I heard a story about a man who went out hunting and found a big brown bear. He had always wanted to shoot a bear, and he had just the right gun to do the job. So he got that bear in his sights and was beginning to squeeze the trigger.
But just then, the bear turned around and said, "Excuse me. Isn't it better to talk than to shoot? Why don't we try to negotiate the matter?"
The hunter said, "Well, OK. I am open to that."
The bear said, "What is it that you want exactly?"
The hunter said, "Well, what I want more than anything else is a fur coat. I am really cold."
The bear said, "OK. That's good. Now we are getting somewhere. How about if we reach some kind of a compromise? Let me tell you what I am looking for: I want a full stomach."
So the hunter put down his gun, and he and the bear disappeared into the forest.
The bear emerged alone a little while later, and apparently the negotiations had been successful.
The hunter got his fur coat, and the bear got a full stomach.
That is how compromise works.
In the New Testament book of Revelation, Jesus had specific words for a church that was engaged in compromise. This church was located in the city of Pergamum, the capital of Asia. Pergamum was built on a rocky hill where the Mediterranean could be seen on a clear day. It was the cultural center of Asia at this time, renowned for its magnificent library that housed 200,000 rolls of parchment.
Another feature of Pergamum was the altar of Zeus, the largest and most famous altar of all — one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There were other gods in Pergamum that were worshiped, including Dionysius and Asclepius, called the savior god.
Asclepius was known as the god of healing and was actually symbolized by a snake. People came to this shrine from around the world to be healed. In the temple, there were nonpoisonous snakes slithering around, and those who hoped to be healed believed that if they were touched by a snake, they would be cured of whatever it was that was afflicting them. Imagine the scene: people lying around on the floor of this temple, with snakes crawling around on top of them. It sounds like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.
What a creepy place that must have been.
Also in Pergamum was the great temple erected to Caesar Augustus. Augustus means "of the gods." This is where the Caesars not only were accepting worship, but were demanding it. Pergamum was a very spiritually dark place.
So here was Jesus' assessment of the church in Pergamum:
"I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan's city.
"But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching." (Revelation 2:13–15 NLT)
There were great Christians in Pergamum who were serving God, and Jesus actually commended them for it. But there also were a few problems developing. This church was in danger of compromising their faith.
Jesus referred to the Old Testament story of Balaam, a prophet who was hired by Balak to curse the Israelites. But as he was riding his donkey on the way to curse Israel, the donkey veered off the road, ramming Balaam's leg against a wall. The donkey had seen an angel with sword drawn, standing in the road. Amazingly, the donkey actually began to speak to Balaam. In the end, Balaam did not curse the Israelites, but offered Balak an alternate plan to undermine them: have the Moabite women seduce the young men and draw them into idol worship. That plan worked.
The sin of Pergamum was the toleration of evil.
It is the mindset of, "Hey, I'm a Christian, but I can still do these things." People want to go to heaven, but they still want to live like hell. Enter the teaching of Balaam. When you start to compromise, your spiritual life will begin to weaken.
Jesus also referred to the Nicolaitans. The philosophy of the Nicolaitans was one of liberty gone amok. It is the thinking that says, "Don't be so uptight. Don't be so legalistic. Could you just relax a little bit? God will understand. God will forgive you. God knows your heart."
The problem is, that is how compromise works. Little things always turn into big things. And when compromise gets into your life, you will start going downhill.
Some people look at what the Bible says and think, "Oh, I don't like all of these rules. I don't like all of these standards. I don't like these thou-shalt-nots. I want to live the way I want to live." Yet they never stop and think that God gave us those rules, those standards and those truths to protect us from evil.
Sometimes we think that because we have confessed a sin, we will not have to face the repercussions of it. Yes, God will forgive us. But we still will have to face the aftermath of our own choices.
So remember the lesson from the church in ancient Pergamum. Don't give in to compromise.
Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.
Used by permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.
Originally posted at blog.greglaurie.com.