Dear Friends,

An old country preacher once explained the danger of compromising our faith by saying: “Remember, rat poison is 90% good corn.” Even a “little sin” hurts our fellowship with God and others. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6) The church in Pergamum was compromising by adopting worldly practices and wrong doctrine.

Balaam, a Gentile hireling prophet, had tried to defeat Israel by cursing them. But God caused him to bless them instead. Since he couldn’t conquer them through cursing he conquered them through compromise and corruption by seducing the Israelite men to fornication and intermarriage with pagan Moabite women which led to worshiping their gods. (See Numbers 22-25; 31:16) If Satan can’t conquer us as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) he will disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:3) and deceive us into sin with a “good thing” that compromises our walk with God. The most obvious application for us in this is that Christians are not to marry non-Christians (including nominal Christians) as we see in 2 Corinthians 6: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 6: 14,15b,17) Another application from this is the laxity of sexual standards among Christians. God’s Word gives clear instructions regarding sexual purity. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. The Lord will punish men for all such sins as we have already told you and warned you.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5; 6b) The words “sanctified “ and “holy” both mean “separated from” or “set apart”. We as Christians are to be separated from sin and set apart for God’s purposes in our life. Even “good things” like dating and romance and marriage can lead us away from God and bring trials and sorrow if we compromise God’s truth. The description of Jesus is “The One who has the sharp two-edged sword.”(v.12) This is a picture of the separating and dividing power of the gospel and of God’s Word. (Matthew 10:34-36; Hebrews 4:12-13)

The teaching of the Nicolaitans has been interpreted differently by various commentators. One possible meaning comes from the meaning of the two words nika, “to conquer” and laos “the people” or “the laity”. This may refer to the unbiblical distinction between the clergy and lay people that has greatly diminished the effectiveness of the church in evangelism and discipleship. The priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9) means that all Christians are ministers and are called and gifted by God “for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4: 12; 1 Peter 4:10) Many Christians abdicate this responsibility to the professional clergy and thus Christianity becomes a “spectator sport”. Vocational Christian workers, missionaries, pastors, etc., are like player coaches called to both train and equip the laity and minister in their own sphere of influence. Yet all of us are called to carry out the Great Commission (evangelism and discipleship) in our network of relationships. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders (unbelievers); make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt (appropriate truths from God’s word) so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

Jesus encourages the faithful believers who remain “true to His name” and calls the unfaithful to “repent”. (vv. 13; 16) In our churches and our own lives where there is compromise with the world and neglect of the work of the ministry we need to repent and not be “ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16) and our identity as followers of Jesus Christ. We need to lovingly and humbly share His grace and truth within our arenas of relationships. Jesus says we are salt and light. (Matthew 5: 13-14) Salt pictures the preserving power of God’s truth to stop moral decay in a society. Light is a picture of leading people out of the darkness of sin and unbelief in Jesus Christ (John 16: 9) the “light of men” (John 1:4).

Jesus prayed to His Father: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:17-19) Jesus emptied Himself of His glory and came to dwell among us as a man and completely set Himself apart for our sake and the will of His Father. May we respond to His sacrificial, dedicated love by setting ourselves apart for Him and for His purposes in and through our lives.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove (demonstrate) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) Let it be Lord. Amen.

Len and Kristen


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