The Seven Gifts of Christmas #3

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The first of the seven gifts I can give to Jesus in honour of His birthday is a return to my first love—the priority of knowing Him more intimately this year (Revelation 2:1-7).

The second gift of Christmas that I can give Jesus is faithfulness to Him and to the task He has called me to even when things get tough and I want to walk away (Revelation 2:8-11).

These two gifts are described as John writes down the messages God is giving him for the churches of Asia, as we have them recorded in Revelation.

The third gift of Christmas is connected to the first two and comes to us in the message that John was to send to the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17). This church appeared to love the Lord very much, even to the extent that they stood up for truth even in the face of persecution and death (2:13). It was tough to be a believer in Pergamum. We know that because it is described as the place where “Satan has his throne” (2:13). But these people continued to follow the Lord with steadfastness.

Nevertheless, there was a gift that God wanted from them. The Lord sends them this message: “You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (2:14, 15).

This church was tolerating within its ranks those who were leading others astray morally and ethically. In the first message, to the church in Ephesus, the problem of the Nicolaitan heresy was also present (2:6) but in the case of Ephesus, the church apparently was not tolerant of their teaching or the lifestyle.

The Nicolaitans believed and preached the following: “Hippolytus of Rome states that the deacon Nicolas was the author of the heresy and the sect. Several of the early church fathers, including Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Theodoret mentioned this group. Irenaeus discusses them but adds nothing to the Apocalypse except that ‘they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.’ Victorinus of Pettau states that they ate things offered to idols. Bede states that Nicolas allowed other men to marry his wife and Thomas Aquinas believed that Nicholas supported either polygamy or the holding of wives in common. Eusebius said that the sect was short-lived.” (Wikipedia)

Tolerance is “politically correct” these days, even when it comes to the sinful lifestyles of those who claim to know Christ and to follow Him. Immorality is perhaps one of the leaders on the list of things the church turns a blind eye to. But the warning here is clear. God will not tolerate immorality in the church, or in the individuals within that body. The church is to model the covenant or marriage relationship that exists between Christ and His people.

The message from God through John was “Repent...otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (2:16). We are not to tolerate immorality in our own lives nor are we to ignore it in the lives of our fellow believers. If we don’t disciple ourselves, and if the church neglects to disciple its members, the Lord will come and do what we refuse to do.

So the third gift of Christmas that I can give to the Lord is purity—purity in myself and the courage to confront its absence in others. In the message to the church in Ephesus, John writes: “...you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” ( 2:6). It’s not often that we find the word “hate” connected with God. When we do read it we know how seriously God takes the issue—and how seriously we need to take it,

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