Our world is changing more rapidly than most are prepared. Many have thought the 2020 pandemic was like a commercial break and are still waiting for the return of whatever defined normalcy.
*In all, 2020 was not an episode but an era – the pandemic did not create many of the changes in our world but simply accelerated them.
- Changing views of the physical and virtual world.
- Changing views of identity and morality.
- Changing views of care, compassion, equality, justice, and truth.
- Changing views of power, leadership, and institutions.
- Changing views of nations and borders.
- Changing views of change. If we fear change instead of befriending it, then we are likely to experience exponentially more challenges than we can appreciate and navigate.
Change has happened in every era of the Christian faith.
- Acts 17:21, ff describes the Athenians frequently discussing new philosophies and listening to the new proclamations about the resurrection.
- Early AD centuries debated Gnostic views on deity having the ability to take on human mortality and the flesh positively interacting with the spirit.
- 14th – 16th century church reformed its views on Scripture access to the laity, high church vs low church, scientific method developed from Christians believing God created the world with consistent laws and operative systems.
- 18th -20th century church faced modern enlightenment and anti-supernaturalist critics about the Bible. While many believed their supposed disproval’s of the Bible would cause it to fade away, yet “the grass withers and flowers fall but the word of God endures forever” (Isa 40:8).
- The 21st century is no different in church having to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:4). The pressing challenges facing the church today are similar to centuries past, as there is nothing new under the sun. Supremely, issues of identity: biology, gender, race, sexuality, and overall understanding what it means to be made in the image of God.
C.S. Lewis said it quite eloquently, “And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”C.S. Lewis, The Abolition Of Man
In modern or plain words, Lewis is decrying trends over truth and superficiality over sentiment.
Today we begin a series of messages titled: Confronting Cultural Creeds With Grace And Truth. We’ll be in Daniel 1 shortly. In sum, this series is informed by Rebecca McLaughlin, who is an author and PhD from Cambridge University. She has written several books in the last few years: Confronting Christianity, 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask & Answer About Christianity, Is Christmas Unbelievable?, and Is Easter Unbelievable? Lastly and specifically, her book entitled “The Secular Creed” is a prime basis for this series, and we are handing out about 50 copies today.
Creed comes from a Latin word that means “I believe.” She contends contemporary culture believes in 5 major claims, popularized by yard signs saying:
In this house we believe that:
Black Lives Matter
Love Is Love
Gay Rights Are Civil Rights
Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
Transgender Women Are Women
Yet, the moral soil the world plants its ideas only exist because God created the dirt. The concepts of equality, love, and diversity start with God’s design not the world’s redefinition of them.
The moral soil the world plants its ideas only exist because God created the dirt. The concepts of equality, love, and diversity start with God’s design not the world’s redefinition of them.Tweet
- Christians believe black lives matter because they matter to Jesus, and God’s church is made up of a great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation who worship together in one body.
- Christians don’t believe “love is love” but that God is love.
- Christians believe women’s rights should be upheld because God made women (and men) in His image; and for that same reason we believe every baby in the womb has rights as well.
- Christians believe gender is profoundly impacted by the Fall but is nonetheless biological.
- Christians believe God has a special concern for orphans, single mothers and widows, immigrants, special needs, and the poor because Scripture affirms God’s heart on these, and Jesus showed us God’s heart for the least of these.
So, today we start the series in Daniel 1 & 1 Chronicles 12:32.
1 Chro 12:32 “[the tribe of] Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”
This tribe was only 200 men, the fewest of all the tribes sent to make David king over Israel. Yet, they reflected their value because they could discern their days and their decisions. They understood not just the problems but the solutions. Today’s Christians must learn not just see and shout at the errors but roll up their sleeves with faith, hope, and love in action.
Christians must learn not just see and shout at the errors but roll up their sleeves with faith, hope, and love in action.Tweet
A great example of this Scripture is the prophet, Daniel.
EXAMINE Secular Creed (Daniel 1)
- Name means “God is judge.” This is a good reminder that our beliefs must please God and not ourselves or people.
- Daniel lived BC, and was from the tribe of Judah – and the line of David.
- Daniel was a man of devoted faith in God, with wisdom and understanding (Da 1:20; 5:11).
- Daniel was distinguished. Noah had alcohol issues. Abraham lied and committed adultery. Jacob was a deceiver. Moses was fearful and angry. But Daniel was set apart in his passions and priorities for the Lord.
- Judah fell to Babylon in 586BC. Daniel exiled 605BC.
- Historically, Babylon was a symbol of human depravity but eventually of God’s judgment.
- King Nebuchadnezzar is notorious for his power as well as nauseating for his pride.
– – Military conquests / Economic & City development: schools, literacy, mathematics, craftsmanship flourished.
– – City had 11-mile-long outer wall that enclosed suburbs, multiple city gates, walls were wide enough for 2 chariots.
– – Spacious throne room
– – Huge temple to city’s patron god with 7 stories, towering 300 feet above the city.
– – Ruthless & Prideful demanding worship; Saddam Hussein viewed self as King Neb reincarnate.
Many people of faith today would barely survive, much more thrive in ancient Babylon. So, how should we respond to today’s Babylon? How can we respond with grace and truth to cultural creeds? Let’s look at the life of Daniel.
Note 1: Sometimes elderly generation longs for “the good old days” (cf. Eccl 7:10) because of today’s immoral culture, incompetent government leaders, irresponsible youth, inaccurate media, and ignorant minds. Yet, each generation often overlooks their own faults: the 50’s & 60’s may have had good family values but they had poor freedoms for black community and females of society; sexual immorality was quite rampant with “free love,” not to mention the drug and hippie culture; and nationally World Wars & Vietnam is similar to current Middle East concerns and conflicts. So, rather than longing to return to the past we must look to rescue the present.
Note 2: Many people look at the book of Daniel as God’s promise to protect us from harm (fiery furnace, lion’s den). Indeed, God protects His people, but this book (and all of Scripture) really teaches us how to trust God and endure adversity of secular culture and ungodly laws.
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
If we are to survive a secular creed and thrive in Babylon, we will need three qualities.
A redeemed perspective
Daniel notes King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Israel in 586BC. Daniel points out that the Babylonian invasion was not merely strength of an evil king but rather the sovereignty of a holy God – 2 the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand. Babylon is not its own power but God’s pawn. God had a plan to punish Israel as well as to prepare His people for the coming Messiah. Ultimately, we must remember that God is in control of who is in control.
Illus think about…
– A teacher may cancel a reward for entire classroom because of only a couple students’ behavior.
– An athlete may not sign autographs for a crowd because of only 1 individual’s threats.
– Interstate traffic backs up from minor accident or few bad drivers who don’t know how to merge.
– Likewise, on greater scale, God’s punishment of all Israel was righteous due to its leaders and many who were rebellious and unrighteous.
à A redeemed perspective accepts God’s discipline.
Daniel and friends were godly, but they still received God’s judgment of Israel because of the entire nation’s sinful behaviors. Sometimes our suffering is a result of others, and other times it is a result of our own wrong choices; and still other times suffering happens simply because we live in a fallen world which each person contributes toward its fallenness. Regardless, Christians can look at the trials and tribulations of secular culture as a means of God’s refining and pruning discipline. “It is for discipline that we endure. God is treating us as children. For what child is there who their father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:7-11)
Unrighteous Strategy / backdrop of God’s Discipline:
- Isolation. Babylon’s strategy to conquer nations was not only to destroy but capture and exile leaders. So, King Neb selects key individuals and isolates them from families and familiarity.
One of Satan’s schemes and secular strategy is to isolate God’s people from each other. They cause discord among individuals, division among churches, and want Christians to fight each other & unfasten from other believers. We mustn’t!
Php 1:27-29 “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
King Neb sought to indoctrinate God’s people and re-train them for his own purposes. 4 take youths…to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans… They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.
One of the keys to understand is that each leader and every organization recognizes the value of reaching the young. Whoever wants the next generation more will likely get them. It behooves the church to have a greater passion and priority for young people than the world. Our greatest legacy may not be something we purchase or build but someone we reach and raise.
Ps 78:4-6 “We will not hide God’s teachings from their children, but tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might, and the wonders He has done… which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep His commandments.”
6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel (“God is my judge”) he called Belteshazzar (“Protect the king”), Hananiah (“Yahweh is gracious”) he called Shadrach (“The command of Akku”), Mishael (“Who is what God is”) he called Meshach (“Who is what Akku is”), and Azariah (“The Lord has helped”) he called Abednego (“Servant of Nebo”).
The exiles were renamed, as a common assimilation practice that signified ownership to serve Babylonian kings, and their purpose of serving Babylonian culture and gods (cf Isa 46:1). Further, these youth were under supervision of Babylon’s chief eunuch… likely indicating that these men faced the same fate.
Today’s culture is frequently seeking to redefine identity and terminology apart from God. They think Yahweh can be crammed into a box and hidden in a closet like their idols needed carried and shelved.
Ps 115:4-8 “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”
“Our God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases… earth is but His footstool” (Ps115:3; Isa 66:1)
Whether facing isolation, indoctrination, or intimidation, we must remember to fear God. When we remember that our God is awesome and fearsome, then we can begin to redeem our perspective of all that is going on around us. One of the ways Daniel & friends redeemed their perspective was by praying frequently: Da 1:8-9 about their food plan; 2:17-23, 28, 30 about interpreting dreams; 3:17-18 about not bowing to idols and facing a fiery furnace; 6:10 praying to God 3x a day even against laws requiring prayers to Babylon.
More than a culture war, we are facing a spiritual battle that is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces with prayer and faith (cf. Eph 6:10-18).
A respected presence
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs
Daniel’s faith was not hypothetical or hypocritical. It was sincere and winsome. Daniel’s obedience did not result in being obstinate toward others. He simply asked permission to alter the diet prescription from unclean meat to vegetables (1:8-16). Daniel did not assume action but instead submitted to the proper chain of authority. Daniel understood the chief eunuch was submissive to the King and could not make decisions on his own. So, Daniel cared about the eunuch’s concerns as much as his own convictions. When faith gives you a redeemed perspective, you can obey God and love people simultaneously, regardless of if they believe as you do or not. You cannot hate those who you seek to help. Christians must learn to love and give grace while transferring truth.
Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
- The chief was agreeable and after ten days they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than those who ate the kings food because God gave Daniel favor (1:9, 17-21).
Further, Daniel and friends were teachable as they were educated under Babylonian culture and pagan education, yet they never requested to opt out. They understood the difference between learning and living a culture’s practices. There’s no law regarding learning; in fact, doing so gave Daniel and friends the credibility and context to speak God’s truth (Daniel 2:16 ff; 3:17 ff; 5:13 ff;).
God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams… so much so that King Nebuchadnezzar found them 10x better than all those in his kingdom (1:20).
A practical application of having a redeemed perspective and a respected presence is learning to master the “both/and” vs “either/or.”
- Many try to be more loving than God by loosening His laws. They say Christians just need to learn how to love people and stop trying to live by that old-fashioned and obsolete book – the Bible.
- Others try to be more righteous than God by strengthening His standards. They say Christians must abide by the Bible and disregard people who are disobedient. Shun them and separate is the mindset.
- But Jesus was accused of being a glutton and drunkard, and known as a friend of sinners (Mt 11:19).
- Instead, we must learn to balance grace and truth, for God is more loving and truthful than we could ever want to be.
- Daniel and friends had multiple pressures and problems, but they were able to honor God while being a respected presence.
- 1 Pet 2:12 “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
- Php 2:14-15 “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
- Col 4:5-6 “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Many try to be more loving than God by loosening His laws. Others try to be more righteous than God by strengthening His standards. Instead, we must learn to balance grace and truth, for God is more loving and truthful than we could ever want to be.Tweet
A resolved obedience
1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.
3:17-18 “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
6:21-22 “O king, live forever. My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”
Daniel’s redeemed perspective meant he had the confidence, courage, and conviction from God to not defile himself with the king’s food.
Daniel could have been treated with worldly privilege of eating choice foods, but instead chose to honor his faith perspective by not eating foods dedicated to idols or dishonoring Jewish customs (cf. Lev 11; 17:13-14; Deut 14; Acts 15:29; 1Cor 8; 10:31; etc.).
Some observations about obedience to God:
à Obedience is learned through crisis. Daniel and his friends were captives of Babylon – lost family & heritage but they gained a stronger faith. If you’re enduring a crisis, it is likely God is testing your obedience. It’s easy to praise God when there’s blessing, but what about when there’s burdens?
à Obedience is not optional to God. Some may choose the path of least resistance, but followers of Jesus must have maximum resolve (cf Lk 9:23-27; Acts 4:19-20). Our culture will criticize, our world system will mock, but Christians are not to be conformed by the patterns of the world but transformed by renewing their mind and heart in Christ (Rom 12:1-12).
Daniel’s resolved obedience was a form of civil disobedience. He understood God’s laws were higher than human laws. Today, our leaders & courts may declare unjust laws, schools introduce unfair curriculum, but Christians must be unwavering in trust of God’s plan.
So, when should a Christian exercise civil disobedience?
- Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail
One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson “Good men must not obey the laws too well.”
- “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
- Convictional Christianity today requires us not necessarily to be the kind of conservative who spends all their energy and efforts debating their differences, nor the kind of liberal who embraces compromise to avoid rejection. Instead, convictional Christianity lives counter-cultural by the grace of God and speaking truth in love.
- Daniel faced the government’s punishment and was spared. But Jesus faced Rome and was crucified.
- Daniel faced the lions’ den without a scratch. But Jesus was scarred by the roaring lion of religious leaders.
- Daniel influenced Babylon so that magi from the east would seek the newborn Jewish Christ who would be a king for all nations.
- In the gospel, we are not promised to escape earthly suffering, but we are promised a heavenly salvation with an eternal inheritance that cannot be shaken.
 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man,
 Free e-book link: https://media.thegospelcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/05104344/the-secular-creed-oct21-3.pdf
 Babylon as God’s enemy (cf Jer 20:4-6; Rev 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10, 18:21).
 source: Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Babylon” Daniel C. Browning Jr.
 John E. Goldingay, Daniel, vol. 30, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989), 17.
 Winsome Weirdos | Desiring God http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/winsome-weirdos