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

Romans 13:8-10 Love fulfills the Law

Romans 13:8-10
Love fulfills the Law

Good Morning. Lets grab our Bibles and turn in them to Romans chapter 13. As a reminder, if you do not own a Bible, we have some on the back table as our gift to you. We are indeed back in Romans after a kind of, sort of, not really, detour last week.
Paul here, in his letter to the churches in Rome has been showing what being a follower of Christ practically looks like. Right application and right action necessarily come from right understanding of doctrine. And Right understanding of doctrine should lead to right application and action.
But just simply having the right doctrine and the right application, might not be enough. In order for the doctrine to be put into practice, our heart needs to be changed. In order for our actions to be rooted in right doctrine, we need the right motivation. And that is one of the things that we are going to see Paul talk about this morning.
This section, chapters 12 & 13, are one big thought by Paul, following up on his long, extended treatise on the Christian doctrine and faith, from chapters 1 through 11. Pastor Ligon Duncan reminds us of the connective thought process Paul has been developing over the last two chapters, as he says:
This whole section of Romans in chapter 12 and chapter 13 is Paul’s fleshing out of what it means to live your life in light of the realities that you are to be a living sacrifice to the Lord as your spiritual service of worship. This is what it means to put your life on the altar. It’s what it means to die for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s what it means to live the whole of life as an act of worship.
(https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/a-call-to-fulfill-the-law-through-love)

So, with that said, we look at our verses from this week, Romans 13:8-10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and please follow along in whatever version you have with you. Romans 13:8-10, Paul writes:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

So, right away here, Paul continues on from verse 7 and follows it up in verse 8. Summing up, verse 7, Paul told us to give to everyone what is owed to them. He went into the specifics about some of the ways that looks like. Taxes, revenue, honor and respect. And here, he writes out the general principle. All of those things fall under how we treat each other and how we treat each other falls under the heading of love.
We know the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19 & 20:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
However, we often forget about the great commandment. This is what we looked at last week in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember in Luke 10, Jesus asks the lawyer, starting in verse 26, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Love God and Love your neighbor. This is the Great Commandment. All other commands, principles, and applications fall under these umbrellas. And Paul says that here in verse 9, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There are a couple of aspects that flow out of what Paul is saying here. Two main ones actually. The first is that all are owed love. We are to owe no one anything except love. This has to come from some place. If we are owed something, it implies something. If we are owed something, it implies that we deserve it. If we deserve it, our minds imply that we did something to deserve it. If we are owed love, it implies that we are loveable.
We know by reading Romans specifically and the bible in General that we are, indeed not lovable. Thats the whole beautiful thing about the Gospel, about what God the Father sent God the Son to do, to love us when we were at our most unlovable. And when we become followers and children of God, through the Power of the God the Holy Spirit, we are to love all those around us who are unlovable. By that still implies that there is a reason for us to love those who are unlovable. And there is.
Imago Dei. Genesis 1:27 tells us So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. We, as in all of us, as in all human beings ever, as in people. We were all created in the image of God. We were made reflecting the glory and image of God. We are evidence of the reality of God. That does not mean that we are all children of God, that we are all followers of Christ or that we all will go to heaven. But we were all created in His image and therefore, through Gods goodness, and nothing we have done, we are all worthy of the dignity and respect, and In this context, love that comes with being made in his image.
As we saw last week, neighbor is not a limited term. It is everyone. That includes all of our enemies. It includes our religious enemies. It includes our political enemies. It includes our personal enemies. It includes our workplace enemies. It includes our friends. It includes our family. It includes each other in this very room. Each of those categories is our neighbor and we are commanded to love them. None of those categories is easy to love.
DA Carson says that Christians are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” Think about this, Any group, any association you have, any friends, you all spend time together because there are common interests. You get to know people and you spend time with them, “Hey, you like horses? I like horses! You like working on cars? I like working on cars! You like knitting or crocheting? I like knitting or crocheting!” There is a common bond that brings us together.
Now look around this room. We are here together whether we have anything in common or not. We look around this room and we are all different. If we have things in common, great! Added bonus! The Bible says that we don’t need anything in this world in common. Jesus tells us that he is enough.
We talked last week about loving those we don’t like, those who we don’t know. But we need to remember to love one another, even when and especially when its hard and especially when we don’t want to.
The Apostle John writes in his second letter:
And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 5&6)
He reiterates the Great Commandment. He points out how we are supposed to be with one another. Peter writes that love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) We are brothers and sisters in Christ, those of us who are children of God. We are family. Think about your family. Nobody can get on your nerves, nobody can irritate you more than your brothers and sisters. You know its true. But they are still family and there are few that we love as much as or more than our family.
The same with our church family. I’m sure there are people in this room that can, at times, annoy us, grate on us, do things we don’t particularly care for. Thais a part of life on earth. Anytime you gather a group of people together in a room, there is 0 chance that at some point, there wont be something that happens in that room where one, two or more are annoyed, hurt or mad.
But the Bible reminds of us that often, we are on the giving end of that hurt. Get a handful of sinners together, we are still sinners.
That brings us to the second main point here in our passage this morning. Paul says that Love is the fulfilling of the law. The law needs to be fulfilled. It especially needs to be fulfilled if we want to be let in to the Kingdom of Heaven. But we are unable to fulfill the law. We cannot live up to the perfect and holy standard that God has set. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20, during the Sermon on the Mount, what I see as the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount summed up in one statement, I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous of the Jews in their day. God handed down the law to Moses back in Exodus. Forgetting that Abraham was justified by faith and not fully understanding the Great Commandment, which was given in the law and was where the Pharisees got that from, the tried so hard to follow the letter of the law and even added rules and laws on top of Gods laws. But they thought that, by following the commands of God, that their own righteousness could be enough to earn them salvation and eternal life. They were not only wrong, because our righteousness on our own can never be enough, we don’t have perfect righteousness. Only Christ had that. But also, as they trusted in their own righteousness, by following the letter of the laws, they lacked the very love that God command them to have.
We see numerous times in the Old Testament prophetic books that God admonishes Israel for doing the things, the religious rituals, the sacrifices, and offerings and the pageantry in the temple, but doing them without love, with wrong hearts and motivations. God says, through the prophet, in Malachi 1, verse 10:
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
This is just one of many examples. The priests were making the offerings they were supposed to, but wrong hearts and motivations, without love and in this case too, offering unsuitable animals and gifts for the offerings.
With what Ezekiel calls a heart of stone, (Ezek. 36:26) our outward actions don’t add up to anything in Gods eyes. Moral actions without a heart of flesh, does nothing but make us white washed tombs. (Matt. 23:27) Nice looking on the outside, but dead on the inside.
Paul talks about what it means to do all sorts of good things but to do it without love. 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

We cannot love with a heart of stone. We cannot love in and of ourselves. And we can’t change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It takes the holy Spirit to do that. And it took Jesus, his perfect life, perfect righteousness and death and resurrection to secure forgiveness from our sins and clothe us in His righteousness.
That forgiveness is a key thing here. Love covers a multitude of sins, right? Paul writes in Romans 5:8 that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We are forgiven, we are clothed in Christs righteousness. We are made a new creation. Our heart of stone is change to a heart of flesh. Because God loved us and Jesus secured our forgiveness.
God gives us all this through by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing we do can earn it, nothing about us can be good enough. Our forgiveness and salvation is based and solely based on Gods love for us.
God loved us first, and now calls us to love him, to love God with all out heart, soul, strength and mind. He also calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And just have to be careful we put things in the right order. Again, it bears repeating often, we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t follow the commands of God in order to earn his good graces. We are saved by grace through faith. When we are saved, we follow his commands to show our love for God who loved us first.
Jesus says it clearly in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And love is the fulfillment of the commandments. Jesus says, just about a chapter later, John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5. It is the first and foremost of the visible evidences of our salvation, of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And through love, we show others the love of Christ. Again, in Johns Gospel, 15:35, Jesus says: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Again referencing Ligon Duncan, he shows the love that God gives us as debt to be paid. We pay our debt by pouring out love to those around us. He says the following:
The interesting thing about the exercise of this debt is that you get richer as you pay the debt. Listen to what Robert Haldane says, “The more they pay off this debt, the richer they will be in the thing that is paid.”
You pay off this debt with love, and as you pay off this debt, you don’t end up with less love, you end up with more love.
But just talking about loving each other and loving our neighbor is not enough. 1 John 3:18, John writes: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. Paul lists a few of the Ten Commandments in this passage, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” And says that these are all reduced and simplified to Love your neighbor.
Heres what he is not saying. No longer follow the Ten Commandments. We are not bound by them, as in required to keep them to achieve or earn salvation. But God gave them for a reason. We have looked at that recently too. The law was given for our benefit. For our holiness. But we are called to be Holy as God Our Father is Holy (Matt. 5:48) We are called to know and follow the word of God. Jesus tells us to repent and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)
But as we also saw just a few moments ago, we can follow the commands the wrong way and missing the point, missing God in that. And so Love God and love our neighbors gives us the umbrella from which we filter all things. Again from 1 John, 5:3: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
We love God, we love his word. inerrant, sufficient and complete. No new revelation, no picking and choosing what we like and what we don’t. But to love God means to love all of him, including what he has revealed to us in the Bible.
And We love our neighbors, we love each other by acting on his commands, by following them. We reject the worlds definition of what love is and we act on the Bibles definition. We owe all people around us love, it is a debt that can never be fully repaid, a debt from God. Since all people are created with the Imago Dei, creation in the image and likeness of God, they deserve love and respect.
The two aspects of the Great commandment are intrinsically related. I like and Ill finish with the way John Piper sums it all up these verses: Christ will be my focus, love will be my fruit.”
Lets Pray

Romans 8:12-17 Heirs of God, co-heirs of Christ

Romans 8:12-17

We become Children of God

(Editor’s note: Having some issues uploading the audio. As soon as it is available, I will edit this post and add the audio to it. Thanks for your understanding)

(Editor’s note: Audio is now included! Thanks for your patience.)

Good morning! Please go ahead and grab your Bibles. Just a reminder that if you do not own a Bible, we do have a stack on the back table that we would like to be our gift to you.

As you turn to the book of Romans, we will be in Chapter 8 this morning. Paul, the author of this letter, has been pointing out the line that is drawn by God. You are either in Christ, or you are in the flesh. You are either aligned with the world or you are aligned with God. He has started to show the person and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, developing the theology of the Trinity. He has shown how, in Christ, we are free from the power and bondage of sin and death.

Paul is going to follow up on all these things, even in the section we are looking at today, but throughout the rest of the chapter especially, of basically, who we are in Christ. He has established, in the section we saw last week, the difference in Christians and non Christians, In walking in the Spirit and walking in the flesh. Paul keeps mentioning, IF YOU are in Christ, IF YOU are in the Spirit, IF YOU…

And that’s what Paul is picking up with in this section today. Lets go ahead and look at the verses we are looking at this morning. Im going to read Romans 8:12-17, and Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 8:12-17, Paul writes:

So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Amen? So, a lot of great things in there. A lot of encouragement, and looking to the eternal future that we get to share with God. He lays down one last, dividing line, IF. If you live by the flesh, or if you live by the spirit. And as we looked at last week, the physical, earthly results are the same. We live in sinful bodies, in a broken world and our bodies will die a physical death. What happens after that depends on that IF. if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Again, not physical life and death in this world, but spiritual life and death in eternity. If you live by the flesh, you will experience the same death that God told Adam about, that would be the result of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What Paul is writing in the section we are looking at today is the wonderful encouragement, the light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, the hope that we trust in and look towards IF we are sons of God.

And what are going to look at today are things that Paul assures us of if we are on the right side of that IF. So Paul points out 4 things that are true to all believers here. 4 things that are true if we are on the right side of that IF. If we have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus Christ and his sufficient and complete work on the cross.

First, If we are led by the Spirit, then we are Sons of God. Now, this can be tough for some of us to think of and understand for a variety of reasons. First of all, everything in this world, all of the things that point to God, all of the things that we say or understand about God, all of the analogies, illustrations and examples in this world are incomplete. We live in a sin corrupted, broken world.

God gives us things in this world to understand him better, to understand why and how we should relate to him and to point towards him. In this case, the example would God as our Father.

But that tough for us to imagine and understand. Because God the Father is a perfect Father. He is what Fathers are supposed to be. And one of the reasons we have fathers is to point us to who God is and what he is like. So, what’s the obvious problem? Our human fathers. What’s their problem, well, they’re human. Even the best of human fathers fall woefully short of the example that God the father sets for us.

The role of father is a type, its a shadow, its a pointing towards the character of God. As such, its not going to be a perfect representation. The author of Hebrews talks about the correlation between our human fathers and God the father. Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Now, this is also going to come in to play later on with one of the points we look at, but just want to quickly point out a couple of phrases in here. we have had earthly fathers, & they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good.

Our fathers are supposed to do the best that they are able. They are supposed to do whats best for us and that is supposed to point towards Christ. But, how many fathers are actually like that? One of the most common problems that believers have is in seeing God the Father actually as a Father. The reason is because of who they had as their human, earthly fathers.

Many of the people in this room, I can say this confidently, even without knowing most of your stories yet, many of you in this room have experience what could be most politely described as terrible. In more truth, many of the fathers have been absolutely evil. Many more have been misguided, incompetent or indifferent. Some precious few have been good. If you have an evil father, how can you see God as a good, good father?

Again, the scripture will address this. Im not saying there does not need to be healing. Im not saying its easy. But Jesus tells us that God the Father is infinitely a better father than us and our earthly fathers. Matthew 7: 9-11, Jesus says:

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

God is our perfect father and he loves us perfectly, in ways that all of our human earthly fathers fall short, to whatever extent. He loves us. He saves us. He disciplines us, as we saw in the passage in Hebrews. He guides us, and teaches us. He created us and knows what’s best for us and provides for our needs. Jesus’ half brother James reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from God above. Psalm 68:5 says: Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. And our father will never turn his back on us. He will always welcome us into his arms, and nothing is strong enough to rip us from his hands. God is our father. We are his children.

The second if, If we are in Christ, you have received the Holy Spirit. And, as Paul writes here, you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons

Im going down a planned rabbit trail and I think this is a good spot for it. God is our Father. We are his children. Who is We? This phrase gets tossed around today as if it applies to every one. That all who God created are his children. Scripture doesn’t say that.

Now, before I go any farther, All Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. All human beings are image bearers of God. Therefore, all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But, not all who are created in Gods image and likeness are Gods children. Paul writes to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 26: for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

More explicitly, in Johns Gospel, he writes in chapter 1, verses 9-13:

 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

So, if you are in Christ, if you receive him, if you believe on his name, if you have the Holy Spirit, you have been giving the right to become Children of God. 1 John 3:10 tells us : By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

And we cry out to God as Father by the Spirt of Adoption, the Holy Spirit. The term Adoption is used here to denote and whole new relationship. God has adopted us as his children. He has justified us, as we have seen in previous chapters. We are now in a right relationship with God. Our relationship that was broken the moment that Adam and Eve fell.

Another we have seen as we have gone through Romans, is that this new relationship, this promise of eternal life, these promises that God has made and will fulfill, are not necessarily fulfilled in this physical, immediate instance. But God the Father gives us the Holy Spirit almost as a down payment. He gives us the Holy Spirit, as the courts official stamp on the adoption papers, making it legal and binding and forever. Ephesians 1:14 says that the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory”

What God has not given us is a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. The Holy Spirit is an assurance of the promises of God. He is the sign of the freedom that we now have, the freedom from death, the freedom to live. The freedom from the law, the freedom to follow the law. The enemy, while engaging in spiritual warfare, sends fear and tries to keep us in slavery.

Not all spiritual stuff is from God. God tells us that we are to test the spirits by the scriptures. God gives us certain spirit, but not others. 2 Timothy 1:7,  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Fear is not from God. Freedom, power, love, self control. Those things are form God. The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are indeed the adopted children of God.

Thirdly, if we are in Christ, I we are the children of God, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. So that leads to the question, of what are we heirs to? What do we inherit? Galatians 3:29 tells us: And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Then a moment later in Galatians 4:7:  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

We are heirs to the promise of Abraham. We are heirs to the kingdom of God. We are heirs to eternal life. We are heirs to salvation. We are co heirs with Christ.

Christ, who is the firstborn of all creation, is the rightful heir to all that is the Fathers. With our adoption into Gods family as children of God, we take our place along side Christ as heirs to what is his.

Gotquestions.org sums up:

The New Testament portrays Jesus Christ as God’s “firstborn” Son; that is, Jesus holds the “birthright” and is the heir of all the Father has. God has given Christ all of creation as a gift, because all was created for Him. The inheritance that Christ receives includes believers, those whom the Father has given to the Son.
Believers are co-heirs with Christ. Meaning, believers have been given the privilege of sharing Christ’s inheritance. As adopted sons of God, Christians are treated as firstborn heirs. Our inheritance includes salvation, eternal life, and even a measure of the throne of Christ.
The heirs of God’s promises receive their inheritance through faith: “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith”. The promise given to Abraham concerning his “offspring” was a promise of Jesus the Messiah. So an heir of God is someone who, through faith, receives Christ, who fulfilled the Abrahamic promise of being a blessing to all nations

What wonderful, undeserved, encouraging news! If we believe, if we trust in Christ, if we, as Jesus says, repent and believe, we will receive the Holy Spirit, we will be justified, we will be adopted as children of God and we will be heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ.

Paul ends verse 17 with reminder of physical present reality mix in with the promise and the hope of what is to come. The last IF. IF we suffer with Christ, we will also be glorified with him.

A couple of notes on this before we wrap up here today. Becoming a Christian will not make all your problems go away. In fact, in many cases, especially in the short term, it may make them worse. I should see a lot of heads nodding out of understanding from experience to that.

Jesus says we will face persecution, not going to get too deep into that right now, but it is what Jesus said and it is something we can expect. Paul talks often about the spiritual warfare gong on around us. We talked about this Wednesday morning and Dave even shared about the Armor of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians chapter 6. Some suffering is given to us by God as discipline. We read a section of Hebrews 12 earlier, just rereading verse 11 real quick, For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I see God using the word discipline in this section in both understanding sof the word. It is to correct wrong behavior and change us from who we were to who we are to become, to make us more like Christ. And it is used in the sense of an athlete or student who disciplines themselves to do the work needed to accomplish their goals.

That discipline is hard. Read your Bible every day. Spend time in prayer everyday. Turn to God and his word first, before other things. Wake up Sunday morning, maybe even Wednesday morning to make it to gather with the fellow saints. It seems painful, but produces fruit.

One commentator, while speaking on this verse, and also looking ahead to some of the verse for next week says,

Suffering is not evidence of separation from God, but a sign of living in the conflict zone between “this present time” and the “age to come,” a sign of being indwelled by the Spirit of God which is at odds with the rule of sin and death (Romans 8:1-10). It is a suffering we share with the whole creation in bondage, waiting with eager longing for “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:18-21). We, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan together with creation “while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).

The thing I keep pulling out of the section In Hebrews 12 is that the discipline that we are facing is a reminder that God is loving us and working on us. It is a reminder that he has not turned us over toour sins and that we are indeed his children.

Lastly, Ill leave you with this reminder that what we see and experience now, is but a foretaste of what is to come:

Jesus Christ holds the position of firstborn and is the heir of all creation. What’s truly amazing is that He has promised to share His inheritance with us. When He returns in glory to take up His rightful place as King of Kings on earth, we will rule with Him, under His authority (Revelation 2:26-27). The Christian life is filled with undeserved favor. What we experience now of God’s grace is only the tip of the iceberg.

Lets Pray.

The weeds and the wheat

I was asked about this parable by a friend of mine. He asked what it meant. He had some idea, but felt like some thing was missing in his understanding. I figured I would share this with the rest of you as well.

The Parable of the Weeds [24] He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, [25] but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. [26] So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. [27] And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ [28] He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ [29] But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

Who are the weeds, Who are the wheat? Well, to start off, we look a few verses later in the same chapter and we see this passage:

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

[36] Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” [37] He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. [38] The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, [39] and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. [40] Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. [41] The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, [42] and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:36-43 ESV)

We, as humans on earth are able, at times, to tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat. Jesus tells his disciples the following in John 13:34-35:

[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

But for the most part, we who belong to God are living the same as those who dont, We can not tell the difference. The point is that it is not our job to separate the wheat from the weeds, it is out Jesus job. He will do it perfectly at the end of the days. Our job is to make sure that, first, we are the wheat, and second, that as many people as possible are the wheat. Our job is to tell people that the weeds will be burned up at the end and the wheat will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Casey

Romans 1:16

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