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Loyal Community (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2022 4:00 am

Loyal Community (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 17, 2022 4:00 am

Jesus described Pergamum as the city “where Satan has his throne.” How could any church possibly remain loyal to Christ in such a dark culture? Find out how they stayed on track—and why we need to follow their example—on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Jesus described Pergamum as the city where Satan has his throne.

So how can a local church possibly remain loyal to Christ in such a dark culture? Today on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg we'll find out how the church at Pergamum stayed on track and why we need to follow their example. Revelation chapter 2 and verse 12, to the angel of the church in Pergamum write, these are the words of him who has the sharp double-edged sword. I know where you live, where Satan has his throne, yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death in your city where Satan lives.

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you. You have a people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent, therefore, otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. To the angel of the church in Thyatira, right, these are the words of the Son of God whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you're now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you. You tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I've given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.

I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets, I will not impose any other burden on you.

Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter.

He will dash them to pieces like pottery. Just as I have received authority from my Father, I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Amen. May God bless to us the reading of his Word. But what will you say if he asks you, Dad?

Do you have to tell him straight out that you love the Lord Jesus? Ever since the summons from the proconsul of the province had arrived at the home of Antipas, he, his wife, and his family had spoken about little else. He knew the day would come when they would arrive at his house and escort him to the proconsular establishment, and he understood exactly what the context would be. He would be confronted by a plinth and on that a bust of the emperor with a sacred fire burning before it. And he would be invited quite simply to offer a sacrifice to the genius of Rome, to the wonder of the emperor, and to do so simply by taking some incense and casting it into the flame, and in doing so, declaring, Caesar is Lord. Just as simple and as straightforward as that. And then, doubtless, somebody would have said to him, and then we need retain you no longer, Antipas.

You will be perfectly free at that point just to slip off and go home to your family. But there was to be no family reunion, at least not in this life, for Antipas refused to compromise. After all, at his baptism, he had stood to declare that Jesus is Lord. He'd become convinced of the fact that one day everyone would declare the lordship of Christ.

One day at the name of this Jesus, every knee would bow and every tongue confess. Was he then simply to overturn all of that in a moment of dreadful compromise? He wasn't an insurrectionist. He paid his taxes. He knew that you were to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, to render to God the things that are God's, but he couldn't render to Caesar a title that belonged to Jesus Christ alone.

And so the silent voice and the empty chair would have left his wife with the responsibility of answering the children's questions. What is a martyr, Mommy? Is Daddy with Jesus now? You see, where did you get all that?

I made it up. I'm simply trying to imagine and to help you to bring it into the reality of real people in real time, that when you read a phrase as you find it here, that you did not compromise even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness. The only thing we know about him is that. That is his whole record in sacred Scripture.

He appears in one line, Antipas. And what a fantastic epitaph, my faithful witness. He endured to the end, and he was saved. He sits within the framework of all of the record of the Bible as a reminder to all who will follow in his wake, as many have done and even do today, that they must be faithful even unto death. Now, the reason that he is mentioned is because he epitomizes, if you like, the loyalty of some in the church at Pergamum. And the loyalty is set within the context of a city that was a strong center of paganism. Pergamum, if you look it up in books, you will discover, was built on a cone-shaped hill that rose to a height of some thousand feet. And a variety of temples and shrines were built in the ascendant pinnacle of this peak.

All that was represented on this conical hill is the kind of thing that you can find in the average city center bookstore today. If you go into the realm of philosophy or religion, if you go into social studies at all, you won't find it identified as Zeus and Dionysius, you won't find it as Arclepius necessarily, but you will find that many of your friends and neighbors are ferreting around in those sections, looking for answers in all the wrong places, hoping that perhaps there is a book that will teach them the real existence, enable them to extend their earthly pilgrimage by some time. If there is a god of healing, I'd like to meet him.

If there is a way to progress, then I'd like to find it. And at the same time, and along with this, Pergamum had become the official center of the then known world of Asia, of the imperial cult. 29 BC, Augustus gave permission to Pergamum to be the first city to establish a shrine to a living ruler. And there, he made it possible for the proletariat, that common cry of curse to whom Coriolanus refers, that the proletariat may come and worship at the shrine of the divine Augustus. And alongside him, the goddess Roma is revered. And meanwhile, in and out they come and go, the members of the redeemed company, those whom Christ has laid hold upon with an outstretched hand, this is where they live. When they get up in the morning, they look up and their skyline is dominated by Zeus. When they move amongst the bazaars, they're encountering their friends who are telling them that having just come from one of these shrines, they believe that their future is now settled and that their dreams will be fulfilled. And they have the challenge of somehow or another living for Christ and speaking for Christ in a way that would be compassionate and tender and yet clear and convicting. The kind of thing that happens to us on the train, flying in the plane, walking in the park, whatever it may be, our friends and our neighbors are dominated by the shrines of a godless culture, and we have been planted in the midst of it all.

And the question is, will we match the loyalty of some who were present in Pergamon? It was a dark place, so dark that you will notice in the text that it is referred to as the place where Satan lives. This is surely simply emblematic of the depth of the depravity and the darkness of the place. And Jesus says, I want you to know that I know where you live. Although the powers of evil are rampant among you, he's saying, although you live, as it were, underneath the domination of the throne of Satan, I want you to know, I want you to remember that actually there is another throne under which my saints have dwelt secure. And sufficient is my arm alone, and your defense is sure. The knowledge of their circumstances is meant to encourage them with the awareness that although it all seems so pressurized and so potentially devastating, in the words of Street Parlance in America, Jesus is saying to them, I've got your back. You can go forward as I bid you, marching onward.

The declension of Satan's kingdom is directly related to the advance of Christ's kingdom. All of the armor provided for the front. Why? For we need none for the back, because he's got our back. He has our back. He knows where we live.

He's protecting us as we go forward. Well, that's the setting in which their loyalty is expressed. What of the substance of their loyalty? It's there just in a couple of phrases. He says, I know where you live, where Satan has his throne.

Here you go. Yet you remain true to my name. True to my name. His mighty name's salvation is. We in Western culture use names simply as designations to make sure that when we say Mary, Alice doesn't come forward.

Or when we say Bill, that we don't get George. In the African context and in the Asian context, still today, names have significance. They will often be descriptive of what parents would desire for their children to be, that they may become the embodiment of their names. And so when we think in terms of being true to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, what he is saying is this, that you are true to all that I am, all that I have revealed of myself. You have remained true to the fact that I am the incarnate Lord of glory, that I am the resurrected king, that I am none other than God himself.

And they had remained true to this, no small thing. If you turn for a moment, since you have your Bibles there, to Acts chapter four, let's just notice how this began to work itself out immediately following Pentecost. Perhaps we'll just draw your attention to these verses and then allow you to follow them up at your leisure. But you remember the wonderful story recorded by Luke in Acts chapter three of the healing of the man at the gate beautiful. As a result of that, Peter and John are imprisoned and they are also interrogated. The inquiry is very straightforward.

The authorities want to know just on what basis they have been doing these things. In verse seven of chapter four, they had Peter and John brought before them, and they began to question them, by what power or what name did you do this? And then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, rulers and elders of the people, it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you completely healed.

He is the fulfillment of the prophecy, the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. And then notice, salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. In other words, Peter establishes the absolute exclusivity of the Lord Jesus Christ when it comes to the matter of salvation. And here in Pergamum, the risen Christ looks upon them and he says, I know that you are those who are remaining true to my name. You see, the proconsul of Pergamum would have been quite happy, no doubt, to include Jesus in the pantheon of gods, just another religious figure in the midst of many, along with Zeus and a variety of others. In the same way today, pluralism, which essentially marks our country here, Great Britain, of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with recognizing that there is religious diversity which is present in our country, and the importance of tolerance, which is the social tolerance that recognizes that people are different and have the right to worship as they choose, the legal tolerance which affords them the same freedoms which we enjoy within the structure of democracy. But where the problem comes is when social and legal tolerance give way to the kind of intellectual tolerance which grants credence, the same kind of credence, to every religious claim, allowing it to sit side by side with the claims of Christ. That pluralism is happy if we choose to have Jesus added to the group. They will be happy if we may think of it in these terms to put him within the pantheon of contemporary British religious opportunities on the smorgasbord from which men and women in the UK may choose their fancy. They may even allow us the opportunity to put some little statement by our God on the plinth along with the others, and we'd be perfectly happy if we were to put alongside our statue the statement by Jesus. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. However, that is all that they would be happy to have by way of a statement. What is absolutely intolerable to the pluralist is that the statement made by Christ would be finished, namely, no one comes to the Father but by me. Now, don't let's kid ourselves that we are making a great game by being able to proclaim the first part of the verse and finding that our Muslim friends and our Jewish neighbors and our Hindu compatriots are perfectly happy.

Of course they are. I remember at Bradford University having a great conversation with a young engineering student who was a Hindu, and he was explaining to me that religion was like the banyan tree that was interwoven with all of these kind of things and he said, I have a perfect place for your Jesus. I don't understand why you are so strong-minded in relation to his exclusive claims.

That was probably twenty years ago. And look at the high streets now. Pluralism will ultimately only make way for other pluralists.

And eventually those who are prepared to remain true to his name will at some point in some way feel the vice-like grip of syncretism seek to squeeze the very life out of us. I have lots of Jewish friends. I went to school with them in Glasgow. A third of my class was probably Jewish. I'm living at the moment in a community that is probably ninety percent Jewish. So I go around saying the Shema, meeting elderly men and saying, Hey, how are you, Arnold? Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one. And his eyes go like this, And you shall love the Lord your God, Arnold, with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. And these commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts, and you're to teach them to your children when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up.

And he says, Well, why are you saying all that? I say, Because I like it, and I believe it, and I want to live it. And my heart goes out to Arnold, whose face I see as I speak to you now. I as a Christian believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He, in his present Jewish convictions, believes that Jesus is not the Messiah. We are not both right. Our Hindu friends believe that God has been incarnated many times and in many ways. We believe that the incarnation is unique in its manifestation of the Godhead.

We are not both right. Islam is symbolized by scales testifying to the endeavors of the faithful, somehow outweighing the bad with the good. We are symbolized by a cross which says we cannot outweigh the bad with the good, but we need one who would take all of our bad and transfer to our account all of his good.

These things, despite the attempts of men and women to suggest to us that they are all the same, listen, religions differ at the most fundamental nature of things. And to be true to the name of Christ is not to be bombastic in relationship to this, but it is to become convinced of these things, the things that you have learned and the things you have committed to so that you may be able to identify with the loyalty of those who were present in Pergamum who remained true to my name and who did not, as a correlative, renounce your faith in me. You remain true to my name, and so much so that you didn't turn your back on it. They were convinced that he was the Lord and Savior. They had come to trust in him despite the darkness of their pagan environment, and they were holding fast the loyalty epitomized by Antipas, who incidentally had about him something of a spirit of Athanasius, who, when they came to Athanasius and said, Athanasius, the whole world is against you, he said then, I am against the whole world. Any dead fish can go over the stream.

It takes a live fish to swim against the current. We're going to be a living, loving community. It will manifest itself in loyalty, a loyalty to Christ. For us to remain loyal to Christ, it's essential that we hold fast to the truth of the Gospel.

You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Loyalty to Jesus also includes telling others about who he is and about why he came. I know that striking up a Gospel conversation is not always easy.

For many of us, we don't feel as effective as we'd like in this area. If you can relate with this, I want to encourage you to request a copy of the book Mere Evangelism, 10 Insights from C.S. Lewis to Help You Share Your Faith. This is a book that examines the successful approach of the famous author and evangelist, C.S. Lewis. Lewis was particularly effective at laying out a case for the Gospel, and this book, 10 Insights from C.S. Lewis, identifies 10 specific approaches he used to compel others to consider and to accept the claims of Christianity.

When you read the book, you'll learn how you might be able to do the same using some of Lewis's strategies. Request the book Mere Evangelism when you give a donation at truthforlife.org slash donate, or give us a call at 888-588-7884. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O.

Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. Studying these letters from the risen Christ makes it increasingly clear just how important it is for us to understand and apply God's Word to our lives every day. That's why our mission at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible with clarity and relevance on this daily program. We do that trusting that God will use the teaching of His Word to convert unbelievers, to help establish believers, and to strengthen local churches. Our prayer is that every church will become a living, loving community that remains loyal to Christ all the way to the end.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. The exclusive claims of Christ often offend people who suggest there are many roads that lead to heaven. Tomorrow we'll see how Jesus makes it clear that He is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-17 10:47:08 / 2023-04-17 10:55:39 / 9

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