Reading: Revelation 2:12-17
The church at Pergamum lived in the midst of a corrosive pagan culture, Jesus goes as far as to call it the city where ‘Satan lives’. Pergamum was home to temples dedicated to the Emperor, the goddess Roma and to Asklepios (the god of healing, symbolised by a serpent), and even a large altar dedicated to Zeus. The worship of the Emperor as a god was strongly emphasised and the refusal to bow the knee to Caesar had led to at least one Christian, called Anitpas, dying as a ‘faithful witness‘. Beautifully, this title Jesus uses of Antipas he also uses of himself. (1:5)
This church seems to have bought into the lie of the Nicolatians; they believed that one could believe in Jesus while ‘aping‘ and conforming to the pagan world around them. In a nutshell the Nicolatians believed that sin did not matter, because Jesus died they could do anything, even follow other gods and make sacrifices to them. So, sadly they gave up their freedom too easily, and became like the children of Israel in the desert, becoming slaves to something other than Christ.(14) Balaam advised the Midianite women how to lead Israelite men astray, (Numbers 25:1-2). The church, surrounded by pagan virtues, has compromised. Jesus simply asks them to repent.
I love a phrase I heard a while ago: ‘although we may walk a thousand paces from God; it is just one step back’, how true! Pergamum is called to turn back to fidelity in Jesus and to persevere. They are called not to let their sins crush them or lead them astray but instead are to remember Jesus has paid the price of their sin, ‘on the nail’ and keep going with him!
I love how Max Ludado puts it,
“Next time your day goes south, here is what you do. Steep yourself in the grace of God. Saturate your day in His love. Marinate your mind in His mercy. He has settled your accounts, paid your debt. Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
When you lose your temper with your child, Christ intervenes: “I paid for that.” When you tell a lie and all of heaven groans, your Saviour speaks up: “My death covered that sin.” As you lust, gloat, covet, or judge, Jesus stands before the tribunal of heaven and points to the blood-streaked Cross. “I’ve already made provision. I’ve taken away the sins of the world.”
What a gift He has given you. You’ve won the greatest lottery in the history of humanity, and you didn’t even pay for the ticket! Your soul is secure, your salvation guaranteed. Your name is written in the only book that matters. You’re only a few sand grains in the hourglass from a tearless, graveless, painless existence. What more do you need?” (From Every Day Deserves a Chance by Max Lucado)
Perhaps you remember the joy and sense of achievement when you had a problem and the Holy Spirit continued to work in you until it was solved. God wants to give you that same feeling of joy and fulfilment as you persevere in your Christian faith. Ask God to help you endure.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
“To the one who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)
Father, thank you that I am held by you and that no human plan or diabolical scheme can snatch me from you. Please forgive my sin, I turn to you, please pour out your Spirit on me that I may walk away from all habits and actions that lead me away from you. Lord, please give me strength to daily pick up my cross on follow you. Help me to endure. In Jesus name. Amen.
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