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Be Different

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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March 3, 2022 9:00 am

Be Different

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 3, 2022 9:00 am

We begin working our way through the Old Testament book of Daniel--and it’s about a lot more than just lions. This book is about how to shine, how to thrive, in a very dark and hostile world.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We show we're different by living according to different values. In particular, different values in relation to what I call the big three. The big three. Saint Augustine said that followers of Jesus are most distinguishable from the world in their attitude toward three things. The big three.

Money, sex, and power. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vinovich, and I'm so glad that you joined us today. I'm so excited to be kicking off a brand new teaching series here on the program. We're going to be working our way through the Old Testament book of Daniel, and I promise you it is about a lot more than just lions. This book is about how to shine, how to thrive in a very dark and hostile world. You see, unlike most of the other books in the Hebrew Bible, this one is not set in Israel, but in the heart of an enemy pagan empire where God's people have been taken captive.

We'll learn that the power to make a difference is found in the commitment to be different. So grab your Bible, find the book of Daniel, and let's begin with a message titled Be Different. We are starting a new series today called Shining in Babylon. This is a study of the book of Daniel, all 12 chapters. And so I wanted to explain here at the beginning where the title Shining in Babylon comes from. It's from a verse in the very last chapter of Daniel, a verse that since high school has been one of my favorite verses in the entire Old Testament. It is Daniel 12 three, and it says this, those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens.

And those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever. The book of Daniel is about how to be a faithful witness in a dark and hostile environment. You see, unlike other books of the Bible, this book is not written from inside Israel.

Let me show you. Turn to chapter one, verse one, and let's just see how the book starts. Chapter one, verse one. In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. The Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with treasures from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Shinar.

By the way, that's an important detail we're gonna come back to. And to the house of his God and put the vessels in the treasury of his God. King Jehoiakim, who was Judah's 19th king after King David, continued to lead Israel in a downward spiral of unbelief, compromise, and disobedience. God had warned Israel all the way back in the book of Deuteronomy, all the way back in the beginning of the Old Testament, God had warned Israel that if they continued to walk in the path of unbelief and compromise, he would send them into exile. And sure enough, in 605 BC, God kept his promise. And might I say, before we go any farther, that I believe that God has a warning for some of you in this. We are three minutes into this message and God is right now speaking to some of you through his word. He is saying to you, you really think you can continue on in your sin?

You think I'm bluffing? I kept my promise to Israel, I'll keep it with you. You think it's beyond him to send you into some kind of exile, some kind of suffering, suffering because of persistent sin that you just don't wanna deal with? Listen, I have seen over two decades of being a pastor, I have seen God destroy many a believer who just kept putting God off, who would not listen. Do not be deceived, the apostle Paul says. God will not be mocked. Do not mistake his patience for his apathy. He is not kidding. God is not kidding. He is telling some of you today, you need to wake up and you need to get serious because I am not kidding. Verse three, verse three, the king ordered, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility, from the lineage of David, young men without any physical defect, good looking, suitable for instruction and all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive and capable of serving in the king's palace.

The best of the best, of course. He was to teach them the Chaldean language and culture they were to become schooled in the ways of Babylon. Now let's talk for a minute about Babylon because there is some deeply important symbolism at work here. Babylon refers to a specific kingdom headed by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century BC located in what is modern day Iraq. But in the Bible, Babylon also represents a spiritual power at work in every secular kingdom in every age on every continent on earth. In the New Testament, for example, the early Christians used Babylon as a code name for Rome, even though Rome was miles away from the ancient city of Babylon and had no political or ethnic connection to Babylon whatsoever. In the book of Revelation, Babylon becomes the apostle John's name for the whole world system in opposition to Jesus. Did you notice verse two, that little detail that I highlighted for you where it said the city of Babylon was? The land of Shinar. Shinar is the place in Genesis 11 two where all of mankind gathered together in order to build a gigantic tower and to make a name for themselves. And do you remember the name of that tower? The tower of Babel. Babel, Babylon. You're like, ah, I see what you did there, God.

Nicely played. The point is in the Bible, Babylon is the term for the spiritual kingdom at work in secular world powers since the tower of Babel. It is the kingdom that is built in opposition to God. It is the kingdom that represents independence of God. The kingdom where man is in charge and man is at the center. Satan has always used secular government, secular media, secular business, and economics to make war against the people of the gospel.

He is the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air. And so there are two kingdoms on earth, only two. There's the kingdom of Babylon and the kingdom of God. You belong to one or the other.

Now here's the thing. Most of you, like Daniel, are called to serve in Babylon. There's a few of us that are called to serve in the church, but the majority of you are called to serve, to serve out in Babylon. Six out of seven days of the week, you're at work in Babylon. The book of Daniel is a manual for how to survive and thrive and shine in Babylon. The book of Daniel is written in a very interesting, albeit confusing way. Chapters one through seven are going to be all about Daniel's life in Babylon.

A lot of famous stories you're going to recognize are in there. Daniel and the lions did. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace and many others. Chapters eight through 12 are Daniel's prophecy about the restoration of Israel, the coming of the Messiah, and the end of the world.

Now get this. Chapter one is written in Hebrew because it starts in the land of Israel. Chapters two through seven are written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, because all the events take place in Babylon.

Then chapters eight through 12, which are the prophecies about the future, they revert back to Hebrew again because we're back to prophecy about the end of time. The question the book of Daniel presents is this. You know how to be faithful to God in the Hebrew chapters.

Can you do it in the Aramaic ones? You may know what faithful Christian service looks like in your home turf, on your home turf, but do you know what it looks like in Babylon? Here's the question of the book of Daniel. What does faithfulness to God look like in a secular realm controlled by secular powers that are at war with the gospel? That's your question of the book of Daniel.

Let's get back to the story. Daniel is one out of four young men, good looking, smart, healthy, athletic, the best of the best, who are conscripted into Nebuchadnezzar service. But do not think of this like an episode of the bachelor Hebrew edition. Verse three tells you that they were put under the chief eunuch, which means that they would have been made eunuchs also, which means their capacity to have kids was quite literally crushed. And if that confuses you, see your campus pastor afterwards, they are prepared to answer all of your questions. Plato.

Plato said that the young men enrolled in these training programs were usually between 14 and 17 years old. So we can assume that all this happened when Daniel was about 15. Nebuchadnezzar then has their names changed. They had good Hebrew names, which pointed to the glory of God. Nebuchadnezzar changed their names to speak praise to his false gods.

Daniel, for example, Daniel means God is my judge. That gets changed to Belteshazzar, which means Baal protects the king. Hananiah, that means God is gracious. That gets changed to Shadrach, which means under the command of Aku, the moon god. Mishael means there is none like God. That gets changed to Meshach, which means there is none like Aku, the moon god. Azariah means God has helped me.

That gets changed to Abednego, which means the servant of Nebo, the Babylonian god of wisdom. Now will you pause for just a minute to think about what happened to the world of these 15 year old high school students? Now keep in mind, these are real people. These are high school age boys, just like boys that are in some of your homes right now, you parents. High school age boys in the ninth or tenth grade in our system who watch as their homeland is invaded, their families are killed, their temple is desecrated, their god is blasphemed, their futures as husbands and fathers destroyed, and their names are even changed to give praise to a foreign deity every time somebody calls their name. Some of you feel like you've been put into a difficult environment to be a Christian in.

I dare say Daniel and his friends have got you beat. So again, what does faithfulness in this kind of environment look like? Verse eight, but Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and the wine.

And he asked the chief official for permission not to define himself this way. The royal food and wine would have included a lot of things that were forbidden by the Torah, the Jewish law, forbidden for Israelites to eat. So see, here's their first test of faith.

Are they going to conform to the scriptures, or are they going to cave to the culture of Babylon? So Daniel asked that he and his friends be able to eat from a different menu. Now that's a pretty annoying request for a prisoner, because nobody in charge of feeding a group likes it when different people demand different things.

There's some moms out there who want to say amen. And nothing burns my wife Veronica up more than one of our kids demanding a different meal than what she has prepared for the family. And Daniel does this. Verse nine, now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel. But the official told Daniel, listen, I'd like to do this for you, but I'm afraid of Nebuchadnezzar who was assigned your food and drink. The king picked out your menu.

Why would he see you looking worse than all the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you. Daniel then said to him, please test your service for 10 days. Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Now please, please, please do not be short-sighted and think that Daniel just gave you some kind of spiritually secret, superior, Jesus blessed keto diet. Some of you are like, oh, I knew it, vegetables and water. And I bet that means only whole grains of non-GMO stuff too.

That is not the point. These were evidently the only things they could eat that were not ritually defiled. You are free to follow this Daniel diet if you want, but that's not the point of this chapter.

And so help me if you use this chapter to find some kind of biblical mandate for essential oils, our relationship is over, okay? Daniel said, let us eat vegetables and water because they're the only things we can eat that aren't ritually defiled. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat at the royal food and treat your servants in accordance with what you see. So we agreed to this and tested them for 10 days, a test. At the end of the 10 days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them 10 times better and smarter than all the magicians and all the enchanters in his whole kingdom. God bless them.

God bless them. There is a principle being taught here. And that is when you commit to doing things God's way, God often glorifies himself by honoring and exalting you. Now be very careful.

This is not some kind of magic formula. Sometimes as we're gonna see in Daniel, you do the right thing and you suffer for it. But I am telling you a consistent biblical testimony is that those who honor God, God honors back.

And here's the first principle of the book of Daniel I want you to master. You cannot make a difference in Babylon unless you are different. You cannot make a difference unless you are different.

If you want to make a difference, you have to be different. Now, one caveat I feel compelled to put in here, I'm not talking about being weird. There is no excuse for Christian weirdness. We all know Christians who are just strange, amen. I mean, they tell complete strangers things like, I'm gonna bathe you in prayer. And it just weirds people out.

Don't do that. Or they think the greatest witness they can have is through aggressive bumper stickers, right? I mean, you know this, when you see somebody in the highway and you're coming up on them and the back of their car is just loaded up with bumper stickers, you know it's either what?

A far left liberal or an evangelical Christian. And our bumper stickers say things like, in case of rapture, this car will be unmanned. Like that makes everybody feel safe and want to come to Jesus.

Or do you follow Jesus this closely? I just saw that one the other day. Now in our day, the internet has come along and given birth to a whole new level of Christian weirdness with phrases like God answers an email and tweet others how you would want to be tweeted.

And some of you, some of you right now just thought, that's pretty good. I'm gonna put that on my Facebook today. See, you're part of the problem. Okay. Don't do that.

Don't do that. By the way, some of you met some weird Christians and that really turns you off. I would just tell you this from uncle JD after two decades of being a pastor, here's what I've learned. Those people would have been weird whether or not they were Christians.

Okay. Their weirdness is not Jesus' fault. They just closed up their weirdness in Jesus language. So don't blame Jesus for that.

Okay. What we're talking about here is being different, not weird. Distinct from Babylon in some very crucial ways. For these Hebrew teenagers, the first application of that principle is gonna be faithfulness to God and what they eat and drink. What they eat and drink is gonna be guided by the Bible, not Babylon. Now here we are 21st century America, and you and I, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we're no longer under Torah law. Okay. So the menu is not the issue for us. So we've got to ask, what does that look like for us today?

How do we keep from defiling ourselves with the Royal food and wine in our Babylon? As always, I have three points. Okay. Because I just worked for preachers. If it works for the Trinity, it works for sermons.

All right. Number one, number one, we show we're different. We show we're different by living according to different values. In particular, different values in relation to what I call the big three, the big three. St. Augustine said that followers of Jesus are most distinguishable from the world in their attitude toward three things. The big three, money, sex, and power.

You want to know if you're distinct from the world, don't look at how you talk, how often you go to church, how you dress. Look at your relationship to money, sex, and power. Money. Babylon approaches money from the standpoint of acquisition. Get all you can, keep all you can, maybe give away a little to show that you're a good person and to maintain favor with the community, but money is lifeblood.

It's the key to the good life. For the believer, for the follower of Jesus, because God is their trust and their treasure, well, they got a different approach toward money altogether. Yes, we live off of money. It is the currency by which we buy things, but we also recognize that money is something entrusted to us for the advancement of God's kingdom. So as God prospers us, we are not just thinking about how to advance our standard of living. We are also asking, even asking prior to the standard of living question, we're asking, how can I use this prosperity to increase my standard of giving for you?

Here's your question. Is money for you, is it primarily something that you acquire and enjoy and you give a little bit away on the side, or is money primarily for you a tool to bless, empower, and prosper the kingdom of God of which you enjoy a little bit on the side? What's on the side for you and what's the main course?

Here's how we say it around the Summit Church. Which is true of you? Do you give sufficiently and live extravagantly, or do you live sufficiently and give extravagantly? I would say the majority of you, because you're here and because church is a part of your life, you give, and most of you are like, well, I think I give sufficiently.

Some of you are like, I even hit the big 10% number, and so I feel like that's sufficient. You give sufficiently, but then you live extravagantly. The follower of Jesus would reverse that and say, I'm going to live sufficiently, but I'm going to give extravagantly. That's what differs from Babylon. Everybody in Babylon is going to give a little bit, but what's the main thing for you?

Is money a tool for God's kingdom entrusted to you, or is it something that you have that you just kind of pilfer a little bit off the side for him? Second of the big three, sex. Sex. Babylon approaches sex from the standpoint of, it's all about me, and if it feels good, it can't be wrong. The Christian sees sex as a gift of God to be used for God's purposes, according to his design, within a covenant-based lifelong marriage between a man and a woman. It was said that in the early church, early Christians, they stood in stark contrast to other Roman citizens because they were, and I quote, promiscuous with their money. Promiscuous means you disperse it freely and widely. They were promiscuous with their money and guarded with their beds, whereas other Romans were guarded with their money, and they were stingy with their money, and promiscuous with their beds. And so Christians seemed, by Babylonian standards, totally backwards.

Strange because they would not gorge on the royal foods and wines. Power, that's the third of the big three. For Babylon, whatever power you have, you press it to your advantage. Whatever you got, if it's your looks, use that. If it's your money, use that.

If it's your talent, your majority culture status, your minority status, use that. Whatever power you have is to be held onto and pressed for your advantage. But the Christian has a totally different attitude toward power. They're gonna see power the way that Jesus saw His power and privilege, and that is His power and privilege were something He used to serve and to lift up others. So the follower of Jesus is always asking, how can I use this position of power or privilege to lift up those around me? Christians are most distinct from Babylon in relation to these three.

The question is, what about you? Is your approach to these three things more characterized by Babylon or the Bible? If your life is shaped by the Bible, you're gonna be stranger and more offensive to those people around you than Daniel was in Babylon. And not because you use weird Christian phrases or listen to Christian music all the time, or because you dress like a weirdo.

It's gonna be because you are opposite of the world and the three things that are most important to them. And you just look strange and offensive. I've heard it described like this. Imagine you're watching a big marching band on a football field. There can be like a couple hundred people out there on that field. If you've been in a marching band or you've watched one, you know that in the band, everybody in the whole place is looking one place. All the eyes are trained on the one guy or girl, that conductor, and they are marching in beat with their baton.

But say you got your binoculars out, you're in the stands, and you look out there in the middle of that marching band, and you notice that there's one guy who's not looking at the conductor, he's got his air pods in. And he's listening to Drake or Lil Wayne on a radio station. And he's marching to that beat.

How's he gonna look? Strange, chaotic, out of control. That's not because he doesn't have rhythm. It's not because he's actually chaotic at all. It's because he's dialed into music from another place. The question is, what are you dialed into?

What baton are you watching? If you are marching according to heaven's values, you're going to look strange. Before I go on to our second thing, let me show you some really practical places. This will show up, and I want to press this because I really feel like this is kind of the bread and butter of it all for you college students and young professionals. If you are living by the principles of Babylon, then you will approach your career the way that every Babylonian approaches their career. Every other Babylonian in college is like, what career is going to make me feel the most fulfilled?

What career is going to get me the most money? That'll be your approach. If you're shaped by the Bible, you will ask first, which career can best serve the Great Commission? We always say to our students around here, the question is not if you're called.

The question is only where and how. The call of Jesus to leverage your life for the Great Commission was not a special mystical thing that was given to just a few of us who went to seminary. The call of Jesus to leverage your life for the kingdom of God and the Great Commission, that call is given to everybody. Follow me and I'll make you a fisher of men. Are you different?

If someone were to meet you or observe you, would they walk away thinking there's something unique, something different about you? If you joined Summit Life a little late today, you can hear this message again free of charge at Pastor JD, in our new teaching series, The Book of Daniel Shining in Babylon, we're looking at a very dark and hostile context. I love The Book of Daniel. I love reading it. I love teaching it.

It was one of my favorite series I've done at the Summit Church. I feel like I say that all the time, Molly, but I really mean it about this one because the book is about how to shine, how to thrive in a very dark and hostile world. Unlike most of the books in the Hebrew Bible, this book is not set in Israel.

In fact, most of it's not written in the Hebrew language. It's set in the heart of an enemy pagan empire where God's people have been taken captive and they're living as exiles. And what you're going to see in this book, what we'll learn is that the power to make a difference is only found in the commitment to be different. Not in all the weird ways that Christians like to be weird and different, but in the true ways that show you're living for a different kingdom. I'm excited to be able to offer to you along with this a new Bible study that will help, as we often do here at Summit Life, take you deeper into the teaching and the scripture, help you to reflect on it, help you think personally about it, show you some exegetical insights that maybe I can't cover in the sermon. I want to get that to you soon as you're going along with the series because I think it'll help you press deeper into what this timeless message is from the book of Daniel and how it applies to you. This brand new Bible study helps to provide an overall understanding of any passage of scripture, what it says, the intended meaning to the original audience, and then how it can be applied to today. It will help train you to make observations and then draw conclusions from the passage, finding the big idea.

And this type of study can be used by both new and seasoned students alike. As our way of saying thanks for your support, we'd love to give you a copy of the book of Daniel shining in Babylon, nine part inductive Bible study. Ask for it when you make a one-time donation of $35 or more, or when you become a monthly gospel partner today. Call 866-335-5220.

Or if it's easier, you can sign up online at Your gift makes it possible for people around the world to hear these daily messages and access the online resources without cost ever getting in the way. So thank you for joining with us. I'm Molly Vidovitch, and I'm so glad that you joined us today. Be sure to listen tomorrow when we continue this message from Daniel chapter one on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-27 23:22:01 / 2023-05-27 23:32:47 / 11

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