When Tolerance Leads to Tribulation

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Revelation 2:19-29 | October 2 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
October 2
When Tolerance Leads to Tribulation | Revelation 2:19-29
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Our gracious heavenly Father, we need Your help. We do not want to just bide our time for these minutes, looking to the next thing in the service, looking to the end of the service, to lunch, whatever else the afternoon would have for us. We’re here and so we want to listen, and we pray that You would speak to us. Work through me, as frail and imperfect as I am, and give me the words to say, and give us ears to hear, that we would not hear just a nice talk or a message, a lecture, a sermon, but we would hear Your living and active voice speaking to us. Give us ears for all that we will readily like and all that we may at first not like, that we would be changed and transformed and saved by Your Word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

We come to Revelation chapter 2, verses 18 through 29. The fourth of these seven churches. The letters which Jesus Himself instructs to be written to the angels, perhaps the pastors, the leaders, of these churches and this morning we come to the fourth, at the end of chapter 2, the last book in the Bible, Revelation chapter 2, beginning at verse 18.

““And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am He who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’””

Of the seven cities in Revelation, Thyatira is the least well-known, the least impressive in terms of just a city in the ancient world, and as far as cities go, the least important. And yet this letter, you can see just from glancing at your Bible, is the longest of the seven letters. There was a lot that Jesus wanted to say to this church, some of it good and much of it bad.

We’ll start with the good. You see that in verse 19 – I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance; your latter works exceed the first.

You may recall Ephesus, the first church, was praised for their good deeds, their strong work ethic, and in this respect Thyatira is even better, for they have Ephesus’ good deeds, their strong work, and yet they not only have the deeds that Ephesus possessed, they have the love that Ephesus lacked. Do you notice there in verse 19, the one thing that Ephesus was missing was love? Thyatira has love. And in fact, in one sense, they’re moving from strength to strength. These latter works are exceeding your first works.

It’s a vibrant church. You might imagine them as a tightknit bunch. They love, they serve, they believe, they endured. This was not a dead church, we’ll come to that next week at Sardis, it was very much alive.

Speculating just a little bit, but I imagine it’s the sort of church maybe you walked into and you immediately felt like you belonged. “Great to meet you. Are you visiting? So glad you’re here. Let me introduce you to my friends. Do you have a small group? Can I show you the nursery? Is there anything I can do to help?” It was that kind of church. Friendly. Caring. Serving each other. Probably extending service in the community.

It’s a church, in verse 19, marked by five essential characteristics – hard work, faith, service, perseverance, and love. That is quite a list.

You might think, then, that this church had it made and that Jesus would now double down and explain each of these five essential virtues, but He doesn’t. He moves quite quickly onto the over-arching problem in the church. Now, it’s not as if these were not pleasing to God. We want to see that. With each of these churches that are a mixed bag, it’s not that Jesus says have less of these good things in order to remedy the bad things. No. That was in their favor, the work, the compassion, the love, the service, the patience and perseverance. It was a church full of energy, of compassion. They were doing better than they had ever done before when it came to their deeds.

And yet all of that good going on in the church was going to be undone if they did not put their spiritual house in order. So with all of that in their favor, Jesus spends most of His time warning them of the great cataclysm that is coming if they do not turn from this woman. The bad part was that their love, such as it was, seems to have been undiscerning and blindly affirming.

Look at verse 20. Here is the big problem in Thyatira, and it is quite counter-cultural for the sort of problems that we would think of today, but you’ll see how relevant. I have this against you, that you tolerate. This was the single, defining, bad characteristic of the church at Thyatira. They were tolerant.

Of course, we understand that there’s a certain kind of tolerance which is good, we might say a legal tolerance that allows for religious freedom and religious expression, even when we disagree with people. A tolerance on lesser matters, agree to disagree on certain things that we see even in the Scripture, food and certain holy days. So there’s all number of occasions where saying you are tolerant would be a good thing.

And yet we know that in our culture, and apparently as in this church, it is possible for tolerance to be the single banner waving over your church such that it moves from something that might be a qualified good to being something that is a positive evil. Somewhere along the line, we can only speculate, that the warm-heartedness in Thyatira overtook their clear-mindedness.

If you had to put a modern label on this church, and there’s always a danger of putting a modern label, it’s anachronistic, but if the danger in Ephesus maybe was of a certain very conservative church that has good doctrine and lost sight of love, and maybe the church in Smyrna is a persecuted church in the 10/40 Window somewhere, and the church at Pergamum you might think about as a new, exciting, outreach, youth kind of movement that’s undiscerning about the truth, then we might call this a liberal church.

Most Christians in churches can move in a liberal direction, I’m not using that politically, I’m using it theologically. They can move in that direction for a couple of earthly reasons. Of course, we can say spiritually what the compromise is, but earthly reasons. Often it’s disillusioned conservatives who saw in their family or their church anger, hypocrisy.

Listen, if you want your kids to turn away from the church or you want them to turn away from true, biblical fidelity, parents, here’s how you do it – be a rank hypocrite and make them do things that you don’t do. And teach them now that far more important than church is whatever other thing they have going on in their lives. And you will send them on their way out of the church.

The other reason sometimes that people move in a liberal direction is they are very passionate and compassionate. They empathize with people. Perhaps they have a social conscience and they really do want to put their arms around everyone and welcome them and love them and hug them. And there’s a good impulse there. Jesus says, “I see your love, I see your good deeds, I see your hard work,” but in that effort to perhaps love everyone and everything, they do not reject and turn away from those things that Jesus does not love.

There’s a church in our community, doesn’t matter what it is, but their statement of faith says, “We believe in you.” It says, “We have no statement of beliefs because our core belief is in soul freedom and the liberty of conscience, meaning our members are free to believe whatever they choose.” It’s no surprise that the landing page on the website says, “Open to all, inclusivity, community, spirituality, justice.” LGBTQ and PRIDE events figure prominently on the website. Their church covenant says, in part, “We will be open to all new light, strengthened by God and each other in our faith. We will sustain a critical examination of Scripture, belief, and ritual as in interpreters of God’s active presence in the world. We will accept controversy as a reality of life together and an opportunity for growth to our maturity. We covenant to be a community of God’s new creation and affirm that we are open to all and closed to none.”

Of course, there is a good kind of openness, just like there is a good kind of tolerance. If we mean we are open for anyone to come and hear the Gospel, amen. If we mean that the call of the Gospel is a free call to everyone who has ears to hear, then that is absolutely true. But there is no doubt something more than that kind of openness going on in churches like the one I just described. That creed, such as it is, communicates “the only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance.”

Read again – “People here are free to believe whatever they choose.” That’s likely not the case. Is it really the case when churches say, “You are free to believe whatever you want.” Really? Are you really free to believe whatever you want about racism? Or about LGBTQ? You’re right, no. [laughter] Amen. Is it really true that you would feel welcome there if you self-identified as a Christian nationalist? No, these churches have all sorts of unwritten expectations about what their people believe.

And more to the point, not every kind of inclusivity is good, not every sort of diversity is a blessing.

Now if you have people in your church, as I hope we do here, different kinds of jobs, different incomes, different skin color, different backgrounds, and they all believe the same Gospel, one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of all, living out the same obedience, worshiping the same Christ, that is an amazing gift of the Spirit. That is a picture of heaven. It is the unity of purpose, of faith, of life, and of worship that makes the diversity glorious.

But there are other kinds of diversity, other kinds of inclusion. We see here in this letter Jesus has no interest in an inclusion that includes false teaching. No interest in a diversity that allows for diverse views on idolatry and sexual immorality. It is possible to be too open and affirming. That’s not, well, you’re a Presbyterian, Kevin, and this is a PCA church and you’re… This is Jesus speaking to the church at Thyatira – I have this against you, you are over tolerant. You tolerate things that I do not tolerate.

Now look at the specific sin, verse 20. They tolerated Jezebel. Undoubtedly that wasn’t the woman’s real name, but she was some kind of false prophetess, acting like a Jezebel, leading the people into adultery and idolatry. We don’t know if her influence was formal, was she getting up in front of people? Was she teaching the people these things? Or was it informal? It was taking place in conversation, or taking place by her example. Whatever it was, this woman in Thyatira was a spiritual danger. Men and women can both be false teachers, and here this woman was acting like her Old Testament namesake Jezebel. It’s one of those names, you can understand, I’ve never, I’ve baptized hundreds of kids, never little baby Jezebel. Phew. Nor Ahab. Though there are some, at least that shows up in Moby Dick, right? There’s no Jezebel.

Who was she? She was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians. She worshiped Baal and Asherah and she led her husband Ahab in the same idolatry. She is the one who plotted to kill innocent Naboth for his vineyard. 2 Kings 9:34 calls her “that cursed woman.” As a punishment for her wickedness, she was eventually pushed out a window, trampled by horses, eaten up by dogs. She was a bad lady.

And this woman, just like Jezebel led the Israelites down a bad path of compromise, so this woman, who Jesus says is another kind of Jezebel, was leading them to tolerate idolatry and immorality. Jesus says to the church, “You’re allowing a woman like that to have sway over your people? Why do you tolerate her? Don’t affirm her. Don’t include her. Don’t welcome her. Don’t dialogue with her. Don’t wait to see what happens. Get her influence out of the church or I will.” That’s what Jesus says.

Apparently, now look at this, this is a hard word for us, verse 21, apparently Jesus had given her time to repent but she refused. And then in verse 22 He says He’s going to throw her onto a sick bed, going to give some sort of illness, maybe He means spiritual, I think if we just take it on the face and it means a physical illness, and those who commit adultery with her, now probably not just literally committing fornication with her but those who are spiritually compromised, guilty of the same spiritual adultery, “I will throw them into great tribulation unless they repent.” Their tolerance is leading to a great tribulation.

Absolutely, the offer of the Gospel is free to all. Come, all who are weary and heavy laden. I will give you rest. But entrance into that kingdom is marked by repentance. That’s why Jesus holds out to these churches that are erring, “Repent.” That’s what is almost always missing from the churches that advertise themselves “inclusion, open, affirming.” Yes, open to all who would come in faith and repentance. To come to Christ, we want all who can hear to come to Christ. Turn; forsake your sin in coming to Christ.

Remember how Jesus launched His ministry. Mark 1 – Now after John was arrested, Jesus came from Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God and saying the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.

Most of us, it’s not our style. So we see somebody in some urban center with a sandwich board that says “Repent or Perish.” My first thought is to be a little embarrassed. And we could argue that that’s not the most effective way, given our cultural realities to win a hearing for the Gospel, and that’s probably likely not the main means that Pastor Eric has in mind to spur us on to evangelism, passing out sandwich boards after church.

But let’s be careful. We may rightly be critical of the methodology, but are we in our spirits embarrassed by that message? It’s a biblical message. In this passage and in dozens, if not hundreds, of other places, Jesus says, “I am coming.” There’s a reason He’s described in verse 18, “The One with eyes like flames of fire, whose feet are like burnished bronze.” He wants them to see, “I am not a Jesus to be trifled with. You should not think of me as just a pale Galilean, walking around, skipping among daisies with a nice robe and a sash around my chest, just speaking to the sparrows. I have eyes like flames of fire and I can see your impurity, and if you, Thyatira, if you, American Church, do not put your spiritual house in order, I will come.”

This was a serious sin. Jesus was not messing around. This was not some secondary issue. It is a sin, in fact, verse 23, worthy of death. “I will strike her children dead.” Dead. We don’t think about this very often. It’s uncomfortable to think about. And we must be very careful that we not equate every disease or every death with disobedience. I don’t want you to hear that “I’m sick, a loved one’s dying, I must be disobedient.” No. We have the book of Job and we know Paul’s thorn in the flesh, Jesus Himself, so death and disease does not automatically equal disobedience. We get that.

But here’s what Scripture also tells us – sometimes it does.

Now how do we know? Well, it takes great discernment, it takes great wisdom. If you come before the Lord and ask, “Is there anything I need to learn?” God will be gracious to help us see if there’s something else that we need to see.

We’re going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in just a few moments, a few, and you know the warning, “Lest you eat and drink judgment upon yourself.” Paul told them in 1 Corinthians 11, “Some of you are sick in Corinth and in fact some of you have died because you came and you partook of holy things in an unholy manner.”

This is not a secondary issue. False teaching sometimes will kill you. Literally. Lackadaisical Christianity can make you sick, literally. It was not only a serious sin, it was an entrenched sin.

Now these can look like very “in your face” kinds of sins, the sort of thing you would have to go look for. Okay, mental checklist, don’t be Jezebel, that’s really bad. But we have to understand how this worked in the first century. You didn’t have to find compromise, compromise found you.

I suggested this before. Imagine this sort of analogy, because many of the ways where this idolatry in particular came out were through the various guilds in the ancient world. There were a lot of trade guilds in Thyatira. And so you’re a bricklayer and you belong to the BAT, the Bricklayers Association of Thyatira. Maybe you all have bats or you have bats or you have something for your symbol. It was great. And you come together, all of you batty people, and you sit around a table for a special meal of the BAT, and you’re ready to partake of this great feast with your friends, with your colleagues, all your fellow bricklayers, and the host might stand up and say something like, “We’re so glad you could make it. What a happy occasion for the BAT.” Everyone smiles, holds their drinks. “We have prepared quite a feast for you, but before we partake, let us all now turn and recognize our patron god Zeus, who watches over the bricklayers and has made this dinner possible. Zeus, we see your statue in the corner. We eat to you, we honor you, we worship you, let us all offer a prayer and a sacrifice to Zeus. Let’s eat.”

Now what do you do? You raise your glass with everyone else? Mumble under your breath? As they say “To Zeus” you say “To Zeusius, Jesus.” Do you walk out of the room? You didn’t have to go looking to compromise. It came looking for you. It was woven into the fabric of their whole culture, just like certain sins are in our culture. It took courage to opt out. You didn’t have to go looking to opt in.

It’s like the doctor who refuses to support gender reassignment surgery, or the kid who leaves the party when he finds out there’s underage drinking, or the person in financial services who refuses to make money for himself by enticing people to be greedy or by playing on their fears. You opt out of the way the world works.

Which is why false teachers, like this Jezebel in Thyatira, or the Nicolaitans or the Balaam-ites in Pergamum, why they gained such a hearing. These false teachers made Christianity easier, less costly, less counter-cultural. But they also made it false. And Jesus could not tolerate it. He was going to make an example of Thyatira to show all the churches that this Jesus, this Jesus of love, this Jesus of compassion, this Jesus also has eyes like fire too pure to look on evil and feet like burnished bronze, too holy to walk among a wicked people.

He wanted all the churches to know He was the searcher of minds and hearts. You see that in verse 23? “I am He who searches mind and heart and I will give to each of you according to your works.” In other words, “I know your compromise. I see where you are tempted. Now is the time to repent before it is too late.”

This sin of Jezebel was a serious sin. It was an entrenched sin and it was sometimes a subtle sin. The people had been told that they could embrace the so-called “deep things of Satan.” You find that phrase in verse 24. We don’t know exactly what it means, “the deep things of Satan.”

Now at first blush it sounds like, well, that’s a pretty good indication stay away from whatever is called “the deep things of Satan.” We don’t know if that’s what the false teachers were calling it. Maybe they didn’t advertise it as that. Maybe that’s what Jesus is saying, they’re calling it some other kind of secret knowledge, but what it really is are the deep things of Satan. So we don’t know – Is the name that Jesus gives to it or is this the name they’ve given to it themselves?

But here’s likely what was going on. Some sort of false teaching that devalued the material world, some sort of gnosis, though gnosticism as a heresy wouldn’t be full-blown until the next century, but some kind of gnosis, that’s the Greek word for knowledge. That this Jezebel was saying something like the physical world doesn’t matter, it’s the spiritual realm that counts, so if you know that secret, if your mind can be set free and you’re really enlightened to know the secret things, then you can go ahead and participate in the idol feasts, you can do what you want sexually, because now your mind has been set free. You know that this physical world is just an illusion and it’s dirty and it’s transitory, and so what you do with your physical body doesn’t matter. You can eat what you want to eat, food sacrificed to idols, you can sleep with whomever you want to sleep. It’s just a body. What really matters are the spiritual things, and now that you know the secret, you can be set free.

Or maybe she was saying something like, “Look, if you’re truly spiritual, then your relationship with God will be able to withstand the deep things of Satan.”

No, it’s the immature Christians who can’t handle the mature movie on Netflix. No, it’s because you’re not mature enough Christian. I’ve reached a level of spirituality that I can see all manner of people having sex on my TV screen or on my phone. It doesn’t bother me because I’ve reached that level of spirituality.

That may be the sort of thing that Jezebel was saying. Whatever it was, Jesus tells us it was a lie, and it was leading people into sin. Ideas have consequences. False teaching leads people into sinful living. When doctrine goes bad, eventually your life, that is your practice, your obedience, goes bad.

You see how so much the mirror image of Ephesus? They have love. That was Ephesus’ great sin. But they don’t have the discernment. Ephesus hated the works of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus also hated. But Thyatira doesn’t hate what Jesus hates, which is why Jesus tells the faithful ones at Thyatira, “hold fast,” verse 25, “hold fast.”

So it’s really important. Jesus doesn’t say, “The whole church,” sometimes prophetic voices want to just make a blanket condemnation, “You know what the church is like? You know what evangelicals are like. [sound effect] That’s everyone.” Jesus says, “No, I understand. This is not everyone in Thyatira. There are many of you who are holding fast. So I don’t lay any other burden.”

That reference, “another burden,” is to the decree that came from the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, where the Council urged the Gentiles to abstain from food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. If you’re staying clear from compromise with idolatry and from sexual immorality, then I’m not laying on you any other burden, you keep on the straight and narrow, hold fast. If you keep away from those things and hold to the truth, you will be spared My judgment.

We saw with Ephesus the danger of not loving what Jesus loves. Here we see the danger of not hating what Jesus hates. If we are to be faithful to the Bible, and faithful to the Jesus of the Bible, and think about it, the only Jesus that you have written record of really, there’s a smattering of references to Christ in other documents, but to really know something about this Jesus, you have to know the Bible. If we want to be faithful to this Jesus, we have to acknowledge some beliefs and some behaviors are not to be affirmed. They are not to be tolerated. As much as we want to offer the free Gospel to all people, as much as we want to love with kindness and respect and dignity, all people, if we are to follow Jesus’ instructions, we must not tolerate what Jesus does not tolerate.

This is not about just getting all of our doctrinal ducks in a row. It’s not about just somehow patting ourselves on the back and saying, “Look, we’re a good conservative church.” No, this is about believing what the Bible teaches and believing what Jesus teaches.

Here’s a paragraph. You’ll likely disagree with it, I hope you’ll disagree with it, but you’ll appreciate the candor. It’s from Luke Timothy Johnson, a well-respected New Testament scholar who supports homosexual behavior. He said this a number of years ago: “I think it is important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience of thousands of others who have witnessed to which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is, in fact, to accept the way in which God has created us.”

Refreshing honesty. He’s a well-respected New Testament scholar. He says, let’s be honest. What we’re advocating is not biblical. We’re doing so because we think that our experiences and the experience of others have taught us something that is more true than what the Bible teaches.

Here’s another example. This is from a world-renowned historian, Diarmaid MacCulloch. He’s written a wonderful book on the Reformation, he’s a decorated historian, and a gay man who left the Church of England over the issue of Christianity, though he still considers himself to be a friend of Christianity. Here’s what he says: “This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of a homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong.”

I give you those two paragraphs because these respected scholars have put the matter with refreshing and disarming clarity. That as much as people would want to, well, there’s some other way and the verb didn’t really mean this and the church really got it wrong for all these years, these two men say, “No, let’s look it square in the eye and just say, we’re going to say here’s what the Bible teaches and we think that the Bible about this is wrong.” That puts the matter honestly.

There is no way to read something like Jesus’ letter to the church in Thyatira and think that Jesus was open and affirming and would tell your church, “You believe whatever you want to believe. You practice whatever you want to practice.” There is no way to read the whole Bible and not conclude that in fact the two perennial issues dogging God’s people, in the Old Testament and the New Testament, are the danger to compromise in idolatry and sexual immorality. There’s no way to read the Bible honestly and think that Christians ought to be tolerant of all things, all beliefs, all practices.

So the church at Thyatira is promised two things if they overcome their temptation to over-tolerance. First, they are promised, verse 26, “I will give him authority over the nations.” And then verse 27 quotes from Psalm 2, which we read earlier in the service, a messianic psalm, anticipating the rule of the Messiah over the nations. So this authority given to the Church is a derived authority. It’s first of all the authority given to King Jesus over the nations and it means that you will participate with Him in the end of the age in the exercise of this authority. It’s a shared authority. It means, and here’s why, see, each of these promises are geared toward the temptation the church is facing. It means, Thyatira, it means church in the West, you may think you are going to be a cultural outcast now, but I’m telling you, if you’re faithful, you will have authority over the nations later. If you stand with Jesus now, Jesus says I can’t promise what your life will look like in the present, but I can promise that in the end you will wear a crown and you will crush the enemies of Christ under your feet.

Some of us are probably uncomfortable with the language from Psalm 2, and verse 27 here, “rule them with a rod of iron, earthen pots, broken in pieces.” It sounds so militaristic, so triumphalistic. We don’t want an iron scepter, trampling like pottery. But might it be that this sort of language makes us feel uncomfortable because so few of us have actually suffered the way that these Christians were suffering? The main reason we may not be interested in a strong Christ who provides a final, decisive victory and vindication is perhaps because we live such neutered, culturally-acceptable lives that no one would think to oppose us. We would never feel the need to be vindicated.

He promises them you will rule with Christ over the nations, and the second promise, you see at the end in verse 28, you will receive the morning star. We’ve already seen a couple of times a reference to Balaam in these letters. This mention is probably another allusion to the Balaam story. In Balaam’s fourth oracle he was hired by Balak, king of the Moabites, to curse Israel but he wouldn’t do it. Eventually he did lead them into compromise, but here in his fourth oracle, we read Numbers 24:17 – Balaam prophesied about a conqueror who will come out of Israel. He says, “I see him but not now. I behold him but not near. A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. It shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”

You can see why the king of Moab was not really happy with Balaam at that moment. “This is not what I paid you to do, to curse me.” Balaam says, “I see a man who’s coming. He’s not here yet. But he’s going to come out of Jacob, he’s going to come out of Israel, and I see him rising like the morning star.”

And in fact you hear the language in that prophesy, a scepter, a la Psalm 2, verse 27, and a star, like we have here in verse 28. Those two items promised to Thyatira. Balaam saw a messianic deliverer who would be like a star out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel.

Revelation 22:16 says, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you the testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star.”

So connect the dots here as we close. What is Jesus promising to the church? He’s promising Himself – I will give you Me.

Just want to underscore again, lest we hear something like this passage and think it’s just about sticking to the truth. Well, it is about that. Or we think, this is good, let’s pat ourselves on the back, that we’re not like these other sorts of churches. Don’t miss the reason for this faithfulness. It’s not just to stick it to some man or to prove some label. The reason to repent, the reason to stay faithful, the reason to love what Jesus loves, the reason we hate what Jesus hates, is because we want Jesus Himself.

How could it be any other way? When you don’t love what Jesus loves, and you don’t hate what Jesus hates, you don’t want the real Jesus. You want your own invented Jesus. Either the invented Jesus who has all the same enemies you have and is against all the people you’re against, or the Jesus who’s so open and affirming and inclusive and welcomes everybody and never turns anyone away, has no standards of belief or orthodoxy or morality or sexuality… You want a Jesus who looks like you, me. Not the real thing.

If you are to receive the real Jesus, you must hold fast to the Word of Jesus. That’s what He promises. It’s the same thing He tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, blessed are the pure in heart for what? They shall see God.

That’s why it’s so important, brothers and sisters, that we have pure doctrine. That’s why it’s so important that we have pure lives. That’s why it’s so important, as Paul told Timothy, keep a close watch on your life and your doctrine. Why? Because the pure in heart see God. Don’t you want to see God? Don’t you want to receive the morning star? The ultimate gift for the overcomer is Jesus Himself.

That’s the threat Thyatira was facing. It’s the threat, perhaps, some of us are facing. Do you want to fit in, or do you want Christ? Be honest with yourself. Do you want to fit it or do you want the face of Christ? We may not get lauded in The New York Times, we may not make new friends on social media, you may not get the promotion, you may lose a job, you may not get influence and prestige. But stay faithful, hold fast to what you have, and you get Jesus, and that’s more than enough.

Let’s pray. Gracious heavenly Father, what better gift could there be than Jesus? And how fitting that we would now come to this table where eating in faith we receive spiritually the body and blood of Jesus Himself. Nourish us and feed us, we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.