Contamination - Church in Doctor's Office #3

Bible Book: Revelation  2 : 12-17
Subject: Church; Seven Churches; Pergamum; Contamination of Church
Series: Your Church in the Doctor's Office

Years ago I pastored a small church in the mountains of western North Carolina. One of my members was an elderly widow who needed who had a scheduled surgery at the local hospital some 30 miles away. She didn’t have any family so I took her to the hospital. We had to be there in the early morning hours and when we arrived at the large waiting room several people were ahead of us. After she was checked-in and her blood was drawn she came and sat next to me. A few minutes later a couple of orderlies quietly came into the room and started escorting people out.

Finally the only two people left in the room was my church member and me! Then a hospital official opened the door, leaned his head in and told us that the blood work had revealed that my member had a highly contagious and dangerous disease and we were being quarantined until they could decide what to do. I was scared to death! I was a young pastor with a wife and four children, and I was sitting in a room with people looking in at me from time to time as if I had the plague. My church member spoke up and told me she had polio when she was a child, and even though she was cured the polio germ was still in her body and would always show up when her blood was tested.

She turned to me and asked me, “Are you scared?” I replied, “Absolutely not!”

Actually, it is difficult not to be frightened when there is contamination near enough to invade your body! One of the great fears in our world is being contaminated by something that is deadly - and you may not even know it when it is happening. What would you if you were in a place that was considered as contagious and contaminated? (At this time in the service two men in HASMAT uniforms, air packs, and hand held instruments enter the worship center and walk down the aisles as if they are testing the church for contamination. They will walk slowly down the isles until the reach the back of the church and exit. I contacted the local fire department and they agreed to help me with this visual aid.)

Are you frightened now? You would be if those HASMAT agents were really looking for some deadly toxin in the air of this church building! Could it be that there is a spiritual contamination in this room?

As we continue our sermon series on The Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation, we turn our attention to the Church in Pergamum. The first church that we examined was the Church of Ephesus, and we discovered in an initial glance that they were very healthy. However, Jesus told them they had a serious problem; they had lost their first love - for God and for one another. This was a very serious problem that they needed to deal with immediately to get back into the right relationship with God.

The second church was Smyrna, a body of believers who suffered persecution from the world. Instead of folding up and giving in to the world, they remained faithful, and their testimony was one that pleased God. As Jesus examined this Church, He didn’t have a negative, critical word to say to them. He simply told them to keep up the good work.

Now we come to the church of Pergamum and Jesus is going to examine everything about them, the good and the bad. He is going to tell them things about themselves they probably didn’t know but they do need to hear. Are you willing for God to tell you things in your life that need changing?

What do you do when you start having pain? You know what the symptoms are because you are the one experiencing them, but then what? If you bump your elbow against a door, and hit your “funny bone,” it hurts. You know the cause of your pain so you don’t rush off to the hospital. But if you start having pain and you don’t know why, then you have to make a decision that can shorten your life or prolong your life. One of the reasons God gave us pain is to let us know something is wrong. When pain occurs you have to do one of three things.

1. You can ignore the pain and hope it will go away

This is very dangerous, but many people choose to ignore something rather than deal with it

2. You can treat it yourself

This too can be dangerous. I have been told by more than one funeral home director that when they pick up a body and are getting the personal remains back to the family, they will find a pack of Rolaids or Tums in a man’s pocket! Basically, the man did not take the pain seriously, and paid the price with his life.

3. You can seek the right help

The Church of Pergamum was going to get the best help ever, the Great Physician, Jesus Christ is examining them, and they are going to have to listen to His diagnosis - what was wrong with them; and, His prognosis, what was going to be the outcome.

This examination took place almost 2,000 years ago, but what Jesus said to that Church applies to the Christian Church today, it applies to you and me as though we were the ones in the doctor’s office. What Jesus knew about Pergamum is knows about us.

Jesus knew…

I. The Location Of The Church

A. In A Prosperous City

The city of Pergamum was a prosperous city. They were not in a recession or depression. The city had close to 200,000 inhabitants that enjoyed all the trappings of external success.

B. In a Religious City

The city of Pergamum was a religious city. It had many temples to false gods and goddesses. They had the first temple dedicated to Caesar worship. When Jesus refers to the city as “Satan’s Seat,” this is probably what is referring to. The city also had a temple dedicated to the god of healing, whose insignia was the entwined serpent on staff. Perhaps this symbol was taken from the Old Testament experience of Moses and the serpent on the pole, however, the god of healing in Pergamum was not the God of the Old Testament – the Lord, God, Himself! This symbol is used by the American Medical Association and many other medical societies.

C. In a Hostile City

The city of Pergamum was a hostile city for Christians. If you didn’t agree with them on how to live your life, they would ridicule you, refuse to give you a job, and would scorn you in private and public. Jesus watched the way He was being treated in Pergamum. For you see, when God’s people are being persecuted, Jesus views that as persecuting Him personally! Look at the conversation that took place between Jesus and Saul (who later was known as Paul) on the Damascus Road. Jesus asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” He did not ask, “Why are you persecuting Christians?” When Christians are persecuted, Jesus takes it personally! Jesus knows the city we live in and He knows how we are treated and talked about.

II. The Reaction Of The Church

A. Easy To Be Loyal When Things Are Going Well

In spite of persecution and hardship, the Church had remained loyal. I like the word loyal; it means “faithful, true, and devoted.” It is easy to be faithful when things are going well and everybody is pleased. It is easy to be true when the skies are clear and the mood of people is upbeat. It is easy to be devoted when you are getting what you want when you want it. But that was not the case at Pergamum. Things were not going well, the skies were not clear, and the Christians were not getting what they wanted. However, they remained loyal in spite of everything that they were experiencing.

What do you do when things are not going well in your life? How do you react? Do you quit? Do you complain? Do you put your eyes on Jesus because you know that He is in charge of this third rock from the sun regardless of what everybody tells you or what you are feeling at the moment? Will hardships bring you into the Body of Christ or will they make you stay at home? In spite of martyrdom they remained faithful. Antipas, one of their own had paid the supreme price for his faith. We don’t know anything about him, his job, his family, but we do know about his faith. I cannot imagine a greater compliment given from the King of Kings than for Jesus to call you by name, and say, “You faithful!”

B. Easy To Be Loyal When Everyone Is Getting Along

I believe one of the reasons Jesus called him by name is because some of the people in the Church were saying he had went too far! “If he had just complied he would have still been here!” People   were beginning to wonder if giving your life for Christ was going too far. Jesus told them, “No!”

Other people were thinking, “Will I be next?” “Would I have done the same thing as Antipas?”

At a previous church we put on an Easter drama depicted the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. One scene was when Jesus was being beaten by Roman guards in the aisle of the Church. They were so close to the audience that you could reach out and touch the actors. In the scene, Jesus would fall at the feet of a man in the congregation who was part of the play. He was dressed like the actors, and the Roman soldiers would grab him up and make him carry the cross.

One night, I decided to have the man who was to be pulled form the audience to carry the Cross wear his regular clothes because I wanted everybody there to see a regular man pulled out of the crowd and realize that it could have been anyone of them. Everybody agreed to my suggestion and the scene worked wonderfully. A young man was sitting in the pew right behind the actor who was dressed in plain clothes. The young man was a guest of mine who had traveled from another city to see the play. The young man was not a Christian. When the actor playing Jesus fell in the aisle, the soldiers reached out and grabbed the man in plain clothes, who was sitting right in front of my visiting friend. Needless to say, it shocked my friend. He left the play that night and began to ask himself, “What would I have done if they had grabbed me?” That young man fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and was saved! I know this story because the young man married our baby sitter and she is the one who had brought him to see the play.

C. Easy To Be Loyal When You Seem To Get Everything You Want

That young man fell under conviction and was saved because the reality of Jesus, the Cross, and the price Jesus paid, struck him in personal way. Life is not about getting what we want – it is about being who we ought to be – at any cost.

The Christians at Pergamum were faithful even when it cost so much to be faithful. Antipas paid with his life. Others paid because standing for Christ meant they lost their jobs and could not get another one. No doubt, some of them compromised. Which one are we! Faithful no matter the cost, or going with the crowd to be accepted?

III. The Indecision Of The Church

Now, Jesus begins to speak about something that makes the Church feel uncomfortable. He tells them their problem, “You tolerate the teaching of Balaam and Balak.” This story takes place in Numbers 22-25. Numbers 31:16 gives a summary to the story. “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the Lord’s people.”

A. The Devil Will Try To Destroy You

You see, the devil will try to destroy you. If he can’t destroy you he will try to destroy your testimony by getting you to fall into sin through pride and a lack of prayer. One of the biggest mistakes a Christian can make is to want to do something out of pride and not out of prayer! Something may look good, but if it is not birthed out of prayer, it is not from God! Remember Joshua. He prayed faithfully before going up against Jericho. The victory was given by the Lord. But, in the next battle, his people suffered defeat. Check out the story and you will see that Joshua did not pray before sending soldiers up against Ai. He just assumed God would be with them. That is a big mistake. This is God’s business and He is the only one big enough to lead us in it. If Satan can get you to do God’s work with prayer and God’s power, he will destroy all that you attempt to do.

B. The Devil Will Try To Demolish Your Testimony

We should also beware of confusing methods with the message. Some people worship differently than us. Their clothing is different, their music is different, etc… but the message must remain the same! Methods change, but the gospel must never be compromised. We tolerate certain things in our life for a good reason. When your kids are small and they want to eat at a fast food place to get a certain toy, you will go along with it, because you love your children. However, if you tolerate the wrong things that bring dishonor to God, you are not going to avoid His judgment. Jesus mentioned when He first spoke to the Church at Pergamum, “This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword.”

If Satan can get us to act it a way that is unchristian, or to accept things that go against the Word of God, he can destroy our testimony. That is Satan’s goal.


IV. The Decision Of The Church

The question is simple - will the believers at Pergamum follow what Jesus is telling them to do? Will we do that here at First Baptist Church, Cherryville? It is the same question for all of God's people in all the churches.

A. Your Decision Affects Your Future

The white stone represents their culture. In a court of law when someone was one trial and the jury had to make a decision. They had to vote by using stones. A black stone meant the person was guilty, a white stone meant they were innocent. Jesus gives those who trust Him and follow Him the white stone of redemption and purity! The people of Pergamum had to decide to stand with Jesus or stand with their culture. What is your decision? Will you let the world sweep you away and end up  with the black stone of judgment in the end? Or, will you accept Jesus and remain loyal to what He has called you to?

B. Your Decision Affects Others

We are God’s people. The way we follow Christ will affect other people. We can lead them astray or lead them to trust Christ. Antipas remained true even thought it cost him his life. But, he still had the life that counts – eternal life. And, he had the commendation of Jesus.

Well, it is decision time. You know the world is trying to contaminate us and contaminate our church life. You know Satan wants to silence our prayers and our testimony. Who will stand for Him? Who needs to make a new commitment of loyalty to Christ?

And, for anyone not saved today – Jesus is waiting with the White Stone of purity – eternal salvation through his blood shed at Calvary for you. Will you come and stand with Him today and accept Him as your Savior?