Man, praise God for that testimony. And guys, that's kind of what we're going to be getting into today is a little bit of what Corey was just getting into there.
So I'm not going to get ahead of myself. My name is Jason Asarello, one of the pastors here. And if this is your first time here, man, we're super thankful that you would join us today. If you haven't been a part of our sermon series, I actually want to take just a few moments at the beginning of the message to be able to kind of catch you up to speed as to where we've been. If you noticed from the bumper right before I got up here, the title is In Babylon, and we're going through the book of Daniel. And the story takes place in Babylon, which we're learning is actually not just a geographical location, though, right? It's actually more of a pervasive spirit that actually infects a culture itself.
It has its own culture, really, and it's something that hasn't just been years and years and years and years ago. It's something that actually we see in our midst today. So up to this point in the story, the book of Daniel, the city of Jerusalem, including Solomon's temple, has actually been destroyed. And this absolute tyrant of a king named Nebuchadnezzar has amassed an army from all over the Middle East, and he's basically a master at the game of risk, except for in real life. If you've ever played the game of risk, I mean, that's literally what he tried to do, but with real people in real life and real territory. So the book of Daniel specifically zooms in on what happened 2,600 years ago after this king went into the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and carried off many from the city of Jerusalem to Babylon. Really, modern day Iraq, 50 miles from Baghdad.
I mean, that's where it is current day. So that was his plan. So inside of this plan, he had kind of another plan, and that was he wanted to be able to assemble the brightest minds from these places where he brought destruction, and he would kind of enroll them in his own little Hogwarts, if you can think about it that way. It was just his own little magic school that he would bring these bright minds in.
So a few of the bright minded people were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and they have all been now brought in to his little Hogwarts, and what's been really cool about the series and really cool about the book is that we have seen a group of young men, starting as teenagers and then kind of now watching their life, we've seen a group of young men who have gone into a godless culture and sought to live a godly life. They didn't take the route of isolation, which would kind of be the natural. I think for myself, it would be kind of the natural. I just want to kind of go hide away, find myself a corner, not say a word and just live, right?
Just hope that I don't die. They didn't take that route. They also didn't take the route of assimilation. They didn't just become a part of the culture and join in on all the evil that was going on in Babylon there, but instead they took the third way. They took the third way where they sought the good of the city, as the prophet Jeremiah taught. They sought the good of Babylon, but they did not cave when the stakes were high. When it mattered most, when they were pushed up against the wall to be able to bow the knee, literally, they didn't cave.
And man, living that life, let me just tell you, and some of you have experienced this, but living that life, not isolating, not assimilating, but kind of living that third way, will put your back up against the wall. And it's been incredible thus far to be able to see these young men take a stand for following the way of God. Interestingly enough, the story that we just got finished with in chapter number three, King Nebuchadnezzar made a decree that I'm going to build a 90-foot, I think it was 90 feet, right?
90-foot golden image of myself. And then what I'm going to do is I'm going to put it in a central location so that everybody from these nations that I've conquered, they're going to come, and at the sound of all these instruments, at the sound of the music that I play, I want you to all bow down, and I want you to worship my idol. Right? And we know from the story last week, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they did not bow, they didn't bend, they didn't even burn. But in fact, what happened with them? At the end of the chapter, they actually got a promotion. It's kind of a cool ending to that story. But at the end of that, at the end of chapter three, King Nebuchadnezzar made a decree.
This is where it gets a little wild. He says, any nation, any language that speaks against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's gods shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no God who is able to rescue in this way. I mean, can't you just see the faces of those three Hebrew boys? I'm just picturing, he's up in a massive crowd, and he's got these boys with him, and he just handed them the promotion.
You know, you're going to have more leadership in Babylon. And they're standing there, and they're waiting to hear what he's about to say next, and then he says, if anybody makes fun of their god, I'm just going to pull your arms off. I mean, it's humorous on one hand, and it's absolutely tragic on the other. I mean, because you think about it, he witnesses this incredible miracle, right?
Not being burned in a fiery furnace, not even a hair on your head singed. And they come out of it, they give glory to God, and he says, hey, I see the power of God, but I also want to make sure that you understand who's still in charge. What King Nebuchadnezzar is doing there, in some way, is a lot like what we all do. It's a lot like what we all do.
Maybe not the pulling off arms and legs part, but the part where we grasp for control, that's the thing that we tend to all have in common. See, King Nebuchadnezzar is still building his own kingdom. By demanding that nobody talk bad about their god, or they're going to have their house laid in ruin, he is still trying to build his own kingdom where his rules and his authority is followed without question, right?
If you think about it like this, when people in our own country will stand and sing at the beginning, you know, at the beginning of sporting events, or at the beginning of political events, they'll stand up and sing, God bless America, and then turn around and shout, and riot, and say things like, my body, my choice. I mean, that's just the epitome of somebody who's saying, I want all of the blessings from God, but I kind of just still want to do things my own way. I still want to be in control. Other times, and maybe this is more for followers of Jesus, we might be guilty of doing these types of things, where we say things like, hey, I want God's will for my life, I want God's will for my family, and then turn around and pray, God, please don't send my kids to the nations. Please don't let anything, please don't let them get, no harm come to them, Father. But you know, man, when we sort of just play that game of God, we want to give you total authority, but then at the same hand, but not in this area. We're basically doing what we see King Nebuchadnezzar doing here. We want God's blessing, we just don't want his kingship. King Nebuchadnezzar essentially said, I like that God, he's got some tricks, man.
I've seen some crazy things, and this God, he's got some tricks, but I'm still in charge. And church, that's just not the way that God's kingdom works. He fully doesn't understand who God is, what God is like, and what his kingdom is like, and that's really what we want to dive in today. So let me start by saying, when we talk about the kingdom of God, what in the world are we actually referring to? So let me give you, in a few words, the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is God's reign through God's people over God's place. God's reign through God's people over God's place. Another pastor put it this way, it is God reigning. It's present, his kingdom is present wherever. What God wants done is done.
It's the range of God's effective will. All right, so we're about to read a passage today. Super short, but all I want you to watch for is similarities and differences, and actually how this king makes this decree, okay? So chapter 4, verses 1 through 3, King Nebuchadnezzar to all people, nations and languages that dwell in all the earth. Peace be multiplied to you. It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me. How great are his signs. How mighty his wonders.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. Surprise, he's saying some pretty interesting things there. I think that there's some relevance to this today. There's been many times in probably most nations' history, but I could think of my lifetime living in this country where the person of power grabs the microphone, and everybody just sort of cringes, you know what I mean? They're like, I don't know what this person's about to say, but I just feel like we're going to have to do some interference. Today, in the day and age that we live in, when a person of power grabs the microphone and makes a mistake, man, they've got teams who run that interference.
They're masters at editing and undoing and all that kind of good. Back in Nebuchadnezzar, can you imagine being on his staff? No, think about that for just a moment.
King Nebuchadnezzar has this harebrained idea. He comes out of his bedroom one morning, he's like, guys, I want to send a decree. I just feel it. It's just one of those days where I feel like a decree needs to be sent out today. I know how it would make me feel like I just can't any longer.
I can't do this anymore where I'm trying to try to help maybe smooth this thing. Man, he comes out, and not only does he want to send a message, but he wants to send a message to everyone. You see, all of his other decrees, he is basically kept pretty local.
All of his other languages and peoples and nations that he's brought in to the city of Babylon. But this one, he says, no, I want this one to go to the whole world. I've got something special to say. I find this extremely funny, as you can tell. I find it very funny because he's just an egomaniac, and you'd have to read the rest of chapter 4, but the guy literally has just been about the craziest of crazies. Like tinfoil hat, underwear on the outside of your pants, type crazy.
That's kind of the level that he went to. Pastor Andrew's going to talk about that next week, so I don't want to get too into his sermon. But he says, hey, I want this message to go to all peoples, all nations and languages, not that just dwell in Babylon, but that dwell in all the earth. So essentially he's saying, hey, I want Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Live.
I want them all ready to capture what I'm about to say. And the crazy thing is he describes exactly what the kingdom of God is. I mean, he nails it. I mean, you go back and you read that and you're like, man, there's not one theological error in anything that he just says right there. So if you don't know exactly how he got to this point, this is a really good case for you to come back next week because Pastor Andrew is going to tell you exactly what happened. This is a little bit like the start of Remember the Titans, where they kind of give you the whole ending, and then all of a sudden they go back in time and they tell you the whole story. That's what's happening here in chapter 4. We're only going to talk about three verses today.
All right, so we're going to dive into those. But in some ways you don't actually need to exactly know what happened in King Nebuchadnezzar's life to really know what happened in his life. You know what I mean?
Because it's probably the same thing that happened in your life. I just want to read you one section of the last verse of chapter 4 to give you an idea of what happened in King Nebuchadnezzar's life. Here's what he says. Those who walk in pride, he is able to humble. Those who walk in pride, he is able to humble.
He starts with, this is what my life was like, filled with pride. And then I met Jesus. He humbled me.
And now I'm just grateful. You see, we're at the end of King Nebuchadnezzar's life. We don't actually hear anything more about King Nebuchadnezzar after he gives this decree.
But I want you to just think about something as we go through this. Every time leading up to this particular statement that he makes, that he wants to go kind of global with, he has mentioned or referred to Daniel's God or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's God. Did you notice how he talked about God here? He says, I want to tell you about what the most high God has done for who?
Guys, I have no idea what actually happens to Nebuchadnezzar after he writes this letter because he's, like I said, he's literally not, he doesn't show up anywhere else in the rest of Scripture. And I have no real good reason to believe that what he is saying here in this letter or decree or statement that he's making is some sort of falsehood, that he's just kind of... I have no reason to really believe that. And if that's true, we actually need to take a moment to acknowledge the magnitude of this conversion.
Right? I mean, one pastor said it this way, that this is the most unlikely conversion in the entirety of Scripture. And doesn't that just fill you with hope?
I mean, does that not just fill your heart with hope? Because if King Nebuchadnezzar did not exhaust the grace of God, then who in the world could? I mean, we haven't even taken a deep dive into the historical retelling of all of the evil that King Nebuchadnezzar was about.
We've never taken a deep... you can do that. This is evil upon evil. And if this guy did not exhaust the grace of God, then who in the world could? But guys, the reality is this, if Jason Azzarello did not exhaust the grace of God, who could? The late Tim Keller, pastor and author, said this, if you were a hundred times worse than you are, your sins would be no match for His mercy.
Can we say amen to that? If you were a hundred times worse than you are, your sins would be no match for His mercy. I want you to think about this in two ways in your own life, but I also want you to think about it in the life of those that maybe you thought have gone too far from grace. I've done this.
Maybe you've done this too. Where that family member, that friend, that neighbor, or that person on TV, man, they're going to hell. They've gone too far. Maybe you know somebody who's resisted any talk or anything that smacks of God and His goodness.
They just don't want anything to do with it. And we just need to keep in mind good old King Nebuchadnezzar. No one is beyond the reach of God's grace. So, hey, don't give up hope.
Don't stop praying. My parents came to faith in Christ by really the testimony of a pretty fiery Christian pastor. And my parents were pretty good friends with them.
They had gone to high school together. And one afternoon, my parents actually had their family over for dinner at our home. And the two dads, my dad and he were outside while the kids were playing and they were just grilling up some steaks and he started to witness to them. And my dad basically said, hey, I have a relationship with God based upon my good works. And Mark Turner told him, hey man, your good works aren't any good with God. In fact, what he said was, your good works are going to burn like these coals are fueling this fire. And then he flipped over the steak. I mean, he just went full savage on them. And God used that.
I'm not recommending this by the way. I'm just telling you the story. God used that in my parents' life and they came to faith in Jesus. They not only came to faith in Jesus, but I have got to say my parents are probably the most missional people that I know.
They have a burden for the lost. You'll still find my dad knocking on doors in Kernersville. Some of you might have had him come by your house.
Short little Italian guy. But my parents both come from pretty big families and both of them had such a strong desire to be able to see their family come to faith in Jesus. So they began to pray. My mom's brothers and my mom's parents and my dad's parents and brother's sister, none of them wanted anything to do with that kind of faith. So we started praying as a family and we prayed year after year for their salvation.
And I'm ashamed to say, probably after about, I don't even know, maybe year five, I was like, eh, probably not going to happen, guys. I mean, we love them. We want them to know Jesus. My parents were not going to give up that easily. And after watching my parents go through some suffering, my mom's family, parents, four brothers, all came to faith in Jesus. Their families, their kids. One is pastoring in Las Vegas today. But on my dad's side, they were still pretty resistant. And the prayers of a righteous man avail much.
Man, I don't know if every single one of them, cousins included, because there's like a hundred, are all born again Christians today, but I can tell you over the last three years, we have gotten stories from cousins, uncles, and aunts of how they came to faith and my dad just was on his knees. Hey, do not lose hope because nobody is beyond the reach of God's grace. All right, back to the letter of King Nebuchadnezzar.
So far, all throughout the pages of the story of Daniel, we've had King Nebuchadnezzar talking about the things that I have done, the things that I have built, the nations that I have conquered. Right? That's all we've heard.
Me, me, me, I, I, I. What is he doing? He's giving a biography.
All of a sudden his tune has changed. And what's interesting is that Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, they've all been saying, hey, I can't interpret your dream, but I have a God who can. Don't give me any credit. I want to give credit to God.
I want to glorify God. There's a big difference between giving a biography and giving a testimony. What we saw from Corey was a testimony. You know, Corey is not a church planter. Some of us may not know this. He is a man who's living on mission in Southeast Asia.
He works a job and he lives on mission. It's a great testimony. It's an encouraging testimony for us today. But this teaches us something about the kingdom of God, and that is that the kingdom of God is about the glory of God.
Man, this probably had to be taught. I'm not exactly sure how Nebuchadnezzar understood this, but my guess is that Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to have something to do with educating him in the theology of the glory of God. They had to show him like, hey, we know that you're king and you have authority, but you are also a king under authority because there's a greater king. And actually this whole kingdom and all that you can see and all that you can... it's not about you.
It's actually about Him. One of the things that we talk about all the time is glorifying God with our lives, but if we're not careful, we could not quite understand what that means. Simply this, to glorify God is to tell the truth about who God is. It's to tell the truth about who God is. So the question then becomes like, hey, are we telling the truth about who God is with our marriages?
Or if we allowed our marriages to be a place where we're just kind of building our own little kingdom of security and comfort and a padded portfolio. Are we telling the truth about who God is with our parenting? Or are we actually becoming the authority over God?
One thing that author Paul Tripp wrote that kind of wrecked me several years ago is that he said, do you get more upset when your kids disobey your law or when they disobey God's law? Because that's a great indication of whether or not our parenting is a place where we have allowed God to be king. Are we telling the truth about who God is at our places of business?
Or do we feel the need to ensure that every time, that our names are brought up in the highest level meetings so that we can get accolades? Or are we telling the truth about the fact that God has sustained you? That God has provided for you? That God has given you any authority or leadership that you have? It is God-given.
And it can be taken away in any moment. Are we telling the truth about who God is? Our jobs, our hobbies, our belongings?
Guys, it's not about us. But we can use those things to bring God glory. And when we do, God's fame is made known and your joy is made full. Because we were never meant to be God's little g building our own kingdoms.
We were always meant to be stewards building God's kingdom. Alright, so the next thing that we see about God's kingdom, that is His reign through His people and His place, is what King Nebuchadnezzar says next when he says that God's kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion endures from generation to generation. We can't spend a ton of time on this part, but it's really important to see that King Nebuchadnezzar doesn't actually talk about the geographical boundaries of God's kingdom.
He doesn't talk about it in terms of matter or space. He talks about it in terms of time and that God stands outside of time. You see, with the kingdom of God, there is no beginning and there is no end. He is an eternal God with an eternal kingdom. The kingdoms of the day that Nebuchadnezzar lived in had boundaries. And they had time limits. Basically, when a king was born, he was born into it.
When he died, he handed it off. It's not so with God's kingdom. But let me tell you why that matters, because it could be like, wow, that's great, but God's kingdom being everlasting means that there is not one thing that could ever come into your life that He is not reigning over. There's not one event. There's not one circumstance.
There is not one relationship. Nothing is outside of His rule and reign. And while we might be questioning God, where are you in the midst of my pain? Where are you in the midst of this event, in the midst of this circumstance? While we might ask that, and we should ask that. David asks that all the time. You read the Psalms and he's like, God, where are you? Have you forsaken me? While that is true, we have to understand that God is reigning and ruling overall.
He is sovereign overall. You know, if anybody could have asked the question or wondered is our country going to hell in a handbasket, which Pastor Andrew has just mentioned every single week, so I thought I would keep the streak alive. If anybody could have asked that, it would have been these boys, right? Like their entire world was literally crumbling. Like their temple, gone. Their families, gone. Their homes, gone. Everything was gone. And they were brought into Babylon. To hell in a handbasket.
But that clearly was not their point of view. They really trusted that God was still in control even in the midst of those circumstances. Guys, when we're asking, hey, where is God in my worst moments? He's the fourth man in the fire. He's with you. His rule, His reign, His presence does not get tired.
His rule, His reign, His presence, He doesn't run off when things are hard or confusing. His kingdom is eternal. This is why the story of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, Nate's saint, Rachel's saint, this is the only reason why it could make some semblance of sense. If you know the story of Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries that basically dropped into the middle of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador in 1956, and upon landing were attacked and killed by the very people that they were called to share the Gospel to all of them died, all five of them died, made national news, major event in history. But Elizabeth, Jim's wife, and Rachel, Nate's sister, said, if God is a God of every tongue and every nation, every tribe, and He stands outside, then we're just going to go back and we're going to finish the job that he called my brother, my husband to.
And they did. And for two years, they planted the seed of the Gospel day after day. Guys, there is a thriving church in that jungle, amidst those people, today. If God is an eternal God with an eternal kingdom, then our trust is not in what exactly makes sense. It is in the God who rules and reigns over all. This is the last thing that we learn about the kingdom, of what the kingdom of God is like. You got to look back at the subject line of his decree.
It's a little different. He said this is to all peoples, nations, languages that dwell in all the earth. Peace be multiplied to you. Imagine you're a king in another part of the world and you're opening up the mail that day. Guaranteed. You grab that letter and you're like, well guys, this means we're dead.
Okay? Because it's from King Nebuchadnezzar and I don't know what he wants to say in here but this seal means he's going to come and conquer us and we're all going to be dead. Except they open up the letter and it's exactly opposite of what they were expecting. He says peace be multiplied to you. Now this is not a pleasantry. This is not, you know how you do the email and you say, hey guys, hope you're well.
Alright, now on to the actual reason why I'm emailing you, right? That's not what this is. What King Nebuchadnezzar is writing here is shalom.
It is the divine ideal from the Creator and I want it to be multiplied to you. Wherever there's life, where there's flourishing, I'm praying this over you. It's a blessing. Is that not crazy? Can you imagine receiving this letter and reading it and rereading it and going what in the world? I'm so confused.
This is not what I expected. But it's exactly what living under the rule and reign of God is like. There's another little part to this and we're going to end on this. The kingdom of God, He wrote it very clearly. It's a global kingdom. It's a global kingdom and it's always been that way. You see, I think that sometimes we can assume that like missions begins in Matthew 28, 19 through 20.
Right? Great passage, but that's not where it started. That's where it got like jet fuel and took off. But that's not where it started. It started in Genesis 1. In the beginning, where God created man, He made him in His image, He gave him the authority to rule and reign, to have dominion over the earth, and then to multiply, to be fruitful and multiply, to fill it with more image bearers.
That was from the beginning. We all know what happens next. God was, hey, this is my plan.
I'm not deviating from it. Genesis 3, He's going to send someone else. He's going to send a king, a warrior to defeat the evil.
Things are not looking well between Genesis 3, Genesis 12. So God calls a man who's a moon worshiper named Abram. He said, through you, I'm going to bless the entire world.
Just follow me. Four hundred years later, we see the first fruit of that in Joseph's life as he literally creates a plan that sustains the entire world from global hunger. Like saves the planet. Exodus 19. God calls His people together.
What does He call them? A kingdom of priests. You are the mediators of my blessing. To whom? The whole world. Every nation, every tribe, every tongue. Israel in Isaiah 49, to be a light to the nations. Habakkuk 2.14, the prophet envisions the earth being filled with the glory, with the knowledge of the glory of God like the waters cover the sea. Malachi 1.11, the prophet speaks for God saying, from rising of the sun to its setting, my name will be great among the nations. See, the God of the Bible has always envisioned a kingdom where every tribe, every tongue, every nation, every skin color is represented. See, God longs to see the beauty of a multi-ethnic choir worshiping around His throne. That has always been His dream. And I want you to see this.
This is our future. Revelation chapter 7 verses 9 and 10. After this I looked and behold a great multitude that no one could number from every tribe, every nation, and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne. And to the lamb.
It's clear. God is a God of every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. So guys, this is the vision of what God's kingdom is like. So my question for us as we close today, are we aligned with God's vision? Or are we seeking to create another kingdom and hoping that God will just kind of play a consultant role? See, the culture tells us that the ultimate freedom is a life without authority, a life without rules, without boundaries, without absolutes.
But guys, anybody who has ever traveled down that road for very long will tell you that is the most beautiful lie you've ever heard. The reason why we can stand here as Christians and call people to a life under authority, under the authority of Jesus, is because we know Jesus. We know Jesus. We watched His life.
You could read the gospels and see, meet Jesus in the gospels. His kingdom is about life. His kingdom is about flourishing.
His kingdom is about goodness and justice. So I wonder today if there's somebody in here who maybe, it's time. You've heard the good news enough, and you've just been holding on maybe to a little bit of hope that that autonomy is going to just, it's going to hit. And man, let me call you today to trust in the Lord God who loves you, who has a plan for your life, who has a future for you. Man, He has done everything necessary for your salvation, and He wants to be Lord of your life. Guys, would you pray with me? Holy Spirit, we thank you so much for your Word and that there is power in your Word.
We thank you for the story of being able to see this conversion in King Nebuchadnezzar's life. Father, now we pray that you'd help us to be a people who submit to your rule and reign. I pray the areas that we're holding on to, Father, that you would show us today that by releasing our hands, Lord, we will find the freedom we're looking for. I pray for anybody who does not know you as Lord and Savior, God, that they would come to faith in you. In Jesus' name, amen. Guys, at the end of every worship service, we respond in at least one of three ways. We pray, we bring, we sing. Today I'd love to call us to do those things, to come forward and to pray. And maybe there's something that we've been holding on to that we need to come and release. There'll be a prayer team up here who would love to be able to pray with you. But then this is also a great opportunity to bring, to bring. Maybe this is a time where you can give of your tithes and offerings, but maybe you've never actually been a giver. And I'm going to call you to jump on board. You can follow any of the prompts on the screen for that. And we're also going to sing because He is worthy. And then let's stand together as we sing.
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