Revelation 2 – Part 4

“But hold fast what you have till I come.” Revelation 2:25

The ascended Lord Jesus addresses the fourth church next. “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.’” (Revelation 2:18). Thyatira was the smallest and least significant of the seven cities, but it was the one that received the longest letter.” 1

“According to legend, Thyatira was first established as a shrine to the sun god Tyrimnus and named Pelopia.” 2

This town stood about forty-five miles to the southeast of Pergamum. It was famous for its textiles, but especially for its production of purple dye (cf. Acts 16:14) and its trade guilds (or social clubs). 3

Sadly, these guilds were also steeped in blasphemous worship and sexual sin. The church in Thyatira had a woman, Jezebel, who supported such guild practices. If a Christian refused to participate in idol worship, he or she would often be excluded from the guild, and therefore be unable to conduct their business. 4

The Lord Jesus describes Himself as “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.” This description of Christ is like that in 1:13-15, but here He is called the “Son of God” rather than “the Son of Man,” since this situation required a reaffirmation of His deity and the authority or right to judge this church. 5

“Eyes like a flame of fire” refers to Jesus’ blazing anger against sin and His ability to see beneath the surface into the inmost being of a person’s heart. 6 The Greek word used to describe Christ’s feet like “fine brass” is a rare word chalkolibanō, also used in 1:15. It seems to have been an alloy of several metals characterized by brilliance when polished. 7  This speaks of the risen Christ’s inflexible, immovable strength and power 8 and His readiness to execute judgment (cf. Revelation 19:15). 9

Although much was wrong with the church in Thyatira, Christ commends this church when He says, “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” (Revelation 2:19). These believerswere strong in good “works,” “love” for others (not mentioned in the other letters), “faith” in God, “service” of their Savior, and “patience” or perseverance in trials. This church was doing more as time went on (“the last are more than the first”)in contrast to the church at Ephesus which did less. 10 Often churches stop growing over time, but not the church in Thyatira. Their “works, love, service, faith, and…patience” continued to increase more that what they had at “first.”

But despite this evidence of Christian growth, the church in Thyatira had some serious flaws and needed a Judge. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20). Whereas the church in Ephesus would not allow false teachers, this church did. The risen Lord Jesus rebukes them for permitting a false teacher named “Jezebel” to entice them to practice “sexual immorality” connected to idolatrous worship (“to… eat things sacrificed to idols”).

It is likely that Jezebel’s immorality involved teaching God’s people that it was acceptable to engage in the activities of the guild feasts that took place in pagan temples. The pressure on the workers of that day to give in was great because failure to attend these feasts could threaten their livelihood.” 11

Though perhaps this was her real name, Jezebel also brings to mind the wife of Israel’s King Ahab (see 1 Kgs 16:31; 2 Kgs 9) and represents an entire category of immoral and idolatrous women.” 12

A modern-day practice of Jezebel’s doctrine is connected to pornography which involves sexual immorality and idolatry. Pornography is one of the most destructive practices in the church today and most churches do not know how to address it in a way that offers hope and healing for those enslaved to it. The majority of churches preach against the problem of pornography without providing a safe environment to address the real problem which is a deeper hurt in the hearts of those hooked on porn. Pornography is simply a surface coping mechanism for a deeper wound. Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted. 13

“Pornography is the number one addiction for men. One out of two internet hits have to do with sex and pornography. Pornography can ruin normal sexual relationships because no real person can live up to pornographic images and fantasies. Research has shown that the limbic system bonds with whatever you are visualizing at the time of orgasm, so the next time you have sexual cravings they will be focused on that image or fantasy. This is why pornography is so addicting. Pornography is not really about sex; it is about zoning out, getting high on your own neurochemicals. Sex addicts report having withdrawal symptoms similar to cocaine withdrawal.” 14

Pornography is not just an adult addiction. Young people are also struggling with watching pornography online as young as four years of age and older because it is so accessible, addictive, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. If you don’t think it’s possible for your children to get hooked on porn, you need to listen to Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s videos. 15 If you are struggling with pornography, contact Pure Desire at www.puredesire.org to obtain hope and healing from your addiction.

What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, hurting, lonely, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.

Christ’s patience toward this false teacher in Thyatira is seen when He says, “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.” (Revelation 2:21). God is very gracious and patient. He gave Jezebel “time to repent” of her false teaching that promoted “sexual immorality.” But she refused to “repent.” Understand that “a refusal is different than a struggle. At times, believers fight sins but cannot stop committing them on their own power. Jezebel was unwilling to make any effort.” 16  She knew she was doing wrong, and she chose to keep doing it. This does not mean that Jezebel was unsaved. It is possible to be a Christian and drift from sound doctrine (cf. I Timothy 1:19-20). 17

Since Jezebel did “not repent,” the Lord Jesus promised to discipline her and her followers when He said, “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 2:22). Since she encouraged lying on beds of adultery, the risen Jesus would cast her on a different kind of bed: a bed of sickness. 18 And because her followers joined her immoral ways, they would experience God’s painful discipline in the form of “great tribulation” or distress.

Another group in this church would experience a more severe judgment. “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:23). This group is referred to as “her children” because they fully embraced her teaching and lifestyle. 19 They would experience physical “death.” This may sound extremely severe, but it is not the first time in the New Testament that God disciplines His people in this way (cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30).

 Immediately before pronouncing, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31), the writer of Hebrews declares, ‘The Lord will judge His people’ (v 30, emphasis added). The Lord’s discipline would cause His people to know that He is serious about sinful activity and false teaching and that no one is exempt from His discipline (cf. Gal 6:7).” 20

This judgment would be so intense that “all the churches shall know” that the ascended Christ is the One “who searches hearts and minds.” Nothing escapes His notice. False teachers may be able to deceive their followers, but they are not capable of fooling the risen Lord Jesus. These seven churches (and any of us today) reading these messages would be reminded to take sin seriously because God is partial to no one. He says, “I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

Not all the believers of the church in Thyatira followed Jezebel and her false doctrine. Jesus says to them, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.(Revelation 2:24). Apparently Jezebel claimed that her “doctrine” (that Christians can indulge in immorality without consequences) was deeper than the teachings of the apostles’ when in reality they extended to “the depths of Satan.” 21  Christ says that those who did not follow Jezebel’s teaching would be subject to “no other burden” just listed.

Instead, this godly remnant was to hold fast what you have till I come.” (Revelation 2:25).  These faithful believers were simply to continue to do what they had been doing – to stand against false teaching and to “hold fast” to purity of doctrineuntil Christ comes for His church at the Rapture (cf. Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). 22

Walvoord observes, Perhaps because the church was small, Christ did not command them to leave it but to remain as a godly testimony. Judgment on Jezebel and her followers would come soon and would purge the church. In modern times Christians who find themselves in apostate local churches can usually leave and join another fellowship, but this was impractical under the circumstances in Thyatira.

“The parallels between Thyatira and other apostate churches throughout church history are clear. Some compare Thyatira to believers in the Middle Ages when Protestantism separated from Roman Catholicism and attempted a return to purity in doctrine and life. The prominence of Jezebel as a woman prophetess is sometimes compared to the unscriptural exaltation of Mary. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ. In spite of the apostasy of churches in the Middle Ages, there were churches then which, like the church of Thyatira, had some believers who were bright lights of faithfulness in doctrine and life.” 23

The ascended Lord Jesus then gives this godly remnant a challenge and promised reward if they fulfill that challenge. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – 27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ – as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:26-28). The eternal rewards for remaining faithful to Christ and resisting Jezebel’s false teachings “until the end” of their lives was ruling with Christ “over the nations” in His earthly kingdom and enjoying a special intimacy with the Morning Star Himself, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 24 The morning star (usually the planet Venus) appears in the night sky, just before the dawning of a new day. Jesus Christ will guide faithful believers in the future, as the new day of His rule dawns (cf. Titus 2:13; Daniel 12:3). 25

“Thus, the reward for a pure life is a greater experience of Jesus during His millennial reign and for eternity. Naturally, a co-ruler of the universe will have greater access to the King than a common citizen.” 26

The Lord intended the prospect of this promised blessing to motivate the unfaithful in the church to return to God’s will for them, and to encourage the faithful to persevere. Believers who are faithful (“he who overcomes”) will receive “power” (authority) in heaven from Jesus Christ and will “rule” (lit. “shepherd”) others during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:28-29; Luke 19:11- 27; Romans 8:17b; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6). Some believers will receive greater authority for being faithful, than others who have not been as faithful (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). While not all Christians will remain faithful to the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12), Christ evidently described believers as faithful (cf. Revelation 2:19) to motivate them to remain faithful. 27

We see that the rewards of ruling with Christ and enjoying a special intimacy with Him in His earthly kingdom are reserved only for individual believers in Jesus who remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth. The Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29). Not all Christians are “overcomers” who hold fast to Christ till the end of their lives on earth. Only those who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” and appropriate Jesus’ promise will be able to live as “overcomers” and receive these perseverance rewards.

Since Christ will reward each Christian “according to his works” (2:23; cf. 22:12) and not all Christians do the same amount or quality of works, there will be varying degrees of rewards among believers. When Jesus evaluates our Christian lives at the Judgment Seat (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12), He will look deeper than the works themselves, since He “searches the hearts and minds” of His people and knows what motivates them to act (Revelation 2:23; cf. I Corinthians 4:5). His rewards will also take into consideration the motivation for our works (cf. Matthew 6:1-4; Hebrews 4:12-13). Have we served Christ with our very best to bring honor to Him (cf. I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:22-25)? 28 Only Jesus Christ is qualified to make such judgments of believers (cf. I Corinthians 4:1-5; Revelation 1:12-20; 2:23; et al.).

To summarize: Christians who succumb to false teaching and the sinful lifestyle it promotes, can expect God’s discipline in their lives even unto physical death (2:18-23; cf. Acts 5:1-11; I Corinthians 11:29-30). Believers who resist false teaching and remain faithful to Christ until the end of their lives will receive the reward of ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom and enjoy a special intimacy with Him, our Morning Star (2:24-29).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us enough to tell us what we need to hear. Like the church in Thyatira, You have commended us for having more good works, love for others, faith in God, service for You, and perseverance in trials than we had at the first. But You know our hearts and minds better than we do. You know that we have tolerated false teaching within our churches that compromises the truth of Your gospel by adding works to Your finished work on the cross. Such an unstable foundation has led to an infiltration of sexual immorality and idolatry in Your churches. Those of us who fall prey to this teaching of Jezebel’s spirit are those who often seek spiritual enlightenment apart from You and crave eternal life without believing on Christ’s sacrificial death. We can consider ourselves superior to the rest of the earth’s population and are ever learning some new ‘mystical’ spirituality, which is contrary to the truth of the gospel. Please help those of us who have embraced Jezebel’s teaching to return to Your will lest we experience Your painful discipline. Empower those of us who have rejected her teaching to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal rewards of ruling with You in Your coming Kingdom on earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You then as our Morning Star. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 41.

2. Ibid., cites David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series. Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 201.

3. Constable, pg. 41.

4.  Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1508.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

6. Constable, pg. 42 cites, William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 128; Vacendak, pg. 1508.

7. Walvoord, pg. 164.

8. Constable, pg. 42 cites Barclay, pg. 128.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1508.

10. Walvoord, pg. 164.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1508.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2374.

13. Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series: The Battle Plan For Purity Study Guide, Vol. 1 (Stuart FL: KingdomWorks Studio, 2017), pg. 21.

14. Michael Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Book 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 206-207.

15. See Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s very informative and staggering videos on October 7, 2018 at Denton Bible Church entitled, “Breaking Free from the Porn Epidemic w/ Josh McDowell” at https://vimeo.com/294241982 and on August 3, 2021 with Pure Desire Ministries entitled, “The Effects of Pornography with Josh McDowell” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sRmLFarZc .

16. Evans, pg. 2374.  

17. Vacendak, pg. 1509.

18. Constable, pg. 43.

19. Vacendak, pg. 1509. 

20. Ibid.

21. Constable, pg. 43.

22. Ibid., pg. 44; Vacendak, pg. 1509.

23. Walvoord, pg. 164.

24. Vacendak, pg. 1509.

25. Constable, pg. 45.

26. Evans, pg. 2374.

27. Constable, pg. 44.

28. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 771-772.

How can Jesus transform our grief into gladness? Part 4

“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24

We are learning from Jesus’ instructions to His disciples how He can transform our grief into gladness. Christ can do this when we…

– Ask Him to help us properly understand His word as it relates to our situation (John 16:16-19).

– Accept that pain and suffering are part of life (John 16:20a; cf. 16:33).

– Assess our circumstances with an eternal perspective (John 16:20b-22).       

The fourth way the Lord can transform our grief into gladness is to ALLOW OUR GRIEF TO DIRECT US TO THE FATHER IN PRAYER (John 16:23-24). Christ’s resurrection would change relations. Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 16:23). “In that day” after His resurrection and ascension, Jesus would not be with His disciples physically and so they would not be able to ask Him questions. But the Holy Spirit would teach them and answer their questions (John 16:13-15).

We also see that Christ’s resurrection and ascension provided unlimited access to the Father in prayer. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the disciples had often asked the Lord to meet their needs while they were with Him, but they had not asked the Father in heaven for anything in His name. Christ promises that after His ascension to heaven, the “Father …will give” them “whatever” they ask in Jesus’ name.

Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory. When we pray according to God’s will, He will hear and answer our prayers to magnify the name of Jesus (cf. I John 5:14-15).

Next Christ says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). “Now,” because of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the disciples would be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name. The word “ask” (aiteite) is a present imperative verb and conveys the idea of asking God continually and persistently. Christ assures them that the Father would “give” them whatever they prayed in Jesus’ name to accomplish His will. The purpose of all of this was so that their “joy may be full” or complete. 

No matter what pain or sorrow we experience, it is essential that we stay connected to Jesus because God the Father is still in the prayer-answering business when we love and seek to honor His Son. 1 A disciple of Christ centers his or her life around Jesus (cf. Philippians 1:21), so when Jesus is glorified, his or her joy will “be full” or complete. Nothing is more enjoyable or satisfying for a follower of Christ than to see his or her Lord magnified.

When we go through painful times as did Jesus and His disciples, we have a choice to make. Will we turn away from the Father and pout or will we turn to the Father and pray? If we turn to the Father in prayer, He can fill our hearts with joy that the world cannot take from us. Our joy is connected to prayer. It cannot be made complete in any other way. Isn’t this exciting!?! God desires to make us glad by working in and through us as we pray to Him.

How do you respond to trials? Do you allow pain in your life to turn you to God or away from Him? Many of us want to take matters into our own hands when we experience pain. We may try to medicate our pain with different behaviors, feelings, people, or substances (e.g. alcohol, anger, anxiety, cell phones, depression, drugs, friends, gossip, lust, ministry, music, pornography, rage, romantic relationships, shopping, sports, TV, video games, work, or worry, et al.). But the Lord  wants us to turn to Him as we face painful times. He is waiting to hear from us, so He can fill our hearts with gladness.

What keeps believers from turning to the Lord in the midst of their pain? I believe much of it has to do with the lies we believe.  Let’s look at some common lies and the corresponding truth with which to overcome them:

Lie #1: God must not love me to allow all this pain in my life.

Truth #1: No one and nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Lie #2:  God is against me, not for me.

Truth #2: God is for me and He proved it when He gave His only Son for me (Romans 8:31-32).

Lie #3: God will not understand my feelings.

Truth #3: Christ experienced the same feelings as you, so He could understand your feelings and help you process them (Hebrews 4:15).

Let’s lean into the Lord especially during these uncertain times. He longs to fill us with His joy that cannot be taken from us.  

Prayer: Father God, I come to You now through the Lord Jesus Christ Who loved me and gave Himself to die in my place on a cross for all my sins and then rose from the dead. Please forgive me for embracing lies that lead me away from You instead of the truth that brings me closer to You. I am so thankful that I now have direct access into Your presence because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I can talk to You at any time about anything knowing that You understand and are listening. Right now my Lord and my God, I give everyone and everything to You. I surrender everyone and everything to You, Lord. You are a good, good Father Who wants to bless His children. Thank You for the safety and security that I find in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Hold me, Lord. Hold me…. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1811.

Could there be another great awakening coming?

THE IMPETUS

In recent days I have spoken with people whom I greatly respect as mentors and dedicated followers of Christ who mentioned to me that they are anticipating another Great Spiritual Awakening in America and around the world. The impetus? The mistreatment of children.

One of the darkest expressions of human depravity today is found in human trafficking.  According to the definition of the United Nations, human trafficking means, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation.” 1 Victims of human trafficking are exploited through different types of human slavery such as sex work, forced labor, or organ removal and selling.

According to The International Labour Organization, there are approximately 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. 2  The Fox News Investigative Unit also confirms this, saying, “Every year more than 40 million people are forced into the world of human trafficking across the globe and it’s someone’s son or daughter that is trapped in this modern-day slavery.” 3 Of these millions of victims, 25 percent are children, 75 percent are female, and 81 percent are trapped in some form of forced labor. 4

The 24.9 million people exploited for forced labor includes those caught in one of the most common forms of trafficking: sex trafficking. 5 Women and girls are overwhelmingly affected by exploitation of this sort, making up 99 percent of victims in the commercial sex industry. 6 Sex trafficking alone generates an estimated $99 million per year. 7

While human trafficking affects victims of all ages, children are especially vulnerable. About one out of seven endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2017 were likely child sex trafficking victims. 8 Of the 15.4 million forced into marriage worldwide, 37 percent are children. 9

Human trafficking is also a serious problem in the USA. According to the Fox News Investigative Unit, America is among one of the worst nations for human trafficking along with Mexico and the Philippines. 10 Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), said in an interview with Fox News, “We have a major issue here in the United States. The United States is the No. 1 consumer of sex worldwide. So we are driving the demand as a society… We do have men traveling the globe to go to places like Thailand and other places in East Asia to purchase sex with kids. But, in fact, the demand is so great that the supply has needed to be filled here in the United States.” Rogers also said that 50% to 60 % of these kids are coming out of the foster care industry in America. 11

According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, over 300,000 of America’s young population is considered at risk for sexual exploitation. It’s also estimated that 199,000 incidents occur within the U.S. each year. 12

According to DeliverFund’s website, in the USA, every 2.5 hours a child is taken by traffickers; every trafficked child is purchased for sex 5.4 times a day; 7 years is the average lifespan of a child victim once taken. 13

One teenage sex trafficking survivor known as “C” says, “Five men came in and it went from a Friday night to a Sunday morning — constantly. There was no sleep or break or anything it was just constantly being attacked by these men, and they kept giving me drugs and giving me liquor. And they just kept me hopped up.” 14

Sex trafficking is also connected to politicians in the USA as the more recent Jeffrey Epstein case has shown. 15 I wonder how many political candidates will address the pandemic of child trafficking along with the COVID pandemic as the November Presidential elections draw near?!!! This is not likely if they are also connected to this shameful industry.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 is causing an increase in isolation and human vulnerabilities that traffickers are eager to exploit. 16With many people stuck at home, stressed, or bored, pornography use has increased – Pornhub’s traffic shot up nearly 20 percent in late March. Sites like OnlyFans, a subscription-based social media platform used heavily by sex workers, have increasingly drawn unemployed people desperate for cash. OnlyFans saw a 75 percent increase in signups in March and April. Glamour magazine reported that up to 10,000 creators were joining OnlyFans daily during the month of May.” 17

Pornography has become an entryway for purchasing people for sex. 18 Amanda Eckhardt, the executive director of Restore NYC, a faith-based nonprofit that works with immigrant survivors of sex trafficking, says, “It’s important for the church to know that beyond the shutdown and pandemic, there will likely be a whole new cohort of people who will increase beyond traditional pornography viewing to purchasing sex, which will intersect with the trafficking of women and girls.” 19

I do not want to leave out the fact that child sexual abuse is also a problem in churches. Countless children have been sexually exploited by Catholic priests, nuns, and members of religious orders around the world. 20  Even among evangelical churches, there are young people being exploited sexually by their church leaders. 21 Regardless of culture or religion, the sexual exploitation of children is a very dark reality.

Let’s not forget the horrific treatment of unborn children worldwide. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 73 million abortions took place each year around the world between 2015 and 2019. 22 Since the legalization of abortion on demand in the USA, over 50 million unborn children have been torn apart in their mother’s womb through abortion procedures. 23

WHAT IS GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE MISTREATMENT OF CHILDREN?

Young children are very valuable to Jesus. They have a special place of love and respect from Him. Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10). Little children are very valuable to God as demonstrated by how close their guardian angels stand to the throne of God. Christ said, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14). God the Father does not want any little child to perish forever in hell.

We also see Jesus’ concern for little children in Matthew 19:13-15: “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.” Jesus rebukes those who forbid little children from coming to Him. He says not to forbid little children from coming to Him because “the kingdom of heaven” is occupied by those who possess childlike faith in Jesus.

One of Jesus’ strongest statements against the mistreatment of children is seen in Matthew 18. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6). To welcome children and serve them is to welcome and serve Jesus (18:5). So if you want fellowship with Jesus, you must treat children and those who are childlike with tender love and care. Otherwise, Jesus warns of the great danger of causing them to stumble. He says it would be better to drown in the depth of the sea with a heavy stone hung around your neck than to cause a child to get tripped up (18:6). I can think of nothing worse that exploiting children sexually! Those who do so without getting right with God, must face the wrath of Jesus Christ!

In the Old Testament when God’s people sacrificed their children to pagan gods, the Lord’s wrath was kindled against them. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and playedthe harlot by their own deeds. 40 Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.” (Psalm 103:36-40; cf. Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3; 17:17). What we are seeing in the world today with children being sacrificed on the altars of sexual exploitation and abortion is equally abhorrent to the Lord and invites His wrath.

The God of the Bible is holy and cannot be around our sin (Psalm 5:4; 66:18; Isaiah 59:2;Romans 3:23; 6:23). He hates sin (Psalm 45:7; Proverbs 6:16; Zechariah 8:17), but He does not hate sinners. God loves sinners and wants to save them from sin’s penalty (eternal death) and give them everlasting life. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners,” not saints. The idea that we must clean ourselves up and stop sinning before we come to Christ is not found in the Bible!

Jesus loved and died for all sinners including the pedophile, the child molester, sex traffickers, the abortionist, and the parents or grandparents who sell their children’s bodies to make money. No exceptions!!! God’s grace is greater and stronger than our sin through the blood of Jesus Christ! “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20). If Jesus’ blood can wash away the sin of all nations from all time in all of history (Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 12:11), certainly His blood can wash away the sin and shame of those who are caught up in human trafficking the moment they believe in Him for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; 16:31)!

WHAT IS OUR RESPONSE?

My prayer is that God will use the darkness of human trafficking to awaken the world for its need for the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ! All of us have sinned against God with our words, our thoughts, and our actions (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to be separated from God forever because of our sins (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). In the sight of a holy God, the people who spend more time in a church or a mosque or a temple are no better than those who spend more time in human trafficking. We all have sinned against God.

How will we respond to the mistreatment of children worldwide? Will we try to justify our participation in these very dark practices by saying “everyone is doing it” or “no one has to know as long as I can keep it a secret”? Are we so desperate for money that we are willing to sacrifice the innocence of our children or grandchildren on the altar of human trafficking?

We may think that this does not apply to us because we do not participate in such atrocities. But are we any better than those who practice such evil as we turn the other way and pretend that such wickedness does not exist or perhaps we assume someone else will fix it? The Bible says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Sins of omission are just as evil in God’s sight as sins of commission.

The Bible says, “Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:4). Are we delivering “the poor and needy” children of this world from human trafficking when we turn the other way and pretend this does not involve us? When the Bible says, Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” in Proverbs 31:8-9, are we obeying the Lord when we remain silent concerning the millions of children who are speechless and needy in the human trafficking industry? Oh may the Lord have mercy on all of us!!!

Human trafficking is one of the darkest expressions of our human sinfulness. Children are being robbed of their innocence through this very dark industry. Whether you are a victim of human trafficking or a consumer, you are probably silenced by your shame.

If you do not have Jesus Christ in your life, God invites you right now to come into the light of His love so He can set you free from your shame. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus did not say, “Come to a church or a mosque or a temple.” No. He said, “Come to Me.” Jesus is the One who can deliver us from the burden of our sin and shame.

Nor does Jesus say, “Come to Me and I will give you stress and shame.” Human trafficking will give you unbearable stress and shame whether you are a victim or a consumer. But not Jesus. He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” You may be suffering in silence feeling horrible about what has been done to you as a victim of sex trafficking. Or, you may be coming apart on the inside with shame because you purchased children for sex. Please know that Jesus invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive the spiritual “rest” of His cleansing forgiveness and everlasting life. The “rest” Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation. This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s accomplishment on the cross (John 3:14-16). Jesus finished the work of paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is alive today and He knows how deeply you are hurt or ashamed. He loves you infinitely and invites you to come to Him for rest.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell Jesus this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you deeply burdened by my sin and my shame. I have sunk deeply into darkness. Before today, I thought no one could ever love me or want a relationship with me. But I am realizing that You showed me how much You love me by dying in my place on a cross for all of my sins. Thank You, Jesus, for taking all my punishment when You died and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You, Jesus, alone to forgive all my sins and cleanse me of all my shame. Thank You for the forgiveness and complete cleansing I now have. Please help me to see myself as You do now – as a dearly loved child of God who will never be alone again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you are a believer in Jesus who is a survivor of sex trafficking, please know that Christ loves you infinitely for who you are. What was done to you was terribly wrong, but that does not mean you are wrong. Jesus wants to walk with you through your pain and shame so you can be free from the past. Since you were deeply injured through relationships, you will need to experience healing in the context of relationships with people who will love and care for you regardless of your past. Please see the “NEED HELP?” section for contact information of those who can help you.

If you are a believer in Jesus who enabled human trafficking or purchased children for sex, you also need to know that Jesus loves you very much and He wants to shine His love in the dark places of your soul. Yes, what you did was wrong, but you are not wrong in the sight of Jesus! You are still God’s beloved child who may have unresolved trauma that has led you to medicate your pain and shame with these dark practices. Jesus wants to heal you in the context of loving relationships. Please see the “NEED HELP?” section for contact information of those who can help you.

May all of us pray for the God of all grace to bring to light the darkness of human trafficking in the world so children and consumers will be rescued from the chains of shame through the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ! Only Jesus can replace the enemy’s darkness with His marvelous light and hope!

 NEED HELP?

If you are being trafficked or suspect that someone you know is being trafficked contact:

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or CYBERTIPLINE.ORG.

– National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888

If you are a survivor of sex trafficking or a consumer thereof and would like healing, please contact one of the following Christian Counseling services:  

– NewLife Ministries at www.newlife.com or call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

– Agape International Missions at www.agapewebsite.org

– Rahab’s Daughters at www.rahabsdaughters.org

– Bethany Christian services at www.bethany.org

ENDNOTES:

1. https://www.glowbalact.com/en/humantrafficking/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwp4j 6BRCRARIsAGq4yMHiB6KnaVuFSaP2hgwYWxfJ7qWRLRy4EHUq6ukzo60rf4m56KBY190aAt6NEALw_wcB

2. https://www.forgottenchildren.org/human-trafficking-by-the-numbers

3. https://www.foxnews.com/world/human-trafficking-victims-are-mostly-underage-children-from-within-the-us

4. https://www.forgottenchildren.org/human-trafficking-by-the-numbers

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. https://www.foxnews.com/us/human-trafficking-in-america-among-worst-in-world-report

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. https://deliverfund.org/the-human-trafficking-problem-in-america/

14. https://www.foxnews.com/world/human-trafficking-victims-are-mostly-underage-children-from-within-the-us

15. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mitchell-richardson-accused; https://www.foxnews. com/politics/christine-pelosi-jeffrey-epstein-democrats-faves-implicated

16. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/july-web-only/coronavirus-human-trafficking-ministries-face-crisis.html

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. https://www.bbc.com/news/10407559; https://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/ Catholic_Church_ sexual_abuse_cases

21. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/may/lifeway-protestant-abuse-survey-young-christians-leave-chur.html; https://www.washington post.com/news/posteverything/wp /2018/05/31/feature/the-epidemic-of-denial-about-sexual-abuse-in-the-evangelical-church/; http://www.religion watch.com/sexual-abuse-crisis-in-the-sbc-also-an-evangelical-problem/

22. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide?gclid= CjwKCAjwyo 36BRAXEiwA24CwGX3b5DXx9cfcMf-7pwvl7eu-cgonf whHVwLrMSTlEAg98qbpdX_76RoCK1 YQAvD_BwE

23. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/reality-check/2015/03/06/million-abortions-claim-checks/24530159/

I was created to enjoy living waters

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

The prophet Jeremiah was writing to God’s people, the Israelites, who were being carried away from Jerusalem into captivity in Babylon. The Lord said to His prophet, “My people have committed two evils.” It is important to understand that they were God’s redeemed people. They were believers in the coming Messiah. We are not talking about unbelievers here. These were members of the community of God.

The first evil that God’s people had committed was that they had “forsaken” or turned away from the Lord, Who like a “fountain of living waters,” had provided for their deepest needs and longings (2:13a; cf. Psalm 36:9; John 4:10-14; Revelation 21:6). God was the source of “living water” – water that gives life.

Since God is the source of living water, then our thirsts and longings are good. There is no such thing as an unholy thirst or longing. But our thirsts and longings can become holy desires that get misdirected. This is what happened to the Israelites. Instead of turning to the Lord to be comforted, connected, known, and soothed, they committed a second “evil” by turning to idols (2:5), which like “broken cisterns,” could not even “hold … water” – much less provide it (2:13b). The most reliable source of water in Israel was a natural spring, and the least reliable was a “cistern” or well.

One author writes, “The best cisterns, even those in solid rock, are strangely liable to crack, and are a most unreliable source of supply of that absolutely indispensable article, water; and if, by constant care, they are made to hold, yet the water, collected from clay roofs or from marly soil, has the color of weak soapsuds, the taste of the earth or the stable, is full of worms, and in the hour of greatest need it utterly fails. Who but a fool positive, or one gone mad in love of filth, would exchange the sweet, wholesome stream of a living fountain for such an uncertain compound of nastiness and vermin!”

These cisterns were often carved out of rock which became filled with cracks so they could not hold any water. These wells which were dug by human hands and could not hold water, became tombs for the dead. Isn’t this a profound analogy!?!

Imagine being extremely thirsty on a hot and humid day, and you have a clean and wholesome natural spring of water to satisfy your thirst. But instead of drinking that cool and refreshing water that is free, you exchange it for sewage water? Sounds repulsive, doesn’t it !?! But this is what God’s people did when they turned away from the Lord to worship idols. What they thought would bring life to them actually brought them death.

Where do we turn when we are in pain and need comforting? Where do we turn when we are stressed and need to be soothed? Where do we turn when we are lonely and need to connect? According to recent studies, more and more Christians are turning to modern-day idols like pornography and other sexual sins (see Josh McDowell’s video at https://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=3723&fbclid=IwAR0gUSqTICO9Z1R2IniX0jaG98XHDFfIxwAj6XsDqrYzwJdzRdR_tWTWKSc. Scroll down to find Josh’s 37- minute video.). How do we know it is an idol? Because it replaces God. Instead of turning to the Lord when we hurt or are lonely, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate, we go to our idol.

When a man or woman, a boy or girl, views porn or has sex outside of marriage, what is his or her holy desire or longing? To be comforted, connected, known, or soothed. It is not wrong to have these desires. God created us with these longings. But to turn to an image on a computer instead of to the living God, is like drinking sewer water instead of pure and wholesome spring water. And the devil will use this broken cistern to destroy your life.

One of Satan’s strategies is to use the beauty of a woman or a man to draw sons and daughters of God away from their Father in heaven. The enemy is fully aware of how addictive and destructive pornography is to God’s people – or any person for that matter. This is why he is making it so easy to access online.  

If you have become enslaved to porn or other sexual sins, please know that there is a way out. God still loves you with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Out of infinite love for you, He died in your place on a cross to cleanse you of all your sin and shame (Romans 5:8; Colossians 2:13-14). Jesus wants to walk with you through the pain and shame so you can experience His abundant life once again. Your longings to be comforted, connected, known, and soothed are from Him. You were simply misled by God’s enemy to turn to “broken cisterns” which cannot meet your deepest needs and longings. In actuality, they will lead to death. Please know that Jesus is calling you to come back to Him to enjoy His living waters (John 7:37-39). All He asks is that you confess your sins to Him (I John 1:9), and walk openly and honestly in the light of His love (I John 1:7). As you learn to follow Him, He will never lead you into darkness, but into a deeper experience of His love (John 8:12; I John 4:16).

If you do not have Jesus Christ in your life, He invites you right now to recognize that you are a sinner who cannot save yourself (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ took your punishment when He died in your place and rose from the dead (Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6). He now asks you to believe or trust in Him alone and His finished work on the cross (not your good life, church attendance, or baptism) to give you everlasting life (John 3:14-16). The moment you do, Jesus gives you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). He comes to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11-13; Galatians 2:20) to give you the power to live for Him now and enjoy His living waters.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for turning away from You to meet my needs to be comforted, connected, known, and soothed. I am so sorry for the pain I have caused You. Thank You for reminding me that You still love me despite all my sin and shame. You are still proud of me even though I have done so many shameful things. You still believe in me even though I had lost hope. Lord, I want to drink from Your life-giving waters once again. I give You permission to walk with me through the mess I have made of my life. Please heal me of the many wounds I have tried to medicate with broken cisterns. And please lead me in Your everlasting way. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Is viewing porn harmful to one’s body?

“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” I Corinthians 6:18

A growing epidemic among evangelical Christians has to do with sexual and porn addiction. A 2017 study indicates that 60-70% of men, 50-58% of pastors, and 20-30% of women in evangelical churches in America are sexually addicted (Conquer Series, Vol. 1 Study Guide, 2017, p. 21).

God wants His children to “flee” from “sexual immorality” because it is harmful (“against”) to their physical bodies (6:18). The word “flee” (pheugō) means “to run away from danger, to seek safety by flight.” Just as I would never think of staying inside of a burning house about to implode on itself, God does not want me to hesitate to run away from sexual sin whether it be on a billboard, a TV show or movie, a computer, on Facebook, or in a hotel.

Like the Corinthian believers, we may think that sexual sin doesn’t harm us physically, but it does. Based on advances in the field of neuroscience, we now know that when you have a sexual release, your brain is flooded with neurochemicals that are as strong as drugs. So when you are sexually acting out, you are restructuring your brain and setting yourself up for sexual bondage.

For example, when a husband and wife have sexual intimacy, bonding hormones are released that bond them to their spouse during sexual release. But outside of God’s will, these hormones will impair our judgment. These same chemicals are released when watching pornography or indulging in sexual fantasies, bonding you to those images. These images become your sexual triggers which actually impair intimacy with your spouse.

Brain scans reveal clear similarities between a cocaine addict’s brain and a porn addict’s brain. Repeated viewing of pornography damages the pleasure centers of the brain, sears one’s conscience, and makes a person attracted to what is synthetic instead of what is real. It physically alters the structure of the brain. The only way to reverse the damage is by going through the process of renewing your mind.

One of the best ways to preserve our physical body is to run from sexuality that is contrary to God’s design. And the best way to avoid sex outside of God’s design is to cultivate a more intimate relationship with the Maker of sex itself – God. The closer we grow to the Lord spiritually, the more satisfied and secure we will be with ourselves and the world around us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for reminding me of Your design for sexuality. You never intended for sexual intimacy to take place outside of marriage. When it does, it only causes pain and damages our physical body, especially our brain. Please help me to honor You with my spirit, soul, and body by running away from any form of sexual immorality and cultivating a more intimate relationship with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.