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When The State Becomes God Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
March 16, 2022 1:00 am

When The State Becomes God Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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March 16, 2022 1:00 am

Every day, cultural and civil pressure mount on the Christian faith. How should believers react? For Israelites in ancient Babylon, there was no freedom of religion. In this message from Daniel 3, we’ll explore the context of a true story of courage. How could three men say, “Throw us into the fire, but we’ll not deny God whether we are delivered or not?”

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Every day, government pressure mounts on the Christian faith. How should believers react? For guidance, we can look to a similar time of persecution long ago.

The place was Babylon, and the minority Jews were in the hot seat. Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Today we continue a series on the church in Babylon, unleashing the power of a Spirit-filled witness. Pastor Lutzer, give us a preview of today's message, When the State Becomes God. Dave, I'm going to give that preview, but first of all, I want to say a word to our listeners, from my heart to yours. Let me ask you, how are you doing? How are you doing amid all of the stresses of life, all of the things that seem to be collapsing around us? I pray that God will give us grace to be faithful in the midst of a culture that clearly is losing its way.

And now, Dave, to your question. I sometimes smile when people say, oh, you know, politics isn't important. Well, ask the Jews in Babylon whether or not politics is important, when you have a political ruler who wants to control your life. Of course, politics is not all important. The gospel is most important. But politics is important.

And the state has become God throughout history, and today we have an example of that. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of running to win. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's somebody who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you can do.

Go to, click on the endurance partner button, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. In the midst of a collapsing culture, let's stand together. 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 a state to be able to flourish, and have what is sometimes referred to as limited government. The relationship between church and state or religion and state has had a long and checkered history. Sometimes that has 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 were to be put to death. That was true not only in Israel, but also the surrounding nations that surrounded Israel. Same kind of state-ism. 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 the pages of church history. Now, oftentimes, what happens in a 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 Nazism. 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 end 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 van der Lubbe to enter into the heating system of the Reichstag and light it on fire. Hitler blamed it on the communists, and as a result, Germany 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 friends. 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 death. 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. But all of this leads me to the message that 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 Babylon because the best example of what we today have to live among and with in America is to be found at those Jews who entered Babylon, a very pagan country, as a minority.

And they had to get used to living as a minority in a majority pagan culture. And I talked about what God said. God says, go to the city of Babylon, build houses. You can plant vineyards, plan to stay there, seek the welfare of the city. Witness to your neighbors and to your friends. Pay your taxes. If we relate it 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 witness to our faith in the midst of this culture.

Now, if you were 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 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 in the 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, you, O king, are the head of gold. And the rest of the dream predicts the nations that are going to come. It's one of the great predictive dreams of history and very accurate. But Nebuchadnezzar promotes Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego 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 nine feet long. Now this happens to be in a plane that is close to Babylon, the plane of Dura, which has been found. And archeologists actually believe that they have found the base, the pedestal upon which this great massive tall image rests. We're not sure exactly, but I think it was the image of a man. And so Nebuchadnezzar builds this and then he brings all of the people of Babylon to the plane.

We can visualize there hundreds of thousands over a period of time. And he says, as soon as the music begins, and he lists six different instruments that are to be used, and 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. Do you notice how Nebuchadnezzar uses the law specifically?

He becomes the lawgiver. And the law of Babylon is now everybody worships the same God and bows before the same image. Well, that gives context to where I'm going to pick it up there in chapter 3 in verse 16. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, oh, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. In context, what happened is they were written up as not bowing. And this information was given to Nebuchadnezzar. The man who wrote them up said, you know, these Jews that you have, they're not bowing. And so Nebuchadnezzar says, well, maybe you got it wrong. We're going to do this again and I'll give you another chance to bow before the image.

So they are responding. Oh, 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, O king.

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 underlined twice. This is one of the greatest expressions of faith that is found in the scriptures. Oh, 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 that you have set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury and the expression of 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 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks and their tunics, their hats and other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. But because the king's order was urgent and the fire overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, they fell bound into the burning furnace, that is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste and he declared to his counselors, did we not cast three men bound into the fire? They said, true, O king. He answered and said, but I see four men unbound walking in the midst of the fire and they are not hurt. And the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.

What I want us to do today is to ask ourselves the question and answer it. How did these men have the courage to stand there and be willing to say, throw us into the fire, but we will not deny God whether we're delivered or not? First of all, they were willing, of course, they trusted God's unknown providence, his 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 unpredictability 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 Herod comes and beheads James. And Peter is expected to have the same thing happen to him the next day and he's 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.

Well, one is dead, the other is alive. Hebrews chapter 11, you know, we think, oh, this great 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 won and then it says, but others, others were persecuted, they wandered about in sheepskins and in goatskins, they were sawn in two, they were burned.

Wow. So 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 too can be a hero of faith. You know, 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 we'll be able to answer that in just a few moments. But what these three men said was this. We will leave our future in God's hands. 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 we're willing to trust Him to the end. You say, well, where did they get the faith? Well, they trusted God's promises, the known promises of God.

You know, I can imagine they're back in the synagogue when they were in Jerusalem before they came to Babylon. Perhaps they were there and 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 where Asaph says, whom have I in heaven but thee?

And there's none upon the earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my life and my portion forever. Maybe they remembered that passage.

Here's a passage they also might have 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 and the flames shall not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. 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 consumed. The floods will not overwhelm you. It's interesting that the two ways that Christians died during medieval times was the fire and the water. They were drowned and they were burned. But 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 was 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 us 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 here, the fact is that throughout church history there have been martyrs who have died, and they've died with a sense of faith and anticipation.

Why? Because Christians believe in two worlds. There's the world of the senses and there's 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 and closed the mouths of the lions, as Daniel experienced later. When they were going through these hard times and there they were in an arena, the emperor was there to watch the lions just absolutely lacerate and tear these Christians apart. But one of the emperors 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. Well, I don't know, but remember what Stephen saw when he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And it was as if Jesus was saying, Stephen, be faithful because the moment you die, I'm here to welcome you. Christians believe in another world. We believe the promises of God, and we trust the promises of God.

Also these, and I've said it before, but I want to get more specific now. These three men who became the asbestos kids because they were thrown in the fire and they weren't burned. These three young men trusted in God's unknown purposes, his hidden purposes. Now let's do a little bit of theology together. Can God do everything? No, he can't. The Bible says expressly God cannot lie. God cannot lie. So that's one thing God can't do. I also believe that God cannot live with a contradiction.

God cannot make two plus two equal five unless of course you define the two and so forth and give different definitions to the word. He's 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 in this is Jesus himself. You know, here's Jesus and was God able to deliver Jesus? Oh my, was God able to deliver Jesus.

Of course. Jesus said there in the garden, could not I call 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 and they're just saying, give us the signal so that we can deliver him.

But they were prevented from it. Well, this is Pastor Lutzer. You know, sometimes in life it is very difficult for us to understand God's ways, but we rejoice in the fact that he is always with us. Did you know that running to win is heard all throughout Nigeria?

That's because of the faithfulness of God's people. I'm holding in my hand a letter from someone in that part of the world who wrote to us, I'm learning about the spiritual fight and how the kingdom of light is greater than the kingdom of darkness. Well, you my friend have a part in this ministry. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner?

That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course you need more info. So this is what you do. Go to That's And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.

So throughout Nigeria and many other countries, the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to go out because of people like you. Go to, click on the endurance partner button, or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. In persecution, some believers are spared. Others go through torture and death. Some wonder why God doesn't deliver all of His people, since He surely could. Next time on Running to Win, tune in for an answer to this vexing problem. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-21 21:44:06 / 2023-05-21 21:52:41 / 9

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