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

Daniel 2:24-49 God of All Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Daniel 2:24-49

God of All Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor!   Please grab your Bibles with me and turn on them to Daniel chapter 2. As you are turning there, let me say that it does seem like we are moving closer and closer to being able to meet together physically and in person once again. I do not yet have an idea, or a guess as to when exactly that will be, but I do know that the first week we are back together will be a celebration. We will have communion, we will sing together and we will have a potluck following the service. Please plan and pray accordingly.

So, last week, as we  looked at the first half of Daniel Chapter 2, Hope pointed out that we kind of left off on a cliffhanger. So, in that vein, we will start with, Previously…In Daniel…
Last week we saw that King Nebby had a dream that disturbed him greatly. He brought together all his wise men and his sorcerers and magicians and what not, got them all together and told them to both tell him his dream and then to tell him the interpretation of said dream. If they could do that, great rewards were awaiting them. If they could not, well, death is the nicest and the least painful for them, way to put it.

OF course, they couldn’t do this. As they said, no man on earth could do what the King was asking. Only the gods could do that and the gods don’t dwell with man. So, the order was sent out to kill all the wise men in the kingdom and this included Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Daniel asked for some time to receive the interpretation from God. His request was granted and he and his three friends prayed to God. God answered their prayers, Daniel received the information he was seeking and he and his friends gave thanks to God.

That’s where we left off. We spent all that time leading up to it and we never even shared what the dream was! Thus the cliffhanger. So now, this week, we will look at the second half of chapter 2. And this will include an important discussion between Daniel and King Nebby, this will include his dream and what it meant. We will look at the big picture, what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar specifically and the Babylonian kingdom and what that means for today, as opposed to getting bogged down in every minute possible detail or possible interpretation of every single aspect of his dream.

Details are important and every word of the Bible, every word of these dreams and prophecies are important and inspired By God, making them the very Word of God. However, we sometimes get so distracted by the cloudy, the unclear, the unanswered, that we loose view of what God is clearly telling us and wanting us to see.

So, with that in mind, lets goa head and read the first section of our scripture this morning. Over all, we will be reading Daniel chapter 2, verses 24-49. But we are going to break that into a few sections at a time. So, first, We will read verses 24-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along and follow along in your preferred translation at home. Lets go ahead and read, Daniel 2:24-30. Daniel records:

 

Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

 

May God bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, after Daniel had his vision or dream from God, which gave him the dream and the interpretation of the Kings dream, he went to Arioch, remember, he is likely the executioner, Daniel went to him and said, “Good News, you don’t have to kill us all! I can interpret his dream!”

Interesting, isn’t it? That Daniels response is not, “Don’t kill me,” but instead, “Don’t kill all these wise men!” Daniels life is one mark with humility. His life is one where he is looking at god first and foremost, but then he is look at others even before himself. We see that humility not only later on in this story, but again in the next two verses.

The next thing we see is Arioch having the exact opposite attitude. “King, I found someone who can tell your dream!” Completely contrasting the humility of Daniel, Arioch was trying to take credit for something that wasn’t his. Daniel was the one who approached him, both beforehand, and after God revealed the truth to him. But, Daniel was not worried about who was getting the credit.

Let me just saw, I have been in Daniels position here. I’m sure many of us have. You did something good, but someone else is trying to get either some or all of the credit. Trust me when I tell you, its almost never worth the time or the energy to fight and make this right. IN the grand scheme of things, does it matter. Yes, the Truth matters. But does it matter if its you that gets the credit? God knows and as Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel, their reward is here and now and our reward is in heaven, which will never perish or go away.

So King Nebby asks Daniel, “can you really interpret you my dream?” The expected and mostly true response would be Yes. But that’s not what Daniel said. He surprised the King by saying, “NO, I cant. Not only cant I do it, but your wisemen were right, no person on earth can do it.”

That must have stopped the King short. What is this guy doing in front of me? Why am I wasting my time? Also, can you imagine Arioch’s face at this point? “He lied to me! I stuck my neck out and took credit for finding him!” He must have been scared for his life right then.

But out of the dark comes the light. The motto of the reformation in the 1500s was Post Tenebras Lux, meaning, Out of Darkness, Light. We have to know the bad and see the dark in order for the us to be able to know the Good and see the light.

Daniels says, No man on earth can do what you are asking, BUT…

One of the greatest phrases in the Bible is But God. We see it often, things are bad, they are at their worse, we are dead in our sins, But God. Ephesians 2:4-5 are one of my favorite examples. Paul tells us we are dead in our sins, unable to do anything that might save ourselves. And he writes:

But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

 

We have no hope, no anything, no salvation, no wisdom, no nothing, But God.

Daniel says that no man on earth can do what the king wants, But there is a God in heaven who can and did. There is a God who dwells with us. Jesus is prophesied to be Immanuel, God with us.  That’s who he was and what he did. He came down from heaven and was born a man here on Earth. God became man to save sinners.

The wise men were right back in verse 11, when they said, The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” But God did show it to Daniel. He showed the dream and the interpretation both. And he tells the King, he did so and he gave Ol’ Nebby this dream to tell him what coming.

One commentator says, “That there is a God in Heaven, as against man-made gods and defiled men, is the supreme theme of the book, even as it is the cardinal principle of the Bible.”

Daniel here is very politely telling the King that all of those other religions, all the other so called gods are, quite literally, worthless. And he tells the King that God told me your dream, not because of anything about me. Just like he saves each of us, not because of anything about us, but for his glory and his purposes. Here, that purpose is so that Nebuchadnezzar would know what his dream meant and he gave him the dream so that he would know what would be to come.

So, now to satisfy the first part of the cliffhanger, Daniel tells the King what his dream was. Daniel 2:31-35:

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

This dream is incredible. Stephan Miller calls this dream “one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible.”

 

 

Imagine in your head, if you can, a statue, great and tall. Many presume that is must have been 60 cubits tall, which I think is 90 feet, based on the statue that Ol Nebby builds of himself in the next chapter.  So, a statue 90 feet tall, that’s 9 stories tall. The head was gold. The arms and the chest was silver. The midsection and the thighs were bronze. The legs were iron. And the feet were a mixture of iron and clay.

This is obviously symbolizing something, but Daniel doesn’t get into that just yet, he simply tells the King what his dream was. He continues, a stone cut out of a mountain, but cut by no man, was hurled and hits the weakest point of the statue, the feet, made by the iron/clay mixture/

It hits that spot and the statue crumbles and disintegrates. The dust blows away and it cannot be found. The stone would grow and grow until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

That’s the dream. Just in and of itself, sounds like a dream. Dreams are known for their interesting symbolism and imagery. And just like most dreams, the actual, full meaning of it is not readily apparent on the surface. Let us not forget that even if Daniel stopped talking here, he would have amazed Nebuchadnezzar and done the impossible. The King didn’t tell any one his dream. That was the test to make sure that ones interpretation was correct, that they could also tell him the dream itself. So Daniel would have already amazed Ol Nebby and we are only getting started.

Daniel will now share the interpretation that God gave him as we read Daniel 2: 36-45:

 

“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage,[c] but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

 

 

That’s quite something, isn’t it? All right, brief rundown. The statue stands for 4 kingdoms, the first of which is the golden head, which is Babylon. There is much speculation, much time spent on figuring out who the other three are and we will touch on that in a moment.

Starting with the head made of Gold, down through to the feet made with a mixture of iron and clay, the kingdoms deteriorate, or are progressively inferior. Each Kingdom shall rise to power and each kingdom shall fall. But there is a kingdom which will rise that will never fall. That Kingdom will crush every other kingdom and will the only and the last kingdom left standing, forever and ever.

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom is powerful, mighty and full of prestige. Among earthly kingdoms and by earthly standards, It is the pinnacle and it is the Gold Standard, pardon the pun. And yet, When Gods Kingdom is established, not even the strongest of earthly Kingdoms will be able to stand.

The most common view, and the one that I think sounds the closest to right is that these four kingdoms are, in order, The Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian empire, the Greek empire and then the Roman empire. But the text does not give us the answer to this line of questioning. Again, like many things we look at, and especially many things we think we know and we take for granted, its all speculation.

Iain DuGuid cautions us:

It doesn’t take long before we find our heads spinning with the variety of interpretations offered, all of which go far beyond the interpretation and application that Daniel himself gives here. It is important to notice however, that the passage itself gives us virtually no data about the specifics of any of these three kingdoms because it intends to give a philosophy of history rather than a precise analysis of history ahead of its time. As John Goldingay puts it, “In the drama of the story the description has to be allowed to remain allusive. People miss the point when they spend time arguing who the empires were. The focus of the dream itself and its interpretation are more concerned with what the future holds than when it will come to pass.

 

          And I think that DuGuid makes a great point there. When Jesus gives his Olivet discourse, where he addresses the disciples with what to look for in the future, he is more concerned that they focus on the fact that He will be coming back rather than when He will be coming back.

In Daniels time, Jesus hadn’t even yet come the first time. And as Miller points out, the Old Testament prophecies that point towards Christ do not distinguish between his first and his second coming.

 

This dream is pointing towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Its not actually worried about the earthly kingdoms. We are not going to spend time arguing about who they are or what they mean, but instead we are going to look at the coming of the kingdom of God.

See, the one thing that we see with the kingdoms of this earth is that they get progressively inferior to the ones before it. We know that many have been more powerful or more expansive than the ones before it. But one pattern we have seen over and over again in history, specifically in the BC era, and Ill explain why that is in a minute, is that the various kingdoms of the earth have gotten more and more morally inferior.

From Genesis 3 with  the fall in the Garden, to Genesis 6 with Noah and the complete degeneracy of man, then God starting over and almost immediately back to Genesis 11 with the tower of Babel.  We see this pattern over and over in the Old Testament. And we see it with Babylon and then on through Meda-Persia which conquered Babylon, and then the Greeks which conquered Meda-Persia and the Rome which conquered everybody. And we all know about the moral degradation within Rome.

But the Kingdom of God changed all that. And the Kingdom of God will change that. Its interesting. See, a little over 2000 years ago, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Came down from heaven, as we said, born not by man, and was thrown at the base of the statue of this world. He came down and utterly destroyed the kingdoms of this world, defeating death and sin utterly and completely. He has and will destroy every kingdom in this world. Gods Kingdom will stand forever and Christ is sitting right now on his throne in heaven, reigning over all of creation.

Jesus first coming demolished the kingdom of the worlds in sort of a behind the scene way. When Jesus walked this earth, he said, The Kingdom of God is at hand. Its not a future Kingdom, its here and now.  Now the battle is over.

But we look around in this world and we don’t see it yet. We see the world continuing to descend more and more into the moral degradation we see in the Old testament pattern. And that can make us misunderstand. That can makes us think only in the future tense when thinking about the coming kingdom of God. And then we get into all sorts of trouble, adding years to prophecies, especially in Daniel where the text doesn’t justify it. We start getting to focused in trying to identify the specific who’s and when’s and the details that God never told us the answers to.

There is a term, especially when referring the kingdom of God, and it’s the already and the not yet. The Kingdom of God is here and now. Its is already. Jesus Christ first coming brought it into this world. The Kingdoms of this earth have no eternal power or authority.

But, right now, they continue to have earthly power and authority. We are to be in submission to those authorities above us. And we are right now, struggling to find out what that really looks like today in a way that we haven’t had to yet, at least here in the United States. They will continue to try to grab more and more power. They will try to exert more and more authority. Moral Fabric of society will continue to deteriorate.

And then, at some undetermined point in the future, that the Bible tells us we cannot know, that not even the angels in heaven now, Jesus will, in language convenient to the analogy if not 100 percent accurate, be hurled out of the sky and will hit the base of the kingdoms of this world, destroying and disintegrating the powers and principalities that we are struggling against. All sin and evil and all kingdoms outside of the kingdom of God will cease to exist and we will move from the not yet, to the already.

 

 

Daniel tells the King, God is trying to get your attention. As powerful and as wonderful as you are, as much power as you wield, your greatness pales in comparison to what God wields in his pinky fingernail.  Babylon cant save you. Your power, greatness and authority cant save you. Only God can save you. Repent and turn to him. Bow to him and worship him as King.

 

The King had said back in verse 6 that whoever could tell him his dream and the interpretation would be showered in gifts and praise and given great honor. And that’s what Ol Nebby now showered on Daniel. Again, those parallels to Joseph in Genesis that you are supposed to be reading about, Daniel was now given a very high ranking government position, essentially the governor f the most important and powerful state within the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel did decline this to serve as the Kings right hand man, but was able to secure that position for his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, now referred to with their Babylonian names.

The last thing I want to point out this morning is the Kings response to the dream, Nebuchadnezzar declared that Daniels God was the God of Gods and the LORD of kings. He affirmed the power and greatness of God. But, what he did not do was to affirm the exclusivity of God. He was not the only God. This is not showing that he converted to Christianity. HE simply sees God as the strongest of all the gods around. He recognizes that God is sovereign over the nations, but it does not go further than that.

Don’t acknowledge God as powerful and important but fail to recognize the exclusivity of God. As we continue to point out, Jesus does not say in Johns Gospel that he is a way, a truth and a life. But he is instead, THE way, The truth and THE life. Don’t settle for almost Christian or partially Christianity, which does not actually exist. There is not shade of salvation. There is eternal life in Christ or eternal torment without. Recognize that God is sovereign and in control of everything, that he raises up and tears down Kings. That he is reigning as king now. His kingdom is already inaugurated, and we are just waiting for the final culmination.

Bow to Him, worship him and only him. Repent and trust in him. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Lets Pray.

Daniel 2:1-23 God of All Nations: God Grants Wisdom

Daniel 2:1-23

God of All Nations

God Grants Wisdom

Good Morning Bangor! As you are listening along or reading along with us here this morning, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 2. To start off first, before we get into any of Daniel 2, After we are finished with this sermon, I am giving you a suggestion homework assignment. I want you to read Genesis chapters 40 & 41 and note the parallels between Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon.

So, as you may have surmised, chapter 2 here will show us Daniel interpreting the Kings dream for the first time. And within that, what we are going to see is God giving wisdom and knowledge to those whom he desires to. Now, I mentioned last week that some of these chapters are pretty long, and this is one of those examples. So, instead of reading the entire thing in one setting, we are going to break it up as we go through it.

I do plan to get through verse 30 this morning. Before we get into that, a few reminders from Chapter 1. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire siege Jerusalem and God gave Jerusalem into his hands. He brought out many captives into exile into the land of Shinar and picked the best and the brightest of the exiles and put them into re-education and re-training schooling. Their names were changed, their religion was replaced with the religion of Babylon. They were taught the language and the writings of their new culture and they were seduced with comfort and fine foods and drink into conforming to this new culture and leaving their old behind. Soon, the idea was, they would forget they were Jewish exiles and they would think of themselves as Babylonians.

Daniel and three of his friends have already shown themselves to be different than the rest.  They showed that there was a balance we can strive to maintain between serving the community that we are placed in, even with it being quite hostile to our true identity, and not forgoing the commands and standards that God has set before us. Daniel would not allow himself to be defiled. His friends were right there with him, standing faithful to God. God granted them extra wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and for Daniel, the ability to interpret visions and dreams.

So, with all that said, lets go ahead and jump into the first block of verses. We will start with verses 1-11. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we go through these and the future verses. So, Starting with Daniel, chapter 2, verses 1-11, Daniel records:

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So, they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic,[a] “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

 

May God Bless the reading of his Holy and perfect Word.

 

 

So, the first thing we see is that this takes place in the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Now, based on the variety of ways that the different cultures kept records, it is equally likely that Daniel was already completed with his 3-year training or that he was towards the end, at least the second half of his training. We know that at least he had already appeared before King Nebuchadnezzar along with his friends and impressed him with wisdom and knowledge.

Either way, not very long after the exiles arrived from Judah, after the Babylonians sieged Jerusalem and had it handed into their hands by God, the King started having bad dreams. Or A bad dream to be exact.  And it was troubling him. It was causing him to not get any sleep. It got bad enough to the point that Nebuchadnezzar gathered all his magicians, his sorcerers, all the wise men and magi, he gathered them all together.

He was convinced that these were more than just dreams. In most ancient cultures, and most certainly in the near east during that time, the common belief was that the gods communicated to people through their dreams. Maybe more clearly, dreams were communication from the gods. So, the King was driven by the need to know, to find out what his dream meant. A right understanding was absolutely vital for him.

So, he gathered the wise men and magicians and told them, I’ve had this dream and I need to know what it means. After he says that, in the middle of verse four, we see that the original language turns from Hebrew and continues in Aramaic. The book switches from a focus on the Jewish exiles and what happened into Jerusalem and turns to bigger world view implications.

So, the wise men told him, “Tell us your dream and we will tell you what it means.” Seems to be an appropriate response in my opinion. You want to know what your dream means, then tell me your dream and let’s figure this out. Would you have expected a different response?

Nebuchadnezzar, however, has a different view. He told them, “You will tell me both the dream and the interpretation, or you will die horribly and painfully. And if you do, then great rewards will come to you.”

Its important to remember, despite the kind treatment we see of Nebuchadnezzar, especially to Daniel, this was not a kind man. He was a harsh and cruel man often times. These wise men would have had no doubt that he would have followed through with his threat.

And we also see that it is clear that he was skeptical of the abilities of these wise men. This was a broad collection of religious and spiritual backgrounds, there were many different gods represented in this court. But this dream was not from one of those gods. This dream was from God. From the true God. And you can just see that things are subconsciously starting to occur to the King. He gathered these wise men for a reason, to cover his bases with as many different gods as possible, and yet, he still doesn’t trust that the servants of these gods can actually answer his desire to know the meaning of these dreams.

That’s a part of why he is challenging these wise men. Because he doesn’t trust the answers he will receive. There are also some who speculate that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t fully remember the details of his dream. And I get that. How many of you have had dreams and once you wake up the vividness of them fades, the details fall away, or get fuzzy and cloudy. The longer it goes, the less you actually remember of it. You might remember some of the points, or the big picture or whatever, but a lot of it fades away or the course of time. So, I don’t know if that’s the case with ol’Nebby here, but It also wouldn’t surprise me if that played a role in the way he handles the wise men and his court.

So, they try again, “Tell us your dream and we will tell you what it means.” And the king responds, “You are trying to buy time and you will lie to me. Tell me both the dream and the interpretation or you all die!”

And finally, some honesty from these magicians, enchanters, sorcerers. They cry out, “No Man can do what you are asking! Only the gods could do this! And the gods don’t dwell with man!”  They were saying that the gods won’t tell us that, they are the only ones who know these things. What god will dwell with and communicate like that with us? We will see Daniel answer this very question coming up in a bit. I’m sure you all listening can answer that question here and now too.

So, the wise men give Nebuchadnezzar their answer, and I’m sure they didn’t want to tell him that, but they were given no choice. They couldn’t deliver what the King was demanding from them.

 

From there, lets continue with verses 12-23:

Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared[b] to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:

 

 

 

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

 

 

So obviously, based on the answer he received, the King was not happy. In fact, he was furious. He was going to follow through on his threat. He ordered that all the wise men, all the magicians, all the astronomers, enchanters, magi, sorcerers, all of them, all of them were to die. This included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

One commentator notes: Again, notwithstanding the perilous situation and the utterly unreasonable demands and decree of Neb, Daniel refused to panic. He neither despaired nor ranted. His behavior is marked by tact and common sense. There is a place for diplomacy.

Now, notice verse 14. Daniel, with prudence and discretion he asked Arioch why this was happening.  He didn’t start screaming and crying about the injustice. He didn’t protest, he didn’t march, he didn’t boycott. He didn’t kick and scream and shout. He asked with prudence and discretion, “Why is the decree from the King so urgent?”

In all likelihood, Arioch was the executioner. This was very likely the guards gathering everyone up to be executed. This was not just an announcement that this was going to happen, but this was the actual gathering of the wise men up to kill them. And Daniel remained calm to inquire what the reason was.

I wonder what was going through Daniels head when he heard that the King needed a dream interpreted.    We saw back in chapter 1, verse 17 that God gave Daniel that gift, that skill. He had to be smiling on the inside. Might he have been almost jumping for joy? Obviously, we see that Daniel always gives God the credit and the glory, but he might have been thinking, “Oh, I’ve got this!”

So, Daniel, whatever his emotional state, asks Arioch if he can appear before the King so that he can provided that dream interpretation. It was kind of like being on death row and getting a last-minute stay from the governor. God here directly intervened and saved Daniels life and soften Arioch’s and likely soften the Kings heart towards Daniel here. Daniel was granted his request to go before the King at an appointed time, possibly as soon as the next morning. We see the contrast. The wise men before the king asked for time and the king sentenced them to death, convinced they were going to make up lies. Daniel asks for a bit of time and its granted, saving everyone’s life. Gods sovereignty, control and power and faithfulness is on full display in that situation.

Daniel goes back and tells his friends, which, by the way, are still referred to by their Hebrew names. Daniel tells his friends the situation, why they were going to die and the opportunity to change their circumstances and they all start praying.

It rings true in all circumstances, the more people you can get praying for a situation, the better, We certainly saw that this week in our church family as we had  a dear member of the church suffer a stroke. Its terrible timing in all of our eyes, because with the hospitals on lock down due to COVID-19, his wife can’t even visit him. So, we immediately sent the information we had out of the prayer chain. The little bit \of information that has come out so far is relatively good news. No facial drop, no limb paralysis, and we will see on the rest. We know that our prayers were heard. We know that God responded. It was terrible timing by human eyes, but we also know that God’s timing is perfect, even if we don’t know how or why. What comfort we have that when we are going through the things that we end up going through, that our church family is praying with us and for us and that God hears those prayers.

And God does hear our prayers. Daniel and his friends immediately started praying and God heard their prayers. God answered those prayers and he gave Daniel a dream that revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the interpretation. They prayed and God answered.

 

 

Daniel, when his prayers are answered, immediately does what should come first for all of us, but often we neglect or fall short on. He lifts up praises and thanksgiving to the LORD.

Let me reread Daniels blessing here, verses 20-23:

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

 

 

Amen, right? God is God, that’s the theme of what Daniel is saying. This specific point we will get into more next week at the beginning, but God is God and the Babylonian gods are not. God is powerful. They are useless and worthless. God is in control. They can do nothing. Blessed be His name forever and ever.

Daniel praises God and lifts up his wisdom, his sovereignty and his goodness. One commentator states that the wisdom here is, “not something human beings achieve, but something they receive by God.”

Wisdom here in this chapter of Daniel in general and in this thanksgiving psalm lifted up by Daniel specifically is one of the major points brought up by many, many commentators and theologians. And wisdom, true wisdom is only and fully from God.

We know where our wisdom comes from, Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. We look to God and him alone as our source of wisdom. We are not guessing; we are not covering our bases and we certainly better not be trusting or believing in ourselves.

We don’t look or seek for our wisdom from our work, or from politics, or from our nationality, or from our achievements, or from our church attendance. We don’t even seek it from our Bible Knowledge, even though, if we have a right understanding of the Bible, we know that Bible Knowledge helps grow our wisdom.

Daniel also mentions that God changes the seasons, he has control over nature and the sun and the stars themselves. This is pointed directly at the wise men and sorcerers of Babylon who were highly into astrology, astronomy and the stars.

God also sets up and removes Kings. This is referencing the interpretation of the dream that we will look at next week. I love what Sam Storms says about this when he writes:

Note well: Daniel makes these affirmations of God’s sovereignty in the context of the domination of the Jews by Gentiles! In other words, God not only controls the history of his own people (whether Israel or the Church), but also of the ‘secular world as well. And the oppression of his own people is no indication that he has lost control or that he is any less sovereign than when his people are safe and blessed.

 

The last point we will touch on in Daniels thanksgiving is in verse 22, where Daniels says of God, he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

TO me, this brings to mind the beginning of Johns Gospel. John 1:1-5, he writes:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And then in John 1:9:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 

 

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He is God become man. He is Immanuel, God with Us. He is perfect wisdom personified. He came and did what we couldn’t do, live with perfect wisdom, in perfect communion with God the Father, never once leaving His Will. He lived the perfect life that we are called to live, but wholly unable. Even though that’s exactly what we are called to by God.

Jesus gave up his life, to overcome the darkness, to receive the wrath of God, the punishment for our sins. He died on the cross so that we could be forgiven, so that we could receive everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.

As Iain Duguid says: “Simply living his life wisely would not have saved Daniel by itself. After the decree for his death went forth from the king, nothing but the direct intervention of God could save him.

And that’s a great point, because similarly, if we live our lives simply based on the moral teachings, the wisdom that the intellectual wisdom that we get from the Bible, that won’t save our eternal lives. Nothing but the direct intervention of God himself, come down from heaven, born a man, nothing but Jesus Christ himself can save us.

Trust in Him and repent of your sins. Submit yourselves to his wisdom, his grace and his love. He came to give us life and life abundantly. But only through faith in Him and him alone.

 

Let’s Pray.

Daniel 1:1-8 God of all Nations: Introduction and Background

Daniel 1:1-8

God of all Nations

Introduction and Background

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Daniel. We finished up our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church, right before Easter. Today we are starting a new series through the book of Daniel that I am calling God of All Nations.

As you all know, my philosophy in preaching is to go through a book of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse and look at both the immediate context and the bigger picture. I do try to alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books, and I do that, partly so that I don’t just end up going through Paul’s letters and a Gospel every once in a while.

And so, going through some of these other books challenges me and I hope, they will challenge you too. Now, Daniel is unique. It is part Historical, that is where we are going to spend the first long chunk of our series. And It then is part prophecy, that is why, in the Christian Bible, it is placed in the prophets. Because of the prophecies and because of the lens that we view those prophecies in, Daniel can be a very divisive book if we let it be. But we are not going to let it be. Suffice it to say, that we wont all agree on what the prophecies say and what they mean, especially in todays world and with todays current events.

Daniel is also unique in that it is written in two different languages. Daniel 1:1 through chapter 2, verse 3 is written in Hebrew, as is Chapters 8 through 12. The middle section there, chapter 2, verse 4, through chapter 7 is written in Aramaic. Now, Hebrew was the language of the Jews, the language of Israel. Aramaic was the official and the common language if the Babylonian empire.

That leads us to some historical context regarding the book of Daniel. Now, this book was written, despite recent scholarly suggestions to the contrary, in the neighborhood of 530 BC. So that’s 500 years before the birth of Christ. It starts however, back in 605 BC. So, the book of Daniel spans about 70 years.

To understand what happens in 605 BC, we need to go back even further in Israel’s history. Under the Kingship of David and then, his son Solomon, 400 years prior, Israel was more united and more powerful than ever. Then, shortly after the death of Solomon, Israel split into to countries. The kingdom of Israel in the North, comprising of 10 of the 12 tribes. Then there was the Kingdom of Judah in the south, comprising of Benjamin and Judah.

Both kingdoms fell into apostasy, idolatry and general unrepentant sin and divided, they were both weaker militarily and because of the sin, they were subject to the wrath and judgment from God. Israel fell first, to the Assyrian army roughly around 730 BC. Judah lasted another 130 plus years, though they too fell, this time to the Babylonians with various levels of conquership happening between 605 BC and 587 BC.

Daniel was presumed to be around 15 years old in 605 BC when he and his friends, which we will get to in a moment, where captured in Jerusalem and hauled off to Babylon. So, he spoke Hebrew there. And as he lived for 70 plus years in Babylon, serving the courts and the king, he learned Aramaic pretty fluently. Now, there is no consensus, no across the board agreement as to why Daniel was written in both languages.

But the one that makes the most sense to me, that seems to have a lot of traction amongst those who study these sorts of things is that the parts written in Hebrew were specifically being written to the Jews. This would be the introduction, what happened to Daniel and his friends and so forth. This would also include the prophecies in the last half of the book. Obviously, prophecies regarding the coming Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom of Heaven, would be much more applicable and interesting to the Jews than to the Babylonians. The middles section, the history of the exiles in Babylon, the dealings of with the various kings and the history during that time would be more interesting to those who spoke Aramaic.

One thing that does not hold merit is the view that because there are two languages in Daniel, that it was written by two or more different people, or at two different times. There has been a lot of skepticism that Daniel was written during the time of the Maccabees and/or by multiple authors, but there is no credibility to these theories. Jesus himself credits Daniel as a specific, historical person who wrote this book in Matthew 24:15. IT just means that there were multiple audiences in view when Daniel wrote it down.

 

 

So, 605 BC rolls around. Babylon has grown big and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was either co-regent with his father, or all prepped to take over for him when he would soon pass. He defeats Jerusalem and takes many Jews captive and back to Babylon.

That is where the book of Daniel starts, and this is where I want us to start reading. Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-8. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along at home with your preferred translation as well. Daniel 1:1-8, Daniel opens his book, writing:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

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

 

 

 

Now, one of the first things we see in this book is that Daniel, and his friends, will essentially in modern language, go into Government service. They will be working for the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Christians today tend to have one of two views on situations like this. First, we need to avoid stuff like this and politics and culture are so very toxic that we need to avoid ourselves from it as fully and as completely as possible, so that they can see that we are separated, we are set apart. Second, they say that we need to be a part of they culture and bring ourselves into the culture and politics because its so toxic, and the more we conform to that culture, the more difference we will make.

And yet, Jesus prays to the Father for us that we are to be in the world but not of it. Both of those positions miss a part of what we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. The truth is that there is a right and a wrong way for Christians to participate in politics. There is a right and a wrong way for Christians to fight for rights, to fight for religious liberties and to participate in civil disobedience. The problem is when we decide on which ways are right and wrong based on our national identities, or our moral beliefs or what we expect to be the practical outcomes of our actions. But the truth is that the only way for us to decided what ways or methods are right and wrong based only on the scriptures, solely on what Jesus, the Word of God says. We are going to see Daniel show us some of the right ways to do this very thing.

But there is a right way and wrong way to read and to approach the scriptures as well. We remember that we are to approach the scriptures just like the Apostles did, and the early church leaders did, and that is to let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. We don’t insert things into the text. And we rarely can lift the Old Testament up, full block and drop it on to our current context and situations. As Ron Sallee says in our Contenders classes, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.”

We cannot try to affirm our believes by opening the Bibles and reading passages. We do need to let the text speak for itself. We do need to let what we read form our beliefs, not let our beliefs form what we read.

And because of how we read the book, because of what we have been taught, from our parents, from pastors and Bible Study leaders, and from books we have read, from friends around us, and yes, even from the society and the culture around us, whether we recognize it or not, because of how we read the book, we have differences of opinion in what certain parts mean, and we can think that our opinion is not opinion, but fact and is the only biblical thing that it can mean.

Daniel can be divisive. If we let it. But we are not going to let it. Especially when we get to the prophecy section of Daniel. Daniel does speak to the future and to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. That is unavoidable in the book of Daniel. But that’s not going to be a main focus of this series.

The main focus that we are going to see in Daniel is that, as we see in all the Old Testament books, that all these Old Testament scriptures will be about and point directly to Jesus Christ, the looked for and promised Messiah, the Savior. What does Daniel teach us about Jesus? How does Daniel point to the coming Jesus? What does Daniel teach us about the Kingdom of God and especially how it relates to the kingdoms of men? Those are the main points we will be looking at.

Part of that, but secondary to that, how can we apply Daniel to today and what we are going through in these times. How do we spend our days today living in and serving a kingdom that is not ours? How do we live in and serve a kingdom that is openly and actively hostile to the kingdom that we do belong to? And how do we do so, while continuing to serve the Kingdom of God here and now and continue to do so first and foremost. How do we balance those things, both of which we are called to?

Daniel was taken into exile. He was brought out of his homeland and his home Kingdom and was brought forcibly to serve the Kingdom of Babylon, and he did so faithfully and admirably.

 

If we are in Christ, if we belong to Him, if we can rightly call ourselves Christians, then we are not citizens of this world. Peter calls us sojourners and exiles. We are travelers here, temporarily living in this kingdom, in this world. We are to love, to care for, and to serve this world while we are here, and to do so in the name of Jesus, by the Word of Jesus.

Paul writes in Romans 13:1 & 2,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Daniel shows us that we can do this while still maintaining our loyalty to Christ and his commands. We can do this while fulfilling our purposes of serving, worshipping, and working for the one in whom we are true citizens of. Christ is our King and we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

That balance is not easy. That loyalty is not easy. Daniels home has been destroyed. His friends and he are conscripted into government service and their names are changed from ones that honor the One true God, to ones that honored the Babylonian Gods. They were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.

Daniel and his friends were even given new names, supposed by many to assert ownership and possession over them, to attempt to change their identity from those of Gods children to those who belong to the gods of Babylon.

And yet, if our identity is in Christ, nothing can change that. Our identity used to be that of rebel, sinner, and damned. But in Christ, our identity is changed by the one who we belong to. Our identity is changed so that we are now Christs beloved. We are now children of God. We are now saints, citizens of Heaven. Babylon tried to change their identity, to make them forget their true identity, but their foundation in God kept them faithful.

This world will try to change our identity. It will try to make you forget your identity. Try to get you to put any other identity above Child of God, above Saint. They will say that all are children of God. Or they will say that you are still a sinner. They will tell you that your other identities are more important than your identity in Christ. They will tell you that you are American first, Christian second. That was a hard one for me to come to grips with. The world will try to tell us that our political identity is first and foremost. Only Republicans can be Christians or Democrats are loving like Jesus. OR worse yet, when we go against our Christian conscience and vote for someone just because they happen to be our party’s nominee. Remember something, voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.

 

Daniel and his friends were immersed in the foreign culture and they would show us how to stay true and faithful to God in spite of that.

That’s one thing for us to remember. Yes, the culture and society around us may be toxic. It may be actively against what God wants, what He says and what He stands for. It may actively try to corrupt us and bring us over to their side. But there is some redeeming value in some of the culture around us.

We are not called to bunker down, separate from everything except this building and eschew everything around us. We are not called to separate ourselves so far as we don’t have a witness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world, making disciples and teaching them to follows Gods commands. Showing them that We are sinners, that we are not able to be good enough, that there is only one God and that He has perfect wrath and perfect grace. That we are saved by his grace, through our faith in the one and only Jesus Christ, God become man to save us sinners. We have a job and a duty while we are here in this earth and it is to serve and worship our King.

Now, the way that Daniel and his friends were able to be part of this culture and to study their teachings and still stay faithful to God is that they had a strong foundation in their faith.

Studying all of Gods Word is crucial to having that strong foundation. Knowing that Gods Word is inspired and without error is crucial to our studying of it. The more we know of it, the more we can discern. The more we can discern, the more we can discern what is truth and what is not. The more we can discern, the more we can fix our eyes straight upon Jesus, who is our foundation and our stronghold and our sabbath.

 

Let’s go ahead and 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 4:9-22 Life in the Local Church: Relationships Matter

2 Timothy 4:9-22

Life in the Local Church

Relationships Matter

 

                Good Morning and hoping you are all staying healthy and safe and washing your hands! If you would, please open up your Bibles with me to the very end of 2 Timothy. If you are listening at home and you do not have a Bible, there are many websites and apps that you can use to read the Bible from your computer, tablet or phone.

So today, we come to the end of Paul’s letters to Timothy. We come, in fact, to the end of Paul’s recorded letters, period. At some point shortly after this letter, Paul would stand trial before Caesar, be found guilt and history says that he was beheaded at that point.

Paul knew this was coming, and so he wrote these letters to Timothy to encourage, challenge, teach and warn Timothy. Timothy beware of those who are in and will come into the church teaching what is not in and what goes against the Bible. Many will astray. Teach and Preach the Truth. Structure and format the church as it is supposed to be. Stand Firm in the Faith and Stand up to those who oppose you, the Truth and ultimately, God Himself. Our behavior, our faithfulness and our steadfastness during these times and all the way up to the end will be a great testimony to those watching and will be the goof fruit borne from our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our only means of salvation.

So, Paul is done teaching at this point of the letter, though he does have, as with much of his letters, greetings and instructions for Timothy as he closes out his letter.

So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, 2 Timothy, verses 9 through the end of the letter, verse 22. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to have in your hands, your preferred translation and follow along, both here and throughout the sermon as we read the Words of God.

Paul, in the last recorded words of his life, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:

Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia,[b] Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. So, I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.[c]

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.[

May God Bless the reading of his Holy Word.

 

Paul knows what time it is. Both of these letters were written when Paul was either imprisoned or under house arrest. He knew ahead of time, as we looked at last week, what the result of the upcoming trial was going to be. And Paul wants to see Timothy one more time before he dies.

One of the things we see with Paul and the progression that takes place over the course of his letters, we can be assured of what comes after this life. We can know that we are going to be with Christ in the kingdom of Heaven and we can be assured of our salvation. We can have a pure trust in Gods perfect timing. We can have true, pure and complete joy, trust and longing to see Jesus and we can be ready to go home to be with Him and yet…

And yet, we can still have things that we want to happen first. We can still have things that we wish could have been different. We can still have things that we wish we could have done. For Paul, one of those things is that he wishes to see Timothy before he passes.   Now, we have no biblical evidence that Timothy did, or dint make it to Rome to see Paul. Personally, I hope he did, but I suspect he didn’t. We can see how much Paul wants this by looking back chapter 1 of this letter where Paul says in verse 4 that he longs to see Timothy.

Now, there are also some that Paul does not long to see. Many deserted him during his previous and current troubles, his imprisonments and what not. Demas is an example. Paul says that he was more in love with this world than the world to come. We have to be very careful of that. Love of this world, and the trappings of it can be very persuasive, very seductive. And yet, what does the wisdom of man, the success of money and influence, that love of human beings have when compared the Glory of the Sovereign and almighty God and all the riches and glory that is to be revealed?

But many choose this world over the next. And then, when the going gets tough, they hightail it away and look for their comforts. I shared the quote a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating here, Voddie Baucham says that there is one way to avoid persecution in this World. All you have to do is compromise.

Jesus, during his parable of the sower, talks about two of the seeds in Mark 4:5-7:

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

Jesus explains these two a few verses later, Mark 4:16-19:

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

 

Focus on what is to come. Be aware, respond to and acknowledge what is going on around us. A great example is the pandemic going on around us today. That’s why I put up on the church sign: Be safe, Wash Your Hands, Trust Jesus. To totally ignore what is going on in the world would be, not only irresponsible and unloving to our neighbors, but would be unbiblical as well. But our focus, our eyes are to be on the LORD.

There’s an old saying that you can be so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. But in reality, that’s simply not true. To be truly heavenly minded, to be focused on the glory of God that will be revealed and focused on the truth and the power and the glory of Jesus Christ, one can’t help to do good here on earth. That is the fruit that will be borne through true saving faith.

But Demas was not heavenly minded, he was very much earthly minded, and he left Paul during his time of need. Left him in the lurch. But Paul also acknowledges that not all who left, did so under poor terms. Titus, for example, left to pastor the churches on Crete, so history tells us.

Paul tells us in verse 11that it is only Luke, his friend, his physician, his travelling partner, who is still physically with him. He has been traveling with Paul for a long, long time at this point. He has been recording Paul’s ministry and his missionary travels, which tuned into the last 2/3rds of the book of Acts. He has been investigating, researching and learning the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, turning into the Gospel of Luke. He has been loyal and faithful to Paul, taking care of him as has been needed.

We talked last week about how we are to finish our race. But one application we can take from these couple of verses is that when others are finishing their race, let us be Luke, not Demas. Let us stay faithful, show loyalty and bring comfort to those whose race is ending.

 

Paul surprisingly asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes to see Paul. Mark and Paul were travelling and ministering together early on in Paul’s missions, but they split after a disagreement, causing Barnabas to leave Paul as well. What we see here is that reconciliation either already had, or more likely was going to occur. Paul wanted to make things right while there was still time.

If Timothy never made it to see Paul, then it stands to reason that Mark never made it there either. So, despite Paul’s desire to reconcile, there was not enough time left. Don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t wait until the finality of our mortality weighs on you. Reconcile things with the people you know and love and do it now. You never know if tomorrow will come.

 

We do see that Paul, here towards the end, is still thinking practically as well. In verse 13, he tells Timothy to bring his cloak, expecting to need it during the cold winter that was approaching. He also says to bring his books and parchments. These could be blank parchments, meaning that Paul was planning on writing more letters, continuing to teach and spread the Gospel, or these could be his copies of the Old Testament writings.

Either way, one of the things we see here is that Paul knew the end was coming, but he didn’t know when. He didn’t expect it to be tomorrow. And he was going to keep living, working and studying, right up until the very last minute.

Verse 14 seems to show the opposite of what Paul had to say about Mark. With Mark, there was a separation and then, at least an intended reconciliation, which to me means that there was some repentance, probably on both sides. Here, we see that Alexander the coppersmith did Paul great harm and that there was no repentance, because Paul warns that he will do the same to Timothy if he gets the chance.

I want to point out here a key difference, not in eternal destination, but possibly in heart and potential repentance and reconciliation. Demas also left Paul when Paul needed him.  But Alexander seems to have actively opposed Paul and the message of the gospel. Alexander was more direct and purposeful in his actions against Paul. Demas just seemed to have fallen away, and to me, reading into what Paul is saying, if Demas repented and came back, Paul might be open to reconciliation. It doesn’t seem as if Paul sees any chance of that with Alexander.

And that’s something to remember. There are different levels of involvement that people can have in your life. Not everyone has to have full access to your life. Even in these situations that Paul is mentioning we see a variety of levels of forgiveness or at least potential forgiveness. Mark is back in, or will be, if they meet together. Demas, is not, but there is an open door making it possible. If Alexander were to repent and ask forgiveness, I think we know that Paul would forgive him, but I don’t think, the way I read this, that Paul would open up his life or ministry to have Alexander involved in them.

Forgiveness is required from us. But that does not mean that we have to allow people who have hurt us in the past to be in a position to hurt us again. Forgive does not mean that automatically forget. If you need to keep someone out of your life, even after forgiveness and reconciliation occur, you can do just that.

Now, remember that this is Paul’s second Roman imprisonment and his second trial. He mentions that during his first trial, he was all alone. Everyone had left him. They scattered, though Paul asks that it not be held against them. Why? Because God had designed it that way. He had a purpose.

There are very strong allusions here to Jesus on the cross. The Apostles, his followers at the time scattered and went underground. Jesus was alone during his trials and only John and his mother, Mary were there with Him while He was on the cross. Jesus did not hold this against any of them and welcomed them all when he rose and appeared to them again. Jesus knew that the Father had a purpose for all these things.

Paul was lonely during that time, but he trusted God and now, years later, he could see what God was doing in that situation. I know that right now, things can feel very lonely. We are cut off from each other in ways that we have not had to be before.

Trust that God has a plan. Trust that this will all work together for His plan and His glory. Through all that, Paul says, the LORD never abandoned me. God is clear on this all through out scripture, from the Old Testament on through the New. Joshua 1:9, one of my favorites, says:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

 

And in the New Testament, Matthew 28, the very last words of Matthews Gospel, Jesus says:

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

 

So why did Gpd allow Paul to be put through all this? He used it to spread the Gospel and the name of our LORD Jesus Christ. God brought Paul through all those circumstances to glorify himself. Paul says God brought him through all the tough situations, the hard circumstances and brought him right into His arms and His kingdom. RC Sproul points out that this is “the Ultimate Hope of all who Trust in Christ.” All of this, all things, including our salvation, sanctification, and our glorification, all to the Glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

In the last couple of verses here, from verse 19 on, Paul closes this letter how he closes most of his letters. He sends greetings to those around the one he is writing to and sends greetings from those who are around him. Greetings and love to all those mentioned.

And finally, The LORD be with your spirit. Grace be with you. God gives and pours out his grace on us. It is only through his grace that we have faith in Jesus Christ. It is only through his grace that we are saved. It is only through his grace that we have received the forgiveness of sins, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace be with you and the Glory be to God.

There are a bunch of minor points that we touched on this morning, but if you only take away one point from Paul’s conclusion to 2 Timothy, know this, meditate on this, remember this. The grace that is with you is purely from and is a gift from God. And all the credit for all things goes to God. He has a plan; he implements it and all of it is done for His Glory. All the Glory goes to God. We don’t always see it. We may not see it right now, we may not see it in the future, but we have the assurance that God works all things together and nothing, not one single thing will happen in this world without God allowing it to happen. Not one single atom can move outside of the will of God.

What a wonderful thought. What a wonderful reminder. What glorious knowledge that we don’t have to worry about anything. God has this all in His hands.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Let’s Pray.

 

2 Timothy 4:1-5 Life in the Local Church: Paul’s Appeal to Timothy

2 Timothy 4:1-5

Life in the Local Church

Paul’s Appeal to Timothy

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 4. As usual, if you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Well, we are on to the last chapter on 2 Timothy, chapter 4. We have been working our way through 1 & 2 Timothy, Paul’s letters to Timothy as Paul was imprisoned in Rome and Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus. Paul knows this letter is coming to an end and he knows his life is coming to an end. He is writing Timothy what Timothy needs to hear and needs to know. And we titled this series, Life in the Local Church, because Paul is writing what we all today, as a part of the local church need to hear and need to know as well.

And one of the main things that Paul has been focused on is the importance and the primacy and the sufficiency and the authority of God’s Word. HE says, the False teachers are here, and they are going to come up through the church, so watch out. Here is what they look like, hers is what they sound like, here is what they act like. Essentially, here’s how to identify them and here is what their bad fruit will be.

But make sure that you are focused on Christ. Jesus Christ who is the Word of God become flesh; Jesus Christ who is God become man. Focus on the Word, which is the Holy Scripture, collected and printed right here in this book that we get to carry around with us, or put into out tablets, our computers, even our phones so that we are never without it. Focus on the Word, scripture which is God Breathed, which is inspired by God, which is inerrant, without error, which is sufficient and complete, useful for all things and everything.

2 Timothy kind of has two bookmark verses and points that Paul makes. The first is back in 2 Timothy 1:6 & 7, where he says,

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

And he has spent the last three chapters pushing Timothy towards the charge that he is going to give him here at the beginning of chapter 4. He has been, in essence, telling him to live by this book, to live by the scriptures, by the Word of God. The last two verse of chapter 3 he reminds or establishes, depending on your background, that the scriptures are, in fact, the very Word of God and that it has all the authority that God himself has, because it is His revealed Words to us.

And that leads to what he says here at the beginning of Chapter 4. So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, 2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 1 through 5. I am reading out of the English Standard Version, my preferred translation. Please follow along in your preferred translation.

Paul here is writing the very Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as he charges and exhorts Timothy, saying:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

May God Bless the reading of his holy, inspired and inerrant Word.

 

First, maybe this is just me and my brain, but since I’m the one up here, I get to ask you the question. Does it feel like something is missing from verse 1 right here? For me, it feels like one of those transitions where Paul would put a “therefore.”

This is what false teachers look and act like. They disobey the scriptures. The scriptures are Gods very Word and revelation and instructions to us. Therefore, I charge you… The good news is that scripture is useful for teaching, Paul just said that. Scripture has taught us that we look for those transitions and the connections between them. Every paragraph is not a standalone paragraph. Context matters and context bridges; from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph, from chapter to chapter, even from book to book sometimes.

Because of everything that Paul has written since chapter 1 verse 6, therefore, Timothy, I charge you. This is your calling, your responsibility. Its not really your choice. This is what you are to do. And this charge is giving by Paul to Timothy, but the call that Paul is referring to is not giving by him. It is administered by Paul and done so in the presence of He who has given the call, God the Father and Christ Jesus.

And Notice again, Paul contrasts truth against what the False teachers teach. They are teaching incorrectly about who Jesus is and what He has and will do. And so, Paul affirms some truths about Jesus. First, by the title Paul gives him, he affirms that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior whom God promised to send on our behalf back in Genesis 3. He is God become man to save sinners. He is the Christ.

Christ Jesus is the judge. He will judge right from wrong. He will judge the living and the dead. Sin will be judged and sin, not redeemed, will be punished with eternal damnation. You often hear people justify their sin by saying, “You can’t judge me, only God can judge me.” I want to plead with them, “Yes! And that should scare you!” Gods judgment is nothing to trifle with. Its nothing to dismiss. No matter how symbolic or how literal you think it is, reading the various judgments and bowls and trumpets in Revelation should testify to that.

We don’t all get to go to heaven. We don’t get to plead our case, our worthiness to Him when we stand before him. He will judge is solely on whether we are redeemed by His blood. Our salvation is through nothing but the grace of God alone, though faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Christ Jesus will appear again. He is coming back We can disagree on when. We don’t and won’t know the day, but when he comes back, there will be no doubt, the whole Earth will know, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that he is LORD. We don’t have to agree on what the millennium is or what the tribulation is or when He will return in relation to either of those. But we do need to agree that he will physically return. That is a core, central, necessary tenet of Christianity.

Lastly, Christ Jesus is King over his Kingdom.  Right now, He is reigning over his Kingdom, all of creation. And after he returns and judges the nations and refines the world so that we will reside in the new heavens and the new Earth, Jesus will hand his Kingdom back over to the Father and will be seated at his right hand, reigning along side him.

 

Paul says that in all of the things he has warned about, all the false teaching. The Apostasy within the church. In the face of cultural and fake Christianity. In the face of current to them and upcoming to us persecution, what are you to do? Paul says, I charge you, in the presence of God and Christ Jesus to do this in the face of all of that. Preach the Word.

Preach the Word. Preach the Gospel. Teach others about Jesus and about what the Bible says bout him. Preach it using words. The Gospel never doesn’t need words. Our lives can and will help to testify to what we say we believe, but preaching the Gospel always requires words. Evangelize. Share the Gospel with others. Let them know what it means that Jesus died for our sins. Let them know who Jesus actually is. Not everyone who says the believe in God or believes in Jesus will be talking about the same God, the same Jesus as the Bible defines. Let them know that the Bible says that we need to repent from our sins and believe that Jesu Christ is LORD.

And this is to be done In Season and Out of Season. We are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its easy and the words come easy and people seem receptive. And we are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its hard and we can’t think of the words and people don’t want to hear it. We need to remember that this is literally a matter of life or death, eternally speaking.

 

One of the things that the Bible teaches and the letters to Timothy specifically convict me of is that we are to not only teach and preach what is right, but we are also to point out error when we see it.

I’ve shared this with you guys before, and mi shamelessly stealing it from Ligon Duncan, though I don’t know if its shamelessly stealing if I give credit, but anyway, the following is a great illustration of this point. Duncan says:

I’ll never forget–a friend of mine…we were talking about a very famous professor, and we both had a great admiration for him. And he shared a story. He sat down with another minister who knew this professor. He’s a very godly man, a very wise man, a very kind man, though he didn’t like to critique wrong views. He was given simply to stating what was right, and then when people would ask him, “But, what about…” he’d say, “Well, I don’t want to get into criticizing those other views.” And so, he was talking with this pastor, and this pastor said, “You know what his problem is? He’ll draw a picture of a horse and say, ‘That’s a horse’; but he won’t draw a picture of a cow and say, ‘That’s not a horse.’ And that was his colorful way of saying this man will tell you what’s right, but he won’t tell you what’s wrong. And Paul is saying to Timothy, ‘It’s not enough to tell the people of God what’s right; you also need to tell them what’s wrong. They need to know the difference, and they need to learn how to discern the difference, and that means being both positive and negative in your proclamation.’

 

Paul continues in verse 2, saying that we are to reprove, rebuke and exhort. Very similar wording to what he said just a few lines earlier in chapter 3, verse 16. All of those things that the Bible is useful for, for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, all those things, we are to continue to do and to use the Bible to do them.

The Bible is not a self-help book, no matter what many TV preachers try to peddle. The Bible is not simply a set of moral guidelines, though it does include those. The Bible is not a science book, though it is trustworthy and without error where it mentions science.

The Bible is book, a collection of books about the history of His redeemed people, about His glory about his love and about his Holiness. The Bible is a book about Gods plan of redemption. The Bible is a book about Jesus and who He is.

And we are to share this book with others with complete patience and teaching. We teach, showing each other and others “This is what the Bible says…” “The scriptures say…” “Jesus said, and then quote him correctly or give chapter and verse.” The Bible says…

This is how we teach. We use the Bible, which is Truth, Given directly from God, the author of Ultimate Truth. We use that Truth to teach. And we do so with patience. No all who respond will do so immediately. Some will change a little bit at a time. Some will change the moment they here the truth. Some will have to hear the truth a lot, building a foundation and then the change will seem immediate. And some will not respond at all. This is about sharing the Gospel with those who do not believe. Remember that we sow the seed, but God brings the increase, God does the work. He calls us to Him and often drags us, kicking and screaming to Himself.  But don’t dismiss this idea because you see it mainly about evangelism.

This is also for each of us and our learning. This is for our growth and our sanctification. Not a single one of us has everything right. We need to be taught by each other. Some of us, when we are taught the truth, we will change immediately, some if us will gradually change, some if us will resist it and then seem to change all of a sudden, and some of us will never change out views or thoughts, no matter how much truth we are shown. Search your heart and ask God to make sure you are open to hear the Truth as the Bible teaches it.

And Paul goes on to show why he specifies the preaching of the Gospel both In Season and Out of Season. He lays it out in verses 3 & 4. The time is coming. The truth is the time is hear and the time has been here since Paul wrote this to Timothy. People don’t want to hear. They don’t want to listen. Again, this applies to those outside the church, to those who don’t believe, but it applies just as much to those in the pews every Sunday.

Natural human desire is to hear what affirms what we want to hear, to affirm what we already think. Studies have been done that show that we hear what we already agree with. Think about your politics and try to watch with open eyes. I see this all the time. Some one from the left says something and someone from the right says the same basic thing. Those on the right will defend what their side said and dismiss and mock what the other side said. The person on the left will do the same thing. And its when both politicians say the same thing. We want to hear what agrees with what we already think and believe.

People want to listen to people who make them feel good. We want to be told that we are the hero of the story. We want to be told that we are David, standing up against Goliath, our sins and slaying them. The truth is that we are the scared, paralyzed, quaking Israelites who need Jesus to fight our battles for us. And praise God that he does, but that’s not the story we want to hear.

False teachers gain big audiences appealing to, quote, “common sense.” Unquote. They make scripture less accurate. “No one could survive being in the belly of a fish!” “God uses Evolution!” “Jesus only appeared to have risen from the dead but isn’t that still inspirational!” And my favorite, by favorite I mean drives me crazy, “Do we actually lose anything if we lose the virgin birth?” YES! Yes, we lose everything if we lose that!

Teachers and so-called pastors who teach these sorts of things have large followings and lots of influence amongst those who don’t believe. And they draw people away from the Truth. Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we substitute anything else in for Jesus, we lose everything. When we focus on anything else besides Jesus, we lose everything.

 

As for you, Paul continues to contrast faithful believers with those who teach falsely and those who follow false teachers. In contrast to them, unlike them, be sober minded. Be safe and smart, not dismissive and not panicking. We touched on that on Wednesday, as we were reading through Psalm 10. Given the hysteria from some and the complete dismissal of others regarding the pandemic going on from the coronavirus, COVID-19, what are we to do? We know that God is in control of all things. We know that he is sovereign. He calls us to pay attention to what’s going on around us. We have a biblically taught human responsibility. A responsibility to take care of ourselves. A responsibility to love our neighbors and care for others. A responsibility to be smart and safe in this world. But our focus is to be straight up, into the heavens, right on Jesus Christ. If we panic, we are trusting in our own ability to save ourselves instead of trusting in the sovereignty of God. If we ignore completely and dismiss reality, we are ignoring the plain teachings of the Bible and especially the command to love and care for our neighbors. In all things we are to be sober minded.

We are to endure suffering. We look to biblical examples such as Paul, and Job and so many more. We can probably think of people in our lives who have endured suffering and in that enduring, they were an incredible witness for Christ. The ran the race and finished well. All things to the Glory of God. That’s easy to say and think when things are going well, but its so much more important when suffering is involved.

Do the work of an evangelist. Share the Gospel, spread the word, share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We show those around us why we have Hope in such trying times. Why we don’t need to panic over the things of this world. Why we can endure the suffering that will come.

But we are not to be salesmen in a consumer culture. We are not selling a cure, or our best life now. WE are not selling healing and financial gain. We are not selling anything at all. We are proclaiming the truth. The truth of the Word of God revealed to us in the book we hold in our hands. We truth that reveals Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.

Notice Paul’s constant contrasting of those who dismiss and reject the truth and those who are faithful and loyal to the truth. That’s because those are the only two choices we have. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area. You are either in Christ or you without Christ. You are either a sheep, to whom Christ will see in the end, “Well Done, good and faithful servant,” welcoming you into eternal life with Christ, worshiping the King of Kings in eternal paradise, in perfection, the Kingdom of Heaven. Or you are a goat, one who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, rejecting Christ and his salvation. To whom Christ will say, “Go away, for I never knew you.”

The Word instructs us, repent and believe in the Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, he is the Christ. He is the savior. I want to leave you with Philippians 4:4-9 as Paul writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

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!