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About this series
How to Ignite Your Faith (R12)
What's true spirituality? How do you get it? In today's culture we tend to customize our spirituality to fit our own needs. We create God in our own image rather than the other way around. In this r12 series, learn how you can give God what He wants the most. Based on timeless truths found in Romans 12, Chip journeys back to the Old Testament to learn true spirituality from the lives of Abraham, Daniel, Moses, David & Jonathan, and Joseph. They reveal to us a profile of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Momentum will Ignite Your Faith.More from this series
Most Christians aren’t experiencing God’s best. And it’s not because God doesn’t want to give it.
We’re going to learn that there are certain factors that will seduce your soul, they will become a belief system and lies that will have you thinking you’re moving on the right path and direction to get the best out of life, that will absolutely destroy you and your relationships.
And there is another pathway that God gives that will seem very hard on the upfront, but if you follow it by His power and by His grace, you’ll receive the best that He has to give you.
So we’re going to jump in together. The greatest picture of this in the Old Testament, for me, is a teenage boy. In fact, we get his whole story. We hear about him when he’s a teenager in chapter 1, his friends, a little bit later in chapter 3, by the end of chapter 1, they give a little structural marker and it tells us that he held this role until a king named Darius, that is 539 B.C., which doesn’t mean much to you, but it means he had about a seventy year run in his job.
And the guy’s name is Daniel. So let me picture it for you. Are you ready? The year is 605 B.C., Babylon. The most powerful empire in the world – their most powerful king, Nebuchadnezzar – is moving across the known world like a wave, just conquering kingdom after kingdom after kingdom after kingdom. They are the home of the mystery religions. They are arrogant. They have immorality like you can’t imagine.
This Babylon makes Vegas look like a Sunday school class. No joke. Idols everywhere, immorality in ways and practices you can’t even imagine. So king, powerful Babylon, is moving with his armies to take over the world. And over here is Jerusalem. God’s people.
But God’s people have not been following God. And so He gave them this promise in Deuteronomy chapter 28, 29, and 30 and multiple other places: “If you will walk with Me, I will be your God and you will be My people. I love you, I care for you, I want you to get the best. But if you turn away from Me, if you worship idols, if you will not fear Me,” and the idea of fear Me is doing life My way, “because I care about you, then I will bring judgment. I will scatter you to the corners of the earth.”
And so, as we open the text, if you’re Daniel, notice how it opens up. It says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and he besieged it.” Notice the next line, “And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hands, along with some of the articles from the temple. And he carried them off from God’s temple” this is important later in the book, “to his god in Babylon and he put them in the treasury of his god.”
So, did you notice who caused the bad guys to win the battle? It was God. Why? Judgment. When we do things, whether we are a nation or an individual, that are on the wrong path, over a long period of time, after multiple warnings, God loves you and He loves me so much, I call it the velvet vise of grace.
And what He does is, you know, your life isn’t going well, you’re doing things apart from Him, God says, “Don’t do this,” and you go, “Well, yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe.”
And He will bring pressure to your health, your finances, He will ruin relationships. He loves you so much. When He sees someone headed off a cliff, He will start putting barriers up – car wrecks, health issues, job losses – He will bring all kinds of things to bear to get you to think, “Maybe, like the twelve-steppers call it, I hit bottom.”
Sometimes God allows very difficult, painful things for us to say, “You know, maybe how I’m living isn’t exactly how I ought to be living. Maybe I need to get on God’s path. And maybe the reason is that He really loves me and this difficulty is like flashing red lights. It’s like Him caring enough to bring about adversity to get my attention.” And so that’s what God is doing with this nation.
Now, the next thing you need to understand is, as they are taking over the world, they are very smart. And when you conquer kingdoms or countries, what happens is, over time, they are really spread out and they don’t have a lot of telecommunication for obvious reasons.
And so what you wanted to do is you wanted to figure out how to engraft that nation that you conquer into your culture so you don’t have coups later.
And so what they were going to do is they are going to take, from the royal family, the people who would eventually be the kings and the rulers of Judah or Jerusalem, they want to take the best, the smartest, and the brightest and we are going to hear about four of them.
And they are going to take them, this is 605 B.C. and it’s an initial, what they call, a deportation. And they are going to take them because they are the leaders and they are going to go take them to Babylon to brainwash them.
Now, in 597, they will do another one with more people and then in 587, they’ll complete it. And so, here they are, they are going to take Daniel, Meshach, Abednego, remember the story of the three guys in the furnace? They have these have these weird Babylonian names. They are going to take them there for a three-year graduate program in brainwashing.
Now, pick it up in verse 3, it says, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of the court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and nobility – these are young men” notice who they’ve got, “men without physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and the literature of the Babylonians.”
And then it goes on to say, “Then the king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. And they were to be trained for three years, and after that they were going to enter the king’s service.”
So here’s what you need to get, they pull these four sharp, noble, intelligent, the best, the brightest, the Harvard/Stanford type grads, good looking, they are quick, and they are going to take them to Babylon to brainwash them.
You know, they are going to learn the languages, they are going to learn the worldview, they will learn the wisdom books, they will trained by the magicians and the enchanters.
They are going to change their diet, they are going to change everything about them and they are praying for the day that they would forever forget they were a Jew, they would ever remember there was a God named Yahweh, and they would see themselves as New Babylonians and then they would enter the king’s service and become a part of Babylonian culture. That’s the game plan.
Well, you’ll notice in verse 8, but Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.” Now notice the intervention here. “God caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.”
Here’s what you have to understand: Daniel, our best research, and his three friends are, at best, fifteen to sixteen to seventeen years old. Now, how many of you have a teenager and you think, if you had a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen-year-old, you could send them to Vegas for three years without any parental oversight and be pretty happy about how they are going to turn out?
Daniel’s parents did and they turned out – they not only turned out, they became God’s inside men over three different kingdoms and changed the course of the world because of some convictions and courage that they had.
And as the story unfolds, Daniel was not a teetotaler and Daniel was not a vegetarian. But the wine and the meat was being offered to idols. And so they were contaminated, for Daniel to eat that would be to say, “I’m going to worship these false gods,” which was at the heart of the very first two commandments.
And so he goes to the head official and he goes, “Look, this really violates everything we believe, everything that we are. What do you say you give us a little different diet? Just vegetables and water or something like that? Okay?” And then he goes, “I can’t do that. I will get killed! If they start looking at you and these other guys, if you guys don’t look sharp, I’ll die!” And so Daniel, I love, he doesn’t get pushy, he doesn’t get holier than thou. He says, “I’ll tell you what, how about a ten-day test? Will you just work with me on this one?”
And so for ten days, they do it and then notice, in your Bible, you can skip down, and notice it says, “At the end of ten days,” verse 15, “they looked healthier and better and nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” Then notice, “So the guard took away the choice food, gave them vegetables instead.” Verse 17, “These four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”
And then you get to the final exam, after three years, all these people, not just the ones from Jerusalem, but from these different kingdoms, they have all been taken to Babylon, now they get an oral exam. Some of you have been there, right? You did a little graduate work and you had to write a long paper and at the end of the long paper, in my case, I remember sitting down and there was Dr. So-and-so, Dr. So-and-so, Dr. So-and-so, Dr. So-and-so. And they read my paper and had red marks all over it. And then it was the oral exam. “Chip, I noticed on your paper you said this, but what about that?” I actually kind of enjoyed it, it was sort of fun. But I have a warped sense of those experiences.
“At the end of the time set to them,” verse 18, “the king brought in the chief official, presented them to Nebuchadnezzar, the great king. He talked with them, he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered in the king’s service. In the matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the,” notice the contrast, “the magicians,” those are people who are in the occult, “the enchanters in his whole kingdom.”
Daniel and his four friends got God’s best. Daniel reveals to us how we can get God’s best. And it’s interesting, in this book, from the time he is a teenager until the time he is a very, very, very old man, he is put in positions and blessing and God upon his life that he gets the highest and the best. But it’s because he has some convictions and he has some courage and he does some things that most people are unwilling to do.
And there are just a few life lessons; these aren’t in your notes. I’d like them to just wash over you and then here’s what I want to do. As soon as I get done with this,
I want to go back and just show you how these two cultures are in conflict.
I want to show you the actual game plan the Babylonians, from this text, had to seduce Daniel’s soul. Because what you’re going to find is the culture that you live in is using the exact same things in your life. And then I want to show you really quickly, what was God’s game plan? What does He do in those who want to follow Him closely to ensure that they get His best?
So, with that in mind, here’s just a couple [of life lessons]. Kind of lean back because I think we believe some lies.
Life lesson number one: We are not at the mercy of a pagan culture. Sometimes I hear, “Well, you know, you just don’t understand. I’m on the road a lot. I mean, gosh, with all the media, now our kids are going to have sex. What we need to just do is just try and, you know. And, you know, under all the pressure I am, I mean, everyone is going to have some addictions…”
No. I think if a fifteen-year-old, sixteen-year-old can do it God’s way in Vegas on steroids, I think you can.
Second observation is: The future of our world will be determined by who captures the next generation. A lot of people are talking about our children and our children’s children and economic issues.
I will tell you, think about the spiritual and moral issues. Who captures the next generation? And in a minute I’m going to show you the game plan of God and the game plan of the world. And if you’re a parent, I’d really perk up.
Third observation is that protection of our children from our culture is impossible, but preparation of them is imperative. Unless you just are independently wealthy and can move to a remote place in Montana and tell your kids that cell phones and the Internet don’t exist, you can’t protect them from stuff. But you can prepare them where they can be a Daniel in their world.
And then finally, only a generation with biblical convictions and a winsome spirit can transform the Babylon culture of our day the way that God used a group of teenagers in their day.
See, I think a lot of us, can I just be honest here? I think a lot of us have given up. You have everything you need. God’s power and His Word, in community, will give you everything you need to be the man or the woman or the student that is absolutely counter to this culture and you can experience God’s best. I don’t think we believe that. I think we are trying to hang on and create these little, little bubbles of control where, in the midst of this crazy world, somehow, my life can be okay.
And I want to tell you, He wants your life to be more than okay. He wants to shoot you like a projectile through this culture in a way that transforms those around you.
And as an old coach, I can tell you, in many sports, a great offense is better than a good defense. We don’t need to be defensive. We need to realize that God wants to use us regular people to bring about, first, where we live, and then expanding into our neighborhoods and the world that we live in.
Well, how did they do it? How does it work? Let me just give a quick overview. The historical setting you have seen. It’s 605 B.C., the place is Babylon; the reason, you might just jot the word judgment. That’s a good one for us to remember. You might jot Hebrews chapter 12 for a New Testament reference. For us, God brings about discipline, never punishment, He disciplines us for our good.
And then the spiritual climate was absolute wickedness. The Babylonian game plan to seduce Daniel’s soul that we read through is three things. They wanted to change their thinking, change his worship, and change his lifestyle. Change his thinking, change his worship, change his lifestyle.
Get information into his head that would cause him to forget his roots, you have to change your thinking. By the way, the most important decision you or, if you’re a parent, what you allow your kids, to go in their brain, is probably the most important decision you make every day.
If you read the self-help literature or you’ve been to a seminar about goals and change, what is it all about? You know what they have learned? It’s a biblical principle. “As a man or a woman thinks in his heart, so you become.” You are always a product of your thought life. You kill people for hours and hours and hours on your thumbs, why are surprised when eleven-year-olds kill six-year-olds?
When the average American home goes from seven hours a day to, now, nine and a half to ten hours a day in front of some kind of media, why are we surprised that over fifty percent of our kids are obese? You are a product of your thought life! We have more depression than any nation in the world, we have more anxiety and more violence than any nation in the world, and we are the most prosperous. Why? It’s because you are what you eat, physically. And you are what you eat, spiritually and intellectually.
And so what did the Babylonians do? “Hey, we’re going to change their physical diet, their mental diet to change their thinking, and then we are going to change their worship.”
It’s really interesting, Daniel’s name meant God is my judge. So they give him a new name that meant, The lady protect the king, the wife of Marduk or Bel, is the protector of all. So Daniel used to hear, God is my judge. And now he hears his name, The wife of Marduk, and everyone says that, and pretty soon it is to change his identity and allegiance.
Hananiah’s name meant, Yahweh has been gracious. Well, they gave him a new name: Shadrach. It means, Under the command of Aku, which was a Babylonian god. And they did that for each of the boys.
So our thinking changes and our worship tied to identity. What really matters? What’s really important? Who are the stars? Have you noticed in the last thirty years how the heroes have really changed in America?
See, when I was a kid, it’s not all that long ago, we were thinking lawyers and teachers and doctors and firemen and policemen and teachers that go to other countries and nurses were just, like, wow. They are people that love and care. See, the values were about caring and loving and now, man, I have a good friend who is a lawyer and the jokes just never end!
So, well, who are heroes? You always know your heroes by who you pay the most. Our heroes are nineteen and twenty-three-year-olds who make twenty-three million dollars for catching, throwing, kicking, or hitting a ball. Or who can dance.
The number one thing that American preteens want to be? Get this. The special assistant to a rock star. Well, there’s a life ambition. Your kids are living in that Babylonian world. You’re living in it. And it’s everywhere, all around you and all around me, and you will be what you think.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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?
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 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 sex, 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 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.
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.