Satan’s Influence, pt. 4

The next church that Jesus addresses is a church with Satan’s influence. It was the church of Pergamum. The Pergamum church was another city filled with emperor and cultic worship. It was an influential city, having a library consisting of over 200K volumes and being known as an intellectual hub for politics, religion and philosophy. The city popularized writing on paper from sheets made with animal skins (parchment comes from root word Pergamum). It was mostly known for its temple worship as the city featured an altar to Zeus measuring a whopping 120’ x 112’. Mostly, this city was like every other city of the 7 Churches – idolatrous and immoral, yet a remnant of God’s people were influencers on its society. From this letter you can two realities of culture.

Beware, Satan’s influence is subtly seated in culture.
Jesus reminded the Pergamum church about his intimate knowledge of their situation. Once again, Jesus wants the church to know he walks among the churches and is not removed or distant from their situation. One of the facts Jesus knows about the city is that it is where Satan has his throne. This could refer to the featured city altar to Zeus, measuring a whopping 120’ x 112’. More specifically, it could refer to some incorrect teaching held at this church (Balaam, Nicolatians). Or it could simply refer to the entire city being a place far from the ways of God. Jesus is making the point that Satan’s influence is always present in the world (Jn 12:31) and it must be resisted.

2 Cor 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Today we can be reminded of this same reality. Satan influences culture through both public and private measures. His hold on people is evidenced through addiction, abuse, and apathy. Two results of Satan’s throne in this city and church were unbiblical teaching and sexual immorality. Unfortunately, these continue to be prevalent in the church today as well. Jesus says the church’s response is simple: repent and fight for him. Repentance is needed in order to show the church’s desperate need for a Savior and Lord. If the church chooses not to repent Jesus will fight against them. So, in some sense Jesus is calling the church to fight for the cause of the gospel or be fought against. We must realize our fighting is not through violence but with the compassion and mercy Jesus showed to a world in need (cf. Eph 6:12; Matt 4:23, 10:6-8).

Behold, Jesus is just judge of culture.
Jesus challenged the Pergamum church to repent and stand against Satan’s influence in the culture. If they did not he would come and fight against it, including those within the church. Jesus’ coming represents justice to the honor of his name. Any church that holds to incorrect teachings or does not characterize the lifestyle of a true Christian will be brought to judgment in Jesus’ coming. Faithful Christians will receive hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it. During the time of this book, it was common for people to receive stones inscribed with the emperor’s name as tickets of admission to feasts or games.[1] Jesus invites those who believe in him to come to him with the glory of holding his name as your own.

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31

When sharing this message with a group of students and wanting them to apply it to their lives I asked them, “How would you go about fighting Satan’s influence?” The answers I received were somewhat frightening. They ranged from drop kicking Satan in the head to throwing water on him to shooting him with various weapons. None of these ways seemed to take Satan very serious; yet as someone who has worked with youth for over ten years I have seen his influence in very real ways in the lives of young people and their families. Has the church failed to teach students the reality of Satan and evil and much more, given them practical effective strategies to battle against temptation? I’m afraid we must cover our faces in admission of this failure.

SO, to answer my own question about fighting Satan’s influence and battling temptation I offer these suggestions.
Prayer. Samuel Chadwick said, “The one concern of our enemy is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” The only way to learn how to pray is simply by doing it. The more conversation with God the closer you grow toward him and in being able to sense his power in your life to obey him and reject sin.
Scripture. The psalmist said, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word… I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (119:9,11). Even Jesus used Scripture during his temptation from Satan (Matthew 4). I cannot fathom any of us improving on Jesus’ method, there is simply no replacing the internalization of God’s word in a person’s life to be equipped for life and waging battle against temptation.
Repentance. This one goes hand in glove to the previous two. As mentioned in a previous post, person’s do not grow out of love as much as they grow out of repentance. This means that when facing temptation you must be honest with God, yourself and perhaps confessing to others. True repentance is a process of changing the inner desires of your heart from what is against God to what is pleasing God. Do not allow fear or guilt to reign over your life. Jesus’ death on the cross paid for your sin in full. Confess and repent of your sin and humbly move forward in grace.
Accountability. I am not as sold on this last one as the previous three. The reason being is because accountability only works as so far the persons allow it. People have become experts at putting up walls and saying the right things that outsiders can never really “know” a person. However, when persons are willing to be vulnerable to another or small group, the impact of personal accountability can be quite an encouragement; even when failure occurs.

This list is not exhaustive, nor is it meant to be a full explanation of each strategy. I have been making it a goal to share these strategies with my small group. What are your personal strategies for battling temptation and Satan’s influence? What would you add?

[1] Grant Osbourne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary series, p.149.

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