Revelation 2:2b

Sermon preached on May 8, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Today's society has a message for the church. It tells us that we need to be "Welcoming and Affirming Churches" or "Open and Affirming Churches". By that they mean that we need to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in our churches. They tell us not only should they be welcome in our churches, but they are welcome into the 'full life and ministry' of the church—meaning that they are eligible for membership, leadership and employment. Such people can not only can they be members in good standing, but they can be elders, deacons, pastors, youth leaders etc.

The world tells you that this is what a church should be. A couple of months ago I was reading how Trinity-St. Stephens United Church congregation, in Amherst, Nova Scotia decided to allow same-sex marriages. C. R., a member of the church, said in an interview,

"To me that is the Christian ideal, that anybody is welcome in the church."

That's an incredible statement. The Christian ideal is that even people who are in unrepentant, defiant sin should be welcome into the church!

They will even tell you that such inclusion is a part of the gospel message. Rev. E. H., a retired United Church minister and a member of the Order of Canada said the decision by Trinity-St. Stephens is proof that religion and gay rights can go together.

"They indeed should go together and must go together. The church can be a place where same-sex weddings are not only possible, but they're welcomed, and we see that as part of the gospel."

But is it really part of the Christian ideal? Is it part of the gospel of Jesus Christ? That's not what Jesus said. His ideas on what His church should be like are much different. We have some of them here Revelation 2:2. He said to the church at Ephesus,

"I know that you
cannot tolerate wicked men,
that you have tested those
who claim to be apostles but are not,
and have found them false."

Jesus commended them for not tolerating evil people.

One of the great characteristics of the Ephesian church was the fact that they were, in one very important way, intolerant.

Intolerance is a bad word today. It's not politically correct. Our society want us to be accepting of just about every type of person and behavior. The rallying cry today is 'freedom'. The idea is that everyone has a right to do almost whatever they want.

But what we must never forget is that Jesus died to free His people from the bonds of sin. Much of the professing Christian church today has forgotten that Jesus wants His church to be pure. It has forgotten that God has commanded His people to be holy. They've forgotten that we're called to holiness. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:2,

"To the church of God in Corinth,
to those sanctified in Christ Jesus
and called to be holy,"

They've forgotten that Christians were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4)

"to be holy and blameless in his sight."

They've forgotten that Christians are to be zealous about being holy because we must reflect God's character. In 1 Peter 1:15–16 the apostle Peter wrote,

"But just as he who called you is holy,
so be holy in all you do;
for it is written:
'Be holy, because I am holy.'"

They've forgotten the command of Hebrews 12:14 where the Holy Spirit tells us that unless we are holy we are not going to go to heaven. It says

"Make every effort to live
in peace with all men and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord."

The world today wants the church to turn the Bible's teaching upside down. It wants us to call what is evil, good, and to call what is good, evil. But woe to us if we do that. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, (Isaiah 5:20)

"Woe to those who call
evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter."

Near the end of Revelation we read about the New Jerusalem, the Holy City. It says, (Revelation 21:27)

"Nothing impure will ever enter it,
nor will anyone who does
what is shameful or deceitful,
but only those whose names
are written in the Lamb's book of life."

A little later we read, (Revelation 22:15)

"Outside are the dogs,
those who practice magic arts,
the sexually immoral,
the murderers, the idolaters
and everyone who loves
and practices falsehood."

One of the great strategies that Satan employs against the church is to have sin infiltrate the church though his agents so that the church becomes displeasing in the sight of our Savior and loses its purity so that it ceases to be a witness to the world. In many churches today Satan has succeeded exceedingly well.

Today's situation in many churches is like that in Numbers 25 when Balaam sent Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men. They engaged in sexual immorality with them and invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. It was a horrible situation that had to be stopped.

What we as a congregation must never forget is that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, wants us, in some respects, to be intolerant.

As Christians we are to be holy. As a church we are to be holy. We are to keep the church pure. It's one of our great duties. It's what Jesus wants us to do. We are not to tolerate wicked men.

But how can this be? Doesn't the Bible teach that we are all 'evil'. Yet the Bible tells us to meet together to worship God. It tells us to love one another. We're supposed to tolerate one another, not avoid one another. We're supposed to meet together to worship God and build one another up.

Of course we need to make some distinctions. We're all sinners and to some extent we're evil people. Not one of us is without sin.

Yet I think I can safely say about all of us here, whether Christian or non-Christian—that we're trying to do better. Those who are Christians have the Spirit of God in you. You are a new creation. You are growing in righteousness and are seeking to grow even more. Those of you who are not Christians, I gather that you're here because you want to know more about Christianity, about Christ, about God, about salvation. Besides that, you want to want to learn to be a better person and want to know about some of the moral teaching of the Bible.

Anyone like that is welcome in our church. We're supposed to love and welcome people. In that way we're a welcoming church.

But there are other people who do evil and are defiant about it. They are in a different category. Numbers 15:30–31 says,

"anyone who sins defiantly,
whether native-born or alien,
blasphemes the Lord,
and that person
must be cut off from his people.
Because he has despised the LORD'S word
and broken his commands,
that person must surely be cut off;
his guilt remains on him."

So if someone who is unrepentant about their sin comes to our church and they come to our church seeking to fulfill their sinful desires—should we just accept them? No. That's a totally different situation. For example, say a man who was very promiscuous had left his wife and came to our church and he came with the intention of looking for someone to hook up with. Should we welcome him? No. Absolutely not. Or if a gay couple comes to our church and pretends that what they're doing is okay—should we just accept them? No. Absolutely not.

Or say someone had an affair with his step-mother and started attending church here with her. Should we just allow them to attend church? What if he said to us,

"We love each other. We want to be good Christians now. She's my soul mate. She made a mistake when she married my father. She was too young then and really didn't think it through. It would be wrong for her to stay with my father because they don't love each other. Not only that, but my father is not a very nice person. On top of all that, we have such peace about what we're doing. God told us that it was okay, that what we're doing is good in His eyes. Every day we read the Bible together and we're really helping each other grow spiritually. We're looking for a church home that will accept us for who we are. We're not going to stir things up, we just want to serve Christ together."

Sounds good doesn't it? No, it doesn't. Such words are to be rejected. No church of Jesus Christ should accept them. Here's what the apostle Paul wrote about such a situation. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 he said to the Corinthian church,

"It is actually reported
that there is sexual immorality among you,
and of a kind that does not occur
even among pagans:
A man has his father's wife.
And you are proud!
Shouldn't you rather have been
filled with grief and have
put out of your fellowship
the man who did this?"

The Corinthian church had tolerated the man who had his father's wife. I don't know what they were thinking, but whatever it was they were totally wrong. Paul continued, (verses 4 & 5)

"When you are assembled
in the name of our Lord Jesus
and I am with you in spirit,
and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,
hand this man over to Satan,
so that the sinful nature may be destroyed
and his spirit saved
on the day of the Lord."

The church at Corinth needed to expel the immoral person. That's what God told them to do through the apostle Paul.

There are a number of principles to apply in having immoral people come to our church.

One is that we are not to allow them to pretend that they are Christians. Paul continued in 1 Corinthians 5:9–11.

"I have written you in my letter
not to associate
with sexually immoral people—
not at all meaning the people of this world
who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters.
In that case you would have to leave this world.
But now I am writing you
that you must not associate
with anyone who calls himself a brother
but is sexually immoral or greedy,
an idolater or a slanderer,
a drunkard or a swindler.
With such a man do not even eat."

If someone is immoral and yet he's pretending that he's moral, pretending that he's a Christians—we are not to associate with him. He's making a mockery of Christianity and is to be rebuffed. Someone like that is to be admonished, rebuked, not allowed to participate in the Lord's Supper, and if they persist, not even allowed at attend services. The church is to be kept pure.

Secondly, if someone comes into a church and is bringing evil with them so that it could be a temptation for Christians to sin, they must be put of the church as well. They must not be tolerated in the church. We see this in the letter to Thyatira. Jesus said to them, (Revelation 2:20)

"I have this against you:
You tolerate that woman Jezebel,
who calls herself a prophetess.
By her teaching she misleads
my servants into sexual immorality
and the eating of food sacrificed to idols."

They should have put Jezebel out of the church. They greatly harmed the church by allowing her to continue to attend and to teach.

Jesus wants His church to exercise church discipline

Church discipline is one of the marks of a true church.

There are three marks of a true church—three things by which you can know if a congregation is a true church of Jesus Christ. One is the preaching of the Word. If you ever go to a church and they don't preach the Word of God, whether there's no sermon or whether there is a sermon which denies the truth of the Bible, then that's a really bad sign. That's not a true church. They have denied the faith.

The second mark of a true church is the proper administration of the sacraments. In the Great Commission Jesus told church to make disciples of all nations, teaching them and baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus, just before He was arrested, instituted the Lord's Supper. We are to do that in remembrance of Him. If you ever go to a church where they never administer the sacraments—that's a bad sign. They're not being faithful to Jesus.

The third mark of a church is the administration of church discipline. Jesus wants His church to be pure. He wants it to be holy. A congregation which just accepts sin in its midst, and refuses to do anything about it—is not a true church.

In our society today we have many churches which ignore God's rules. They not only welcome sinners, but they welcome and embrace their sin as well. They're tolerant. They refuse to do what John the Baptist did, which is to call sin, sin. You'll remember that John the Baptist said to Herod about Herodias, (Matthew 14:4

"It is not lawful for you to have her."

Herodias was not Herod's wife. She was the wife of Herod's brother, Philip. John the Baptist quite correctly preached against Herod's sin. He did it in spite of the fact that Herod would have been someone good to have as one of his followers.

But someone may ask,

But where does love fit into all this? Aren't we supposed to love sinners? How is putting them out of the church showing love to them?

Of course we are to love sinners. We are to be like Jesus, Who, when they were nailing Him to the cross said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing."

We are to be like Stephen, who, when they were stoning him to death, fell to his knees and cried out, (Acts 7:60)

"Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

But how does love manifest itself?

Today is Mother's Day and perhaps the best way of illustrating this distinction between loving the sinner and yet at the same time not tolerating him might be the example of a mother's tough love. A mother always loves her child. This love is unconditional. It's always there. It never dies no matter what how the child turns out. But a mother can say to her teenage son, and in certain circumstances should say to him,

"I love you, but your behavior is unacceptable. You can't stay in this house if you're going to continue to live like you're doing."

That's love. She loves her son but she might be forced to say to him,

"You've got to go. You're not welcome here until you change your behavior."

The opposite is not real love. If she saw her son was heading down the road to destruction and yet just supported and enabled him, without insisting that he change his behavior—that's not real love. I'm not saying that the emotion of love is not there then—but I'm saying that such love is defective. It's really not doing everything it can to save her son from hell's fires.

Take Eli for example.

His sons were committing great sin. They were desecrating the sacrifices that the people brought to the Lord. They were sleeping with woman at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (1 Samuel 2) Eli was concerned about it and he warned them sternly. But he didn't go far enough. He didn't remove them from their positions as priests. He didn't exercise tough love. His sons perished and his whole family line was cursed forever because he failed to restrain his sons.

Church discipline appears harsh to many people today. But
one of the primary purposes of church discipline is to restore the sinner. If you have a friend who is sinning and you speak to them about it and admonish them—your goal is not to drive them away from Jesus, but to get them to turn from their sin and be restored to Jesus. It's the same with church discipline. It's done because of love for the sinner.

The question is this: if you really love someone and you see them doing something very dangerous—are you going to keep your mouth shut and do nothing—or are you going to speak up and warn them and if they don't listen, intervene? If you really love them you'll speak up and intervene.

Many years ago a close family member had an affair, left his wife and was living with his new girlfriend. She had also left her husband. When I found out about it I made a special trip to Nova Scotia to talk to my relative. I told him that he was headed for destruction and that he need to end the affair. He told me that he loved his new girlfriend. I told him that was baloney. I told him that if he really loved her he would encourage her to end the affair and go back to her husband. I told him that his affair was leading his girlfriend to her destruction.

God is going to judge sin. No one should think that they can sin with impunity. Jesus is the Great Judge and He demands holiness from His people.

Remember what happened when the church at Corinth failed to exercise church discipline over the Lord's Supper? They were not celebrating it correctly. The rich were having a feast while the poor went hungry. After awhile God judged that church. He put some of them to death and He sent sickness on others. (1 Corinthians 11)

Sin cannot be tolerated in the church. Defiant sinners cannot be tolerated in the church.

Today's society makes a complete distinction between people and their behavior—and this leads them to neglect tough love.

In schools today one of the mantras is,

"There may be bad behavior, but there are no bad kids."

People today are buying into this. It's quite common now to hear this about people who have done horrible things. Last month R. B. confessed to murdering 23 year old Sarah C. The murder was unbelievably brutal. He stabbed her to death. I won't go into any more details than that but will tell you that it was one of the most heinous murders I've ever read about. After the murder B’s father said about his son,

"He's a good person."

Can you believe it? Yet we are hearing more and more of it. Another example is the case of M. J. He had a very violent background, including convictions for felony murder and assault. Yet when he was up for sentencing for the 2002 shooting death of a teen, P. J. wrote to Superior Court Judge R. D. and said of Jones,

"He is truly a good person and does not deserve to spend an extended period of his life imprisoned."

People will tell you that these violent murderers are 'good people'. Is that true?

Where does bad behavior come from? Does it come from good people? What did Jesus say about it? He said, (Matthew 7:16–20)

"Do people pick grapes from thornbushes,
or figs from thistles?
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit,
but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…
Thus, by their fruit
you will recognize them."

In Matthew 15:18–20 Jesus responded to those who criticized His disciples for not washing their hands before they ate.

"the things that come out of the mouth
come from the heart,
and these make a man 'unclean.'
For out of the heart come evil thoughts,
murder, adultery, sexual immorality,
theft, false testimony, slander.
These are what make a man 'unclean';
but eating with unwashed hands
does not make him 'unclean'."

Bad behavior, bad words come from a bad heart, from a bad person. Don't buy in to what the world is trying to tell you today—that everyone is good, that there are no bad people. They make a total disconnect between evil behavior and moral character. If someone commits a horrible, evil act—according to the world he is still a 'good person'. But that's just not true. Bad behavior comes from a bad heart. If someone was good, their behavior would be good.

But people don't see this. Satan has them deluded. That's why tough love is not practiced—it's not needed. They're good people. They're going to be all right in spite of their bad behavior. That's what they think.

But it's not true. People who are going astray need to be told that they are on the path to destruction. They need to be told that they need to change. They need to be dealt with with tough love.

Lastly, this means that

if you're not a Christian, you need Jesus.

This should show you that on the Day of Judgment there will be no hope for you. Oh, yes, people today will tell you that there's a distinction between you and your behavior, between you and your sin. They will tell you that deep down you're good and that on the last day your sin will not cling to you, that perhaps you'll be able to slip out of it like you slip out of dirty clothes. No. On that day, your sin will not be on you superficially like dirty clothes. It will permeate your being. It will condemn you.

Your heart is bad, evil. There is nothing you yourself can do to change it. It's like if you had a bad heart in the physical sense and you needed a heart transplant. One thing that is clear is that you can't give yourself a heart transplant. Someone else has to do it for you. In the same way, in a moral sense, you can't change your heart yourself. As the prophet Jeremiah says, (Jeremiah 13:23)

"Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil."

You need God to change your heart. In Ezekiel 36:24–29 God told the ancient Israelites about this. He said to them,

"For I will take you out of the nations;
I will gather you from all the countries
and bring you back into your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities
and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you
your heart of stone and give you
a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you
and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws.
You will live in the land
I gave your forefathers;
you will be my people,
and I will be your God.
I will save you from all your uncleanness."

You need Jesus to save you and give you a new heart. Go to Him now.