The Dead Church

This week on the Speak Life Church Podcast, we’re going to end our chapter two of last week, start chapter three of the Book of Revelation — the Church of Sardis, I’m going to share with you a little about my journey, and talk about the Lost Books of The Bible.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18 and 21, that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Here, we choose to speak life. We are a 100% online ministry created to restore and strengthen the family, provide hope for those in need, and offer a nontraditional place of worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, using technology to be anywhere. All are welcome, including those souls still searching for what they believe in. My name is Kenn Blanchard. Welcome. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before His Presence with singing. Enter into His Gates with thanksgiving, and into His Courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His Name, for the Lord is good. His Mercy is everlasting, and His Truth endures to all generations. Welcome to Speak Life Church.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we come before You to say Thank You for this day — a day that we have never seen before. Somebody comes, Lord God, for the first time. I ask that You would touch them right now, allow their ears to hear, their heart to hear what You say. Your servant seeks to lift You up now. Hear my prayer, oh, Lord. Use me in a mighty way to do what You called me to do. I bless the one who has returned and is calling themselves a member of this church — this church without walls, this church without a physical location, but that’s seeking to be a church called by You. Help us to do Your Work. Thank You for all of those who are a part of this family. Thank you for those who are a seeking a church home. Help me help them in whatever they need. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy Sight, oh, Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

All right, last week we were talking about the Church of Thyatira in the Book of Revelation, chapter two, right? Man, I’m so deep in this thing we haven’t even moved! We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff. It makes me wonder, “How long do I do this?” Are you ready for some uplifting, different topics for the Speak Life Church? Let me know. Send me a note. Holla at your boy. We’re going to continue with Christ’s counsel. There are like four pieces that happen in all of the Church — the commendation, the condemnation, the counsel, and the challenge. We’re going to talk about the counsel — what Christ told this church, this pagan church. All right? We all back in touch? Back where we are at? Our Lord counsel to this Church of Thyatira was apparently directed to the faithful individuals within that church who rejected the false doctrines. He said, “Only hold on to what you have until I come.” That refers to the fact that many during the Tribulation refused to go under the false religious system also known as the Prostitute (Revelation 17). The challenge that Christ gives this church, this pagan church, He says, “To him who overcomes and does My Will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” There are two aspects of the challenge of our Lord to the individual overcomer of this period. One, he will give such an individual a position of leadership and authority during the millennial age if he or she is faithful in this age. Two, he will also give them the Morning Star. This is a beautiful title which is clearly understood here among scholars to be the light of our Lord’s Word in Revelation 22:16 where He explains that He is the bright, morning star. This promise is clearly the promise of Christ to come and abide if you overcome. So, who is an overcomer? First read John 5:1-4 and it clarifies that. That’s everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ.

All right, we are finally going to hit on the Church of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)!

This is the church that I kind of came from. I might’ve talked about it in the past. I was the pastor of this church, and it was killing me. Why am I calling the church where I was like the Church of Sardis? Listen, and you shall hear that there is nothing worse than a dead church. It’s like a man dying of thirst in the desert who sees a well in the distance only to find after he gets there, that it is bone dry. Many thirsty stumble through the desert of this world and they finally get to see what they think is a hope in the form of a church only to find that by entering it that it is completely dead. Well, that was the Church of Sardis and the age that she represents — the Age of Reformation.

Sardis, the place, the capital city of Lydia was prominent in Asia Minor. It was noted for its carpets. It was a wealthy city that was finally destroyed by an earthquake. The local church there seems to have had an acceptable name in certain areas, but it was still DEAD. This is tragic in view of the fact that life is a characteristic of the born-again Christian. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” (John 10:10) There were, however, a few faithful believers in the Sardis Church who may not have soiled their clothes. The dead church is in the time period of 1520A.D. up until the Tribulation. Here are the commendations, the condemnations, the counsel, and the challenges:

• The commendation: “I know your deeds. You have a reputation of being alive.”
• The condemnation: “but you are dead. I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of God.”
• The counsel: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die. Remember, you have received and heard. Obey it, and repent. But, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
• The challenge: “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angels.”

Sardis itself means “the escaping ones” or “those who come out.” This name, together with the Lord’s condemnation of the church, provides a perfect description of the Reformation Churches, the Protestant Reformation developed as a result of the continued emphasis by the Church of Rome on pagan doctrines rather than adherence to Scripture. The basic emphasis of the Reformation Churches originally was from Martin Luther’s watch word taken from Scripture: But the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17). Now, they have recoiled from trying to make salvation the result of works and sparked the resurgence of interest in studying the Scriptures, but the tragedy of the Reformation Churches that earned for the them the condemnation of the Lord of being dead is twofold. First, they became “state churches.” Luther, for example, sought the approval of the political leaders, and eventually, the Luther Church became the state church of Germany, as did others throughout Europe. The danger of this is that the Church then includes the entire population thus eliminating the need for personal acceptance of Jesus Christ and an emphasis on the individual’s relationship to God. Another danger is the tendency to please the government rather than God. Secondly, the Reformation Churches did not sufficiently change many customs and teachings of the Church of Rome. Baby baptism was continued in spite of the fact that there is no scriptural verification for it. Sprinkling was also continued in ritualism including some elements of sacraments was perpetuating. Ritual and formality, characteristics of pagan forms of worship, are not conducive or genuine in they worship for they appeal to the sensuous human nature. That’s the whole big fuss about other doctrines. A lot of the stuff that we like in church is because we like it, not because it’s in The Bible, not because God asked us to do it. It’s that we’ve always done it that way. We never looked to see what was wrong with it. We just continue because that’s the way we like to worship, but you’re not putting it to the One who asked for it. Just saying. The Bible teaches that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Ritual that comes from paganism cannot be of the Holy Spirit and does not convey truth. The main, main purpose of a church is the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This should be done in song and in word. If people leave a church with the mysterious feeling of worship, but have not been face-to-face with Jesus Christ in a personal way, then they have been worshipping a dead church.

Let me tell you about the church that I was a pastor of. My church had been operating for years. They were an affluent African-American congregation. Everybody in the church had been somebody. They were doctors, lawyers, senators. We had an astronaut in there. There was a whole bunch of people, and they were proud of their lineage and their heritage and their name, and they all got together, and it was like a social thing. They would meet and do business. They would make sure that they only talked to other people who they knew were affluent like them. They were snobby, and they broke off. Their pastor died, and they raised up this younger guy to become their new pastor. He was like the worship leader, the younger youth pastor, and they sent him to Harvard and Howard and all these acclaimed schools so they could brag that their pastor was highly educated. They paid for his whole education, but in his learning, he learned about true worship. He learned about God, and he learned that some of the stuff that they were doing was ritualistic and paganistic and it wasn’t of God. When he became pastor, he sought to change everything, and they went crazy. The church split. About two hundred of them left and started their own church. They changed the name just slightly, and they took a bit of their wealth and money with them, and they continued their practices, but they couldn’t find a pastor, so they found another young guy who didn’t have a church, and they made him like a master of ceremonies. They wouldn’t called him “pastor.” They just kind of put him on salary, and his job was to preach occasionally, not too many times, and they would find other pastors, other preachers to fill the pulpit because they didn’t want anyone to lead them. They had their own business. They were older people. All of them were 65+ and I got in that group of ministers that would come quarterly to preach. I was a newly ordained minister. I wanted to practice my craft, and every time I got in front of these 35-40 people, the Lord had me say some pretty harsh things to them. The Lord spoke through me, and the next thing I knew, I was there permanently. But they told me right off that I was not going to be “it” because I was not their “kind of person,” but they were glad I would stick around until they found it. The Lord had others things for them.

I became the pastor after two years of serving there, and for the next five years, we fought, and we changed. We got the church to grow and we did a whole bunch of stuff, but they, in their hearts, were dead. They did not want my change. They did not what what the Lord had for them. They fought it at every avenue, so with straight reservation and no backing, no support from any other ministers I knew, I resigned, and they cheered. They were glad, and they sought to find somebody they could mold and make in their own image. They stumbled for a couple of years, but then they found somebody, and as soon as he got his credentials that he had been pastor for two years, he left and went back to the church he was trying to get all along. That church, right now, is empty. It was a dead church.   Most of them are still around, but they had to go worship at another church, and some other stuff has happened to them. It’s a strange world out here, but at the same time, I didn’t stop. I’ve been preaching on the corners, preaching at gun ranges, preaching everywhere I can go, wherever folks will listen, and then I found that the Internet allowed me to do this from my basement. I could actually do what I’ve been called to do. When I needed to go out somewhere, BAM! There I go. So, now I’m actually working at a church as an associate of the associate who was working with me! He is now pastor and I’m making sure that I take some of the hits and fiery darts that are thrown his way, and shield him, uplift him, and help him when I can which is always, and help him right his ship, help him do his job, and I’m feeling blessed for it all. That’s enough for the Church of Sardis and Kenn Blanchard today. We’re going to hit more about this church next week, all right?

In my last job, I was a supervisor of armed security officers and we used to just sit around and talk about all kinds of things, stuff that was inappropriate for the job, just typical security guard/law enforcement chatter, and one of the things that was a hot topic was faith and religion. Folks knew that I was a pastor, so they would cautiously and tactfully ask a question that starts a mess to see where people would go. One of the newer guys, one of the nicer guys, had just recently found his faith and he was working with this church, which I think was kind of a cult. They had gathered some extra books and made their own bible, pretty much. And he said it was the Lost Books of the Bible. Have you ever heard of that? “What about the Lost Books?” Has that ever come up into your vernacular, into your mind? See, this question relates to the subject of canonicity. When somebody speaks of the canon of Scripture, they are referring to the collection of sixty-six recognized books that have come to be known as The Holy Bible. The word “canon” means “measuring rod,” actually. And Christians believe that The Bible is the measuring stick God has given us for evaluation of what is true or false, right or wrong. Just as a ruler helps the carpenter saw the board at the right length, our spiritual measuring instrument, the canon, helps us get things right according to what God wants for us. But how did the volume of Scripture get compiled? Why did some ancient religious books from that era not make it in? And, for a whole bunch of reasons, Christians accept that God determined through his prophets this canonicity. Over time, the people of God discovered which of these books were prophetic and therefore canonical. During the time of Jesus, the Jewish Scriptures that made up the Old Testament had long been collated and recognized. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was complete 400 years before the birth of Christ. About 250 years before the birth of Christ, the Septuagint, the rendering of the Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek, was translated. Historically, by the time of the early church, the inspired writings that would ultimately make up the New Testament began to achieve circulation. During this time, there was also writings in circulation that Christians recognized were not from God, and those were rejected for this canonization. Books from the Old and New Testament eras that were not recognized as belonging to the God-ordained collection of Scriptures, came to be known as apocryphal, meaning “hidden.” Somebody by the name of Origen, who lived around 185-254A.D. may have been the first scholar to use the word “apocryphal” in alerting early Christians to the questionable value of this non-inspired writings. Depending on how one divided the chapters, sections, there are a dozen apocryphal books that exist from the Old Testament era, and about fifteen from the New Testament era. So, the questions becomes: Why should the apocryphal books be rejected as uninspired and therefore not part of the biblical canon that we all know as The Holy Bible, the sixty-six books? Well, here’s the reason: Unlike the actual biblical books, no apocryphal writing claims to have been penned by a prophet in the case of the books from the Old Testament era or by one of Christ’s apostles regarding the writings from the New Testament era. Also, the New Testament quotes Old Testament books but never quotes any of the apocryphal writings except in one instance and that’s in Jude, chapter nine, which does not contradict the Old Testament. Also, Jesus and the apostles never quoted from any of the apocryphal books. Few early church leaders ever referenced any of the apocryphal writings the way they canonical Scripture. Early church leaders who did not consider the apocrypha to be canonical Scripture include Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen, and Jerome, a 4th century biblical scholar and translator of Latin. But, wait! There’s more. In the 2nd century, A.D., the earliest copies of the Peshitta, the Syriac bible, did not contain any of the apocryphal writings. When the Dead Sea Scrolls — (now, we’ve heard about that before, right?) the collection of more than nine hundred ancient texts — were discovered at a place called Qumran in the mid 1940’s, included were commentaries of all of the Old Testament books. Within a cache of manuscripts, were some fragments of Jewish apocryphal writings. However, while there are commentaries accompanying all the Old Testament books, there were no commentaries written on any of the ancient apocryphal books leading many to conclude that the ancient scholars from that area, known as the Essenes, didn’t view the apocryphal writings as being on the same plane as Scripture. One of the most respected Dead Sea Scrolls scholars, a guy by the name of Millar Burrows, said, “There is no reason to think that any of these works were venerated as sacred scripture.” So, when somebody’s talking about apocryphal writings and the canonical Bible as we know it, the comments and writings of notable leaders from the early Christian era are worth noting. Philo, who lived 20B.C to 48A.D was a Jewish teacher from Egypt. He quoted the Old Testament prolifically, citing virtually every canonical book, however, he never once quoted from the apocrypha as inspired. Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived from 30A.D to 100 referenced the same thirty-nine books that we know as the Old Testament, and through demonstrating familiarity with them, he never quotes any apocryphal books as Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith written in 1647 said, “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are not part of the Canon of the Scriptures, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made us of than any other human writings.” So, the wrap-up is: I can be confident that the Scripture that you know as The Holy Bible, the sixty-six books, is complete. Regarding the New Testament, Jesus alluded to the closing of the Canon by the authority He appointed to His apostles of all whom died before the end of the first century. You can check out John 14:26, 15:27, and 1Corinthians 2:13. And what I have known personally is that people will often cite these other books as being “the stuff they don’t want you to know.” It’s like click bait. It makes you want to read, and it also gives you pause to think you’ve been cheated or left out, or that you’ve been missing something. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, and correction, for instruction in righteousness. I believe that the apocryphal books, the story of Enoch, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff in there, are interesting, but they are not God-breathed. They are not inspired by God. They are not profitable for your doctrine, for reproof, or correction., They will not give you instruction in righteousness. So, at the job, when we were talking, and folks were saying, “See! This part they don’t want you to know! And this right here, what do you think about that, Rev?!” And, I’d just shake my head, “No.”

And, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

All right, let me tell you what’s going on with your friend and your brother from another mother, the Reverend Kenn Blanchard: I am building the Youtube channel for us, and I’ve decided, through divine intervention, to try to do some children stuff on the website. So, keep me in prayer, as I am going to try to do four-five minute videos for the young at heart, and it will be like a children’s Bible thing in addition to everything else I’ve got going on. Why, Lord, Why? But, it’s a work in progress as I try to figure it out. I’m over the video thing now. I’ve got to worry about the editing and trying to make it sound halfway decent and be entertaining and be understood, all of that. That’s going to be on Speak Life Church Youtube channel. They’ll be link on the show notes for this week. I need to try to build at least one hundred people there. I might try to do the podcast on there as well. That would be different, but I might just put the audio there. I think that’s what will happen because it’s just too much. I can’t, with any accuracy or to the best of my ability, do a 35-40 minute show while the camera’s going and try to make it okay, so, that’s just a bit much for your homey.

The website is up! Please go to speaklifechurch.net and we are making in-roads to making it better for you. Fall is here, officially here, at the time of this recording, and we are hitting October now, and the leaves are starting fall, and it’s still raining. It’s still moist, and trees are falling, and it’s kind of beautiful outside, actually, during this pandemic time. This reminds me of one of those quotes about finding beauty in everything. Somebody once said that life is what you make it, and beauty can be found in anything that you make. If you find the beauty in your own life, you will find beauty in everything, even in the ugliest of times, Right now, some of you are going through a rough time, physically. I am praying with you. Some of you are going through a tough time, financially. I am praying with you. Some are going through a tough time, spiritually. I am praying with you. And, if you don’t believe that, call me, email me, Instagram me, contact me, and we will pray right then! That’s why I’m here.

(Transcriber interjection: He really means this, people. One day, I texted him to please pray for my husband. A few minutes later, I received an audio text of our Brother praying for my husband by name and in detail and at length. He means it. Reach out to him! Ok, that is all. Thank you. -Sister Sarah)

 

This isn’t just a podcast to be on Pandora somewhere like the rest of them. This isn’t just a podcast to pontificate religious niceties. This is not just a podcast that makes you feel good because you didn’t go to a physical church, No! This is a part of the Kingdom of God. This is a part of the Church. This is a part of the Kingdom, and my job is to help you. My job is to inspire you. My job is to help you worship the Most High who doesn’t need a brick-and-mortar building, the Most High who desires to be a friend of yours as He is a friend of mine, the Most High, the One and Only True God who loves you so much that He let a pirate like me work for Him. And, we have not got a date yet for our first meetup online, and if I had announced it today, I’d probably have just two people. So, do you want to do it on Facebook? Do you want to do it on Zoom? Do you want to do it on a gotomeeting platform? I need some feedback, ya’ll. Please, give me a call. Leave a message or something! (202)579-9435. You can leave a message 24-hours-a-day. Let me know your preference, how you would like to reach out, how you’d like to connect with your friend and your brother from another mother, the Reverend Kenn Blanchard who’s trying to do what thus saith the Lord. So, we got the new Youtube channel coming. There’s going to be a section for the kids. There is the new site. Please check it out. There is a membership signup on that, so I can send out newsletters. Look for that newsletter link in the widgets on that page, and what else? I think that’s it. Thank you so much for being a part of this ministry and allowing me to serve you. If there is anything I can do — oh, yeah, we still got the Facebook page, too. We got two, the Speak Life Facebook page, and the Speak Life Church Podcast page.

You matter, just in case you didn’t know that. Oh, yeah! Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you. You matter. You are important. You’re loved. God loves you. And, your presence on this earth makes a difference, whether you see it or not. This past weekend I went to Hersey, Pennsylvania, and I got a chance to do a wedding of two soldiers — a young man and a young woman. They met in Korea, or Ft. Huachuca, I think that’s where it was they met, and they had all their families assembled together, and it was a big wedding for this pandemic time. I had to keep praying — I’m still praying — I didn’t catch nothing, but I got my Covid test scheduled for Monday, and I’m trusting in the Lord. I social distanced as much as I could. I stayed with one of the families and met a nice brother up there who’s like my new family member, actually. He does all the stuff I wish I knew how to do. He’s a hunter and a fixer, a manly man! Former Army dude, does gunsmithing, does everything. Cool guy. So, I’ve been taking pointers from my younger big brother mentor now on some stuff. Looking forward to that. I’ve got a new fishing buddy, whenever we can get around to it. He doesn’t live, like, next-door, but I will make the trek back to PA to find him. And, although I haven’t mentioned it in a couple of weeks, I want to thanks those who are considering donating and keeping the podcast rolling. Thank you for your enthusiasm. Thank you for your encouragement, in both word and financially. The giving links will be on the show notes, as they always are. I’m not pushing the money thing. God always provides, and if He doesn’t, then, that just tells me something else, right? Roll on, Brother! Do somethin’ else! It’s good though. We’re doing good. We took an extra expense to get the transcripts, and that’s going to be a positive, so I’m not even taking it as an expense. It’s like a needed thing. We needed to make sure that some people could read what I’ve been mumbling, in case you missed a point. So, to God be the glory for that.

Now, may the Lord bless thee, and keep thee. May the Lord make His Face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. May the Lord life up His Countenance upon thee and give thee peace. Just in case I don’t see you again on this side of the river, friend, family, my brother and my sister, I will see you at the feet of Jesus. Until next week, shalom, baby. God bless.

 

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Very respectfully, 

Kenn 

pastor@speaklifechurch.net

202-579-9435 (24/7 voice mail)

 

 

 

Revelation: The Church of Thyatira

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before His Presence with singing. Enter His Gates with thanksgiving, and into His Courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His Name, for the Lord is good. His Mercy is everlasting, and His Truth endures to all generations.

Hi. This is Reverend Kenn Blanchard. Welcome back to Speak Life Church. This week we’re going to be hittin’ the Church of Thyatira in the Book of Revelation. And, I got some apologetic questions I’m going to answer. It might be kind of hostile, but that’s not my intention. I’m just sharing, but you’ll see what I mean when we get there. Amen? This show is dedicated to you in the hopes of encouraging your spirit, feeding your faith, and blessing your life.

Heavenly Father, somebody came to listen to a word. Somebody came for a message. Somebody came to hear from You. Somebody came to learn more of You. Somebody needs You, right now, Lord God. We need You right now. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy Sight, oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer. Father God, I just thank You for today. I thank You for all that You have let my eyes see and my ears hear. Help us, Lord God, to hear from You today. Help us to feel Your Presence. I humbly ask that You forgive us of all of the things we’ve done against You in Your Sight. Help me to do Thy Will today. Help me to reach out to somebody new. Help me to encourage somebody old. Help me, Lord God, to do what You’ve called Your servant to do. This is my prayer. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, The Christ I pray. Amen.

Good people, I am just so happy to be back on the microphone, and hopefully, it sounds even better than last week. I’ve got some more gizmos that I plugged into it, and I’m diggin’ the sound. I don’t hear the hiss I was hearing before. You might’ve never heard it, but…..I’m becoming an audio snob. Now that I’m working on becoming a voice actor, I’ve learned some stuff. I’ve got a couple more classes left, and a coach, and a demo tape to do. I’m kind of excited about it. Sarah, if you’re listenin’ —and I know you are — she’s been doing a cracker-jack job in our transcribing, and you can now go to speaklifechurch.net and get the show notes following the episode. It might be a few days or a week after, but the site has been updated, and I’m hoping you will find that there is a new subscription link where I’m asking all of us to sign on so that I can send you out collective newsletters and emails and prayer requests and things like that, as a church, all right? Because one of the things I want to do in October is get us together for a Zoom call, a prayer thing, a talk-and-answer just to share. We’re going to use technology to the next level. I’ll need your email addresses for that. So, go to speaklifechurch.net and sign up!

All right, this week, we’re talking about the Church of Thyatira: Revelation 2:18-29. The city of Thyatira was probably founded by Alexander the Great some 300 years before Christ. It was a wealthy city in Macedonia noted in the ancient world for its outstanding color dyes. Yeah, for the color it made for clothes. It has been suggested that the city was evangelized by the Ephesian Church or perhaps by Paul’s first convert in Philippi named Lydia. You’ll find that in Acts 16:14. The main characteristic of this church seems to be its works towards people rather than its doctrinal belief. In fact, as we will see, it was indicted for permitting a false teacher to spread her “soul-damning heresy.” It’s known as the Pagan Church. It happened in 606 to the Tribulation, so we could be in the Dark Ages, or the Pagan Church Age, right now. If you’re reading the text, it says, “I know your deeds, your love, and your faith, your service, and your perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” That’s the commendation that Christ gives. The condemnation is, “You tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teachings, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of foods sacrificed to idols.” His counsel: “Only hold on to what you have until I come.” The challenge: “To him who overcomes and does My Will until 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.” All right, I said the Church of the Dark Ages, which indicates that the program I’m merging paganism with Christianity, which began under the Church of Pergamum increasingly emphasized paganism in which is darkness. The Light Jesus Christ has and entrusted to His Church all but flickered out during the Dark Ages, and was not rekindled until the Day of the Reformation. If you continue the history of the Church where we left off with the Church of Pergamum, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that happened, that was added to the “church” during this period from 606A.D. up until 1965A.D. Want me to tell you what they are? Here’s some stuff that was added to the “church”:

607A.D. — Boniface III was made the first Pope
709A.D. — kissing the Pope’s foot
786A.D. — worshipping of images and relics
850A.D. — the use of holy water began
995A.D. — the canonization of dead saints
998A.D. — fasting on Fridays and during Lent
1079A.D. – celibacy of the priesthood
1090A.D. – prayer beads
1184A.D. – the Inquisition
1190A.D. – sail of indulgences
1215A.D. – transubstantiation (Communion “blood” becoming true blood of Christ)
1220A.D. – adoration of the wafer host
1229A.D. – Bible forbidden to laypeople
1414A.D. – the cup forbidden to people at Communion
1439A.D. – Doctrine of Purgatory decreed
1439A.D. – Doctrine of Seven Sacraments affirmed
1508A.D. – The Ava Maria approved
1534A.D. – Jesuit order founded
1545A.D. – church granted equal authority with The Bible
1546A.D. – Apocryphal books were put into the Bible of this church
1854A.D. – the Immaculate Conception of Mary
1864A.D. – the Syllabus of Errors was proclaimed
1870A.D. – the infallibility of the Pope was declared
1930A.D. – public schools condemned
1950A.D. – the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
1965A.D. – Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church

Since all of the stuff I just said can be substantiated by history, it seems ironic that the Church of Rome today likes to boast that Rome is always the same. The tragedy is that in spite of the drastic changes I just mentioned, many believe that to be true.

Thyatira comes from two words meaning “sacrifice” and “continual.” Continual sacrifice. This introduces the central heresy that has produced other false doctrines, that is, the Church of Rome denies the finished Work of Christ, but believes in the continuing sacrifice that produces such things as sacraments and praying for the dead, burning candles and stuff. All of these were borrowed from mystery Babylon — the mother of all pagan customs and idolatry, none of which is taught in the New Testament. During this period between 607A.D. up until today, the universal — dare I say it? — Catholic Church headquartered in Rome gradually became more Babylonian than Christian. Heresy falls into one of two basic categories: a false concept of the personal deity of Christ or mixing works with faith. The Church of Rome can scarcely be accused of teaching a false concept of the personal deity of Christ, however, their emphasis on the continual sacrifice and rejection of our Lord’s Finished Work breeds a concept that causes people to try to earn their own salvation by works, penance, indulgences, and many other Satan-like conceived ideas — labeled by our Lord in Revelation 2:24 as “Satan’s so-called deep secrets.” One of the dangerous trends during the 20th century in the Church of Rome is the elevation of Mary to a status just short of deity. News media reports indicate that millions have petitioned the Pope to declare her a member of the Trinity, though the official line is that that is not going to happen….yet, although she is referred to as the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, and in some instances appears to be the Dispenser of Salvation — which contradicts many Scriptures. Notice Jesus’s own Words in 14:6 — “I Am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” So, to even suggest that anybody, even his Ma, participates in dispensing the gift of eternal life is not only heresy, it’s blasphemous. As the apostle Peter was speaking exclusively of Jesus as the official dispenser of salvation said, “There is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Scripturally speaking, there is only one person under Heaven who dispenses salvation to humankind, and it ain’t Mary. And, for the record, if you happen to be Roman Catholic and listening, I don’t know what to tell you other than I’m not assaulting you. I’m just giving you what I know. If you ever go to Mexico City, and you get the chance to see the largest Roman cathedral on the North America continent — it’s called the Shrine of Guadalupe — you will see some seriously Pagan rituals being done there. They’ve got a thing called penance, and when it happens, people crawl around on their hands and knees for hundreds of yards on concrete, which causes gashes and blood on their knees and hands, in an effort to punish themselves, whereas the Scripture teaches “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and it’s not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The room in that church, too, is so dark that photographs can’t be taken, and everything is in a gloomy state. The Bible says in John 3:21, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.” It’s always mysterious, right? The mysterious nature of the service could be seen in the fact that individuals could not understand the Latin being spoken during the mass, and no message was given in any language they could recognize. Parents came to the glass-encased form representing a dead saint thinking that, by rubbing the casket or placing an offering in the slot provided, they could rub blessings on the forehead of their infant children or other loved ones. In contrast, the Lord Jesus talked about those who hear the Word and understand it in Matthew 13:23. Idolatry, straight up.

Prominently located on every wall were idols representing Christ, the apostles, or other saints. You could see lots of them — seventeen! And though idolatry is typically a pagan worship, it is forbidden in The Bible. All the way back to Exodus 24 where it says, “you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below.” Chanting, during the service, much chanting was performed by the priest. Individuals who had come to worship prayed by saying the same word, over and over again, whether they knew its meaning or not. And, by contrast, our Lord has warned, “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) The cross, the crucifix well-known in Roman forms of worship, was all that could be seen of our Blessed Lord. Whereas the Scriptures speak not of “continuing sacrifice” but in the words of Christ Himself speaking of the sacrifice, “It is finished,” He said. The Angel on the Day of Resurrection, “He is not Here. He has risen just as He said.” (Matthew 28:6) Oh, that these people might recognize the principle conveyed in the Words of our Lord: I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold, I live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:18) One of the obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants is the Cross they use to symbolize their faith. The Catholic cross usually depicts Christ on the Cross, commemorating his continual sacrifice for our sins. The Protestant Cross is empty, depicting that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) In this text, the character of Christ was revealed. It says, “These are the words of the Son of God whose eyes are like blazing fire and his feet are like burnished bronze. Our Lord’s selection for the title, Son of God, for Himself is the most instructive when compared to chapter 1, verse 13 where He selects the title, Like a Son of Man. These titles are synonymous or interchangeable. It should be born in mind in this day when false teachers are prone to advocate the human nature of Christ at the exclusion of His Divinity. Also, it is instructive to those in the Church of Rome who are prone to think of Him as the Son of Mary. Eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished stone denotes that Christ is looking with piercing judgment on the Church because she has permitted false teaching to creep into her midst and mislead His servants.

Christ’s commendation of Thyatira comes in the form of six words. (Revelation 2:19) He commends them for their deeds, that’s the first part, indicating that many through Rome’s long history have been faithfully serving Jesus Christ as a result of receiving Him. Two, love — a love for humankind characteristic of this Church. For, in ancient times, hospitals and sanitariums were almost exclusively the work of the church through its nuns and priests. Three, faith. Although it’s not given the prominence of works and love, it nevertheless is a characteristic of that age in church with the main exception noted. Number four: service means ministry. Five, perseverance. It means endurance and speaks of a long time period of this church. Six, “now, doing more than you did at first,” the good works of the Church of Rome — except for those appearance of the Inquisition when many were wantonly murdered — are commendable. It should be born in mind also that the majority of members have been held in ignorance and darkness. Many have been faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some outstanding products of that period are John Wycliffe, John Hus, Girolamo Savonarola, and many others who earned the Crown of Martyrdom because they refused to give up their adherence to the Word of God and Christ Jesus the Lord. In fact, one of the bleakest marks on the history of the Church of Rome was that it burned at the stake men like Wycliffe and Hus, whose only sin was trying to translate The Bible into the mother tongue of the common people. Historically, no jailor has ever kept a prisoner in total confinement the way the Church of Rome kept The Bible from God’s people for over a thousand years. No wonder this age has been called the Dark Ages. The Bible is the light of the world. It is the church’s commission to let that light shine.

Christ’s condemnation in this section says, “Nevertheless I have this against you. You tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teachings she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Out Lord’s condemnation of the Church of Thyatira took two forms. One, He condemned her for permitting a false teacher to enslave or to lead astray His servants, and two, He condemned her for not repenting when she had the opportunity. Who is this Jezebel chick? The Lord reaches back into the Old Testament for the name of a woman who brought Baalism into Israel and perverted the nation, using her as a point of comparison to those who brought paganism and this devilish teaching into the church. Whenever a woman is used symbolically to convey a religious teaching, she always represents a false religion. Our Lord’s parable in Matthew 13:33-35 concerning the woman who took leaven, a symbol of evil, and hid it in three measures of meal “until it worked all through the dough,” is a prophetic glimpse of what took place during that false teaching of this period. The teaching of the false prophetess Jezebel took two forms. The first, by her teachings she misleads my servants into sexual immorality which is a symbol of the idolatry brought in during this period, and two, the eating of food sacrificed to idols, a symbol of the union of the church with the world. During this time, Rome sought to bring the kingdom of the world under the domination of the Pope in Rome, though contrary to the teachings of our Lord who said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Church leaders at the time seriously attempted to make her the kingdom of this world. There was an opportunity to repent. It says, “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” Plenty of opportunity was given to this church to repent. Almost a thousand years was granted. Yet, she is unwilling. Christ’s future judgment of this church: 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. Our Lord, here, predicts that this church and those that are persuaded to follow her false teachings will go into the Great Tribulation, when she will, according to Revelation 17, be the Church of Tribulation. This warning should speak to every Bible-believing Christian in the world about having an entangling affiliation with the ecumenical movement that Pope John, the 23rd made popular through his ecumenical counsel on the concept that all of them will be one. Protestant unbelievers and heretics are advancing this program on every hand. God’s faithful followers should be careful to measure everything according to the stated Word of God, and, if need be, stand by your lonesome. That stuff was just heavy, so I’m going to let that go for the rest of the day. Feel free to rewind and listen again in case I missed some points, and I’m ready for questions if you want to hit me back, attack me, disagree, I can show you where I got it from. Amen?

Christianity is monotheistic. Christians believe in an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God. We also call him Jehovah. God is a spiritual being who is personable and knowable. God is One, yet existing in three distinct persons: God, the Father. God, the Son. That’s Jesus Christ. And God, the Holy Spirit. Referred to collectively as The Trinity. Jehovah God is said to have many attributes with the most important being love. Christians believe that God speaks to His People, makes promises to His people, and reveals Himself to people. God and the universe are not seen as one. God is believed to be the Creator of the universe and all that is within it. It is also believed that, while God is sovereign and permits evil, He is not its direct cause. The Holy Bible is the divine and inspired Word of God. There are two main divisions in The Bible, the Old Testament and the New. The word itself, “testament” means “covenant” or “agreement.” The Old Testament is an account of a nation, Israel, while the New Testament is an account of a man, Jesus the Christ. There are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. According to The Bible, men and women are created in the image of God to share in His Glory. God gives mankind free will. As a result of Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God, sin and rebellion entered into the human race. The Bible teaches that this rebellion separates individuals from God. Because God hates sin yet desires to have a relationship with us, He had to deal with the sin problem. The only way sin could be permanently dealt with was through the Person of Jesus. Jesus was punished and died on a cross to pay the penalty owed by mankind. As a result of His sacrifice, individuals could receive forgiveness for sin. For salvation and freedom from sin, evil, and guilt, one needs only to trust in Jesus the Christ for eternal life. Christianity teaches that no amount of good deeds carried out in this life can help a person gain salvation and eternal life. It is believed that salvation is a gift from God, and to receive this gift, the individual must accept it by faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain for what we do not see, as Hebrews 11:1 says. We read The Bible to learn about God. We believe that God is passionate about every aspect of our lives. The Bible is full of instructions about each area of living — outward and inward. God is believed to forgive anyone who repents. The Bible teaches that salvation is rooted in the grace and love of Jehovah God. Christianity is unique in teaching that a person cannot do anything to win a place in heaven, but rather must accept what Jesus Christ has done on his or her behalf. It is believed that there is hope for everyone, but to receive this gift of salvation and eternal life, we must accept Jesus as the Son of God and believe in Him by faith.

The word “Christianity, “ the religion of it, teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to a relationship with God. Individuals are given the freedom to make a choice for or against Christ. If anyone chooses Jesus the Christ, salvation is secure. If not, the individual makes his or her own choice to not receive salvation and is doomed for Hell. Being a Christian means acknowledging that you have sinned and are in need of God’s forgiveness, and accepting that forgiveness freely offered by Jesus. I’m going to hit you now with some of the most popular question people ask who are skeptic about this whole Christianity thing.

1. Can we really be sure that God exists?

Well, see there are ample proofs in nature that there is a creator, and the evidence for the truth of The Bible assures us that this Creator and God, Christians worship and serve. Theism, the belief that a creator exists who not only made the world but who also has acted in this world, is defensible on philosophical, historical, scientific, and experiential grounds. All the possible objections against the existence of God can be sufficiently answered. Based on these lines of evidence and the absence of legitimate counter evidence, it is rational to conclude that God certainly must exist.

2. What does God say about profanity?

After all, they’re just words, right? Well, let me make sure we’re meaning the same thing by “profanity.” Strictly speaking, profanity means to take God’s name in vain, to profane it. God’s command is that we do not do this because His Name is holy, and should be respected. A lot of what today is called profanity is actually just vulgar speech. It’s really more a matter of propriety that we not speak in that way, and the apostle Paul commands us to avoid “coarse speech” and joking, just in case you wanted to know.

3. I’m a spiritual person already. Why do I need to be a Christian?

Well, being spiritual is not enough. Besides, what do you even mean by “spiritual?” Christianity doesn’t ask us to be spiritual, it demands we obey God while continuing to live as physical beings in the physical world He created.

Okay, now that I’ve officially stirred up the pot, and got you thinking, or maybe gave you exactly what you needed for this week, it’s time to go. Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the Presence of His Glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Just in case I don’t see you again on this side of the river, I will see you, my Brother and Sister, at the Feet of Jesus. Amen. God bless you. Talk to you soon.

Jesus, The Church and Us

The Church of Pergamum

This week, the Church of Pergamum in the Book of Revelation, and some teachings about the church, Jesus the Christ, and where we are at right now.

2 Peter 1:20-21 — Above all you must understand that no prophesy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation, for prophesy never had this origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, Lover of our souls, we thank You for this opportunity to come before Your Throne of Grace. We ask for Your Mercy. We ask that you would cover us with Your Blood, that You would allow us, Lord God, to approach Your Throne. Hear our prayer, oh, Lord, Most High God, Creator of everything, Lover of life, Maker of Heaven and earth, the only one true God. Father, we ask that You would forgive us for all of the things we’ve done against You that would keep us from being close to You. Help us, Lord God, when we don’t believe. Help us to understand the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart. Let these things be done as You say, according to Your Will. Help us to grow closer to You. Help us to defeat the enemy in this time period, in this season of our lives. Help us to overcome our struggles no matter what they are. In the name of Jesus, we pray — Amen.

Last week, my friend, we were talking about the Church of Smyrna, and the challenge of Christ to those who have spiritual ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, and there is a challenge to overcome. As you’ve already heard, this is dependent upon one’s personal faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that he who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. We’re already heard in the vision of the Christ of the churches of Revelation 1:18 that Christ holds in His Hands, the keys to Hell and death. God’s children have Christ’s personal promise that they will never be hurt by the second death that’s described in Revelation 20 as “a time when Hades the present abode of the unbelieving dead and death are cast into the Lake of Fire.” This Lake of Fire is the second death. We’ll talk about it when we get to chapter 20, verse 14. Understand what the Bible means by the second death. It is the Bible’s term for the complete ruin of a person’s life so that they can never fulfill God’s Plan for their life, which is eternal. We think linearly, in a straight line. We think what we can see, feel, touch, hear. There’s much more to this world. Death occurs when a person is forever separated from God instead of being united with Him as is His intention. The second each is that stage when people who have died in unbelief are resurrected, and cast alive in an eternal separation from God in a place called the Lake of Fire — not the Ring of Fire that Johnny Cash sang about, but the Lake of Fire. This second death need never cause the child of God to fear for it will have no power over them. I made sure I said that again because sometimes, this stuff makes you think that you’re doomed. And, if you’re listening to this, if you’re a child of God, then you’re good to go! The Church of Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17), have we talked about this yet? Well, let’s get on down to it, all right?

Pergamum was the capital city of Asia until the close of the first century. It was a dirt given over to the worship of Greek idols. We haven’t changed too much. You know, a local Roman rulership, unable to cope with the multitude of religious differences in the city, demanded cooperation of all the groups. So, two of the most prominent religious systems of that city were the worship of Bacchus, the god of revelry and parties, basically, and the worship of Asclepius, the god of healing. If you look at verse 13 in chapter 2 in the Book of Revelation, verse 13 twice refers to the city as the place “where Satan has his throne,” or “where Satan lives.” A detailed commentary on this condition can scarcely be given with accuracy for we don’t have access to this thing. We were never there, right? But, we can say that the following conjecture to a large degree is representative of the truth: Satan has a kingdom. Babylon, from the earliest times, has been considered the capital of his kingdom. Idolatry gained its start in Babylon through Nimrod and his mother, inspired by Satan. As long as Babylon was a dominate world power, it made a pretty good headquarters for Satan’s attack on the human race. However, when Babylon’s glory began to decline, and it was left desolate, Satan looked for another location. He selected Pergamum because of its strong idolatrous religions. Missionaries have been in this area so pagan in its religions, that it seemed as though the very atmosphere was charged with the presence of Satan. No doubt that these were the conditions in which this little church in Pergamum was faithfully preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It reminds me of when you see a little storefront church next to a liquor store, or in a really bad part of town, and it’s struggling — whether it’s like five or ten members to do what saith the Lord. They called the Church of Pergamum the indulged church. The actual church was around 312 to around 606A.D. The commendation that Christ gave this church was: 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. He did have something to condemn in this church, though. He said, “nevertheless, I have a few things against you. You have 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 teachings of Nicolaitans. The counsel, repent therefore, otherwise I will soon come to you and fight against them with the Sword of my Mouth.”

The challenge here, for this church: “to him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden mana. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” You know, as soon as you say the words “Satan” and “church,” folks’ ears perk right up. I mean, it’s like, “oh, man, he’s talking about some good stuff today!” Why is that? I don’t know. Maybe we like being scared, or nobody else is talking about this stuff. They called this the indulged church because Satan learned from his attack on the Church of Smyrna that persecution only causes the church to flourish and continue in a perpetual state of revival. After the Diocletians’ unsuccessful attack on the church, Constantine seceded him as Emperor of Roman. Constantine’s ascendancy to the throne was not without controversy, and it had far-reaching affects on the Christian Church, way back in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. Now, Roman history tells us that Constantine contended for the throne with Maxentius after the death of Galerius, and both Roman history and church tradition indicate that Constantine, already attracted Christianity, allegedly saw a vision of a fiery cross in the sky, and saw the words, “in this sign, conquer.” Constantine believed his vision was a message from God, that if he would embrace the Christian religion, he would be able to conquer his enemies. He accepted the Christian faith, and declared himself to be its defender and protector.

There are some who accept this as a bona fide conversion on the part of Constantine, however, a careful examination of his life indicates that he either he had a poor concept of Christianity, or he had never been truly born again by the Spirit of God. One commendable thing he did, though, he ordered his bishop Eusebius to supervise the production of fifty copies of the Holy Scriptures to be used by the churches. Some of these manuscripts are the oldest existing copies of God’s Word. When Constantine became Emperor of Rome, he became the virtual emperor of the western world. As the self-styled protector of the Christian faith, he issued an edict of toleration for Christianity, and showered many favors on the Christian Church. The government provided money for the operation of the church, and many of the pagan temples were taken over by the Christians. To please the emperor, these leaders adopted customs that were parallel to pagan practices. And, this right here, is really going to mess some of you guys up. One compromise invariably leads to another, and what seemed at the start to be a great blessing, ended up to be a great curse. During the seceding three centuries of this period, many anti-Christian practices of pagan origin were adopted, which robbed the church of its fire and its evangelistic fervor. Now, what am I saying? There was this church that went around the world in the sign of the Cross, and it would meet other religions, pagan religions, and instead of casting them out or changing them, it would say, “all right, we’ll just name your god, Boo Boo Boo Boo, the Virgin Mary, and we’re going to build a church here over on top of your other temple.” That happened throughout the world. The influence of Paganism on the church increased over the years, step by step. The church began to shroud itself in a “mystery and ritualism that had a strong resemblance to Babylonian mysticism.

The Greek Tao, which is the elevation of the large T at the end of a pole, was changed to the sign of a Cross. The rosary of pagan origin was introduced. Celibacy of priests and nuns, which has no scriptural verification, finds a counterpart in the vestal virgins of Paganism and was conceived. I can give you a list of non-scriptural changes introduced during this age. Gradually, these changes became more prominent than the original teachings of Christianity. In 300A.D., Prayers for the Dead. Also, the making of the sign of the Cross. 375A.D., the worship of Saints and Angels. 394A.D., mass was first instituted. 431A.D., the worship of Mary began. 500A.D., priests began dressing differently from lay people. 526A.D., extreme unction. 593A.D., the doctrine of purgatory was introduced. 600A.D., worship services were conducted in Latin, and in 600A.D., prayers directed to Mary. From 312A.D. on, the church became more Roman and less Christian in its practices. The Roman Catholic Church of today is hard-put to trace its ancestry beyond 312A.D. Until that time, the church was an independent collection of local churches working together whenever possible, but not denominated by a central authority.

The name Pergamum literally means “marriage” or “elevation.” As the church became married to government authority and elevated to a place of acceptance, it declined in spiritual power and blessing. You know how everybody talks about the imminent return of Jesus? Well, that was big in the first three centuries, and it produced evangelism, it consecrated and made a fervent church, but that changed when Christianity became a state religion, a countrywide religion. As the church became rich and powerful, it was suggested that the world was getting better and better, and that Christ’s Kingdom was already ushered in, and that He would come at the end of the thousand-year reign. This demanded a reinterpretation of the status of Israel, which was accomplished by suggesting that Israel had been cast off forever, and the promises of Israel now applied to the Church. It was not until 1,400 years later that the coming of Christ was reemphasized, and with that came a return to evangelism. Whenever a local church or denomination has maintained a strong emphasis on the second coming of our Blessed Lord, it has been an evangelistic, missionary-sending station. Where this doctrine has been neglected, the church becomes cold, old, indifferent, and worldly. Just sayin’.

You know, the nature of Christ is revealed in Pergamum. Scripture says, ‘these are the world of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” We had previously heard that Christ selected one of the aspects of his nature as revealed to John in his vision, and presented it to each individual church. To Pergamum, he revealed the sharp, double-edged sword, which, without question, is the Word of God. The cure for the problems of the local church at Pergamum, of the Pergamum-age of the church, or any church that is of God, Christ used that word to sanctify His Churches, as in John 17:17, to cleanse it in 15:13, to bring it joy in 15:11, and to bring it peace in 16:33. Had the church, or any church of Pergamum, heeded the Word of God, the evils of the dark ages could well have been avoided.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You said in Your Word, “be still and know that I Am God.” There are so many things going on right now where we need to hear that more and more. There is nothing that You can’t stop, that You can’t fix, that You can’t help, that You heal. We ask, Lord God, that You would help us to move towards You so that we can hear Your Voice, follow Your lead, and get the blessings that we desired. Thank You for everything. It’s only in the matchless and wonderful Name of Your Son Jesus that I ask this thing. Amen.

There’s a common phrase that you’ll hear almost on any news station or any talk radio thing where they say, “speak your truth.” That’s a load of crock. That’s some B.S. That’s some bovine excrement. If all truth is subjective, everybody must be right, no matter how ridiculous, perverse, or immoral their beliefs are. You know, back in the day, back in the 70’s, a lot of R&B songs, there was a phrase that we used to say: Yo, man. Everything is everything. Well, today, they say, “speak your truth.” If all beliefs are true, then non-beliefs are false. How could anybody learn anything in the scheme of things? Also, if true is subjective, then we can hardly attempt to challenge or correct somebody else. Everybody would be just as right as the next person. Logically speaking, it’s only the absolutist who can actually challenge a belief or philosophy, and that’s because the absolutist believes people can be wrong in their beliefs. If truth is relative, it includes all moral truth, which means no one should complain about robbery, murder, or slander by those who have the moral right to do so.

See, one big problem we have with relativism is that no one can live it out consistently. So, in essence, it is much easier to consistently accept the idea that absolutes do exist in the sphere of morality and truth. How does this relate to religion? All religions claim to be the truth, even scientific ones. And, as a result, a lot of people are confused. Of course, not all religions can be fully true since they clearly contradict one another in spite of a few similarities. I always say that all of us — every religion, every faith, every belief — have some commonalities and at least one thing that is right. So, how does one know which religion is really true? Well, to answer this question, one would need to consider the claims made by each religion. Any religion claiming that it, alone is fully true and produces solid evidence to that affect is worth serious consideration for that reason alone. Of all the world religions, biblical Christianity is the only religion that makes the claim it does.

In fact, Christianity makes bold claims that other religions do not, including salvation and forgiveness of sin based on grace not merit or deeds, assurance of salvation and eternal life through faith and belief in Jesus Christ, and in Jehovah God being the only one and true God, Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. Either Christianity is the greatest thing for mankind or the biggest lie ever told to mankind. What really makes Christianity unique among world religions? Jesus. If you want to see how everybody is rollin’? Ask them what the Jesus thing is in their faith. Who is Jesus to you? That separates everybody. You want to draw a line? Bring up Jesus. So, why is it that you can talk about God, and nobody gets upset, but as soon as you mention Jesus, people want to go and stop the conversation? Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius offend people? What makes Jesus so different from other religious leaders? I’ll tell you what. These others didn’t claim to be God, but Jesus did. That is what makes Him so different. For many people, this claim is too exclusive, too narrow for them to want to believe, as if one’s belief is the key element. See, that’s not so for Christianity. One’s belief is important, but not the key element. Christians do not accept the cliche that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe it enough.

The Christian faith is an objective faith, therefore it must have an object. Jesus Christ is that object. For the Christian, the value is not in the one believing, but in the One who is believed in. Faith’s object: Jesus Christ. The issue is not what we want to think or believe, but rather who Jesus Christ is, and who He claimed to be. You follow me so far? I’m going to try to tackle at least one big, audacious subject like this every week, if I can.

One of the things that happened, and one of the things that is a big misconception is that folks say that Jesus didn’t really claim to be God. They try to find an out. One assumption is that those who lived at the time of Christ misunderstood Him as we are misunderstanding Him today. In other words, Jesus didn’t really claim to be God. But, He did. Jesus not only claimed equality with God as His Father, but He also asserted that He was the one in essence or nature with God. Go to the Gospel of John. Jesus continually spoke of Himself as being One with God. In the Book of Mark, Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins, which, according to Jewish Law, only God could do. Folks were ready to stone Him every time He brought this up. The Scriptures attribute characteristics to Him that can be true only of God — self-existent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, possessing eternal life. And the Gospels present Jesus as the actual embodiment of truth and love.

It’s important to understand than an attribute isn’t something that is a part of God, but something that is true of God. How about the trial of Jesus? Unique among criminal trials is this one, which, not by the actions, but by the identity of the accused. That’s the issue. Jesus was tried for blasphemy. In most trials, people are tried for what they have done. Jesus was tried for what he was claiming to be. You see, the people of His day, were highly cultured and intensely religious people. They did not misunderstand Him, just as we are not misunderstanding Him today. The references are abundant and their meanings are clear. In Mark 2:10, Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sin. He said that He was Lord over the Sabbath. That’s in Mark 2:28. In Mark 14:62 and Luke 22:66-71, Jesus called Himself “I Am,” the name God used of Himself in Exodus 3:14. Jesus said He was the one who sent prophets to Israel in Matthew 23:43. He referred to Himself as fulfillment of the Scriptures, like, a few times. Luke 4:21, and John mentioned it in 5:39. He claimed that to reject Him was to die in sin. Ain’t my words, it comes right out of the Book, in John 8:24. In the Book of John, chapter 8, verse 51, Jesus said that those who kept His Words would never see death, and in a few verses later in verse 58, He attested to His own eternalization. In John 10:30, He claimed to be of the same nature as the Father. He claimed to be Lord in John 13:13, and the only way to God (John 14:6), which people just go crazy over. And in John 14:9, Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” Equally significant, though perhaps not as noticeable to our 21st century Western minds, our Jesus’s repeated references to Himself as the Son of Man. More than eighty times, Jesus uses “Son of Man” as a title for Himself. Jesus’s use of the term was referenced to Daniel 7:13 and 14 in which the prophet speaks of “one like a Son of Man seated with the Ancient of Days who presided with authority over the world and all its people.”

See, Jesus’s listeners would have known that passage as well. We find one such use of this title, Son of Man, during Jesus’s exchange with the Jewish high priest in the Book of Mark, chapter 14, verses 60-64. The New American Standard version says, “The high priest stood up and came forward to question Jesus saying, ‘Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?’ But, He kept silent and did not answer. Again, the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am. You shall see the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven.’ Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. How does this seem to you?’ And, they all condemned Him to the deserving of death.”

The reason they called for Jesus’s execution was because, in their minds at least, He had committed blasphemy. He said that He was God. And, that is why nobody wants you to say that Jesus word.