Every week, on Monday, we will have a blog for you with resources for diving deeper into the sermon.
Last week, Pastor Andrew returned to the In the End series to finish out what’s left of Jesus’ letters to the seven churches. We went through the letter to Thyatira and came away with the main idea that love without truth is empty. Thyatira was doing everything right in terms of loving their community, but they tolerated false teaching.
In verses 18-20, Jesus commends them for their good works and reprimands them for allowing the false teaching of Jezebel to go on. Jezebel is most likely a representative term for a prophet in the church who was teaching similar things to Jezebel in the OT. The church in Thyatira had probably felt that they needed to compromise the truths of the faith in order to be more present and loving to the world. And for us too, the pressure to compromise often comes from the fear of our faith being marginalized. We feel that our ministry to others won’t be effective if people are rejecting us outright for the truth we believe. We have people telling us constantly that we don’t need to hold to the teaching of the Bible to be loving. They say we’ll probably be more loving if we don’t. But we cannot be so scared of losing love that we compromise truth.
In verses 21-23, Jesus speaks of the condemnation that is coming against Jezebel and her followers. The point is clear: if we commit to compromise in this life, we should expect the wrath of God in the next. That’s not easy to hear, but it’s true. And because it’s true, it means trying to love our community while ignoring that they will experience the wrath of God apart from faith in Jesus is unloving.
Verses 24-29 are the gospel. Those who hold true to their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ until the end will not only be saved but will share in the reign of Christ. This is the great reversal.
The application from this text is clear: Speak the truth in love. It is the truth of the gospel that offers salvation. To love someone is to share with them the truth humbly and graciously. Conquerors don’t compromise on the truth because they believe the truth. This is statistically true; churches that lose truth lose influence. It is those churches who have decided to neglect the truths of the gospel to focus on loving their community who are dying the fastest. We cannot compromise truth.
The following resources are concerned with speaking biblical truth into our culture.
Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World – Tim Keller
Keller calls this the prequel to his Reason for God. It is more concerned with the foundational beliefs and desires of our society, and how Christianity is one of, if not the most rational worldview available. From Amazon: “In this thoughtful and inspiring new book, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller invites skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. As human beings, we cannot live without meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives.
From Amazon: We live in a distracted, secular age. These two trends define life in Western society today. We are increasingly addicted to habits―and devices―that distract and “buffer” us from substantive reflection and deep engagement with the world. And we live in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls “a secular age”―an age in which all beliefs are equally viable and real transcendence is less and less plausible. Drawing on Taylor’s work, Alan Noble describes how these realities shape our thinking and affect our daily lives.
Too often Christians have acquiesced to these trends, and the result has been a church that struggles to disrupt the ingrained patterns of people’s lives. But the gospel of Jesus is inherently disruptive: like a plow, it breaks up the hardened surface to expose the fertile earth below. In this book Noble lays out individual, ecclesial, and cultural practices that disrupt our society’s deep-rooted assumptions and point beyond them to the transcendent grace and beauty of Jesus.
Disruptive Witness casts a new vision for the evangelical imagination, calling us away from abstraction and cliché to a more faithful embodiment of the gospel for our day.
You can find a Gospel Coalition review of this book at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/disruptive-witness-distracted-age/.
For those of a more scholarly mindset, this book is required reading on the topic of Christian distinctiveness and holding to the truth in an antagonistic culture. From Amazon: “Silly,” “stupid,” “irrational,” “simple.” “Wicked,” “hateful,” “obstinate,” “anti-social.” “Extravagant,” “perverse.” The Roman world rendered harsh judgments upon early Christianity―including branding Christianity “new.” Novelty was no Roman religious virtue.
Nevertheless, as Larry W. Hurtado shows in Destroyer of the gods, Christianity thrived despite its new and distinctive features and opposition to them. Unlike nearly all other religious groups, Christianity utterly rejected the traditional gods of the Roman world. Christianity also offered a new and different kind of religious identity, one not based on ethnicity. Christianity was distinctively a “bookish” religion, with the production, copying, distribution, and reading of texts as central to its faith, even preferring a distinctive book-form, the codex. Christianity insisted that its adherents behave differently: unlike the simple ritual observances characteristic of the pagan religious environment, embracing Christian faith meant a behavioral transformation, with particular and novel ethical demands for men. Unquestionably, to the Roman world, Christianity was both new and different, and, to a good many, it threatened social and religious conventions of the day.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)