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February 28, 2021 1:00 am
Every day, government and societal pressure mounts on the Christian faith. How should believers react? For guidance, we can look to a similar time of strife long ago. The place was Babylon, and the minority Jews were in the midst of a hostile culture.Click here to listen (Duration 54:30)
Every day government pressure mounts on the Christian faith. How should believers react, we can look to a similar time of persecution long ago for guidance. The place was Babylon and the minority Jews were in the hot seat. Stay with us from Chicago. We welcome you to The Moody Church. Our weekly service of worship and teaching under the ministry of Dr. Irwin lutes are on this broadcast. We continue a 10 part series on the church in Babylon unleashing the power of a spirit filled witness later Irwin lutes or takes us to Daniel chapter 3, to see what happens when the state becomes God.
Dr. Luther comes now to open our service as you think about our worship theme.
The vision of Jesus be thou my vision. We are very desirous that you come here today with an open heart to sing to worship to praise to learn to dedicate and we pray that this will be a transforming experience for us all and God will be glorified. When you join me as we prayed together and then we will be singing your grace is enough. And aren't you glad it is father, thank you that we can be together today so that with one voice, one heart and one mind, we can bring praise to you. We ask that you will help us to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and all that is done in his marvelous grace. Everyone here feel a great sense of welcome.
As we together, sing your praises Jesus name thing together with me in your bulletin and elections from Isaiah chapter 40. This is God's holy word, behold, your guide measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked the heavens with a stand and closed the dust of the earth in a measure, and waited the mountains in scales in the hills in a balance measured the spirit of the Lord. What man shows him his counsel did you consult and who made him understand. Have you not know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator ends of the earth. He does not grow weary.
His understanding is searchable.
He gives power to the faint into him no might he increases strength even you shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
The topic of my message today is when the state becomes God.
Under ideal conditions the responsibility of the state is to protect its citizens to have laws that will enable estate to be able to flourish and have what is sometimes referred to as limited government, the relationship between church and state, or religion and status had a long and checkered history. Sometimes that is happened where there has been freedom sometimes most often there is not freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in the Old Testament there was no freedom of religion. You didn't follow the prescribed teaching of Judaism. You were a heretic and you are to be deaf. That was true not only in Israel but also the surrounding nations that surrounded Israel same kind of state is when Jesus came he really did change all that. When Jesus held that coin and says render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's what he was saying is that there is a responsibility that you have to the state, but there's also a responsibility to God and the conflict between the two has dogged in the pages of church history now. Often times what happens in this state is the state's default position is to take more authority and to diminish human freedom. I think, for example.
A great example of that would be during Hitler's Nazi-ism.
You know what happens is when a state or a country is in chaos. That's a great opportunity for a dictator because there was chaos in Germany.
High inflation, high unemployment people wanted a strong leader to and the madness and so you have chaos and then you have a crisis Hitler precipitated a crisis. I know that this is debated, but I personally believe that it was he who instigated Martin Vander Luby to enter into the heating system of the Reichstag and light it on fire. Hitler blamed it on the Communists and as a result, he ended all civil liberties, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and in effect, also freedom of religion. First of all, you have chaos, then you have a crisis and then you have control. If you're here today and you're a Muslim. I want to assure you that we welcome you and we want to be your friend, but I do need to say that among the countries of the world where there is the least freedom of religion today. It is in Islamic countries. For example, the laws of Saudi Arabia explicitly state that someone who converts from Islam to another religion.
The penalty should be deaf. We think today of a mother who converted from Islam to Christianity who is sitting in prison. Nursing a child until we are told, the child will be two years old and then she will be whipped, and she will be put to death. Now, even if that is overturned because of international pressure. The simple fact is that throughout all those Middle Eastern countries. There are people today who are being persecuted simply because they are Christians. It's a long story. All of this leads me to the message that tab I'm going to give today a very important message and I know that you will listen carefully as you hear not only my words but my heart as I talk about a story a true story in the Old Testament found in the book of Daniel chapter 3 Daniel chapter 3 and I need to give you the context.
I hope that you have been here as I preach the last messages because the title of this series is the church in Babel and because the best example of what we today have to live among and with in America is to be found in those Jews who entered Babel in a very pagan country as a minority and they had to get use to living as a minority and a majority pagan culture.
I talked about what God said God says go to the city of Babel and build houses. You can plant vineyards plan to stay there, seek the welfare of the city witness to your neighbors into your friends pay your taxes. If we related to today we'd say.
Be sure to run for city government become involved in your school system witness to the community have a vacation Bible school for the children of the area bring them in and let us together with us to our faith in the midst of this culture. Now if you're with us last time a very critical message about conflicts of conscience and we were surprised at how far Daniel was willing to go. Daniel and his three friends in them in the culture. I mean they were renamed by pagan names. They had positions in the government because Nebuchadnezzar saw their brilliance and their wisdom, and on and on it goes, but he did draw a line and today we have another line a very important line found in the third chapter of the book of Daniel. I hope that you have your Bible, and that you can turn with us to it.
I think it might be page 740 740 in the Bible that is there a seat in front of you. Context chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that Daniel interprets and the dream is the dream of a man and the head is gold and Daniel said to O King are the head of gold, and the rest of the dream predicts the nations that are going to come. That's one of the great predictive dreams of history and very accurate. But Nebuchadnezzar promotes side. Daniel and Shadrach shack in the Bendigo to high positions in his land. But then he has an ego problem and he sets up an image and this image is 90 feet high, sitting on a base that is 9 feet long. Now this happens to be in a plane that is close to Babel and the plane of Dora which has been found in archaeologists actually believe that they have found the base.
The pedestal upon which this great massive tall image rests were not sure exactly but I think it was the image of a man. Hence, so Nebuchadnezzar builds this, and then he rings all of the people of Babel and to the plane.
We can visualize their hundreds of thousands over a period of time and he says is soon as the music begins and he lists six different instruments that are to be used in the people are to be enchanted by the music and then he says when that happens, I want everybody to bow down and I want them to worship the image you notice how Nebuchadnezzar uses the law specifically, he becomes the lawgiver and the law of Babel and is now everybody worships the same God and bows before the same image that gives context to where I'm going to pick it up there in chapter 3 in verse 16, Shadrach me shack and the Bendigo answered and said to the king. Hello Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter in context. What happened is that they were written up is not bowing and that this information was given to Nebuchadnezzar, the man who wrote them up said you know these Jews that you have there, not bowing, and so Nebuchadnezzar says well maybe you got it wrong were going to do this again and I'll give you another chance to bow before the image so they are responding all Nebuchadnezzar. We have no need to answer you in this matter.
If it 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. Okay, I don't know. Do you underline your Bibles you can. If you do it nicely with a red pencil like I do it so that it doesn't bleed through to the other side. I like to always read my Bible with a red pencil.
This one should be underline twice.
This is one of the greatest expressions of faith that is found in the Scriptures old Nebuchadnezzar.
God is able to deliver us out of the fiery furnace, but if not, let it be known to you, O King, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury and the expression on his face was changed against these three men.
He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter, that's an expression for saying as hot as you can possibly make it and he ordered some of the mighty men to bind to Shadrach me shack in a Bendigo to cast them into the burning fiery furnace and these men were bound in their cloaks and their tunics, their hats and other garments and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace because the king's order was urgent and the fire overheat of the flame of the fire kill those men who took up Shadrach me shack in a Bendigo in these three men. They fell bound into the burning furnace that is Shadrach me ship in a Bendigo then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonish and roast up in Houston he declared to his counselors.
Did we not cast three men bound into the fire, they should truly looking the answered and said that I see four men bound walking in the midst of the fire and they are not hurt in the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the God's what I want us to do today is to ask ourselves the question and answer it. How did these men had the courage to stand there and be willing to say throw us into the fire, but will not deny God whether we are delivered or not.
First of all, they were willing, of course, they trusted God's unknown competence is unknown. Providence remember this that when they were there they had no idea that they were going to be delivered as far as they knew they were going to be incinerated. They are going to be made. Ashes, but they said it doesn't matter. We will be true to God.
I call this the predict ability of God's purposes. You and I have no idea what God is going to do because he works in such unexpected ways. Acts chapter 12 we have Peter and James are in prison and the Herod comes and that the heads James and Peter is expected to have the same thing happened to him the next day and he sleeping because when he arrives in heaven he wants to be arrested and lo and behold, suddenly, the doors of the prison open and he's delivered will one is dead. The other is alive.
Hebrews chapter 11, you know, we think all this greatly chapter of faith and it is but if you look at it carefully in the middle of verse 35. You can look this up sometime. There's a break.
It talks about all of the victories that have been one and then it says, but others others were persecuted they wandered about in sheepskins and in skins, they were sawn into they were burned while so that the purpose of Hebrews 11 is not to tell us how that you know if you have faith, you're going to be able to perform some great miracle that's not what the purpose is the purpose is to say this. Whether you see a miracle or not. If you go on believing God, you two can be a hero of faith Noah, my earthly father is in heaven.
But I know this, that if he were alive, and if he saw that I had cancer or an accident or something and he had the power, he would prevent all of those things from happening.
No question, no discussion. My heavenly father is much less predictable. He sometimes leads us through the fire through the trial. Sometimes we die younger than we intended and it's the unpredictability of God's purposes. Why, perhaps, will be able to answer that in just a few moments, but what these three man said was this, we will leave our future in God's hand. What happens to us is God's responsibility. Our responsibility is to trust him and to believe him, regardless of the outcome, because we don't believe God because of what he does.
We believe God because of who he is and were willing to trust him to the end you say well, where did they get the faith while they trusted God's promises. The known promises of God and I can imagine there back in the synagogue when they were in Jerusalem before they came to Babylon. Perhaps they were there in the Psalms were being read, and in those days, you know, they memorized a lot of scripture.
Maybe one day they were listening to Psalm 73 were ASAP says that whom buy in heaven, but the and there is none upon the earth that I desire site. My flesh in my heart fail it. But God is the strength of my life and my portion forever. Maybe they remembered that passage.
Here's a passage they also might've remembered from the book of Isaiah. Fear not for I have redeemed you. I've called you by name.
You are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned in the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel. Your say God says I'm going to be with you.
Now you say well the promise over promises. God says you go through the fire, you won't be consume. The floods will not overwhelm you. It's interesting that the two ways that Christians died during medieval times was the fire in the water.
Had they were drowned and they were burned, but that will keep in mind that this was a promise to the nation Israel that even though along the way individuals were going to be burned and there's going to be tragedies in the end Israel is going to survive. But here's my point. Christians do not judge God by their immediate circumstances. It's not as if we come to a circumstance and we say now is God good and loves this or not. The Bible clearly teaches that he loves us regardless of the circumstances and we believe that even though I have no other evidence in history that God performed the kind of miracle that he did hear.
The fact is that throughout church history there have been martyrs who had died and they died with a sense of faith and anticipation.
Why because Christians believe in two worlds, there's the world of the senses and there is the world to come.
You know when the Christians were thrown to the lions in the early centuries, and there was no angel that came in the mouths of the lions.
As Daniel experience later when they were going through these hard times and they are, they were in an arena, the Emperor was there to watch the Lions just absolutely lacerate and tear these Christians apart of one of the Emperor said what do they see what are they looking at because the Christians would look and they just weren't looking into the sky.
It was as if they were seeing something I don't know but remember what Stephen saw when he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand God, and it was as if Jesus was saying Stephen be faithful because the moment die I'm here to welcome Christians believe in another world. We believe the promises of God, and we trust the promises of God.
Also, the reason I've said it before, but I want to get more specific now these three man who became the asbestos kids because they were thrown in the fire. They weren't burned. These three young men trusted in God's unknown purposes is hidden purposes let's do a little bit of theology together. Can God do everything.
I know he camp the Bible says, expressly God cannot lie. God cannot lie. That's one thing God can do. I also believe that God cannot time cannot live with a contradiction. God cannot make 2+2 = 5. Unless of course you define the two, and so forth and get different definitions to the word is not capable of logical contradiction, but you know there is a limitation. Also that God imposes upon himself when it comes to his power. Why doesn't he deliver everyone.
Well I'll tell you why he doesn't deliver everyone and that's because of his ultimate hidden purpose that is hidden from us but fully known to him.
Great case study, and this is Jesus himself, you know, here's Jesus. And that was God able to deliver Jesus all my God able to deliver Jesus. Of course Jesus said there in the garden could not. I called 12 legions of angels and they'd come and deliver me clearly. Clearly, Jesus could be delivered even without the Angels, but I can imagine that all of them were just looking down and they were hovering over Jesus saying as the signal so that we can deliver them. They were prevented from I think of the words of Jesus to Pilate that I've often pondered when he said to pilot pilot saying you know, don't you know that I power to crucify you and all those other things.
Jesus said there would be no power at all is been given to you, except that which was given to you from time the very breath that you breathe in the words that you speak out of your mouth.
All of that is totally dependent upon God's grace and mercy. You have no power at all against except what God gives you see my friend, God's purposes determine the fact that he does not always exercise his power is often held in abeyance. Could God deliver them. Well you heard these three men say our God is able to deliver us absolutely. But if he doesn't, will still be faithful unto death, you know, I what was God's purpose here will part of the purposes for Nebuchadnezzar.
Did you know that Nebuchadnezzar is going to be in heaven that something organization. Nebuchadnezzar just know that you gave me lots of sermon material and that I used you as a bad example but I'm sure glad you made it, because in subsequent chapters, though he doesn't become a believer here. It really makes a decree that everybody supposed to be honoring the God of the three guys in subsequent chapters, God humbles him and he makes a proclamation about the God of Israel, that just takes your breath away.
I believe that that indicates he became a true believer in Israel's God so that was part of it. The other part that some people think is God use this one experience as an illustration of how he walks with his people and is able to walk with his people through the fire of affliction, such as the Jews will experience during the tribulation that God walks with them.
The fourth man.
Of course, is Jesus. No question about that.
The angel of the Lord.
And so, as this story unfolds, God is showing that it any time he wants to deliver his people through the fire. He most assuredly has the resources to do so, but we don't know his hidden purposes. I make a suggestion to you is a pastor from my heart to yours. Let's agree that we are going to stop trying to read God's purposes through an envelope you had that experience, you hold up the envelope to the light and you think to yourself, oh yeah, I noticed a few words but the problem is the light has to come through this way and the letter is rather but then you see along here, you do catch phrase of the problem is, you have no context and you know what's on this side because this site is all messed up because of the creases of the envelope. You stand there trying to read long ago.
I've stopped predicting what I think God is going to do because he surprised me too many times and what we need to do is to say our future is in his hands even when we are wheeled into a hospital for surgery. We do not know the outcome we we do not know. But one thing we know God is able to deliver God is able to heal, but does let it be known unto us and to all those who are watching always remember you don't just suffer for yourself to several people are watching you. Let it be known that we will not swerve in our faith in the living and the true God.
Now how do we nail this down for ourselves living in America as we do at this point in America's history.
I want to give you three free nails to put in the wall so to speak.
Three lessons that I don't want you to forget.
The first lesson is this, that persecution should be expected. Persecution should be expected to see whenever a state drifts towards paganism. The curtailment of religious freedom usually goes with it is the state assumes more and more power and more and more laws and we should expect that we should not be overwhelmed by it. What lies in America's future. Well, I don't know but you know this is something to think about. And by the way, if you're here today and you struggle with same-sex attraction. Once again, you're welcome here. The welcome mat duty church is for everyone because God's grace is for all of us as sinners. And that's where we all stand but notice this and it article in the American Journal of ortho psychiatry, racism, sexism, and homophobia do not fit into any current diagnostic category.
The authors propose that those who engage in such behavior, display a form of psycho pathology deserving of its own category. So this article seeks to find the common denominator to be intolerance.
The authors explore the possibility of an intolerant personality disorder symptoms and possible cures intolerant personality disorder. Is it possible that the day may come in the future and hope that it's in the very distant future where intolerant personality disorder becomes an identifiable mental illness pathology said if you belong to that and you do not 10 and and you are saying things and expressing your conviction that the child protective services might be in your home checking on the children, perhaps taking them from you because you have a pathology coldly intolerance personality disorder is ill that's really far-fetched, yet I know it is but you know things like that are happening in Europe already, but you know what we need to do.
We need to just take a deep breath. Everybody you're listening. Take a deep breath. Now, would you please I have to do it up here because I'm talking and some of you have to do it there because you're sitting let us remember this.
Why is this train, Peter said these marvelous words which at one time I knew exactly by memory, but I need to read them now he is writing to people under the Roman empire as his beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to be surprised but rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. You're insulted for the name of Christ. You are blessed is the spirit of glory and of God rests on you, we could save the fourth man walks with you during those insults during the persecution during the false accusations. God is always with his people and he will never leave us nor forsake us.
So we must welcome it. Fear and anger are not options to the Christian we must be able to be like the early church considered it a privilege to be identified with Jesus in a culture back then that was anti-Christian and anti-the worship of the Roman empire. So first of all accepted second, and this becomes a little disheartening. Most people will bow before the power of the state and its laws. Most people will bow before the power of the state and its laws have been meditating on this this past week and asking myself the question, three people refused to bow.
We have no idea why Daniel was not there. It's possible he was on a tour somewhere for the king because we know of course Daniel would never about because in chapter 6, he has his own opportunity when he prays to Jerusalem three times a day and they tell him to stop doing that and he won't and he gets thrown into the lion's den. So we know that Daniel would certainly certainly had not bound even as these three guys didn't bow, but apart from that I miss myself a Christian went there. 10,000 Jews, minimally scholars believe there are many more neck that went to Babylon where the longer they well maybe you know they were out on the other side of the plane. Nobody saw them.
I don't know. I think maybe all the rest decided to bow because they said to themselves, look, this doesn't mean that we can't also worship Jehovah. Furthermore, and this touches my heart.
We have children and you will do will bow the knee, but we won't bow our hearts, so God knows we really don't mean it and furthermore we have to be in babble and so that were good witnesses to Joel. That's pretty hard to be a good witness when your dad and so they don't identify and I think that most of them if not all of them other Christians today who not so sure how well we would do if we had persecution there Christian business people and so forth who you eat in a public cafeteria who will not bow their heads even in prayer because they don't want to be identified with Jesus and be thought of as weird.
Jesus said, rejoice when your name is cast out as being evil like that. So you and other Christians who bow their head and kind of you know actually rubbing their eyebrows or their you know they are there adjusting their napkin. You know on their on their needs and so forth. Think of Daniel Chiba house and praise three times a day with an open window may say you do that you get the lion's den, Daniel said I'm not going to surrender my commitment to God. I will do whatever you know Jesus said this, he said he was ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall also the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory never preached on that text know if I'm around here long enough I might actually preach a sermon on that sometime in June that how will we do when the true persecution, that's the question you know why the others bowed, it's because they feared the furnace more than they feared God and so they went along with the statism of the day, and they bowed hate to say it, if you will actually stand and what's interesting historically is that the ones who do stand we remember when I remember a lot of names in Germany, but we think of Don Hoffer and Martin honey Moeller and a lot of others. And there were others to. There were about 700 pastors and priests who went to concentration camps because of their opposition, but we remember the heroes and we study them. The others pass name Leslie into history, young people and others. God is looking for those who are saying were going to stand where he can identify with Jesus were going to take the heat, because after all he is our Savior. He is our Lord and God for bid that we should ever be ashamed of him.
Now there's a final lesson and that is this that the fire that purifies us is the fire that actually frees us. It sets us free. You notice and reread the text.
A moment ago, perhaps too quickly, but to notice how Nebuchadnezzar was just seems to be obsessed with this idea that they had to be bound and thrown into the fire pieces. For example, in verse 20 buying dish a brick shack in a Bendigo and these men were bound in their cloaks. I assume they had ropes that were tied around them and their tunics and so forth. They were bound with their close and then king never get measure is astonished. Verse 24 he declared to his counselors. Did we not cast Freeman into the fire. He answered and said, but I see four men unbounded in the fire. There was something that the fire burned off what the fire burned off was the ropes that held them pound and they were freed in the fire. My dear friend, no matter what fiery trial you're passing through and it made the persecution that may be around the corner. It may be some other fiery trial, when Peter said don't think it's strange if you're in a fiery trial. You can fill in the blank as to what that fiery trial is Peter said, rejoice because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. The fourth man shows up and walks with you through the fire and you can even be set free because finally, you've trusted him. No matter the outcome. I asked today that this church will be a church that lovingly wins assembly and without a sense of judgment and what shall we say, self judgment or that's the wrong word of self-righteousness that God forbid that we should be like that, but with humility and brokenness. We give a loving witness where we are and we are willing to take the heat for the one redeemed us and were confident that he walks with us through the fire and actually sets us free.
Chrysostom was a preacher in Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, and them he was run out of town and he got into trouble with the authorities because they didn't like his preaching, yet he got the story that's been told 100 times his people you know they took up stones and sticks and they were going to fight the authorities. But of course they could know you and I can't fight our culture when we have these strong cultural streams. That is to say we cannot fight them with her weapons after throw ourselves on God. Anyway, the people gathered in the church for his last sermon. After that he went into exile and died. Let me give you a paragraph of what he said. Numerous are the waves in the great tossing of the seed but we have no fear of going down for we stand upon the rock.
Let the ocean rages it will.
It is powerless to break the rock. Let the waves roll they cannot sink the bark of Jesus. Tell me what should we fear death for me to live is Christ into dies again exile, the earth is the Lords and the fullness of the confiscation of property was happening in those days we brought nothing into this world and it is clear that we can take nothing away with us. I despise what the world fears and hold it's good things integration.
I do not fear poverty. I nor do I desire riches. I am not afraid of death. I do not pray to live unless it be for your good.
This is why I speak of what is now taking place, and exhort you.
Be of good cheer when the water comes the waves do not break the rock but are dissolved into phone God wins whether or not he delivers us this much. You sure will go on believing him even without a miracle because we've come to know the living and the true God pastor wears be my predecessor here said that it's one thing you know, to the into the furnace of fire quite another to be put into the lake of fire and my friend today. I urge you to believe on Jesus because he died he gave his life he he gave himself for us, and he even said this is my body which is broken.
This is my blood eat and drink in remembrance of me because in that act is redemption and the free gift of eternal life to all those are listening at this moment in God is working in your heart would you reach out and receive that free gift. We pray in Jesus name. Father take these words we pray to encourage us to give us the strength that we need and we ask the Lord that these three men would be our role models in a world that has lost its way. We love you we pray that we might represent you well. In Jesus name on today's church. Our Dr. Erwin Lutzer spoke on when the state becomes God.
The ninth message in a 10 part series on the church in Babylon unleashing the power of the spirit filled witness.
Sometimes God makes a dramatic move next time on The Moody Church. Our return to Daniel chapter 5 and see the handwriting on the wall. The church in Babylon series shows us how to live during times of spiritual darkness. We'd like to put this 10 part series in your hands on CD is our way of saying thanks for your gift of any amount to The Moody Church. Our just call us 1-800-215-5001. Ask about the church in Babylon when you call 1-800-215-5001 or you can write to us at The Moody Church 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard Chicago, IL 60614 online go to moodyoffer.com that's moodyoffer.com join us next week for another Moody Church. Our with Dr. Erwin Lutzer in the congregation of historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry teacher