Summary: The pain of persecution can cause us to seek a compromise with the world. It's never God's will to accommodate to the evil aspect of our culture.
Don’t Bow to the World
Sermon 4 in the Series “You’ve Got Mail”
July 31, 2011
For the PowerPoint for the sermon, write me at email@example.com.
Intro and a few key ideas adapted from Jim Drake’s sermon, Behind Closed Doors.
TEXT: Please turn to Revelation 2:18
Illus. – Sometimes, the contents a single letter can change a person’s life forever.
* You’re going to graduate from high school and you’ve applied to a prestigious college that can impact your future permanently—and the envelope with the name of the college embossed on it arrives from the admissions department.
* You’ve been accused of a crime you did not commit and the jury has returned with a verdict and you stand with baited breath for the judge to open the envelope and read the verdict inside—guilty or not guilty.
Many envelopes we receive are just regular, ho-hum, run-of-the mill mail that you throw away by the hundreds every year. But then you get that one that makes you stop in your tracks—a letter from an old high-school buddy, or a job offer from a coveted employer, or maybe just a note from a friend, family member or spouse who’s been away. We open those letters with great anticipation and excitement.
I wonder if that’s how the church of Thyatira felt when they received this message from the Lord by way of the apostle John in Revelation 2:18-26.
It’s interesting to note that this message is the longest letter of the seven, but written to the smallest city mentioned in these chapters.
Although in it Jesus commends the church for some things, this is one of those flaming letters.
Illus. –It’s kind of like one of those emails you get that are all in capital letters with multiple exclamation points scattered throughout. In his message to Thyatira, Jesus is red hot mad. Let’s see why this morning.
First, a little background on the city and the situation the church was facing. Thyatira was different from all the big cities Jesus has addressed so far. The others were sophisticated, wealthy, cosmopolitan metropolises, whereas Thyatira was your typical small town with a lot of blue-collar manufacturing. It was full of working class folks who worked in a variety of industries, the most important of which revolved around textiles. It’s amazing how similar the working folks of Thyatira were to working folks today. They were known for a couple of things:
* First, they were known for their trade guilds, which were kind of early labor unions. – So they were working men and union men.
* Second, like a lot of workingmen today, they weren’t very religious. The church at Thyatira wasn’t persecuted like the other churches we’ve seen so far because the people of Thyatira didn’t really care what you worshipped. They weren’t into all that religious stuff. They were too busy working hard and playing hard.
And play hard they did. Each of the trade guilds regularly held meetings. The meetings would go like this: Spend a little time paying tribute to the pagan god of their guild; then spend a little time taking care of business; and then spend a lot of time drinking and partying. And the partying always included sexual immorality.
That’s where the Christians from the church at Thyatira ran into problems. As Jim Drake said, “Thyatira wasn’t an open shop”—to use union jargon. In other words, you had to be a member of a trade guild to work there, and if you were in a trade guild, you had to participate in the meetings. The right thing for the believers there to do would’ve been to sacrifice their personal comfort and welfare for the sake of Jesus and refuse to participate in the pagan guilds and refuse to engage in their immoral practices. Of course that would have meant they wouldn’t have been able to work a trade.
That’s the context of the message to the church in Thyatira. Now let’s look at the message to Thyatira:
I. NOTICE FIRST THAT JESUS APPLAUDS THE CHURCH – Verses 18-19 – “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; 19 I know thy works, and charity [love], and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.”
Wow!—I think this is the most effusive praise so far given to any of these seven churches. Unlike the believers in Ephesus who had lost their love, the church in Thyatira is commended for their love. This was a church family that understood what mattered most to God! They genuinely loved God and one another. They were building relationships with each other, carrying each other’s burdens, serving one another, experiencing fellowship with God and each other. And their love was continuing to grow, for Jesus says that their last works exceeded their first works.