5; 6:5; 1 John 1:3-10; Rev. 19:7; 21:1-8 ).
Thus, this passage is about the marriage of the Lamb to the Church, His dowry being the pain and suffering, His spilt blood that He endured on the cross, something that no one else could pay, so we can be redeemed. Jesus is giving the call to the Bride, His Church, to be pure and faithful and to rejoice in Him.
The theme of a marriage feast shows the joy and celebration we should have in Christ and in His Church. So, Church, your church is to be a celebration of the Majesty, Presence, and Goodness of God. We respond by solid Biblical teaching, heartfelt worship with celebration and devotion. The themes of the world and things to come are on evil, sin, its judgments, and those who miss it and their mourning; for we who believe, it is about celebration for those who are faithful and loyal while living and practicing the Christian life point to Him. Those of us called to lead and teach must rejoice in God's faithfulness and their vindication, which points to Him. Sin has been judged and God is glorified; He rewards those who are true to Him.
The passage goes on to say that evil is judged and condemned while true spirituality in Christ is eternally rewarded and beneficial. This is also about our own vindication, and all the benefits we have when we are in Christ. We are a part of His Kingdom that is being showcased in this passage, so we who are in Christ can sing a loud and clear Hallelujah!
The imagery of Rome in this passage is "Babylon" and may be referring to the persecution and martyrdom the early Christians faced in life under Rome, perhaps as illustration for some of us and reality to many others today and the principle point to his churches. In addition, this is a template for how evil and its power operates in the past, present, as well as in the future. This is about how pastors and church leaders go wrong by chasing themselves and not Christ. This is about how evil does not always know it is evil, because it is blinded by pride and self will, in the church and in society. This is also leading to its future--its self-destruction.
Here is a simple test to see if you or the pastor is loyal is this. Does the teaching and character point to Christ or point to themselves or something else? Does the first response and vision showcase the Lordship of Christ or the way I want things? What does Christ call us to do and what betrays Him?
Rome gave away food to appease its citizens while they enticed them with sins and heinous amusements of people being slaughtered in arenas. Placating to Rome gave one privileges; standing up to it gave one death or the loss of land and rights. The issue before the Church was compromise and loyalty--would their allegiance be to a prostitute Rome, to Christ, or to what? Some theologians have suggested that "Babylon" referred to apostate Jerusalem, but there is little Jewish evidence for that. Jerusalem has already fallen. Also, the principle arguments against Jerusalem as the subject matter of this passage is that it does not sit on many waters nor did it reign over other nations at this time! The bottom line for us in church leadership is, how is evil affecting and effecting your church?
What is a Harlot?
Let's look at this upfront, close and personal. Let us be challenged with the Word of God and be humble to see what we may be doing wrong. First off, do you know what a harlot is? Also called whore, it is not a fun, happy word. You might even be offended by the use of this word. It is from the Greek word, "porne," from whence comes the English word "pornography." It means promoting and/or partaking in the grievous sin of fornication that hurts, steals, and destroys relationships and families. But, it means so much more (Lev. 17:7; Is. 1:21; 26:16-18; 57:3; Jer. 3:1-14; Ezek. Chaps 16 & 23; Hos. 4:15).
This is an image used in the Old Testament to mean the abandonment of one's covenant to God or the unfaithfulness and faithlessness of Israel. Also, this means the seductions of the world and that we have to be on guard as Christians, so they do not corrupt us or the church we are called to steward. This is also about people being lured into sin, yet knowing it is sin and being able to resist even as people seek to disobey God and/or to serve evil--like deliberately teaching what is false when we have God's Word right in front of us for correction. And, this word applies to how we lead and manage His church. Remember, Revelation is a book to churches first, how to lead, be loyal, handle persecutions and so forth.
In the very early church, when John was penning these words from God, there was trouble, struggle and conflict--just like we have in today's churches, in your church, in my church, the struggle of loyalty to self and trends or loyalty to Christ as LORD.
This is all about betraying God by committing not only acts of immorality, but disrespecting His Word and ignoring or failing to teach and pass on His precepts-the prime responsibility of a church leader and pastor. The majority of people in John's day had no reservations or protests to following an evil empire and being used by them. Their belief was that one has a license to sin; thus, one does not need to be obedient to God, His precepts, civil law, or any moral standards, and many Christians felt as they do today, they do not have a need to bear fruit. God says this is evil as it portrays evil as being good. This can also be practicing and promoting trends that dilute God's truth, using it as an excuse for extreme immorality and wickedness (Judges 17:6; Jer. 2:31-37; Rom. 6:1-2; 14-15; 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Gal. 5:22-25; James 2: 14-26; Jude 4; Rev. 2:20).
The point? This means to choose sin is a deliberate choice, one that God hates passionately. This was also a term used by the early church for Rome (Lev. 17:7; Is. 1:21; 26:16-18; 57:3; Jer. 3:1-14; Ezek. Chaps 16 & 23; Hos. 4:15).
These people thought they did not need Christ and that they would escape the judgment of God! (Does the deceptive thinking sound familiar?) Such people and thinking is contemptible and self destructive, because nothing can challenge God.
Is our church being a Conspiracy against God?
Have you considered that a group's disloyalty is also a conspiracy? Any human conspiracy against God, no matter how vast and well planned will utterly fail, as no evil effort on our part will bear out successfully against His Way. Nor will our prideful and obnoxious behaviors or apostasy in a church will pay out success. Why do it? We do, I did--I hope and pray I will not again. Perhaps you have not realized yet; in all of your focus, your time, your planning, your teaching, and your meetings, you may have utterly missed the point of worship, doing church and God's call and precepts.
A call is being issued by God while, at the same time, manipulations on our part, our sinful nature and schemes battle for control of His Church from His own flock. While the immorality of the world is being constructed and promoted by the evil forces, each one beckoning the allegiance and loyalty of Christians to choose--follow the harlot of evil, or the Bride, the Loving Lord of Hosts. This is not just in the last days; it is being played out here and now, perhaps in your church (Rev. 21:9).
This "beast," whether it is a specific personality or a theme, seems to appear and cause havoc and chaos, then manipulates the situation so it seems not to be directly responsible. From a chaos in a mismanaged church to the malevolent evils from the ways of the world keep us fighting against God. People are tricked, thinking sin is OK, and that Satan and evil are not to be blamed. Evil seemingly is not always present, but its effects are and will continue to be so, until God places His final stop on it. In the meantime we, the faithful should not bow to evil, apostasy, or even apathy. We cannot allow our prideful motivational speakers to play pastor and lead Christians with feel-good messages of no substance. Our eyes and words are to be on Christ and Him alone.
The main prostitution we should worry about as Christians is Church Leadership falling to pride, apostasy, and the ways of the world versus faithfulness to Christ!
Never think evil is just in the world and not in our local church. Gossiping in God's site is as evil as evil can be, just look up "gossip" in a concordance and see what He says about it! Pride is evil, as is leading people astray. We must know that leading a church our way and not His is evil! How we lead a church says what our real devotion and character is about, is it placating to pride, false agendas and trends or worshiping and glorifying Christ as Lord? How will your church be led?
The main call for us is to heed Christ's love, grace, and call, and that any evil power--past, present, or future--is not to be feared by us Christians! The phrase, God has put it in their hearts, refers that He is still in control. Even when the world seems to be in chaos and discord, He is there with us, ever faithful and still in charge. Our duty and call is to fix our eyes on Christ, not on the troubles. This is the key to dealing with suffering and when life does not seem to make sense. The answer is not making up our own Gospel or changing His Message to our own (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:1-3).
What does this have to do with church leadership? A lot!
Allow me to ask you this: Got Apostasy in your life and church? Did you know that the term "antichrist" means anyone or anything that hides or hinders Christ, and/or prevents people from knowing and worshiping Him, even by Christians? Consider what we are doing in our teaching and worship services, are we glorifying Christ or ourselves? Is church about me and my goals and pride of about the Blood of Christ? This can be from a misplaced word that attacks someone so deeply they leave and never return to a church, only teaching half-truths and feel-good messages with no substance to full-blown apostasy. Not so sure? Take a few minutes and read 1 John!
Revelation, as most evangelicals understand it, is about the last days and the judgment of evil, and, for the most part it is. However, (a BIG "however," and a "however" most of us do not like to hear and will rarely study or teach on) this is also about how we are called to be loyal--how we are called to lead and manage HIS CHURCH!
So, the question we need to ask is, are we being "harlots" with His Church? Consider that p rostitution is a form of adultery, not just in the sexual sense, but by being disloyal to God so we are committing adultery to Him and all the hurt and dysfunction it brings. It is unfaithfulness, corruption and disintegration of our lives, faith, and the family because of the breakdown of the Church resulting in the breakdown of society (Is. 57:3; Jer. 3:8-9; Hos. 2:4).
· Is our church about a personality or a Person?
· This is about who you pledge your life to. Is it to your own pride? Or, is it to His Church and the glorification of Christ?
· Or, do you chase bad trends, sins, and the ways of the world?
· Are you so concerned with your way of doing things that His Way is pushed aside or skewed?
If so, perhaps you are the "harlot," or at least acting like it. Consider the struggles of these seven churches and the struggles in your life and church. You may have some confessing, praying, and repenting to do! I know I have had to do so!
Why are Christians so interested in chasing fads?
Another question we need to ask is to whom and/or what are we loyal--fads, trends, ideas, personalities or the precepts of Scripture and the glorification of Christ?
A fad many of us in ministry tend to chase is trends on how to lead and manage His Church. Sometimes, we glean new ideas on how to do things better. However, most of these are like chasing the harlot while ignoring the beckoning of Christ and His Way. When trends move us away from the Cross to something else we become obsessed, like with building projects and forget to build up people in Discipleship. We like to get so creative with our messages, we end up not teaching anything effectual. We become so guarded with our pulpit, we do not allow other good communicators of the Gospel to expound on Scripture. We become so busy with programs that we forget what the programs are for.
We seek to water down His Holy Word to attract people just as the devil manipulates people to trick them to his ways while we are called to disciple, teach, and worship Christ as Lord, His Way. The harlot in Revelation represents evil and the manipulations of forcing and tricking people to compromise--forsaking faith to embrace the devil. Such groups in the early church and throughout history sought to hide God and prevent people from knowing about true salvation.
Paganism, godlessness, false religions, and manipulating religion for personal gain and false teachings are all extreme corruption and hiding of the real God in the shadow of man's pride and corruption. By the way, chasing bad trends and compromising the teaching of the Bible does the same thing! Consider this as a form of corruption that destroys everything as it prevents goodness, cooperation, and growth in your church. It tears down rather than builds up. It hides people for God's Truth and stagnates discipleship and the glorification of our LORD!
Look at the definition of the harlot, read the passage, be in prayer and ask Christ, how am I doing? All too often, and I have done this, we try to use it as an easy way to their goals, but it never works; rather, it causes breakdowns of self and society whereas Christ cleanses us with His blood and equips us with His Word to help build up the world. Thus, "building" is a primary theme of Christianity that creates community and cooperation with the goal of faith and the building of the Church. This is our call and duty and purpose as church leaders, to glorify our Lord, make disciples be loyal to Him and be for Him! The contrast is the devil, as well as misguided megalomaniac pseudo pastors, destroys and tricks people to think that self destruction, the poverty of personal faith, and the breakdown of societal development are good things!
Being a harlot does not just mean standing on a street corner soliciting for unlawful relations; rather, it means for church leaders that we are engaged in and promoting apostasy!
The bad pastor and church leader is into themselves, and they lead their people away from God's path, becoming disloyal to God and His true Truths to the point they blaspheme God. They focus their people to trust in materialism and trends that neuter the Bible, water down His Word and replace discipleship with entertainment and lead others to do so, too. In so doing, she is not ashamed, but rather boisterous and proud of sin.
What about factions, gossip, and pride? These are the things that God hates the most and cause the greatest destruction to any given church, something even Satan himself could never do. Point? We are the real enemy, our sin building and conniving and converging upon one another, while we ignore Christ and His supremacy, precepts, and call!
Why is this so important?
Our loyalty helps us lead the life that bears the life of Jesus, the character of Jesus and the theme of what it means to be a real authentic effectual Christ like Christian. This is the essential mark, the most important thing we can accomplish in our life, to be Fruitful, to be faithful and be His and act like it. This means to allow the Holy Spirit to nourish and energize us, to speak to us and work in and through us.
Do you want to be safe and adequate or powerful and used in ministry and life? Really think about this. We do not have to lead the Christian life as a Christian. We can peach merely feel good messages do not instruct or edify.
We can be bullies in the boardroom or apathetic and uncaring and even obtuse to our families--frankly, most of us are. We don't live with Fruits of the Spirit. As a pastor, may I say honestly, very few Christians do. Few pastors do. I met very few real Christ-like fruitful pastors in my thirty plus years in ministry. This is sad. Most of us just do not get it. We live our lives to ourselves. It may not be outright sin, but it is placing our desires first, and we do not want to learn and grow. We do not what to be convicted and grow beyond where we are.
Most pastors do very little time to build their spiritual life. That is why the cheap messages that tickle our ears and move our emotions are so popular-more popular than the meat of the Word of God. It is why so many of us stopped growing so we stopped teaching. We created congregations who want to be told, we are OK, we want to hear encouragements and feel good stories, and we do not want to be taught the true Truth of Scripture so we can be used to further renew and transform the people in our care by the example and flow the Fruit of the Spirit.
Remember this very important point: sin and wrong desires, factions, and immorality bring us only "darkness." Darkness refers to having no peace, contentment, or happiness; chasing evils and pleasure, even our wants, only leaves us destitute of what is really important. This can be in a family, in a nation, in the world, and even in the Church. A defiant heart will only bring pain, chaos, strife, disillusionment, dysfunction, discouragement, distress, and grief. Who wants that? Remember, He will equip us with what He requires for us to live a triumphant, purpose-filled life ( Is. 57:15-21; 59:1-21; 59:15-18; 65:1-15)!
God is calling you and me--those who lead and pastor churches, who influence people in the church, who sit on committees, teach, or the like to flee from manipulating and gossiping behind the scenes-to wake up and SEEK HIM, not ourselves or ideas or plans or trends!
Are we being "harlots" with His Church? If so, stop, pray, and get right with God. If you can't, then get out of leadership until you are right with God and His call and His precepts!
Keep in mind in this passage--it is a stern warning that sin will cause ruin. Their sins are piled high, and God wants to remove the sin. Instead of seeking God's grace and mercy, they pile on more sin and seek the evils of pleasure without responsibility, which will bring them torment, sorrow, and extreme helplessness. Those who sought favor and wealth from sin will mourn, but those who are righteous will be joyful and jubilant. Those who trusted in luxury and splendor will mourn; those whose trust was/is in Christ will praise God. In a single moment, what they thought was important will be gone; what really is important will remain and increase. God's glory and eminence is steadfast and proclaimed; the hope of the faithful comes to its fruition!
Do not refuse God. Teach, preach, be loyal, be fruitful, be faithful, be real for Christ and live it out. By our example, we are used for His glory, giving people known and unknown to us a chance to repent and be saved.
© 2013, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/