What would you say needs to change regarding the American church? How would you answer that question? I would like to make a strong biblical argument that what the American church needs the most is to repent of their sin and turn back to their first love.
Make no mistake about it, the primary problem for the Jews who were in exile in Babylon was that they had forgotten God and pursued after idols. God used the Babylonian Empire to bring judgment and hopefully to lead his people into repentance.
DA Carson, one of my professors from Trinity writes this, “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” Repentance is a gift from our holy God and we desperately need it.
Passage: Daniel 4
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and this thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, hand your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
God’s sovereignty is meant to encourage believers living in a Babylonian culture
I believe this is one of the main themes in the book of Daniel. It would have been completely understandable if the Jews who were in exile to have wondered what in the world God was up to. Truth be known, they should have figured out after all the prophets had warned Israel that they were in exile because of their rebellion against God. The Israelites were slow to learn. They are a lot like you and me.
How is God’s sovereignty being revealed in Daniel 4? King Nebuchadnezzar was absolutely filled with pride. He was responsible for building two ancient wonders of the world, the hanging gardens and the walls of Babylon. Both were massive and absolutely amazing. Nebuchadnezzar was the single most powerful man on earth and this point in time. In one second Nebuchadnezzar goes from being the most powerful man in the world to being humbled by living as if he were an ox. This demonstration of power by God reminded the Jews that their God was in control at all times.
It is also a reminder for you and me today that even though the pandemic is still raging, the political world is broken, that God is still in control. We should not be a people of fear, worry and anxiety. When people look at us they should see people who are hopeful and filled with joy because our God is good and he rules over the entire universe.
God will disturb our comfortable life to lead us to repentance
Nebuchadnezzar had the good life. He had all the money, power and fame that a person could ever hope for. Then God speaks to the king through a dream. Daniel must be brought in to interpret the dream. Basically God was warning Nebuchadnezzar that he is going to lose everything if he does not repent. 12 months go by and the king does not take the Word of God seriously. Nebuchadnezzar is humbled and made to live like an ox for seven years.
This reminds me of the story in Luke 12 where Jesus warns people about living for temporary pleasures by talking about the rich fool. In verse 19 we read this: Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays treasure up for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Are you pouring out your life for the good of others?
Are you tithing and giving generously?
How are you approaching retirement? The number one question you should be asking if you are thinking about retirement or if you are retired is this, how can I use these days for the good of others and for the glory of God?
God wants to use us in the lives of people who are in spiritual danger
God strategically placed Daniel in king Nebuchadnezzar’s life to point him to his great need for God. God has likewise placed each one of us where we are so that we can point people to Jesus.
Who are you reaching out to? Who are you discipling? (One of the most important questions Christians can ask and answer). Can we really say we are followers of Jesus if we are not obeying the Great Commission?
God’s people must be characterized by lives of deep worship
In verses 34-35 we find out how Nebuchadnezzar responds to his great humiliation.
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and she does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
Nebuchadnezzar’s understanding of the power and greatness of God led him to worship God. I believe this reveals that the king finally God it and embraced Yahweh as the one true God.
What are you worshipping these days? Are you drawing closer to Jesus or would you say that you have spiritually plateaued? Let’s all recommit to seeking after Jesus with all of our heart.
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?
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.
-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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
(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 RavenhillTweet
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.Tweet
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
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
- You watch the news too much
- You feel anxious, worried, and angry
- You are trying to treat the symptoms of the world’s problems
- People on the other side of the political aisle don’t sense that you care about them
- Your social media comes across as harsh
- You are focused on winning arguments
- You talk about politics more than Jesus
- You see the people in this world as your enemies
- 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
- You don’t pray very much
- You are not discipling anyone
Changing The World By Following Jesus
- You immerse your heart and mind in the Word of God
- You feel hopeful because God is in control
- You know the key to change is the gospel impacting the human heart
- People on the other side of the political aisle sense that you love them
- Your social media comes across as kind and gracious
- You are more concerned about winning people than arguments
- You talk about Jesus more than politics
- You see the people in this world as your mission field
- You are actively involved in the life of the church for the good of the world
- Your life is filled with prayer and especially for the lost and hurting world
- 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
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.
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?
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
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 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.Tweet
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!
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.Tweet
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.