Idolatry and immorality are not new; they are old practices wrapped up in new clothes for the 21st century. Two thousand years ago Jesus wrote one of his seven letters to a small church, in a relatively obscure city, in the middle of nowhere. And what he wanted to focus on was how idol worship and sexual immorality pulled people away from God.
Early Followers of Jesus Faced a Difficult Dilemma
The city of Thyatira was an extremely challenging place to live if you were a Christian. Each local trade guild had it own guardian god, patron deity, or pagan idol in whom honor feasts were held – complete with meat sacrificed to idols and abundant sexual immorality. In other words, idol worship and sexual immorality was rampant in this city. Sounds a lot like today, doesn’t it?
Jesus begins his letter by affirming some outstanding things about his followers.
Revelation 2:19 I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.
Jesus is pleased with their love, faith, and service of God and people. He even commends them on their constant improvement in these areas.
Idolatry and Immorality Pull You Away From God
Sadly, the high affirmation of Jesus towards the people quickly turns to high accusation. Jesus has some serious issues with his people.
Revelation 2:20 But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.
There was a strong woman in the church who considered herself a prophetess, nicknamed Jezebel, who took an active teaching role in the church. She taught an “alternative lifestyle” to God’s people, advocating that they participate in memorial meals for the dead and engage in sexual immorality. In the Church at Thyatira, this Jezebel-type woman advocated idolatry and immorality just like Jezebel in the Old Testament did.
Whatever Happens in Vegas Never Stays in Vegas
You have no doubt heard the phrase, “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Two thousand years ago you could have also said, “Whatever happens in the Trade Guilds, stays in the Trade Guilds.” The sad reality back then, just as it is today, is that these phrases are just pretend slogans, compelling advertising disguised to help us rationalize and justify our sin. These are dangerous games that can lead to devastating consequences.
What God’s people forgot was that Jesus, with eyes of blazing fire, was watching this kind of unacceptable behavior. Jesus could see through their justifications and rationalizations. He could see their compromise and corruption. And like a strong warrior, he confronted them with the reality that they loved their idols and their lusts more than they loved him. They were more concerned and consumed with idol worship and sexual gratification than they were with him.
Revelation 2:21-22 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.
Notice that Jesus was extremely patient with this woman and her followers. The Bible, from its front pages to the end, declares the patience of God. Because he loves us he suffers long with us; giving us time to turn away from our sin and to move back towards him. He does this because he doesn’t want anyone to miss out on heaven with him.
Jesus Encourages You to Hold on to Him For Dear Life
The idea here is to grasp Jesus and his teaching with all of your strength and power, knowing that your life depends on it.
Revelation 2:24-25 But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.
In the corrupt culture that we live in, the only answer to not getting caught up in idolatry and immorality is to hold tightly to Jesus and his teaching with everything you’ve got! Don’t listen to false teachers or follow a corrupt culture. Instead, hold as tight as you can to Jesus and his teaching to protect your relationship with him.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- Share a time when you got lost somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
- If an idol is anything or anyone who takes the place of God in our lives. Come up with a list of possible modern day idols.
- Read Revelation 2:19 and share some ways you have seen people demonstrate these qualities. Is there an area in this list that you have grown in this year? Explain
- Read Psalm 139:1-3 and share why you think, “Whatever happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas.”
- Read 2 Peter 3:9 and share with the group what you think God is saying in this verse.
- Share a time when you or someone you know thought they were getting away with something only to be found out–no names please.
- Read Revelation 2:24-25 and share what you think Jesus is trying to convey here.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.