When it comes to getting suckered into compromise with our kids, I am the parent who tends to give in the most. Whether it’s the sweet eye-lash batting of my adorable daughter or the occasional whine-fest from my 4 year old son, I give in way too much. One recent example of this is when I was breaking my sojourn to starvation (a time where, for a whole month I ate only 3/4 cups of rice) and was eating a delicious fruit/coffee cake of sorts. I was eating this delicious cake in front of my daughter one morning and she cutely and politely asks for a bite, and then another and then another. Finally, I gave her, her own small piece of this delicious cake. Little did I know that the next morning for Mommy, she’d refuse to eat her given breakfast and proceed to cry for the delicious cake her Daddy had given her the day before. To Amelia, I was a good Daddy who gave into her desires. To Mommy, I was a sucker who couldn’t man up and ignore the cute (and polite I might add) begging of my daughter and in reality Hilary’s view was much more accurate. I couldn’t resist, I felt compelled to give in.
The churches we are going to learn about this morning were pressured to give in as well, except it was a much more serious matter and much heavier pressure than cute eyelash batting. One church had learned the art of not giving in, while the other had not.
I believe that we in the church today are receiving more and more pressure to give into cultural lies and cultural values but God desires for us to learn the art of NOT giving in! How do we live the art of NOT giving in?
John’s revelation brings about so many different encouraging words to us as believers, here is one such word. The first way in which he shows us to live the art of NOT giving in by is by our Faithfulness to Christ.
I. Faithfulness to Christ (Vs. 8-11)
The Church in Smyrna was under intense persecution and was about to receive more. They refused to bow to Caesar as Lord, because they believed the only Lord was and is Jesus Christ. This denial of worshipping Caesar caused much persecution from the Gentiles, yet we also see strong persecution against this church by those who call themselves Jews, but are being used by Satan to bring harm and persecution against the Christians in Smyrna. A two-sided attack was constantly bombarding this church, yet we see that they are standing firm. This church receives NO correction, only encouragement that they are to continue on. They had learned the art of not giving in and Jesus commends them for it. In a lot of ways, they are our image of this very point: Not giving in.
The Great Christian leader and Martyr Polycarp was himself from Smyrna and he was murdered on February 23rd, 155. Just 122 years after Jesus himself. He refused to swear that Caesar was Lord and refused to burn incense in worship to Caesar. He was burnt at the stake for refusing to give in. Barclay shares a bit about the story: “Not even the police captain wanted to see Polycarp die…he pleaded with the old man: ‘what harm is it to say: “Caesar is Lord” and to offer sacrifice and be saved?’ But Polycarp was adamant that for him only Jesus Christ was Lord” (Barclay, pg. 85)
We too have a culture that deeply desires us to compromise who is Lord in our hearts. Our culture is much more subtle about it’s demands of worshipping someone or something else than the Roman culture was, yet it is still a deep part of our daily lives: the temptation to compromise Christ’s throne in our heart. Under this pressure to conform, we can only be faithful by keeping focus on Christ. Hebrews 12:2-3 says: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted”. This scripture promises that if we fix our eyes on Him, we can withstand the onslaught of cultural demands for compromise.
The “crown of life” is the winner’s crown awarded at the annual athletic games. Smyrna was a key participant in the games, so this promise would be especially meaningful to believers living there. The Lord reinforced the promise given by James (James 1:12) and assured His people that there was nothing to fear. Because they had trusted Him, they were overcomers—victors in the race of faith (Heb. 12:1–3)—and, as overcomers, they had nothing to fear. Even if they were martyred, they would be ushered into glory, wearing crowns! They would never face the awful judgment of the second death, which is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14; 21:8).
In order to fully understand how to live the art of not giving in, we also have to look at a church or an example of those who didn’t really get it… so we must then reject the creep of compromise.
II. Reject the Creep of Compromise (vs. 14-15)
Pergamum was an example of a church that was doing OK, but allowed the creep of compromise to be injected into the very fiber of the church. We just looked at a church that held Christ high above the rest and was fixing their eyes on Jesus, not their circumstances, here we see a church who was holding on, but slowly allowing the culture to influence them. Where Smyrna was OK to be poor (but rich) Pergamum, once they felt the pressures and started losing financial clout began to allow the idea of Balaam to slip into their lives. Balaam led Israel into a place of allowing some of the culture to influence them where they were eating food sacrificed to idols and engaging in sexual acts of “worship”. Here it means that the Nicolations were infiltrating and getting the church to allow a “meaningless” utterance of “Caesar is Lord” and a small sacrifice on the side to Caesar to happen. They were more fearful of rejection from the culture than they were of rejection from Christ. Warren Weirsbe says of this:
“Despite their courageous stand against persecution, the believers in Pergamos were not faultless before the Lord. Satan had not been able to destroy them by coming as the roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), but he was making inroads as the deceiving serpent. A group of compromising people had infiltrated the church fellowship, and Jesus Christ hated their doctrines and their practices”.
Compromise crept into their midst and unlike the Ephesians, this church was unable to deny the false teachers, what they said tickled their ears and led them to believe that they can serve Jesus and fully participate in the culture around them.
Folks, although we can redeem some of our current American culture and we can be “culturally relevant” we as the church can NEVER fully engage in the culture around us! We are to be purposefully different, we are to be aliens and the world around us is to question why we are weird (1 Peter 3:15)! When we begin compromising we will soon find ourselves no longer living for Christ, but for the world, or ourselves!
So, for those who have compromised, what now? How can they then begin to live a life of not giving in?
III. Embrace Truth (vs. 16-17)
The Sword coming out of Jesus mouth is the Word of God, which is very truth of very truth. The church in Pergamos was embracing a lie that they can be in and of the world, but Jesus was saying this is not so. The sword of truth was coming to cut them down if they didn’t repent and embrace the truth. This may seem opposite of the idea last week from the Ephesians, because they embraced the truth but didn’t do so out of love and different churches have opposite problems! Maybe you do in fact love Jesus but have been allowing some compromise to creep in, which then sows doubt between the words of Christ and your life. Don’t let this happen! Christ Words are life to us and death to our enemies!
When we embrace truth, we can tell the difference between truth and falsehood easily. When we allow compromise to creep in, we begin to walk away from Christ and to the arms of a willing lover who deeply desires us to leave our first love.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Re 2:8). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Re 2:12). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.