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Grace and Peace Be Yours…In Abundance 2 Peter 1:2


“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge  of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)

Jesus proclaimed early in His ministry the intentions of all actions toward mankind: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10).

God never holds back in giving to His children! He lavishes love upon each of us, and is the giver of only good and perfect gifts! He never wants us to stop asking (and being thankful) through prayer and wants our praise to be often, loud and from the heart.

What is it that God gives to us so generously? Grace: giving us that which we do not deserve. Mercy: not giving us what we do deserve.

Grace and peace is a common Christian greeting in the epistles, combining Greek and Hebrew salutations. However, the phrase is more than a salutation to Peter. He sees grace and peace as blessings that spring from the knowledge of God and Jesus. The Greek word translated knowledge is a key word in this letter. It describes a special kind of knowledge, a kind that is complete. Since our knowledge of Jesus grows as we mature in the faith, we will experience His grace and peace on many different occasions in our Christian walk.

The plain and emphatic thesis of the divine word is that the Christian graces can become part of a human life only as that life is related to the power and nature of God in Christ (2 Pet 1:3-4).  There is a vast difference between “the corruption that is in the world by lust” and “the divine nature.”  We must have been delivered out of kingdom of darkness, freed from sin through the blood of Christ, to be able to develop the “divine nature.”

The Christian personality is not the cause of man’s pardon from sin, but is the result of it. One cannot develop a nature like Christ while still living in sin.

Grace (charis) means the undeserved favor and blessings of God. The word undeserved is the key to understanding grace. Man does not deserve God’s favor; he cannot earn God’s approval and blessings. God is too high and man is too low for man to deserve anything from God. Man is imperfect and God is perfect; therefore, man cannot expect anything from God.

Man deserves nothing from God except judgment, condemnation, and punishment. But God is love—perfect and absolute love. Therefore, God makes it possible for man to experience His grace, in particular the favor and blessing of salvation which is in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Peace (eirene) means to be bound, joined, and woven together. It also means to be bound, joined, and woven together with others and with God. It means to be assured, confident, and secure in the love and care of God. A person can experience true peace only as he comes to know Jesus Christ. Only Christ can bring peace to the human heart, the kind of peace that brings deliverance and assurance to the human soul.

Note that Jesus Christ multiplies grace and peace. He gives an abundance of grace and peace; He causes grace and peace to overflow in the life of the genuine believer. There is never to be a lack of grace and peace in the life of any true believer. Every believer is to always be overflowing with joy, with the favor and blessings of God and with peace within his own spirit and with God and others.

A city dweller moved to a farm and bought a cow. Shortly after he did, the cow went dry. When he reported this fact to a neighbor farmer, the farmer expressed surprise. The city man said he was surprised too. “I can’t understand it either, for if ever a person was considerate of an animal, I was of that cow. If I didn’t need any milk, I didn’t milk her. If I only needed a quart, I only took a quart.” The farmer tried to explain that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible.

Is that not also true of the Christian life? Those who only turn to God in need miss the real joy that flows from a daily infilling of His Spirit.

A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ. Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.

As mercy is God’s goodness confronting human misery and guilt, so grace is his goodness directed toward human debt and demerit.[1]

Grace and peace are to come from knowledge, the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  This is a strengthened form of “knowledge” implying a larger, more thorough, and intimate knowledge. The Christian’s precious faith is built on knowing the truth about God (cf. v. 3). Christianity is not a mystical religion, but is based in objective, historical, revealed, rational truth from God and intended to be understood and believed. The deeper and wider that knowledge of the Lord, the more “grace and peace” are multiplied.[2]

Closely related to the emphasis on man’s poverty and God’s provisions is the important role of knowledge. Knowledge is referred to in verses 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8. Whenever man departs from God and from divine revelation, he is ignorant. Ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, and it is deadly.

Peter told the Jews that when they murdered and disowned the Holy and Righteous One, the Prince of life, they acted in ignorance (Acts 3:14-17). Likewise, the idolatry of the pagan Athenians was ignorant (Acts 17:23, 30). Paul speaks of the ignorant unbelief of the Jews (Romans 10:3) and of his own ignorance as a persecutor of the church (1 Timothy 1:13).

Peter has written in his first epistle that ignorance is evident in conforming to one’s lusts, while implying that knowledge leads to obedience (1 Peter 1:14). Peter also indicates that the resistance of unbelievers springs from ignorance (1 Peter 2:15). Later in 2 Peter we are told that false teachers are willfully ignorant of the reality of divine judgment in history (2 Peter 3:5). Ignorance is not bliss; it is death.

The New Testament instructs us that the cure for ignorance is knowledge. This is doctrinal knowledge, for it certainly is knowledge of God and knowledge from God. It is scriptural knowledge, and it is true knowledge as opposed to false knowledge. This is the knowledge that protects the believer from false teachers and their teaching.

This knowledge is also the means by which grace and peace are multiplied to us (2 Peter 1:2). Everything pertaining to life and godliness is granted to us through the knowledge of Him who called us (1:3). Knowledge is one of the virtues the Christian should diligently pursue (1:5, 6).

The knowledge of which Peter writes is the knowledge of God as taught by the divinely revealed Word of God. It is also doctrinal knowledge, a propositional knowledge. Some tell us they do not worship doctrine—they worship Jesus. But, apart from doctrine, we cannot know which Jesus we worship.

The maturing Christian is marked by his knowledge of God through the Scriptures (see Ephesians 1:15-23; 4:13; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9-10; 2:2; 3:10; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1).

Knowledge can be perverted so that it becomes the enemy of love (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). Ideally, knowledge informs and regulates love (Philippians 1:9) and promotes godly living (Colossians 1:9-10). Godly teaching and instruction leads to love (1 Timothy 1:5). We see from the Scriptures that knowledge of God leads to intimate fellowship with God (Philippians 3:10).

Do you “know God,” or are you still ignorant? The way to know God is through His written Word and through the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us about God, and the Lord Jesus revealed God to us in human flesh. He is God, manifested in human flesh; He died in our place and suffered the penalty for our sins. He is the righteous One who offers His righteousness to all who believe in Him, by faith. To know Christ is to know God and to have eternal life.

This knowledge leads us to a greater appreciation and understanding of grace, which binds us with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind us. Grace is free, but when once we take it, we are bound forever to the Giver and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes us gracious, the Giver makes us give.[3]

Because grace emanates from God, it allows us to see Him as He is. Because this is true, we see that grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues. Grace is the love that gives, that loves the unlovely and the unlovable.

Grace is the central invitation to life and the final word. It’s the beckoning nudge and the overwhelming, undeserved mercy that urges us to change and grow, and then gives us the power to pull it off. Our Lord Jesus Christ has three “spiritual commodities” that can be secured from nobody else: righteousness, grace, and peace. When you trust Him as your Saviour, His righteousness becomes your righteousness and you are given a right standing before God (2 Cor. 5:21). You could never earn this righteousness; it is the gift of God to those who believe. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). Grace is God’s favor to the undeserving. God in His mercy does not give us what we do deserve; God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve. Our God is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and He channels that grace to us through Jesus Christ (John 1:16).

A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ. It’s the natural state of “emptying self” or “dying to self” so that God can work in our life to give that which we need the most.

When God is working in our life, we sense things about us that otherwise might go unnoticed. A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.

And it makes a difference in our life! Grace binds us with far stronger cords than the cords of duty or obligation can bind us. Grace is free, but when we take it, we are bound forever to the Giver and bound to catch the spirit of the Giver. Like produces like. Grace makes us gracious, the Giver makes us give.[4]

Grace can pardon our ungodliness and justify us with Christ’s righteousness; it can put the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us; it can help us when we are down; it can heal us when we are wounded; it can multiply pardons, as we through frailty multiply transgressions.

The result of this experience is peace, peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and the peace of God (Phil. 4:6-7). In fact, God’s grace and peace are “multiplied” toward us as we walk with Him and trust His promises.

[1] A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)

[2]MacArthur, J. J. 1997, c1997. The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) . Word Pub.: Nashville

[3] E. Stanley Jones (1884–1973)

[4] E. Stanley Jones (1884–1973)

 

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2022 in 1 Peter, Christian graces

 

A Precious Faith… 2 Peter 1:1


“Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours…” (2 Peter 1:1)

This is a great passage of Scripture. It is one of the greatest in all of Scripture. It is a passage that takes Jesus Christ and lifts Him up as the great Messiah, the Savior of the world who can meet the desperate needs of man. Here is Christ and here is the great gift of Christ the Messiah, the great gift of salvation.

The letter opens with a very subtle and beautiful allusion for those who have eyes to see it and knowledge enough of the New Testament to grasp it.

Peter identifies himself with a balance of humility and dignity. As a servant, he was on equal basis with other Christians—an obedient slave of Christ. As an apostle, he was unique, divinely called, and commissioned as an eyewitness to the resurrection of Christ

In these verses, Peter distills for us the essence of the gospel. He indicates this is not just “his” gospel, but the gospel revealed through Christ, attested to by the Father, and consistent with the teaching of the apostles.

When the Lord Jesus left His disciples to ascend and be with His Heavenly Father, He left the apostles in charge. It was to them and through them that His Word was to be conveyed to others (see Matthew 16:19; John 14:26; 16:12-15; Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-19; 1 John 1:1-4).

He emphasizes that salvation was not attained by personal effort, skill, or worthiness, but came purely from God’s grace. Faith is the capacity to believe (Eph. 2:8,9). Even though faith and belief express the human side of salvation, God still must grant that faith. God initiates faith when the Holy Spirit awakens the dead soul in response to hearing the Word of God.

Nowhere is these verses does Peter speak of what we do to merit God’s salvation. He speaks of God’s grace and of His sufficient provision for our salvation in Christ. This passage has nothing to say about man’s contribution and everything to say about God’s perfection, power, and provision. The righteousness of which we partake is the righteousness of God in Christ which was bestowed upon us (verse 1). It was not that we sought after God (see Romans 3:11), but that God chose us, sought us, and “called us by His own glory and excellence” (verse 3).

I have always been fascinated with the lives of the twelve apostles. Who isn’t? The personality types of these men are familiar to us. They are just like us, and they are like other people we know. They are approachable. They are real and living characters we can identify with. Their faults and foibles, as well as their triumphs and endearing features, are chronicled in some of the most fascinating accounts of the Bible. These are men we want to know.

That’s because they were perfectly ordinary men in every way. Not one of them was renowned for scholarship or great erudition. They had no track record as orators or theologians. In fact, they were outsiders as far as the religious establishment of Jesus’ day was concerned. They were not outstanding because of any natural talents or intellectual abilities.

On the contrary, they were all too prone to mistakes, misstatements, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith, and bitter failure—no one more so than the leader of the group, Peter. Even Jesus remarked that they were slow learners and somewhat spiritually dense (Luke 24:25).

Yet with all their faults and character flaws—as remarkably ordinary as they were—these men carried on a ministry after Jesus’ ascension that left an indelible impact on the world. Their ministry continues to influence us even today. God graciously empowered and used these men to inaugurate the spread of the gospel message and to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Ordinary men—people like you and me—became the instruments by which Christ’s message was carried to the ends of the earth. No wonder they are such fascinating characters.2

We especially identify with Peter, but not when he walked on water or stated his willingness to die for His Lord. That would be too easy for us to claim; our lives just don’t live up to such expressions. The times most common for us to associate with him are the “foot in mouth” situations, when we ‘talk before we think’ and speak on impulse rather than after careful thought. But look at the boldness on his lips (because it was in his heart) when he speaks of this precious faith! It is something he possessed and knew others could, too!

If anybody in the early church knew the importance of being alert, it was the Apostle Peter. He had a tendency in his early years to feel overconfident when danger was near and to overlook the Master’s warnings. He rushed ahead when he should have waited; he slept when he should have prayed; he talked when he should have listened. He was a courageous, but careless, Christian.

A fisherman by trade before he would ‘fish for men,’ Peter knew the value of something previous and of value. His livelihood depended upon that instinct. He was also quite willing for the transformation to take place that would move him from the physical to the spiritual.

Nature reveals that life can be transformed by taking something unattractive and converting it into something of beauty. By its chemical magic a tree or plant can take the dark soil and the waste carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and combine them with the aid of the healing warmth of the sun to produce green leaves, colored flowers, red roses, yellow tulips, blue larkspur, or a million other designs. By means of chemical processes we can take black coal and convert it into red dyes or synthetic rubber or nylon cloth.

Faith gives life a similar transforming power; the power to take trouble or adversity and make it into something lovely and inspiring.3

It reveals a needed reminder: people who stand still may avoid stubbing their toes, but they won’t make much progress. Every church needs people with the courage to try new ideas and run the risk of making mistakes. Otherwise progress never happens. “The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try,” says management consultant Peter Drucker. “I would never promote into a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes — otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.”

A young man who was disconcerted about the uncertainty of his future and in a quandary as to which direction to take with his life, sat in a park, watching squirrels scamper among the trees. Suddenly, a squirrel jumped from one high tree to another. It appeared to be aiming for a limb so far out of reach that the leap looked like suicide. As the young man had anticipated, the squirrel missed its mark, but, it landed, safe and unconcerned, on a branch several feet lower. Then it climbed to its goal and all was well.

An old man sitting on the other end of the bench occupied by the young man, remarked, “Funny, I’ve seen hundreds of ’em jump like that, especially when there are dogs around and they can’t come down to the ground. A lot of ’em miss, but I’ve never seen any hurt in trying.” Then he chuckled and added, “I guess they’ve got to risk it if they don’t want to spend their lives in one tree.”

The young man thought, A squirrel takes a chance. Have I less nerve than a squirrel? He made up his mind in that moment to take the risk he had been thinking about and sure enough, he landed safely, in a position higher than he had even dared to imagine.

Dramatic and significant is the story of the Pilgrims. On December 21, 1620, the voyaging Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, with Captain Christopher Jones at her helm. It had been a grueling voyage, taking the one-hundred-twenty-ton-capacity ship sixty-six days to make the perilous crossing. There had been disease, anxiety, and childbirth among the 102 courageous passengers. Furthermore, they arrived on the black New England shore during a hard winter which ultimately claimed half of their number. However, when spring came and the captain of the Mayflower offered free passage to anyone desiring to return, not a single person accepted.

The fidelity of the forty-one men, who while still aboard the Mayflower had signed the famous Compact beginning with the words, “In ye name of God Amen,” was taking on visible meaning, these chivalrous souls had dedicated themselves to the total causes of freedom. They had come to a wilderness to carve out a better way of life. Faith prompted the voyage; faith sustained the Pilgrims and their religious convictions constrained them to raise their voices in praise. Their hardship, sacrifice, devotion, concept of government, and vigorous religion all remind us of those who sought a country.

The only thing that can defeat the faith God has given you … is you. You must use your faith, exercise your faith, engage your faith. Until it is pressed into service, faith is only potential. To use the old exercise cliche, you must “use it or lose it!”4

Some Christians are so afraid of failure that they become reserved, overly cautious, and uninvolved in life. They follow a policy of guarded living, holding back time, talents, and treasure from God’s service. Their motto is: To keep from failing — don’t try! On the other hand, those who are willing to make mistakes and risk failure are the ones who ultimately achieve great things. Instead of being filled with fear, they go forward in faith. Problems are challenges. While they may not all be solved, these courageous people would rather live with that reality than have a clean record of no

failures and no accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin said one time, “The man who does things makes many mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all — doing nothing.

I like the poem from Charles Chigna: Try to think of all the words that you could live without; make a list of all those words and throw the worst word out. It’s not a very easy task, you might just rave and rant; but don’t give up before you find the worst bad word is “Can’t.”

God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of his will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do.

In a recent sermon, Joe Stowell said, “In 1980, America’s economy was in the ditch. The Cold War was in its fury. Russia seemed bigger, more powerful than us, and America entertained the world at the Olympics in Lake Placid. I remember coming home from church the Sunday that America was playing Russia in hockey. It was in the end of the first period, and we were beating the Russians. All of a sudden I realized my stomach was in a knot. My knuckles were white, and I had this anxiety about the game. All through the second period we were ahead. Going into the third period, I knew what would happen. The Russians would score five goals at the end of the game, beat us, and we would be embarrassed again. But we won! It was such a big deal that the national networks played it again. My wife and I watched the whole thing Sunday night. Only this time I didn’t have a knot in my stomach. I leaned back on the couch and put my feet up.

“What made the difference? I could relax because I knew the outcome. When we have faith that God is working for our eternal good, we can have amazing peace even when we don’t know the outcome.”5

J. G. Stipe wrote, “Faith is like a toothbrush. Every man should have one and use it regularly, but he shouldn’t try to use someone else’s.”

Harold Sherman wrote a book entitled, How To Turn Failure Into Success. In it he gives a code of persistence. He says:

1) I will never give up so long as I know I am right.

2) I will believe that all things will work out for me if I hang on to the end.

3) I will be courageous and undismayed in the face of odds.

4) I will not permit anyone to intimidate or deter me from my goals.

5) I will fight to overcome all physical handicaps and setbacks.

6) I will try again and again and yet again to accomplish what I desire.

7) I will take new faith and resolution from the knowledge that all successful men and women have had to fight defeat and adversity.

8) I will never surrender to discouragement or despair no matter what seeming obstacles may confront me.

We have a hard time valuing old age because we misunderstand what life — either young or old — really is. We were created to glorify God. Life is prayer. Life is loving. Life is graciously accepting our circumstances with joy and reflecting God’s goodness through it all. An elderly person, who, in spite of suffering and disability, is more concerned about loving others is the best demonstration of this truth. Allowing people to grow old is not a mistake on God’s part. He intends for that to happen to us so we can learn what life is — and is not.

The faith of Christ is a most precious faith. The word “precious” (time) means of great honor and price; of great value and privilege. The faith of Jesus Christ is precious because it makes us acceptable to God. It ushers us into the very presence of God Himself.

It also means that our standing with the Lord today is the same as that of the Apostles centuries ago. They had no special advantage over us simply because they were privileged to walk with Christ, see Him with their own eyes, and share in His miracles. It is not necessary to see the Lord with our human eyes in order to love Him, trust Him, and share His glory

Peter uses a word which would at once strike an answering chord in the minds of those who heard it. Their faith is equal in honor and privilege. The Greek is isotimos; isos means equal and time means honor. This word was particularly used in connection with foreigners who were given equal citizenship in a city with the natives.

Josephus, for instance, says that in Antioch the Jews were made isotimoi, equal in honor and privilege, with the Macedonians and the Greeks who lived there. So Peter addresses his letter to those who had once been despised Gentiles but who had been given equal rights of citizenship with the Jews and even with the apostles themselves in the kingdom of God.

The faith of Jesus Christ is obtained not earned. The word “obtained” (lachousin) means to secure by lot; to receive by allotment; to be given a share or a portion. No person deserves the precious faith of Jesus Christ. No person can work and earn it. It is a gift of God, a free gift that is given to every person who believes in Jesus Christ through baptism for remission of sins.

A Christian who walks by faith accepts all circumstances from God. He thanks God when everything goes good, when everything goes bad, and for the “blues” somewhere in-between. He thanks God whether he feels like it or not. A faith that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted.

A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works; indeed, he certainly won’t know how it works until he’s accepted it.

Gerald Yann told us “By faith we are led, not against reason but beyond reason, to the knowledge of God in himself and therefore of ourselves. By hope we are kept young of heart; for it teaches us to trust in God, to work with all our energy but to leave the future to him; it gives us poverty of spirit and so saves us from solicitude. And by love we are not told about God, we are brought to him.”

God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of reason make faith a necessity. Faith and sight are set in opposition to each other in Scripture, but not faith and reason.

True faith is essentially reasonable because it trusts in the character and the promises of God. A believing Christian is one whose mind reflects and rests on these certitudes.6

[1] John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men..

[2] Albert P. Stauderman, Let Me Illustrate, (Augsburg, 1983), p. 12.

[3] Andrew Merritt in My Faith Is Taking Me Someplace. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 7.

[4] Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2.

[5] John R. W. Stott (1921– )

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2022 in Christian graces

 

How To Let The Peace Of Christ Rule – Philippians 4:6-9


The word “let” means that we have an active part in allowing the peace of God to rule in our hearts. What must we do? We must practice many disciplines to maintain the peace Christ has given us.

We learn a lot about letting the peace of God rule in our hearts by not only studying Colossians 3:15, but Philippians 4:6–9 as well. Listen to the Philippians text:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:6–9).

1. The Peace Of God Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Reject Anxieties And Ungodly Fears.

Paul says in order for the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds, we must begin to reject fears and anxieties that steal our peace. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man brings depression” (NKJV). Many of us harbor fear of the past, the present and the future, and therefore miss the peace of God.

Paul told this congregation that was both being persecuted for the faith (Phil. 1:29) and struggling with division in the church (Phil. 4:2–3) to “be anxious for nothing.” This is the problem with many Christians: they accept fear as normal and rational instead of rejecting it as Scripture says.

Listen, it is not rational to live a life of fear when the God who created heaven and earth and runs everything according to the counsel of his will is your Father (Eph. 1:11). Would it be rational for the daughter of a billionaire to run around afraid of not having enough food to eat? How much more ridiculous is it for a child of God to live in anxiety or fear? Listen to what Paul said about the graciousness of the Father:

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:31–32).

Paul makes an argument from the greater to the lesser. If God sent his only Son to die on the cross for your sins, if God gave his best for you in his Son, how much more will he not ‘graciously’ give you all things? He already gave you his best. Won’t he make sure you have food to eat, clothes on your back, a job for the future? Won’t he make everything work for your good even in horrible situations?

It is not irrational to reject fear. It is irrational to live in fear when God is your Father. First John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (KJV). When you know the Father’s love, you won’t be running around worrying about this or that because you know God is in control.

  • Fear of failure

Many believers are robbed of God’s peace because they are afraid to fail. Their fear of failure rules in their hearts instead of God. The Israelites went into the Promised Land and chose to not take it because the fear of failure was ruling them. They said the giants were too big. They chose to not let the “peace of Christ” rule.

  • Fear of people

Many believers are robbed of God’s peace because of fear of what others think, say, or do. They are constantly worried about how others feel about them. Therefore, they can never enjoy the peace of the God who is satisfied with them. When people are big and God is small, we are ruled by the former.

  • Fear of the future

Many believers are robbed of God’s peace because of fear of the future. Again, Proverbs says anxiety in the heart of man brings depression. Many Christians worry about what’s next. They worry about tomorrow, and it robs them of peace.

How else do we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts?

2. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Live In An Atmosphere Of Prayer.

After telling us to “be anxious for nothing,” Paul says, “But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests unto God” (Phil. 4:6). One of the reasons the peace of Christ doesn’t rule in our hearts is because we don’t pray about “everything.” We don’t live in an atmosphere of prayer. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray “without ceasing.” Christians need to learn how to bring prayers before God throughout the entire day, and this practice will result in having a supernatural peace guarding their hearts.

Paul names three types of prayer in this passage we must practice: prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. When he says “prayer,” even though it is a general word for all prayer, he seems to be referring to a type of prayer since he adds the conjunction “and” after it and adds two other types of prayer: “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.” “Prayer” seems to refer to “special times of prayer that we share in periods of devotion and worship.”[1] If the peace of Christ is going to rule in our hearts we must constantly worship God throughout the day.

The second type of prayer is “thanksgiving.” The very reason many of us cannot have peace is because we are constantly complaining and arguing whenever something bad happens (cf. Phil. 2:14). Sometimes we don’t even give God thanks when good things happen. Thanksgiving in everything is a discipline we must practice to have Christ’s peace. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Finally, he says we must give “petitions,” which means bringing our requests before God. Peter said, “Cast your cares before the Lord for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The very reason we don’t constantly cast our cares—our petitions—before God throughout the day is because we are too independent and too prideful. Pride will keep us from recognizing our need for God in everything and coming to him in humility with our requests. The humble person who knows his weakness, and therefore constantly brings his requests before God, will receive grace. Scripture says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV). One of the aspects of grace that God gives the humble person who constantly brings petitions before him is peace.

Are you practicing living in an atmosphere of prayer?

I think sometimes the discipline of having a prayer and devotional time once a day can distract us from living in an atmosphere of prayer. What do I mean by that? I don’t mean to say that having set times each day to pray and read the Bible is bad. I’m not saying that at all. Those are necessary disciplines in the Christian life. However, many Christians have their time of prayer in the morning and then check off the box. To them, they have done their duty and there is no need to pray more. It’s like completing an assignment and then not thinking about it till the next day. No, Scripture never commands us to have one time a day to pray or read our Bible. The standard is much higher than that. Scripture commands us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). It commands us to meditate on the Word of God day and night (Ps. 1:2). The reason we set one or two times a day aside for devotion is to help us to do it all day.

The one who learns to pray in all things, bringing every thought and concern before the throne room of God, is the person who the peace of Christ will rule in. For many Christians, fear, doubt, and anger are ruling instead of the peace of Christ. The priority of a citizen of heaven must be the rule of Christ’s peace in his heart, and one of the ways that happens is by living in prayer—bringing constant worship, thanksgiving, and petitions before the Father.

3. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Practice Thinking On Righteous Things.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8–9).

Paul gives two requirements needed to experience the God of peace: righteous thinking and righteous practice. We can be sure that where the God of peace is, there his peace is as well. We will consider the need for righteous thinking first.

Again, Paul says that when a believer thinks on godly things, it will result in the God of peace being with them (v. 9). It brings the presence of the giver of this peace into our lives. Listen to what Isaiah 26:3 says: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (KJV).

God keeps at perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on him. When our minds are consumed with God and his will, this brings a spirit of peace in our lives. For many Christians, God and his will are not the major concern on their minds every day. Their work, trials, or entertainment is the chief endeavor of their thoughts, and this keeps them from having peace. It is not that we stop thinking about other things; it’s that we learn, as an act of discipline, to make everything an avenue that leads us to meditation on God and his will.

If a person who loves you gives you an expensive piece of jewelry, is it given just for your pleasure? No. The purpose of giving you the jewelry is to help you think about the intimate relationship you share together. To enjoy the jewelry without thinking of the giver is to misuse the gift. The gift is meant to point to the giver and not obscure the giver.

I did not give my wife a wedding ring so she could have an addition to her wardrobe. The ring is a reminder to her, and everybody else, that she is in a covenant relationship with me.

Scripture says that “every good and perfect gift cometh from God above” (James 1:17). He gives “life and breath and everything we need” (Acts 17:25). Each breath is a reminder of our dependence on God. Our food, our job, and our relationships are reminders of the Giver. These gifts were never meant to be enjoyed apart from our relationship with God, and to enjoy them apart from him is to misuse his gifts.

That is how the world lives their lives and that is how many Christians live their lives. They take the gift and enjoy it apart from and in spite of the Giver. However, the one whose mind is stayed on God, thinking on what is noble, pure and just, will experience the presence of the God of peace—the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

In order to think on what is righteous, we must reject what is sinful and saturate ourselves with what is righteous. The reality is that many Christians forfeit Christ’s peace by the music they listen to, the movies they watch, the books they read, the conversations they entertain, etc. In order to think on what is right, we must guard our hearts and minds from all that pollutes and taints us (cf. Prov. 4:23; James 1:27). It must be our daily priority to think on what is righteous as we study God’s Word and think about everything in accordance with his revelation. God and his peace are with the person who practices this as a daily endeavor.

Are you training your mind to enjoy and meditate on the Giver in everything? This does not just happen organically; it is a work of discipline. We must choose to think upon God in everything, through the study of his Word, worship, and appreciation of his gifts. There, the peace of God can rule in our hearts.

How else can we allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts?

4. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Practice Righteousness.

Paul says that not only should we think on what is right, but we must practice it as well. Paul said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).

When we think on what is right and put into practice God’s truths, then the God of peace will be with us. We have all experienced this before. When we walk in rebellion toward God, we subsequently lose our peace with God. Peace cannot exist without righteousness. Listen to what David said in Psalm 32:2–5:

Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

David says “blessed” or “happy” is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. Happiness and joy are the products of an intimate relationship with God and a righteous walk. But, when David sinned and did not confess his sins, he suffered physical pain; he suffered heart pain as he groaned. His strength was sapped.

We experience this all the time. When we live in sin, we cannot have the peace of God; instead, we experience the discipline of God. David said he could sense the Lord’s hand upon him, taking away his physical strength (v. 4). He groaned all day long. But when he confessed, he began to again walk in the “happiness” of the man who was forgiven.

It’s the same for us. Paul said, “Put these things into practice” and the God of peace will be with you. A righteous life brings peace and the presence of the Giver of peace. When we live and think on sinful things, we forfeit the peace of God and instead bring the wrath of God.

5. The Peace Of Christ Will Rule In Our Hearts When We Walk In Peace With The Body Of Christ.

Finally, in returning to Colossians 3:15, not only does Paul say we must “let the peace of Christ rule” in order to have peace, but we also must maintain peace in our relationships. Look at what he says: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

This is also a common experience for us when walking in discord with a brother or sister; it removes our joy and peace. Often, instead of thinking on God, we think about how we were mistreated or misunderstood, what we should say or do next, and sometimes how to get even with those who harmed us. We can’t experience the peace of God when we are out of fellowship with one another.

Paul says we are members of one body. When one part of the body is not functioning in harmony with the rest of the body then there is some type of sickness and possibly even a cancer. The body can’t function that way and, similarly, there can be no peace of Christ in our lives when we are in discord with another member of the body.

Look at what David says about walking in unity: How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore (Ps. 133).

When there is peace and unity among the brothers, that is where God’s blessing is. That is where he bestows his peace. But where there is discord he removes his blessing. If we are out of fellowship with a brother or sister in the Lord, one of the ways we “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts” is by seeking to reconcile that relationship. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As much as it depends upon us, we must seek to live in harmony with others. That means we must forgive others, we must bless those who curse us, and we even must serve our enemies. Romans 12:19–21 says,

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Discerning God’s Will Through The Peace Of Christ

The first priority of a heavenly citizen is allowing the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. It is very easy to allow worry to rule, either through the fear of man or fear of the future. Oftentimes fear can lead us to make irrational decisions. However, the child of God who is a citizen of heaven should not be ruled by fear but by the peace of Christ. It must umpire and decide our course of action.

How do we apply this to discerning God’s will? How do we apply this when trying to discern future steps, like “Who I should date or marry?” or “How should I serve in the church?” When trying to discern God’s will we must ask these types of questions concerning the peace of Christ.

  • “Will taking this action disrupt my peace with God?” Each believer must develop sensitivity to his relationship with Christ and the Lord’s peace. Sin always causes discord in our relationship with God. Therefore, if it would be displeasing to God, then we should reject it. The peace of Christ must rule as we seek to do his will on the earth.
  • “Will taking this action disrupt my peace with his body?” Paul said, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” (Rom. 14:21). If it causes discord in the body instead of peace, we should not do it. This includes rejecting freedoms such as wearing certain clothes, going to certain places, enjoying certain types of entertainment, etc.
  • “Has God given peace in my heart to proceed in this direction?” It has often been said, “Darkness about going is light about staying.”[2] Having no peace many times is enough of an answer to not proceed. Again, peace is not the only determinant; it is possible to have a false peace. It must be tested by God’s Word and the agreement of the saints, but the peace of Christ must be discerned and obeyed.

Christians must develop sensitivity to the peace of Christ. He has left us his peace, and we must let it rule in our hearts. It must decide like an umpire. This should be the priority of every heavenly citizen.

[1] Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Commentary – Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Philippians: The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible.

[2] W. MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. A. Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995).

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2022 in Disciplines

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s Still in Control #6 When They Call for the Lions – Daniel 6


in-the-lions-den_wide_t

   I think we are well aware of the thousands of ‘believers’ in this world who have been murdered in recent years…all because they do not believe in a radical Islamic doctrine that is being taught.  Amnesty International reports cases of Christian women hung by their thumbs from wires and beaten with heavy rods, denied food and water and shocked with electric probes.

Elsewhere in the world, Christians face other tortures and persecutions. In Egypt and Pakistan Christians have been imprisoned and tortured merely for preaching their faith. Pakistan recently passed a blasphemy law that forbids speaking or acting against the prophet Mohammed. The punishment for violators is death.

A 12-year-old Christian child was recently sentenced to death under this law and was freed from Pakistan only by international pressure. He is now hiding in a Western country with a bounty on his head similar to that which keeps Salman Rushdie on the run.

Sudan is perhaps the worst violator. Its Islamic government has engaged in a policy of forcible conversion. Many of the black Sudanese in the southern part of the country (the north is Arab) have resisted conversion, in many cases because of adherence to Christianity (a criminal act under Sudanese law). As punishment, the Sudanese government has denied food and medicine to Christians in famine areas and has sold thousands of Christian children–some as young as 6–into slavery.”

Here in the U.S., of course, when we talk about persecution, our idea is having people call us names or City Hall refusing to let us put up religious symbols in the park, or hand out Bibles in the public schools.

What do you think would happen to churches in America if it became illegal to be a Christian as it is in Iran and other Moslem countries? How do you think your own faith would fare under such circumstances?

In one sense, there is really no way to know until you’re there, and “there” is a place where most of us, top-10-persecuted-dark-595x399myself included, don’t want to have to go to find out. Is there anything a person can do to prepare in the event something like that might happen here? None of us would want to lose our faith under such circumstances.

In the earliest days of Christianity, when enemies of Christ wanted to put a stop to the testimony of someone who refused to compromise his faith, they would call for the lions. Christian men, women, and children were put into the arenas with hungry lions when they refused to recant their faith.

In much the same way, as we come into the sixth chapter of Daniel this morning in the last message of our series called “Faith in the Fire: God is in Control” that is what has happened. Daniel has refused to violate the basic tenants of his faith, so they’ve “called for the lions.”

What can we learn from Daniel that might help us in the event it ever comes about that someone should “call for the lions” in the good old USA? Said a little more plainly, what can we do to prepare in the event that the ultimate sacrifice was called for in our lives? How could we remain faithful under that kind of pressure?

Before we read Daniel six, let me inform you of a couple of things that will help you understand what is happening here.

First, Daniel was 80-90 years old when they called for the lions. Don’t picture a young man as we read this chapter.

Second, the lion’s den was the primary form of capital punishment to the Medes and Persians just as the furnace of fire was to the Babylonians, stoning was to the Jews, and crucifixion was to the Romans. It was a means of certain, violent death.

Daniel 6:1-2 (ESV)  It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2  and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss.

Apparently Darius used some of the men from the cabinet of Belshazzar, the king he conquered.

Daniel 6:3-4 (ESV) Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4  Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.

We see here a simple case of jealousy with these men. Daniel was appointed over them and they didn’t like it, so they set about to get him out of their way. When they could find nothing immoral or shady in his public service, they decided to frame him in the one area where he might be vulnerable.

  1. Keep on Being What You’ve Been. There is a consistency revealed about Daniel that shows what kind of person he was.

He was one who “distinguished himself” among the others, according to verse 3. Daniel wasn’t a slacker. He had worked hard in the courts of two kings already. Now he was doing the same in the third.

Verse 4 tells us that his opponents could find “no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption” in him. He was morally consistent. The set up a “sting” operation. They went through his files and his trashcans. They hid in the bushes and watched him at home. But they could find no hidden dirt.

The next phrase says “he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.”

Daniel didn’t suddenly realize he was under surveillance and scramble to cover his tracks like we’ve seen many governing officials do in our day. There was no “Watergate,” “Whitewater,” “Travel Gate,” “Nanny Gate,” or any other kind of Gate in his life!

He was free from corruption in the present because he had been free from corruption in the past. He was already faithful. We’ve seen these things in his life since we began this series. When they called for the lions, he had merely to continue being what he had been.

Occasionally, when watching an interview with athletes before an important game, you’ll hear a reporter ask, “Well, how do you intend to handle this biggest game of your career?” Looking for a story, he’s hoping the athlete will reveal some bright, new, never-heard-of strategy. To that the athlete will say something like, “I’m just going to go out and do what I’ve been doing every day in practice since the beginning of the season.” Nothing new to him. He’s been doing it all along.

You don’t wait until the day of the race to start getting into shape. You don’t wait until the day of the game to start learning to pass the football. You don’t wait for the day you’re investigated to start living a life free from corruption.

What do you do when they call for the lions? You don’t change a thing! You keep on being what you have been. If you’ve been faithful, you’ll continue to be faithful.

Of course, the assumption behind that is that you have been working on being what you ought to be when the pressure isn’t on so that when they call for the lions, you don’t have to change anything.

Daniel 6:5-9 (ESV)  Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” 6  Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7  All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8  Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9  Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

Darius fell for their scheme.

Daniel 6:10-15 (ESV) When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11  Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12  Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13  Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” 14  Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15  Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Instantly the king realizes he’s been had. I can imagine him calling in his lawyers trying to find some way around this frame-up. But they could find nothing.

  1. Keep on Doing What You’ve Done. Daniel 6:10: When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Prayer and thanksgiving were nothing new to Daniel. His windows were already open. (The Jews of the captivity always faced Jerusalem when they prayed.) Daniel’s habit was to pray three times a day and he always gave thanks when he prayed.

Upon hearing the news of the edict, he didn’t panic, run upstairs to his room, get out the crowbar because the window on the east side of the house was painted shut or stuck. It was already open because he used it three times a day! The keywords in that sentence are “as he had been doing previously.”

What do you do when they call for the lions? Keep on doing what you’ve been doing – provided you’ve been doing what’s right.

Being ultimately able to face the lions is a lot like cruise control. You set the speed where it ought to be, then keep it there, consistently. You don’t start and stop. That gets you the best mileage and gets you there the quickest.

But it isn’t like an autopilot. You can’t just tell it where you want to go and take a nap. You still have to pay attention!

Making a big trip consists of covering a lot of little miles. Preparation for facing the big trials of life consists of a whole lot of facing the little ones. If you are listening to this message hoping to find some profound secret about the faith, there isn’t one, unless it is profound in its obvious simplicity. Keep on doing what you’ve done.

Daniel 6:16-23 (ESV) Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17  And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18  Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. 19  Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20  As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21  Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23  Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

  1. Keep on Trusting Whom You’ve Trusted.
    Daniel 6:16: Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Daniel’s unabashed trust in God is obvious here. Even the king knew about it. And the king was even wishing for a rescue!

19  Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20  As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21  Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23  Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Was this level of trusting something new in Daniel’s life? Hardly. Remember chapter one and the issue of the king’s food? Remember chapter two and the confidence Daniel had that God could interpret the king’s dream? Remember chapter four where Daniel had the confidence in God to tell the king the truth? Remember chapter five when Daniel trusted God enough to turn down honor and prestige?

Whenever someone fails to trust God in the clutch, it is probably because he hasn’t trusted God in the days when the pressure was lighter.

Daniel is safe. Now the king turns to the guys who framed him.

Daniel 6:24 (ESV)  And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.”

Those lions were even hungrier because they hadn’t eaten all night!

Daniel 6:25-28 (ESV) Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26  I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28  So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

O.K. We’ve seen what Daniel did when they called for the lions. Let’s look more closely and consider what we should do under similar circumstances.

When the army of Saul was cowering in fear of the Philistine giant, Goliath, and David stepped forward and volunteered to fight him, do you remember what he cited as his confidence? It’s in 1 Samuel 17:36-371 Samuel 17:36-37 (ESV) Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37  And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

David fought the biggest battle of his life successfully because he had learned to trust God in the smaller battles of his life. He simply kept trusting Whom he had been trusting.

Polycarp, was believed to be a first century disciple of the Apostle John. He was one of the early Christian martyrs. Just before his execution, he was asked if he had anything more to say. He said “Eighty and six years I have served Christ and He has done me nothing but good; how then could I curse Him now, my Lord and Savior?” He was burned alive.

Do you want to be strong when they call for the lions? How are you doing trusting God in the lesser things?

Conclusion

A Nashville newspaper carried a story a few years back about Mrs. Lila Craig who hasn’t missed attending church in 1,040 Sundays, though she was in her eighties at the time of the article. The editor commented, “It makes one wonder, what’s the matter with Mrs. Craig? Doesn’t she ever have unexpected company?

How is it that she never goes anywhere on Saturday night so that she’s too tired to attend morning worship service the next day? Doesn’t she ever ‘beg off’ to attend picnics or family reunions, or have headaches, colds, nervous spells, or tired feelings? Doesn’t she ever oversleep or need time to read her Sunday newspaper?

Hasn’t she ever become angry at the minister or had her feelings hurt by someone and felt justified in staying home to hear a good sermon on the radio or TV? What’s the matter with Mrs. Craig anyway?”

I suggest to you that Mrs. Craig was doing the same thing Daniel was doing when they called for the lions:
Being what she’d always been

Doing what she’d always done

Trusting Whom she’d always trusted

How about it? If you were investigated right now for integrity, what would be found? If you kept on being what you are right now, would it get you through the ultimate test?

Are the prayer windows in your life open or shut? If you kept on doing what you’re doing right now, would it carry you through?

How about this issue of trust? Consider the last two or three crises in your life. When it was all said and done, did you trust God?

If you said “no” to any of these, you need to get to work! If you said “yes,” then don’t change a thing!

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s Still in Control #5: When They Call for Your Honor – Daniel 5


faith under fireHave you ever seen a tragedy coming and could do nothing to stop it? One evening as Terry and I left a Florida Marlins baseball game in South Florida (we’re Cubs fans and they were in town), a car passed us at a high speed and eventually lost control as it sped by.

Careening out of control, the car bounced along the center concrete median. Sparks flew as the underside of the car scraped the concrete curb. It stopped quickly and several other cars bounced around slightly—it was scary and tense and very, very quick in happening. No one was hurt, as it turned out, except for damage to cars.

Reading Daniel 5 gives me that same feeling of helplessness and distress. From our distance in time, our knowledge of history, and the account of Daniel, we know the king, and likely those dining with him at his royal banquet, are destined for destruction. Yet we can do nothing to prevent it. Helplessly, we look on as judgment day comes for king Belshazzar.

Announcement of the king’s coming judgment begins by a mysterious hand writing on the wall of the banquet hall. Crying aloud, the king summons the wise men of Babylon. Their inability to fulfill his instructions only adds to his frustration. When his ability to interpret such matters is made known to the king, Daniel enters the scene.

It was in chapter 2 of the Book of Daniel that king Nebuchadnezzar had a distressing dream, which he demanded that his wise men reveal and interpret; they could not do so. Daniel revealed the dream and its meaning to king Nebuchadnezzar, and in so doing spared the lives of the wise men. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar had yet another dream. Once again, the king first sought the meaning from the other wise men of Babylon. When all others failed to explain the king’s dream, Daniel revealed its meaning and called on the king to repent, so that the threatened outcome might be delayed or prevented.

Another king now sits on the throne in Babylon. His name is Belshazzar.

Nearly 25 years have passed since the events of chapter 4 and over 70 years since chapter 1. Now advanced in years, Daniel is a senior statesman in Babylon. He has outlasted a number of kings and in his time Belshazzar, the last of the Chaldean kings of Babylon, will be killed and Babylon will pass from Chaldean rule to rule by Darius the Mede.

In chapters 1-4, we have an account of the life of Nebuchadnezzar, the first Babylonian king to rule over the captive Jews. The account looks at several events in the life of this great king, which eventually bring him to his knees in worship and praise of the God of Israel. Daniel then passes over several kings, giving us this brief account of the last day in the reign of Belshazzar, the last of the Chaldean kings.

The death of Belshazzar at the hand of Darius is a partial fulfillment of the prophecy revealed to king Nebuchadnezzar by his dream in chapter 2. There, Daniel informed Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom was the first of four kingdoms to precede the coming of Messiah. His was the kingdom of gold, to be followed by a lesser kingdom of silver (Daniel 2:39). The kingdom of silver is introduced in Daniel 5, when Darius captures Babylon, and Belshazzar is put to death. The Medo-Persian kingdom is born, fulfilling the first part of the prophecy revealed through Daniel.

Belshazzar’s Feast (Daniel 5:1-5)

The great feast of Belshazzar takes place about 25 years after the events of chapter 4. Nebuchadnezzar is long gone and the Persians have surrounded the city of Babylon hoping to conquer it.

The great feast probably happened on October 12, 539 – The night that Babylon fell. Greek historians wrote that a great banquet was in progress that night. These types of feasts were displays of wealth and power.

Understanding how things went from bad to worse in these verses is not difficult. Such seems to have been the scene at Belshazzar’s banquet.[1] One thousand of the king’s nobles were invited, along with their wives or other women. The king was responsible for what happened, and too much wine seems to have contributed to his poor judgment. A false sense of pride and self-sufficiency seems to have dominated the dinner party. The king remembered the expensive vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father,[2] had taken when he defeated and captured Jerusalem. How much more impressive the evening would be if they drank their wine from the gold and silver vessels from the temple in Jerusalem.[3]

And so the vessels were brought in. The wine continued to flow freely, and toasts began to be offered. That these pagans were engaged in a kind of drinking bout with the sacred temple vessels was bad enough, but the ultimate blasphemy was toasting the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone.

God has a limit to how far He will allow men to go in their sin. In His longsuffering and mercy, God may allow men to continue in their sin for a time. But there is a time for judgment.  The king and his Babylonian dinner guests crossed the line that fateful night in the banquet hall of Babylon. Judgment day had come, and the writing on the wall announced its arrival.

The Handwriting of Doom (Daniel 5:6-16)

Against the whitewashed walls of the palace the writing of the “hand” must have been amazing. The words written were in Aramaic, yet the astrologers and magicians could not decipher them. Their ignorance  in the face of a true mystery is a familiar theme ion the book.

Daniel’s refusal of the King’s gifts may indicate the confidence and focus of a man of 90 years of age. His rebuke of Belshazzar contains the telling phrase “though you knew all of this…” The king had not acted in ignorance.

Verses 7 through 9 relate the promise of the king to give rich rewards to anyone able to interpret the writing, but all the wise men failed.

Knowing the power of the Babylonian kings, Belshazzar must have seen many men stand in fear and trembling before him. One might have thought the king was having a heart attack. Barely able to stand, his face was ashen and seized with terror. The raucous laughter turned to deafening silence with all eyes on the king. The king’s eyes were fixed upon the hand as it wrote. As a sense of foreboding and panic fell on the crowd, all eyes turned to the mysterious writing on the wall. The king’s actions alarmed all who were present.

Crying aloud in fear, his speech probably slurred, the king immediately summoned his wise men to the banquet hall. What did these words on the wall mean? He must know. A tempting reward was offered to anyone who could interpret the meaning of the handwriting on the wall.

The queen has great confidence in Daniel’s ability based upon his track record in the history of Babylonian affairs. Her summary of Daniel’s accomplishments in verse 12 suggests that Daniel performed other amazing tasks throughout the lifetime of king Nebuchadnezzar. Those recorded in the Book of Daniel are but a sampling of Daniel’s ministry to the king.

Her confidence does seem to produce a calming effect on the king and his guests. The king summons Daniel to appear before the king and his guests that very night.

The king offered the same reward to Daniel that he had previously offered to anyone who would interpret the handwriting on the wall. It is interesting that he fulfilled his promise to Daniel at the conclusion of this revelation, even though the reward was short-lived.

The Meaning Revealed (Daniel 5:17-30)

1) The inscription is three simple Aramaic words:

Mene, Mene                        Numbered, Numbered

Tekel                                      Weighed

Peres                                      Divided

Having admonished the king, Daniel next proceeded to interpret the writing: Now this is the inscription that was written out: “MENE¯, MENE¯, TEKE¯L, UPHARSIN.” This is the interpretation of the message: “MENE¯”—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. “TEKE¯L”—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. “PERE¯S”—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians (vv. 25–28). [4]

Each word stands for a short sentence. The Babylonians were renowned for their expertise with numbers, and God speaks to Belshazzar in those terms. In the interpretation Daniel dealt with “MENE¯” only once. Many ancient manuscripts do not repeat “MENE¯” in verse 25, thus corresponding exactly with Daniel’s interpretation. “MENE¯,” literally means “numeration” or “evaluation.” “TEKE¯L” literally means “weighing,” and “PERE¯S,” division. Fortunately, we are not left to try to determine the meaning of such a message, for Daniel gave the interpretation.

Though Daniel accepts the gifts, they did not effect the outcome of the prophecy. Further, being elevated to third highest ruler in Babylon was not much of a prize.

Daniel begins by turning down Belshazzar’s reward. Let the king keep his gifts or give them to someone else. Why would he decline Belshazzar’s offer? Daniel knows that the king’s gifts are virtually useless. What good would it do Daniel to be given the third highest office in the administration of Belshazzar when his reign would end that very night? Daniel was God’s servant, divinely gifted to interpret dreams. He would not prostitute his gift by using it for his own gain. Daniel was not “for hire.” As God’s prophet, Daniel spoke to men for God.

Verses 18-24 are fascinating. In these verses Daniel explains the guilt of king Belshazzar. Unfortunately, Belshazzar had not learned the lesson from Nebuchadnezzar’s mistakes (v. 22). Thus the hand was sent from God (v. 24). The writing on the wall, explained in verses 25-28, speak of the imminent judgment of God which will fall upon Belshazzar and his kingdom, due to sin. Daniel spends more time on the king’s guilt than on his punishment, as he devotes more time to explaining the reason for the writing than the meaning of the writing.

The events of Daniel 4 are now repeated, as a lesson which not only Nebuchadnezzar learned but which Belshazzar his son should have learned as well. God sovereignly granted Nebuchadnezzar power, glory, and majesty, and he exercised that power and authority over mankind. But his heart became proud, and he acted arrogantly. God temporarily took away his power and his kingdom, and he became like the beasts of the field, eating grass and living in the elements without shelter. All this happened so that he might recognize God as the ruler over mankind and recognize that all human authority is delegated to men by God, from whom all authority is derived.

Verse 29 indicates that Belshazzar kept his promise to Daniel. He “gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”

BABYLON’S FALL (5:30)

“That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain” and the kingdom was conquered (v. 30). Thus ended the Babylonian Empire.

The “head of gold” of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (chapter 2) was now replaced by a breast and arms of silver—the Medes and Persians. 

Lessons for today

Remember The Real Issue.
It’s so easy, in a situation like this, to get your eyes on the wrong thing and forget what those clamoring to honor you are really asking you to do. Flattery can be a heady thing. You can lose sight of what is really going on.

   Of course this issue isn’t always so cute. It must have been flattering for Daniel, probably forgotten and on “inactive duty” since the death of Nebuchadnezzar, to be called once again into the palace for advice. Then for a former captive of a defeated nation to be offered third ruler in the kingdom!
   The promise of honor and acclaim can be a heady thing. It can cause you to lose sight of your ideals.
   The thing Daniel needed to remember in the midst of this incredible offer of honor and acclaim was that this same king had just been hosting a dinner in which the keynote issue was mocking God!
   Sure, the honor might be nice, but will you line up with pagans to get it? Will you participate in their blasphemy? Will you mock and dishonor your Maker in order to be honored yourself? Is it worth that much?
   “Well, when you put it that way, no. But it isn’t always so clear cut. Sometimes it’s in the gray area.” Yeah, I know. The greater the promise of honor and prestige, the grayer it gets! Yet we must discern.
   Someone has aptly written, “Flattery looks like friendship – just like a wolf looks like a dog!”
   What I’m saying is this: Remember the real issue! Get your eyes off the glory and get them back on your God! Discern the issues! Know what is really going on. Don’t let the flattery blind you to the facts.
   Don’t Change the Message.
No one else in the room recognized that Aramaic writing on the wall. He could have said it meant anything he wanted and no one would ever have known the difference. No one, that is, but God.

   Oh that men feared God and feared changing His message more than they craved the attention of men!
   The New Testament warns us about changing the message for the sake of personal desires. After an exhortation to “preach the word,” Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
   Listen to what God said to His prophet, Ezekiel: Ezekiel 3:17-19: “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the
house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’; and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.”
   Fear God’s Judgment.
Perhaps you have, at times, used the phrase, “The handwriting is on the wall,” meaning that what is going to happen is very evident and there is no stopping it. That phrase originated from the story in this passage.

    BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY says this about what happened: “Belshazzar had a false sense of security, because the Persian army… was outside Babylon’s city walls. Their army was divided; part was stationed where the river entered the city at the north and the other part was positioned where the river exited from the city at the south. The army diverted the water north of the city by digging a canal from the river to a nearby lake. With the water diverted, its level receded and the soldiers were able to enter the city by going under the sluice gate. Since the walls were unguarded the Persians, once inside the city, were able to conquer it without a fight.”
   You only get so much warning and then “the handwriting is on the wall.” God will warn of impending judgment only so long, then the ax falls.
   It also should be a warning to cause us to fear God when we’re tempted to put acclaim ahead of principle.

[1] For similar events, recorded in the Bible, see Esther 1 and Mark 6:14-29.

[2] It is generally understood and accepted that the term “father” was used more loosely in the Old Testament of one’s forefather, who may have been a grandfather or even a more distant “father.”

[3] See Daniel 1:2; 2 Kings 24:13; 25:15; Ezra 1:7, 11.

[4] Truth For Today, Life of Daniel series by David Rechtin & Neal Pryor (much of this material is a result of the two issues put out by these two fine writers and this publication, from Searcy, Arkansas

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s in Control #4 – When They Call For Truth – Daniel 4


truth-3I spend a great deal of time daily pondering the requirement as a teacher to tell the truth about important spiritual matters…even when it isn’t popular. That is something that’s expected of teachers/ministers, but not always appreciated.

Think of a circumstance when an individual would suddenly grab his side in pain, double over and fall to the floor. Paramedics were called and he was rushed to the hospital. After a battery of tests and X-rays they found he had a cancerous tumor the size of a small football in his stomach. The doctors give radiation treatment and 3 months later they
operated to remove the tumor, now shrunken to the size of a golf ball.  

Many people say sin is a negative subject. So is cancer. If you have a cancerous tumor in your stomach the size of a football and they rush you to the hospital, you don’t need the doctor to tell you, ‘It’s just a stomach ache. Take some Mylanta and you’ll be OK.’ You need to know the truth.

How would you like to be the doctor who has to deliver such bad news? It probably wouldn’t be on anyone’s list of favorite things they like to do.

What is true of physical life and the threat of cancer it also true in the case of spiritual life and the reality of sin. Before people can understand and accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and salvation, they need to hear from us the bad news of their condition before God in their sins.

Because telling the truth about sin is quite similar to the doctor who must break the news about cancer, many people shy away from it. They prefer either to say nothing, or to water down the truth so as to somehow soften the blow.

Sadly, preachers and other Christians can become pretty good at watering down or disguising the truth so that it no longer appears to be bad news. Perhaps it is the reason why so many sense no joy in their salvation – they’ve no idea how bad their condition was so they don’t appreciate their deliverance from it.

Delivering good news is a joy. Delivering bad news is unpleasant. Yet it can get even more complicated than that. Imagine delivering bad news to a superior with a penchant for temper tantrums and the power to kill you. Surely the temptation in such a situation would be to tell a little less than the truth, or perhaps some version of “what they want to hear.”

That is the situation for Daniel in the fourth chapter of the book we’ve been studying. Daniel is the “doctor.” The “patient” is Nebuchadnezzar and he has a deadly sin in his life called arrogance. God has decreed his judgment and it is about to come upon him unless he changes his ways. Daniel must deliver the bad news.

This is sermon number four in our series from Daniel called, “Faith in the Fire: God’s in Control.” We’re looking at dealing with calls from the world. This message is titled, “When They Call for Truth.”

Daniel 4:1-37 (ESV)
1   King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you!

Notice that this chapter differs from the previous three in that it is written by Nebuchadnezzar himself in the first person. It describes what brought him to become a believer in the God of heaven. It involved some bad news. Penned after the fact, this was either a decree he sent out across his kingdom after the events described, or something he wrote in his memoirs for posterity. Note his high praise for God in the next two verses.

2  It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
3  How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

It wasn’t always that way. Listen as he describes what happened”
4   I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace.
5  I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.
6  So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.
7  Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.
8  At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying,
9  “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.
10  The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great.
11  The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12  Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13  “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.
14  He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches.
15  But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16  Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him.
17  The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’
18  This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

What a story!

Recall now what we are looking for in this passage. We’re looking to see how we should deal with a situation where someone from the world asks one of us for the truth. A careful look reveals four necessary things for the truth-teller to get his message across. The first is…

1. Credibility
Notice back in verses 7 and 8 that Daniel was one of Nebuchadnezzar’s leading advisors. By this time, Daniel had established a track record in the palace, not only of telling the truth, but also knowing it. I have no idea why the king chose to call Daniel in last, after he had consulted the others, unless he wanted to evaluate his advisory team the way he did back in chapter two.

Look at his description of Daniel: “in whom is a spirit of the holy gods.” Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a believer yet, but he recognized Daniel had something the rest didn’t. From his previous encounters with Daniel, he must also have known that Daniel wouldn’t back away from telling him the truth.

When the world calls on one of us for truth, it will likely be because their observations of our actions have built credibility in them. We have become authentic. Usually unknown to us, the unbeliever has been watching and evaluating us in other circumstances. They’ve noted it when we had the courage to tell the truth and they’ve also noted it when they saw us
hedge. That is why it is so necessary to be truthful in all areas of life, big and little.

Who do you suppose if watching you right now, evaluation your truthfulness? It might surprise you to know who and how many!
If we expect the world to listen to the truth when we tell it, we don’t get there by waiting until they ask before beginning to tell the truth. We tell it now, in the little things that we face every day, knowing that the world is watching. We also don’t go to the world’s shifting standard of truth to learn how to do it (like the Indians learning to make smoke
signals from the movies.) We must be in God’s eternal source of truth, the Bible.

If you were called upon by the world to tell the truth today, would your message be heard or ignored? A lot depends upon your credibility.

  1. Concern
    Though it has been repeated to the point of being trite, it is still true that “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
    We see here in the example of Daniel a genuine concern for Nebuchadnezzar.

    19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his 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!

    Daniel could have said, “Well, it’s about time God dealt with you, you Pagan, for what you did to my people and my family back in Jerusalem!”

    We must tell the truth, but we must tell it with compassion. We should preach and teach “as dying men to dying men.”

    Our message isn’t delivered from a place of condescension! Without God’s offer of grace to us, given while we were still in our sins, we are no better off than this pagan king! We must never forget it.

    3. Candor
    Candor is forthright honesty. It’s what you want from your doctor. It’s what you should want from those who teach you. It is what the unbeliever who comes to you seeking truth, needs desperately from you.

    When you arrive at the absolute truth about a matter, things that contradict it cannot be right! That makes them wrong in case anyone needs some help figuring it out.

    When we speak of telling the truth with candor, we mean telling it like it is, not like we want it to be or we wish it were or our favorite version of it!

    From time to time there are people who are with us in the church for a while, then they leave. Often it is because they run aground on this very issue. They get upset because the leadership of this church will not go against the clear commands of scripture to accommodate their situation.

Those of you sitting here this morning don’t always know the issue behind some folks leaving, but you may hear them as they go mumbling things like how “unfair” the shepherds/minister are. My experience has been the “unfair” they are talking about is that these shepherds, who will account to God one day for their stewardship in this place, would not change the absolute truth of the situation to make it convenient for them to disobey God.

In those statements, I said you don’t always know the issue. The reason is that we don’t usually parade people’s personal lives before the church. If you have a question about something said about the elders, though, the best approach is to ask. They are open to questions and not above accountability for their actions. It is just that I can say with certainly that they (and I) are more afraid of some twisting the word of God than they are of someone’s threats to leave.

Candor – forthright honesty – is what is needed when the world calls for truth. We dare not let them down. To do so is fatal.

Though he risked the king’s wrath, Daniel told the truth with candor.
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.

To the person in the church, we need to tell the truth about the need to obey God. To the outsider, we need to tell the truth about their sin and the coming effects of it.

Those of you who have used “Sin-Savior-Salvation” lessons to teach someone else the gospel: that is why the lesson on “Sin” comes before the one on “Salvation.” People need to know the truth that, because of their sin, they are lost and could be bound for Hell. Only then will they be interested in Jesus as a Savior and not just a nice man.

It is also true of those of us who have been baptized for remission of sins…our refusal to ‘walk in the light’ and to confess the willful sin in our life…puts our eternal condition in peril.

Credibility, Concern, Candor. These are all things we need when the world calls for truth. It is not the time to back away.

  1. Correction
    The call from correction is a call to fix what is wrong. It is the instruction to make straight what is crooked.
    Here it is from Daniel. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

    That is our ultimate goal when the world calls for truth. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all, likewise, perish.”

    Sin separates and alienates people from God. If it isn’t forgiven, they will go to hell. That is the truth. Repentance is the first step back toward God. It is the point where they change direction. They quit living for themselves and make up their mind they will start living for God.

    Repentance is the hardest part of the message because it means a person must stop doing things only to please himself and start doing what pleases his Maker.

    For the king it involved abandoning his arrogance and helping other people. It involved getting off the throne of his own life and putting God in His rightful place.

    To those seeking truth it is no different. When we tell a person the bad news, that is, his sin has him bound for a fully conscious eternity in hell and that he cannot save himself, we show him God’s answer to his problem. Christ has died to take away his/her sin.

    But he must turn from his sinning and accept Christ. He must be baptized to have his sins washed away. He must strive from then on to put God first in his life. In these things we cannot afford to be unclear or try to slip it by.

    Daniel 4:28-37 (ESV)
    28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30  and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31  While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32  and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33  Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

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 he 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?” 36  At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

What Preaching is All About? By Wes McAdams

Preaching is the proclamation and explanation of God’s word. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of men who stood before God’s people and explained, “This is what God says, this is what it means, and this is how it applies to us today.”

The church needs to hear the proclamation and explanation of God’s word. We need to hear what it says, what it means, and how it applies to our lives today. When God’s word is proclaimed and explained:

  • it brings glory to God.
  • it unites God’s people of the present with His people of the past.
  • it makes us into a knowledgeable and disciplined community, by encouraging us to stretch our attention spans and develop an ability to hear the word of the Lord.

How We Turn Preaching Into a Competitive Performance

With singing, we often misplace our focus. We focus on the tune and the tempo, when the focus should be on the words of praise. With preaching, we focus on the preacher’s style and delivery, when the focus should be on accurately proclaiming and explaining the word of God.

But think about it, when we sit in the pew and make the sermon about the preacher’s performance – rather than our own walk with Jesus – it takes the pressure off us and puts it on the preacher.

When we have the luxury of sitting and measuring the length and style of the sermon, comparing it with other sermons we’ve heard, our job in the pew is easy. It’s much more difficult for us to accept our God-given responsibility to look beyond the flaws, shortcomings, and human limitations of the preacher in order to discern and apply God’s holy word to our lives.

Pride, Ego, and Self-Esteem

It’s easy to see the harm we do to those we criticize. It’s easy to see how it hurts a preacher’s feelings when we criticize his style; but we might actually be doing more harm to those on whom we constantly brag. When we constantly brag on a preacher’s style and performance, we might very well be stroking his ego.

 

How To Encourage a Preacher

So how can we show appreciation to our preachers, without being stumbling blocks? Here are a few of my favorite kinds of encouragement:

  • “That message really made me think. I’m going to have to go home and study some more.”
  • “I’m convicted. I’m going to make some big changes in my life.”
  • “God’s word is so powerful.”
  • “Thank you for telling us the truth.”

Conclusion
Some years ago a terrible railroad accident occurred, killing many people. A commuter train had stalled on the tracks just a few minutes before a fast freight was due to arrive. A conductor was quickly sent to flag down the approaching train. Assured that all was well, the passengers relaxed. Suddenly, however, the speeding freight came bearing down upon them. The crash left a ghastly scene of horror.

The engineer of the second train, who escaped death by jumping from the cab, was called into court to explain why he hadn’t stopped. “I saw a man waving a warning flag,” he said, “but it was yellow, so I thought he just wanted me to slow down.” When the flag was examined, the mystery was explained. It had been red, but because of long exposure to the sun and weather it had become a dirty yellow.

When the world calls for truth, our message must be clearly red, not yellow. It must be held up with confidence, waved with concern and candor, accompanied with a message of correction.

 

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

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


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 July 25, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #2 – When They Call For Help


faith under fireWhen They Call For Help

“…everybody has something that isn’t working in their life somewhere.”

Most of us in difficult conditions turn to our tried and true solutions first – you know, those little shortcuts and dodges that have bailed us out of trouble before. When these don’t work, we may confide our problem to a trusted friend or two. That failing, we may become desperate. We begin to entertain a willingness to open ourselves to things we haven’t considered
before.

In that condition, some of us are, perhaps for the first time, willing to listen to what God might have to say. If, at that point, there is a Christian near us whom we trust and who is ready to help us understand, we find ourselves listening with a new level of attentiveness. For some this can result in becoming lifelong disciple of Jesus.

This process of a crisis bringing the unbeliever to the believer for help has been repeated over and over. It seems to be a prime method God uses to call men and women to Himself.

In the Bible narrative we’re going to consider this morning, we have one of those “turn-to-God-in-time-of-crisis” stories.
This message is the second in a series based on the first six chapters of Daniel. We’re considering how God’s people should respond to the different calls of the world. The first message, based on chapter one, was called “When They Call For Compromise.” In it, we saw that we must resist the world’s attempts to homogenize us into its system.

This lesson: “When They Call For Help.” How should we respond when someone who doesn’t know God comes to the end of his/her rope and reaches out to us for help?

As we’ve noted already, often an unbeliever’s first serious consideration of his Maker comes in a time of crisis. In this case the unbeliever is the king of Babylon 600 years before Christ – a man named Nebuchadnezzar. The crisis is a dream he had (to him more like a nightmare.) We begin then, with the crisis of:

I. A Rattled King.
Daniel 2:1: “In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.”

Because they possessed almost unlimited power and authority, Oriental leaders were notoriously temperamental and unpredictable, and here Nebuchadnezzar reveals this side of his character.

 

The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a vivid dream that he couldn’t understand, and it distressed him. That the Lord God Almighty would communicate truth to a pagan Gentile king is evidence of the grace of God.
That word “troubled” in this verse in the original language means “to be beaten, compelled, or pushed.” It was the kind of dream that causes one to sit up suddenly in bed, heart pounding, eyes wide, utterly terrified. It was so troubling that the King couldn’t go back to sleep. The plural “dreams” suggests that perhaps this same dream persisted night after night.

The King did what all people do when they hit a situation they cannot control. He turned to his familiar, tried and true solutions first.

Daniel 2:2-4: “So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, {3} he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” {4} Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.””

Now get ready. The king is about to put these men to a test that will expose the limits of their power.

Daniel 2:5: “The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”

The king wants not only the interpretation of the dream, he wants them to describe to him the dream itself! Without some sort of supernatural power, that is going to be impossible for them. As you can probably imagine, it didn’t take long for these Chaldeans to realize they were in deep trouble!
This in itself set the stage for Daniel to exalt the true and living God of Israel who alone can predict the future. By issuing this impossible challenge, the king was unconsciously following the plan of God and opening the way for Daniel to do what the counselors could not do.

 

Daniel 2:6-10: “But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” {7} Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” {8} Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: {9} If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to
tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” {10} The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer.”

What a revealing statement of the limits of human resources in the face of some crises! “There is no earthly solution to a problem like that, O king!” That was the best their most advanced wisdom of their day could produce.

Daniel 2:11: “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.””

“Your predicament, O king, is outside the realm of man’s abilities.”

There is nothing surprising about such a declaration from our perspective. Most of us here have realized that there comes a point when man’s solutions run out. You have to wonder, though, what these guys had been claiming to the king about their powers and abilities prior to this that would provoke such a violent threat.

What we’re talking about here is this: all people, sooner or later, sense the limitations of human resources. The Chaldeans state it well: “It would take a god to do what you are asking!”

There comes a time in the life of every person when you realize you can no longer dodge the bullet. You can no longer get off easy. You can no longer sidestep or ignore the problem or dig yourself out of your predicament. You’re in trouble and unless there is something beyond the power of man, you won’t escape. At that point, sometimes for the first time, the possibility of a Supernatural Being who transcends human ability becomes relevant. You think, “perhaps there is a God.”

Zig Ziggler quips that there are three things that are hard to do. One is to climb a fence leaning toward you. Another is to kiss a girl who is leaning away from you. The third is to help someone who doesn’t really want to be helped. That is how it is most of the time we deal with unbelievers. They don’t want to be helped. But in time of crisis in the unbeliever’s life, that changes.

Those of you who have turned to God because of a crisis in your life, think back to the time you first changed your attitude toward the possibility of God in your life. How then do we respond to the world’s call for help? We must first:

1. Realize that unbelievers will come to us in time of crisis.  To borrow from a recent popular advertising slogan, “If you build it, they will come.” If you build an authentic, consistent Christian witness, unbelievers in the time of their crisis, will come to you. God will see to it, just like He did here.

As one poet reminds us: “If each man’s care were written on his brow, how of them who have our praise would have our pity now!”

You never really know what is going on in the life of that unbeliever next to you until a crisis brings it out into the open. Realize that unbelievers will come to you in time of crisis.

2. A Ready Witness.
With the things we’ve said so far in mind, it seems rather obvious, doesn’t it, that God, who is seeking lost mankind, would step in to provide a witness to help such a person? In that day it was Daniel. Today it just might be you or me.

That God would provide a witness is no surprise. What is always surprising to me is how He goes about it sometimes. That is what we see next.
Daniel 2:12: “This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.”

If you’ve ever heard or made the statement, “God works in mysterious ways,” you’ll recognize the truth of it here. Those words “destroy all the wise men of Babylon” would include Daniel and his three Hebrew friends who proved so faithful to God in chapter one. The King’s edict amounted to a death warrant for them. What is God up to? Mysterious ways indeed!

Daniel 2:13: “So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.”

The Evil One is willing to sacrifice all his false prophets in the city of Babylon if he can destroy four of God’s faithful servants. Satan’s servants are expendable, but the Lord cares for His people.

 

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange to you that God would use a death warrant and the fear it would provoke in the minds of Daniel and his friends to bring the seeker and the witness together? Yet that is the way God did it.

Don’t ever think that the difficult circumstances in your life are without purpose in God’s scheme of things. We’ll see here that God can even turn a threat to your physical life into a blessing and an opportunity.

So Daniel got word of the edict. When the king and his soldiers knocked on his door, he was ready: Daniel 2:14-16: “When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. {15} He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. {16} At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he
might interpret the dream for him.”

Those words in verse 16, “asked for time” are translated: “requested that he would appoint a time for him.” We saw back in verse 8 that the king had already denied the Chaldeans additional time to collaborate. What Daniel is discretely and wisely asking for here is an appointment with the king. Rather than just sit there like a dumb ox at the slaughter,
oblivious to what is going on around him, Daniel did the second thing we need to do when an unbeliever is in crisis: take the initiative with discretion and discernment.

Before I elaborate on that point, will you recognize what I didn’t say? I didn’t say, “call the preacher and turn the unbeliever over to him.” Of course, in some cases that might be appropriate, but I need to say a couple of things here. First, the unbeliever likely doesn’t know your preacher. He knows you. If your witness was authentic enough that he was
attracted to you he needs to hear what you have to say!

“What on earth could I say?”

You could tell him how God has made a difference in your life. You could promise to pray for him. If he sees the need for salvation you could have a few verses handy and show him what he needs to do. You could enlist a few other Christians to help you hold him up before God in prayer. You could spend time with him and encourage him to hang in there and not give up.

God has given evangelists and pastors and teachers to equip you for service, not to do your service for you! What am I saying here? I’m talking about taking the initiative with discretion and discernment.

When we recognize that God does things this way, that is, He brings crises into the lives of unbelievers so they will seek Him, and that He uses believers like you and me to deliver His message, we can move forward with enthusiasm knowing that God is with us. He can even help you in your ineptness!

What has always amazed me in reading Daniel’s response to all this is the degree of confidence he had in God – not in himself. “Before you kill us, Arioch, can you get me an appointment with the king?” He didn’t know what God was going to do! He hadn’t read the book of Daniel like we’re doing. He just knew that the king’s life was spinning out of control and that God was more powerful than any man or circumstance.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY says of discretion: “showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior.”

When an unbeliever is calling for help, it’s not the time to go out and club him with you trusty Bible or hit him and shoot him with your ever-ready ax and two thirty-eights. Yes, Scripture will ultimately be important, but remember, the situation calls for discretion and discernment. These twin qualities are some of the most important characteristics of an effective witness for Christ.

Of course, we should never face a situation like this alone. Intercession from the rest of the body to invoke God’s help is important. That is how Daniel saw it.

Daniel 2:18-19: “He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. {19} During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven”

3. Solicit support from God’s people.
In this case we’re talking about prayer support of others which led ultimately to answered prayer from God.

If God is instrumental in bringing crisis to the life of the unbeliever and brings the unbeliever into contact with the ready witness, we must recognize that this whole procedure is primarily His, not ours. We are simply His tools. It is only reasonable that we should go to God and seek his help and guidance through it.

We need strength to do it right. Someone has written, “In relation to his people, God works only in answer to their prayer. In prayer we exchange our natural strength for the supernatural strength of God.” I like that because at times like we are discussion, we need that supernatural strength!

Solicit support from other believers and God.  O.K. An unbeliever has hit a spot where he has realized his need for God. You or I, realizing this, take the initiative with wisdom and discernment. We are confident God can help them, indeed, He has probably allowed the circumstance for this very reason. Then, God steps in and delivers them with a mighty hand! What now? I’ve called this next section,

3. A Revered God.
Let’s look again to see what Daniel did.

Daniel 2:19-28 (ESV)
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.”
24  Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25  Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
26  The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
27  Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,
28  but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:

 

  • Daniel 2:29-45 (ESV)
    29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.  30  But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
    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 a 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, 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 a 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 a 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.”

 

To sum up what the large image represented: four Gentile kingdoms:

  • The breast and arms of silver—The Medo-Persian kingdom (539-330 B.C.). Darius the Mede conquered Babylon ( 5:30-31).
  • The belly and thighs of bronze—The Grecian kingdom (330-63 B.C.). Alexander the Great established what was probably the largest empire in ancient times. He died in 323 B.C.
  • The legs of iron and feet of iron and clay—The Roman Empire (63 B.C.-ca. A.D. 475). Iron represents strength but clay represents weakness. Rome was strong in law, organization, and military might; but the empire included so many different peoples that this created weakness.
  • The destruction of the image—The coming of Jesus Christ, the Stone, to judge His enemies and establish His universal kingdom.

 

Nebuchadnezzar saw that his own kingdom would fall one day and be replaced by the Medes and Persians. This happened in 538 B.C. (Dan. 5:30-31).

When we consider these truths, our response ought to be one of joyful confidence, knowing that the Lord has everything under control. While God’s people should do everything they can to alleviate suffering and make this a safer and happier world, our hope is not in laws; political alliances, or moral crusades. Our hope is in the Lord.
What started out as possible tragedy—the slaughter of four godly men—was turned into great triumph; and the God of Daniel received great glory. Daniel gave the glory to God!

  1. Pass on the praise.
    It is a heady experience when God uses you to make a difference in the life of an unbeliever. It gets even headier if that unbeliever has fame or celebrity status like the king here. What do you think the temptation is at that point?
    Yeah, the temptation is to take the glory for yourself. This would have made an excellent opportunity for advancement in the king’s court for Daniel. Had he simply claimed to have power and special abilities himself, from human perspective, look at what he would have gained.

    Ah, but Daniel realized that his purpose was to glorify God, not himself. In so doing, ultimately, God would honor him.

    Daniel 2:46-48: “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. {47} The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” {48} Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”

    Have you come to the place in your Christian maturity where you are willing to pass on the praise for anything you might accomplish to God and leave your advancement in the ranks of life to Him? That is really what this is all about. It is to call attention to God, not us! It is His power the unbeliever needs to see, not ours.

    Do it that way and God will promote you. Do it any other way and you fail to accomplish the purpose of God.

    Conclusion
    Everyone has something that doesn’t work someplace… Everyone faces the reality of a crisis in their life sometime. …Everyone has a need somewhere, regardless of how together they seem to be.

    It’s true of people right in the sphere of your influence. People who have been watching your life and listening to you for weeks, months, or even years. When the crisis comes, you need to be ready. Because we build a credible witness of Christ in your life, they will come.

    Perhaps there is someone here among us this morning who is in a crisis but doesn’t know Christ. You’re the person who is listening to talk about God for the first time. I don’t want you to leave this building this morning without an opportunity to get help.

    If you would like to talk to one of our ministers or elders, please take one of the attendance cards from the rack in front of you and write your name, phone number, and anything pertinent to your situation and hand it to one of these men. One of us will call you privately and discreetly this week. We want to help you.

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Faith in the Fire: God’s In Control #1 – When They Call For Compromise


faith under fireWe would need to go to the grocery store to find the opening illustration for the sermon series I want to begin today. Rummaging through the items there, you would found the analogy on the side of a half-gallon carton of milk. The words: “Grade A, Pasteurized, Homogenized Milk.”

Pasteurization has to do with heating the milk to a certain temperature and holding it there until certain harmful bacteria are killed. Before the days of pasteurization, people would occasionally die from drinking a glass of milk. Homogenization is the process of mixing up the milk until it has a uniform consistency. We might say it is fully blended. You can always recognize non-homogenized milk because the cream separates and comes to the top.

It occurred to me this past week that homogenization is exactly what the world wants to do with Christians. The world wants to shake us up and blend us so effectively that there is no longer any difference between us and them. The cream no longer comes to the top. It is no longer a separate substance.

Once you’ve been a Christian for awhile, of course, you realize that, while that is what the world around you wants, it isn’t what God wants. He doesn’t want the cream so mixed up with the rest of the milk that there is no difference. He wants us to resist becoming “homogenized” with the world. Yet, staying with our analogy, He hasn’t called us to leave the bottle of milk either. (I believe somewhere I’ve heard the phrase, “In the world but not of the world” used among Christians.) In our day, that is no small assignment. But then again, it never has been.

So how do you pull something like that off? How do you maintain a dynamic, no compromise faith in a deluded world that wants to homogenize you?

This morning we begin a new six part sermons that I’m going to call “Dynamic Faith in a Deluded World.” The idea behind it is this issue of not becoming homogenized with the world. In the process of the world shaking the Christian up, God wants the cream to come to the top, and not to be reduced and dispersed so it is no longer seen.

We’ll turn then, to the first message, which I’ve called “When They Call For Compromise.” Compromise is the most common and straight forward means used by the world to homogenize Christians.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY gives as the third definition under the word Compromise, “A concession to something detrimental…”

If you can be made to abandon key aspects of your faith by compromising what you believe, homogenization will be simple and complete. Watch for the call to compromise as we read the story in Daniel, chapter one.

It begins with the military defeat of what remained of the once powerful nation of Israel and the deportation of certain young men who survived the siege of Jerusalem. The time was 606 B.C.

A. A new home (vv. 1-2)
Daniel 1:1-2: “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 delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god

No longer were they surrounded by the things of God in Jerusalem, and no longer would they have the influence of their godly parents and teachers.

B. New knowledge (vv. 3-4)

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility–{4} young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.”

Imagine four Hebrew boys, teenagers, being snatched from their lovely homes in Jerusalem and moved to faraway Babylon. Since all of them were princes, belonging to the royal family, they were probably not accustomed to this kind of treatment.

It is too bad when the youth of the land must suffer because of the sins of the parents. The Jews had refused to repent and obey the Lord, so (as Jeremiah had warned) the Babylonian army came in 606-586 B.C. and conquered the land.

The policy of taking the youngest and strongest among the survivors of a defeated nation was common in that day. It insured a good flow of slaves for the conquering king to employ in his service and also made it certain that the defeated nation could not rise again against its conquerors.

The old Jewish wisdom had to go; from now on it would be the wisdom of the world, the wisdom of Babylon. They had to learn the wisdom and the language of their captors. The king hoped that this “brainwashing” would make better servants out of them.

In v. 3 we see what fine specimens these four lads were: they were physically strong and handsome, socially experienced and well-liked by others, mentally keen and well-educated, and spiritually devoted to the Lord.

Conservative scholars have placed Daniel and his friends who were among these captives somewhere in the age range of early teens. The next verses describe the plan for re-socialization. It was a clear, out-in-the-open effort to homogenize believers.

But a difficult trial lay ahead of them: the king wanted to force them to conform to the ways of Babylon. He was not interested in putting good Jews to work; he wanted these Jews to be Babylonians!

Christians today face the same trial: Satan wants us to become “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:1-2). Sad to say, too many Christians give in to the world and lose their power, their joy, and their testimony. Note the changes that these young men experienced:

C. New diets (v. 5)
“The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

For the next three years, the four youths were supposed to eat the king’s diet, which, of course, was contrary to the dietary laws of the Jews. No doubt the food was also offered to the idols of the land, and for the Hebrew youths to eat it would be blasphemy.

D. New names (vv. 6-7)
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. {7} The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.” The world does not like to recognize the name of God, yet each of the four boys had God’s name in his own name:

Daniel (“God is my judge”) was changed to Belteshazzar (“Bel protect his life”). Bel was the name of a Babylonian god.
Hananiah (“Jehovah is gracious”) became Shadrach (“the command of the moon god”)

Mishael (“Who is like God?”) became Meshach (“who is like Aku,” one of the heathen gods);
Azariah (“Jehovah is my helper”) became Abednego (“the servant of Nego,” another heathen god).

The Babylonians hoped that these new names would help the youths forget their God and gradually become more like the heathen people with whom they were living and studying.

The Babylonians could change Daniel’s home, textbooks, menu, and name, but they could not change his heart. He and his friends purposed in their hearts that they would obey God’s Word; they refused to become conformed to the world. Of course, they could have made excuses and “gone along with” the crowd. They might have said,  “Everybody’s doing it!” or “We had better obey the king!” or “We’ll obey on the outside but keep our faith privately.” But they did not compromise.

They dared to believe God’s Word and trust God for victory. They had surrendered their bodies and minds to the Lord, as Rom. 12:1-2 instructs, and they were willing to let God do the rest.

Daniel 1:8-16 (ESV)
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.
9  And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,
10  and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”
11  Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12  “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13  Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
14  So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.
15  At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.
16  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

Daniel asked for a ten-day test, which was not very long considering that they had three years of training ahead of them; the head servant agreed with their plan.

The servant was afraid to change the king’s orders, lest anything happen to the youths and to himself, so Daniel’s proposed test was a good solution to the problem. Of course, God honored their faith. The boys were fed vegetables and water for ten days, thus avoiding the defiled food of the Babylonians. At the end of the test, the four lads were healthier and more handsome than the other students who ate from the king’s table.

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7).

Daniel 1:17: “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”

A test for ten days is one thing, but what about the three-year course at the University of Babylon? The answer is in v. 17: “God gave them . . . ” all that they needed! He enabled them to learn their lessons better than the other students, and He added to this knowledge His own spiritual wisdom.

Daniel 1:18-21 (ESV)
18  At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19  And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.
20  And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
21  And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

The “magicians and astrologers” in v. 20 were the men of the kingdom who studied the stars and sought to determine what decisions the king should make. They also claimed to interpret dreams.

Certainly Daniel and his friends did not believe the foolish religion and practices of the Babylonians, but they studied just the same, just as a Christian student must do when he attends a university today and is told to learn “facts” that he knows are contrary to God’s Word.

The king himself had to admit that the four Hebrew lads were ten times smarter than his best advisers. Of course, this kind of reputation made the astrologers envious, and it is no wonder they tried to do away with the Jews in later years.
What we have, then, in this passage is clearly a call from the world to compromise and it is no different in principle than the world’s call for God’s people to compromise in any other age, including our own. Yes, the circumstances are usually different, but the issue is always the same.

Someone has written, “Compromise is always wrong when it means sacrificing principle.”

Not all compromise is wrong. There are times when compromise is permissible or even desirable. Remember the dictionary definition of compromise? “A concession to something detrimental.” Note that Daniel and his friends didn’t object to the classes they were assigned to take or the new names then were given. Though they probably didn’t like being given pagan names in place of the ones their parents had given them, they were willing to concede these things. But eating the King’s choice food
was a clear violation of God’s law. That concession could not be made.

When the world calls on us to compromise then, we need to:
1. Be Reasonable. Know the difference between wrongful compromise and allowable concession. Every call for compromise need not be met by strong opposition by God’s person. A Christian should pick his battles carefully. It is only when God’s principles are at stake that we can refuse to be conformed.

When we are called to compromise, we need to know the difference between wrongful compromise and permissible concession. We see it illustrated here in Daniel. These men didn’t object to all that was put upon them. Only the thing that caused them to violate the law of God.

2. Be Resolute.
Look back at verse 8: The words to note there are those translated “made up his mind” or “resolved.” The Hebrew word behind that phrase was one often used to describe the making of a rope. Individual strands or fibers are gathered up and placed side by side, then twisted into a rope. Their combined strength makes a strand that is difficult to break.

The time does come to make up your mind and take your stand. When that time comes, stand!

After Daniel determined that this was an issue for which there could be no compromise, he gathered up every strand of his resolve and made a decision.

A big reason why many compromise, even when they don’t want to, is that they never come to this kind of decision. They know something is wrong, but they beat around the bush, hoping the unpleasant decision will somehow go away. Or, perhaps they try to somehow accommodate the best of both worlds.

It reminds me of the guy Paul Harvey described one time. His words were, “Remember the uncertain soldier in our Civil War who, figuring to play it safe, dressed himself in a blue coat and gray pants and tip-toed out onto the field of battle. He got shot from both directions.”

We need to be resolute. We need to make up our minds. If we don’t, we’ll soon be homogenized. We’ll be no different than the world.

3. Be Respectful.
1:8: “…so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”

I suppose that Daniel could have gone on some hunger strike or something, but he didn’t. He could have protested loudly. Instead, he sought out the commander and respectflly told him his dilemma.

Remember that unbelievers around us need to see a good example so they, too, can be saved. A resolute stand doesn’t mean you should be mean-spirited and disrespectful. This is precisely where many Christians lose the battle and become just like the world.

I’m told that between two farms near Valleyview, Alberta, you can find two parallel fences, only two feet apart, running for about a half mile. Why are there two fences when only one would do? It seems two farmers, Paul and Oscar, had a disagreement that erupted into a feud. Paul wanted to build a fence between their land and split the cost (a reasonable thing to do) but Oscar was unwilling to contribute. Since he wanted to keep the cattle on his land, Paul went ahead and built the fence anyway.

After it was completed, Oscar said to Paul, “I see we have a fence.”  “What do you mean, ‘we'” replied Paul. “I got the property line surveyed and built the fence two feet into my land. That means some of my land is outside the fence. If any of your cows set foot on my land, I’ll shoot them.”

Oscar knew Paul wasn’t joking, so when he eventually decided to use the land adjoining Paul’s pasture, he was forced to build another fence, two feet away. Oscar and Paul are both dead now, but their double fence stands as a monument to their stubbornness and uncalled for disrespect. Being right and doing right does not give us a license to be disrespectful of others. There really is no place for a cantankerous saint of God.

Daniel first sought permission from the commander of the officials to be excused from eating the king’s food. Does that mean if the commander had said “no” he would have gone ahead and defiled himself with the food? No! But it does indicate that, whenever something can be done respectfully, it should be.

Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

4. Be Resourceful.
Don’t you think that proposal reflects some careful deliberation and wise, resourceful consideration? I think it is reasonable to believe that, after Daniel made up his mind he would not defile himself with the king’s food, he spent some time considering how to approach the overseer.

Even when intentions are good and God is please with a decision, we must be wise in our approach to the world. You might remember Jesus’ words  were “wise as serpents and cautious [innocent] as doves.” (4)

Being on God’s side doesn’t excuse us from seeking a wise approach to dealing with the world. We must not be reckless in this area. Such seeking of wisdom is based at least partly, on human effort and concern for what is wise.

Two New Testament verses come to mind that are directed to Christians today on the subject of giving a wise response to the world when we have the opportunity:
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

You don’t avoid the world’s homogenization by being a willful dim-wit to wisdom.

I don’t believe God hands a person wisdom like Daniel and his friends exhibited here without their human effort being involved. Do you seek wisdom to know how you should respond when the world calls for compromise?

Conclusion
An interesting thing to watch for from the window of an airplane is the winding path of the rivers below. No two waterways are alike, but they all have one thing in common: they are all crooked. They get that way because they conform to what stands in their way. Another way to look at it is that they follow the path of least resistance. Yes, rivers are crooked because they take the “easy way.”

We, too, can become crooked if we always take the easy way. The things that have been suggested here today from Daniel 1 are not the easy way. They take courage, conviction, and commitment. But if we practice them, they will yield a life that is straight as God intended – and we won’t be homogenized.

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2022 in Encounters with God

 

Sayings of Jesus on the Cross: #7 Word of Contentment: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” Luke 23.46


cjmmusic / Psalm 30 - Father, into your hands I commend my spirit

This final saying of Jesus was uttered with His last breath.  But do not think that this committing of Himself to God was something He did only at the end of His life.  This was the theme of His life!  Devotion to God.  Dedication to doing the will of His Father.  Submission and Surrender.  These were all His Passion.

And we who believe on Him judge, that since He died for us, we must live for Him.  He owns us for He bought us with His own precious life’s blood.  May we be as devoted to Him, our Shepherd Who laid down His life for us His sheep, as He was to His Heavenly Father.

Jesus committed Himself to His Father, for He knew the reward awaiting Him.

(Hebrews 12:2 NIV)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Father raised Him from the dead and placed Him at His right hand with authority over all of heaven and earth.  Jesus who died is now alive and the Lord of all.  Love and honor Him.  Surrender your heart to Him.

The Book of Genesis records how God rested when He finished all the work He had been doing. (Genesis 2:2). On the cross Jesus, with the last words he uttered, Jesus spoke of coming home to his Father.

Gone were the words, “Why have you forsaken me?” Gone was the greatest anguish of his soul.

The Father’s loving, approving eyes could once again look upon the Son He loved. The sins that turned him away were left nailed to the cross – but Jesus wasn’t. He came off the cross to live again. His very good work, now completed, earned Him the right to be restored to His Father’s out-stretched hands. There could be no greater rest than this.

Jesus bore our transgressions, iniquities, sin, grief, sorrow, sickness, refection and shame and now, to top it all off, when we thought there was nothing more to add, he bore our tiredness and weariness as well.

In Hebrews chapter 4 we learn that Jesus is our rest, our Sabbath. No longer is the Sabbath one day a week. In the new covenant “Today” is the Sabbath. Every day we find our rest in Him. We rest from the weariness of struggling to pay and atone for our sins.

We all know how we long for rest when we are weary, and how good it is when it finally comes. Our longing for rest is proportional to our weariness. Nothing but rest can take away tiredness and weariness.

No one but Jesus can give us rest from the struggle of sin and from the trials and burdens of this life. “Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, (Matthew 11:28), is his promise to us. The seventh saying of Jesus from the cross assures us that he will fulfill this promise.

Everything you or I need, everything the whole world needs, was provided by Jesus Christ on the cross. On a number of occasions in the Bible, the number “seven” signifies the completion of something. Maybe that is why it is considered to be a lucky number.

The seven sayings of Jesus from the cross were anything but luck. They reflect the deliberate and planned acts of God – acts of the greatest mercy – acts of the greatest grace!

These words set before us the last act of the Savior ere he expired. It was an act of contentment, of faith, of confidence and of love. The person to whom he committed the precious treasure of his spirit was his own Father. Father is an encouraging and assuring title: well may a son commit any concern, however dear, into the hands of a father, especially such a Son into the hands of such a Father. That which was committed into the hands of the Father was his “spirit” which was on the point of being separated from the body.

Scripture reveals man as a tripartite being: “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). There is a difference between the soul and the spirit, though it is not easy to predicate wherein they are dissimilar. The spirit appears to be the highest pan of our complex being. It is that which particularly distinguishes man from the beasts, and that which links him to God. The spirit is that which God formeth within us (Zech. 12:1); therefore is he called “The God of the spirits of all flesh” (Num. 16:22). At death the spirit returns to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7).

The act by which the Savior placed his spirit into the hands of the Father was an act of faith – “I commend”. It was a blessed act designed as a precedent for all his people. The last point observable is the manner in which Christ performed this act: he uttered those words “with a loud voice”. He spoke that all might hear, and that his enemies who judged him destitute and forsaken of God might know it was not so any longer; but instead, that he was dear to his Father still, and could put his spirit confidently into his hands.

 

“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” This was the last utterance of the Savior ere he expired. While he hung upon the cross, seven times his lips moved in speech. Seven is the number of completeness or perfection. At Calvary then, as everywhere, the perfections of the Blessed One were displayed. Seven is also the number of rest in a finished work: in six days God made heaven and earth and in the seventh he rested, contemplating with satisfaction that which he had pronounced “very good”.

So here with Christ: a work had been given him to do, and that work was now done. Just as the sixth day brought the work of creation and reconstruction to a completion, so the sixth utterance of the Savior was “It is finished.” And just as the seventh day was the day of rest and satisfaction, so the seventh utterance of the Savior brings him to the place of rest – the Father’s hands.

It is noteworthy that this closing cry of the Savior had been uttered by the spirit of prophecy long centuries before the Incarnation. In the thirty-first psalm we hear David’s Son and Lord saying, anticipatively:

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength. Into thy hand I commend my spirit thou hast redeemed me, O Low God of truth” (vv. 1-5)!

  1. Here we see the Savior back again in communion with the Father.

This is exceedingly precious. For a while that communion was broken – broken outwardly – as the light of God’s holy countenance was hidden from the Sin-Bearer, but now the darkness had passed and was ended for ever. Up to the cross there had been perfect and unbroken communion between the Father and the Son. It is exquisitely lovely to mark how the awful “Cup” itself had been accepted from the Father’s hand:

“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). On the cross, at the beginning, the Lord Jesus is still found in communion with the Father, for had he not cried, “Father, forgive them!” His first cross-utterance then, was “Father forgive” and now his last word is, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit”. But between those utterances he had hung there for six hours: three spent in sufferings at the hands of man and Satan; three spent in suffering at the hand of God, as the sword of divine justice was “awakened” to smite Jehovah’s Fellow. During those last three hours, God had withdrawn from the Savior, evoking that terrible cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But now all is done. The cup is drained: the storm of wrath has spent itself: the darkness is past, and the Savior is seen once more in communion with the Father – never more to be broken.

  1. Here we see a designed contrast.

For more than twelve hours Christ had been in the hands of men. Of this had he spoken to his disciples when he forewarned them that “the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him” (Matthew 17:22, 23). Of this had he made mention amid the awful solemnities of Gethsemane: “Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). To this the angels made reference on the resurrection morning, saying to the women, “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:6, 7).

This received its fulfillment when the Lord Jesus delivered himself up to those who came to arrest him in the Garden. As we saw in an earlier chapter, Christ could have easily avoided arrest. All he had to do was to leave the officers of the priests prostrate on the ground, and walk quietly away. But he did not do so. The appointed hour had struck. The time when he should submit himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter had arrived. And he delivered himself into “the hands of sinners”. How they treated him is well known; they took full advantage of their opportunity. They gave full vent to the hatred of the carnal heart for God. With “wicked hands” (Acts 2:23) they crucified him. But now all is over. Man has done his worst. The cross has been endured; the appointed work is finished.

  1. Here we see Christ’s perfect yieldedness to God.

How blessedly he evidenced this all the way through! When his mother sought him in Jerusalem as a boy of twelve, he said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” When an hungered in the wilderness after a forty-days fast and the devil urged him to make bread out of stones, he lived by every word of God. When the mighty works which he had performed and the message he had delivered failed to move his auditors, he submitted to the one who had sent him, saying, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25).

When the sisters of Lazarus sent to the Savior to acquaint him with the sickness of their brother, instead of hurriedly going to Bethany, he abode two days still in the place where he was, saying, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God”.

It was not natural affection which moved him to action, but the glory of God! His meat was to do the will of the one who sent him. In all things he submitted himself to the Father. See him in the morning, “rising up a great while before day” (Mark 1:35), in order that he might be in the presence of the Father. See him anticipating every great crisis and preparing himself for it by pouring out his heart in supplication. See him spending the very last hour before his arrest on his face before God.

How fitly might he say, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for lam meek and lowly in heart.” And as he had lived, so he died – yielding himself into the hands of the Father. This was the last act of the dying Savior. And how exquisitely beautiful. How thoroughly in keeping with the whole of his life! It manifested his perfect confidence in the Father. It revealed the blessed intimacy there was between them. It exhibited his absolute dependency upon God.

  1. Here we see the absolute uniqueness of the Savior.

The Lord Jesus died as none other ever did. His life was not taken from him; he laid it down of himself. This was his claim: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17, 18).

The various proofs that Christ’s life was not taken from him have been set before the reader in the Introduction of this book. The most convincing evidence of all was seen in the committal of his spirit into the hands of the Father. The Lord Jesus himself said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”, but the Holy Spirit, in describing the actual laying down of his life, has employed three different expressions which bring out very forcibly the fact that we are now considering, and the various words used by the Spirit are most appropriate to the respective gospels in which they are found.

  1. Here we see the place of eternal security.

Again and again the Savior spoke of a people which had been “given” to him (John 6:37 etc.), and at the hour of his arrest he said, “Of them which thou gayest me have I lost none” (John 18:9). Then is it not lovely to see that in the hour of death the blessed Savior commends them now into the safe-keeping of the Father!

On the cross Christ hung as the representative of his people, and therefore we view his last act as a representative one. When the Lord Jesus commended his spirit into the hands of his Father, he also presented our spirits along with his, to the Father’s acceptance. Jesus Christ neither lived nor died for himself, but for believers: what he did in this last act referred to them as much as to himself. We must look then on Christ as here gathering all the souls of the elect together, and making a solemn tender of them, with his own spirit, to God.

The Father’s hand is the place of eternal security. Into that hand the Savior committed his people, and there they are forever safe. Said Christ, referring to the elect, “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all: and none is able to pluck out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Here then is the ground of the believer’s confidence. Here is the basis of our assurance. Just as nothing could harm Noah when Jehovah’s hand had secured the door of the ark, so nothing can touch the spirit of the saint which is grasped by the hand of omnipotence. None can pluck us thence. Weak we are in ourselves, but “kept by the power of God” is the sure declaration of holy writ: “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5). Formal professors who seem to run well for a while may grow weary and abandon the race. Those who are moved by the fleshly excitement of a “revival meeting” endure only for a time, for they have “no root in themselves”. They who rely upon the power of their own wills and resolutions, who turn over a new leaf and promise to do better, often fail, and their last state is worse than the first. Many who have been persuaded by well meaning but ignorant advisers to “join the church” and “live the Christian life” frequently apostatize from the truth. But every spirit that has been born again is eternally safe in the Father’s hand.

  1. Here we see the blessedness of communion with God.

What we have reference to particularly is the fact that communion with God may be enjoyed independently of place or circumstances. The Savior was on the cross, surrounded by a taunting crowd, his body suffering intense agony, nevertheless, he was in fellowship with the Father! This is one of the sweetest truths brought out by our text. It is our privilege to enjoy communion with God at all times, irrespective of outward circumstances or conditions. Communion with God is by faith, and faith is not affected by the things of sight. No matter how unpleasant your outward lot may be, my reader, it is your unspeakable privilege to enjoy communion with God. Just as the three Hebrews enjoyed fellowship with the Lord in the midst of the fiery furnace, as Daniel did in the lion’s den, as Paul and Silas did in the Philippian jail, as the Savior did on the cross, so may you wherever you are! Christ’s head rested on a crown of thorns, but beneath were the Father’s hands!

Does not our text teach very pointedly the blessed truth and fact of communion with the Father in the hour of death! Then why dread it, fellow Christian? If David under the Old Testament dispensation could say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil :for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4), why should believers now fear, after that Christ has extracted the sting out of death! Death may be “King of terrors” to the unsaved, but to the Christian, death is simply the door which admits into the presence of the Well-beloved. The motions of our souls in death, as in life, turn instinctively to God. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” will be our cry, if we are conscious.

While we tabernacle here we have no rest but in the bosom of God; and when we go hence, our expectation and earnest desires are to be with him. We have cast many a longing look heavenwards, but when the soul of the saved nears the parting of the ways, then it throws itself into the arms of love, just as a river after many turnings and windings pours itself into the ocean. Nothing but God can satisfy our spirits in this world, and none but he can satisfy us as we go hence.

But reader, only believers are warranted and encouraged thus to commend their spirits into the hands of God at the dying hour; how sad is the state of all dying unbelievers. Their spirits, too, will fall into the hands of God, but this will be their misery and not their privilege. These will find it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Yes, because instead of falling in the arms of love, they will fall into the hands of justice.

  1. Here we see the heart’s true haven.

If the closing utterance of the Savior expresses the prayer of dying Christians it shows what great value they place on their spirits. The spirit within is the precious treasure, and our main solicitude and chief care is to see it secured in safe hands. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” These words then may be taken to express the believer’s care for his soul, that it may be safe, whatever becomes of the body.

God’s saint who has come nigh to death exercises few thoughts about his body, where it shall be laid, or how it shall be disposed of; he trusts that into the hands of his friends. But as his care all along has been his soul, so he thinks of it now, and with his last breath commits it to the custody of God. It is not, “Lord Jesus receive my body, take care of my dust;” but “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” – Lord, secure the jewel when the casket is broken.

And now a brief word of appeal in conclusion. My friend, you are in a world that is full of trouble. You are unable to take care of yourself in life, much less will you be able to do so in death. Life has many trials and temptations. Your soul is menaced from every side. On every hand are dangers and pitfalls. The world, the flesh and the devil are combined against you; they are too much for your strength. Here then is the beacon of light amid the darkness. Here is the harbor of shelter from all storms. Here is the blessed canopy which protects from all the fiery darts of the evil one. Thank God there is a refuge from the gales of life and from the tenors of death – the Father’s hand – the heart’s true haven.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2022 in cross

 
 
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