The AMI QT Devotionals from May 22-28 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor intern at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
Revelation 2:12-17 (ESV): “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
“‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my fait] even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Richard Neibuhr, in his book Christ and Culture, outlines the several different approaches people have taken to reconcile how Christians ought to interact with their culture: views range from “culture is evil” to “culture is ultimately good.” It a difficult challenge, as many of these views have been regarded as insufficient; and this has been a hot topic for the church for many generations. We definitely face this same challenge today. In today’s passage, Jesus speaks to the church in Pergamum, which was a place riddled with immorality and idolatry.
The city of Pergamum was one of the religious capitals of the Roman province in Asia, where there were many temples devoted to many different cults—including emperor worship and idol worship. This is the place where “Satan’s throne” dwells. The Christians are doing their best to hold fast to His name—denouncing idol worship—and Jesus commends them for that. Yet there are still some who hold the teaching of Balaam. What is the teaching of Balaam? He was the one who gave the Israelites poor counsel to intermarry with foreign women, which led to idol worship and sexual immorality (cultic prostitution) in their midst. This ultimately led to punishment from God through a plague that came upon their congregation. For the church in Pergamum this was an indictment but probably more of a warning for the church to remain pure. Not only were they to maintain sound doctrine, but they were to be very careful not to be caught up in the adulterous ways of their culture and society. Temptation was all around them. To the faithful, they were warned to remain pure and steadfast, but for those who had fallen into temptation, they were warned to repent.
In the same way, our culture and society has myriad of things that are not approved by our God, but we are reminded to remain pure and steadfast. Don’t get me wrong, there is much beauty in culture—but there are also many cultural acts and traditions that are twisted and perverse. In Neibuhr’s book, one position is called “Christ the Transformer of Culture,” and I believe this is the position we ought to take. We do not distance ourselves from culture, nor do we passively go along with culture, believing in its beauty; rather, we are to seek to bring Christ into our culture, allowing Him to transform our culture. With that in mind, we must also remember that above all, the battle we fight against isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Let’s devote ourselves to prayer and purity, so that we might win the culture for Christ!
Prayer: Father God, it’s so easy to get caught up in the currents of society. We want You to come and transform our culture and our society. We confess that we have not prayed enough for our cities, for our societies, for our culture. But this morning, we invite You to empower us so that we could be used by You as agents to transform our culture. May You be lifted up. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Deuteronomy 22