Daniel 3 “Lives Set On Fire”

Introduction

What would spiritual renewal look like in your life? The reason I ask that question is because I believe it is much better for us to be thinking about our own need for spiritual renewal than complaining about the sinful condition of our Babylonian culture. Are you seeking after God with all of your heart? What is keeping you from doing so?

Daniel 3

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside6 the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

The world is filled with idols that pull us away from God

In Greek mythology the Sirens were mythical creatures who would sing a seductive song that would lead sailors onto the rocks and the loss of their lives. There are no 90 foot images that the devil is asking us to bow down to today. There is a seductive Siren song playing in 2021 and far too many Christians are being rendered useless for the kingdom of God.

False idols that we worship today

-The American dream: The pursuit of comfort, pleasure, wealth, success. How many of us think much more about the American Dream than we do the kingdom of God?

-Hobbies. Have you ever talked to a person and their face lights up as they begin to talk about their favorite hobby? (sports, hunting, shopping, reading). But that is not the case when they talk about church or Jesus?

-Sex, pornography, romance. Massive problem for many Christians.

-Politics. I have talked a lot about this idol. I think it is one of the worst idols that Christians are trapped in today.

-Screens: What would happen if Christians spent as much time praying as they do looking at a screen? Is it safe to assume that we would see a new and powerful work of the Holy Spirit? We are being put to sleep and we need the Spirit to wake us up.

One of my favorite musicians is Keith Green. His song, “Asleep In The Light” explains the spiritual condition of many Christians in the church today. We have been slowly, methodically put to sleep by the evil one and we are not even aware of it.

I found it so interesting that Keith Green was mentored by Leonard Ravenhill…

Erwin Lutzer points out in his book, “The church in Babylon” that there were probably up to 10,000 Jews living in Babylon at the time of the events in Daniel 3. Which leads to this question, why weren’t there more Jews thrown into the furnace? Is it possible that they were saving their own skin by bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar’s false god? God is looking today for men and women who won’t bow down to the idols all around us.

How to deal biblically with the idols in our lives

One: Slow down and ask God to reveal to you what is going on in your heart. Kevin DeYoung writes this, “Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you.” How many of us are completely unaware of what is going on in our heart because we rarely take the time to immerse our heart and mind in God’s presence? Without a doubt one of the main things that the Spirit is doing in my life these days is showing me how weak I am in prayer. I am beginning to spend longer amounts of time crying out to God to be at work in me, my marriage, family and church.

Two: Repent. Charles Spurgeon put it like this, “Another proof of the conquest of a soul for Christ will be found in real life change. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of and his conversion is a fiction.” Have you confessed your sin or repented of it? They are not the same thing.

STRONGHOLDS: Here is another thing that God is revealing in my life. In 2 Corinthians 10:4 Paul writes this, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” A stronghold in our life is a deeply entrenched area that we have surrendered to the devil. We have allowed it to put demonic hooks into us and we are often times not even aware of the damage that it is doing to us. Is there a stronghold in your life?

Three: Be ready for pain and a spiritual battle. These idols, these strongholds will fight back. We must be ready to pray our guts out for the Spirit to deliver us.

Four: Replace the idol with a greater love. This leads me to my last point.

We need to pursue God with a renewed passion

Tim Keller writes, “Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit Gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to plant Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.”

Are you willing to begin seeking after Jesus with all of your heart? You have the world to gain and nothing to lose.

A Message For The American Church

Do ya see? Do ya see?
All the people sinking down?
Dontcha care? Dontcha care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done

Oh, bless me Lord, bless me Lord
You know, it’s all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts, no one even sheds one tear
But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back and keep soaking it in
Oh, can’tcha see it’s such sin?

‘Cause He brings people to your door
And you turn them away
As you smile and say
“God bless you, be at peace”
And all heaven just weeps
‘Cause Jesus came to your door
You’ve left Him out on the streets

Open up, open up
And give yourself away
Ya see the need, ya hear the cries
So how can you delay?
God’s calling and you’re the one
But like Jonah, you run
He’s told you to speak
But ya keep holding it in
Oh, can’tcha see it’s such sin?

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
‘Cause it’s asleep in the light

How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, ya can’t even get out of bed
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on, get out of your bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
And You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Come away, come away, come away with Me my love
Oh, come away from this mess
Come away with Me my love

Come away from this mess
Come away with Me my love

Come away, come away
Oh, come away with Me my love

Daniel 2 “Rock of Ages”

Introduction

We took some time in a previous sermon to examine Jeremiah 29. In Jeremiah 29 we found clear instructions how the Jews should live while they were in exiles in Babylonian captivity. Yesterday we moved forward and started to discuss the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 2.

As we discuss this prophetic dream of Nebuchadnezzar I believe we need to be on guard against merely trying to understand the dreams and visions of the book of Daniel. Understanding is good, but God’s Word is never given just so that we can learn interesting facts. Daniel 2 is meant to give you a vision of who God is and in turn your response is to live for him and worship him.

Daniel 2

31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became pa great mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage,3 but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up ca kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that fa stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

Retelling the story

1) Daniel and his friends are living in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court

2) The king has a dream with an image in it that he wants to understand

3) Nebuchadnezzar calls all of the wise men of the kingdom into his court and tells them that if they do not tell him what the image was and what it means he will dismember them and destroy their homes. BTW: The book of Daniel has so much to say when it comes to living as a Christian in the workplace.

4) The wise men don’t have the power to tell the king what he wants to know

5) Daniel tells the king’s guard that he can tell the king what he wants to know

6) Daniel and his friends meet together to pray

7) Daniel comes to the king and tells him the meaning of the dream

8) The king falls down on his face to praise Daniel

Understanding the dream

So, what in the world does this dream mean?

-The golden head represents Babylon

-The silver chest and arms represent Medo-Persians

-The stomach and thighs represents Greece

-The legs represent Rome

-The feet with ten toes is referring to a future time that is still to come. In Daniel 7 we are told about a vision with ten horns

-Rev 13 and 17 talk about these 10 kingdoms and it is something that is taking place in the very last days before Jesus returns

-The stone represents Jesus and his kingdom. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalm 118:22

This Babylonian culture needs to see the lives of Godly men and women on full display

As I have already said, the book of Daniel is ultimately about God. But that does not mean that we can not learn from the example of Daniel. In this passage we see Daniel’s faith clearly revealing his trust in his sovereign God. For example, Daniel makes an appointment to see the king BEFORE God has revealed the contents of the dream to him. This is faith that God is going to show up and tell him what he needs to know regarding the king’s dream.

We must be people of courage and faith in everyday life. What areas of life is God calling you to be courageous and to step out in faith?

Our vision as a church is to be “Deeply Rooted In The Six Counties All Around us.” We need to be people of bold faith and joining God in the redeeming work that he is doing in our neighborhoods and cities.

How we respond to trials reveals what we believe about God

In 1 Peter 1:7 we read this, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

As Daniel went through some really intense trials his faith was revealing his deep faith in God. Question. What are the trials you are going through right now revealing what you believe to be true about God? Are your trials making Jesus look like he is really all you need?

We must understand the absolute necessity of prayer

17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Daniel 2:17-18

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.” -E.M. Bounds

Jesus will one day return for a second time to rule on earth

Daniel 2 is revealing a double prophecy. It is revealing the first coming of Jesus and his second coming. The second coming of Jesus will be radically different than the first.

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. -Malachi 4:1.

Have you ever embraced Jesus Christ by faith?

If you know Jesus, are you living with a sense of urgency?

Our response must be worship, trust, and devotion

In verses 19-23 we see Daniel responding to the greatness and good of God by worshipping him.

19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Our ultimate response to the visions and prophecies of Daniel should not be detailed color-coded charts that show we have mastered the chronology of the end times. Our response to the revelation of who God is should be the same as Daniel, worship.

I have mentioned our vision on a number of occasions and will continue to do so as I preach God’s Word. Here is a brief video we made to try and communicate in greater detail what our vision is all about.

Daniel 1 (Part 2) Life In Exile

On January 24th I started preaching through the book of Daniel. HERE is the link to my outline and thoughts regarding the first sermon. Then yesterday I took some time to preach from Jeremiah 29. The reason I preached from Jeremiah 29 was because it contains clear instructions to the Jewish people who were living in Babylonian captivity.

Introduction

How do we live in a post-Christian culture? When the political world seems to be spinning out of control. When values we have always believed in are no longer respected. In the book of Daniel we find many answers to this question about how we live today in a Babylonian culture.

Retell the story in Daniel 1

Judah, the Southern Kingdom has been invaded by the violent, wicked, Babylonian Empire. This has happened because God’s people are not seeking God with all of their heart.

Daniel and his friends taken into Babylonian captivity. Daniel came to Babylon as a teenager and stayed there into his late 80s. King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to change Daniel and his friends through the power of their culture (name change, language, food, education). Daniel is one of the few characters in Scripture that we don’t learn about him sinning or wrongdoing.

Read passage: Jeremiah 29:4-14

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,1 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare2 and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, band I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

IMPORTANT: This passage must have been shocking to the Jewish people.

In Psalm 137:8-9 we learn that the Babylonians had dashed the Jewish babies upon rocks and raped the women. And yet God, through Jeremiah, is telling them to seek the welfare of Babylon. It’s hard to imagine a more shocking letter than they one the Jews received in Jeremiah 29.

How do the people of God live while they are in exile?

Define Babylonian culture: James Davison Hunter literally wrote the book regarding culture wars in 1991. Here is my personal take on what a culture war is all about. It is the spirit of the age, working against God and his purposes in the world. It is characterized by idolatry; man, not God, is at the center of the universe, sexual immorality is pervasive, the pursuit of pleasure, and attempting to remove God from our world. There seems to be a strong demonic force at work in the Babylonian culture. In Revelation 18:1-2 we read this:

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons…”

There are three bad ways we can respond to our culture and one good way that is modeled to us by Jesus Christ

(ONE) Fight: We fight culture wars

In Jeremiah 29 God does not tell his people to fight against the Babylonians. We are not the moral majority but we keep acting like it. We keep acting like we are the ones with the power and on top of that we have grown accustomed to using the world’s tools to fight a spiritual battle. All of the problems we see in culture come from the wickedness of the human heart. Only the gospel has the power to change the heart.

There was a culture war going on in Jesus’ day. Zealots were fighting against Roman Empire. Did Jesus tap into the rage? No. Jesus pointed his disciples in a different direction.

The result of fighting a culture war is that the world misunderstands what the church and Jesus is all about. The world will think that Christians are angry, outraged people on the conservative side of the aisle. Instead, we should be known because of our love.

People have shrugged and seemed to say in a whisper, maybe politics will fix our problems. That is easier than getting involved and actually living like salt and light.


“A final irony has to do with the idea of political responsibility. Christians are urged to vote and become involved in politics as an expression of their civic duty and public responsibility. This is a credible argument and good advice up to a point. Yet in our day, given the size of the state and the expectations that people place on it to solve so many problems, politics can also be a way of saying, in effect, that the problems should be solved by others besides myself and by institutions other than the church. It is, after all, much easier to vote for a politician who champions child welfare than to adopt a baby born in poverty, to vote for a referendum that would expand health care benefits for seniors than to care for an elderly and infirmed parent, and to rally for racial harmony than to get to know someone of a different race than yours. True responsibility invariably costs. Political participation, then, can and often does amount to an avoidance of responsibility.” -James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

Picture taken from Cruxnowdotcom

(TWO) Escape: We hide in our houses (and churches) and wait for the Second coming

Jeremiah 29 makes it clear that we are not to hide from our culture. We are to be a part of the culture, yet live such holy lives that others take note. If we choose to escape then we will have zero influence on the Babylonian culture around us.

Jesus is the better Daniel. Jesus left his safe neighborhood (heaven) and moved to a dangerous neighborhood all because he was on a rescue mission.

(THREE) Compromise: We end up looking more like the world than Jesus

Daniel could have very easily chosen this option. He was given the best food, the best wine, living in the royal court. He could have simply said that he was going to enjoy the good life all around him. Daniel, a teenager, resisted the temptations all around him and instead was used in a powerful way for God.

What are the ways in our life that we have begun to compromise our Christian values?

(FOUR) Engage: Live in culture as salt and light, love people, make disciples

In Jeremiah 29: 7 we learn that Christians are to love for the welfare for the people and the city around them. The Hebrew word for welfare is ‘shalom.’ Christians are to be looking to bring peace into their everyday life. What does that look like?

ONE: Don’t be afraid of putting down roots where you live. I am hearing from people all around me that fear is taking deep roots in our lives. Fear is 100% not the way of a follower of Jesus Christ. In the middle of being taken into captivity, the world seemed like it was ending, Jeremiah does not tell the children of God to stop living. He does not tell them that fear is ever justified. We simply do not know when the Second Coming of Jesus will be so we live life with purpose and meaning every single day.

TWO: Focus on prayer. Jeremiah 29:12 we are told that the proper response, one way of seeking the welfare/shalom of the city, is to pray. My strong conviction is that as a church we must be pursuing corporate prayer on a more frequent basis. Corporately and personally. Are we seeking God in prayer? Are we getting on our knees and praying for the good of our city?

THREE: Repent of sin. Tim Keller writes this, “We must be far harder on ourselves in gracious, humble repentance, than we are on the unbelieving culture around us. This was a major lesson for the exiles and for us. Our first response should be repentance. We should be very understanding toward people who have failed to believe in Christ because the weakness of the church’s testimony. A lot of what is happening in our culture today may be more our fault than we are willing to admit.”

“The church is waiting for the world to become regenerate, while the world is waiting for the church to become repentant.” –Leonard Ravenhill

FOUR: Seek spiritual renewal. Do we desire spiritual renewal in our lives? Our church? Our city? Again, are we praying for it? This is one of my constant prayers these days. Lord, save the lost sons and daughters all around us. Wake up those who are spiritually asleep in the church.

FIVE: Make disciples. Imagine if Christians spent less time watching the news and talking about conspiracy theories and instead started building relationships and making disciples! What a powerful transformation this would have in our churches and in our culture.

SIX: Be people of hope! Stop giving into despair! The people all around us need to see that we trust that God is sovereign and that we are not ruled by fear.

Vision of our church: Our vision is to be “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties” all around us. We are to live for the welfare/shalom of the area in which God has strategically placed us.

We have to stop seeing the world as the enemy and instead see them as our mission field. We pursue people in our Babylonian culture with the same love that Jesus Christ has showered upon us.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12

Are you changing the world?

My study in the book of Daniel has led me to think deeply about how we live in the middle of a post-Christian, Babylonian culture. Some of our methods are good, some of them not so much.

About 15 years ago the missional conversation hit the church like a run-away train. I read everything I could get my hands on and it had a strong impact on me and the way that I think about the church. One of the passages in Scripture that was frequently mentioned was Jeremiah 29. Now that I am digging into Daniel I have an even greater appreciation for the message that Jeremiah was communicating to the Jewish exiles who were living in Babylon.

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Jews were living in captivity to a empire that was 100% at odds with their Jewish faith and way of life. Yet, God was telling them that they are to embrace everyday life, put down deep roots, pray for the people and the culture all around them. Daniel was not asked to fight a culture war. To use a phrase from the New Testament, Daniel was called to live as salt and light. As American Christians we don’t always choose the path that Daniel took. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t always seek to walk in the ways of Christ. Here is what I mean…

Changing The World Through A Culture War

  1. You watch the news too much
  2. You feel anxious, worried, and angry
  3. You are trying to treat the symptoms of the world’s problems
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle don’t sense that you care about them
  5. Your social media comes across as harsh
  6. You are focused on winning arguments
  7. You talk about politics more than Jesus
  8. You see the people in this world as your enemies
  9. You are not involved in the life of the church and you don’t think it is important when it comes to changing the world
  10. You don’t pray very much
  11. You are not discipling anyone

Changing The World By Following Jesus

  1. You immerse your heart and mind in the Word of God
  2. You feel hopeful because God is in control
  3. You know the key to change is the gospel impacting the human heart
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle sense that you love them
  5. Your social media comes across as kind and gracious
  6. You are more concerned about winning people than arguments
  7. You talk about Jesus more than politics
  8. You see the people in this world as your mission field
  9. You are actively involved in the life of the church for the good of the world
  10. Your life is filled with prayer and especially for the lost and hurting world
  11. You are discipling others

11 Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. -1 Peter 2:11-12

Daniel 1 (Part 1) Introduction

This past Sunday I began preaching through the amazing book of Daniel. I plan on preaching through every chapter and verse of the book. As I started thinking and praying about preaching from this book I was amazed at how timely for the world we live in today. About fifty years ago Richard Niebuhr famously wrote in his book, Christ and Culture, about the different ways that Christians should respond to the culture in which they live. Many others have written on this same topic with a variety of opinions. I am loving Daniel because we learn so much by watching how a godly man (actually he was a teenager in the opening chapters) responds to a quickly changing culture (from Judah to Babylon!)

So my plan is to make a post here each week regarding every chapter of Daniel. Yes, I am even going to preach through the 70 weeks. Buckle up! Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas along the way.

INTRODUCTION

What in the world is going on in the USA?

We imagined 2021 might be a fresh start and things would get better. As Bono says, “nothing changes on New year’s Day.” Anger, polarization, cynicism are rampant. Sexual immorality has become status quo. There is gender confusion. We are post-Christian. Secularism feels like a growing religion. Moral absolutes seem old fashioned. What in the blazes is happening?

We are living in a BABYLONIAN CULTURE. How do we live as exiles, on a day-to-day basis, in a Babylonian culture?

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Author: Daniel, his name means “God is my judge”

Babylon: At the time of Daniel Babylon was the largest and most powerful city in the world. The Euphrates River ran through the city. Today the remains of the city of Babylon are in the city of Iraq. The primary god of the Babylonians was Marduk. To the honor of Marduk there was a 7 story ziggurat. A ziggurat is in the shape of a pyramid and this one went about 300 feet high.

The invasion of Judah by the Babylonians: Before the invasion of the Babylonians into Judah, in the year 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrians. 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came in and conquered Jerusalem. Remember, after the rule of king Solomon the kingdom was divided into the north and south.

Why did the conquest of Jerusalem take place? In Isaiah 24:1-6 we read this:

1Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate,
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;
for the Lord has spoken this word.

4 The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.

6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.

Outline: Chapters 1-6 are amazing stories that many children know. Chapters 1-7 are filled with visions and prophecies that many scholars have a hard time understanding and interpreting.

Languages used: 2:4-7:28 is in Aramaic, the rest is in Hebrew

Main points of Daniel 1) God is sovereign over all 2) We are called to live a holy life as exiles in a Babylonian culture

EVEN IN THE DARKEST OF TIMES, GOD IS IN CONTROL

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 

Things had gotten really bad for Israel. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been invaded by Assyria in 722 BC. Now the southern kingdom had been invaded by Babylon. It is not possible for a nation to sink any lower. The very God who had raised them up and chose them now is the One who is judging them for their lifestyles of rebellion.

God is the One who gave Jehoiakim into the hands of the Babylonians. In Jeremiah 21:5 we read, “I (God) myself will fight against you, with outstretched hand and strong arm, and in fury and great wrath.”

The invasions by other super powers into Israel was by the very hands of God. Not luck. Not bad fortune. God was judging the sins of his people people they had broken his covenant.

We are tempted today to believe that God is out of control. We will start believing these lies will begin to experience worry, stress, and anxiety. The greatest antidote to anxiety is an understanding and belief in the sovereignty of God.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. -Matthew 10:29

GOD WILL PLACE US IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS TO USE US FOR HIS PURPOSES

3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family1 and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. -Daniel 1:3-4

Judah invaded, temple of God has been looted. The vessels of God were placed in the house of a pagan god (Marduk). The Babylonians think that by bringing Daniel and the other exiles to their city that they are winning. But God is very strategic. Daniel and his friends are going to be used by God in some incredible ways.

God has placed you right where you are at for a strategic kingdom purpose. You might not like your job. You might not like your neighborhood or your city. But you are not there by accident. God wants to use you for his holy purposes. How can God use you at home, school, in the workplace?

WE MUST STRIVE TO NOT CONFORM TO OUR BABYLONIAN CULTURE

8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. -Daniel 1:8

The Babylonians wanted to assimilate the Jews through their culture. Daniel and his friends were given new names. Names that were connected to the Babylonian gods. Daniel stood firm when it came to the food he was going to eat? Why? Could be for several reasons. Perhaps the food had been offered to idols. Maybe the food broke their dietary laws. What we do know is that this was a compromise that Daniel knew that he could not make.

This assimilation makes me think of modern day universities. Professors with degrees promoting philosophies that run contrary to the Word of God. All too often our young people are being assimilated into our Babylonian culture to the colleges that we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to.

In Scripture Babylon came to represent all culture that works against the will and design of God. In 1 Peter 5:13 we find, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.”

When Peter wrote this letter he was not anywhere near Babylon. What in the world does he mean? Peter was using Babylon as a metaphor for any culture that is totally at odds with the kingdom of God.

The world’s strategy is to reprogram you through a Babylonian culture.

Entertainment: Screens, the internet, social media is impacting us far more than we are aware of.

Wealth: Persecution does not seem to work against Christians. In fact, persecution seems to fan the flames of Christianity. Wealth, now that is a different story. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1 Timothy 6:16

Politics: We will be talking about this on a number of occasions throughout this series. Politics is making people angry, volatile, depressed, and at times so mad that they are literally willing to kill people because of their political beliefs. We are being discipled by the nightly news. The result is that we are bringing contempt upon Christianity by the watching world.

Sexual immorality: The only thing that is new about this is that sexual immorality is becoming more main stream. We allow things into our minds and homes that 20 years ago we never would have dreamed of.

How does this chapter point us to Jesus Christ?

I am of the strong opinion that every book of the Bible points us to Jesus Christ. In Luke 24 we read this, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Daniel was a prophet and his words, prophecies, and visions point us to Jesus Christ.

Think of the missionary likenesses between Daniel and Jesus. Left the safety of home, entered into am incredibly dangerous culture, all for the sake of God’s redemptive purposes.

We will stay in chapter 1 this coming Sunday. We will be looking specifically at some really bad ways Christians respond to culture, and some biblical ways as well.

Thoughts? Ideas? Love to hear from you!

Stop Being A Nice Christian

Nice/nīs/adjective 1.pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory. “We had a nice time.”

Yes, I know that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And no, I am not advocating that being a jerk online, or in person, is the way to go. But I do want to suggest that God is calling each one of us to much more than merely being nice.

It seems to me that being nice can actually be motivated by a fear of man.

We are afraid to speak up, so we are nice.

We want to fit in, so we are nice.

We know our convictions are counter-cultural, so we are nice.

We want people to like us, so we are nice.

In John 15:18-19 we read these words from Jesus:

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Jesus knew that there would be times when we as Christians would be rejected and hated because of our beliefs in the Word of God.

Here is a sobering thought, we could live our whole life never creating waves and being nice and have zero gospel impact in the lives of the people all around us.

When was the last time that you clearly and boldly articulated the gospel to a person that needs to know Jesus? When was the last time you took a stand for the truth in the middle of a conversation that was about gender and sexuality? When was the last time you graciously confronted a brother or sister in Christ due to the fact that they were engaged in a sinful lifestyle (Galatians 6:1)?

Let’s not be ruled by the fear of man and be willing to speak truth to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

Is anti-bullying a trojan horse in our public schools?

This Sunday I am preparing to preach a sermon on transgenderism. Then on Jan 22 our Care Ministry is going to be hosting a movie about sexuality and transgenderism. You can learn more about the event HERE.

So, I have been doing a lot of reading and studying as of late. One book that is utterly fascinating is “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” by Abigail Shrier. Shrier has done an excellent job when it comes to research on this topic and it shows in her writing.

On page 71 she begins to talk about the connection between transgenderism and anti-bullying policies and laws. I wanted to learn more about this because the city in which I live has been having these types of discussions.

How did a radical view of gender become so common place?

How did educators and activists manage to mainstream a radical view of gender through the schools? Like so many successful sales, this one was facilitated by irresistible packaging: anti-bullying. Appealing to both a moral imperative and Gen X parents’ extreme preoccupation with the children’s physical safety, the pitch was hard to resist. All of this sexual orientation and gender identity was necessary-educators claimed-to prevent the battery, harassment, and acute psychological distress of LGBTQ children. p. 71

Shrier’s point is that the radical view of gender is taking place in our schools, at least partially, by anti-bullying initiatives.

Anti-bullying is great, but what else is happening here?

I have no doubt that legislators who pass anti-bullying laws and educators and school boards who implement gender identity and sexual orientation are sincerely concerned about the welfare of LGBTQ-identified students-as all decent human beings ought to be. But where a measure taken to fix a problem goes so far in excess of remedy, it becomes clear that simple remedy was not primarily what the fixer had in mind.

This is the sense in which so much under gender identity and sexual orientation, delivered with the tireless passion of priests, pretext for an ulterior motive. There is simply no good reasoning for insisting that students be made to imagine themselves as gay or transgender of pansexual. There is no very good reason to imagine they might be a boy in a girl’s body or a girl in a boy’s. There is no reason to teach students, in the words of one of the most highly regarded manuals, that the “expression of transgender identity , or any other form of gender expansive behavior, is a healthy, appropriate and typical aspect of human development.

Let’s pause for a moment. The above paragraph should concern you quite a bit. Is there a better way to promote anti-bullying in our schools? Yes.

All that’s required is the insistence that the students display decency, civility, and kindness to their classmates. Follow the Golden Rule. Stand up to bullies. And singling out of others for their differences-physical, religious, sexual, or otherwise-should be met with neither indulgence nor toleration. Bad behavior should be met with swift punishment. p. 72-73

The point that is being made is that any reasonable person hates the idea of bullying. And furthermore, that in the schools (and society in general) we should work to stop bullying. But, we don’t have to go so far as to “indoctrinate” young children in “gender ideology.” As parents, and concerned citizens, it is imperative that we stay alert to what is being taught and promoted in the schools where we are sending our children.

“Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier is a must read.

Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Christian nationalism is a growing concern of mine

I have been troubled lately by the blatant Christian nationalism that I have seen displayed on social media (and in everyday life). Pastor and teacher Jeremie Beller defines Christian nationalism like this, “Christian nationalism is the intertwining of the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men. In the American context, it is often displayed by describing America through language reserved for the Kingdom of God. For instance, to speak of America as a “city on a hill” borrows from Jesus’ image for God’s kingdom. The marriage between patriotism and righteousness further blurs the line between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world.” I am a patriotic man, but Christian nationalism goes way too far and it makes Christians sound more like a bunch angry conservatives than true followers of Jesus Christ.

You could say that I have been keeping my eyes open for resources and books that discuss the danger of Christian nationalism. I recently started reading “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” by John Fea. I also purchased “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States” by Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry.

During this time I began noticing a number of people that I follow on Twitter discussing a book called “Jesus And John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted A Faith And Fractured A Nation” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. Kristin Kobes Du Mez is a professor of history at Calvin University.

In the book here are some of the names of people/ministries/groups who are targeted:

Pat Robertson, John Piper, Joyce Meyer, Gospel Coalition, Lifeway, R.C. Sproul, Theodore Roosevelt, Billy Sunday, fundamentalism, evangelicalism, Bill Graham, Christianity Today, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert Jeffress, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell Jr, Jack Hyles, Marabel Morgan, Bill Gothard, James Dobson, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey, Oliver North, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Baker, Wayne Grudem, Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, Charles Colson, Promise Keepers, CBMW, Josh Harris, John Eldredge, Douglas Wilson, Christian homeschooling, Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney, Eric Metaxes, Duck Dynasty, and of course, Donald Trump.

What do all these people and ministries have in common according to Du Mez? They are white evangelicals who have contributed to an unhealthy patriarchy in the church and they have championed a vision of a godly man as someone who is domineering, militant, and just an all-around jerk.

According to Wikipedia: “Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.”

What is the main point of Jesus and John Wayne?

I believe what Du Mez is attempting to do in her book is to explain how evangelicals got to the point where they voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Evangelicals used to be the ones who would talk about the importance of character. So, what changed? Du Mez goes to great lengths to highlight that over the past 50 years evangelicalism has done such a bad job of teaching what biblical manhood is all about that by the time we got to Donald Trump they were ready to cast their ballot for God’s man.

“Evangelicals hadn’t betrayed their values. Donald Trump was the culmination of their half-century long pursuit of a militant Christian masculinity. He was the reincarnation of John Wayne, sitting tall in the saddle, a man who wasn’t afraid to resort to violence to bring order, who protected those deemed worthy of protection, who wouldn’t let political correctness get in the way of saying what had to be said or the norms of democratic society keep him from doing what needed to be done. P. 271

Things I think Jesus and John Wayne got right

First of all, I believe with all of my heart that far too many evangelicals have allowed politics to become an idol in their lives. There are so many indicators that this is the case. Have you noticed on social media how so many Christians are clearly more interested in talking about politics than they are the gospel or making disciples? I would also want to point out that the anxiety, anger, and despair that evangelicals express regarding politics shows that their hope is not in a God is who in control and has already won the day.

Second, evangelicals have done a poor job when it comes to teaching what biblical manhood is all about. Du Mez explains in detail how evangelicals have gone to great lengths to describe the role of a man as a militant warrior.

“As Robert Jeffress so eloquently expressed in the months before the 2016 election, “I want the meanest, toughest, son-of-a-you-know-what I can find in that role, and I think that’s where many evangelicals are.” P. 14

Quite honestly, it does seem like many Christians, not just evangelicals, are cherry picking the verses they want to use when it comes to describing manhood and leadership. If there is not place for a man to be kind, gentle, compassionate, and sacrificial than really what we are saying is that there is no room for Jesus. Yes, Jesus did turn over the tables. I hear that mentioned all the time in an attempt to justify being mean-spirited to others who disagree with our view point. We need to remember that there is much more to Jesus than his righteous anger and flipping over tables. For example…

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” -Matthew 9:26

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” -Matthew 11:29

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 18:28

Was Jesus a strong leader? Of course he was (and is). Yet the strength of Jesus turned the world’s standards upside down. Jesus put the needs of others first and revealed his strength by dying for them on the cross.

Things I think Jesus and John Wayne got wrong

First, Kristin Kobes Du Mez seems to be making an argument that complementarianism, in any form, is always patriarchy. Patriarchy is one of the most important themes running throughout her book. Here is my thought, if you are going to make an argument that complementarianism is always patriarchy it would be wise to explain biblically why this is true. There are many people who hold to a complementarian view of Scripture yet they believe that a husband should be eager to put the needs of their wife, family, and others before themselves.

Second, I think it is completely unfair to throw all the names, organizations, and ministries under the bus without mentioning at least a few of the good things they have done and accomplished. Let’s take Billy Graham for example. Du Mez highlights Billy Graham on many occasions. If you are going to write a book that is 356 pages long and talk about Graham time and time again would it not be fair to mention the good stuff? Regardless if you are egalitarian or complementarian, we should all be willing to admit and celebrate the fact that God used Billy Graham to help lead millions of people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Final thoughts

I think Jesus and John Wayne does have some legitimate concerns that should cause evangelicals to consider their obsession with politics and militant manhood. All Christians need to seriously evaluate if their life is more marked by politics or the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, reading this book will lead some people to the conclusion that people and ministries like Billy Graham, James Dobson, and the Gospel Coalition (and many others) have only contributed to the demise of our society by promoting a patriarchal theology. This one-sided writing is completely unfair and just further polarizes Christians against each other.

Above picture taken from Bostonglobedotcom