There was a reason these fifteen and sixteen-year-old boys, in Babylon’s wicked, immoral, sexual culture, were pure! They had parents who taught them, This is true, this is false, this is the true God, these are temptations and false gods. This will allow you to experience grace, and the good life and blessing of God, and this will bring destruction. This will be really attractive on the front end and will bring death. This will be hard on the front end and it will bring life. Choose this day who you will serve.
And I’ll tell you what, that happens with intentionality. That happens by modeling it. That happens by saying, “What is going to go into the mind of my life, my kids’ life, what kind of person am I?” Because here’s the deal that’s scary. Parents, we read all these books, all these techniques, you want to know what your kids are going to really be like?
Just go home and look in the mirror for about twenty minutes. “They’re going to be like me! They’re going to think like me! They’re going to drive like me! They’re going to be a people-pleasing, workaholic like me! They’re going to drink, start out with just one glass of wine before I went to bed like me, and took three or four glasses of wine, trying to hide it, like me! They’re going to be a secret porn addict like me! They’re going to be a…”
They’re going to be just like you! They’re going to be just like me. The greatest parenting advice I can give you is to be a great, godly person. Walk with Christ. And you can mess up a bunch, your kids will end up, probably, a lot like you, which really takes a lot of pressure off.
So, second, God then positions godly people in places of influence. Notice, the reason they ended up in Babylon was God! But it wasn’t like, He didn’t put them in this holy hut, “Well, okay, we’re going to be a small group. Daniel, what should we do now?” “We’re going to just hide out in the corner of the castle.”
They ended up the top students. They ended up being the people that led the nation. Daniel, at one point in his life, for decades, ends up the number two guy, calling the shots in a pagan world. Why? Because he is getting God’s best. Why? Because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and Daniel said, “It’s really hard, it’s really upstream, but by my convictions and the courage and knowing what’s true, I’m going to do life God’s way.”
So God placed some of you! He has put you in neighborhoods, He has put you as coaches on teams, He has put you as vice presidents and key managers at Cisco and Intel and Sun and places all over the place. Why? He doesn’t want to take you out; He wants to place you there but He wants the kind of people that are holy and winsome, not the kind of people who hold up placards and say that God hates people.
The only way we are going to transform the view of Christians is for Christians to live like Christians every day, I mean, how you drive. Are you ready for this? Christians who live like Christians, like, when you are taking kids and there’s a hallway you used to go to, instead of giving the person the hard time thinking, I think they are really trying to help the kids here, I’m going to be nice to them.
Have you ever been to church, see, I didn’t grow up in church. So, I remember I went to church one time and it was like, “Wow, the music was really good and I think that guy really loves God.” And then I tried to get out of the parking lot, everyone was a jerk! Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep! I’m thinking, Were they in the same room I was in? You understand what I’m saying?
And, see, that’s the dichotomy, the world looks at us and goes, “Man, I hear that Jesus stuff and the little Bible on your desk and you have invited me to go to church. Well, how come you don’t tell the truth and how come you took part of the credit for my business deal? And how come…?” They don’t want you to be perfect. They know you’re not, believe me. And they know I’m not. But they are looking for you to be real.
And so He then prospers those who follow His ways over the ways of the world. Isn’t that interesting that a lot of really smart guys, a lot of really smart people, but each time, as you read chapter 1, God gave favor to Daniel and his friends with the official. God gives favor to Daniel before the king. God gives favor.
And then chapter 1 ends with a very interesting little line. You almost miss it but the very end of chapter 1 ends with, verse 21, “And Daniel remained there until the first year of king Cyrus.” The timeline, 539 B.C.. Translation? For a very, very long time, a very, very godly man got all of God’s best and he changed his world.
Well, how does that play out for us? Daniel’s confidence in God’s promises and God’s character were the secret to his convictions and courage. Now, some of you are thinking that I’m just getting a little bit lazy because you have those very sophisticated filing systems in your Bible. Like, last week’s notes you put in, right? And then the next week’s notes you put in and then if it spills you have all those notes that fall out?
Well, if you would pull out last week’s notes, it would say something like this: And the secret to Abraham’s surrender to God was his confidence in God’s promises and God’s character. And you’re saying, “Well, it’s the same with Daniel.” Right. I’m not sure, but it might be the same with Moses next week. Here’s what I can tell you for sure, it’s the same with you. See, everyone is betting their life on a truth proposition.
The world has a truth proposition. Cosmo says if you look like this, then you will be successful and happy. And Entertainment Tonight and E!, whatever, will tell you this. And Forbes will say, if you can get enough of this and that and enough zeroes and enough power, then that’s what’s going to happen. And then People will tell you, if you can just be famous and be your own little American Idol and you can create Facebook and you have a whole world around you and you can tell people, I just burped, you know? And then I’m going for coffee and my dog…
You know? We are creating, no, seriously, are you kidding me? We are creating worlds where we are the star of our own show! “There is a way that seems right to men, but the way therein is death.” The truth proposition will either be that and that’s called the world system: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That’s the Babylonian of our world.
Or you will say to yourself, You know something? History, personal experience, all dictate that God has come in the person of Jesus. He lived a perfect life. He died upon a cross for me to demonstrate His love. He rose from the dead, not in some mysterious, “I need some angel here or there or some wise person who claims to have some experience.” For over forty days, to five hundred eyewitnesses, in a resurrected body, He told us what would happen, when it would happen, and how it’s going to happen. And He says, “I love you and I have your best. Now, take up your cross and follow Me. Swim upstream and I will put my blessing upon your life and a blessing upon your relationships and blessing upon your finances.”
And you know what? It will be hard, it will be difficult, but you will be the kind of Daniel that people say, “You know, how did you guys stay married after all you have been through? How did you ever forgive him after he did that? I’m not sure what’s going on but your kids, they seem like they actually like you and how did they turn out like that?”
And you know what? One group of people will say, “I believe in the character of God, that He is good and that He is just and that He is holy. And I believe the promises in His Word are the key to the fear of God and walking in a path that produces the outcomes that He promised.”
And you will either do that or you will believe something else. I mean, that’s life. You either do that or you believe something else. But the key is people of conviction and people of courage and people that make God’s Word and the character of God the core of their life, it births convictions and courage.
So you ask, “Well, what is that?” Notice, conviction is refusing to compromise in spite of the cost. I mean, there was a big cost. It could have cost him his life but Daniel didn’t compromise. His three friends in the fiery furnace, they didn’t compromise.
When he gets to be eighty years old and it’s illegal to pray, first thing he does, he opens the windows three times a day, he starts praying and he ends up in a lions’ den. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard and difficult and painful. Conviction is refusing to compromise in spite of the cost.
And, by the way, well, how do you get convictions? I’m back, they are more caught than taught. You rub up against people who have them. Proverbs 13:20, “He who dwells with wise men will be wise, but the companion of the fool will suffer harm.” Your kids catch convictions from you.
My kids still tell the story, I can’t even remember the movie. It was a PG movie. And they still tell the story, I just remember it was really popular, I took all my family, we’re sitting in the row. And in the first ten minutes, they used God’s name in vain three times.
And I just thought, I remember sitting there and the Spirit of God said, “Now,” and it was a cute, little movie. I can’t remember what it was. And I won’t tell you, because then you’ll email me, “Well, I watched that and I thought it was okay,” and all that. So we’ll skip that.
But I remember watching this movie and they used God’s name, and I just thought to myself, “If they used my mother’s name, would I get up and say, ‘Wait a second! What do you mean, Damn, Martha!’” That was my mom’s name. I’d fight over that. And so here I am sitting in this cutesy little movie where my kids, and so, I remember going, “Hey, guys?” “What, Dad?” “We’re leaving.” “What do you mean we’re leaving?” “We’re leaving.” “Dad, you’re an idiot.” “Yeah, probably. Get up. We’re going.”
And I remember we marched out of there, and we went out there, and I just told the people, “You know, I’m really sorry, but that was very offensive to me. That God died for me, loved me, and I…”
And my boys said, “Well, what are you doing, Dad?” And I said, “Well, did you hear what they said?” “Well, yeah, but everyone says that.” “I know. That’s not how we’re going to live, guys. Okay? He loves me. He told me never to take His name in vain. How can I passively just sit here and let people say that and call it entertainment? And what I would communicate to you guys is that His name doesn’t matter.”
And I didn’t think that was a big deal, but now my kids are in their twenties and early thirties and they go back to that, like, “My dad is an idiot,” when you’re nine. And then it was like, “You know something?” I mean, think of how small that was. They were in college in coed dorms, they had lots of people offer them drugs, they had many opportunities where they were attracted to someone that they knew really wasn’t following the Lord and had to make tough decisions about their sexuality.
Convictions are caught. Parents, they will get caught from you. Single people, who you hang around with will determine. You show me your friends, I’ll show you your future. Period.
The second way of convictions, it’s by personal discovery. And we have come to the day where we have become, I just call them, Pablum Christians. I don’t know if you have done this but my wife, I don’t really get this, when my kids were really small, you know, women you heat stuff and then you taste it before you give it to the baby? I never really liked that.
But it’s all ground up and really, really, really ground up so it’s real, real smooth so it’s predigested for the little babies. It tastes terrible. Most believers in our day are not eating spiritual steak and potatoes and serving themselves their own meal.
They listen to the radio or they listen to a tape or they read a little bit of a Christian book and, This teacher thinks that and this teacher thinks that and I always feel really warm and gooey when I read that guy. And, you know what? I don’t feel very good so I think I’ll put on a Christian song, “God loves me, I love me, I’m okay, you’re okay, okay.”
And you know what? There’s a place for that. But I’ve got news for you. When you’re really tempted, some little song or what some person thinks on the radio does not have the power to give you the sheer guts and courage to swim upstream and say, “Thus says the Lord. I have courage and convictions.”
It comes when your nose is in this Book and you’re reading it, little by little, and saying, “God, please speak to me. I know I’m not earning any favor. I want to know You.”
And when His Word comes off the page and the Holy Spirit codifies it in your heart, it gives you the power to do what you want to do! The psalmist said, “If Your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”
See, this is your diet. Jesus will tell us just a little bit later that transformation doesn’t come by going to religious activities or trying harder. Transformation, convictions come when the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, in the human heart, in the context of community of other people gives birth in your soul, where your life changes. And so you do what is right, not because you ought or should, but because God says it and it’s a conviction you have. And there is a big difference between convictions and beliefs.
I was in college and I didn’t actually fill out one of those surrender cards but a few months earlier I’d told God, “I’m all in and I really want to walk with You,” and I was as sincere as I could be.
And I was an RA, I wanted to make a little extra money, resident assistant, where you counsel people on the floors and sit in the little box with the window and people sign in and out and all that.
And so we had training. They had this psychologist come from West Virginia University and there were eighty of us and one of the exercises, we all got against a long wall and they said, “The middle of the room is zero. And to the far right is one hundred points, I highly agree with this statement. And then way, way over here,” after they made it, was I totally disagree with this statement.
So they asked all kinds of questions. We were doing values, clarification, and sensitivity training, some of you will remember that.
And so they asked this question, “Do you believe that premarital sex is okay?” There are eighty people in the room. Seventy-five of the people are huddled around the “plus one hundred” over here. Okay? I mean, this is the seventies, coed dorms, life is crazy, sex is available.
And two people are over here. They are Christians, I know them, they are in this Bible study, and they are holding hands. And they are at one hundred points, We don’t believe in that. Now, they didn’t have all the research to know that people who live together and have sex before marriage have a much higher rate of divorce, they have much higher incidents of infidelity, have a much higher actual sexual dysfunction.
But theirs was just a conviction kind of like Daniel was just, “This is wrong because God says it and He has first rate, not second rate sex for us.” Now, so you’ve got two people here and you have seventy-five or seventy-six, whatever it is. And we have one person right where it’s zero. I can’t imagine who this person might be. And he was at the one yard line.
Because if you would have asked me before, “Chip, do you believe premarital sex is okay?” “No. I don’t believe that.” But now you put all these good looking girls that are all saying, “I think it’s okay,” and two people in a Bible study thinking, “I really think it’s wrong.” Now, I believe, but I don’t want those girls thinking I’m not available! Right? You understand what I’m saying?
Do you understand that the average Christian in our day is filled with beliefs that you think you believe and they are not convictions? And under pressure and test, you cave. And when you cave, then you have marriages that don’t work and debt that consumes you and loneliness that haunts you and jobs that are boring because you took it for the money instead of for how God made you.
And what we are talking about is God wants you to get the best! But He says there is a pathway to get His best. And that pathway involves His Word, His character, His truth, the community of God’s people. But it requires convictions, not just beliefs.
But Daniel doesn’t just have convictions - he had courage! And we miss what courage is. Courage is refusing to conform, even when you are afraid. They grow out of convictions.
I mean, Daniel was afraid. I have never met anyone who has taken a stand, who has confronted their boss, who has confronted someone in a relationship, who has said, “You know what? I love you, you love me, but we have to have first best and I know there are economic issues, but we can’t keep living together. Let’s spend some time apart, let’s go through some counseling, and then let’s get married in six months.” “But, what if I lose him?” Well, what if you lose him, then he probably wasn’t worth having!
You have to get real with yourself. We have people that love God with all their heart and the truth is, they are sincere, and you know what? Without the prescription drugs, they’re a mess. Or the people that started out with, you know, I wind down, it’s the Silicone Valley, there’s a lot of pressure, it’s just one glass of wine. The fact is, you’ve never had one glass of wine before you go to bed. You know? One and done is not a part of you.
And so these addictions occur and there is this pull and there is this, so many Christians live with such guilt and it breaks God’s heart. And they live with this, Oh, I know I’m not quite what I’m supposed to be and I’ve got these unresolved anger issues and I know I shouldn’t be doing this and I’ve got this and I’ve got that.
And God says, “How about,” are you ready? Here’s the word, “How about you repent?” Meta, the word is, noia. Change (noia), mind. It’s just coming to a day like today and realizing you live in a Babylonian culture, even inside the Church, that is filled with the messages of the people in Cosmo and Fortune and media that says, “This is really going to deliver,” and it’s not. And it’s saying, “I’m on the wrong road, I’m going to go off the exit ramp, I’m going to do a U-turn. Okay, God, I’m really afraid but I want to be on Your road. I really want Your best. And I’m scared.”
Courage is doing what you know is right, even when you’re afraid. It grows out of convictions and, notice, it’s sustained by comrades. Jesus summed up, really, all of what Daniel was teaching us in John 8. And Paul does it in Romans 12.
Basically what we have heard, if we wanted to summarize all that we have said, Daniel’s life reveals that getting God’s best is a no/yes proposition. “No longer be conformed to this present world system.” No. “Yes, allow myself to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” That’s getting truth and you heard about written truth and right people and music.
Why? So that I can end up religious and weird? Is that what it says? I mean, look at the verse. Is that what it says? So I can never have any fun anymore? “Stop allowing yourself to be conformed to this world but be,” literally, allow yourself to be, “transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might prove, test, experience what God’s will is,” this is the good part, “that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.
And just plug in, relationships that are good, acceptable, and perfect. Finances that are good, acceptable, and perfect. A future that is good, acceptable, and perfect. That’s God’s will.
And Jesus says it’s not about trying hard. It’s embracing truth and you can’t do it alone, that brings transformation. “And you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Two very simple things on paper; very difficult in real time is I want you to ask and answer the “no” and the “yes” question.
The “no” question is: What or who do you need to say “no” to to experience God’s best? As I have been talking, as you have been listening, and some of you have been trying to push it down, that little fluttering, that Spirit of God that keeps saying, “Mmm, you need to let go of that. You need to make that step.” What is it?
And could you please hear? If you could see Jesus right now, the arms would be out open, “Please, please, please, please. What I have for you is so much better.” But they have to be embraced by the eyes of faith. And it means you’ll have to let go of maybe some friends or some people or some issues. What or who is that for you?
The next recommendation is sort of like an opportunity to spiritually dry out. Consider a three, five, or ten-day media fast. Even after three days you will be completely shocked of how different you looked at life. You go ten days and don’t turn on the radio in the car, don’t watch any TV, and don’t surf the net. First of all, you’ll get bored and angry and irritable and you’ll wonder why. Because you’re stuffing stuff.
I mean, there is a reason we eat when we’re not hungry, there’s a reason we have to turn on stuff all the time. Most of us don’t like who we are or are uncomfortable. But once you see that, then God’s grace can deal with it.
Second, what do you need to say, “Yes” to in order to renew your mind and experience God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will?
What if you said, “You know something? I’m going to take this little bookmark and twenty minutes at lunch or twenty minutes before I get out the door or twenty minutes before I go to bed,” and if I’ve been in the faith for a while but not in the Bible, I would start in the book of James. And I would just read a paragraph, two max. But a paragraph or two and just, I’m going to pray, God, please speak to me.
And then read the paragraph quickly, that’s the preview. And then I’m going to read it slowly and out loud. And it’s really simple. But it will take it from, “I read a little bit,” to letting you meditate and the truth sink into your heart.
And if you’re brand new, I encourage you, maybe start in the book of Mark or the book of John, one of the big ones, and just read a couple of paragraphs to renew your mind.