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Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #3 – When They Call For Open-Mindedness

17 Apr

in-the-fireWe live in strange times. Everybody wants a piece of the action when it comes to making everyone else recognize and accept their way of doing things. Years ago, when an immigrant stepped off the boat at Elis Island, his first concern was learning American English and American culture. Today his greatest concern is learning to manipulate the political system to his own ends.

And our response to all of this? We’re supposed to welcome it. You’ve all heard of it. It’s described by words like “tolerance,” “broadmindedness,” “open-mindedness,” and the latest social retread: “multiculturalism.”

The idea seems appealing on the surface. We must be tolerant of others and their belief systems. After all, anything less is bigotry and who wants to be a bigot?

The Bible does teach us to be tolerant of others. “And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way.” It also indicates we should be open to learning new truth. “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…”

The blindness brought on by arrogance and a closed mind can prevent one from seeing God’s truth. But this new “tolerance” and “open-mindedness” goes beyond that.

(Please listen to this statement.) It not only demands that we be tolerant of the rights of others to believe what they want, it teaches that the ways of each culture must be recognized as equally valid and right.  It’s a mindset that says that no culture is better than any other, no matter what strange or destructive ideas it holds. If you say anything different, you’re a bigot.

Of course, the highway doesn’t go both ways.
· Have you noticed lately that some of the gurus of tolerance and multiculturalism seem just a bit intolerant of your Christian belief structures?
· Have you noticed that in today’s social climate, you can say and do almost anything you want as long as you don’t express your view that someone else’s belief or behavior is wrong?
· Why is it that those who scream “tolerance” so loudly today are so intolerant of the moral base on which this country was built and the people who represent it?
· Everything is tolerated, it seems, except the good old “Judeo-Christian ethic.”

Have you thought very long about what is happening? In first century Rome, people were allowed to believe and worship whatever they chose, much the same as we are today, as long as they first burned a pinch of incense in the name of Caesar and pronounced the words, “Caesar is Lord.”

It seems to me that we may be coming around full-circle. Many people today believe that all religions are true. “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere,” they say. It doesn’t even matter if the teachings conflict with one another.

No, the “Caesar is Lord” idea probably wouldn’t work. We’re too critical of our public leaders and know their faults too well. It isn’t likely we’ll be unified by consenting to view our president as a god.

But what about a unifying idea? What about an idea we enthrone like a god called “multiculturalism.” As long as you recognize that all cultures and religions are equally right, you are free to worship any way you choose. Note what I did not say. I did not say “as long as you recognize that all religions have a right to exist and compete for attention.” I said, “as long as you recognize that all religions are right.”
When the early Christians faced this issue, their belief in one God made them realize they couldn’t bow down to Caesar or say that all other religions were equally right. This put them on a collision course with their government.

If you’ve heard of the lions and arenas of that era, you know the results. I wonder how it will be if we end up facing the same choices? If the “god” of multiculturalism continues to be held up for admiration and worship until it is so socially acceptable that nothing else is tolerated, will Christians bow down and concede that every religion and lifestyle is true and their faith in one God who calls some behavior “sin” is the only remaining falsehood?

I cannot see the future. Whether such a thing as I have implied will happen in our day remains unknown. I believe, though, that we must be ready for it. We must clearly understand that we cannot bow down to the God of heaven and the god of multiculturalism, too.

So how does a Christian stand in the face of a world that is lining up against absolute truth? How does he/she resist being overrun?  There are answers in the third chapter of Daniel that I want to consider with you this morning. There we find three very brave young men who worshiped the God of heaven. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Through God’s providence, they were members of a Babylonian king’s advisory cabinet. They lived in a culture that recognized many gods. One day the king set up a god for all his subjects to worship. He gathered them all together at a place called the plain of Dura, struck up the band, and told them all to bow down. The three young men refused. The king threw them into a furnace, then something very remarkable happened.

We’re continuing our series called “Faith in the Fire” from the first six chapters of Daniel. This is the third message. I’m calling it “When They Call For Open-Mindedness.”

Daniel 3:1-30 (ESV)
1  King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2  Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
3  Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4  And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,
5  that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
6  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
7  Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8  Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.
9  They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!
10  You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.
11  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.
12  There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13  Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.
14  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
15  Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
17  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
18  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
19  Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.
20  And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
21  Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.
22  Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
23  And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24  Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
25  He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
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 aside 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.

What can we learn from the experience of these three men that might be helpful to us in sorting out the confusion of multiculturalism today? I’d like to point out five qualities they had that we should develop. The first is:

1. Clarity.
These men knew what they believed. When the king announced the requirement of bowing down to the image, they knew immediately that they could not do it.

One of the reasons so many Christians are so gullible and identify with the ideas behind multiculturalism is that they are not clear on what they themselves believe. They don’t realize that such a proposition is contrary to the faith they espouse. No wonder they’re confused!

Though I have been reading this chapter in Daniel off and on for nearly 33 years, it was only this past week that it occurred to me what must have really happened there on the plain of Dura. I had always assumed that when all these musicians got together, they all played the same thing, perhaps “Hail to the Chief” of something similar. But look back at
Daniel’s description of the music that was played before the people bowed down to the image.

7  Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

It is probable they weren’t all playing the same song or at least they weren’t playing it the same way!

What a striking illustration of multiculturalism! That is what it sounds like when everyone’s philosophy and belief is viewed as being equal and you’re not allowed to sort it out in the competitive free marketplace of ideas!

We need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Further, we need to know with razor sharp clarity what are the absolutes and what are not.

Have you noticed that in today’s political-religious climate, people who see anything clearly as an issue of ‘right or wrong’ are ridiculed and looked upon as backward?

“There are no absolutes,” we are told. “Everything is relative. We live in a gray world. Everything is fuzzy and unclear. It doesn’t matter who is right, because there really isn’t a right and wrong. That’s the trouble with you Christians. You see everything as black and white.”

Abraham Lincoln seems to have been one who loved wit and wisdom. I’m told that one of his favorite brain-teasers used to make a point with his constituents was to ask, “How many legs would a sheep have if you called his tail a leg?” Naturally, they would respond, “Five.” “Wrong!” Lincoln would reply. “The sheep would still have just four legs. Calling
something a leg doesn’t make it so.”

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! Front and center. How many gods are there in the world?” “Only one God.” “Well, we want you to bow down to a different god than that One.” “We can’t do that.” “Well, then you’re gonna burn ’cause we don’t like you saying we’re wrong!”

These young men knew what truth was and knew how to describe it. We should know the same.

2. Constancy
This was not the first time these young men had resisted giving in to demands that would compromise their faith. We saw them back in the first chapter when the issue was eating the king’s choice food. Remember?

Too many Christians today lack constancy. They’re on-again, off-again. They’re hot, then they’re cold. They’re up, then they’re down. They’re in, then they’re out.  Oh, how we need that today!

  1. Conviction
    AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY says of the word “conviction,” “a fixed or strong belief.”
    We sometimes say of a person, “He has a strong moral conviction.” What we mean is that his belief is deep enough to have become rooted and firmly established. It isn’t a passing thing. Then the dictionary gives another definition that suggests the way a person gets to that fixed or strong belief. It says, “the act or process of convincing.” When you or I hold a conviction about something, what it means is that we have weighed it and measured it to the point that we have become convinced that it is true beyond a reasonable doubt and that anything that goes against it is false. It is no longer something we hold in the realm of possibility. We have found it to be truth worth defending.
    With that in mind, let me ask you, what religious convictions do you hold? I’m not asking you which convictions you’ll allow me to stand up here and promote. That is quite another thing. I’m not asking you about my convictions. I’m asking about yours. What principles are so settled in your mind that they have become facts that cannot be denied and must be defended?

    One of the reasons a philosophy like multiculturalism can be so widely embraced today is that it takes no conviction to hold it. You don’t need to know anything. It’s a brainless, gutless choice.

    You don’t have to stand up and defend it. You don’t have to consider the fact that it is illogical and doesn’t add up. It’s popular, so you can even congratulate yourself for being in such a broad stream of prominent people.
    · Multiculturalism is the lord of the lazy.
    · It is the deity of those who don’t think.
    · It is the supreme being of those with no sense, who put their feelings ahead facts.
    · Their common sense is on standby.
    · It’s the adoration of the apathetic.

    Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”

    4. Confidence
    {17} If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. {18} But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

    These young men believed that God could rescue them if He chose to do so, even from a blast furnace so hot it burned bystanders. But even if God didn’t deliver them, they weren’t going to bow down. They were convinced that He would deal with them fairly even if they ended up dying for their faith.

    To stand against the idol of multiculturalism that is being erected today, we too need confidence. We need to know that we are on God’s side. The only way we can have that assurance is to get on God’s side. Don’t expect God to come to your side. Get on His side! The only way you can do that is to get in His Book and learn what God’s side is!

    5. Courage
    Saying you believe something or have a conviction about it is one thing – standing by it is another. Do you suppose these young men were scared? I cannot imagine it any other way.

    During World War II, a military governor met with General George Patton in Sicily. When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general replied, “Sir, I am not a brave man — the truth is, I am an utter craven coward. I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn’t so scared that I had sweat
    in the palms of my hands.” Years later, when Patton’s autobiography was published, it contained this significant statement by the general: “I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears.”

    Jesus said this on the subject: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Do you want to master the fear of men? Work until you have a greater fear of God.

    Conclusion
    Let me challenge you with a pledge I found by an anonymous disciple of Jesus. It is called “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.” Perhaps you can find yourself in his words.

     
    “I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals! I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

    “My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let go, or slow up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.   “I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops. And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear.”

    Be sure your colors are clear.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2016 in Encouragement, Sermon

 

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