Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

In the Book of Daniel we read about one of the most impressive royal feasts ever held. The honored guests and lords of the land numbered over a thousand. When Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, along with his wives, concubines, and lords tasted the wine, he hit upon what he thought was a brilliant idea. Why not order the vessels that had been taken out of the temple of the house of God at Jerusalem to be brought forth?

Imagine the crowd’s delight as the vessels of gold and silver were brought in and filled with wine. Daniel 5:4 tells us, “They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” Imagine the enormity of the room in which this party was held; the ornate carvings; the glittering gold; the riches, glory, and power of the world’s mightiest empire magnificently displayed before everyone’s eyes. But this grandiose party was about to be crashed-not by man, but by God Himself.

Suddenly, the noisy revelers stared in shock and horror at the mighty king’s countenance. A mask of sheer terror covered the face that had only moments before cheerfully sipped wine with wives and concubines and saluted the gods that are not. Daniel 5:5-6 records this awesome moment for us, “In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.”

Then the king forgot about his big bash and demanded that the astrologers, the soothsayers, and the Chaldeans (magicians) be brought in to read the writing on the wall. When none of them could interpret it the king was greatly troubled, and his lords were astonished. After all, these were the people they relied upon for spiritual guidance.

In spite of gross darkness and paganism, God had a man with an excellent spirit. The queen knew that there was only one man in the entire kingdom that could solve the riddle of the strange handwriting on the wall. In verse 12 she said, “Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.”

When we see this man of God come before the king, we see confidence clothed in humility. Every word he speaks is pure truth. Daniel does not flatter the king or try to be “politically correct”. He tells it like it is, and after reminding the king of the greatness and power of the king’s father, he goes on to say, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: and he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” vs. 20-21.

Most of us would be tempted to stop right there, but Daniel had no fear. He knew his God. He continued, “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou has praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the god in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified” vs. 22-23.

Daniel then went on to give the interpretation of the strange words written on the wall, “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians” vs. 25- 28. History tells us that this is precisely what happened. The question is, does God still weigh people in the balances?

God not only weighs nations and individuals
in the balances today, but also churches.

Undoubtedly, there are some folks who will argue that we’re in the “age of grace”, meaning that somehow the God of the Old Testament is not the same. But God declares, “I am the LORD, I change not” Malachi 3:6a. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever” Hebrews 13:8. This Jesus, by the way, is not the effeminate, scrawny, little wimp that many portray him to be in the arts. On the contrary, He was the second Adam-a strong, masculine carpenter. We need to change our weak perception of the Son of Man.

We can find an example of Christ “weighing” the churches in the book of Revelation. The church of Ephesus appears to be a model group of believers. Jesus declares he knows both their works and their labor. These Christians are diligent people and I suspect slothfulness was not tolerated. He commends their patience and the fact that they cannot bear those who are evil. Jesus tells them that they are patient. Not only that, but they are not afraid to discern false apostles and label them as liars. So far so good, right? Doesn’t this sound like a perfect church? Then why does Jesus tell them to repent and do the first works or else He will come quickly and remove their candlestick?

The answer to this is found in verse 4, “…thou hast left thy first love.” God weighs our works, virtues, and faithfulness against our love for Jesus.

As important as good works, hard labor, patience and discernment are love for Jesus must be maintained at all cost. The candlestick represents the light of Christ in our midst. It is possible for good works and ministry to be plunged into great darkness without genuine, unfeigned love for Jesus. That is why we must allow the Holy Spirit to reveal our heart’s motives to us and why Christians are exhorted to examine themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 6:4).

The church at Ephesus appeared to be the ideal church until Jesus weighed it in His balances. I am sure that the Ephesian believers were proud of their assembly-proud of their good track record of works, patience, discernment, and hatred for the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. Nevertheless, the scales were tipped against them. Jesus told them to repent and overcome with the promise of the future reward of eating “of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” Revelation 2:7b. Suffering, tribulation and poverty add weight to God’s balances.

The second church Jesus addressed was the church at Smyrna. This group of believers was commended for their works, tribulation, and poverty. These precious saints suffered greatly at the hands of Satan. Many were cast into prison and put to death.

Today Christendom is flooded with heretical teachings that originated in Hinduism and Eastern mysticism. These ungodly beliefs have filtered down to the church through cults such as Christian Science, Unity, and other humanistic schools of thought. This New Age doctrine of demons puts forth the idea that Christians are not supposed to suffer-that if we just think and talk “positively” and visualize health and wealth (and whatever else we covet) that we can obtain these things. This type of visualization is the same technique that practicing witches and shamans use. Be warned- whenever a person prays their will upon others, they are actually practicing witchcraft and sending psychic prayers at them. The results are destructive to God’s people and bring judgment upon the perpetrator. Jesus taught us by word and example to pray, “Thy will be done.”

Many deceived hearts have been broken and many souls have suffered spiritual shipwreck through these unscriptural teachings. Others have experienced devastating financial ruin as they poured their money into the coffers of wealthy television personalities, and others, posing as Christians.

God’s word is explicit about His will concerning giving. Proverbs 22:16 strongly warns, “He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.”In spite of the clear warnings in the Word of God, people still choose to bring a curse on themselves by defending and supporting their favorite “Christian” guru. They bring a curse upon themselves because these wolves in sheep’s clothing come preaching another gospel (the gospel of gain).

The Apostle Paul pronounced this curse in Galatians 1:8-9, “But, though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” If you are one of those who have been duped into giving to get, you need to repent and ask the Lord to remove that curse. Then ask the Lord where He wants you to pay your alms. Otherwise, according to God’s word, you will not prosper. God cannot bless those who give with selfish motives any more than He can bless and prosper the hard-hearted who are stingy and self-serving.

The believers at Smyrna were poor. They were persecuted. They suffered and some of them died. According to the popular prosperity teachers of today, these Christians just “didn’t have enough faith.” We shall see on Judgment Day just who will be rewarded with eternal life for having genuine faith in Jesus and who will be cast into outer darkness for having faith in faith.

It must be noted that the church at Smyrna was weighed and NOT found wanting. Rather, Jesus promised, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” vs. 10b.

False doctrine will always cause us to be “found wanting”
when weighed in God’s balances.

The Church at Pergamos held fast to Jesus’ name, did not deny His faith, and maintained good works. However, Jesus strongly reprimanded these believers because they tolerated false doctrines in their midst. One such doctrine was the doctrine of Balaam which indicates this church allowed idolatry and fornication in its midst. It is also important to note that Balaam is a Hebrew word that means destroyer of the people. And what can destroy a church, or individual Christian for that matter, faster than mixing with the world? Before we turn our self-righteous noses up at these people, let us consider the statistics within our churches today. The divorce rate is the same as the world; abortion is not unknown to Christian women; fornication is tolerated. The church at large today is no more holy and separate from the world than the church of Pergamos.

Before we scoff at idolatry being a modern-day problem, we need to consider just what constitutes idolatry in a person’s life. In a nutshell, idolatry always comes from a divided heart where loyalties are divided between that which is of the world and that which is of God. Our preference is usually always towards that which satisfies the flesh. Much idolatry could be avoided in our lives by reading and applying through obedience the Word of God to our daily lives.

The other doctrine that Jesus hated was that of the Nicolaitanes. The meaning of ‘Nicolaitane’ is startling and instructive. In Greek it means conquering the people. According to F. W. Grant, “the last part of the word (Laos) is the Greek word for ‘the people’ and our commonly-used term ‘laity’ is derived from it. Thus, the Nicolaitanes were people who were subjecting or putting down the laity-the mass of Christian people-to unduly lord it over them.” (From NICOLAITANISM, The rise and Growth of the Clergy).

Jesus’ words are chilling to the bone. He said, Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” vs. 16. The sword of His mouth is the two-edged sword of the Word of God that is established forever. Who can stand against this sword? As with all of God’s promises, the promise to this church is conditional. Jesus promised, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” vs. 17b.

Any church that fails to separate from sin
and Satan will fall into judgment.

The church at Thyatira also had works, charity, service, faith and patience. In fact, their latter works were greater than their former works. From all appearances, this church was growing. But God will not tolerate a mixture, and within this body of believers we see a woman (whose name happened to be Jezebel) who called herself a prophetess. Not only was she a self- proclaimed prophetess, but she also taught God’s people to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. Obviously, this woman was not a born-again believer, yet the church tolerated her in their midst. Unfortunately, because this passage of scripture names a wicked woman in the church of Thyatira, another false teaching has spread throughout Christendom called the “Jezebel spirit”. Folks, nowhere in the Bible do we find any hint that there is any such “spirit”! But it’s a convenient way for false teachers to discredit or control any discerning woman in the congregation who does not agree with their false doctrine.

Jesus pronounced severe judgments on this woman, her children and those who were involved with her. As for the rest, He told them to hold fast and keep His works unto the end- until He came. When weighed in the balances, imperfect works and neglecting the life of Christ in us will cause us to be rejected by God.

The church at Sardis was a dying church that had once been noteworthy. Jesus’ words must have cut like a whiplash. They were functioning in name only. They were dead. In other words, they were just playing church. Most of them had become defiled in their Christian walk. Their works were not perfect (which would indicate that they were not done as unto the Lord). And they were in danger of having their names blotted out of the book of life. These are serious charges, but how many churches today would receive the same indictment?

Jesus warned them to be watchful, strengthen the things which remained that were ready to die, to remember “how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” Revelation 3:3. We must not take our life in Christ for granted or ignore our Christian responsibilities. “…let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” Hebrews 10:24. James 2:17 declares, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

It is possible to be weighed in the balances
and not be found wanting.

The church of Philadelphia, the church of brotherly love, was greatly loved by Jesus. They had kept His word in spite of little strength, not denied His name, and stood against satanic deception. They loved, honored, and preferred one another. You would not find gossip, slander, evil report, jealousy, malice, competition, false witness, covetousness, pride, and self- centeredness in this body. As a result, this church was promised to be spared from the “…hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” vs. 10. Jesus’ words to this particular church also apply to all born-again believers today who love Him, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” vs. 11.

If you think you are a good Christian, in need of nothing, but lack love, obedience and the fruit of the Spirit, God will vomit you out.

The lukewarm Laodicean church gives us a clear picture of how easy it is for people to delude themselves into thinking they are in good standing with God. These people bragged that they were rich and in need of nothing. They thought that they had it all together. But Jesus knew their works, that they were neither cold nor hot (vs. 15). You see, if a person has a living, vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, their life will show it through obedience, love for one another and the fruit of the Spirit.

This church represents the prideful, self-righteous, worldly church today. While thinking that “bigger is better”, in reality, they mock true Christianity and bring a reproach on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These words of Christ should be a warning to all of us in the free world, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” vs. 17-18. He then went on to tell them to repent. These people had no substance because they had not paid the price.

What is the bottom line to being weighed in the balances and found wanting? An examination of the churches in Revelation that fall short reveals pride as the common denominator. Pride’s offspring are idolatry, self-righteousness, and lack of love for Jesus and others, self-sufficiency, works without the right spirit (motive and intent), selfishness, disobedience, slothfulness, envy, vain glory, and failure to separate from sin and the world.

Those churches that passed the test when weighed in God’s balances had, first and foremost, love for Jesus and one another. They had “crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts”, Galatians 5:24. Their lives bore witness to that love as they endured persecution, suffering, and death. These believers had the goods.

When a person is truly born-again, he or she is called into identification with Christ. And what is that identification? Is it found in building a big ministry, or in pursuing riches, or the things of this world? No! Jesus calls us to identify with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. His kingdom is not of this world. God is not impressed with the things that awe and dazzle us. Our big churches, big budgets, big “Christian” TV stars, big sound systems, big stage productions (that usually water down the real Gospel), big ideas, and big opinions of ourselves do not impress Him.

Christian, where is your heart? Are you following hard after Christ, or are you content to simply play silly church and religious games? If God visited you in your room tonight and wrote on your wall, what would He say to you? Would you read words of commendation, or words of condemnation? Think about it.

Jesus is still calling, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” Revelation 3:20.

Will you be found supping with Him when the last trump sounds?