Daniel 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.
In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.
He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.
More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings. At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

Daniel 6 God of All Nations: Daniel Ends Well

Daniel 6

God of All Nations

Daniel Ends Well

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel, chapter 6. So, During the whole shutdown thing, we started a series through the book of Daniel that we are calling God of All Nations. This was the overall theme of the book, that God is the God of all nations. He is sovereign over everything single thing in this universe. He is King over all people and nations even if they don’t believe so.

The first half of the book of Daniel, which we finish up today, is key parts of the life of Daniel and three of his friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. Even more than that, we are seeing parts of their lives in exile, away from their home in Jerusalem, captured and put into service in the kingdom of Babylon, and now, as of the last verse of chapter 5, the Medo-Persian Empire.

Babylon defeated Jerusalem and brought Daniel and his friends over to Babylon when he was roughly 15 years old or so. He served and gained the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar, probably his son, and then Belshazzar briefly, again, as we saw in Chapter 5. He is in his eighties at the point where the events of chapter 6 are going to take place.

We have seen over those almost 70 years, God work some amazing miracles to the rulers of these empires, and we have seen him prove that he is the Most High God. These unbelieving rulers have even declared that the God of Israel, the God of Daniel is a god above the other gods. You can obviously see there that there is not necessarily a saving faith, that God is not the exclusive God, but one of many gods. But it is saying something that they would see him as the greatest of the gods.

So, in Chapter 5, we saw the Babylonian empire fall and be taken over by the Medo-Persian empire and Darius the Mead was installed as ruler of Babylon.

I think that is all the pertinent information we need to jump back into the book of Daniel, and we will read and look at chapter 6 this morning. We are going to start with Daniel 6, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel 6:1-9:

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 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. 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. 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. 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.”

Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement[a] to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 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. 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.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

 

May God Bless the reading of His Word.

 

So, Darius becomes the ruler of Babylon and he starts to set up his government. He sets up different regional leaders called Satraps and he installs 3 vice presidents, or governors, three supervisors above the regional leaders, under only Darius himself. Daniel was one of those three supervisors.

Daniel’s reputation preceded him, and he continued to live up to that reputation of working hard, being completely honest and incorruptible. HE quickly rose above even the other two of the supervisors and made quite the name for himself. The text shows exactly what we have already seen Daniel do time and time again, and that is that the credit for all the Daniel was able to do was all because of God. The text gives credit to an “excellent spirit” in Daniel.

Daniel was doing such an impeccable job that Darius was going to set him up over the entire kingdom. All signs point to this being very similar to Joseph in Egypt, where he was technically not the King, but he was in charge of everything, answerable only to the King himself.

Now, of course, the other supervisors were totally jealous of Daniel. They wanted to get rid of Daniel. They didn’t do as good of work. They were typical of most politicians, both then and today. They didn’t want to put in the work. They wanted to get more out of the job, with the perks and the benefits, than they put in. Daniel wasn’t like that and it made them look bad.

So, they attempted a smear campaign against Daniel. Only there wasn’t anything about him to smear. They couldn’t find any transgressions. They couldn’t find any legal reasons to get rid of him. He was, in the words of 1 Timothy 3, above reproach.

And so, because they weren’t able to find any reasons to get rid of him, they had to make them up. They knew that the only thing that would cause Daniel to break a law of the kingdom is if it meant breaking a law of God. His loyalty to the King was under only his loyalty to God.

SO, they concocted this idea. Hey king, we all agreed. Let’s make it so that, for thirty days, no one may pray to or make petitions of the gods from anyone but you.

What they were doing was sinister. They were implying that Daniel was aware of and approved of the plan. They were appealing to the Kings pride and King and politician’s natural nervousness about their power base. This was not a religious law being passed, not in intent anyway. This was a way for King Darius to solidify his standing as the new King over Babylon. It was a way for him to consolidate his power. He would be the sole mediator between the people and the Gods. Of course we know what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5,  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, But the satraps were tempting Darius with the very thing the serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:15, saying, you too will be able to be like God.

 

          And of course, the punishment for anyone who betrays the King and doesn’t recognize his power and authority will be thrown to the lions. As was common in those days, in many of the cultures, once the king made a law, it was nearly impossible for that law to be changed or revoked. And so, Darius signed the decree and made the law into effect.

I want you to notice something about these satraps that plotted against Daniel. These were men who portrayed outward holiness and godliness. They acted as if they were serving the King and being public servants. But inside they were bitter, grumpy, their hearts were cold. The King didn’t see through it right away. When we encounter people like this, we can often not see through the outer façade right away. But eventually we do. When we look to see who people truly are, we can eventually see through the mask that people put on. These men, and so many today, even inside our churches are wearing a mask of godliness and yet they are mean spirited, they are deceitful, they are passive aggressive, and they take offense very easily.

We also must be careful not to be this ourselves. Things that are obviously easier said than done but start with not taking offense when others say something or do something that hurts or goes against you. We were discussing part of this Wednesday morning, but we are all human beings and none of us is perfect. Over the course of our lives, everyone in here will do something to everyone else in this room that will hurt, or will say something they shouldn’t have, or in whatever way sin against them. Our ability, through Christ and our duty is to forgive and move on. If someone sins against us, guess what, its entirely likely we also just accidently (or even more rarely, on purpose) sinned against Someone else.

Guard your hearts, not against others in this room, but against growing cold, bitter and distrustful. Guard your heart against taking easy offense and against shutting itself off from those around us.

 

 

Let’s continue with verses 10-18:

 

 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.”

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared[b] 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

 

So, of course Daniel is put into a tough situation here. And what we are seeing is wave after wave of spiritual attacks coming against Daniel. Attacks from the enemy on his faithfulness and his perseverance. This is spiritual warfare, against powers and principalities. And Daniel has been putting on his armor of God. In Ephesians 6, where Paul lists out the Armor, he ends it in verse 18, saying praying always in the Spirit.

Daniel has been fighting these battles for almost 70 years now. We see another battle here. But one battle does not the war make. One thing we see often in scripture is that the temptations that the enemy slings at us grow stronger over the course of our life walking with Christ.

We see for example Jesus, who was tempted in the dessert right after his baptism. He was able to refute those temptations with scripture and go on. He faced a more ultimate temptation when he was faced with his impeding death. He prayed the night before, Father, if there is any other way, please take this cup from me.

The stronger our faith grows as we walk with Christ longer, the stronger the temptations need to be. The same temptation you get right after you respond in faith to Christ is nothing after you grow. The temptations grow and change as well. One commentator wrote: past faithfulness was not meant to be compensation for present unfaithfulness, it was preparation for more faithfulness.

When Daniel found out about the Kings decree, there was likely to be a temptation. We see Daniels normal routine. He went up to his open-air room, where he faced Jerusalem and he prayed to God three times a day. It likely was tempting to at least pray inside, where no one could see. It may have been tempting to adhere to the temporary law so as not to cause any trouble.

Daniel knew that the exiled Jews in Babylon time was coming near to an end. Jeremiah prophesied that the exile would last 70 years. Daniel knew that time was coming, and he clearly would love to go back and see his earthly home once again. But he clearly also had the same heart and attitude as Paul, who wrote in Philippians, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Daniel did what Daniel does. He went straight home and started praying and he prayed just as he always prayed. Now, we all know how easy it is to get distracted when getting ready to pray. It could have been quite all day, but suddenly, the phone starts ringing off the hook. You could have been bored all afternoon, but you start praying and your To-do list starts flowing through your head. There’s a knock at the door. All the kids decide to jump off furniture and kill themselves all at the same time. Whatever it is, it always happens.

Daniel is showing us that we should focus on and surround ourselves with the things that drown out those distractions and help us to focus on God. One of those things in his case was his home city of Jerusalem. There is no way to think that this is a mandate or that his prayers were better or better received because he was facing this city, but he was able to focus on God and to focus his prayers better by doing so. Find those things that work for you.

Now Daniel wasn’t trying to hide, but neither was he trying to virtue signal. He was doing exactly what he had always done. And he started by praying thanksgivings to God. Its easy to pray our requests to God. Its easy to pray our questions. But especially in our tough situations, it can be hard to pray thanksgivings. And yet, that’s exactly what we should be doing.

I saw this JC Ryle quote this week. He said: Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension. How a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.

Again, Daniel was nothing if not predictable. He went and prayed just like he always did. The satraps knew he would and made sure they witnessed him praying. They went straight to the King and again, in their holy language, straight ratted Daniel out to Darius.

The king was greatly distressed at this. He did not want to throw Daniel in with the lions. He knew Daniel. He could trust Daniel. And know he realized that he had been tricked. He saw that the true purpose of this decree was to get rid of Daniel, not to honor or serve him. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to not throw Daniel in with the lions. But ultimately, he had no choice.

Daniel was thrown in with the lions. One of the things we see throughout the book of Daniel is that God does not save us from trials, but instead he saves us through our trials.

Darius regretfully sentenced Daniel AS he put him in, he prayed that Daniels God would save him from this death. Darius genuinely hoped God could do it, and I think genuinely thought God could do it. Its hard to see if he thought God would save Daniel. But that is at least a kernel of what might develop into faith.

Darius went right to his room and spent the night pacing, worrying, waiting. Let’s read the rest of the chapter, verses 19-28:

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. 24 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.

25 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.

As soon as the day broke, Darius ran down, moved the rock from the cave and yelled, Daniel? Has your God saved you? And He had! Daniel was just chilling down there; I picture him lying against one the lions.

Now, notice this. Darius was the King. He had every possible earthly luxury. Anything he wanted was at his disposal. But he was going against God and he had a miserable night. He was uncomfortable, irritable and had no peace. Daniel on the other hand was operating in Gods Will. He was thrown in a cold, dark, damp cave with a bunch of meat-eating lions, likely kept hungry for times just as this. But Daniel spent the night in Peace. He was much more comfortable and had a much better night than Darius Did. This is the power of the Hoy Spirit.

Daniel responded to Darius that he was indeed alive, and that God had sent an angel down to close the mouths of the lions. Hebrews 11 also says that is was the faith of Daniel that closed the mouths of the lions. Daniel was declared righteous in front of God and he had not done anything bad against the king.

The King was exceedingly glad and brought Daniel up out of the pit. The King was not glad about the satraps and those who conspired against Daniel, however. He threw them and their families down in the pit and the lions reacted quite differently, pouncing on them before they even hit the ground. Justice was swift and severe. And of course, we know that Darius was not able to control the lions. He didn’t decide that they would eat the officials and not eat Daniel. God decides what happens, not us here on earth. God is in control. He is supreme and sovereign overall things, even whether the lions do what lions do.

Darius then follows in the footsteps of Ol Nebby where he decrees that all his people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel and 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.”

 

And isn’t that what we have been hearing all book long? Especially and specifically that his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall. Darius and the Medo-Persians had just risen above and watched and caused the fall of the Babylonian kingdom. But the Kingdom of God will last forever.

We don’t see here a clear profession of saving faith by Darius here, we see that he acknowledges God as, in the words of Nebby, the Most High God, but not as the exclusive and only God. But we also don’t see the hedging that was apparent in Nebbys praises. So, we are left to wonder about the eternal destination of King Darius.

Daniel however finished well. He stayed faithful until the end. He was faithful in his work, his service, his living in his life regardless of the administration that was in charge and regardless of what was going on around him.

Daniel was the epitome of Matthew 5:16, where we are called to let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. We are to be salt and light to our world around us.

We don’t know anything about Daniels life after this. Did he make it back to Jerusalem? It seems unlikely. But the early church recognized the same truth we know today that Daniel himself and the book of Daniel are all types and foreshadowing the coming Christ. Just as Daniel was an exile, looking back to his true home, and Hebrews 13:14 tells us, for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

In all this, in all scripture, it is to be used to look forward towards Jesus. HE is the fulfillment of all things Bible. There are so many things that we see clearly are types and prophecies of Jesus, but there are so many more that we don’t realize. Iain Duguid writes on this regarding Daniel 6, saying:

Like Daniel, Jesus was falsely accused by his enemies and brought before a ruler, Pontius Pilate, who sought unsuccessfully to deliver him from his fate, before handing him over to a violent death. Like Daniel, Jesus was condemned to die, and his body was placed in a sealed pit so that his situation could not be changed by human intervention. Jesus trial went even deeper than Daniels, however. He did not merely suffer the threat of death. He went down into death itself. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered the fate of the guilty ones. There was no angel to comfort him in the presence of God in his pit. On the contrary, he was left in the blackness, utterly alone and abandoned by God, suffering the fate that we, the guilty ones, deserved.

 

In the end, our ultimate verdict, whether ourselves or Daniel, is not based on our actions, our goodness or our obedience. Our verdict is based solely on the grace of God, given through our faith in Jesus Christ, all to Gods glory, above and everything else. Amen. If you have not repented and believed the Gospel, if you have not trusted and turned to Jesus Christ as your salvation, now is the time. IF you have, you, like Daniel are a citizen of an eternal kingdom that is to come as we live and serve as exiles in this kingdom today. May our lives, actions and faithfulness be salt and light to the lost world around us.

 

Let’s Pray.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 5:1-31 God of All Nations: The Night Babylon Fell

Daniel 5:1-31

God of All Nations

The Night Babylon Fell

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 5. As you are turning there, as you have all hopefully heard, this is my last week of online only sermons. We are opening back up, next Sunday, June 7 at our regular time of 10 Am. Finally, we get to come back together and worship the LORD together as a church family.

But in the meantime, Daniel chapter 5. The era of Nebuchadnezzar, Ol Nebby, is over. We start off here seeing his grandson, Belshazzar is in charge. And we are going to see the continuation of the main theme that we see in this book, That God is sovereign.

He controls kingdoms. He raises up rulers and he tears them down. Romans 13 tells us that all rulers in government were put there specifically and purposefully by God. Nebuchadnezzar was not unique. God has his hand in the reign of all rulers and kingdoms.

And we don’t know the eternal destination of Nebuchadnezzar. I myself am doubtful that he trusted in the God of Daniel, the one True God and his God. But he was teachable. And he did acknowledge Gods power and sovereignty. We look today at someone who was not teachable.

This chapter takes place, we know, in 539 BC. Historically we know this because 539 is the year that the Babylonian empire fell to the Meads and Persians. The city was, in all likelihood, already under siege at the point this chapter takes place, making the decisions made by Belshazzar all the more curious.

So, before we go any further, we will go ahead and read the first section of the Daniel chapter 5, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to grab your own Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel chapter 5:1-9, Daniel records:

 

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared[b] to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

The first thing we see, in the midst of the Persian siege against the last stronghold of the Babylonian empire, is that Belshazzar throws a massive feast, a great party. WE see in him shades of the rich young ruler in Luke chapter 12. Nothing else matters to him expect his riches, his persona, what others think of him. Belshazzar is going to be the perfect epitome of when Jesus warns us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

And he does sell his soul, while blinding himself to the reality around him. His city was falling. His empire was crumbling, and he was eating, drinking and being merry. And that was not enough for him either.

In verse 2, Belshazzar decided to take his rebellion against the Most High God up another notch. He called for the golden vessels that were taken, by Nebby from the temple in Jerusalem and he called for them to be brought to him as drinking vessels.

They were symbols of the Jewish religion and they were symbols of God himself. And anyone that thinks that Belshazzar didn’t know what he was doing, Paul tells us in Romans 1,  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

          This act by Belshazzar, using these vessels as regular china, getting drunk out of them, and toasting and praising a variety of false gods, this was the ultimate act of sacrilege, of disrespect and of blasphemy. This is the kind of thing that you would expect God to act against. This is the kind of thing that you want to step a few steps away from him because you just know God is going to smite him with a lightning bolt any second know.

 

 

And God does act. In a way we might not have expected. In a way that is so uniquely Him. A human hand appears and writes on the wall in front of everyone. Belshazzar has failed the test. He has, as we will see coming up, weighed in the balance and found wanting. As Iain DuGuid points out, the Babylonian gods failed here too.

HE writes:

Belshazzar praised his gods of wood and stone and gold and silver, ascribing to them glory and honor, yet his gods couldn’t keep the LORD’s messenger from disturbing the peace of his feast. Nor could they keep him safe from the Medes and the Persians. It may have seemed to the Babylonians that when they defeated Judah and destroyed the temple, they were thereby triumphing over Israel’s god as well. However, as the book of Daniel unfolded, it became clear that the reality was that Israel’s God could effectively defend the honor of his sacred vessels and the lives of his faithful servants, while Babylon’s gods were impotent.

 

Belshazzar did not know what the words said that were written on the wall, but he knew that his gods did not do it. He knew that they were judgment against him. We see how scared he became. His color and his face changed. Some of the original language seems to imply that he lost control of his bodily functions. He was shaking. Because he knew that it was a judgment against him, he needed to know the exact meaning of what was written.

And this was as close as he came to channeling Nebuchadnezzar. We something happens and scares you, who you gonna call? Chaldeans! Wisemen! Enchanters! Astrologers! Ghostbusters! Oh, wait…

Anyway, they came quickly, and they were, once again, offered high status and riches, possibly even becoming the third in line for the throne, to the one who could interpret these words for the Belshazzar.

Now, this part is completely just my imagination, but this is how I picture this playing out. Between the fact that the city was under siege and the fact that Belshazzar was not being as brutal and was not as respected as Belshazzar, the wisemen may not have taken him too seriously. I picture responding something like, “Sorry, don’t know, can’t help.” Maybe sounding bored with the whole situation. That’s probably not how it happened, but that’s how it played out in my imagination.

 

 

However, they responded, it reinforced his fear, as we see again, his color changing, he was shaking and showing all signs of being afraid. What is he going to do now?

We will continue with verses 10-16:

 

The queen,[c] because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.[d] In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

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

 

 

So, right when Belshazzar is at his wits end and doesn’t know what to do, the Queen comes in. Now, we know that this is not Belshazzar’s wife. WE saw in verses 2 & 3 that the wives and concubines were there at the feast as well. This would have been the Queen Mother, a woman of High power, high standing and with authority in the kingdom. I speculate that this was likely either Belshazzar’s mom, or his grandmother, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar’s wife.

She is quick to compare and contrast Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezzar and not in a positive light on Belshazzar either. She quickly reminds him of what he would have already known. See, there’s this guy, named Daniel… or Belteshazzar if you prefer, and he is the spirits of the holy gods. He kind of has a history with interpreting messages from the Most High God. Why Don’t you give him a call…?

 

We see that Daniels reputation preceded him. He would have been in his 70s or 80s at this point. He epitomized what Paul would later put down as one of the requirements for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:7, where” he must be thought well of by outsiders.” We are going to see that Daniel not only has a good reputation going into this, but he is going to live up to it as well. That should be a challenge to each of us. Do outsiders and those that are around us think well of us? And do they have good reason to? Do we live up to that view they have to us?

Belshazzar brought Daniel in and kind of gave a combination of flattery and skepticism when he welcomed him. Or maybe it was skepticism trying to masquerade as flattery. I’ve heard this about you…If you prove it, I will give you riches, power and status. He offered Daniel the same rewards he offered to the wisemen before him.

 

 

Daniel responds and interprets the writing on the wall in our last section, verses 17-31:

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

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered[g] the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed[h] in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[i]

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

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

Maybe I’m reading onto this, but it seems that Daniel has no use for Belshazzar. He says, keep your gifts and keep your rewards. I don’t want them. But I will interpret what’s going on here.

Now, Daniel has accepted the rewards that Nebby, for example, has offered to him. And yet, he dismissed what Belshazzar is offering. We have lots of theories, but no for sure answers.

Was the difference the person offering.

Was the difference the scenario? That Daniel knew Babylon was falling?

Was it to show that the gifts of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be bought? We see this with Simon the magician in Acts chapter 8 as well.

I suspect that the first is the biggest factor here. There doesn’t seem to be much honor within Belshazzar and there doesn’t seem to be much respect for him from the people around him. This is a big difference between how people treated and respected Nebuchadnezzar and how they did with Belshazzar.

As we have seen in the last number of chapters, Nebuchadnezzar was not a perfect man. Not even close. He had to learn lessons the hard way. He had to learn the hard way who God was. He had to learn the hard way about Gods sovereignty, his power. He had to learn the hard way that God was the Most High God. He was humbled severely as we saw last chapter, and this was a man a King who had, from man’s perspective, a lot to be proud of.

Daniel says, You, Belshazzar, on the other hand, you already should have known. You already should have remembered the lessons that Ol Nebby had to learn the hard way. You have not humbled yourself and there is nothing for you to be proud of. And tonight, tonight was the last straw.

The words written on the wall are Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.

 

Mene; God has decided to bring your kingdom to an end. God has numbered the days of every kingdom that raises up in this world both in the past and in the future. God has numbered the days of the Babylonian kingdom and those numbered days are over.

 

Tekel; You have been weighed in the balance and you have been found wanting. You don’t measure up. All those things that you thought would balance the cosmic scales, they don’t add up to a hill of beans in Gods eyes.

Belshazzar and so many of us, we trust in ourselves. We have an elevated sense of self worth and pride. We think that we are good enough to rebel against and thumb our nose at the Most High and holy God and to get away with it. We think that Gods holiness demands nothing of us. That we can live it up today, that we can do whatever we want, that we can do our own thing, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, that we can do it all ourselves.

We think if we do enough good, be nice to enough people, live moral enough lives, protest against bad things, follow the rules of society, give to enough charities, that we can outweigh the sin in our lives on those cosmic scales. And there is no truth to any of that. It is a lie that sends people to hell.

 

 

Parsin; Your kingdom is divided. It is now out of your hands. It is being given to the Meads and Persians. God decides who is in control and he decides who takes over and who gains power and who loses power. God decided that it is time for the Medo Persian empire to rise and tonight is that night.

 

Well, none of that, obviously was what Belshazzar wanted to hear. But he knew, he could tell Daniel was telling him the truth. He gave the rewards that he promised to Daniel, whether he wanted them or not.

That very night Belshazzar died at the hands of the Meads and Persians. Babylon fell. Gods words were proven true. Darius the Mead, whom we will look at next chapter takes over.

Now, If Belshazzar had praised and trusted in the True God instead of his Babylonian gods, he likely would not have died that night. Now, don’t get me wrong, God does not play the Quid Pro Quo game. He does not give because he got. We don’t earn anything. We do not work enough to earn anything. But God does take care of and have mercy on those who believe in him, who trust him and him alone and who offer their full praise up to him and him alone.

God showed mercy to Nebuchadnezzar. He gave no mercy to Belshazzar. And his reason is simply because he said so. OF course, there’s more to it than that, but there doesn’t need to be more than that. God knows what he is doing and why and he is in control of all of it.

God shows the ultimate mercy on those who trust in him and his Son Jesus Christ. Many stories in the Old Testament point towards Jesus with the people we see. Daniel is of course one of them. Moses, Joseph, David, so many more have attributes that are partials of the ones that Jesus has in perfection. But we also see Jesus clearly in the opposites of some of the people we see, including Belshazzar.

Iain Duguid lays out Belshazzar as an anti-type of Jesus. Writing:

 

In contrast to the Kingdom of Belshazzar, which is weighed in the balance and found insubstantial and wanting to be divided among the enemies, there is the kingdom which God has established in Jesus Christ. Ironically, Jesus had none of the outward glitz and glitter for which the world clamors so loudly. He had virtually no possessions and relatively few followers. He had no outward beauty or majesty to commend him, appearing on earth as a humble carpenter, not as a mighty emperor. Jesus never had the resources to throw a star-studded party for a thousand of his closest friends, though he did brighten up a banquet that he attended by turning water into rich wine. His kingdom is not of this world.

          Yet when Jesus life was weighed in gods balance, it was found to be perfect and complete, able to satisfy fully the demands of Gods holiness, not just for himself but for all those who come to God through him. His great banquet awaits us in the future, at the end of time; on that day, in place of Belshazzar’s nobles, there will be thousands of Christs saints in attendance upon him- all those who have washed their robes and made them clean in the blood of the Lamb. At that banquet there will be no place for our pride or for toasting our achievements: rather, every single person who is there will confess freely that they have been saved by God’s grace and purified by God’s mercy. On that day, there will be no unseemly interruptions of the banquet: God’s rule will be established forever and ever. His kingdom will not be divided and given to his enemies: on the contrary, it is formed of a people who are made one in Christ.

 

Powerful and encouraging words of the reality to come. IF you don’t know Jesus Christ, if you have not repented of your sins and believed the Gospel, if you are trusting in your goodness instead of Christs perfect righteousness, now is the time to turn to him and to move from eternal death to eternal life. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation.

If you do know Christ, if you are washed by His blood, if you have submitted your life to His Word, His commands and His will, if you have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, then rejoice, that banquet that Duguid mentioned is waiting for us, as one in Christ, as one family in Christ, co heirs of the eternal kingdom of heaven where God will be praised and worship for all of perfect eternity.

 

Let’s Pray.

Daniel 3:1-30 God of All Nations: 3 men and a Furnace

Daniel 3:1-30
God of All Nations
3 men and a Furnace

Good Morning Bangor Community Church and anyone else that may be listening. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 3. In the book of Daniel, especially the first 6 chapters, there are a lot of stories that we are at least partially familiar with, and we may think that we are intimately aware of. These tend to be classic Sunday School Lessons.
Today, the story we will look at in Chapter 3 is a prime example. We are going to look at the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego (Babylonian names) getting thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. And I think that we are going to see a lot of things that we assume were part of the story, or that we assumed we understood that we just didn’t see before now. I know that’s at least what happened with me.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s already happened n Daniel, that led to this point. Ol Nebby had, in chapter 2, had a dream revolving around a huge statue where he was the golden head. When Daniel was able to tell him what his dream was and to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for him, The King acknowledged Daniel’s God as “God of gods and Lord of Kings.”
What the King did NOT do, however, was turn to and acknowledge Yahweh as exclusively God. He still ruled over, lived in and believed in a pluralistic community. There were many gods, over many things, each nation had their own god, and all were valid and powerful.
In this, Daniel was put as, essentially, the Kings right hand man, he was given authority over all the magi and wisemen. Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego were appointed as governors over the province of Babylon.
As we move forward into chapter 3, we see that the theme of this chapter and the theme of the entire book as a whole is that God is not just a god among gods but is God over all. He is the God of all Nations. He is the God of all Kingdoms. He is the God over all other so-called gods. He is the God of all people. That is why I have titled this series, God of all Nations.
So, with all that being said, let’s go ahead and start reading Daniel chapter 3. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your Bibles, with your preferred translation. So, Daniel chapter 3, we will start with verses 1-7, though we will cover the entire chapter 3 this morning.
Daniel 3:1-7, Daniel writes:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits[a] 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.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word
So, we see from the beginning a couple of questions that pop up to me, but that we won’t find answers for in the text. First, we don’t know how long after chapter 2, that this chapter takes place. It could have been very shortly afterwards, when the dream was still fresh in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, or it could have been much later on, as the impact of the interpretation has faded just a bit. We also don’t know where Daniel is during this story. He may have been left behind to tend to business while all the other officials were at the statue. He could have been alongside Nebby during this, and just exempt from the command and punishments. The truth is we just don’t know.
But we start this chapter off with very clear connections to Nebbys dream. He builds a statue made of gold, and he builds it 90 feet tall. This is a huge statue for the day, but it’s also not unheard of, meaning it’s incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable. To give an example of the scale, the Sphinx in Egypt is 66 feet tall.
I want us to look at one possible motivation here as well. Nebuchadnezzar built this statue out of Gold. Now it was likely Gold plated, but it was still, the entire thing was Gold. It is likely and it seems obvious to me that Nebby was trying to ignore or to undo the interpretation of his dream. Daniel was clear that, while Nebby was the golden head of the four kingdoms and that the ones who came after him would be progressively inferior. Nebby was a narcissistic sociopath. He would have greatly accepted that he was the golden head. He may have, though probably not have accepted that strong and superior kingdoms would have defeated him. But he most certainly would not have been willing to accept that inferior kingdoms would replace him. And so, in the imagery of his statue, he eliminated them and made it all about him.
So, he builds this monstrous monument to himself. And all the movers and shakers, all the government officials, all the influencers, all of them came to stand before the statue, came for the event of the dedication and the unveiling. They all came to pay homage to Ol’ Nebby.
Nebuchadnezzar tells them how. When the signal hits, in this case the orchestra playing, when you hear this, you will bow down and worship this golden image of me!
Now, for me, when I usually think of this story, I think of it as, every time you hear music you have to bow down. But that’s not what we see here. This is not an ongoing thing, this is a onetime event, a show, or maybe a test of loyalty.
And here is the law. If you do not keep this command, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for those days. And there would have been a giant furnace, or a kiln may be a better way for us to think about it, right there. It would have been used to forge and smelt the metals and the gold used in the construction of the statue.
And yes, it seems odd to us today that people would bow down and worship a statue of their king, or that Nebby would build a 90 foot statue of himself in order for people to worship, but it’s not that odd. It is that days manifestation of Romans 1:25, where Paul writes: they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
Today we see it in our practical worship of our jobs, our schooling, our sports teams, our politicians, our favorite celebrities, even our families, husbands, wives, kids and their activities. John Calvin wrote that the “human heart is an idol factory.” It can even be our way of life, our comfort, or our nation that we make an idol in these days.
We are rarely called to literally bow down before our idols, though in some places and to some idols that still happens today. But we sacrifice for them. We put them first. We put them above God himself, even if we believe in God.
Our politician says something, no matter what, no matter what the Bible says, and we agree with it and we manipulate the bible to make it fit. We forget that the Bible is more important and more applicable to a Christians life than the Constitution is. We have kids who have activities Sunday mornings and so we justify ignoring church to worship at the altar of our kids, or our own hobbies and interests. These idols are still out there, and we are still bowing down before them, even today.
In verse 7, the music played. The band struck up a tune and the people all bowed down to the statue. All bowed down. All nations, all languages, all tribes. False gods don’t discriminate.
Music can be very powerful. That’s why we like to have music when we sing our songs of worship and praise at church. That’s one of the things, outside of fellowship, that I miss the most in this time of not meeting together.
But music can be used to manipulate as well. Many of the false teachers today use music to manipulate their congregation into emotional experiences. When you can make worship an experience, you can focus and steer that experience towards the desired object of worship.
You may often hear of these places where during the worship was a spectacle, it is described as an environment, people get caught up in the moment of that worship.
Sinclair Ferguson has some good things to say about this in his commentary on Daniel. He writes about this story: there was an aesthetic effect in abundance on the plain of Dura. A person would have had to be extremely narrow-minded not to share on the sheer magnificence of the occasion and the splendor of the music.
He continues: The sad reality is “all that glitters is not gold.” The important thing about worship is its object. Do we worship God or ourselves? The test of whether worship is God centered or centered on ourselves will be found in the question: Do we worship God according to His revelation or according to our own disposition? In worship, the statement, “How I like to worship is…” is irrelevant. All that matter is how God chooses to be worshipped.
And of course, worshipping and bowing down to a 90-foot statue in the image of Nebuchadnezzar is not how he chooses to be worshipped. Songs more about our feelings and emotions are not how he chooses to be worshiped. But worship these people did.
Let’s continue on with Daniel 3:8-18, as he writes:
Therefore, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] 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.[c] 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.[d] 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.”

King Nebby didn’t discriminate. He didn’t care what nation you were from. He didn’t care what language you spoke. He didn’t care which gods you chose to worship. As long as you worshipped him. Again, same thing we saw in Rome. You can worship Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD. We see it today. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you worship science, inclusivity, tolerance, self-reliance, America, comfort, social justice, celebrity culture, communism, capitalism, achievements, worth health, Obama or Trump. As long as you bow down and worship at least one of those, go right on ahead and believe in Jesus.
And we see that the Chaldeans came to Ol Nebby and told him of three men who would not bow down to hum and his statue. They were very pointed in their accusations as well. It says they, “maliciously accused the Jews.” Some see some anti-Semitism in this, in how they singled out that they were Jews. That’s definitely possible. Some see this as personal jealousy that these three guys had such privileged positions after so short a time. That’s definitely possible. Some say it was a combination of the two. That seems most likely.
The fact is that all the people in attendance were told to bow or they would be punished by law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson uses them as an example to point out that we are not to make big shows of ourselves when we take stands like this. The three men didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t protest the statue. They didn’t sit down and so a hunger strike. They didn’t boycott. They just stood quietly and off to the side. They didn’t hide obviously, but they didn’t draw any undue attention to themselves.
We have a tendency, as human beings, to think like this,” Did you see me not doing that thing that everyone else was doing? Yup, I’m pretty holy. Did you see me doing that thing that nobody else was doing? Yup my faith in God is strong and uncompromising.”
We have seen this in the last two months, where churches have decided not to listen to the various state at home orders by the governors and the opened up anyway and various things have come if those situations. But most of them are not quietly meeting, not making a big deal of it, many of them are flaunting their disobedience in the name of religious liberty.
But Shad, Mac and Abe didn’t do that. They just stood to the side and refused to bow down. The Chaldeans kind of come across as annoyed children. I know I see in my house, “Daaaaaaad! They’re not doing what they are supposed to be! They are not listening to you!”
And if course, Ol Nebby was furious, to put it mildly. He brings the 3 guys in to give them a chance to make things right. It may be that he couldn’t believe it because he trusted. It could be he didn’t believe it because he could believe that anyone would dare disobey him.
Either way, it is surprising what happens. He gives them a second chance. He says, “They told me you wouldn’t listen, well here’s your chance. Ill strike up the band again, and if you bow now, we can put thus whole scenario behind us. If you don’t, well… you know the consequences…”
In fact, he says, who is the god that can save you. Essentially, he is saying that he is the one with ultimate power and authority and their god has none and cannot save them. Part of this seems to be that the furnace, or the kiln, is right there. There is no transportation. There is no waiting or delay. So, there is no time for another god to step in and help them.
Of course, the decline the invitation. They make their point; No matter what God can save them. He may choose not to, but even if that’s the case, we will still choose to worship Him, and we will never bow down to you.
Stephan Miller writes: although no doubt existed in the minds if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.

The early church father and historian Jerome, also says this: Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of Gods inability but rather of his sovereign will if they do perish.”

In addition to Gods ability to deliver and save regardless of whether he chooses to, here’s I, I think, the biggest point that I can take away from this. Yes, we are to obey Gods laws over man’s laws. Yes, they were right to take their stand and not bow to the statue. But man’s laws still stand. God puts every leader into authority, and he has granted governments their power and authority. So, if we decide that a situation or a law goes against Gods law, we may be right in choosing to not obey or submit to the situation or the law, but, and here is the kicker, You need to be willing to, and expect to face the consequences of your choices.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were right to obey God instead of man, and not bow down. But they were also willing to submit to the punishment and consequences of their decision. This is one spot where, here in America, I think, Christians are soft. We want the right to disobey the laws and rules that we think are unbiblical and wrong, but we also want immunity from doing so.
We saw a crystal-clear example a few years ago, after the supreme decided that same sex marriage was legal. There was a county clerk in Kentucky. Her job was to sign the marriage licenses to make them legal. She decided that she was not going to sign the licenses for same sex couples. That was her conviction regarding obey Gods laws instead of mans. But then there was a whole uproar after she was arrested for not complying with the law. She was well within her rights to refuse to do so, but that doesn’t mean she should not have been punished for it. Christians, brothers, sisters, there are times and circumstances when it is right and good to reject man’s laws because they go against Gods laws. As Martin Luther famously said as he came before the synod at Dort, as he was told to recant of his 95 Thesis, he said he would not recant, he would not back down. He said, and I quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But we have to remember that there are consequences that come with it and we may not like them. We may be harmed, we may be imprisoned and killed for these stances. We need to know that ahead of time and we need to be willing to go through with that if and when we choose to stand for God against man’s laws.
Ok, so let’s read the next chunk of verses, Daniel 3:19-23:
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,[e] 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.
Now, their response, as you would imagine, did not go over well with Ol Nebby. In fact, his fury raged. He was incensed. He ordered the furnace to be heated up to 7 times hotter than normal. It seems obvious with eh number 7 being used that this is an expression meaning to get it as hot as possible. He ordered that the 3 men would be thrown into the furnace immediately.
The guards tied them up, still in their clothes and took them to throw them in the firs. The furnace had gotten so hot that the guards throwing them in where overwhelmed by the heat and died. Many suspect that this was either because of the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar’s command, that they didn’t have time to prepare themselves, protect themselves from the heat. Or that there was a sudden shift of the wind direction right as they were throwing the guys in. I personally like the second one, because if that’s what happened, it speaks to God acting in the situation regardless of if he decides to save the 3 men in the furnace.
Let us read the last chunk of verses, Daniel 3:24-30:
4 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 Highest 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[f] 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 a scene that must have been for Ol Nebby. He had the three of them thrown in, tied up, into a fiery furnace that was made as hot as it could possibly be, so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in. And Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is shocked and amazed. He says, not three, but four men! Unbound! Walking around! He couldn’t believe it! He had to show others as well to make sure he wasn’t seeing things!
And the fourth had the appearance as a son of the gods. Now, there has been a lot of speculation about this. Whether this was a physical appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus, otherwise known as a Christophany. I believe that it is. Some believe, as many of the Jewish scholars did, that this was the archangel Gabriel. It isn’t explicit in the text, but here is what we do know. Nebby didn’t know who it was either, but from his appearance, it was clear that this fourth person was divine. He was more than a man. He would not have had any idea who Jesus was or that this was Jesus, but he knew that this was a divine being in there protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
Nebby was so amazed that he called for the three to come out, along with the “Most High God.” Now, to the Jews and to Christians now, this title refers to the one and only, living God. But to the unbelievers, especially of the day, to those in a polytheistic, pluralistic society, this would have meant the highest of many Gods.
So, the boys came out and everyone around saw that they were unburned, unsinged and that they did not even smell like fire.
Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed, and he declares that their God is a god. That he sent an angel to save them. Their god saved them because they wouldn’t bow down to any other gods.
He then, for this particular instance, reverses his course and his decree. He says that anyone who says anything bad against their god will be punished. By not saying anything about it, he says that they no longer need to bow before his statue.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his idolatry or his blasphemy. There is no evidence that he tore down his statue. There is no evidence that he trusted in the one true God, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The god of the Jews was a great god, a god to be feared and respected and a god of which nothing may be said against, but he was not the god of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the end, Nebuchadnezzar restored the boys to their positions over the province of Babylon and even gave them a promotion of sorts.
This is the biblical story of 3 men in the furnace. This is not the typical Sunday School story. This is not the veggie tales’ story. This is what happened. The more I preach on stories in the Bible, that are supposedly well known, the more I see that God is incredible and he puts so much more into these stories than we see on the surface. It inspires me to try to look deeper and I hip it does the same for you.
Again, the main point of all this is that God is over and above all. He is over and above everything else. He is not one of many. He is not the greatest of many. He is the only and the highest. He is the all holy, all knowing God of all tongues, tribes and nations. As the only God, he sends only one means of salvation.
By his grace and his grace alone, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, truly man, and truly God. ON that note, I will leave you with a passage from the Gospel of John. John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

Passover Sermon: Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon
Exodus 12 and Luke 22

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.
Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night. This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception. All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.
Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.
To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.
So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.
Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.
Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.
The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.
We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)
God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.
I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.
God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.
I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.
This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.
Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.
Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.
Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.
While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.
The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.
Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.
He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.
Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.
We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.
For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.
And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.
Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?
Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.
Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…
But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.
These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.
For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.
My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.
We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?
Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.
Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.
Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.
The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.
And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.
This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.
But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

Let’s Pray

2 Timothy 3:1-9 Life in the Local Church: A sign of the Times

2 Timothy 3:1-9
Life in the Local Church
A sign of the Times

Good Morning! Turn with me, if you would, to 2 Timothy chapter 3. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, or if you know someone who would read and does not have one, please grab one from our back table there.
We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy titles, Life in the Local Church. One of the biggest themes we have seen from Paul in these writings, in these two letters is confronting false teachers and protecting the congregation from false teaching.
That’s going to be the main bulk of what we are looking at this morning as well. Paul has been building to this over what we have looked at the last few weeks. He has been warning and teaching Timothy, and the church at Ephesus and I want to review a little bit of that before we really dive in here this evening.
As we look back at chapter 2 of this letter, we see that Paul has repeatedly given warnings about quarrelling over words and similar ideas. He has done in verses 14, 16, 23 & 24. With that repetition, I think we might want to pay attention.
In verse 15, Paul tells us to present ourselves to God. He is showing us that God is who we will stand before. God is the one whose opinion and judgment matter, not mans opinions and judgment. He also challenges us and commands us in this verse to Rightly handle the Word of truth.
2 timothy 2:19, Paul encourages us and promises us that what God says will come to pass when he tells us that Gods Firm foundation will stand steady. A Mighty Fortress is our God, as Martin Luther sings.
2 Timothy 2:22, Paul tells us to flee our youthful passions. We are to repent from and run quickly away from our sins and our temptations. We are instead to pursue with that same passion and intensity righteousness.
In verse 24, he tells us that we are to be kind to everyone, no matter who and especially our opponents. And one of the reasons being that, as Paul shows us in verse 25, we should desire that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth.
That’s where Paul has been, writing to Timothy and where we will pick up today, with Paul continuing and looking at false teachers. These weeks passage we will be looking at is 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells Timothy:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

May God Bless the reading of his Holy, inspired and sufficient Word.

So, Paul left off with some encouragement at the end of chapter 2, that God grants repentance leading to the knowledge of Truth and we are working our way, trying spread the good news of the Gospel and living a righteous life instead of a life of son.
But Paul says here, understand this… know this, this is truth. Things are not going to automatically be all hunky dory. It wont all be so easy as it can sometimes seem to be.
A common false teaching that’s out there right now is “If we are nice to them, they will be saved.” It goes right along the lines of “It doesn’t matter what we do to get them through the door, as long as they come to church.” You see churches around that do these massive giveaways in order to get people through the doors. Or they sing secular songs and put on, basically concerts as their worship. They have the smoke machines, and lasers and the like. In those things, there is no Gospel.
With no Gospel, there is no salvation. Things are not going to be as easy as we want them to go. There is a reason that Jesus warns against the easy path and the wide gate (Matthew 7)
And so, understand that in the last days, there will be difficulties. When the Bible says last days, it is referring to the entirety of time from Christs first coming, which finished with his ascension, and goes all the way through until his second coming that we are still waiting on. These times will be difficult.
These things we are going to look at, they were happening in Paul and Timothy’s time, and they are happening today. As the preacher says over and over in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. In verses 2-5, Paul lists a long number of things that mark people of the last days. This is specifically in context of False teachers and those who listen to and follow false teachers, but it’s also a pretty general description of the culture around us, including those within the church, that call themselves and maybe even think themselves Christians but truly are not.
This is as true in Timothy’s day as it is today. Paul is telling Timothy, when you go out and you believe and you share the truth and you live the truth, this is what you can expect to encounter. This is what we can look around and expect to find when we deal with people outside of the forgiveness of Christ.
And I’m just going to touch on a few of these attributes, we are not going to go in depth into each of the 18 characteristics that Paul’s lists here. Again, I want you to see what Paul is talking about here. These are prevalent in the days of the early church and in the Ephesian church.
First, the first one we will touch on and the first one Paul mentions, is that people will be lovers of self. This might be easy to picture for the young generation today. This is the Selfie generation, right? But, again, this not new to today. And you know who these people are that are lovers of self. Those who tend to only talk about themselves. They have a talent of making every conversation about them. No matter what you are going through, no matter how bad or how good you are doing, they’ve been worse than your worst and better than your best. Their worship tends to be focus on them and what they are doing and who they are instead of who God is and what God has done. They insert themselves into every story in the Bible, making it about them instead of about Jesus. We all know these people.
Now, sometimes, we can fall into one or more of those categories. Sometimes we give in to the temptation to be the center of the universe. That’s why we should constantly be testing even our emotions, attitudes and desires against scripture.

Paul next warns against those who are lovers of money. We looked at this some back in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 9 & 10. Paul wrote then, but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
One of the fastest spreading false teachings spreading throughout the world today is the Prosperity Gospel, or Health and Wealth Gospel. It stems from greed at its core, from the love of money. And its teaching, in essence is that God wants every single one of his children to be wealthy and to be healthy. No debt, no struggles, no sicknesses, no cancers, some even go so far as to say no death. It’s a promise for God to fulfill all our world desires. And its from Satan. They also claim that God won’t give it to you unless you ask for it, or even demand it. And if he doesn’t give it to you, if you don’t get that promotion, if your marriage fails, if he doesn’t heal or whatever, it means that you didn’t pray hard enough, or sincerely enough or have enough faith, or any number of other things that put the fault directly on you. This is evil and its false teaching from the pits of hell. Most ministries and preachers you see on TV fall into this category. If you need to “sow a seed of faith,” Its almost certainly in this category.
One of the main problems is that it takes all power away from God, did you notice that? And it puts it directly on you. Its because of your faith and your actions and your prayers that God will finally be able to do what he wanted to do for you. No. God is sovereign and does what he wants, when he wants, whatever he wants, regardless of anything about us. And this comes from the love of money. All sorts of evil come from the love of money.
Paul warns us about these people who are unappeasable. This is a big one we see in society today. If you and I disagree on something, we can stay in disagreement. We can respect each other, we can *gasp* tolerate each other and we can either agree to disagree and goon with our lives or we can be friends who differ on an issue.
But what have we seen more and more recently around us? No, we can’t disagree with each other! You will be poked, prodded, shamed, yelled out, jailed, publicly ridiculed, threatened with violence and legislated into agreeing. And then, even if you end up agreeing with them, its still not enough. They take another step to the side and say, “Nope, that’s not the line anymore, here is the new line.”
I want to share just one high profile, recent example. Chick-Fil-A had come under fire a number of years ago because their owner at the time, who has since passed away, said that he supports the biblical view of marriage. The company would donate to charities which included some that held to a biblical view of marriage as well. This past November, I think it was, they announced they would no longer be donating to those biblical charities, but to broader charities including those who support or affirm the LGBTQ lifestyle. Problem solved, right? Wrong. As Pastor Gabe Hughes writes: This new strategy Chick-Fil-A is following has never worked. Almost every business that has caved to the rage mob has suffered for it- Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the NFL, the Boy Scouts, etc. After Chick-Fil-A announced changes in giving, GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) came out the very next day and said it wasn’t enough. You must bow before their sex gods, beg for mercy and fly their flag, then maybe they’ll forgive you and not until you meet them on their terms.

The very definition of unappeasable.

Paul also points out those who are disobedient to their parents. What I specifically want to point out with this, just as in Romans 1, in the last part of the chapter where Paul lists out a number of sins, that included in these lists of sins is being disobedient to your parents. My point is not to stand up here and tell you all to obey your parents. You are all out from under your parent’s authority as adults. My point is that we all have sins that we dismiss as unimportant, or minor or whatever. We read through these lists and its so easy to dismiss this sin as not important or valid or whatever. But one we start doing that, we cannot be appeased, and we continue to take steps to dismiss more and more sins. Gods Word is perfect and sufficient. What he calls sin is sin, no matter the time, the culture, the society or the feelings of us. We don’t get to pick and choose which sins matter. The wages of each and every sin is death. This does not mean that we are the Old Testament nation of Israel and we are still holding to the civil punishments for these sins. When one disobeys his parents, we are not going to stone him to death, but it means that its still a sin.
Next, similar, but different to being lovers of self, false teachers and those who follow them tend to be swollen with conceit. Not only is it all about them, but they are never wrong. They cannot be corrected. They either will ignore and pretend not to hear, or they will stomp off in a huff or they will attack when corrected.
Again, this is one where we all tend to react wrongly. None of us is comfortable being corrected. None of us wants to be wrong. And so, we search ourselves. If some one offers up correction, we look at it and see if there is anything to it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. But the worst thing to do is dismiss it out of hand. Now, the more gentle and loving the correction is offered, the easier it is to hear and the easier it is to acknowledge what needs to be corrected. This means that when we correct someone, we should strive to do so in a gentle and living manner. However, even if someone comes at you in a hostile and angry manner, take time to look at the actual criticism and see if there is anything that you can take from it.
Lastly, for me one of the biggest and most condemning of these characteristics, Paul mentions those who have the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. What a person portrays on the outside, or what they say, does not always indicate who they actually are. Many people, easiest to see in those who are in public spotlight, claim to be Christians, or claim the teachings of Jesus, they have an appearance of godliness. But when you listen to what they actually believe, and when you watch how they actually live, they deny the power of God, of His Word and of living a godly lifestyle. This happens from people from all walks. Right now, its super easy to see in politicians from each side of the aisle. We see it in religious leaders unfortunately all to often. When churches deny that Jesus, during his earthly ministry was not God, they are denying his power no matter what form of Godliness they are putting on.
We see in our families, coworkers and neighbors. In polling in recent years, 90% of Americans say that they believe in God, regardless of what their definition is. 90% of Americans hold to a form of Godliness. In similar polling, somewhere just north of 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Not all of this 75% actually believe in what the Bible says needs to be believed in order to be a Christian.
America, with its history of rebelling against authority and building up the idea if rugged individualism, pick yourself up with your bootstraps, doesn’t lend itself to Biblical Christianity too easily. Let me explain. Typical, historic American ideals are to not depend on anyone else, to do everything for yourself, that no one can tell you what to do, that you are your own authority. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, says that you CAN’T do it on your own. It says that God is the ultimate authority. It says that you have to depend on Jesus for your salvation.
So many today, in our country are clothing themselves in their own righteousness, trusting in their own form of godliness as opposed to staying biblically true and being clothed in Christs righteousness and trusting in God’s godliness.

At the end of this list of characteristics and attributes, Paul says what should have been going through all of our minds, Avoid these people! It does not bring any good. It does not honor good to break bread and fellowship with such people.
Again, this is not talking about someone who sins once, who gives in to temptation or is in the midst of progressing in their sanctification, growing in spiritual maturity. This is not about having differences of opinions about secondary, non-Gospel issues. This is for those who continually, stubbornly, actively hold to false teaching and spread that false teaching, driving heresy and division through Christs church.
He also knows from scripture, such as we looked at last week, such as what Paul writes about first in 1 Corinthians 5:2, to break fellowship with someone who is in unrepentant sexual sin, to kick them out of the church. Later, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-10, we see Paul saying that once one has repented and been forgiven, they are to be received back into fellowship.
If we break fellowship, if we refuse to worship with someone, if we are to avoid some one for the reasons we look at here today, the idea is that we are continuing to pray that God would grant them the repentance that leads to the knowledge of truth. And if they do, like the father welcomes the prodigal son with open arms, we also welcome them back with open arms. That is the end goal, but until then, we are called to protect the church, to protect the congregation in total and to protect those who are still learning and growing and susceptible to false teaching, we are to protect them from these divisive, untrue, influences.

Paul then shows the effects, very practically and specifically to the church in Ephesus, of these false teachers spreading through the congregation. We see this in verses 6 & 7. In the Ephesian church at that time, the false teachers around were particularly able to deceive and to distract the women in the church. Paul was not just writing about esoteric, theoretical problems that might pop up someday, somewhere. This was having a specific, quantifiable effect. This is not just things that we are learning so that we have head knowledge, but this is real life.
And I want to point out what Paul says, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. These who are deceived by the false teachers, always reading always studying. That’s a good thing isn’t it? But read what he is saying. Always learning, never arriving at the knowledge if the truth. Always looking for something, never satisfied. For these people, the Bible is not enough. They feel that they need to have God speak personally to them, and to reveal truth that they are not able to find is Gods revelation that is the Holy Bible.
I don’t like to name names of this sort of thing because I don’t like to give false teachers this much publicity, but as a part of shepherding and protecting the flock, I am seeing the need to do this. I’m sorry if some of you have this book at home, but one huge, clear example of this is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This is a popular devotional book primarily focused towards women. Here’s the thing. In the introduction, Sarah Young says that reading the bible was not enough for her. She was chasing the experiences and the feelings of a personal presence of God. She wrote the book by listening for God to talk to her and them writing down the words of God. She claims divine inspiration that is only attritable to the books of the Bible and she rejects the sufficiency and completeness of the Bible itself. She also writes it from the perspective of Jesus, meaning she is putting her writings, her words, that she thinks are Gods words, putting them in Jesus mouth.
And this is one of the most popular “Christian” books sold in the last number of years and has a whole lot of spin offs as well. But its heresy. It needs to be avoided and its claiming that the Bible isn’t enough and that it is the very Words of God.
We will get more into this in the next few weeks, as Paul writes more about the scriptures, but let’s be really clear here this morning. Quite simply, the Bible is sufficient. It is complete. God did not forget to reveal something to us then. The Bible is his complete revelation and his complete Word. Nothing else is needed.
Now, as we read through these warnings and the negative things that are going in Ephesus and seeing how they are playing out today as well, it can look dark and gloomy. But there is always good news that breaks through the bad. Yes, false teacher will come. They will sway many. They will go against the truth and they will add to Gods word and they will deny Gods word.
Paul shows us the same thing happened with Jannes and Jambres. These were two of the magicians in Pharaoh’s court as they were opposing Moses. Paul is equating these two false magicians to the false teachers that we will encounter today.
But, Gods Word, the truth of God himself will ultimately prevail. On the Gospel, on the Word of God, as Jesus sys in Matthew 16:18, I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.
I like the way Ligon Duncan sums up this passage as he writes:
‘Timothy, you are going to live and minister in difficult days–dire days. Don’t expect it to be easy going. Don’t expect to see the world stay out of the church. Don’t expect to see the church unhindered by false teaching, even in her pales. No, you expect difficult days, Timothy; but as you expect that difficulty, not only make sure that your congregation has the right attitude of what they are and what they’re about in the kind of circumstance that they’re in, but you make sure that your congregation is spiritually discerning, so that that congregation can tell a false prophet from a true preacher of God’s word. And remember, Timothy: no matter how bad it looks, the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. The false prophets’ folly will be uncovered and revealed. They will not have the last word.’

The folly of these false teachers and those whom they have deceived and follow them, their folly will end up becoming known to all. They will be exposed publicly eventually. Sometimes that will happen here and now. Sometimes that won’t happen until the end, when we are standing before God and he is separating the sheep from the goats. At that point, as Paul writes multiple times, every knee will bow, and every tongue shall confess Jesus is LORD.
No one will be able to put on a form of godliness, but instead all will see the glory and the righteousness of God and the truth of His Word. By then, it will be too late to change minds. That’s why we pray for their repentance here and now, while there is still a chance for these false teachers and unbelievers to come to the knowledge of truth.
There are not many truths. There is not knowledge of various truths of your own truth. There is just truth. Gods Truth. Trust in that truth. Serve that truth and choose that now.
I can’t say it any better than the Word of God itself does, Joshua 24:14 & 15, he says:
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Now, one of the ways that we honor and serve Jesus Christ is by remembering him and doing what he told us to do. We do this on the first Sunday of each month. We remember Jesus Christ. We remember his works and we remember his live and his sacrifice. We remember Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.
Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have two things to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.
Second, this is a time of reflection. Your hearts and mind should be clear and right before God. We, as followers of Christ, have been forgiven, but 1 John says that we are to confess our sins. If you have sin that you haven’t dealt with before God, take this time to do so. IF you can’t, it is better to pass the elements and make your heart right with God.
There is no judgment in these things, Paul wants us to make sure that our minds are focused on the remembrance of Christ and his works and love for us.
So, what we are going to do is Mike and Jim will come up. One of them will pray for the bread, which symbolize Jesus body. The body that he gave up for us to pay the penalty for our sins. We will then pass those out and when they are all passed out, we will take the bread together as a church family, unite underneath the Gospel. Then, the other one will pray for the juice, which is a symbol for Christs blood. His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will pass those out and again, take them as a church family once they are all passed out.

Let us go ahead and prepare our hearts and come to the LORDS table.

2 Timothy 2:20-26 Life in the Local Church: A Life Worthy of the Gospel

2 Timothy 2:20-26
Life in the Local Church
A Life Worthy of the Gospel

 

 

Good Morning, please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Timothy chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.

As you open your Bible, we want to look at where we are in Paul’s letter to his protégé, Timothy. The passage we looked at last week is completely tied together with the passage we are looking at this week and so I want to refresh for some of us, a few of the things that Paul mentioned in verses 14-19.

First is of course, the main verse and possibly one of the main verse in all of Paul’s letters, verse 15 reads, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

          HE continues to make his point that we are to avoid quarrels over words and avoid irreverent babble. That subject, that line of thought is going to come up again here today.

And then lastly, leading directly into the verses we will look at this morning, Paul ends verse 19 by telling us, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

          One of the main points of that passage being that we are to repent and turn away from our sins. It is a call to holiness. We are to live a new life, and that our actions will show our faith and our love of Christ.

That being said, lets go ahead and read the passage we will look at this morning, 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 20-26. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to ty a variety of translations and find the one that stays faithful to the original languages and makes the Word of God the most understandable to you. Then bring that Bible and follow along as we read Gods Word.

2 Timothy 2:20-26, Paul under direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes Holy Scripture, telling Timothy:

 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,[d] he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

 

Thus, says the Holy, inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God.

 

So, we start here with Paul showing us the concept of what Holiness is. To be holy means to be set apart. And Paul uses an analogy of household items to show this point. Some vessels in the house are made of silver and gold and they are designed, they are created for, their purpose is noble and honorable tasks.

Other vessels, instead, are made of wood and clay, and they are designed for and purposed for dishonorable tasks. Some vessels are created to be set aside and set apart and made holy. Some are not created to be set aside and set apart in order to be made holy, though they still serve the purpose of God.

Paul says that we, as vessels can be cleansed from dishonorable and unclean use and design and purpose and change to be a clean and honorable vessel, useful to the master and ready for all good works.

Now, I know some of you are very good cleaners. If you are given something to clean, no matter how dirty, I trust that, if you hand it back to me, it will be clean. I don’t trust me that much, that’s for sure. Often, my preference, if it’s bad enough, would be to throw it out and buy something new.

I don’t want to be crude, put when Paul says dishonorable uses and the like, when talking about the vessels, I want you to think of a bed pan or from the olden days, chamber pots. Thinking of that, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good of a cleaner you are, I’m not trusting that item to ever, EVER, being clean enough to eat out of. Sorry, just not that trusting.

But the Good News of Jesus Christ is this. We are born as dishonorable vessels, as unclean spirits before God. Through Jesus life, death and resurrection, through the work of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of God, we are able to be cleansed and made clean, changing from vessels made for dishonorable use, to a vessel made for Gods glory, for honorable use, a vessel made to be holy and set apart.

We can and do often try to cleanse ourselves. We try harder to be good. We use our strength to try to stop sinning. We try to bleach and sanitize our lives. And in fact, we often use that as a reason to put off coming to God. “As soon as I clean up my life, then Ill come to God.” But we can’t clean ourselves. It takes God the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside before we can do that. We need to come to God before we get clean otherwise, we never end up coming to him.

And Paul says, once you belong to Christ, then cleanse yourself from all the unclean things in your life! Get all the unholy away from you!

Turn!

Run!

Flee!

Put the sin in your life, the unholiness around you and the unclean, put it to death. This is so important in the scriptures. Isaiah 52:11 commands us: Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. 

Isaiah chapter 6 tells of Isaiah coming and standing before the LORD. His response, being in the presence of God, he says in verse 5:

I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

And the response to Isaiah in the following two verses:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

 

We see the twofold point played out here. We are unclean, unholy. We cannot undo this ourselves. But God (remember we talked about that phrase last week?) But God himself is the one who can make us clean.

And this cleanliness is not just a surface level cleaning. Its not just on the outside, producing a moral outer shell on our lives. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:27 & 28:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 

That’s not clean. That’s not changed. That’s not Holy. That doesn’t touch the heart. That doesn’t touch the deep recess of the mind where sin still sits and crouches and lurks. This was American society up until relatively recently. Yes, individuals were godly, and the outer moral shell of the country was set up by those godly values. But the rest of the country was able to stick their head in the sand and keep sin and wickedness hidden and below the surface, while portraying the appearance of godliness. Now they are not even trying to maintain that appearance of course.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

What chance do we have when the very thing we need to change and to cleanse is within our very hearts. By the way, “Follow your heart,” worst advice in the history of the world.

The chance that we have is God himself. Ezekiel 36:25-27, God tells his people:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a]

 

God himself, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change our deceitful heart and gives us a new spirit. That new spirit allows us to have saving faith in the only one who can cleanse us from our sins, forgive us, atone for us, God the Son, Jesus Christ.

 

In verses 22-24 here, Paul shows us the expectations of how a Child of God should act. These are not the expectations that would then make us children of God. But instead, because of the change we just mentioned that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, this is a part of that change that comes along with being a child of God. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

          The First thing Paul mentions here in 2 Timothy is that we are to flee our youthful passions. This is not an admonition just for the young, but for all of us as we struggle with temptation. There are some types of sins and temptations that are especially associated with youthful passions. Things like lust, like anger and impulsiveness. Things like rebellion and aggression. Things like lack of self-control and impatience. Vanity and the like. That’s not an exhaustive list, but a sampling of things that we should be on the look out for inside ourselves that we are to flee.

Again, this is not that we should just resist temptation. That’s a given, but its not enough. Charles Spurgeon Writes about these “youthful passions: Run away from them. It is no use contending with them. Fight with the devil. Resist the devil and make him flee but never fight with the flesh. Run away from that. The only way to avoid lust of the flesh is to stay out of its way. If you subject yourself to carnal temptations and fleshly lusts, remember it is almost certain that you will be overcome by them.

         

 

We must ask the question, and Spurgeon partially answers it, why should we flee these temptations? It is because the closer we are to them, the closer we walk near them, the more we will give in to them. The question can never be, “How close to the line can I get?” If that’s our question, we have already crossed it in our heart. That was the game the Pharisees were plating that Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount when he showed us that lusting after a woman in our heart is adultery. Thinking about killing someone in our mind makes us guilty.

Our natural human nature, as a result of the Fall in Genesis 3, our natural nature is a sin nature. In Genesis 4, God tells Cain, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”

          And how do we rule over it? We flee from those sins and temptations. And when we flee from temptation, the direction we run is to pursuing righteousness as Paul brings up next.

And there are two initial things I want to point out here. The first is that these two opposing things are on a spectrum. Our youthful passions, our sinful temptations on one end of the spectrum that we are to flee from. Righteousness on the other end, which we are to be pursuing. The closer we get to one, the further we get from the other.

The second thing is, we have seen Paul identifying the passion and the energy with which we are to flee unholiness. And he is encouraging us to use the same energy, the same conviction, the same passion when we pursue righteousness. And righteousness along with faith, love, and peace.

Paul also shows us that this is not a solo endeavor for us as Christians. We are to pursue these things along with all who call on the LORD with a pure heart. Ligon Duncan writes:

if it is true that bad company corrupts good morals (and it is, because the Bible says it), it is also true that it is in the company of fellow believers that right living and right believing is cultivated. That’s where you grow. That’s where you pursue righteousness: in the company of fellow believers.

 

Christianity is a personal religion, that is for sure. But it is never meant to be a private religion. We are meant to come together, to be involved in each other’s lives and to encourage, love and help each other.

Two of the things that Paul mentions us pursuing include love and peace with each other. And those two are tied together inextricably. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Biblically, we can vehemently disagree with each other over secondary and minor issues, musical styles, translation preferences, parenting methods and so much more. But within that disagreement, we can see past that and into the bottom line.

If I know that you love me and my family and that, above all, you want Gods will to be done, I don’t have to agree with you on those secondary issues or about what Gods will is that we both want done. Knowing that baseline, that love is there for God and for each other, allows us to deal with each other and personality differences and methods of communication that would otherwise cause annoyances, quarrels and fights, leading to division and sin. Love covers a multitude of sins.

 

Paul again comes back to something that he has been warning Timothy about for a letter and a half now, including part of what we looked at last week. He says that we are to avoid foolish and ignorant controversies. We are to rise above these foolish quarrels. Paul says back in verse 16, again, from last week, avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.

          I saw one resource this week sum up why we are to avoid these things in tow points. First, they are false. We talked about truth and untruth. God is truth. Untruth is satanic. Avoid untruth, flee from lies and untruths just like we flee from our youthful passions. Flee from ALL unholiness. And second, avoid these quarrels because they are unproductive. They take your eyes off Jesus and our pursuit of righteousness. And anything that takes our eyes off Jesus is wrong.

In verse 24 & 25, Paul gives us very hard instructions. He writes:  And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.

 

          We, we as the LORDs servants, as Children of God, as honorable vessels, we must not be quarrelsome. We are to be kind to everyone. Kind to who?

We are to be kind to everyone.

Not just those whom we like.

Not just those who vote like us.

Not just those who look like us.

Not just those who worship like us.

Not just those who are nice to us.

Not just those who share similar interests and hobbies with us.

 

We are to be nice to EVERYONE. Full Stop.

 

I know that’s easy for us to say that we do. But you want to be convicted. Watch every joke you make. Watch every word you say. Watch what you say about people that are not around when you say it. Watch what you say about people in the news or on TV. Watch what you say about those who are not here today. Watch what you say. This is not as easy as it sounds. One of the reasons is what else Paul says, we are to patiently endure evil. Not repay evil for evil. But to patiently endure evil.

If there is a fellow believer that you don’t really like, how do you talk to and about them? Do you still, despite it all, treat them as a Child of God? Do you talk to them and about them, treat them like a fellow brother or sister in Christ?

If there is an unbeliever that you don’t really like, how do you talk about them, talk to them and treat them? Do you treat them as a human being, created in the image of God? Do you treat them as being inherently worthy of honor and dignity and respect?

Notice God does not give qualifications here. Not unless they were mean to you. Not unless they talked about you. Not if they treat you well first. Be kind to everyone.

And we are to correct our opponents with gentleness. Not fighting with them. Not mocking them. Not shoving it in their faces. Or insulting or dismissing or patronizing. But we are to correct with gentleness.

We must confront false teaching or wrong teaching, remember that’s one of the biggest things that Paul is addressing in his letters to Timothy. We are to address these teachings firmly, truly but we do so in a way that others will be able to hear and hopefully listen.

And again, why? Why do we have to confront false teachings and false teachers? Why do we correct with gentleness and treat kindly everyone? Because God may grant them repentance, therefore freeing them from the snare of the devil.

We never know who or when God is going to save. No one is beyond Gods reach. We see that in current day, and we see that in the writer of this letter, with Paul. Paul was the last person the early church would have expected to see saved. As long as one is drawing breath, there is still hope that God will indeed save and free one from his wrath and judgment.

 

The enemy loves to use believers to turn off and become a stumbling block to potential children of God.

 

Our responsibility is to act well, to treat others with respect, treating everyone kindly. We are to forgive quickly and to bear the fruit of the spirit. We are to sow the seeds of the Gospel and to love Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign and in control. He waters and brings the increase. He grants repentance. He changes our heart, giving us the gift of faith. And it is by his grace that we are given that faith and that this faith is in Jesus Christ. That faith is what God uses to clothe us in Christ’s righteousness and it is through that faith that we see the forgiveness of our sins.

By this faith, we are justified, declared innocent in Gods eyes.   It is through this faith that we are Sanctified. That we bear the fruit of the Gospel and we grow in holiness, that we grow in spiritual maturity, that we grow in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. It is through this faith that we will be glorified. That we will be resurrected into our new, physical, sinless and perfected bodies so that we can dwell with and worship in the glory of the LORD

forever and ever and ever and ever. And when we get through with all the forever’s, the Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Timothy 1:8-18: Pauls call to Faithfullness and Service (with presentation about Caring For Women Pregnancy Resource Center)

In addition to the sermon as normal, we had a guest speaker/presentation as well. This Sunday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. We had Penny Derosier, the Executive Director of Caring For Women, our local Pregnancy Resource Center. So First, you will hear her presentation, and then you will hear the sermon. Thanks guys!

 

2 Timothy 1:8-18
Life in the Local Church
Paul’s Call to Faithfulness & Service

Good Morning! Grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy, chapter 1. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, that we are calling “Life in the Local Church.”
This letter, 2 Timothy, is to be Paul’s last letter we have record of before his death, historically attributed to the Caesar Nero, somewhere around 64 AD. Paul knows that the end of his life is near, he knows that his time is short. He is imprisoned in Rome, Awaiting trial, alone. And while he is looking forward to going home to be with the LORD, he knows that this work is not quite done yet, not with this letter still to be written. Not with this information still to be passed on to Timothy, to the church at Ephesus and to us.
Paul, of course, misses Timothy. He wants to see Timothy before he is gone. Later in the letter, he will ask Timothy to come to him in Rome. In the meantime, he urges Timothy to be faithful to the calling from God that Timothy has received. He exhorts Timothy to use the gifts that God has given Him, just as each one of us, as Christians have bee given gifts by God to be used for God. And Paul tells Timothy to do so with discernment, power, love and self-control. Timothy is to speak and act the truth in love.
So, let’s go ahead and read this week’s passage, 2 Timothy chapter 1, verses 8 through 18. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, that is my preferred translation. I do encourage you to find your preferred translation, to have it with you here on Sunday Mornings and to follow along in the text as we go through it. 2 Timothy 1:8-18, Paul writes the very Words of God, inspired, inerrant, infallible, breathed out by the Holy Spirit, saying.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Thus says the Word of God. Amen.

The section we are looking at this morning starts off with Paul writing the word, Therefore. And so it is connecting what we saw last week with what we are reading this week. This is specifically in reference to Paul telling Timothy that we do not have a spirit of fear, and Timothy not using the gifts that God has entrusted him with, at least not to the extent that he is supposed to be.
Paul says, do not be ashamed. He gives us two specific things that we should not be ashamed of. There are things we should feel shame for. Our sin should shame us. It should shame us into repentance and turning away from trusting in our so-called goodness, our so-called righteousness and turn instead to Christs righteousness.
But these two things should not shame us. First, do not be ashamed of the testimony of the LORD, in other words, of the Gospel. When people find out you believe the Gospel, the true, biblical Gospel, people will say a lot of things. People will say that you are brainwashed, that your parents forced it on to you. People will say that there are many paths, that the Gospel is not exclusive. People will say that it is a crutch, that only weak people need it. People will say that you are just going along with the majority culture. People will say that the Gospel is ignorant, intolerant and archaic. People will say that only uneducated people will believe that. People will say that the morals of the Bible are wrong. People will say a lot of things.

People are wrong.

Paul famously writes in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,. Do not be ashamed of the testimony of the LORD, for He is the one who saves, who forgives, who justifies and who glorifies.
And second, Paul tells Timothy, do not be ashamed of me. Paul was imprisoned, for the very Gospel that he is not ashamed of and that he tells us not to be ashamed of, but he is in prison. Many would be ashamed to be associated with Paul at that point. Many were in fact, we will see a few examples of this in a few verses, in the section we read this morning.
And think about that. Does that really seem far fetched to us if we think about it honestly? If a friend of ours gets arrested, say he gets arrested, as some have in Britain for example, of preaching the Gospel on the street, in public and being arrested for hate speech. How many of us would try to distance ourselves from the entire situation? Its easy to say, NO, not me!
Peter said the same thing! We see in Luke 22, this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, starting in verse 31:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Its so easy to say, “Not me, Never, I will never be ashamed!” And hopefully that’s true, but it takes more than just saying it. Instead of being ashamed, Paul says, share in the suffering that is for the Gospel. Paul was imprisoned because of the Gospel. He was imprisoned because he was being faithful to the call.
Now, he is telling us, telling Timothy, to be faithful to the call. When faithful to the call, there will be suffering. Through our faithfulness to the call, and more accurately, through Gods faithfulness we can persevere and share in the suffering.
This is not to say that we are to seek out suffering, as if it were penance. But through the power of God, we can submit to and stand tall through the suffering. We see in Acts 5:41, speaking of the Apostles when they were released from being jail for preaching the gospel, scriptures say, then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

And it is the power of God who saved us and call us to a holy calling. This is our sanctification. That is what he called us to. To be conformed to the image of his son, Romans 8:29. To repent of our sins. To submit in faith to his complete and total authority. To live in faith. To grow in wisdom and knowledge. To grow in the fruits of the spirit and to live a holy and quiet life.
None of this is by our own works, as Paul says here, and as he says often in his letters, our regeneration is initiated by God, by the calling of the Holy Spirits and it precedes our faith. Our faith is in response to his calling.
And He calls us, not because of anything that we have done or will do, but because of his purpose and grace Paul says. We did not do anything to make Him think we were good enough. He did not see anything in us and then decide to save us. He did not see that we would “accept him” and then decide to save us.
He decides to save those whom He saves based on His purposes and His grace. Nothing else. We didn’t earn His love. He chose to love us. He chose us. He chose to love us, to save us, because He chose to do so. We didn’t earn it, we are chosen. And He determined this grace that he gives us and the grace of Christ Jesus before time began, from the beginning.
God’s grace: appointed and determined before time began. Manifested in the incarnation, in the life of Christ Jesus, truly God and yet, truly man. God became man, born a human baby, lived a perfect life, fulfilled the covenant of works that Adam broke on all our behalf. Gods grace manifested through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
He abolished death, defeating it by being raised from the dead by God the Father. He brought life, through the forgiveness of sin. By the shedding of his blood, he paid the wages of sin, wages he didn’t owe, because he had no sin. Wages that we couldn’t pay because we are sinful.
And this is the Gospel. That Christ fulfilled the Covenant of Works so that we may be included in the Covenant of Grace. Paul writes in Romans 5:8 & 9: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

This is the Gospel of which Paul was called. This is the Gospel of which Paul was appointed a preacher, a teacher, and an Apostle. That Gospel and that call are why Paul is imprisoned. Because Paul; was faithful to the Word of God and because he was faithful and followed through with the call that God gave him.
We see this happening today throughout the world. We see nations, governments telling people that it is illegal to be a Christian. We have many more that are saying it is illegal to proselytize, to evangelize, to share the Bible or the Gospel with any one within that country. We see the worldwide culture moving towards it being illegal to speak or preach against other religions, worldviews or behaviors and therefore illegal to speak or preach what the Bible says is true. That’s not here yet in America, but make no mistake, they are trying, and it is coming.
Paul says, that for all of that, he says, I am not ashamed. He says, I know in whom I have believed. The one who is called Faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). The Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords (Rev 19:16).
And He will guard what he has entrusted to us, namely, our salvation. Our regeneration, our justification and the glorification that is yet to come. All of it is a gift from God from his own purposes and grace and all of it is firmly held in Jesus hands. He will guard it until that day of judgment, and he will not let go of those who are His, as in righteousness he judges and makes war. (Rev 19:11)

Paul tells Timothy, follow the pattern. Do what you have been taught and what you have seen to be true. James 1:22 says to be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. It is not just about sitting here and hearing what I am telling you, hearing what the Word of God says, but we need to follow and obey it as well.
Paul was a sound and faithful teacher. His words were trustworthy. Paul spoke with and in faith. He spoke with and in truth. He encourages us to listen and learn and obey and live with our faith in and to the truth of Jesus Christ.
And the Holy Spirit will help guard the truth in us. He will guard the sound doctrine, the deposit entrusted to us. God says in Ezekiel that he will turn our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. The Bible says that the law is no longer written on tablets of stone but written on our hearts. Now, we know of course, that Jeremiah tells us we cannot trust our own heart, not in and of itself. The heart is deceitful above all things, he says. But we can trust the LORD, we can trust the Holy Spirit to seal the truth in our hearts and to, as Paul says here, dwell in us and guard that deposit within us.
Charles Spurgeon writes: This is what we need. If the Holy Spirit is in us, we shall never trifle with the truth. He is the lover and revealer of truth, and we shall press the doctrines of the Word of God and the Word of God itself, nearer and nearer to our hearts in proportion as the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

Seek the truth as you read and learn Gods Word. Seek not to confirm your thoughts, ideas and beliefs, but for the very Word of God to reveal the truth in you and to you. That the very Word of God would change you and mold you. That the Holy Spirit would guide you in truth and would direct your knowledge and build your discernment of what is true and what is lie.
When you know the truth, when it is revealed to you, do not be ashamed of it. Do not be ashamed of the Bible. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel. Do not be ashamed of Jesus, his teachings, his life or his death on the cross. Do not be ashamed of his resurrection or his calling He has placed on you. Do not be ashamed of being faithful.
You belong to Christ. He who is faithful and true. He calls us to be like Him. We are made in his image. We are called to grow more and more like Him. We are called to be faithful as Christ is faithful.

Paul shows and names a few examples of both faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Some decided that they were indeed ashamed of Paul and his imprisonment. Some decided to leave Paul and his company. They cut ties with him, disavowed him, probably said things like, “We always knew there was something about him. Something just seemed off…”
Paul mentions Asia, that all who were there, turned away from him. Asia was then, what we know now of as Turkey and that region. Ephesus was the main city, one of the main powers in that region at the time. Paul was emphasizing to Timothy that many backs in the Ephesian church had turned their back on him as well.
Chief amongst those who left him and were unfaithful to him were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Likely these two are named specifically because their abandonment, their disloyalty was so heartbreaking and so devastating to Paul. It was likely that he depended on them. And then they were gone.
As you go through hard times, as you go through difficult situations, people will fall away. They will leave your side. Friends will leave, turn away, abandon you. Sometimes it will be unintentional, and they won’t even realize they are doing it. Sometimes it will be very intentional, very purposeful. Sometimes we will be those friends.
We are not perfect friends. Our closest friends are not perfect either. I continue to think back to Jesus closest friends. Jesus, the man who was perfect. The man who would have been the best friend a person could have. And his three closest friends continually let him down. Peter, James and John, the three who joined Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration, who saw Moses and Elijah, couldn’t stay awake for a short period of time when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood. His closest friends, his disciples scattered when he was arrested, tried and crucified. Peter denied him three times. Only John, bringing Mary, Jesus mom, only he came back and was at the foot of the cross as he died.
We will not be perfect, faithful and loyal friends. We will let our friends down at various points. There will be friends of ours will let us down, will not be perfect, faithful or loyal at all times. We cannot expect to be treated better than Jesus himself was treated.
But some will people do remain faithful. Onesiphorus was faithful. He often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of his prison chains. Onesiphorus not only stayed faithful to Paul, but when he got to Rome, he actively and vigorously sought out Paul. He went above and beyond what was expected in order to show Paul he was loved and supported.
Onesiphorus is to be an example to us. He showed his faith in Christ by his works, by his actions. He showed his faith in Christ by his obedience, his loyalty, his faithfulness. Onesiphorus will hear on the last day, “Well Done, Good and Faithfull servant.” The LORD will grant him mercy on that day. Onesiphorus will be saved from judgment and will be with the LORD in eternity future.
Heres the thing. Character shows through. Good, bad or indifferent, character shows through. Paul points out that Timothy knows the character of Onesiphorus and all that he did in service to the LORD in Ephesus.
People will see your character. And it will be a testament to where your faith and where your trust truly lies. Now, its true that people who don’t know Christ can be good, moral, high character people. But what is that a testament of. Nothing else but Gods common grace.
Those of us who do know the LORD, or more accurate to my own experiences, who have come to know the LORD later, whatever our character was, good or bad, it will improve through our sanctification. It wont always happen instantly, at least not on the outside, not visibly.
I was thinking recently about my own growth and sanctification. When I became a Christian, thinks changed and started changing on the inside immediately. And some things probably changed on the outside, in terms of my behavior and what not. But since I was a good, nice, moral guy there wasn’t the immediate, drastic shift that all could see. I was thinking back to the things that really have changed in me and the ones that mark right now the difference in who I was then and who I am now, those didn’t start visibly changing for a couple of years.
So, it wont always show right away on the outside, but God is growing you, that you may be conformed to the image of his son. His chose you. He loves you. He saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace.

To God be the glory, the honor and all praises. Amen.

Let’s Pray.

1 Timothy 6:11-16 Life in the Local Church: Active Faith

1 Timothy 6:11-16

Life in the Local Church

Active Faith

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 6. First, Merry Christmas! Second, if you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one off the back table as our gift to you.

Now, Paul is writing to his Son in the faith, Timothy. He is closing this letter, and historically, we know that he is beginning to wind down in his life. 2 Timothy, which we are going to go through as soon as we finish 1 Timothy here in the next couple of weeks, is the last letter that Paul will write.

But here, Pau; is writing Timothy to help him combat an outbreak of false teaching that has come into the church in Ephesus. So, he has specifically dealt with those teachers and the teachings. As a part of that, Paul has also been encouraging, exhorting, teaching and building up Timothy in his faith.

In the passage we are looking at this morning, Paul has finished dealing specifically with the false teachers. He will refer to some of the teachings, but he is done addressing them directly.

He just finished addressing their evil motivations, their evil results, and their evil consequences. They have within them and as their motivation, the love of money, the love of power and influence and fame. They sow discord, discontentment, dissension and with their slander, they sow disunity.

Paul will refer to those things as he turns to address Timothy directly in this mornings passage. I am going to read 1 Timothy, chapter 6, verses 11-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, sharing the very Word of God, writes to Timothy:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word. Amen.

 

So, Paul refers to all the things that the False teachers are, all the things that the false teachers teach, all the sins the false teachers commit, and all the fallout and discord that comes from false teachers. And in referring to those things, Paul tells Timothy to Flee from those things! Flee! Get as far away from those things as possible.

Scripture is full of admonishes to flee sin. A few specific instances are that we are to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). We are to flee from youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22) And to submit to God and resist the devil so he will flee us (James 4:7) 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to abstain from every form of evil.

These are the things that are of the world. These are the things that are of false teachers. These are the things of people who are not of God. And we are to run as fast and as hard as we can in the absolute opposite direction of these things. We are not to entertain them, or to flirt with them, getting close and saying, just this little bit wont hurt, or no one will ever know.

That is not the attitude or the heart of a Man of God, as Paul calls Timothy here. A Man of God loves God. If he loves God, He loves Christ. And Jesus tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In conjunction with that, 1 John 5:2&3 tells us by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

          A Man of God is broken because of his sin and knowing what his sin has done to God. A man of God recognizes that he is sinful and in need of a savior. A man of God recognizes that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation. A man of God has put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ and repented of his sins. A man of God is grateful and gracious for the grace of God that, through faith in Christ, his sins have been forgiven. A man of God is gracious in forgiving the sins of others around him. A man of God stands firm and courageously for the truth of who God is and what he has said and what he has done. A Man of God can be a man or a woman, but they are a child of God, through the grace of God, by faith in Christ.

Paul here tells Timothy, calls him a man of God and tells him to flee from the things that are not of God, and to pursue instead these things; righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Those are the things that a Man of God does.

We are to pursue righteousness. Jesus has some things to say about this in the Sermon on the Mount. First, in the Beatitudes, he says,” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) Just a few moments later, he points out to his followers, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Perfect righteousness is not something we have an ability to achieve or accomplish, but it is what we are to strive for, and more importantly, it is the standard that God holds us to. Perfect righteousness is following and holding to the laws and commands of God, in heart, in mind and in action. Something that, in the course of history, because of sins affect on us all, only Jesus Christ has been able to achieve.

The man of God is to pursue Godliness. We are to live as much like God as possible. Paul writes in Romans 8:29, part of Gods purposes in all things, as he says, for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

          Godliness is being like God. Not acting like you are God but acting as God acts. Having a heart for those God has a heart for. Acting the way, he would act, rejecting and avoiding what he would reject and avoid. Living a holy life, motivated by a holy heart, thought with a holy mind.

 

 

We are to pursue faith. Faith is our rock-solid foundation. Hebrews 11:6 says, without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

There is a reason that Faith Alone is one of the five tenets of the Protestant Reformation. Salvation by faith alone. Not Faith and Works. Not Faith and kept by works. Not Works. But Faith alone, this is what a Man of God holds. Faith in Christ and Christ alone.

The man of God is to pursue love. Paul didn’t need to clarify this, but such false teaching, or weak, superficial teaching has infested the church that we do need to clarify this today. This is biblical love. This is Godly love that Paul is talking about. This is not worldly love. This is not everything we do is fine. This is not I love tacos, I love the sun, I love USA, I love God, all loves meaning the same thing.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4, that we are to speak the truth in love. This means that we are not to speak the truth and use it as an excuse to be harsh or to be a jerk. We don’t get to say, well it’s not my fault if they took it that way, or if they got offended, I said what the bible says. That may be true, but God says that it does matter how we say it, how we approach people and that the truth that we speak, the truth that the Bible speaks is said in love. I once heard it said this way; The Gospel is offensive, there’s no getting around that, but there is nowhere in the Gospel that says we are to be offensive.

A Man of God is to pursue steadfastness. This is kind of a combination, of patience, endurance and taking the long view of what’s going on around you. Steadfastness, sometimes translated, longsuffering. To take a long view. TO know that no matter what is going on in the here and now, that God is in control, that God has already won and that what is promised to come is so much better and completely worth going through what is happening now.

We are to be patient in waiting on the LORD. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that no one knows the day or the hour of his return and that we are to be ready for it. But we are not to toss the future out with the bath water, to mix up a whole bunch of things there. His time is appointed, we know it will happen, even if it seems slow to us.

Peter writes, 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

We see everyday tragedy come up in the news. More than we should, we see shootings, killings, disasters, so much abortion, so much death and destruction. And many cry out “Come quickly, LORD!” But God says that we are to continue to do our duties, to live our godly lives, to pursue him and his righteousness every day until he comes, no matter how long that is.

Lastly, the Man of God is to pursue gentleness. This ties in with some of the others, but when we know and recognize what God has done for us, we should turn around and treat others in the same manner. Those who have repented of their sins and turned in faith to God the Father have received the forgiveness of their sins. A Man of God has had the grace of God, and his mercy just poured out over them. When they sin, when they give in to temptation and them come to God, seeking forgiveness, God is gentle, loving, kind and merciful. If one has not repented of their sins, God will be much less gentle to them. But if we are men of God and we have received the gentleness of God, then we should let that flow through us to treat those around us with gentleness as well.

 

 

After listing those things that Timothy, and we, as his children, should be pursuing, Paul says to Fight the Good Fight. This reinforces the idea, first, of an active faith. That our faith is not incidental to our lives. Everyone has faith. It may be in the one, true, biblical God, in the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three in one, Almighty God. And I pray that it is. Or it could be in our selves and our works, our goodness. It could be in other, so called gods, or spirits, or religions. It could be in our country, our politicians, or our worldviews. It could be science and rationality. But whatever it is, we all have faith, and we all live out our faith. Often, it is a fight, a hard, long fight, just to stay faithful over the course of time. We need those attributes that Paul just told us to pursue in order to fight the good fight.

We fight for the truth; we fight for what’s right. We fight for the Gospel. Even in that fight, we are still called to do so in a godly and loving manner. Sometimes that means that things take longer than we want them to, but that doesn’t mean that God is not working or that we are being unfaithful. Please remember, that not everything we disagree with is false teaching. Not everything we don’t see eye to eye on is worth fighting over and shouting about. Somethings, we just plain disagree on.

But in those things that the false teachers and the world tries to bring into the church, those things that say, sin is not sin. Those things that say Jesus wasn’t God. Those things that say Jesus wasn’t man. Those things that say we can be saved by being a good person, or by following the rules, or by any other method than by grace alone by faith alone. In those things, we fight the good fight.

Paul gives a similar charge at the end of his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 16: 13&14, he writes: Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

One question that pops up, and I think Paul is addressing here, how do we stay steadfast, longsuffering? How do we continue to fight the good fight when we look around and only see what appears to be us losing battle after battle? How do we risk it all in this world?

Paul writes, take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

We can fight the good fight, we can stand firm and we can stay faithful to Christ and his Word, we can risk it all in this world, because our reward is in the next world. Our hope, our faith, our promised destination is in the next world.

We are here for a time, an important time, but a time. We are here to live life and to enjoy life, but we are here to do so in and with Christ. And Christ came so that we may be saved from our sins, clothed in his righteousness and that we may walk through the door, the only door, the door which is Christ, to enter eternity, worshipping and praising God Almighty. This, as opposed to the only other option, life in eternal hellfire and damnation, eternal life with Gods grace, mercy and love, but with Gods vengeance and wrath and justice.

Grab hold of that eternal life! The life to which you were called. Those whom God has called. I return to Romans 8:29, but also add verse 30, where Paul writes: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

We are saved by Gods grace, those of us who are called by God. It is nothing about us. There is nothing we can do to be called. Our salvation is in no way dependent on us. The famous Jonathon Edwards quote that I share often, the only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.

Jesus says in john 6:44 that No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. There is no doubt about what Gods says in the scriptures. But, again, there is a purposeful tension that God puts in the scriptures. If that’s all God says, what point is there to act in any way, to do anything? God will take care of it all and we can just kick back our feet, put them up on our desks and wait. It would be easy to be patient and longsuffering in that instance.

So, God makes both his sovereignty and man’s responsibility, both are biblical teachings. Paul says here that the eternal life to which we are called, of that, we have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Not only were we called, and I would argue that the scriptures say that only after we have been called and because we were called, we make a public confession in front of many witnesses. There is responsibility on our end of things as well.

The faith that God has gifted to us (Eph 2:8-10), that faith, which he called us to and gave us having nothing to do with ourselves, that faith we need to respond to. That faith is an active faith. It is a public faith. We publicly get baptized and we share our faith with those we know and love. We share the Gospel, and we share our testimony, not the same thing by the way. We share it because that’s what God tells us to do. We fight the good fight, the faith of and for faith.

Paul finishes this passage with a combination of encouragement, he charges us, and a doxology, a praise to God. Verses 13-16:

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before[d] Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

 

 

Paul makes one of any connections that Jesus did many things of which we are to follow his example. In this case, making the good confession, confessing who Christ really and truly is, and doing it even when its not easy. Jesus could have saved his life, prevented getting beaten, whipped, mocked, spit on and crucified by providing a defense in from of Pilate.

We see that Paul is charging us, commanding us, encouraging us to lead that holy life he was talking about earlier. To flee from the things of this world, even if they are brought into the church. To turn to Christ, to pursue those things he listed earlier, righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. And we are to do so until Christ returns.

It reminds me of the last lines of the hymn, In Christ Alone;

No power of hell, no scheme of man Can ever pluck me from His hand Till He returns or calls me home Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

 

 

 

And it is all because of who Christ is, who The Father is. It Is because of who he is and what he has done, his holiness, his sovereignty, his eternal greatness, his almighty power, his love, his mercy, his justice. It is because he is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords. To him be all honor and dominion. Amen.

Paul sums it up better than I ever could. Let’s Pray.