November 27, 2006
Revelation 2:15, "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolatians, which thing I hate."
If you have been following the entire study, we already have an understanding of the deeds of the Nicolatians, and what they hoped to accomplish by bringing division in the house of God. If to the church of Ephesus Christ only wrote concerning the deeds of the Nicolatians, praising the church for hating said deeds, to the church of Pergamos He writes concerning the doctrine of the Nicolatians, which shows a greater propensity for darkness and evil.
When man does an unrighteous act due to ignorance or weakness, when he stumbles, it is readily remedied with repentance. When however, they continue to practice unrighteousness and even create doctrine to support their fallen state, attempting to disprove the origins thereof, masking it in a cloak of righteousness, it is a different matter altogether. The perversity of the wayward heart is such that rather than repent and turn to God, it attempts to find justification for its sin, and by finding said justification they are emboldened in it.
God hates both the deeds, and the doctrines of the Nicolatians, and those born of God, the true believers which make up the body of Christ, must do as their Father does. If we hope to ascend to greater glory, understanding and power in God, we must love what He loves, and hate what He hates. If God hates the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolatians, so must we, doing battle and defending the truth of God's Word, wherever the need for its defense arises.
There are many Nicolatians roaming about ravaging the sheep of God's house today. They attempt to overcome, or lord over the congregation, and afterward profit from it, sheering the sheep mercilessly. I am often asked why I am so critical of those who would use the Word for profit and gain, why I reject those who would attempt to deceive the children of God into believing that the more money they give the holier they will become, the more material wealth will be bestowed upon them, and the short, concise truth, is because God is against it. We have been warned by Christ Himself to guard our hearts, we have been warned by the Gospel to be weary of the teaching we allow to take root in our souls, yet we lower our defenses, we stop being watchful at the first offer of thousand percent return. God is not to blame for the condition of the church today but rather it is we who are to blame for not heeding God's warnings.
I love what God loves, but I also hate what God hates, and in order to rightly divide the truth, in order to be justified not by men, but by God, I must continue to do what I know is right in the light of the Gospel, even if I am the only one that remains. I have been admonished by many to live and let live, I have been counseled not to be so confrontational, I have even been told that exposing deception is somehow not showing the love of Christ. My only answer to such criticism is that true love, the love of Christ, is doing your utmost to save people from deception and death. If only one is reached, then it will have been worthwhile. Yes, the ministry might be bigger today, and we might have more supporters if I were to jump on the bandwagon and sing along with the prosperity jingle, if I were to think up of new and ingenious ways to fleece the flock, and make them unrealistic promises that will only wound them upon not seeing their fruition, but I would be doing something God hates, and even if all our supporters fled to those offering greater things, I still could not fathom having such blood on my hands. Knowledge of truth, constrains us, and if we choose to reject it in lieu of material gain, then we are accountable to God.
Matthew 26:41, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
If God hates the doctrine of the Nicolatians, why do those who claim to be of God love it so? Why is that a new teaching, a new path, a new doctrine has to filter its way into the house of God periodically in order to keep our attention? Why is it that although God says there is only one path, we welcome with open arms the ideology that there are different paths, leading to the same destination? Why is it we so readily reject the truth in lieu of the lie, and praise those who would wound us, while decrying those whose only purpose is to point us to Christ? The answer is painful, but true. We have stopped watching, we have stopped praying, and by doing so the spirit and doctrine of the Nicolatians have flooded the house of God unhindered taking captive countless souls, who no longer hunger for something sovereign, true or Scriptural, but merely for something new and entertaining.
Put to death the old flesh you say? But surely that would be murder, and God does not advocate murder. Actually, putting to death our members, our old selves, our lusts, evil desires, covetousness and idolatry, is the only murder that God not only advocates but outright demands. Because our singular desire is no longer the salvation of souls but the filling of coffers, we have refashioned and reshaped God into a deity absent of expectation, who is only there to serve our needs, and provide for our wants, all the while giving us the freedom to live as we please. This is the modernized god, the god of the masses, the god of zero sacrifice. Yes this new god that we have fashioned is the god of many things, and goes by many names, but one thing he is not, and that is the God of the Bible, the sovereign, almighty, omniscient King of Kings.
Revelation 2:16, "Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth."
Christ gives the command and the warning to the angel of the church of Pergamos, and the command to repent is in relation to the doctrines of both Balaam and the Nicolatians. Although the angel of the church did not follow these doctrines, he needed to repent nonetheless for those who held to them. There is a deep truth hidden in this verse that we must explore, for in it we discover that we are accountable to God for those around us, and whether for our omission of truth, our silence when we should have spoken, our lack of being a true testimony for Christ, we must repent.
The message was written to the angel of the church, and it is to the angel that Christ says repent. Yes, we must repent on behalf of others. By the parable and testimony of our life of repentance, we must compel others to repentance as well. If however, we are content to remain in a state of indifference, if we do not intercede prayerfully for our neighbors, friends and relatives, their hearts will remain hardened toward the truth.
If I am living true repentance, those around me will do one of three things. They will repent, rebel, or flee. Those are the only avenues one who is not of Christ can pursue. The idea that we can draw people to the house of God by not living for God, by not aspiring to righteousness and holiness as He demands is damaging and counterproductive. If one who does not know God walks into a congregation where all are living true repentance, he will be compelled to either repent himself, rebel at the Word for being to harsh, or flee, not desiring to know the truth. We have taken the soft approach for too long in God's house, we have attempted to finesse and sugarcoat the Gospel of Christ, and for this reason churches are full of sinners that don't know they need to repent. For now the parable of Christ, concerning the wheat and the tares is evident in many congregations, but the day is coming, the day of the harvest, when the tares will be gathered, bound up and burnt, while the wheat will be placed into their master's barn. What we must realize today, is that although there are tares among the wheat, by the saving power of Christ and His shed blood, the tares can be transformed into wheat. A tare that does not know it can be transformed into something other than a tare however, will remain a tare in perpetuity. Every man chooses his path, but we are accountable to God, even at the risk of losing a friendship, or offending an acquaintance, to show them the true path, to tell them that we were once tares, but were made wheat, we were once shackled in the darkness of sin, but were made new and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
The warning of Christ to the angel of the church of Pergamos, was a serious one, and not without consequence. Lest repentance be evident, Christ would come quickly, and fight against them with the sword of His mouth. What can produce greater agony in a heart, than the knowledge that Christ fights against it?
Before we proceed however, I would like to take some time and continue to define repentance. I realize it is no longer a popular term in many a Christian circles today, and that it has been relegated to the fate of the buggy whip, or telegraph in many a heart, but if Christ spoke it, we must take heed, for His word remains true throughout the ages.
In its purest definition to repent, is to turn away from, to be penitent and to feel sorrow for a certain action, or deed. The good that was found in the church of Pergamos could not cover or due away with the sin that they had allowed to creep in. Evil cannot be atoned by doing good, but rather the evil must be repented of that God may bind the wound and heal that which requires healing.
The angel of the church of Pergamos could not have exculpated himself by attempting to point out the positives of their condition. He could have readily said, 'but Lord, it was your mouth that spoke the words, wherein we held fast to your faith, and did not deny your name.'
He could have even attempted to justify the current condition by saying, 'it isn't my fault we are in the world, we must live therefore we must try to accommodate, or what can I do if men choose to bring in heresy or strange doctrine?' However, no matter what justification might have been attempted, the truth remains that if we have been dragged into sin, we must heed the words of Christ and repent. Sin cannot be justified in the life of a believer, we must acknowledge it, condemn it, and repent of it. When with boldness we cast aside the strange doctrine, and false teaching renouncing that promote them, then our repentance is righteous and true. How can we do this? How in the face of so much unscriptural doctrine can we stand, boldly fighting for the truth, and contending for the faith? By standing on the Word of God. When the Word remains in us, when it has found a dwelling place in our hearts, we are able to overcome evil, we are able to conquer the foe, and defend that which we know to be pure, and true, and sovereign.
1 John 2:14-15, "I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
1 John 5:4-5 "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
In an age when men bend like reeds in a stiff breeze at the first sign of confrontation or hardship, by the hand of John, God is calling out to those in whom the Word abides, and who have overcome the wicked one by the power of the word, admonishing them not to love the world or the things of the world. He warns sternly that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father no longer resides in him. For if once having been over comers, having been born of God, once having retained faith and believed in the Son of God we allow the love of the world to entangle us once more, if we pander to the world for the sake of the world's acceptance, if repentance is not found in us, then Christ Himself will bring down the sword of His judgment upon us. No one can escape this sword no one can shrink away from being accountable for the knowledge they retain. It is by far better to repent, than to be consumed by the sword of God's righteous judgment.
Revelation 2:17, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it."
We serve a God that does not mince words, a God who means what He says, and says what He means, with such clarity and purpose that only those willfully ignorant miss the message He is trying to send. The appeal is as clear as it is powerful: 'he who has an ear, let him hear.'
In His omniscience, Christ does not ask those absent of spiritual ears, to hear or perceive spiritual things. But for those who are born again in God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is crucial that they open their hearts, and hear what the Spirit is saying, for the message of the hour is not for the ears of the world, but the ears of His beloved. In order to be valiant, and fearless in the work of God here on earth, a true believer must always be in tune with what the Spirit is speaking, obeying the voice of God. Christ is speaking to the churches, but who will hear Him? The Spirit is moving, admonishing, chastening, encouraging, and strengthening, but it seems we no longer heed the messages, but rather discount and disregard the ministry of the Spirit altogether. Those that can hear, but choose not to hear, will one day have to answer before a sovereign God for their dismissal of His words.
God has saved us and endowed us with His gifts that He may send us into the harvest field. He has instilled in us priceless treasures, reserved only for His own, that through Him, and the power of His spirit we may affect change in this world, that we may lead those living in darkness to the light of His love. If He has given us spiritual ears, it was so that we may obey the Word of truth, and by obeying it confess it wherever, and whenever the need arises.
The promise is not for all, but is reserved to him who overcomes, and the reward for overcoming is the gift of being given the hidden manna to eat. Some have interpreted this verse as a time when the miracle God performed for the children of Israel while in the desert, when in order to sustain them He provided manna for them every morning, would be repeated. While God fed the Israelites with manna in the desert, the hidden manna in this context is none other than the revelation of the mystery of God, who is Christ, and the full assurance of understanding to the knowledge thereof.
Colossians 2:1-3, "For I want to you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
The true believer knows Christ as his food, and nourishment, that which keeps and preserves his life in the desert of this world. The children of God know that they are indeed, the new Israel, meaning princes with God, having tasted of Christ, seeing how good He is, and desiring nothing more. If we have Christ, we have all things in the fullness thereof, while if we have all that this world has to offer, but do not have Christ, we have nothing.
1 Peter 2:2-3, "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
If indeed we have tasted, then we will desire more of Him, if indeed He has revealed Himself to us, we cannot help but serve and worship the Christ who redeemed us from the prison of sin.
The reward of he who overcomes to those of the Pergamos condition, is the hidden manna. These words as it was shown, reveal Christ, the vessel of gold in the ark of the Covenant, hidden to the world, but unveiled to those who overcome, those who pass through victorious and unscathed, through the fallen religious system of today, and those who would be wed to the world. By overcoming through the grace of Christ, we are given the heavenly Manna, unavailable to the world, the eternal Manna that is none other than Christ. Regardless of our circumstances, He must be our all in all. He is the given of strength when we prepare for battle, He is the giver of wisdom when we need it, and our victory is assured through Him. The beauty of this promise is that Jesus Christ is our reward.
The hidden manna, namely Christ, is closely linked to our hidden life in Him, and in order to be hidden in Him, we must first be dead to the world. Only then, are we able to live a hidden life in Christ, and be nourished by Him. It is neither works, or public gatherings, it is not bigger better chapels, or programs that we need today, it is for our lives to be hidden in Christ, that we may know Him more fully and completely.
Colossians 3:3-4, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
As we continue reading the final words of the message to the angel of the church of Pergamos, we see yet another promise that was made to those who overcome, that of a white stone, and a new name written on this stone which no one would know except him who receives it. When we live our new life, hidden in Christ, and nourish ourselves with the hidden manna that is Christ, then we receive a white stone, meaning a strong spirit, fundamental nature, a light that carries the mark of a personal mystery, for on it there is written a new name.
It has also been said, that masters of ceremonies used white stones to write the names of invited guests for the wedding dinner. In this context we can interpret the white stones, written with the new names, as the names of those who will join Christ for His wedding supper.
No one knows our true name, our new name, better than Christ and ourselves. My true name is not that which my parents named me, but rather my true name is the name that Christ has given me, the name that reveals my inward nature. No one can know the name that Christ gave you when you came to Him, when you fell at the foot of the cross and sought salvation, except yourself. Although our new name is a mystery to all those around us, it can be perceived and proven by our fruit. It is not the words of a man that are most resounding throughout his live, but rather his actions.
We can know ourselves well, if we are diligent and faithful. Every man can look into the depths of his heart, examine himself, and know whether or not he has received the new name, every man can know if He is in us, and is one with Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? &emdash; Unless indeed you are disqualified."
We live in an age wherein self-examination is frowned upon, for if we would truly confront ourselves, we would realize the need for Christ in every facet of our daily lives. Self-examination has been done away with in many a congregation for the simple fact that it is uncomfortable, and once having done it we cannot dismiss the results as readily. When we hear someone speak from a pulpit, and they convict certain issues in our lives, it is one thing, and we can readily reject the message, or the messenger, but when we examine ourselves, and it is one's own self that convicts, it is much harder to ignore.
Since constant self-examination to see whether we are in the faith is one of the ways which we can keep deception from creeping into our hearts, and the above mentioned verse is worthy of more than merely a glancing read, but rather deep and spiritual consideration and contemplation, we will venture here a little while, and see the truths that God will reveal concerning this necessary aspect of our Christian life.
We live in an age of speed, and haste, where no one seems to have time for anything else than the rat race of life, and the acquisition of material things, an age where inward introspection, self examination, taking time to reflect, or even spend time with one's own family, have been replaced as priorities, losing their significance.
Looking back on the years that have gone by, one realizes ever so grudgingly that life was simpler, times were simpler, and men made time for the important things in life. No matter how busy life got, one always knew what was truly worthwhile, setting aside time with the family, praying together, reading together, being a family in the truest sense of the word, and assessed his goals not based on reaching the next tax bracket but rather making a tangible difference, finding fulfillment in the spiritual rather than the corporeal.
The technology that was supposed to make our lives easier and less cluttered, seemed only to make them more so, and with each advancement we become more isolated from our families, friends and communities.
It would be wise if from time to time we would stop and examine ourselves that we may keep ourselves on the path of truth and righteousness in Christ. To truly know ourselves is a grace that too few deem as important, but when we know ourselves we are able to not only pursue, but also attain the light and peace we so desperately sought. To be careless with the grace that has been given us, prepares the way to losing that grace.
Often times, believers are like mother hens from whose nest many an egg has been removed. As long as one or two eggs remain in the nest however, they pay no attention to those that have been taken. We live in a generation where countless Christians are satisfied that they have not lost all of God, even though by their disobedience they have removed themselves from His presence in large part. They are satisfied that although the full measure of God has not been felt in their midst for long and long, if they have an intermittent experience with Him now and then. As wise servants, we must be watchful, and take action at the first sign of our love cooling, of not feeling the presence of God in the measure we once did. We cannot allow our love to grow cold, to be absent of God's grace for so long that we find ourselves having wandered from the path of righteousness.
No man is as miserable and pitiable as the man who loses everything he has worked for due to indifference, and lack of attentiveness.
Many a battle has been lost because the night guard fell asleep on duty, because he was inattentive to his surroundings, or got sidetracked with less important issues forgetting to fulfill his duties.
When at first a boat springs a leak, it is relatively easy to plug up, but if the leak goes unattended, soon the boat fills up with water and is dragged to the bottom. We must put an end to disobedience, and sin at their inception, deal with them decisively, and mercilessly when first they rear their head.
Men today tend to treat their faith like the key to their home, once having locked up, they put the key in their pocket and go about their business, never again considering the key until they return home that night. Their only concern is not to lose said key, that they may be able to reenter their home once they have run their errands, and finished their business. The truth of the matter however, is that faith is not, and cannot be a dead thing that we carry with us out of habit or tradition. It is not something that we have, but forget about until its necessity arises again. True faith is life in God, and as one cannot be without air, one cannot survive without faith. Faith is perpetually with you, for through faith, and by faith you live in God, and God lives in you. Faith creates communion and fellowship with God, and absent of faith these things cannot be attained.
The second aspect of this verse that is as marginalized as self-examination, if not more so is the fact that we must prove ourselves. There is an old saying that an unproven thing is an unsure thing, and it applies to our faith as well. Faith is tested, because it must be proven, and once our faith is proven, God knows the measure of our devotion, and the measure of responsibility with which he can entrust us. Nothing proves our faith more readily than the trials of this present life. When I speak of trials I am not referring only to those from without, but also those inward temptations, which we must resist even more vehemently than the outward ones. The outward temptations we can see coming, while we must constantly examine our own selves for the inward ones, being honest before God, and acknowledging the need for repentance when it is deemed necessary, not by us, but by the word of God. Many great men have been brought low due to the fact that although they were watchful against the outward temptations, they allowed the inward temptations to take root in their hearts, and overcome them.
A wise man once said, that a clean soul could look inward, and therein see Christ as if in a mirror. This is our quest, our goal, and our purpose, to become like Christ. When we examine ourselves, and perceive something not of Christ in our attitude, conduct, aspirations or desires, we must readily correct whatever it is that is not Christ like, for if it goes unchecked, it will grow and multiply, like a malignancy that soon ravages the entire body.
The measure of our faith is not proven in times of plenty, but rather in the times of drought and need, just as one only knows how deep the roots of a tree go, once it has endured a storm.
God has called us out of the world by name, and once having heeded His call He calls us by a new name. If we remain faithful, if we endure, if we strive and pursue righteousness, it is this new name that we will hear when we stand before Him. If however we chose disobedience, duplicity and sin, our new name will not be on His lips, but rather our old ones.
Blessed is the man who was called, and received a new name, who has kept it until the end, for He will receive the reward of his faithfulness. Just as God is more than the human mind perceives Him to be, so are our new names more than we can currently comprehend. We name God, Light, but He is more than, we name Him, Love, but He rises far above, we name Him, Almighty, but His might surpasses our understanding. It will be so in eternity, when our new names will be revealed, if we remain steadfast and faithful in keeping that which we have received from Him.