By Francis Frangipane
I had an hour before boarding my plane at Reagan International. Since I was looking to replace my aging laptop computer, I decided to buy a computer magazine to help educate myself before making a decision. As I entered the newsstand, I asked the clerk, a scarfed Muslim woman, for help and she quietly led me to the computer magazine section. However, en route to our destination we had to walk past a prominently displayed rack of "men's" magazines, all with flagrantly indecent covers.
I felt genuinely embarrassed for two reasons. First, I am a man of God. I seek to live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, yet my best response was merely to turn away from the offending rack. Second, I was aggravated that, for all the authority Christ has given the church, a public newsstand still can boldly feature this degrading blight. In full view of our children, of teens, as well as adult men and women, the spirit of Jezebel stands at our crossroads unchecked as she seeks to captivate the naive.
I paid for my laptop magazine and, as I walked out of the store, the Holy Spirit brought Revelations 2:20 to mind. It reads, "But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols."
I personally hadn't tolerated this spirit in the sense that I picked up one of the magazines or acted out an immoral, demonically inspired, impulse; I had turned my eyes from evil. That wasn't what the Lord was saying. His emphasis was on two words "you tolerate." To tolerate means "to allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit."
It occurred to me that the initial rebuke from Jesus was not specifically aimed at those in bondage to Jezebel, but the leaders who had come to tolerate Jezebel's influence. Remember, Jesus addressed His rebuke "to the angel of the church in Thyatira." The word angel means "messenger" and it can apply to either an angel or a man depending on the context. (John the Baptist was a "messenger," angelos, sent before the Lord). Thus, like many, I believe that Jesus' word to the seven churches was not given to "angels," but to the bishop or apostolic authority in each named city (In Jerusalem it would have been James; in Ephesus, it was probably Timothy). This leader, together with his spiritual council of pastors and elders, was obviously considered by Jesus the most spiritually influential group in the region. Yet, in Thyatira the collective will of the church leadership had been immobilized. As a result, Christ's representatives were tolerating the spirit of Jezebel in the church.
Of course, Jesus was speaking to the leaders of the church, not the leaders of the world system, and my encounter was outside the church. Yet, Christ also calls us to be salt and light to the world. He never tells us to compromise. In fact, His church is commissioned with His authority so that, as His representatives, we actually can interact with the fabric of reality itself. He says whatever we bind (forbid) on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose (release) on earth will be loosed in heaven (see Matt 16:19). So, we still have a responsibility to seek to transform our cultures for Christ.
As my plane boarded, I continued contemplating the spiritual issues that the Lord raised, and I concluded that I needed to take a more visible stand against the advances of hell in my world. So, when my plane landed at my next stop I deliberately looked for the newsstand. There, right in front of the thoroughfare between gates, in the most prominently displayed rack, were the porn magazines.
This was a larger establishment; it had also had books and assorted gifts. I quickly found the manager and, when she was free, respectfully approached her with my concern. She said that the publisher of the men's magazines paid a premium for the most conspicuous placement of their products. I understood she couldn't change this on her own, but I asked her to pass my complaint on to her supervisors. I then told her that there was a sea change in America: Christians will no longer stand for this stuff constantly being pushed in front of us and our children. I never stopped smiling or loving, but I made it plain that I, for one, was not tolerating this Jezebelian influence in my environment.
Be assured that I am still in serious pursuit of mature Christlikeness. Yet Jesus said that the world hated Him because He testified "that its deeds are evil" (John 7:7). Somewhere in the full spectrum of conformity to Christ, we must adopt His attitude toward the world around us, without losing His love for people.
You may say confronting evil is a distant relative to true spiritual power. Perhaps. But some acts, as small as they seem, are very important to God. One of David's mightiest men became a renown hero because he stood and defended a tiny lentil field (2 Sam 23:11-12). His courage brought a great victory for the Lord.
You see, it matters to God that our faith and our actions are deep with substance, even if they are revealed in simple ways. Indeed, I noticed several months ago that the historically conservative Reader's Digest, the most widely circulated magazine in the world, had begun introducing racier ads. So, I emailed them a respectful letter reminding them that they were known for their wholesome and inspirational articles, and to reconsider the use of racy ads. Two days later I received a response from a senior editor who apologized and promised that I would never again see anything that hinted of lewdness, which has since been the case.
One may argue, this is not the same blessing as a soul coming to Christ. True. But what if someone couldn't come to Christ because they were held captive in a stronghold of immorality? Sometimes we need to confront the issues rather than adjust to them.
Jealous With the Lord's Jealousy
Just before Israel was to enter the promised land, the men of Israel were seduced by the daughters of Median. As a result, a plague killed 24,000 people. While Moses and Aaron stood between the living and the dead praying, Phinehas, Aaron's grandson, took up a spear and went after an Israelite who had taken a Midianite woman into his tent, killing them both. I am certainly not advocating killing people, but the fact is, the plague on the sons of Israel stopped. The Lord told Moses that Phinehas had "turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel." How? The Lord continued, "he was jealous with My jealousy" (Num 25:11). Phinehas cared enough to act. His simple action touched the heart of God.
Remember, beloved, when the Lord eventually brought Israel into Canaan, the Lord said their victories would come "little by little" (Ex 23:30). Granted, we won't change the world all at once, but let us persist, even if the changes we affect are small. God is watching! Whether we take our stand in the supermarket or a local school, it is not too late for revival. Indeed, Jesus said that if the miracles He performed were done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in "sackcloth and ashes." He said if His life was manifested in Sodom, Sodom "would have remained to this day" (Matt 11:21-23). Let us, therefore, possess the heart of Christ. Let us be jealous with His jealousy.