The Church of Pergamum: God’s Word is Powerful
How are you doing today? Hopefully you didn’t get lost in the fog that fell upon us this past week. As many of you know, I walk to work every day because my home and church are right next to each other, and it was so foggy that I couldn’t even see the church out my front door. So, on my walk to work, I really had to take my time and trust that God would lead me where I needed to go. I hope you stayed safe this week and allowed God to help you get to your destinations safely.
Today, I invite you to journey with me to another church found in the Book of Revelation that, in a way, is in the fog: its vision is unclear but its mission is still there. This mission is to trust in the power of God’s word. The name of this church is the Church of Pergamum, but before we arrive at this church let me remind you of the church we visited last week: The Church of Smyrna. The Church of Smyrna teaches us a valuable lesson: Always remember God is in control no matter how out of control things may appear to be.
You see, the believers of Smyrna, those who attended church, were being picked-on because they weren’t wealthy, they weren’t like everyone else, they were different, and they didn’t have the best or coolest things. People found them to be weak and not important. But Jesus saw them for who they really were and encouraged them to not be afraid but to be strong and courageous. As much as the Church of Smyrna wanted to put on a disguise and blend in with everyone so that people would stop picking on them, Jesus reminded them that they are exactly who God needs them to be: they are believers of God who are rich in faith and who wear the “crown of life”–Jesus’ salvation, grace, mercy, and eternal love. The Church of Smyrna didn’t need to change but rather it was the people around them that needed to change. Even when it felt like things were out of control, God was still in control. God is in control of your life.
Now, let’s visit the Church of Pergamum. Pergamum was a town of around 160,000 people. Of those 160,000 people, 40,000 were native and 120,000 were foreign. It was located about 50 miles north of Smyrna and 15 miles inland from the coast of the Aegean Sea. Pergamum had a vast library with some 200,000 volumes of papyrus—ancient paper made from the papyrus plant of Egypt. The city was famous for its “hospitals” and became the capital of the Roman province of Asia in 129 A.D. Pergamum is not mentioned anywhere else in scripture.
The Church of Pergamum was located within a wicked and powerful city that wanted believers of Jesus to turn away from Jesus. In a way, the church was being bullied. However, the Church of Pergamum, in a troubling time, remembered the power of God’s words and recalled what they were supposed to do. Sometimes when we find ourselves being bullied we want to fight back, we want to push back with physical actions, and we want to say things we shouldn’t say. In those moments, we forget the power of God’s words and forget what He needs us to do. The Church of Pergamum didn’t push back but instead remained faithful to God.
As a church, we, too, need to return to the word of God that has not been construed but made faithful through Jesus Christ if we want to continue to be who God has called us to be. The word that we need to return to is what is stated in both the Old and New Testaments. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 states, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.” Later on we read in Deuteronomy 11:13, “If you will only heed his every commandment that I am commanding you today—loving the Lord your God and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul…” Then, in the Book of Leviticus, we hear something that we need to hear every day of our life: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).
Lastly, both Matthew and Mark remind us, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 22:39). Clearly, the word of God that we need to focus on is love and worshipping God. God is calling us to do a lot of things as a church and now is the time to grasp what He is telling us to pursue. We are to pursue His faith and love and trust. I know for a fact that God has laid something on your heart, God has spoken His word to you, regarding our church and now is the time to put God’s words into action and fulfill those two greatest commandments through our actions and commitment.
The Church of Pergamum, may seem like they are in a fog, but they really do have the light of Christ inside of them because they have realized how powerful God’s word is in their life. And this word is centered on love. In troubling times, remember that you are loved, and the love of Christ that resides within you today and every day is what is needed to get out of the fog.
Live out God’s word. Practice Jesus’ actions. And love your neighbor as you love yourself. With this love you can do great things.
Your Friend, Holy Spirit!
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