You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Text: Revelation 2:12-18

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The city of Pergamum was a bustling city. It had many shrines to many pagan gods, chief among them was a pagan god named Baal.  And like many other places in the world of that day, the people worshiped the emperor as god. 
Jesus, though, does not give Pergamum a four-star rating but calls this place the very throne of Satan.  

But, what can be said about the small church in the city of Pergamum?  Well, the church had held fast to Jesus’ Name and not denied the faith.  That is right; they did not deny the faith even though a Christian named Antipas was put to death for his Christian confession and for his refusal to worship false gods. 

Now, even though they did not deny the faith entirely, there were still problems in this church.  All of their problems could be summed up like this: there were some in the church who thought that they could have it both ways.  They thought that they could live in peace and offer sacrifices to false gods and practice sexual immorality and then still remain true to God and His Word. 

We all know the common phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  This phrase is basically used to express the impossibility of having something both ways.  And well, some in the church of Pergamum were doing just that.  They were having their cake and eating it too.  As previously mentioned, they were trying to live in peace and offer sacrifices to false gods and practice the sexual immorality that was common among the pagans of Pergamum, and still remain true to God and His Word.  They were living as if falsehood and Truth could actually stand side by side. Frankly stated, they were straddling the fence.  They were two-faced.  They were speaking out of both sides of their mouth.  They were two timing.  They had one foot in the pagan culture and one foot in the church.  They were drinking the Kool Aide of the culture and were drinking the wine from the church’s chalice. 

To make things worse, though, the pastor of this church did not try to correct this but tolerated it.  He turned a blind eye to this blatant double-dealing. 

As a result, Jesus calls to account the pastor of the church who tolerated those in his congregation who believed this way.  He calls to account the congregation too, for they had accepted and believed the lie. He calls them to repentance, to turn away from worshipping idols and craving the things of the pagan world; He calls them to repentance for their acceptance and even adoption of the sexual immorality that was all around them.  He says,

“Repent, lest I come myself and stand in front of you and war against you with the Sword of the My Mouth, just as I did when I stood against Balaam and sent a plague on Israel.”

Dear friends, we are separated from the church and culture in Pergamum by about two-thousand years; however, the spirit and ways of Pergamum live on in our culture.  Indeed, the Christian church in the twenty-first-century still exists in the place where Satan has his throne.  And sadly, churches and Christians are easily tempted to double dip.  It is easy to get wrapped up into this tolerance and acceptance of what is false, even though deep down we know that what is false actually infects and poisons God’s people.  It is easy to not sweat the supposed small stuff and to try and make peace between the culture and the church.  

We may be tempted to say that the church in the twenty-first-century is not like the church in Pergamum in order to help ourselves sleep better at night; however, we need to ask ourselves this, how many Christians think that they can have it both ways? Do we think that we can have it both ways? That is to say; is it believed that a Christian can accept and even participate in the godless things of this world and yet be faithful to the true God and His Word?  Ask yourself this, how many people think that they can separate what they believe and how they live?  At best, this is spiritual schizophrenia, at worst it is blatant hypocrisy.  Regardless, though, it is dangerous and the reason why?  One cannot claim the title of Christian and at the same time embrace teachings that attack and undercut the person and work of Christ.  One cannot confess the Christian doctrine of the sanctity of life and then advocate for a women’s right to choose an abortion of a precious child in the womb. One cannot confess that God is the giver of all great gifts and then hold our wallets with a tight fist claiming that our resources belong to us and only us. One cannot confess the importance of the family while also supporting same-sex marriage, which undercuts the family.  One cannot work towards the removal of gender distinctions and then celebrate that we are created uniquely by God.  One cannot uphold the importance of the Bible and then cut the legs out from underneath the Bible by promoting the ideas of evolutionary biology.  One cannot actively fight against everything Jesus teaches in the Bible and then in the next breath claim the title of Christ follower.  The reason why this can’t be done?  There is no middle ground.  Either we are a part of the kingdom of Satan or the Kingdom of God.  If we think that we can ride the fence, if we think that we can have it both ways, well… then we have actually moved into the church of Satan. 

James says it well in his epistle,

“You adulterous people!  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.” 

What does all of this mean? It means that you and I need to repent.  It is a clear solution.  We need repentance.  Repentance stops the actions.  It acknowledges that there is no middle grown.  Repentance acknowledges that we can’t have our cake and eat it too.  Repentance stops the lies, it stops the false doctrine, it stops the hurt, and it removes all of this nonsense and deception from life, and in faith turns to the one and only Christ and His mercy. 

And as we consider Jesus in the midst of our mess, we see that Jesus came into His creation and gave His life that all people would be justified before God.  In that moment of the cross God has no more enemies

“Father forgiven them, forgive them all, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

And because the Son dies in the place of God’s enemies and for their many sins, the Father indeed forgives them.  But not all have received His gift because not everyone is content with what the Lord offers.  Many still seek after other treasures.  Many have turned aside from the Gospel.  Many still run to the kingdom of darkness. Many want to cozy up to the world and still try to be buddies with God, which is not an option but a cop out and an insult to the Lord.  You see, either we are sinners who are buried deeply in the wounds of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins or we are dancing with the devil in the lies of the world. There is no middle ground.    

Dear friends, what God has ordained and blessed, man cannot curse and destroy.  To those who deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of truth, well… there no longer remains a sacrifice for their sins but a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume them, for they have spurned the Son of God, profaned His blood and outraged the Spirit of grace.[1]  However, to those who listen to God and His judgment against their sins and renounce the Devil and all his works and all his ways; to those who beat their breast confessing, “I am a poor miserable sinner!”; to those who trust in Jesus’ forgiveness and cling to His cross and His blessings by the power of the Holy Spirit; to those – yes to you – Jesus gives of the heavenly manna, of His own body and blood. 

You, who have ears, hear this, Jesus has washed you clean in Holy Baptism, He gives a white stone, the token of admittance to His feast.  And to you, who hear His Word, He gives a new Name, a holy Name written on your stony heart; His own Name, the only Name given under heaven by which men must be saved.
You Baptized Saints do not belong to the devil.  His throne is not over you.  You shall not tremble, and you shall not fear the evil foe; he can do you no harm.  He is judged; he is done, for you belong to another – Jesus Christ. 

And just so you know, because of the Cross, you have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into their little patterns that they dictate.[2] 

Yes, there is no middle ground for you, for you are in Jesus; you belong to Him.

In the name of Jesus: Amen.   

[1] Hebrews 10:26-29.
[2] Paraphrase from Eugene Peterson’s, “The Message,” on Galatians 6:14. 

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Portions of this sermon are adapted from Pr. Ryan Wendt's sermon titled, "To the Angel of the Church Write (Part 3)."