Daniel 5 “Remember Death”

Introduction: American culture does not like to think about death

One of the things that people are most uncomfortable talking about is something that we all experience, death.

  1. People used to die at home and everyone in their family had to deal with it. Now people die out of sight in a hospital.
  2. Medicine makes us think that we will live forever.
  3. At funerals we dress people up and put on makeup so that they actually look like they are still alive.

When I officiate a funeral I always warn people to take the opportunity to really think about the temporal nature of their life. The tendency is to drink some alcohol or run back to work. Try to forget about death.

Thinking about death now will give you the opportunity to live life fully awake and for the glory of God.

Read passage: Daniel 5

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,6 Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed8 in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”9

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We are all sinners

King Belshazzar was living it up. It was a lifestyle totally at odds with God. At this massive 1000 person party (some scholars think it was more like an orgy) Belshazzar was there getting drunk with his wives and his concubines. The king makes the terrible drunken decision to use the cups from the temple to drink his booze from. Instantly the hands appear and the writing goes up on the wall.

Get this. There is at this moment an army all round them. Yes, even while they are partying. This reminds us that our time just might be up at any time. Our days are short and they have been numbered.

Paul reminds us that we are all more like Belshazzar than we might want to admit. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23

Due to our sin there is judgment

God brought judgment against Belshazzar immediately. The writing on the wall was in Aramaic and the words were MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Daniel tell us what it means. Belshazzar’s days are over, he was weighed and he did not measure up, his kingdom was going to be taken from him that very night.

The Medo-Persian army killed him that very night and took over his Empire.

Reminds me of Matthew 24:36-39. The people in Noah’s day were partying and living it up. When their time was up, it was up. How about the people in your life? Do they know the infinite beauty and power of Jesus Christ? Have you forgotten that their days are numbered? Are you coasting spiritually when you need to be living with urgency because we don’t know our final day?

Use your few days wisely

Right before a battle Maximus said this to his soldiers, “What we do in life echoes for all eternity.” Whether you like Gladiator or not the quote is legit. How you live now matters for all of eternity. Does your life reflect this?

Think about Jim Elliott and his family. Went to Ecuador to bring the gospel to the people who lived there. Maybe you know what happened. The people he came to share the good news with murdered him. Did Jim waste his life? The answer is no.

Two years later his wife went back. Let that thought sink in for a moment. She went back to the same people that murdered her husband. This time the gospel was received and many people were saved.

We need to seek after Christ for our own well being with all of our might. Talk to him, know him, love with, walk with him. Is Jesus the burning center of your every day life?

Paul had some words for death, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Paul did not fear death. The reason is that he knew Jesus Christ had overcome death and sin through the cross. This is one of the main reasons Paul was so bold for the gospel. If death had been defeated what in the world do we have to be afraid of? There should be nothing that hinders us from sharing the good news with the lost of this world.

We need to work so that others know Jesus personally. Do you have a heart for the lost? I mean, seriously. Our hearts so quickly become cold and indifferent to the fact that there are people all around us headed for hell. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so that we care about the lost sons and daughters of God.

Daniel 4-Repentance

Introduction

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.

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.

The Gospel in Everyday Life

On Sunday, April 19 I am very excited to say that I am beginning an eight week sermon series entitled “The Gospel in Everyday Life.” Normally I preach through books of the Bible but I felt like a good place to start when it comes to transitioning to a new church family is to begin with what is most important; the good news of Jesus Christ.

Week 1: What is the Gospel? (2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 2:20-3:4)
Week 2: The Gospel and Our Sin Nature (Romans 6:1-11)
Week 3: The Gospel and Marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Week 4: The Gospel and Parenting (Luke 6:43-45)
Week 5: The Gospel and the Workplace (Ephesians 6:5-9)
Week 6: The Gospel and Money (Malachi 3:1-6, 4:1-3)
Week 7: The Gospel and Community (Ephesians 2:11-19)
Week 8: The Gospel and Loving Our Neighbors (Matthew 5:13-16)

Each week that I preach through this series I will post some thoughts, ideas and  application questions here. Feel free to join the discussion. I will also add some resources (books, articles) each week that I believe will help you get a stronger grip on how the gospel relates to marriage, parenting, workplace, money, etc..

The next sermon series will be from the book of Colossians.