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July 15, 2018

Sermon Revelation 2:18-29 . . .“Bible places:  Thyatira”

“Bible places:  Thyatira”

Revelation 2:18-29

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In her book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, author Laura Numeroff writes, “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.  When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.  When he’s finished, he’ll ask for a napkin.

“Then he’ll want to look in the mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache.  When he looks in the mirror, he might notice his hair needs a trim.  So he’ll probably ask for a pair of scissors.

“When he’s finished giving himself a trim, he’ll want a broom to sweep up.  He’ll start sweeping.  He might get carried away and start sweeping every room in the house.  He may end up washing the floors as well.

“When he’s done, he’ll probably want to take a nap.  You’ll have to fix up a little box for him with a blanket and a pillow.  He’ll crawl in, make himself comfortable, and fluff the pillow a few times.  He’ll probably ask you to read him a story.

“So you’ll read to him a story from one of your books, and he’ll ask to see the pictures.  When he looks at the pictures, he’ll get so excited, he’ll want to draw one of his own.  He’ll ask for some paper and crayons.

“He’ll draw a picture.  When the picture is finished, he’ll want to sign his name with a pen.  Then he’ll want to hang the picture on your refrigerator.  Which means he’ll need Scotch tape.

“He’ll hang up his drawing, then stand back to look at it.  Looking at the refrigerator will remind him that he’s thirsty.

“So...he’ll ask for a glass of milk.  And chances are, if he asks for a glass of milk, he’s going to want a cookie to go with it.”

The moral of the story?  Don’t give a mouse a cookie, or, before you know it, he’ll take over your whole house.

So it was for the church in Thyatira.

Please turn in your Bible to page 1312, as I read the words of our text.  Revelation chapter 2, verse 18:  “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:  ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.’”

So far, we’ve looked at three of the seven churches of Asia Minor.  First came Ephesus, to whom the Lord said, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  Second, we looked at Smyrna, to whom He said, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  And third came Pergamum, to whom He said, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.”  

Each church was unique, and so was each letter that Jesus sent them.

Now He writes again, this time to the church in Thyatira.

Now what made the city of Thyatira different from Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum is that there wasn’t anything special about it at all.  While Ephesus was the largest city, Smyrna was the most beautiful city, and Pergamum was the capital city, Thyatira was pretty much a nothing city, the smallest one of all.

To put it another way, if Ephesus was New York City, Smyrna, L.A., and Pergamum, Washington, D.C., Thyatira was kind of like Flint--pretty much a “plain Jane on the plain,” kind of town--not a place any of us would really want to be.

Let me explain.  You see, if any foreign army ever came to conquer Pergamum, the capital city, they’d have to go through Thyatira first--which made it sort of a buffer, a delaying tactic so Pergamum could prepare for the impending attack.  To put it in a not-so-nice way, Thyatira was “expendable,” “dispensable.”  So, over time, as history tells us, the city was often built, destroyed, then built all over again.

And while Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder had many good things to say about Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, he pretty much had nothing to say about Thyatira.  It was that unimportant.  No massive temples to speak of, no harbor, and no library.

But while it had absolutely no claim to fame, it was known for its trade guilds--its unions--for carpenters, bronze workers, cobblers, potters, tanners, weavers, and tent makers.  It was a “blue collar” kind of town.

And its most famous guild of all was the one that made dyes, especially the color purple.  

Maybe you’ll remember the words of Acts chapter 16.  It’s where Luke wrote:  “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God.”

But oddly enough, even though Thyatira was the smallest city, they received the longest letter of all.

Let me digress for just a moment, because there we find something important.

All things considered, we here at Spooner are a relatively small church.  Our budget isn’t in the millions, and our attendance isn’t in the thousands.  

But you know what?  Just as the church in Thyatira mattered to Jesus, the church in Spooner does too.  He sees, He knows, and He cares for the Word we preach, for the love we show, and for the work we do.

Sure, big churches matter to Jesus, but small ones do too.

Look again at the text--verse 19:  “I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.”

In certain ways, the church in Thyatira was the best one of all.  In fact, out of all the churches in Asia Minor, no church received more praise than the one in Thyatira.

As Jesus said, “I see, I know your deeds, your love, your faith, your service, and your loyal perseverance.  And not only are you working hard, you’re working harder!  You’re doing more now than you ever did before!”  And while Jesus said to Ephesus, “You were strong, but now you’re getting weaker,” He said to Thyatira, “You’re good, and you’re getting better!”

And if anyone were to look at that church from the outside, they’d say Thyatira was a pretty good church!

But just as an apple can look awfully good on the outside, but still have a worm on the inside, so it was for the church in Thyatira.  On the outside, it looked pretty good.  But on the inside, it was rotten to the core.

Look at verse 20:  “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.”

So while Ephesus was a “loveless” church, Smyna was a persecuted church, and Pergamum was a tolerant church, Thyatira was a compromised church.

You see, love wasn’t their problem, and neither was faith or service or patient endurance.

Their problem was tolerated sin.

In effect, they said, “So what if you have to shade the truth sometimes!  Goodness knows there are much bigger liars out there than you are.  They’re the ones with the real problem.”  Or, “You may cross a line every once in a while, but in these times, who cares?  Think of those who are completely out of control!

“So go ahead and sin.  Do what you want!  It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long it feels good, and doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

But what was the Lord’s judgment for tolerated sin?  Verse 22:  “Behold, I will throw…”  And verse 23:  “And I will strike…And all the churches will know that I am He who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”

Imagine, for a moment, if you were to pick your car up from the shop after a routine tune-up, and the mechanic says, “Your car is in great shape!  Clearly an automotive genius has given it the best of care!”  But later that day, your brakes fail because you’re out of fluid.  You could have crashed and died.

So you go back to the shop and say, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

The mechanic replies, “Well, I didn’t want you to feel bad.  Plus, to be honest, I was afraid you might get upset with me.  I want this to be a safe place where you’ll feel loved and accepted.”

You’d be furious!  You’d say, “I didn’t come here for an ego boost!  When it comes to my car, I want the truth.”

Or imagine you went to the doctor’s office for a checkup, and the doctor says, “You are a magnificent physical specimen!  You have the body of an Olympian!  You are to be congratulated!”  But later that day, while climbing some stairs, your heart gives out.  You find out later that your arteries are so clogged, you’re one jelly doughnut away from the end.

So you go back to the doctor and say, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  

The doctor replies, “Because if I told you you were sick, you might get offended and not come back.  I want this to be a safe place where you’ll feel loved and accepted.”

You’d be furious!  You’d say, “When it comes to my body, I want to know the truth!”

When it comes to your car, you need to know the truth.  When it comes to your body, you need to know the truth.  And when it comes to your walk with Jesus, you need to know the truth too.

So what’s the truth?

James wrote in his epistle:  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  And Paul wrote to the Romans:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

If the church is to be anything in the world, it is to be heaven’s representative.  It’s to be a place where God is honored and adored.

And if we are anything in this world, it’s God’s holy people who lift Jesus up.  To do any less is to fail to be the salt and the light He’s called us to be.

So where’s the gospel in all of this?  Verse 25:  “Only hold fast what you have until I come.  The one who conquers and who keeps My works until the end, to Him I will give authority over the nations.”  And verse 28:  “And I will give him the morning star.”

If you are willing, you can be changed.  You can be made clean.  You can start again.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

 

Dear Jesus, we give thanks for Your letter to the church in Thyatira.  Help us to heed Your warning, that we, in our time and place, may faithfully follow You.  This we ask in Your name.  Amen

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