Unleashing God's Truth, One Verse at a Time

A Warning to this Church

Selected Scriptures

Code: 1220

Recent months in my personal study of the Word of God I have studied greatly concerning the Church in preparation for a book which I have written, which cost a lot of time and investment of my own study. I went over the Church and over it and over it and over it and what the Church should be. One thing kept coming to my mind as I studied. And that was the tremendous importance of warning the Church. How the Apostle Paul said, "That I have not ceased for the space of three years, both night and day, to warn you." And I thought to myself that if there is such a tremendous concern over warning and that if Paul, as he said, knew that there would be grievous wolves enter in, not sparing the flock then the church stands in need of not only exhortation. And not only challenge, and not only information but the Church stands in a serious need of warning.

And so God laid that on my heart and it rested there for a long time. And then I began to study and to think and to pursue some things. And the Spirit of God has finally brought me to this moment this morning when I want to give a warning to Grace Church. And I give this, not only out of the involvement of study in the Word of God, but right out of the deepest recesses of my heart. Which is so inextricably wound up together with what Grace Church is really all about, and my own personal and deep love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and the desire for His glory. So what I am saying this morning, I trust and pray God will speak to your hearts, not only today, but I'm almost tempted to say that maybe we ought to make everybody in this church listen to it again, every six months till Jesus comes. Not because it's such a great sermon, because it isn't, but just because the principles that we'll be sharing are the only principles that will ever guarantee that this church will succeed in being the church that Jesus wants it to be until He comes.

And there are many churches far greater than this that have long since passed along the wayside and over which God has written one word, "Ichabod, the glory has departed." It can happen. Recently in a large city a man took me to a church, it happened to be a Baptist church. That's immaterial, it just did. And it was the big church, the largest one in the city, the first church. And the man said it seats 2,500 and they have all these facilities. And I said, "That's great. How many people go there?" And the man said, "50." And I saw again, how Satan moves in and destroys what God has begun to build and then our Lord Christ Himself, sweeps into a church with judgment, with the feet of burnished brass and stomps out the judgment on that church and obliterates it.

And I, again, was reminded of the importance of reminding you that just such a thing could happen to Grace Community Church. And you need to be warned. To begin with, I want you to turn in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 10 with me for a moment. And we know that Satan is active. Believe me, people, in the last 48 hours of my life I have been in hand-to-hand combat with Satan, with demons, in the last month and within the last six months of my ministry to an extent that I have never even realized before. And even just in this very hour this morning, I've been dealing with a conflict of God and Satan in the lives of individuals.

Now I am aware of something as I take you to Daniel chapter 10 and I am reminded of it in Daniel 10 and that is this. Wherever God begins to move, count on it, Satan will move in counter attack. That is inevitable. That will always happen. There is not a sometime thing to that statement. It is always true. Whenever God begins to move, Satan moves in counter attack. Now I don't care if you're talking about the human level, the natural level or the supernatural level. God is in a conflict with Satan even in the air. In Jude chapter 9, you know that the Devil and Michael had a fight over the body of Moses. Here was a conflict between angels.

Now when you come to Daniel chapter 10, Daniel sees an angel. And this is an angel of extremely high rank and that is indicated because of the description of him in verse 6 of chapter 10, and verse 5 gives a little bit of it. But verse 6 gives us a picture of a fantastic being. And there are some who would say that this, as compared with 8:16 would be a reference to Gabriel. So you're talking about a high ranking angel in God's angelic host. So Daniel was seeing this angel Gabriel. Now we pick it up in verse 10, "Now behold a hand touched me." And here Daniel is lying flat on the ground according to verse 9, "And the angel reaches down and touches me. It set me upon my knees and upon my the palms of my hands." The literal Hebrew is that he began to reel back and forth on his knees.

And he said to me, "Oh Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee and stand upright for unto thee am I now sent." This angel is from God. God has dispersed this angel, to carry out the request of Daniel. And it has reference to the release of Israel, of course. And so he is sending this angel. And Daniel says, "And when I heard this word unto me, I stood trembling. And then he said unto me, Fear not Daniel, for from the first day thou didst set thy heart to understand and chasten thyself before thy God. Thy words were heard and I have come for thy words." In other words, the angel said, "God heard you praying Daniel. And because of the words of your prayer, God sent me to carry out the answer." God uses angels for the disposition of his answers in prayer.

And so God sends this angel, perhaps Gabriel, to come down and carry out this ministry in relation to Israel. Verse 13, "But," and here's the interesting point, "the Prince of Kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days." Now this angel, even great an angel, as high a ranking angel as Gabriel, God hung up in space by this individual called the Prince of the Kingdom of Persia. Now this is a demon. All of the god's of the nations are demons and you can read a lot in the Old Testament about the power behind certain nations being demonic power. A demon actually controlled the leadership of Persia. And he dominated the Persian government. Later on if you go to verse 20, you'll find that a demon also dominates Greece. The Prince of Greece is another demon.

And so God sends this angel and he is withstood. The angel of course would be sent to release Israel and the demon of Persia would desire to hold them captive. And so there's a conflict going on. And 21 days this demon detains Gabriel, if it be indeed Gabriel. But here comes the champion angel, the warrior angel. But, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes came to help me. God dispatched Michael and said, "Get down there and help that other angel." Now isn't that interesting. There we see conflict between demons and holy angels on a special level, a spiritual world level. You can go over the Revelation Chapter 12, and you don't need to at this point, but in your mind. And you'll find, beginning in verse 7, the Bible says, "And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels, I guess Satan. And so when we're talking about conflict, even at the highest level, the supernatural world, when God moves to do something, Satan moves to stop what he's dong. And there's a conflict going on in space among holy angels and demons.

Now if this be true on a supernatural level, let us not be foolish enough to think it's not true on a natural level. Satan is the prince of this world. Satan is the one who controls the system. If the demon is behind Persia and another demon is behind Greece, he is behind the whole thing. And so Satan is active in the world and this is obvious to any Christian who begins to move out for God. To illustrate this, merely from a biblical context, so that we fit it in the right context take the book of 1 Peter. For just a moment in memory; let's think of it because we're not going to look at anything specific, really. But in the book of 1 Peter you have the outline in graphic form for really what amounts to Christian growth and fruitful ministry. Peter lays it on when he says, "First it begins, you know in the first chapter with a solid salvation. You are not redeemed with comfortable things, silver and gold, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, the precious blood of Christ. He says, "Really, reckon your salvation. Start with a solid salvation. Then a commitment to the word as babes desire the ______ milk of the word." Then he goes from there and he talks about a total dedication to serve Christ if you're a chosen generation of holy priesthood. He moves through the books, giving all the ingredients for commitment. Then he says, "Be a pure testimony to the world." You know, speak so that you put the silence the ignorance of foolish men. Be a testimony, obey the government. Submit all these things can make you an aggressive, positive, fruitful minister in the world.

And then he moves from there and says you need to be willing to suffer. And then he goes and says you need proper relationships with others. Even your husband wife thing, all these things are wrapped up. He goes on from there to talk about the priority of love and the priority of prayer. He wraps it up by talking about humility and trust. And goes all through this in the beginning of chapter 5 and it's so good and you feel so strong. And all of a sudden you come to chapter 5 and bang, you run smack into 5, 8 and 9 and this is what it says, "Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, who resist steadfast in the faith." You say, "What's your point?" My point is this, if a Christian ever follows the pattern of Peter, it is inevitable that it he will have to be sober and vigilant because Satan will move right in.

James said this, "Submit yourselves to God." And then James knew what would happen immediately and in the same breath said, "Resist," what? "The devil." Because as soon as a believer submits to God in the fullest sense, whammo, Satan moves in to destroy. And he has all different approaches. Now if it's true on a supernatural level that the conflict exists and if it's also true on a personal level the conflict exists then I believe that it's true at the level of the church. I believe that if a church begins to grow, Satan begins to work against it. And I hope these aren't words, people, I hope you understand what I'm talking about is critically serious.

And I think the most shocking thing that ever happened to me in my life, among some things that have been very shocking, but the most shocking thing that has ever happened to me when I encountered a person that was full of demons. I walked into the room knowing this was the situation because I had been forewarned and I was asked to come and pray and see what God would do. And I came in the door and this person attacked me and these demons started to speak and they knew me. Now that was a shock. I mean I knew there was a demon world but I didn't know they knew me. And they did not like me. That part I enjoyed immensely. There were two things that I really enjoyed about that opportunity. One was that they hated me and that meant that I had at least made enough of a dent in the demonic world to be despised. The second thing was that when it was all over, they fled and I was still there. And I praised God for that. They are no threat to me or to any believer who stands on the truths of Scripture.

But I'll tell you the shock of it was that Satan knew me. And they knew exactly who I was and endeavored to attack me through this person. And you know I began to think, "You know, Satan must know Grace Church very, very well." And then I began to think, "And he's fighting against us very hard, very hard." When we are in a conflict it seems incessible with Satan. And so far we have seen victory. But then I began to think and apply this to my mind in terms of what I knew about warning the church and I was brought to this place this morning to say to you, "People, I warn you. We cannot, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2, 'We cannot be ignorant of Satan's devices least he should get an advantage of us." Better churches by far than this, with better pastors by far than this have gone down the drain; been destroyed by the power of Satan. And we need to be warned.

Now so vulnerable is the church to the blistering attacks of Satan and to his subtleties that our Lord Jesus Christ wrote seven special letters to the churches. They are contained in Revelation 2 and 3 and I want you to look at them in your Bibles. And what I'm going to say to you this morning is going to be as strong as I can say it and as uncompromising as I can say it. Because, beloved, I love you with all my heart, but I love Jesus Christ more and I at this point in my own life, die for the purity of His church. So what I say I say out of a heart of love both to you and to our Lord.

Now the church stands in need of some special warning and the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are just that. Two of the seven need no warning because they are positively beautiful churches. Everything is in order and you know what churches they were? The little Smyrna church. And you know why it was such a good church? It was under persecution and persecution purifies the church. And the other really good church was Philadelphia. And Philadelphia was a pure church because it was totally lost in winning others to Christ, among other great qualities. But the church that is under the attack of the world an the church that is confronting the world with the Gospel, that indicates there will be an attack as well, are the churches that needed no warning. All five of the other churches have specific warning from Christ.

Now let me say this by way of introduction. These seven letters were to seven actually churches. They did exist in which times John had the visions and wrote the words of our Lord. But more than that, they are representative of every type of church. You can take every type of church there is and you can fit them into one of these slots. In fact you could probably find in each church some of each kind of these members. You could probably find in our church some Laodiceans and some Philadelphians and some Ephesians and some of the others. But basically here what we have is how the church will go. We have a pattern of church history here. In fact there may be a sense in which this is the flow of church history going from one to the next. But I really think what you have here in the most dominant scene is the seven kinds of churches that there are and five of them are in need of warning. And so we need to stand warned today.

Look at chapter 1 verse 11. John sees Jesus and he hears him say, "I am Alpha and Omega. The first and the last and what thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea." He says I want to send seven letters to my churches. And the vision that he has then is a beautiful one. It is the vision of Christ moving among the churches, ministering. Verse 12, "And I turned to see the voice that spoke to me and being turned I saw seven golden lamp stands." Representing the churches, of course. "And in the midst of seven lamp stands, one like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot and girted about the breast with a golden girdle." Of course garments like that were worn by three types of people, prophets, priests and kings. And there's Christ in his three-fold ministry. And he's moving among the church. "His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow." And there's his purity. "And his eyes like a flame of fire," searching penetrating exposure, "and his feet like fine bronze as if they burned in a furnace." The crushing blows of judgment. "And his voice like the sound of many waters," as He spoke judgment. "In his right hand seven stars," these are the ministers of angels of the churches, "and out of his mouth a sharp, two edged sword." He's moving among a church, beloved, in judgment. He's moving among his church, judging and cleaning with the Word. You see as He's trimming the lamps of his church. Verse 20 says, "The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in his right hand and the seven golden lamp stands. And the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lamp stands which you saw are the seven churches."

So, here's Christ and Christ is moving within the church. And as he moves about in the church he is judging the church. He is searching; he is penetrating with his eyes to see the fatal flaw that may be at any point visible to Him in the church. And it's always visible. Five of these churches were exposed. And beloved this morning I want to expose us to these five, sad, tragic things that Satan does to destroy the church. And I think in my heart that you can put every destructive angel of Satan into these five areas. If we know these five we shall not be ignorant of his devices.

Now let me say this, we are blessed here at Grace Community Church. We are blessed in so many ways. WE have been blessed by spiritual growth. Many of you have matured in the Lord and what a joy and a blessing you are in our hearts. And what a productive life you have in the lives of other people. You are productive and you are maturing and you are growing and we praise God. And you're loving His Word and all of these things. And then we see numerical growth. Numerical growth stagers our ability to even imagine what God might have done. We're seeing souls won to Christ. We're seeing individuals reproducing. We're seeing discipling and follow up that is done fruitfully. We're seeing, I think, a love among Christians in certain areas that is beautiful and there's caring going on and all that is needful in that dimension. And we're seeing a growing and aggressive interest in world missions as we extend ourselves.

And from an angle of theology, we stand, you know for the real rudiments of the faith, don't we here? I mean we stand uncompromising for the authenticity of the Scripture, it's verbal _____ inspiration. We are not interested in getting involved with people who do not believe and are not committed to that. We believe in the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Deity of God the Father, the Deity of the Spirit of God, their equal personality and yet their oneness. We stand for the virgin birth of Christ, His sinless life, His bodily resurrection, His bodily visible second coming. We stand for all these things.

We preach salvation plus nothing. We preach salvation by faith and nothing. We believe in the principles of discipleship. We believe in the saints doing the work of the ministry. We try with all of our hearts to come to the New Testament patterns of the church. But, beloved, let me say this, this church has never been in more danger than it is right now. And I mean that. And I say that because this church has never grown like it is now. And just as we are growing, so in proportion is Satan actively and aggressively counteracting what we're trying to do. Believe me, Satan is against us, he hates us and he wants to destroy us. And the most stupid thing we could do, the most fatal thing we could do is to be content. To be smug, to be indifferent, to be non-vigilant, to sort of wallow in some kind of cold, self-satisfied orthodoxy, you know? And be non-vigilant while the enemy seeps in and devours.

You know most of the 330,000 churches in America were started with a fresh and a warm commitment to Jesus Christ. And most of them now don't even belong to Jesus Christ, they belong to Satan. We have here a tremendous trust. Our men met together and are talking about building another auditorium, that's apparent why. We've been in this only a year and look at us, in both services. And they were talking about building an auditorium to seat 2,500 with an expansion possibility to 4,000 because we don't know where God's going in the future with this thing.

And I went home after thinking about that and I spent a little bit of time in prayer with the Lord and I faced a very sobering question. And it's this, if we're talking about building more buildings and if we're talking about making commitments to more missionaries, and we're talking about getting more involved in all these various things it's going to take commitment from us. Aren't we also willing to guarantee that this building we build and this involvement we move into will always be a place where Jesus Christ is glorified until he comes again? Because, people, there have been a lot of times when Christians have made that commitment and just haven't kept it. There are churches all over America where that commitment came and all they've got is a stone monument to a man or a stone monument to a board. Or a stone monument who was wealthy enough and wanted to put up a memorial and they've got nothing that even smacks of the spirit of God's power.

And I say to you if we are not interested in committing our lives to the future of this church until Jesus comes that it purely proclaim the unsearchable riches of the Scriptures without compromise then I'm not interested in putting another nickel into this church. I don't know if I'm interesting to putting another day in it. And I mean that. I'm not interested in temporary activities. I'm interested in what Paul said to the Ephesians. He said, "Having done all," to what, "stand." There are a lot of churches that have done it all but when the smoke clears they went down the drain. They were active at one time. That's sad. Is Grace Church just to become another monument, just another stone quarry on the corner? Or are we to be a Christ exalting, Bible believing, uncompromising center for growth and evangelism to the very day that Jesus comes. I pray God we are. The day comes the Lord may take me or move me somewhere in his providence. Are you prepared to make the commitment of your heart to maintain the purity of this church at all costs?

You are the key and may it go on record, from this day, March 18, 1973 that you have been warned by our Lord Christ Himself. That Satan wants to damn this church. Believe me these are timeless warnings, let us hear them. The first thing that Satan uses to destroy the church is the loss of first love. The loss of first love, chapter 2. "Under the angel of the church of Ephesus write, these things set thee that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands; here is what he says to Ephesus. 'I know your works and your labor." And the word is kappas, sweat, they really sweat, they worked, they labored. And that's a commendable thing. Most Christians, their lifetime of labor added together wouldn't exhaust a butterfly. They were really working. That most of us don't know the meaning of kappas, toil and labor for the cause of Christ. And I know your patience. You know they had hupomonas, steadfast endurance against hardships. And you can't bear them that are evil. Boy they were solid. They didn't like sin and they didn't tolerate sin. Not only that they were strong in doctrine. You tried them who say they are apostles and are not; you found them liars. They exposed false prophets.

Boy, that's a strong church. There's a church that works hard, they sweat and they labor and they endure hardship and they can't stand sin and they try false teachers and they deal with false doctrine. There's a doctrinally strong church. You know who founded that church? Who founded it? Paul. Who could chose anybody in the whole universe of history, who would you chose? Paul. Man they had a beginning like no beginning. Paul came into town and He started preaching and flipped Ephesus on it's ear. Ephesus was a very pagan city. The temple of Diana and Artemas, the Seven Wonders of the World was there. And there was all these eunuchs and thousands of priests, prostitutes that plied their trade under the guise of religion. And old Paul came in there and he started teaching, read about it in Acts 19, and he absolutely blitzed that city. The trade of the sale of idols fell off so much that a riot started. They tried to kill him. Here huddled in the middle of that place were these little believers.

And Paul stayed there really he was just; he would never even got the church together for the first two years. He was either in the synagogue or in the House of Toranas for a couple of years. Teaching and disputing and going over the gospel and people were getting saved and miracles were happening and Ephesus was going completely in two directions. And that little church was pure and that little church was solid. You know when Paul left they got another pastor that wasn't half-bad, Timothy. And if that wasn't enough they got Ecola and Pricilla, when that didn't do it they got that golden voiced orator of the early church. Apollos himself came there and taught them. I mean you talk about a line of good teachers. That church didn't suffer from the lack of having good leadership. The best that God had He gave to Ephesus.

People always sit back and say, "Well, we've got a Bible teacher at our church, we're alright." Don't kid yourself. They had Paul, Timothy, Ecola, Pricilla and Apollos. That's the ranking staff of the New Testament, friends, in terms of communicating the truth. In the middle of that city where people were worshiping in a kind of hysterical frenzy where they mutilated their bodies sexually in a worship of Diana. And _______ said they were worse than animals because animals didn't even mutilate themselves. It was a sick place. And huddled in the middle of it was this little ball of vitality for Jesus Christ that Paul was whipping up that was just really spinning people around and around as they touched their lives for Christ.

And it was a great place when Paul was there. Things were really moving and God was blessing. And you see, they had four things that every great church has: service, steadfastness, suppression of evil, and strong doctrine. And you come to verse 3, it says, "And hast borne", you've endured, it's been rough. "And hast patience," he endured patiently, "and for My name's sake you worked." They didn't even have a selfish motive. They worked for the glory of God; they had the right motive: glory of God. "And you didn't faint," you didn't get tired. You say, "Man, that's a good church. I wish Grace Church was like that." I think we are a little bit like that; I think we're a little bit like that. I think a lot of you work and you've been patient. You've endured. You're faithful. I think we know sound doctrine. I think we stand on it. I think there are many of us who are concerned with dealing with sin. I think a lot of those things to be true of us.

Bang! Look at verse 4. And I imagine when they read this thing in Ephesus, it hit like a thunderbolt. "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast," what? "Left thy first love." Oh! That's just hits ... that just breaks your heart. You say, "All that good." And then He says, "I have something against you. You've left your first love." You know what was happening there? They were falling more in love with their orthodoxy than they were with their Christ, you see. They were so happy with what they were that they got their eyes off of Him, onto their church. Well, if you ever start loving Grace Church more than you love Jesus Christ, you're in bad shape.

You know, love is the basis of all kinds of ministry that is fruitful. We don't want to become mechanical and have our orthodoxy some kind of strawbandthat we lift up in front of everybody. You know, when Jesus confronted Peter at the close of the gospel of John in chapter 21, He said to him three times, "Do you love Me," didn't He? "You love Me?" Peter says, "I like you a lot." He couldn't say he loved Him in the fullest sense ogupaybecause he'd blown it so many times; he didn't want to be a hypocrite. Jesus says again, "Do you love Me?" And he says, "Well, I like you a lot." Jesus says to him, and this really hurt him, He says, "Peter, I'm not even sure you like Me a lot." Peter says, "Lord, You know everything. You know I like You a lot." Jesus says, "All right. Feed my sheep."

On what basis did Jesus commission Peter to do his job? On the basis that he what? That he loved Him. You're not good to the service of God if all it is is cold mechanical function. Have you lost your love for Jesus Christ? Have you gotten sidetracked onto something else? What you're doing is cranking out some kind of activity but it doesn't any of the energy that love of Christ brings to it, see. An old Ephesus missed the one thing that was so important.

It was one of the best churches I've ever seen; it had everything. Everything! And the Lord looked, and He saw, and His eyes penetrated to a thought that He hit right on the head: you left your first love. Consciously you turned away and you walked away from it. Those days of the hot-hearts, you know, the passion had turned into cold orthodoxy and the service of a performance. They just went through the motions, all orthodox and loveless. You know, people have told me many times. They said, "John. Well, your church is exciting and God's blessing. But it's the honeymoon and it'll end and everything will cool down." The days it does, that's the day that I'm going to get down on my knees before God and say, "What happened to me?"

It cooled down in Ephesus. You know there wasn't any great scandal. I mean the pastor didn't run off with some woman. Three people didn't rip the church into three sections. There wasn't any organizational collapse. You know what happened? The innerspring of love dried up and it became mechanical orthodoxy. The thrill was gone. The enthusiasm was gone. Let me ask you something beloved, you're Grace Church, aren't you? You're it. It's not some ethereal building on a corner in Panorama City; you're it. And so if Grace Church loses first love it's only because you did and I did. I'm not talking about some kind of a foggy concept called a church; I'm talking about you.

Let me ask you this: Is it a fair description of your Christian life to say that you've fallen out of first love with Jesus? Can you honestly say that more than anything else in all the world you love Him? More than anything else, do you long to spend time with Him on your knees? More than anything else, do you long to read the Word of God and penetrate its depths that you know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering? More than anything else in the world, do you long to please Him whom you love completely? More than anything else in existence, including Grace Church, do you love Jesus Christ and do you desire His fellowship and His companionship and do you want to know Him in fullest way? If you don't, you've left your first love.

Remember when you first got saved? You didn't know anything but Jesus and you couldn't get sidetracked. And now you've found out there's such a thing as the church. And then you found there's such a thing as theology. And then you found there's such a thing as trivius. And maybe you've started getting attached to all of these things and you've stopped really just spending your hours falling in love with Him. There's only one way to do that. That's to get into Word because that's where He is. And that's to spend time in prayer and that's where you talk to Him.

The honeymoon did end in Ephesus. The thing that Paul feared most happened. When he left Ephesus, they fell all over his neck and they kissed and they cried like a bunch of little babies. They cried because he taught them so well, they loved so much. But something happened. I don't know what happened. The Bible doesn't tell us, but it happened. Christians got sidetracked onto their orthodoxy, forgot about loving Jesus.

What does He tell them to do, verse 5? Remember. "Remember therefore where from where you're fallen." What to know something simple? You know that spiritual defection often just begins with a lousy memory. Did you know that? More people fail to really trust God and love God just because they forget what He did. And they forget what it was like at the beginning. See? He simple says, "Remember from where you're fallen." Remember you need to be loving Him. Remember. Go backwards. What was it like when you first met Jesus? Remember those days? When all you did was love Him? And all you wanted to do was praise Him? That first time when Christ came into your life, and as you begun to realize that He was all and all. And the Word was fresh and vital. And prayer was everything. And praise just flowed. He says, "And now it's all turned into a mechanical kind of function of orthodoxy." Remember.

Second: repent. "Remember from where thou art fallen and repent." You know that it's sin not to love the Lord, Jesus Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Do you know that? It's sin. I don't want a church full of people who love Grace Church. Particularly, I want a church full of people who love Jesus Christ and then they'll love each other, won't they? Christ knows that the cooling of first love is the forerunner to spiritual apathy. If your love is cold, Christian, I say to you this morning, if you love anything more than Jesus Christ, you have left your first love. Jesus should be that first love, shouldn't He? Repent; it's a sin. And then repeat. I like this.

He says in verse 5, "And do the first works." He says, "Forget all the stuff that's come about in the interim. Go back and do what you used to do." What did you first do when you fell in love with Jesus? You prayed, didn't you? You read your Bible. And it was all so fresh and it was all so vital. And it was all so exciting. And it was all so simple, you know? And somehow it became mechanical. And it became cold. And it became structured. And it became dominated by systematization. And there just wasn't that vitality anymore. And that's deadly, you see. You got to start somewhere. So we start by remembering, repenting, repeating.

You know what happened to Ephesus? Jesus Christ came and wrote "Ichabod" on it. Verse 5 says, "Or else I will come unto thee quickly and remove thy lamp. Stand out of its place except thou repent." You want to hear something sad? Ephesus didn't repent and it doesn't exist. I don't know how such a thing could happen. But I'll tell you one thing. It penetrates my heart. If it happened Ephesus, friends, Satan can do it here. Do you believe that? It's our battle to be sure he doesn't.

Second thing that Satan uses to destroy the church is compromise with the world. Pergamos. Skipping Smyrna because there's nothing condemned about them; they were under persecution and that always purifies the church. Now quickly, just let me give you this. This is a compromising church. This is the church that wants to kowtow to the world. This is the church that says, "Well, we want to reach people with the gospel." And they're evangelical. So what do they do? They include all the unbelievers.

A guy said to me this week, this week, he said, "You know," he said, "we don't really have too many problems in our church. The only one is that about half of our elders aren't saved." Now that is not small problem, beloved. How can Christ have any concord with Satan? But you see, Pergamos thought that's the way to go. See, that's love without qualification. That's a mushy kind of love that God doesn't know anything about. "Well, let's get the world in and we'll love them. And we'll bring them in and make them a part. And then we'll win them over." That's like inviting cancer into your system just to show how strong your resistance is. That's no good. This church thought that's the way to go.

I talked to a fellow who said to me, "You know," he said, "We don't question people when they join the church, at all. We just accept them in the love of Christ." And problems, that you wouldn't believe, exist, unbelievers in all kinds of positions of leadership. And then he asked me what we do. And I said, "Well, what we do is this: if a person wants to become a member of Grace Church, first of all, they write out their full testimony and I read it or Lenny reads it. Secondly, they're contacted by a deacon who interviews them to determine they really know Christ. And thirdly, they stand up before the board of elders and give their personal testimony." Three times they need to make public, clear, and concise that they know the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because we don't love the unsaved. We love the unsaved as Jesus loved them, as His heart was broken so was ours. We just don't want them functioning in the framework of the church. That's being unequally yoke with unbelievers. That's deadly. That's what Pergamos did.

Look at it, verse 13, "I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's throne is." You know, this little church was slapped in a city that was really strange place. Pergamos was the center of the worship of Caesar, emperor worship. Pergamos also had the distinguishing mark of being the place where the altar of Zeus was located, which was the largest, most famous altar in the world when the people worshipped Zeus. It was shaped like a giant throne. It maybe that Satan's throne was synonymous to a reference to that altar.

But perhaps better is to recall that there was, in Pergamos, the Pergamese god. The god always associated with Pergamos was Esculapius. And Esculapius was the god of healing. And there was a medical school--and that is using the word in its most unrefined possible context. But there was a medical school there and a temple. And people came from all over the world to get healed by Esculapius. And the way Esculapius did it, was this: the people would come into this temple and they would lie on the floor and sleep there for days. And on that floor, there were snakes slithering and crawling all over everywhere. And when a person was touched by one of those snakes that was the healing touch of Esculapius.

Well this, of course, comes from that old serpent, himself, a demonic religion and this was right was going on in Pergamos. This dominated that society. And here in the middle of this place is this little flock of believers. And he says, "I know you're in a tough spot, you're fighting the lions in their own den. You're right where Satan's seat is. And it's not easy." He says, "And you hold fast My name." Here you're holding up the banner and you haven't denied My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr who was slain among you where Satan dwells. I mean old Antipas down there he stood true. He didn't fall or he died. You've been true and you've held the faith. And you've kept it and you haven't denied. So He commends them.

You know, here was a church that held onto true, good, solid principles. They were fundamental in the purist sense. But then in verse 14, He says, "I have a few things against you. Because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam." Now let me summarize that. The doctrine of Balaam comes from Numbers 22:25. Balak, the king of Moab, tried to hire Balaam to curse Israel because he wanted to get rid of Israel. So he hired this prophet Balaam, who was a prophet for hire if you can imagine. But there are such today, believe me, preachers for hire. False ones. And so anyway, Balaam was hired to curse Israel three times but like most prophets for hire, he was worthless. He tried three times and nothing happened. So Balak figured out some more strategy and he decided he'd get the Moabite women to seduce sexually, the Israelite men. And then he force fornication and intermarriage. And he knew that if he could intermarry with Israel, he'd destroy them and corrupt them. And it worked. It worked.

And you know what the Lord Jesus says to the church here at Pergamos? He says, "You know what's happened? You got somebody in your church who's teaching that you ought to wed the world; that you ought to be infiltrated with the system. That unbelievers ought to be mingled with believers." It's a sad thing but that's exactly what happened, compromise with the world. You know that Jesus Christ condemns such compromise. Verse 16 shocks me; "Repent or else I will come unto thee quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth." Can you imagine Jesus fighting His own church? He hates that kind of infiltration.

2 Corinthians 6:14, He says, "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." He goes on to say, "What concord has Christ with Satan? What fellowship has light with darkness? Come out from among them and be separate and touch not." We're not saying we don't love unbelievers, we're not saying we don't want unbelievers who don't know Jesus to come here and hear the gospel. We do. We just don't want Satan infiltrating the working in the ministry in the ranks of His church, the church of Christ. That's deadly.

You know, when the church starts kowtowing to the world and doing all the things the world does, the church ceases to be what's it's supposed to be. I don't forget a kid I heard one time at a Christian rock concert who stumbled in the back. And I was at this thing through a series of circumstances. And this kid stumbled in the back of this Christian rock concert, sat down for about five minutes and he got up to leave. And somebody says, "Where are going?" He said, "Well I could hear this anywhere. I thought you people had something different." And I never forgot that statement. When the church becomes the world then it ceases to be what it needs to be: an alternative to the world, to the system.

Anyway, James 4, that's just one illustration idea. But James 4:4 really lays it down, "You adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Listen, whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." You know that a Christian, and even a church, can get so sopped up into the mixing Christians and non-Christians into what becomes really, a kind of a club-type thing, that God is actually fighting against that church. Now we're not going to throw our arms around that church. I'm not going to say, "Well, there's some Christians there so we'll include that church." Listen, if God's fighting against it, I'm against it too.

Let me say a word to young people. He says here that this doctrine that came in was urging believers to mingle with the world. Let me tell you one way that Satan is so subtle. And that is young people, and I especially I say this to you who are high school, junior high, college age, marry a believer. Marry a believer. If we could write that in blazing letters. Take a church that's dominated by young people, have them marry unbelievers and this church would be destroyed. That's the purest kind of wedding the world there is. You find somebody who loves Jesus Christ with his whole heart. You find somebody who has sold out to the Spirit. And you find somebody who loves the purity of the church and you marry them in Christ. You be jealous for the purity of the church of Jesus Christ. Don't settle for infiltration into your life by outside forces.

And so what happens here is a church that wed the world. It's disastrous. And Jesus says, "I'll come and fight against it Myself." And if God's fighting against them, I don't want to have any part with them; I'm on His side. So He wants His church separated, first of all. Then we see the way that Satan works to destroy a church, the loss of first love. Secondly, compromise with the world. The church must be pure and separated from the system. We must be an alternative. We must invite people to come and hear our message. But those who don't know Jesus Christ have no part in the ministry itself. That's infiltration; that's Satan dressed up as an angel of ... what? Of light.

Third thing that Satan uses to destroy the church is a tolerance of sin ... a tolerance of sin. And believe me, this follows closely on Pergamos. If a church starts fooling around with the world, pretty soon it's going to just take a light view of sin because it's going to have to tolerate all those sinful people. And that's inevitable. When a church tolerates sin, beloved, that is the end. Verse 18, "And under the angel of the church in Thyatira write these things saith the Son of God who hath His eyes like a flame of fire, He speak like fine bronze. 'I know your works, your love, your service, and your faith, and your patience, and your works, even the last to be more than the first.'" You say, "Hey! It's a terrific thing. Look at this! They had what Ephesus didn't have. They had love." Yeah, but they didn't have what Ephesus did have: sound doctrine.

I've told you this for four years now, I remind you, two things make a church what God wants it to be: love and sound doctrine. You get too much love and no sound doctrine; you've got Thyatira. You get too much sound doctrine and no love; you've got Ephesus. And both of them are destroyed. You must be the balance. This church had love and the love issued in service. It had faith and the faith issued in patience. And it was even getting better.

Verse 20, "But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel." Now I don't know if that's her real name; I can't imagine any mother naming her daughter Jezebel. But, as far as the Lord is concerned, that's her name. She may have had a nice name like Mary. But it's Jezebel to Christ, who calls herself a prophet and says, "She teaches and seduces My servants to commit pornea, pornography, fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols." He says, "You know what the problem with your church is? You allow sin." There's the word "allow". You allow that woman. "Why don't you kick her out of there?" That's what He's saying.

Beloved, the church must deal with sin. And believe me, this church, as long as I'm here and as long as our leadership is here, will deal sin because it is demanded of us by our blessed Christ who desires above all things, the purity of His church.

The church is to discipline a sinning member. The church is to put him out. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 5, "It is commonly reported among you that there is fornication, pornography." It says, "You find that one who has committed that sin with his own mother and you turn him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the soul might be saved." Get him out of there. Paul said to Timothy, "Even an elder, if an elder sins rebuke him before everybody that they may learn to fear." You're going to deal with sin. Remember AnanysisAfira? They sinned and dropped dead on the spot and the word got around and it purified the ranks, friends. Believe me, it kept the Tyresout. It said, "Nobody dared join himself to that outfit." You know the word went around town, "Don't join that deal. One goof and you're dead." If the church doesn't expose sin, the church doesn't do its job, you see. We're in here for doing that.

And God was gracious to this Jezebel. He said, in verse 21, "I gave her space to repent of her fornication and she repented not. Behold, I'll cast her into a bed." Boy, do you get the sarcasm there? "She likes bed so much, I'll give her a bed. And then they commit adultery, I'm going to throw all into bed." You know what bed it is? Verse 23, "I'll kill her children with," what? Death. "She wants a bed of vice, I'll give her a bed of death; that's what I'll give her." I mean, when you get irony and sarcasm from Jesus, you know He's upset. The church that tolerates sin, Christ hates and fights against.

Beloved, don't ever tolerate sin; deal with it. Deal with it every time it ever appears. If you see a believer in a fault, rebuke him. Deal with sin in love; then restore him. And when you start doing that, you going to make sure you're all right because you don't want to expose yourself either. What are we saying? Satan will use to destroy the church: the loss of first love, compromise with the world, and when a church begins to tolerate sin. God help us if those ever come.

Fourth, and we'll just wrap it up with just a couple of more statements. The fourth way Satan destroys a church is when a church is content with its forms rather than its purity and its power. When a church is content with the trappings. When a church is cranking out all the lily oath, the wheels are moving, the oil is in and everything goes. The crowd came this morning, we had our deal and our deal was good and the offering came in. And I had one guy who told me that the two things that really mark the success of a church was how many people came and how big the budget was. That's a Sardis church. I'll read it to you.

Verse 1, "Under the angel of the church in Sardis write these things, saith he that the seven spirits of God and the seven stars," referring to seven-fold Holy Spirit, "I know thy works, thou hast to name that thou livest." Boy, this church had a great reputation. "Hey, you know the Sardis church? Man, it's a going thing. Oh, they're really a going church. Well they've got everything. They've got whirly birds, eager beavers. They've got everything, brownies, blue birds, polka dots, everything going on over there, a terrific thing. Why, they've got a group for this and a group for that. And the wheels are going. They give $8,000 a month to the denomination. They've got all this kind of stuff. They've got all the liturgy and all the little stuff that they do. It's all cranked out. It's a going thing. Boy, the grass is cut. The sign is fresh every week. That's a moving deal."

You have a name that you're alive. And then He ends the sentence by saying, "And you are," what? "Dead." You're dead, Sardis, the degenerate, dead church. And it was an interesting thing, the city of Sardis, 700 years before this was written, was one of the great cities of the world. Had a very famous king who was so rich that his name is synonymous with riches; his name was Cresius. But the whole city went and the church went with it. And today it's pile of ruins, the church along with it. It's like the rhyme of the ancient mariner, where Coleridge says, "Corpses man the ship. Dead men pull the oars. And dead men steer the vessel." Oh, all the programs are going. All the machinery's well oiled and its cranking out and it's moving along. And there's all kinds of function. And God says, "It's dead." There's no life. The Spirit of God isn't there. It's a big social activity. And maybe even with evangelical people who down in their hearts love Christ but they've lost the whole vision and purpose. Such was Sardis, lots of activity but nothing else.

Verse 2, "Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die for I have not found thy works perfect before God." He says go back to the basics and get strong on those things. "Remember therefore how you received and heard and hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch I will come on ye as a thief and thou shalt not what hour I will come unto thee." Listen, when a church gets to the place where it's happy with its programs, and all it cares about is how many people came, and how much money it gets in, and how much it gives to the denomination, and that the liturgy goes good and that everybody's functioning well, and that the whole is organized, that church is in sad, sad situation because that's a dead church. That's a church where the Spirit of God can't intrude because He's not fit into the organization anywhere.

And I like verse 4. He says, "Thou hast a few names, even in Sardis, that have not defiled their garments. And they shall walk with Me in white for they are worthy." There's a little group of solid people there, He said. Then lastly He warns about the Laodicean church, the church that is no church.

Verse 15, He says, "I know your works, that you're neither cold nor hot. I would you were cold or hot." You know what cold means? Just totally uninterested in the gospel, just totally turned off, no response at all. Hot means saved. But what I can't take is lukewarm. You know what that is? That's hypocrisy. That's spiritual hypocrisy. You fake religion, which you don't have. And because you're that way, "I'll spew you out of My mouth." And what did the Laodicean church say? "Well, I'm rich. Increased with goods. Have need of nothing." And Jesus says, "No. That's wrong. You're wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." Here's the church that all it cared about was material wealth. This church just cared about the trappings. And, of course, it was no church. These were all unsaved people.

And that's the final step that a church takes. It starts usually, beloved, with Ephesians. First, you just lose first love. And then when you've lost your first love, then you, under kind of a sentimentalism, you kind of open up and include the world. Then when you've included the world, you find that you've got to tolerate sin. And then when you've tolerated sin, the church is unwound and unwound down until it's just kind of a big, dead organization. And the next thing is Laodicea. Laodicea is the apostate church. You're the church of the tribulation, the one that doesn't even go in the rapture. You say, "John, you don't honestly believe that could happen to Grace Community Church, do you?" I say, "Absolutely. It happened to all those others."

Let me say this in closing, notice please, beloved, that all of these things that I have mentioned to you this morning, all five of them, came about from the inside. Do you know what Satan's attacks from the outside do to the church? They build it up. They make it strong. Smyrna got it from the outside and it was the only church in here, other than Philadelphia, that didn't get any retribution. But when Satan moves inside, you know what he does? He gets individual Christians to be satisfied with materials things like Laodicea. Or he gets individual Christians to be more content with forms and organization than spiritual life and power. Or he gets individual Christians to tolerate sin, individual Christians to mingle with the world and allow the world to infiltrate the church. Or else he gets individual Christians to begin by just losing their love for Jesus Christ.

We stand warned.

I close with the words of Peter. 1 Peter 4:17, here's what it says, "Judgment must begin at the house of God." Let me say this, you are the house of God. Your body is the temple of God. If this church is to be here when Jesus comes, still holding up the testimony that it is endeavoring to hold now, it will be because you have judged yourself and maintained your own faithfulness in the power of the Spirit of God. Oh, people, I pray God that this church will be here in all of the beauty of holiness and the freshness and vitality of its commitment till Jesus comes. If it is, I'm interested in it all the way. If it ever ceases to be, I'm not. It's up to us. Let's pray.

Father, we do thank You for the words of the church. We stand warned. Help us, Father, to heed the warning; to be diligent; to pursue these things with all our hearts, to stand firm for these truths. Oh, God, that Satan would not infiltrate. May he may not by subtlety begin with just those individuals and seep into this church to destroy. God, we just claim victory over him. Let this church be not a monument to a man or a ministry or a monument to a group of people but a monument to Jesus till He comes. We pray in His name, Amen.




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