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Aliens and Strangers

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 2, 2021 4:00 am

Aliens and Strangers

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 2, 2021 4:00 am

The world is changing rapidly. Biblical values are increasingly being set aside and replaced by counter-scriptural beliefs. How can Christians live in a society that rejects God and His Word? Find out when you join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Today on Truth for Life, we are launching a series titled Encore 2021.

We are revisiting the most requested messages from the past 12 months. Looking back, we are reminded that we live in a world that is changing rapidly. One of the ways it is changing is by moving away from biblical truth.

So how do we live faithfully in an alien culture? Alistair Begg explains by turning to the pages of Daniel. We begin today in chapter 3. Let me reread verses 16–18 in Phillips' paraphrase—not Phillips, I'm sorry, Peterson's. This is how it reads, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king.

We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up. Now, the reason for this address is because I was invited to address a group of a few thousand people who are in the financial realm at a conference that was gathered under the heading of just one word, fearless. And I wasn't given any direction at all. And so, as I sat and prepared, this is where I came. And I came to this particular passage.

What is it like to live in a society that does not like what Christians believe? Or how are we then planning to live with this new normal? How are we planning to understand what the Bible says in its timelessness in such a way that the truths that we seek to instill in the hearts and minds of the generations that are coming behind us will be so laid hold upon that the convictions which undergird them will stand for them in the day when these things come to an even more striking collapse? And as I move back to the sixth century BC, there is a very important point to make here. Because I noticed in my address—I read people's eyes, and I could see them—they're coming along with me and coming along, and they're looking forward to the punchline. And they're waiting for me to engage now in some great political explanation for what's going on, explaining the answer there. And how disappointed they all were when I told them no, when I explained to them, the United States nor the United Kingdom, neither of them are Israel. We are all Babylon. We are in the world which is represented as Babylon, confronted by a kingdom that is being raised, which is the kingdom of this world, as members of a kingdom of another world. That the issues of citizenship and political affiliation, as significant as they are—and they are significant—are not the issues when it comes to this matter. The matter, as we see in our friends here, is God's kingdom and God's plan. Now, let's go back to this, because it is to this that we really want to turn.

As I say, do what you will with my ramblings there. The story of Daniel is incredibly relevant. It's incredibly relevant, but not for the reasons that we might immediately think.

It is incredibly relevant not because it provides a strategy to deal with our new lack of status or certainly not to reverse our new lack of status. Nor is it because Daniel was a great man and we need to emulate him. He was a great man, and we should emulate great men and women. But he was not the hero of the story. God is the hero of the story. And so the relevance that is to be found in going back in this way is in the awareness of the fact that the God who overruled the events of the sixth century BC for the exiles of his people, that God has not changed in the subsequent two and a half millennia.

That he is the God of Abram, Isaac, and of Jacob. He is the God who has called out a people for himself, and the journey of that has been going on sometimes dramatically, often quietly. But throughout the world today, throughout the entire world, the Spirit of God is moving. And the ascended King, namely Jesus, reigns. And God is accomplishing his purposes in the world. And he is not uniquely concerned with Brexit or the United States elections.

He is supremely concerned with his church throughout the entire world. And so there you have, in this context, if you like, a microcosm of what we find today. Now, Daniel and his friends were swept up when they were just boys—maybe teenagers, perhaps in their early twenties. Daniel was in his eighties or his nineties by the time you get to chapter 6.

Therefore he had lived an entire lifetime in an alien world. He wasn't a pain in the neck in that world. He wasn't out with a big sign explaining how everything was wrong. He wasn't known for pointing out this and pointing out that and showing what a mess everything was.

No! He was one of the brightest and the best. He had an intellect. He had leadership. He was in a position of supreme usefulness.

But as an alien, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all the same. The reason these Chaldeans are able to come and say this to Nebuchadnezzar is because they are able to say to him, There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the nation. In other words, it's not that they can go and say, We found a people, and they're all protesting, and they're a real nuisance, and they're gummed up the traffic, and they're spoiling everything. You can't get your chariot parked for the whole crowd of them, you know. It's hopeless. No!

No, no, no, no, no! They're in positions of influence. But they're not gonna bow down to your image.

They won't bow down to your image. Well, Nebuchadnezzar had set this thing up ten stories high—nine or ten stories high, that's a big thing! And all the people had come. When you hear the sound of all these musical instruments, this is what you're supposed to do. And I love the transition in verse 7, it says, Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the … they all fell down and worshipped the golden image.

You bet your life they did! You can either bow down, or we have a nice, fiery furnace for you. Choose your plan. That was the way it was set up. Mercifully, we're not there yet.

Don't hold your breath. Now, by way of summary, in terms of learning from the response of these men, I want to give you three words, and we'll just point to three express illustrations. First of all, in the opening chapter, it is clear that Daniel and his friends were entirely focused. They were focused. They had been taken away into the heart of an empire that was set up to deny and to defy God.

That's the facts. Their parents would have raised them, Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is one. They would have walked with them, talked with them, shared the story. And they would have presumably agonized if their boys were separated from them. And as the end of the day in prayer, they would say, O Yahweh, look after our boys. They're away in a strange and foreign land. They're living in alien territory.

And what an amazing thing. Because they were relocated, they were reeducated, they were renamed, and yet they drew the line. They drew the line. Fascinatingly, they drew the line at dietary choice.

We're not gonna eat that stuff, they said. I know you call me by a different name. I know you've sent me to a different university, and I know that, but there is a point at which I won't go beyond. And it is fascinating. And incidentally, parenthetically, we are gonna have to define and decide where the lines are gonna have to be drawn. And I'm not here to tell you what they are.

I can help you, but I'm not gonna do it for you. Why then the diet? Why? Because, actually, their dietary convictions were grounded in deeper convictions. If you like, it was now by means of their diet that they had the thread that would tie them to their Jewish roots. Here was an opportunity for them to say, No, we don't do that, and we're not going to do that. They don't do it again in an argumentative way.

They do it in a very skillful way, but they do it. And I love it when it says, And they resolved. They resolved. Resolution. Focus. We will not defile ourselves with that stuff.

It's a reminder, isn't it? If you won't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I say to you again, we're gonna have to decide where the lines are.

Where's the line? I mentioned education. Are you happy to put your children into an environment where they teach sex education without any moral framework at all? Are you prepared to send them into an environment where the prevailing educational framework tells them that they really don't know who they are as individuals and that gender is a construct? And if you're prepared to do that, why are you prepared to do that? You wouldn't tolerate it yourself. Strange.

Are you happy that they live in an environment where they're told, essentially, pantheism—that we are the earth, and the earth is us, and God is the earth, and we're part of the earth, and so on, that all roads lead to heaven like they do to Timbuktu? I'm not gonna tell you where to draw the line. I'm not raising the question. Focused. Focused. If you go to chapter 6, and Daniel is now an old man, and the challenge for him there is—if you like, it's now the age-old challenge that pleased Darius to set over the kingdom. All of these people, and as a result, again, of Daniel's usefulness, he's in a position. So if they were focused in the beginning, Daniel is faithful in the end. And you see, it's his faithfulness that causes the trouble. Incidentally, I love all these children's books.

We use them all the time, and I love the pictures. But it struck me as I was preparing this talk that the story of Daniel in the lion's den is not really a very nice story to read to your little ones before they go to sleep. Because they're clever. Children are clever.

They realize, Wait a minute! What is this story about? Well, this is a story about an innocent man.

He's around eighty years of age, and he's condemned to death because he loves God very much and he doesn't want to do what the people tell him to do. And the children are perceptive enough to say, Do you think that could ever happen to you, Papa? What if the people told you you couldn't pray?

What would you do? Grandma, what would you do if the edict was, No prayer for the next thirty days? Well, see, what is so fantastic about this is, if Daniel's prayer life had been glandular—in other words, he only prayed when he felt like it—then this wouldn't have been a problem, and nobody could have caught him out. But when you read the story for yourself, you realize that it says that when the edict was made, he went back to his house, and he prayed—and here's the key phrase—"as he had done previously." In other words, it was business as usual for him. He was just going to maintain where he was.

He was a faithful soul, and he was going to be faithful to the end. I say to you again, if his prayer life had been like mine and like some of yours, perhaps, he would never have been caught out. And every time the cycle comes around, the political cycle comes around, somebody starts off again about prayer in the public schools. I love the idea of prayer in the public schools.

Do you know what I love even more? Prayer in the church. Prayer in the church. Three thousand two hundred people at the morning service and four hundred and ten for prayer.

What does that say? It says we don't actually believe in prayer. Forget prayer in the public schools, prayer in the church, prayer between husbands and wives, prayer in our families—prayer, not glandular, committed prayer. We seek God in prayer, focused in the outset, faithful in the end. And incidentally, the story again is not, I want to be like Daniel, but rather, I want to keep faithfully trusting the God that Daniel knew. Because I don't become like Daniel by copying his example, except insofar as we bow before Daniel's God in total and utter dependence.

Finally, to end where we began, in chapter 3. Because if they were focused in the outset and Daniel was faithful at the end, these characters were fearless in the face of idolatry. Now we say, well, we don't have a problem with idolatry. Pardon? And Calvin says that the human heart is an idol factory.

We might not have a problem with a gigantic image in the middle of the public square. Boy, there are many things that arise in my selfish, evil heart that invite me to bow down and worship before them. And since I know that you know, then I don't really need to run through a list of them. And these fellows were prepared to face death for the cause of God's kingdom. Both Daniel in terms of the prayer and these guys in terms of the bowing down, in each case they could have rationalized. Daniel could have said, What's the problem with quitting for thirty days?

I'm eighty years old. I think about how many times I've prayed in eighty years. I'm sure the Lord won't mind if I just skip for thirty days.

You know, I got a big backlog of praying. These fellows the same, tempted to say, You know what, we're not supposed to make a fuss. I mean, we're at our best when we let them know that we're just like them. Man, it drives me nuts when I hear people explaining, You know, it's so wonderful, because you are just like us. Every time somebody says that to me, I say, Well, then, I'm doing something wrong, because I am not like you. Well, I have a nose, I have two eyes, I live here, I go places. But essentially, I am not like you. It can't possibly be that I am. Because by God's grace, he has taken us out of the kingdom of darkness and placed us into the kingdom of light, and in that kingdom of light we live, so that our citizenship is in heaven.

From whence we await a Savior, even the Lord Jesus Christ who is the King. So we're not the same. It doesn't mean that we're weird, that we wear plastic noses or funny hats or something like that.

No! Here's the issue, though. It's a question of identity. We don't know who we are.

The church doesn't know who it is. Are we a political caucus? Are we a social agency? What in the world are we?

I'm talking church with big C now. Well, the Bible tells us exactly what we are. When Peter writes to the scattered believers in his letter, remember, he says to them, Let me tell you who you are.

You are, for you are a royal people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you could show forth his praises. There's your identity. There's your identity. Now, what is he doing there? He's taking Old Testament pictures of the people of God from the very calling of Abraham. They've always stood out. It's always dramatically different, because of their identity. And then he says, I beseech you as aliens and strangers to live such good lives among the pagans.

You see? Identity first, then activity. Until the church embraces and understands its identity, then all the calls to activity —do this, fix that, be that, and so on—are destined to complete failure. It is in understanding who we are in Christ. To bring it right up to date, we are to be focused on the gospel. We are to be faithful to the gospel. And we are to be fearless in the face of opposition to that gospel.

Jamie and Carol Owens did a wonderful job when, in the sixties and early seventies, they wrote those musicals—I don't think anybody listens to them anymore, and I just used to have a big LP, I don't know where it is—but I do remember their songs. And I always love the one that goes, You are the children of the kingdom of God. You are the chosen ones for whom the Savior came.

Really? Yes. You're his noble new creation, by the Spirit and the blood. You're the church that he has built to bear his name. That's who you are. In a world of identity politics, here is the identity of the believer.

And then, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you, and the hordes of darkness cannot quench your light, and the hosts of God shall stand and fight beside you till your king shall reign triumphant in his might. That's who we are. That's who we are.

That's who we are—first, foremost, middle, and last, who we are. You should all go home and dig out your old copy of Chariots of Fire and watch it before you go to bed tonight. Remind yourself of that movie from 1980 or 81, when Eric Liddell stood up to the king of the United Kingdom and told him flat out, I have another king.

I respect you, sir, but I submit to a different king. His focus was absolutely clear. His faithfulness was exceptional. He died as a teacher in mainland China.

And fearless, fantastic. You remember when he left Edinburgh? Waverley Station, right there.

Some of you have been in behind the gardens off the side of Princes Street. And when the city of Edinburgh came out to bid him farewell, because he was a huge hero, because of his Olympic abilities, because of his ability as a rugby player, he let the window down on the train, and calling for silence, he shouted out, Christ for the world! For the world needs Christ! And the people were like, What? And then he led them in the singing, Jesus shall reign wherever the sun doth his successive journeys run, his kingdom stretched from shore to shore till moon shall wax and wane no more. Was his death an abject failure to die of a cerebral hemorrhage of whatever it was at such a young age?

No. Because it remains that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. His commission is your commission if you're in Christ—your commission as a banker, your commission as a teacher, your commission as a mom, your commission as a dad, your commission in the medical world, with all the peculiar ethical challenges that you face every day, and about which I and others pray for you in that amazing environment. But God is faithful and has asked us to be faithful too.

You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg as we've been learning today about how to live as aliens and strangers. In fact, that's the title of today's message. Our teaching today has reminded us that as believers we are called to live faithfully in a new and alien society, and that requires us to stay focused, just as Daniel and his friends did.

These men could stand fearlessly in a godless culture because they knew the God they served, and we can know him as well. That's why we've selected a book that is a brief study of all that God has revealed about himself in Scripture. The title of the book is None Else, 31 Meditations on God's Character and Attributes, and today is the first opportunity I have to tell you about this new book. This book is a one-month devotional that focuses entirely on different facets of God's nature like His holiness or His faithfulness or His compassion. Request your copy of the devotional book None Else when you donate to support the teaching you hear on this program. Simply tap the image of the book on the Truth for Life app or call us at 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. Have you ever found yourself stuck in a difficult Bible passage trying to make sense of it? It can be like trying to work a puzzle. How should we approach our study of Scripture so we can see how all the pieces fit together? We'll hear from Alistair about that tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-18 10:07:29 / 2023-09-18 10:16:30 / 9

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