Sermons

Summary: The church of Smyrna receives Jesus’ unconditional applause because they made hard choices relating to faith-full-ness rather than opting for a more convenient faith.

AMERICAN IDOLS: LOOKING AT OURSELVES AND OUR LOYALTIES THROUGH THE EYES OF JESUS

THE IDOL OF CONSUMERISM: SMYRNA

REVELATION 2:8-11

Sermon Objective: The church of Smyrna receives Jesus’ unconditional applause because they made hard choices relating to faith-full-ness rather than shop for a more convenient faith.

Supporting Scripture: Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 3:14-15;

Series Intro

We began a series earlier this month called “American Idols: Looking at Ourselves and Our Loyalties Through the Eyes of Jesus”

There are two categories of idols:

{1} an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.

{2} any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.

Our concern is with the latter. There are a myriad of “things” which could be classified as an idol … they are limited only by the passions of the individual in question. But there are certain dispositions or demeanors that our culture serves and pursues as an end in themselves … they have become idolatrous.

What we discover in “The Revelation” is that they are not just limited to our culture but that others have also pursued these with “blind devotion”. They include:

• Superiority (pride) – The Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) • Laize Faire – The Church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) • Tolerance – The Church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) • Leisure – The Church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) • Stoicism – The Church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) • Independence – The Church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)

Today we will look at the church in Smyrna and consumerism. It is found in Rev. 2:8-11. But, before we read that, let me read to you some other words of Jesus.

Matthew 5:10-12

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Sermon Intro

Smyrna: The City

It was located thirty-five miles north of Ephesus and known as “The Crowned City”. As you approached the city from its harbor, the majestic buildings that surrounded it were especially symbolic. The great buildings, including the acropolis on Mount Pagus, looked like a crown or garland adorning the cliffs, encouraging poets to speak of the spectacular skyline of the city as “the crown of Smyrna.”

Smyrna (now modern day Izmir) had a long and troubled history. Hundreds of years before John’s writing it had been destroyed. Alexander the Great personally planned the city’s rebuild, and it was called “the ornament of Asia” because of its beauty and splendor. It boasted of a famous stadium, a library, and the largest public theatre in Asia.

Smyrna became one of the preeminent cities of the empire and Rome gave Smyrna the title, “the city that died yet lives.” In the minds of Smyrna’s citizens it was because of their allegiance to Roma, the goddess of the empire, that the city had been “resurrected.” In response to the blessings bestowed on it by Rome, Smyrna became a major site for emperor and cultic worship.

• It built a temple dedicated to the goddess Roma.

• It built a second one dedicated to the emperor’s worship.

In fact, it was home to many temples. About the city Hal Lindsey writes: "On one end of the main street, the ‘street of gold,’ stood the Temple of Zeus, and at the other end stood the Temple of Cybele, ’the mother of the gods.’ Smyrna was also the center of emperor worship in the Roman Empire, boasting a temple to Tiberius Caesar." (“There’s A New World Coming”, Hal Lindsey).

Smyrna was, by all accounts, a thoroughly pagan city.

Smyrna: The Church

And this pagan city boasted of strong opposition to “the new religion” (Christianity). The hostility came from Smyrna’s citizens rather than from the state. The magistrates were often men of culture and tolerance; but the mass of the pagan population resented the certainty of the Christians. The citizens called upon the authorities to punish these ’atheists’ for insulting the gods.

There were five common charges/slanders leveled against the Christians. Each was utilized by their adversaries in Smyrna.

[1] They were called cannibals because of the Eucharist.

[2] They were accused of orgies because of the “love feasts.”

[3] They split families and tampered with the family unit (i.e. conversions).

[4] They were accused of political disloyalty because they would not offer the sacrifice and utter “Caesar is Lord.”

[5] They were accused of atheism because of their failure to honor Roma incarnate in the emperor.

From the time of Nero, Roman law branded the profession of Christianity as a capital offense; but most of the emperors did not enforce the ordinance. This changed under Domitian’s rule. If accused, a Christian could free himself by simply offering incense to a statue of the emperor, praying to that emperor and declaring him as Lord. After making the appropriate sacrifice, the Christians were given a certificate that verified they had participated in their duty and allowed to resume the quiet practice of his faith.

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