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Uncompromising Faith in the Fiery Furnace, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 17, 2023 4:00 am

Uncompromising Faith in the Fiery Furnace, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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April 17, 2023 4:00 am

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The Bible crushes literally all idols, whether they are idols of stone, or idols of the mind, or idols of the heart, or idols of the emotions, whether they are tangible or intangible, whether they are external or internal, all idols are crushed in the statement of God, thou shalt have no other gods before me, thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It's said that man is incurably religious, always worshipping something. Well, if that's true, here's a question you need to consider. How do you know if you're worshipping the wrong god? What are the idols in today's culture, and have any of them taken the place of the true God in your life? Consider that today as John MacArthur looks at the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how they dealt with intense pressure to worship a false god, and how you can learn from their example.

Follow along now in the book of Daniel as John continues his study called An Uncompromising Life. Man is incurably religious. Man, generally, man basically is religious.

That's very obvious as you go around the world. You find that all peoples and all races and ethnic groups have some substance of religion. Man is an incurably religious creature.

He inevitably bows at some shrine. It is either the worship of the true God or some false substitution, but man is incurably religious. Romans chapter 1 tells us this, because Romans 1 says that when man knew God, he glorified him not as God, and turning his back on the true God, he began to worship the creature more than the Creator, and he made gods out of wood and stone, and he began to worship man and beasts and creeping things.

In other words, what Romans 1 is telling us from verse 18 to about verse 23 is that man is incurably religious, and if he turns his back on the true God, he will not go into a vacuum. He will create other gods out of snakes and birds and beasts and men, and he will worship the creature if he does not worship the Creator. Now whenever man does this, and whenever man invents or concocts or prescribes or defines his own god, he makes him into the kind of god he wants him to be.

And there's an interesting cycle. He usually becomes like his god, and so here is man making the god that he wants to exist and then becoming like that god that he himself has manufactured. The Old Testament tells us much about man's religious nature and how he does this. It is characteristic of man to create a god like himself and then become more and more like that god. This way he accommodates his sinfulness. You see, the difficulty with worshiping the true God is you have to face the reality of your inadequacy and your sinfulness.

So if you reject that, you invent a god who is a lot like you, and it's a lot easier to live with that kind of a god. In Psalm 115, we get a little bit of an insight into how man does this. It says, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake. The Psalm begins with a statement that God is to be glorified. Wherefore should the nation say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens.

He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not. Eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, but they hear not. Noses have they, but they smell not. They have hands, but they handle not. Feet have they, but they walk not.

Neither speak they through their throat. They who make them are like unto them. So is every one who trusteth in them.

You see? They make them and they're like them. Men invent gods of their own making. The Bible says God created man in his own image. But man creates gods in his own image.

The ultimate rebellion. Man inventing his own gods. Now there is then a constant conflict in the world. And that constant conflict is between the worship of the true God and the worship of the false gods made out of the imagination and the mind of man. And deities made by man always express the sinfulness of man.

Always. I don't have time to go into this. Sometimes we should do a study on idolatry and really get into it in detail. But just to give you an illustration, whenever men invent gods, those gods mirror the deficiencies and the sins of men. For example, in reading the Old Testament you come repeatedly across a god known as Baal. B-A-A-L. Now Baal is not really a proper name. It is a word that simply means lord and there were many Baals, many lords, many pagan gods. And as you study the Baals of ancient history you find that they inevitably carried out the sinfulness of men in their character.

For example, just one illustration. It was believed of the Canaanites and the people around Israel that Baal was the force behind sexual power in the man and the woman. Baal was the power behind the sexual part of human nature. And so therefore any sexual act became a performance of the power of Baal. All sex relations then, according to those who worship Baal, became sacred acts because they then became demonstrations of this great force of the god Baal. Now, the temples of Baal were then occupied by priestesses who were known as sacred prostitutes.

To have intercourse then with a temple prostitute was to be united in power with Baal, a very consummate act of worship. Now that is the way man invents his gods, to accommodate his own vile sinfulness. Inevitably people, now get this, when men invent gods those gods will lead men into immorality because they will be gods that reflect the sinfulness of the men who invented them. That is exactly why in Romans chapter 1 you have the fact that when they knew God they glorified Him not as God, they changed the glory of God into an image, they made their own idols and immediately in verse 24 you read this, Wherefore God also let them go into uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonor their own bodies between themselves. In other words, you have the rejection of the true God in verse 21, you have the establishment of the false gods in verse 22 and 23, and you have the consequent immorality in verse 24. And it goes all the way down to verse 32. It talks about God giving them up to vile affections, it talks about a burning in lust one toward another, it talks about unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maligning, whispers, backbiters, haters of God, insolent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, and so forth. And all of those are simply representations of the kind of worship that man himself builds.

And when man does that, it says that he not only does them but has pleasure in them that do them. Idolatry is always an abandonment to an immoral standard. Idolatry in the Old Testament even goes under the name of ahoring.

It says Israel went ahoring. It says Israel committed adultery because that kind of prostitution was so integral to idolatry. Now, idolatry then is the corruption of true worship. And from the very beginning, man has always set up his false gods and the running conflict has gone on through all of human history, the conflict between the worship of the true God and the worship of false gods. In fact, let me say something that's kind of a basic statement you ought to remember. Idolatry is the most basic issue about which God is concerned.

Did you get that? Idolatry is the most basic issue in terms of the life of man about which God is concerned. You say, how do you know that?

How do you know he's more concerned about that than other things? Because it says so in Exodus chapter 20. That is the first of the Ten Commandments that the Lord gave and it relates to idolatry. Exodus 20, listen to verse 3 and 4. Thou shalt, here's the first commandment, thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. Thou down thyself to them nor serve them for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children under the third and fourth generation of them that hate me and showing mercy to thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

All right? There you have the first and the second commandment. The first one, have no other gods before me.

The second one, make no graven image. The primary issue then in the Ten Commandments, the beginning of it all, is the affirmation that there is to be no God substituted for the true God. That is God's basic concern in his dealing with man. When you abandon God and you turn God loose and you let God go and you turn your back, then you invent your own gods because man is incurably religious and in inventing his own gods he makes gods like himself, he becomes more like them and damns his own soul in the process. Now, Exodus chapter 20 says, thou art to have no gods before me. Isaiah tells us again and again in chapter 43 and around that area that there is none other but the true God. In Deuteronomy, the Lord our God is one Lord.

The Bible explicitly says there are no other gods but the true God. The Bible crushes literally all idols whether they are idols of stone, idols of wood, idols of metal, or idols of the mind, or idols of the heart, or idols of the emotions. Whether they are tangible or intangible, whether they are external or internal, all idols are crushed in the statement of God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image. And yet, though this is the first and primary commandment of the Scriptures, it is a looming reality in all of human history. Man inevitably continues this flight into idolatry.

Leslie Flynn states it so well. He says, quote, Like the flow of a river which cannot be stopped but which can be diverted, the yearning of man's soul for an object of worship can easily turn from the true God to another God, end quote. So the Scripture over and over and over and over forbids idolatry.

Forbids it. Now let me give you a sample of what the Scripture teaches so you'll understand a little bit of what Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, the three Hebrews that you know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they're Babylonian names, so that you'll understand why they stood the way they stood. They knew that idolatry was unacceptable to God. They knew that they could not please God and bow down to the image of gold erected in chapter 3. And why did they know that? Because the Word of God was so very explicit. And though they didn't have the whole revelation of God as we do, they had enough of it to know. Let me run by you some of the things that the Scripture says about idolatry. And it's going to come pretty quick. Just listen. I'm not even going to give you the Scriptures.

I just want you to get it kind of like a machine gun. Idolatry consists, and here are a list of things that I found in the Scripture. Idolatry consists of bowing down to images, worshipping images, sacrificing to images, worshipping other gods, swearing by other gods, walking after other gods, speaking in the name of other gods, looking to other gods, serving other gods, fearing other gods, sacrificing to other gods, worshipping the true God by an image, worshipping angels, worshipping the hosts of heaven, worshipping devils, worshipping dead men, setting up idols in the heart, covetousness, sensuality.

Because all of these things change the glory of God into an image. In the Bible, idolatry is described in these terms. It is an abomination to God in Deuteronomy 7, 25. It is hateful to God in Deuteronomy 16, 22. It is vain and foolish, Psalm 115. It is bloody, Ezekiel 23. It is abominable, 1 Peter 4. It is unprofitable, Judges 10, 14. It is irrational, Romans chapter 1. It is defiling, Ezekiel 20 and verse 7. You kind of get the picture that it's not good, don't you?

Another thought. Idolatry results in men doing the following. Idolatry makes men forget God, go astray from God, pollute the name of God, defile the sanctuary of God, estrange themselves from God, forsake God, hate God, and provoke God. And the Bible says that idolatry will be punished with a judicial death, a dreadful judgment which ends in death, banishment, exclusion from heaven, and eternal torment.

Now that's pretty serious stuff. God has said an awful lot about idolatry. And because of its seriousness, you can reduce the warnings in the Bible down to three simple statements. When it comes to idolatry, you are to do three things. Number one is to flee.

1 Corinthians 10, 14. Flee idols. Flee from idols. Number two is to avoid idols. 1 Corinthians 10, 19, and 20.

Have no fellowship at all with the table of demons. To flee, to avoid. The third one is to stay away from them. 1 John 5, 21. My little children, keep yourselves from idols. What does the Bible say? Flee, avoid, and stay away.

And they all basically mean the same thing. Idols have no place. And it's a very, very serious matter to God, the matter of idolatry. You say, well, you know, we don't have any idols. I mean, we don't.

This is a very sophisticated 20th century. Yes, we do. And I'm sure you're aware that we have idols. The presence of idolatry is great even in our sophisticated society. Even in a society that is supposed to be Christian with biblical backgrounds and the presence of churches and the name of Christ and God and all that Christian influence could bring to bear on our society, we still are a society literally filled with idols. Because, as I said, idolatry may be external in some societies, but in other societies it is internal. There are millions of people in our society who would never, ever think of bowing their knee to a stone thing.

You know, that just seemed ridiculous to them. Or bowing down to some wood. Or bowing down to some metal.

But they spend all their life bowing down to some empty, useless God established in their own mind or in their own heart. And an idol, frankly, folks, is anything you put before God. It can be your car. It can be your hobby, your house, your wife, or anybody else or any other item.

Your bank book. A few years ago, Christianity Today asked a panel of Christian scholars this question. What are the most prevalent gods of our time? Those mentioned included many things. The anti-Christian welfare state, scientism, communism, political democracy, nationalism, conservativism, social adjustment, behaviorism, secularism, humanism, naturalism, and the cult of progress.

More personal idols were listed by Dr. Andrew Blackwood, professor emeritus of Princeton. He said, America has these following gods. Self, money, pleasure, sex, romance, amusements, sports, education. And he added, we need a return to the first commandment in the light of the cross.

Now, if I were to take the 20th century idols and boil them back down a little bit, you might get them in a list like this. First of all, we worship the God of possessions, don't we? Possessions. You usurp the place of God. You spend more time thinking about possessions than you do about God. You spend more of your energy, more of your resources on possessions than you do on God.

It's a good indication that you've got a problem in that area. So one of the 20th century idols is possessions. Another one is plenty. Plenty. Love of money. Colossians 3 says covetousness is idolatry. When you covet it, you worship it.

Another one is pride. And covetousness, by the way, are plenty. I think about the rich man and the bigger barns, don't you?

I'll just build bigger barns and bigger barns and store all my crop. And the Lord says, you fool, tonight your soul will be required of you and you can't make it living on eat, drink, and be merry. So, possessions and plenty. And then pride. I guess the main god of our society is the love of self. And we could say people are a god in our society. Some people idolize a child. They literally worship their child.

It becomes perverse, the attitude they have. Some people worship a mate. Others worship a lover. Some worship a friend. In contrast to that, don't you love to see Hannah, who all for so long had prayed and just begged God to give her a son, and God gave her a son, and then she didn't worship the child so that the child stood before God.

She gave the child to the Lord and walked away and said that's the way it ought to be because that's the best place for the child. And I think about Abraham who waited and waited and waited until he was a hundred years old to have a son, and then God said I want that son and I want him on an altar and I want him dead. And Abraham said, alright God, I love that son.

I don't worship that son above you and if you say slay him, I'll slay him. But we make gods out of people. We make gods out of pride. We make gods out of plenty. We make gods out of possessions.

And I'm not saying you shouldn't love people and I'm not saying you shouldn't be committed to your family, your children, and your wife. Kind of an interesting story. Charles Spurgeon, just before he got married, and I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be married to him, but before he got married, he picked up his fiancé to take her to a place where he was going to preach. And they were separated in the jostling in the crowd and they were kind of lost and thousands of people were pushing in to hear him preach.

And so he sort of pushed his way up to the platform. After the meeting was over, he couldn't find her anywhere, so he just went over to her house. And he found her there and she was pouting. And she said, Charles, you left me in that crowd. All alone. And you weren't even concerned where I was. This is what he replied, I'm sorry, but perhaps what happened was providential.

I didn't intend to be impolite, but whenever I see a crowd like that waiting for me to preach, I'm overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility. I forgot about you. Now, let's get one thing straight. It will have to be the rule of our marriage that the command of my master comes first. You shall have the second place. Are you willing, as my wife, to take the second place while I give the first place to Christ? Well, wonderfully, she was willing and became a faithful wife. I understand something of that.

In the anticipation of the pulpit, the excitement of your heart, the mind begins to function and a lot of things just don't enter into your thinking. He loved his wife. He loved her to the death. He never made a god out of her. His god was the true god. We might also say that pleasure is a god in our society. Oh my, is that ever a god. Entertainment. Oh, do we worship the god of entertainment.

It's incredible. You know, every time I go to one of those places where you ride something, you know, Magic Mountain, Disneyland, or Knott's Berry Farmer, I don't know what all. I just, my theology goes wild in those places. I just, I look around and so many things bother me. You know, it's a fantasy world and people don't even live the reality of life. They're off in some fantasy, you know.

And I think they're just paying all this money for a minute and a half of woo, and that's the way they live life. I mean, you know, that's it. It's the whole thing. You go up to the top, down the deal and that's it. And you're down at the bottom and you come out of the deal and there's your wife and your four kids standing there just like they were when you got on. Go get in the same crummy car and go to the same house and have the same old hassle and the same job and you can't wait to get back and get up there again and do it all over again.

In fact, I know people like to have that in their backyard. Live for the thrill. Live for the thrill.

The sensual, the feeling. We're lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. And I would also add that one of the gods of our society is projects.

Have you noticed that? Not only possessions, plenty, pride, people, pleasure, but projects. The PTA, the little league, world peace, politics, hobbies, religious programs, Kiwanis, rotary. You name it.

Projects. And then there's prominence. Some people live to get in who's who, what's what, why's why, and where's where. They want a chief seat in the banquet. They want to be on the social register. They love to see their name in the paper.

They cut out every clipping that you can imagine. They want to be the chairman. And all of these gods end up in the trash heap of an empty burned out life. Man is incurably religious. He will worship something.

Believe me. A parable tells about an idol burning ceremony in the backyard of a church. Every person had torn from his heart his dearest possession.

Ambition, his dearest achievement. And they all took it and put it on a heap and they said, we're going to burn all our idols. Some people put their long hair there. Some people put their new Ph.D. there. Some people put their favorite antique there. Some put their not yet purchased but coveted mink coat there. But nobody could find a match.

How inconvenient. And the parable says that all agreed that failure to burn them didn't mean they weren't willing to give them up. Slowly the group drifted back to their homes with one or two backward glances. Well, one lady didn't sleep well that night. At last convinced herself that what she had given up was no idol at all.

And early the next morning she sneaked back to the pile hoping not to be seen. And when she got there she found her idol, lonely and forlorn, the only one still left. Oh, how we cling to our idols. That's John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. He's also the teacher here on Grace to You. And John calls his current series an uncompromising life based on the book of Daniel. Now, some might think if anyone could ever justify compromising, it would be Daniel. The fact that he didn't bend is what makes his story so powerful. But a question some of our listeners might have, John, is is the kind of character that Daniel demonstrated.

Is that even attainable today? I mean, what's the likelihood that any of us will ever be put on the spot in such a dramatic public setting with life or death consequences? Well, I certainly don't know the answer to that. Obviously we live in a culture that's not killing Christians here in America, although there are certainly Christians in some parts of the world that are paying for their faith with their life.

But that's not really the point. It's not really whether you are willing to die for the truth, whether you're willing to be uncompromising to death, but whether you're willing to live for the truth and be uncompromising in life. I think sometimes it would be easier to face death and be uncompromising than it is to face life. You know, I remember some Russian pastor saying to me when they were still under the tyranny of communism, I don't know how anybody can be a Christian in the United States.

It's just too easy. Over here, when you know that you could be sent to prison or executed, true Christians stand up. But where it's so easy, how do you get people with any real courage? Character matters. Spiritual character matters.

It matters to the Lord and it matters to you for your blessing and usefulness. Let me mention a book that will help you develop that kind of character and strengthen it. It's called The Quest for Character, popular little gift book, quick read but loaded with powerful spiritual truth. Great book to give to young people, to give anyone who is interested in character. The Quest for Character, profound and yet quickly to the point. You can get copies of The Quest for Character from our ministry today.

That's right. This book looks at attitudes that, when pursued, lead to character that God blesses. A quick read that's loaded with practical insights. The title again, The Quest for Character. Order your copy today from Grace to You. The hardcover book costs $12 and shipping is free. To order, visit our website,, or call our toll-free customer service line at 800-55-GRACE.

The title again, The Quest for Character. To get your copy, call 800-55-GRACE, or you can make your purchase online through our website, And if you're enjoying John's verse-by-verse teaching and you want more access to lessons like today's, let me encourage you to download the Grace to You app. It puts you just a few taps away from our radio broadcast.

That's both today's lesson and past programming. And it will also give you access to thousands of free resources. You can read daily devotionals by John, you can keep up with the articles on the Grace to You blog, and you can download more than 3,500 of John's sermons. And the best news is, that app is free of charge. To get the Grace to You app, visit our website, Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here at the same time tomorrow. When John shows you where to look for practical strategies on overcoming temptation, it's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-17 05:34:36 / 2023-04-17 05:45:39 / 11

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