CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Church of Thyatira Is Alive and Well

Jul 26, 2019

In the book of Revelation Jesus had some strong messages to offer seven churches in Asia Minor. While we may tend to think this was something relevant only for these churches two millennia ago, the ongoing relevance for us today remains.

Contemporary churches would feature all the same strengths and weaknesses of these early churches. Thus what Jesus said must be taken seriously by believers today. Let me run with one of the churches, and the firm rebuke Jesus gave to it. Revelation 2:18-29 contains his message to the Church in Thyatira, and in verses 20-23 we find these sobering words:

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. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. 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.

Sexual immorality was the hallmark of their sinful and rebellious condition. In this it is identical to Western culture. But the question is, what should today’s church take out of this message? Can it be said that so much of the contemporary Western church is not dissimilar to the church at Thyatira?

That would seem pretty obvious to me! Our culture is awash in sexual immorality, and our churches seem to be as well. Indeed, just yesterday I wrote a piece on this, dealing with one distraught Christian mother’s concerns about her daughter who is now attending a “progressive” church and is now shacking up with her boyfriend: billmuehlenberg.com/2019/07/25/why-is-fornication-wrong/

Of course the very notion of “progressive Christianity” may well be a tautology, as I have discussed elsewhere, eg: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/23/progressive-christianity/

And here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/07/15/theological-liberalism-progressive-christianity/

Let me discuss just one such progressive. Last year an article looked at a homosexual minister who fully supports all sorts of sexual immorality. Brandan Robertson is “a 26-year-old rising star among the Religious Left.” He has said this about polyamorous and open relationships: they are “holy” and “beautiful.”

And more recently he said this about premarital sex:

I am pretty open with this question in front of my congregation: I think the evangelical church world that I come from has taught some really unhealthy ideas about sex and sexuality, and I spend a lot of my time trying to deconstruct “purity culture” in favor of a healthier, more holistic view of sexuality. I believe for some people, waiting for marriage before having sex can be a very healthy path. I also believe that for most people, sex before marriage is a healthy expression of the gift of sexuality and is not “sinful” or morally wrong.
juicyecumenism.com/2018/11/29/premarital-sex-healthy-chastity-unreasonable-say-progressive-pastors/

We expect this rubbish from progressive lefties who have ditched Scripture while getting into bed with the spirit of the age. But what is even more of a worry is the number of so-called evangelical Christians who basically think the same way – and live this way as well.

Exact figures may be hard to obtain here, but one suspects that most young people today who claim to be evangelicals may have real problems in this area. Indeed, if a survey conducted a decade ago is anything to go by, we are all in real bad shape. The article begins:

A 2009 study conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that a huge majority of young evangelical adults has had premarital sex:

“While the study’s primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result: 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex – slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults, according to the teen pregnancy prevention organization.”

80 percent is way higher than I would have guessed. And, to be fair, it’s just one study. A broader sampling would be necessary in order to really get a handle on the data.
www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/10/01/study-finds-majority-of-young-evangelicals-have-premarital-sex/#6c8e275739d8

Image of Jezebel's War With America: The Plot to Destroy Our Country and What We Can Do to Turn the Tide
Jezebel's War With America: The Plot to Destroy Our Country and What We Can Do to Turn the Tide by Michael L. Brown PhD Amazon logo

Wow – 80 per cent! And that was from ten years ago. One would have to ask if there are any young evangelicals today who are still faithful to God in the area of sexual faithfulness – that is, being abstinent until marriage, and remaining true to your spouse in marriage.

Worldliness

If all this does not sound like what Jesus was condemning the Thyatira church about, I don’t know what does. So much of the church today is little more than a mirror image of the world. The world is awash in sexual immorality, and so much of the church is in the same condition.

The words of Jesus are the only words worth listening to here: unless the church repents, there is no hope. Church leaders, pastors, teachers, preachers, and individual Christians who have climbed into bed with Jezebel need to get out now, and repent.

(By the way, I note that the brand-new book by Michael Brown is entitled Jezebel’s War With America. I plan to get it and may well do a review of it, so stay tuned.)

A good part of the sexual debauchery found in so much of the churches falls under the general heading of worldliness. When we become friends with the world and refuse to live lives of holiness and separation, we end up imbibing and replicating all the sins of the world.

Some of our greatest Christians of recent times have sounded the alarm on worldliness, so let me conclude with a few powerful and urgently-needed quotes from them:

“When the church and the world can jog comfortably along together, you can be sure something is wrong. The world has not compromised – its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was. If Christians were equally as faithful to the Lord, separated from the world, and living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the church that has compromised, not the world.” Catherine Booth

“I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world, is because the world has so much influence over the church.” Charles Spurgeon

“When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“The church and the world have become so intertwined that it is hard to tell one from the other. The world has so affected the church’s moral standards that Christians say they believe in Christ and yet have never bothered to change their moral attitudes and standards at all.” A. W. Tozer

“The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church…grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.” Leonard Ravenhill

[1224 words]

16 Responses to The Church of Thyatira Is Alive and Well

  • Very very True. What more can I say? Weighed in the balances and found wanting. And how dare we imagine, I include myself here, that we will make it to Heaven, and rub shoulders with our brothers and sisters, who have given their very lives for Our Saviour and been Faithful unto The Lord Jesus, even unto DEATH! Shame on me! And shame on the Faithless, disobedient Church. It I time to mourn and repent of all our sins! The Holy Judge is at the very doors! God Help Us!

  • Yes Andrew we all need to stay on our knees here and keep close accounts with our Lord.

  • Yes it’s very true and sad Bill. When I worshipped at the Salvoes (I left because of their weak stand on keeping traditional marriage and their initial support for Safe schools) a lovely woman of about 36 became engaged and we were all delighted for her. Then a few months later she posted on Facebook how her fiancé had moved in and from what she wrote it was obvious they were sharing a bed. I spoke to an officer and asked if this was right and if she would speak to her and she replied vaguely: Yes, I should….. I doubt she ever did. Then the former leaders’ daughter was farewelled as she and her boyfriend were moving to Bendigo….no mention of where they’d be living…but obviously together. I wondered what kind of example that was for the youth?

  • Very very True. What more can I say? Weighed in the balances and found wanting. And how dare we imagine, I include myself here, that we will make it to Heaven, and rub shoulders with our brothers and sisters, who have given their very lives for Our Saviour and been Faithful unto The Lord Jesus, even unto DEATH! Shame on me! And shame on the Faithless, disobedient Church. It is time to mourn and repent of all our sins! The Holy Judge is at the very doors! God Help Us! As long as I come to repentance, there is hope! But all of us, myself included, have to Seek the Lord, while He still may be found! Let’s get serious with Our God, and His Infallible Word.

  • Thank you Bill for not being afraid to talk about issues that have been shelved by many evangelical ministers today. The doctrine of SIN has completely been forgotten. I think we have allowed the beliefs and practices of postmodernism to dominate the church, so much so that it is steadily wearing off the spirituality and the glory of the church – even the evangelical church.

  • I agree Bill. As long as I come to repentance, there is still hope! But all of us, myself included, have to Seek The Lord Jesus, while He May still be found! Let’s get serious with Our God, and His Infallible Word. Thanks for all the warnings you sound out for Christians Bill. Just love your Biblical Perspective on our Western Culture. We desperately need John the Baptist’s like yourself to sound the Shofar. Warning to the Churches! Amen. Bless you Bill.

  • Yes . I’ve been grieving the same thing over the last month .
    There was a Church down the road where there 4 girls under 18 baptised. My Son went there to support them .
    I thought wow !!!! And then I thought why ???? . Of the 4 , one of the girls is pretty much a middle of the road . 1 of them reads the Word about once a month but is part of a Youth group that is into the Fun Stuff you know .. Ice skating , water fights . She also does ‘ modelling ‘ of which some was discussed with here from her leaders… however she never attends a Church …
    The Second lady thinks it’s hip and cool to go ‘ clubbing ‘

    The third has plenty of photos of herself giving people the finger , using the ‘F’ word … a fair bit

    The problem with this is the Church involved thinks that this is discipleship in action . I see it more as fake faith , and unfortunately false baptisms. .. I have sat there and though we must be gracious to these young ladies….. But the I thought .. It’s the Churches responsibility along the parents to disciple them …
    What on earth are youth groups doing theses days ???!!!
    My son said that the Church he is involved with would never support this along with the body I’m involved with .
    But after high school these kids will have a faulty foundation that would be a little more than ‘Windows Dressing ‘ Christianity
    It saddens me so much

  • Like I said before the problem isn’t just “progressive Christianity” (we can just write them off) but the real problem, and I might not be popular for saying this, it’s how even conservative Christians are falling away from the Word under secular pressure.

    Divorce is the disease that has ravaged Western society but last year even the Sydney Anglicans started remarrying divorcees in violation (sorry “reinterpretation”) of Matthew 19:8.

    An Anglican minister showed me the list of permissible reasons they now have to marry divorcees. I think there was 5 or 6 reasons they will now accept in order to marry you if you have a living covenant marriage husband or wife.

    There is only one reason given to us directly by our Lord for a divorcee to ever get married again I the eyes oh God. Infidelity! And until recently even that had to be proven in a Court.

    So why is this a big deal?

    Other than making these churches complicit in the throwaway divorce culture that is destroying society, how are these supposedly conservative churches meant to tell young unmarried Christians to follow the Bible’s teaching on sex before marriage if they don’t follow Jesus’ teaching on marriage itself?

  • Well said Bill.

  • The church these days, also sounds much like the Church in Laodicea. Revelation 3; 14-22 NIV
    14. To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15. I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16. So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17. You say, ‘I AM RICH; I HAVE AQUIRED WEALTH and do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich: and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19. Those whom I LOVE I REBUKE AND DISCIPLINE. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on His throne. 22. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

  • I can’t say anything better than what my beloved Christ said;

    “But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Matthew 15:13,14

  • Thanks yet again, Bill. We look forward to your review of Michael Brown’s new title.

  • Excellent article Bill. The church today reminds me of the money changers in the temple. The 501c3 has all but destroyed the church. I have little to do with organized religion these days. How do I get spiritually fed? Reading the Bible & ‘Strike Force of Prayer’ groups

    Years ago I prayed and asked the Lord, “Please guide me to a repenting church,”. His reply back to me was, “Don’t pray, you won’t find one.” Sorry if I’ve already shared that message.

    Looking forward to hearing your review on “Jezebel’s War With America.”

    God Bless You for the conviction you bring.

  • I agree with your remarks, as far as they go. But my understanding on the letter to Thyatira is that the point goes beyond noting sexual immortality; the church is being chastised for not disciplining its wayward members. And that is a serious deficiency in our modern church.

  • Yes the two go together of course john. We have so many churches today awash in sexual immorality because we have so many churches today who never practice biblical church discipline. No surprises here.

  • Worldliness accelerated in the 50’s – 60’s with the emergence of “Youth Culture” and or beliefs that we must change to attract the youth and must be what they want ignorer to get them/ keep them in the church. we decide YOUTH should determine the message and what the church stands for not our ELDERS. so we gave up the gospel for entertainment and theatrics for jokes and feel good nonsense. some churches are so full of syrupy nonsense that the congregations blood glucose count must be through the roof! We for got we are to be SEPARATE from the world not IDENTICAL to it. We can’t win souls by “out-worlding” the world. We have to show the world a DIFFERENT and BETTER way NOT the SAME way with Jesus liberally sprinkled throughout. Saying ‘Amen’ ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘praise the lord’ frequently doesn’t make up for sound biblical theology. Jesus is not your buddy he is not some hippie or mosh pitter nor is he some ‘easy going’ ‘whatever make you happy’ guy. we used to fear and revere the lord now he is just some schmuck like us (what if God were one of us song anyone??) so the is no reason to think of him and anything but a better version of ourselves. (me and Jesus are like two peas in a pods his pea is just a bit riper). sort of like the Buddhist believing he is just one who has attained enlightenment. I have noticed how several eastern religious things have entered the church at least since the 60’s (I hope you can do an article on this or give a link to one you have done) one is eternal NOW that heaven has no time it is always NOW. eternal now is straight out of buddhism yet christians embrace it as if it is straight from Jesus’ lips.

    I think the biggest church of Revelation today is Laodicea. I think part of the reason is that christianity is being treated as something passed on in the DNA and thus while people in the church are not rejecting christ (cold) they are not seeking him or encountering him at all (hot). so because they are lukewarm he spits them out. reminds me of a joke I heard before 3 kids are at school and bringing something to represent their faith (obviously their won’t not happen in modern America or Europe) and one brings a star of david since he is jewish and one a crucifix because she is catholic then one says “my name is tommy I am a baptist and this is a casserole.” now this is NOT to knock baptists but too many churches are like this they have a bunch of potlucks and events, bowling nights, retreats and fun things and teach a BARE minimum in Sunday school, along with silly songs that rhyme but teach nothing, and the children there have NO IDEA what the faith is all about. some many if you asked them why they are christian it would be “My father was a christian, as was his before him and his before him”. Faith has become nothing more than a tradition. (me and my brothers wear kilts because of our Scottish tradition and crosses around our necks because of our christian tradition) No wonder Jesus asked “when the son of man returns to the earth will he find faith???” From what we see the answer is “very little”.

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