Standing your Ground

The book of Daniel has much to teach us about how to bear up under unjust circumstances, and how to conduct ourselves with faith and holiness even when we are surrounded by temptations and persecutions.

One thing that becomes very clear while reading this book is that Daniel and his friends are very intentional about remaining true to their God. Rather than dabbling in the sins of the Babylonians or making concessions here and there to water down their faith, they are decisive and stand their ground in every situation.

Consider for instance what we read about Daniel in chapter 1 verse, verse 8: “Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” Other translations say that he “resolved,” “determined,” or “purposed in his heart” not to defile himself. All of these phrases are intended to convey intentionality. He drew a line in the sand that he was determined not to cross, come what may. This explains why Daniel insisted on this course of action even when his superiors tried to dissuade him.

Consider also when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are standing before the king in the third chapter of this book. They have enraged the king by refusing to bow down to the golden idol that he has made, and so in verse 15, king Nebuchadnezzar decides to give them another chance to bow down and worship the idol:

“Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

It certainly would be tempting to bow down to a pagan idol today, in order to prolong my life so that I could serve the LORD again tomorrow. Do these three friends consider the king’s offer? Maybe it is best to keep peace with the king by simply bowing down just this once…

Instead, they respond: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

These godly men did not even need to answer the king because they had already taken their stand and they would not be moved. You may have heard the phrase, “we do not negotiate with terrorists.” This is essentially what these men tell the king. “We do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.” Save your breath. Our minds have been made up.

What if we took this attitude and applied it to the temptations in our life? There are times when we are tempted to sin, and we resist… but a part of us still considers the sin, turning it over in our mind to make sure we really want to give it up. It is as if the devil is telling us, “I am going to give you another opportunity to bow down to the golden idol. Think it over.”

May we all have the resolve to respond like Hananiah, Mishael and Azaria, “there is no need for further consideration. I have chosen to serve the LORD, and that is final.”

James 4:7 says “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” There is much that a powerful king can take away from you, but he cannot take away your freedom to choose how you will respond. Will you give an ultimatum to the sin in your life? Take your stand in faithfulness and holiness.

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Making a Change

We noticed last week in our study of the prophet Hosea that Israel seemed to have an ongoing problem with worshipping statues of calves. We know this problem started all the way back in Exodus 32 when the people made two golden calves to worship even while Moses was still up on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments from God.

Hundreds of years later, they were still stumbling in the same old ways:

“With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, That they might be cut off. He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, ‘My anger burns against them!’ How long will they be incapable of innocence? For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.” (Hosea 8:4-6)

“And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver, All of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” (Hosea 13:2)

For that matter, many have remarked that the entire Old Testament reads like a roller coaster ride with the morality and corresponding prosperity of God’s people going up and down, up and down, over and over again as the people fail to learn their lesson.

But is that not human nature? In 2 Peter 2:22, we are told that it is a “true proverb” that “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” We fail time and again in the same exact ways.

So what are we to do about our recurring sin problems? The scriptural answer is that we must have our minds totally renewed.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A common saying goes that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The alternative, of course, is to do something new in your search for new and different results.

What will you commit to doing something this week that is new or different from what you normally do? What change can you make that will invite God to be your king, friend, and mentor like never before? Will you commit to making some change in your routine? To giving something up in order to focus more on Him? What about stepping out of your comfort zone in a new way? Or talking to someone about a part of you that has long been hidden? When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, and make us new.

 

 

 

Why Do the Right Thing?

It is no secret that God asks us to give up our sins, some of which may be very dear to our hearts. He asks us to change our lives in ways that can be difficult or painful. He asks us to give up our pride. He asks us to step out in faith and do things that get us out of our comfort zone. He asks for a lot.

So why should we do what He asks? Why do the right thing? Here are some possible answers:

So that life will be better for us here and now. After all, God’s commands are designed to protect us from harm. There can be no question that following where He leads is beneficial. In Mark 19:30, Jesus says of anyone who gives something up for Him, “he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age.”

So that we can go to heaven. In Matthew 6:20, Jesus encourages us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Romans 2:6-7 tells us that God “WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” Some day we want to hear Him say “well done.”

So that we won’t go to hell. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says plainly, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” For those who really believe all that the Bible says about hell (and the Bible says a LOT about it) this is a real motivation to do the right thing.

There are many other possible reasons to do the right thing. To be a good example to those younger than us. To avoid hurting family and friends. To keep a clear conscience. To maintain personal credibility.

But there is one primary reason to do the right thing that we must not forget.

We do the right thing because, as Christians, we don’t have a choice. God owns us. We gave up our rights when we died with Him through baptism (Romans 6). We signed up to be slaves of righteousness (also Romans 6). It is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

We live in a society that esteems personal freedom over duty. Others may give us advice, but they are not to control us. No one can tell us what to do, we get to weigh the pros and cons and decide for ourselves. But the relationship between the Christian and his God is not this way.

God can and does tell us what to do. If you want to follow Him, you only have one choice: submit. We don’t get to pull out a list of pros and cons every time we want to sin, assess the situation, and decide whether discipleship seems personally advantageous. God either owns you or you do not belong to Him at all.

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)