Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. When God says a nation is doomed, that doom is certain.
Belshazzar's feast began with revelry and ended with Belshazzar dead. Babylon died with him, as might America if we don't heed the warnings of God. 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 conclude a series on the church in Babylon, unleashing the power of a Spirit-filled witness. Pastor Lutzer, I'm sure Belshazzar's eyes got real big when Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall. And you know, Dave, it's so easy for us, of course, to look back and say, well, the handwriting was very clear when it was interpreted, and that's true that it was.
We don't have that kind of handwriting today, but we have many indications that our nation is beginning to descend into a kind of paganism, and we don't know what the end will be. The reason I preach this series of messages is because my heart was so heavy, seeing parallels between ancient Babylon and America today. And for a gift of any amount, these messages can be yours so that you can listen to them again and again. Share them with your friends. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for helping us share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We appreciate you, and together we're making a difference. So that's the end of your kingdom. End of story. Now notice verse 29, then Belshazzar gave the command. Daniel was clothed with purple. He didn't want to be, but the king said, put a chain of gold around his neck. Proclamation was made about him that he should be the third in the ruler of the kingdom, last thing Daniel was interested in. And then verse 30, that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom being about 62 years old.
You know what happened? Herodotus tells us, thank God for historians. What he said was that the Persians diverted the Euphrates River.
Now they couldn't divert the whole thing, but they built a tributary and kept it blocked, like with a dam, and then they took the dam away, and the waters flowed over here, and the water went down far enough that the soldiers were able to cross under the walls. And so you have all of these soldiers who are going under the walls because the Euphrates River was low enough, and they come into the banquet hall where Belshazzar and all of his friends are having this party, and he is beheaded in the year 539, October the 11th and the 12th, and a Babylon. What a story, but how does it relate to us? What should we take home today for ourselves so that we are transformed by this story and understand our role in our world? The first lesson, which is very obvious, is that when we reject God, we invite his judgment. When we reject God, we invite his judgment because blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and when God is relegated to the margins, when God is no longer acknowledged, there's going to be judgment of some sort. Occasionally, people say to me, Pastor Lutzer, do you think God is going to judge America? I have to point out that God is right now judging America. Right now, we are under judgment. All sin, whether it is national or individual, has immediate consequences.
When you and I sin, there are some immediate consequences, and through confession and so forth, some of those consequences might be mitigated. Thank God that he forgives us when we confess our sins, but all sin has immediate judgments connected with it, and nationally, that's true as well. Sometimes, God is judging us, and I think the most obvious way in which God is judging America is through the destruction of the family. As long as we accept what is known as marriage equality, as long as we accept pornography and easy divorce and immorality and 20 million children going home tonight with only one parent to put them to bed, children crying for their daddies and for their mothers and angry because of what is taking place, taking all of that into the next generation, that is part of the consequences of God's judgment. Now, sometimes, God may judge a nation because of external forces. Certainly, he did that in the case of Belshazzar. Suddenly, the kingdom was over because another nation invaded and won a war. Sometimes, God's judgment is the rot within led to its normal conclusions and predictable conclusions. Sometimes, the judgment of God is from without, but when a nation forgets God and neglects God and defies God, judgment of some sort is absolutely inevitable.
In the case of Belshazzar, his pride, his blasphemy against the living God, his defiance of God, his acceptance of idols caused the end of his kingdom. There's a second lesson, and that is simply this, that no defense can save us. No defense can save us when God says, your number's up.
You know, you stop to think of it. Remember what Daniel said to Belshazzar, the one in whose hand is your breath, you have not honored. And God can, so to speak, pull the plug. No constitution can save us. No weapons can save us.
No organization can save us, though I'm in favor of all of the above. The fact is, when God says it's over, it is over. Very sobering. The Bible says in the book of Isaiah, it says that the nations of the earth are like a drop in a bucket. God says the nations of the earth are like dust held in your hand, and when God goes, it's over.
We don't know what the future of America will be, but if we continue on in this particular way, we know that its future cannot be good, because it cannot be good if you don't have good families, if you don't have good values, and if the gospel be hidden, the transforming power of Christ, no matter what happens, we simply cannot turn the ship around. The gospel is what people need. There's another lesson, and that is, and this gets very sensitive here, but I'm going to plow ahead. It is necessary for us as believers to read the handwriting on the wall, the handwriting on the wall. Now, you and I can't read Aramaic like Daniel was able to.
These words are actually Aramaic. We can't read that, but we can read English, and it's not just that God only wrote this with his finger. He wrote the Ten Commandments with the finger of God, it says.
Furthermore, God inspired an entire book or a book that is filled with books. We've read the New Testament, and we know that God has revealed his will, and we can read that, and so we can also read the handwriting that is on the wall. I venture to say that today, in the great city of Chicago, there is going to be a gay rights parade, and I understand, according to the media, that about a million people are going to be along the sidelines cheering them on. When we think of this, we should not see these people as our enemies, by no means, but we should see them as captives to the blinding absorption of sin. And we know that once marriage is desecrated, as it is going to be along the parade route—I heard what was going to take place on the news this morning—as it is desecrated along the parade route, from my heart to yours, you and I know that the handwriting is on the wall. And as we stop to think of it, when the time comes when marriage is desecrated and thousands of people accept it and cheer it on, we know how it will end, because we've read Romans chapter 1 in God's book. We don't need to read it in Aramaic.
We just need to read it in English. And once you have laws that are enacted that restrict our freedoms, we also know that the handwriting is on the wall. And once the Bible itself, as we proclaim it, is known as hate speech, we know that the writing is on the wall, all of this happening, and celebrated. Once you begin to celebrate those who are captive and you begin to celebrate various pathologies, you know that the handwriting is on the wall. You say, well, Pastor Lutzer, what do we do? I'm so glad you asked that question, by the way. Isn't that what you were thinking?
Should be. I want us to take a page today from Daniel himself. You have to love Daniel. He is a teenager, and he purposes in his heart that he will fully follow the Lord and not compromise his deep convictions. And now he's an 80-year-old man, and he's still standing strong for the truth. If you were brought up in Sunday school, you probably know that we all love to tell the story of Daniel in the lion's den. Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose for him, and dare to make it known. I pulled that out of my childhood.
Do any of you remember singing that, or am I alone up here today? All right, if you raised your hand, that says something about you. Do you know that Daniel in the lion's den, he was over 80 years old, probably at least 85. That's the next chapter. The next chapter is Darius, and what happens is there are some people who hate Daniel, so they go to the king and say, why don't you say that if people pray to anyone else other than you, they have to be cast into the lion's den? And Darius falls for it. And he issues that decree, and that decree is issued, and lo and behold, Daniel is in a box. He hears of the decree. Chapter 6, verse 10, when Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went into his house where he had his windows open in the upper chamber, open toward Jerusalem.
He got down on his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Now Daniel might have said, well, there's no use me praying publicly, and I'm not saying that you should parade your own righteousness publicly. The world doesn't need more self-righteousness. The world needs more brokenness and humility and tears on our part.
That's what we should be doing as we think of our society. We should be weeping. As I mentioned, they aren't enemies. They must be seen as captives. And this is true of all people who don't know the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus came. Jesus came to set the captives free. But Daniel, God bless him, he continues on with his own habits of praying to Jerusalem three times a day. And you know the rest of the story, how that he is thrown into the den of lions, and God sees fit to protect him. Not everyone thrown into the den of lions has been protected. You can look at the early chapters of church history.
You can go through the circus maximum in Rome or the Colosseum and remember that there were lions there that tore the Christians apart. But in this instance, God protected Daniel, and you all know the story. But from my heart to yours today, we've talked about the role of the church in the world.
The role of the church in the world ultimately comes down to the world and the Christian living individually for Christ. Now collectively, we gather for strength, we gather for encouragement, but it's you as an individual. Daniel didn't have anybody standing with him.
Thousands of people in the Medo-Persian empire, but only one Daniel so far as we know. You may be the one person in your office, and you're expected to celebrate marriage equality and all the implications that come with that, but you don't. It's not that you're being self-righteous or pointing your finger, but you have your convictions and you're going to stick with them. You may be in an instance in which the idea that Jesus is the only way to the Father is anathema, and you are really branded as some kind of a radical of some sort that really doesn't even fit into society, but there you stand. And you say, here I stand, I'll do it lovingly without spending a lot of time trying to judge others, but here I stand, I can do no other. You see, when it comes to history, you have to recognize that the people whom we admire are the ones who stood alone. And I appeal to you today as a believer, stand alone like Daniel did and take the consequences, whatever those consequences may be. You see, Jesus stood alone, and he is a better example than Daniel.
When it came time for him to die on the cross, all of the disciples forsook him and fled, and they went their way, and Jesus was essentially alone, though later on his mother and John returned to the cross. But there he obeyed God, and he had to obey God alone so that you and I might be redeemed. Are we willing to stand alone knowing that God stands with us?
That's our challenge. And if you're here today and you've never trusted Christ as your Savior, just know that Jesus Christ is the one who went to the cross alone, died for our sins so that you and I can be forgiven, and we offer this eternal life to everyone, everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, no matter their history. We admire the fact that Jesus Christ died for sinners. He died for us, and that's the message that this world has to hear.
But it means often that we simply stand alone. That's why I loved it when the choir this morning sang, Embrace the Cross. That's what it means, as Bonhoeffer said, whom we celebrated when we were in Europe so recently, when Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him, come and die. The question is, will the church, will we as individuals, stand with Christ in the midst of a culture that is getting more and more like the culture in Babylon? That's our challenge. Let's pray. Our Father, we want to thank you today for this true story, and it reminds us that Daniel stood alone in the midst of great pressure. We pray that we might stand alone. Lord, you've called us from diverse backgrounds, diverse cultures and races and vocations, and we come together to celebrate, to worship, to give you ourselves.
But tomorrow morning, we'll be alone. Inspire us, Lord, by the determination of Daniel and the saving work of Jesus Christ to be willing to stand alone, no matter the cost. We pray in Jesus' name.
Amen. Well, this is Pastor Lutzer, and let me have a personal word with you. I remember clearly as I was contemplating this series of messages, the church in Babylon. I was struggling for a moment because I realized that America is not ancient Babylon. It is not ancient Israel.
We live in an entirely different era. So I asked the Lord for wisdom as to what the parallels might be that we can learn from regarding ancient Babylon, regarding Israel finding itself in the midst of the pagan culture, and how that would apply to America. I do believe that the Lord gave me wisdom, and it has been so encouraging to see the response that we have had to these messages. Would you like to have them in a permanent form so that you can listen to them again and again? Share them with your friends. Perhaps you missed some of them, and you would like to have them for yourself.
For a gift of any amount, we're making them available today. This is the last in the series, and I hope that you will take advantage of this resource. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages, The Church in Babylon, messages that you can review, that you can think about, that I believe will have a transforming impact to all who listen. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And thanks in advance for helping us.
Running to Win is in 20 different countries in three different languages because of people just like you. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. What do you do to alleviate the pain caused by adultery you have committed?
An anonymous listener wants help, Dr. Lutzer, and here is what she says. I had a 30-year relationship with a man that became a sexual affair. It has now ended, and he told his wife. My sons were aware of the relationship. I've also been called by the wife of the man asking about the details of this long-standing relationship. What else do I have to do besides be forgiven by God? Well, my dear sister, thank you so much for connecting with us. I can imagine the pain that you have been through during all of these 30 years. The conscience, your conscience as it so troubled you.
A couple of comments. First of all, you say that the man's wife called you and asked about the details. It's not your responsibility to give her the details. It is the responsibility of her husband to give her the details. So I don't think it's up to you to have a phone call from her, and then she begins to dig into your life to find out what happened.
She has a right to know a lot of things, but let her know that through her husband. Secondly, you say that your sons knew about it. Have you genuinely gone to your sons one by one, acknowledging your sin, asking them to forgive you? That's absolutely essential, because if you don't, if you simply put a rug over the dirt, so to speak, your sons are going to be bitter against you. They are going to distrust you.
They will not respect you. Only repentance and genuine humility can bring about reconciliation. Next, what you need to know is that you have to apologize to anyone else who has been affected as a result of this longstanding affair.
And finally, to offer you some real genuine hope. When David committed adultery, there was nothing that he could do to bring Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, back to life. There was nothing that he could possibly do to undo the affair.
The consequences were going to continue. But isn't it interesting that in Psalm 51 he says, restore to me the joy of my salvation. So my dear sister, it is possible for you to still have the joy of your salvation, despite all the pain that has been caused and all of the consequences which will continue in one way or another.
It's your responsibility to clear your conscience so far as it can be cleared, receive God's forgiveness, and keep moving on as an expression and as an example of a sinner, forgiven by God, restored by grace. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer, for your compassionate answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Everything seems upside down in our culture. Wrong is right and right is wrong. These are the times that try men's souls and we all need a word of hope. Next time on Running to Win, don't miss a message on living with anxiety and winning. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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