The Furnace of Fire

April 11,  2021 | Series: Life in the Arena – when obecience means defiance | This week’s sermon: The Furnace of Fire | Daniel 3

Highlights:
• Obedience to God has a cost: it means defiance to the current world system.
• Small compromises lead to great failure.
• You will never stand for Christ without Christ standing with you.

Following Jesus in a broken world will come with a cost. This title of our series, Life in the Arena, comes with the historical accounts of the death of early Christians by Roman officials. They would lead Christians into the coliseum and in the arena, countless Christians would die a martyr’s death because of their refusal to deny Jesus and their refusal to be compliant with laws that told them they could not preach the Gospel. Some were beheaded, some were burned alive at the stake, others were torn apart by wild beasts. Their obedience meant defiance.

What we see worldwide is an increasing attitude of hostility towards Christianity. The number of Christians globally dying for their faith in record numbers. And even here in the western culture, we are seeing an increase in the marginalization of Christianity. The days of tolerance are coming to an end and the cost of following Jesus in the western world is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Following historical biblical Christianity, means the Bible will shape your worldview on all issues. It means Jesus is your ultimate authority and Salvation is exclusively found in Him. If this is the way you authentically live, you will live your life in the proverbial arena. There will be a cost and that cost will be ever-increasing. Your obedience will mean defiance!

As we read the Book of Daniel, Babylon had a 5 step process:

  1. Normalization (Daniel 1:3-4) -Expose them to Babylonian culture, bring them out of the norm and place them in a culture that is foreign so that it becomes normal.
  2. Indoctrination (Daniel 1:4b-5b – Educate them in Babylonian culture, teach them how to think with a Babylonian worldview. Reprograming the way they think.
  3. Assimilation (Daniel 1:4b-5) – Ingraft them into Babylonian life. Change their language and change their diets. Enable them to live like the Babylonians.
  4. Confusion (Daniel 1:6-7) – Their names were a source of identity. Their Hebrew names were not just names but they were names that were a declaration of their identity of belonging to the covenant community. It was who they were before the God of Israel. This was an attempt to change their understanding of who they are.

Now before I get to the last one, let’s talk about this in our context. The silence of Christianity is a slow, methodical, and deliberate strategy.

Normalization: images of ideologies, lifestyles, values, morality are so frequently being pushed through social media, TV, movies, sports, and other forms of entertainment so frequently that what was once abnormal is now being seen as normal.

Indoctrination: We are seeing now a culture that uses any means necessary to train the way we think, process, and see the world. Schools and Universities both private and secular, social media, television are attempting and succeeding in teaching us how to think and process the world. It’s not just seeing it, we are being taught how to feel about these issues.

Assimilation: Teaching people to embrace it by being champions of it. It’s no longer about tolerating the secular value system, you must embrace it and affirm it.

Confusion: Our identity as a good person or a bad person is being tied to how we see the world. So to hold a biblical view of morality, marriage, gender distinction, salvation by Christ alone now puts you into a category of being the problem with society. So we have a generation that is now trying to reconcile their identity as Jesus followers and the cultural ideologies they are told they must embrace.

This is where we are! Here is the kicker: this slow, methodical, subtle indoctrination of culture that is becoming more intolerant of those who do not conform which leads us to the story we are reading and it leads us to the fifth phase of silencing God’s people: Persecution.

5. Persecution (Daniel 3:1-6) – These Jewish boys understand that there is one God, the God of Israel, and He commanded them in the first commandment to have no other God’s before them. They have to choose: do we choose self-preservation and go with the flow to avoid suffering or do we obey God and defy the King and lose our lives? This dilemma leads them to the arena.

Let’s make no mistake, we are living in a day when a secular worldview and value system are forming an idol. There is an increasing expectation that all should bow to this or pay the price of marginalization.

Let’s look at the life of Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego and the responses they had to this moment of crisis:

No Compromise –  They didn’t compromise. They were defiant to the King’s order because they were more focused on obeying God’s command. This decision was already made in Daniel Chapter 1:8: “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.” You say, what’s the big deal? It’s just food! The issue is, small compromises lead to great failure! These men were ready for the big moment of decision because of the smaller decisions leading up to it.

Complete Resolve – Their words made their complete resolve clear. Church, we need more Shadracks, Meshachs and Abednegos! We need more people who will say, “it doesn’t matter what the cost or what I lose I will not bow a knee to this world!”

Unwavering Faith – In essence, they said: “He is able! And we believe He will deliver us! But even if He doesn’t we will obey God!” This is unwavering faith. Their faith was not seen merely by their belief that God could and would deliver them. It was seen in the belief that He was worthy of their obedience even if He didn’t deliver them! These men believed that God was of more value to them than their very life! They loved Him and valued Him more than their own safety and comfort!

What happens when you practice No Compromise, Complete Resolve and Unwavering Faith?

Jesus is Present – “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.” Daniel 3:25.  Jesus was with them! It says later that they didn’t even smell like smoke! This is a reminder that Jesus doesn’t abandon us when we are in the fire of life but is with us! He never leaves us and never forsakes us. You will never stand for Christ without Christ standing with you!

People are changed! – King Nebuchadnezzar goes from decreeing that everyone should worship his idol to decreeing that no one shall speak anything against the God of Israel! What the world desperately needs is not to see us bowing a knee to the idols of the world but they need to see the beauty, value, and power of God in our lives. If we want to see lives changed by the Gospel we have to let people see that our lives have been changed by the Gospel! Most people are not impressed with our Jesus because His work in us isn’t that impressive. But when they see us love Him and His presence shows up in us, they cannot help but be impacted!

God is glorified! “…for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Daniel 3:29b God is glorified when we are faithful to Him! This is the point of all of this. King Nebuchadnezzar thought he was transforming the Hebrew culture by bringing these boys to Babylon but what He didn’t realize was that God was using these boys to bring His culture to Babylon!

God is in control!!!  ‘In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand…” Daniel 1:1-2 Historically Nebuchadnezzar defeated Judah but theologically God gave them to Him! We have been placed in this culture not to become like it but to transform it!

Remember: 

Don’t feel sorry for or fear for your kids because the world they are going to grow up in, is not what it used to be. God created them and called them for the exact moment in time that they’re in. Your children’s life isn’t a coincidence or an accident. Raise them up to know the power they walk in as children of God. Train them up in the authority of His Word. Teach them to walk in faith knowing that God is in control. Empower them to know they can change the world.

Don’t teach your children to be fearful and disheartened by the state of the world but hopeful that they can do something about it. Every person in all of history has been placed in the time that they were in because of God’s sovereign plan. He knew Daniel could handle the lion’s den. He knew David could handle Goliath. He knew Esther could handle Haman. He knew Peter could handle persecution. He knows that your child can handle whatever challenges they face in life. He created them specifically for it!

Don’t be scared for your children, but be honored that God chose you to parent the generation that is facing the biggest challenges of our lifetime. Rise up to the challenge and raise Daniels, Davids, Esthers, and Peters! God isn’t scratching His head wondering what He’s going to do with this mess of a world. He has an army He’s raising to drive back the darkness and make Himself known all over the earth.