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Compromise or Revival?
The last days are coming, and the Church can't have it both ways
I hear believers ask me all the time about the need for revival. What will it take? Will it happen in America? When will it happen? Will there be an outpouring of the Spirit in the last days?
When God talks about a nation being revived, He gives a road map to that nation’s recovery in 2 Chronicles:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”—2 Chronicles 7:14
In its initial context, these words were given to the nation Israel. But in principle, they apply to any nation—including our own. God was saying, “Before I talk about the problems in the country, I want to talk to my people, the Church.”
That’s not just an Old Testament reality. The same truth is clear in the book of Revelation, in which Jesus spends quite a bit of time talking about what is important to him as far as the Church is concerned. Yes, Revelation spends a lot of time describing the future of the world. But before we hear about the cataclysmic judgments that are coming, first Jesus wants to talk to His Church.
He focuses in on the people of God like a laser beam.
We’re living in a time when a lot of people are very critical of the Church. Some say we need to re-envision or redesign the church for today. I beg to differ.
I don’t think we need to reimagine the Church; I think we need to rediscover it.
I don’t think we need to redefine what God has already defined. Instead, we need to get back to the Church as it was in the beginning, the way Jesus initially established it. That is the Church that turned the world upside down.
Strengthened by Persecution
Jesus is really into the Church. And if we are his followers, then we should be too.
After the Resurrection, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). I find it interesting that the first two letters of the word gospel are G-O. And that is what Jesus told his disciples to do.
But they didn’t go. They stayed in Jerusalem. They were having this great holy huddle, and no one wanted to break ranks. Then along came Saul of Tarsus, who had built his reputation hunting down Christians like wild animals. Others persecuted the Church as well.
But instead of destroying the Church through persecution, the Devil effectively helped to strengthen it. Saul of Tarsus converted and became the Apostle Paul, the first Christian missionary. He planted churches all over the region. In the face of persecution, Christians ended up scattering, which spread the Gospel message around the world.
Historically, the Church tends to be stronger when it is being persecuted than when it is being patronized.
The Dangers of Compromise
However, I think the Devil operates by the old adage, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That’s what we see happening with “the compromising church” in Pergamum, known in some translations as Pergamos. The Devil essentially joined that church and infiltrated its ranks. Jesus had very strong words for the Christians of Pergamum.
In Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable about a man who planted a crop of wheat. But during the night, the man’s enemy planted weeds—also known as tares, or darnel seeds—among the wheat. Initially, tares look just like wheat. But as they grow, the tares ultimately uproot the wheat and kill it.
In the same way, the Devil recognizes that he needs to simply infiltrate and flood the market with cheap substitutes. We see this happening all the time with anything that becomes popular. If one style of music catches on, a bunch of imitators show up. If a certain style of clothing gains popularity, everyone jumps on board with their version of that design. If a certain electronic device becomes popular, everyone imitates it.
This is what Jesus said in His assessment of the Church in Pergamum:
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.”—Revelation 2:13
At the time, Pergamum, the capital of Asia at that time, was a spiritually dark place. (The nickname “Satan’s city” should have given you a pretty good indication of this.)
This doesn’t mean there weren’t any Christians serving the Lord in Pergamum. They existed, and Jesus recognized and commended them.
Little Things Become Big Things
But then Jesus also told those believers that He had some complaints against them. That’s not something you ever want to hear from Jesus:
“You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam…. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching.”—Revelation 2:14–15
Who were the Nicolaitans? Their founder was Nicolas, one of the seven leaders chosen to be deacons in the early Church (see Acts 6:5). But apparently Nicolas fell away from the faith and began to lead people astray. He was telling people they could be Christians while still offering sacrifices in the pagan temple and engaging in acts of immorality.
Because he was one of the original deacons in the church, his opinion carried a lot of weight. So a movement grew up around him, and followers of his teaching were known as the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitan philosophy that was endangering the Church of Pergamum. (It remains a danger to the Church today.)
That philosophy is simply this: You can get away with a lot of stuff and still be a Christian. You can live pretty much as you please, and God will understand.
What is the biblical response to that view?
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”—Romans 6:1-2
In other words, you can’t have it both ways. The philosophy of the Nicolaitans was that a little idolatry or a little immorality wasn’t doing any harm. But that’s the problem with compromise. Little things turn into big things.
Repercussions are Coming
Compromise is the Devil’s most effective tactic. He seeks to bring Christians down through a series of small, seemingly insignificant temptations. Compromise within the Church is one of the things keeping us from revival.
So don’t lower your guard and fall for this trap.
Of course, you can choose to live your life any way you want to. But if you’re living a life of compromise, you will face the repercussions of it eventually. If you ask for God’s forgiveness, He will forgive you, but you still will have to face the repercussions. And ultimately, you will reap what you sow.
I hope revival is coming soon to our nation. But if we continue to compromise, I know judgment is also coming soon.