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It turns out, we currently face the same dilemma a man named Daniel faced more than 2,600 years ago.
Daniel was Jewish which means he belonged to the people of God. Back then, Jewish people were the only ones who had access to God. But thanks to Jesus, now all of us have been adopted into the family of God.
Since Daniel was Jewish, you’d assume that he was just surrounded by people who were godly people and obeyed all the scriptures. Unfortunately, at this time in history, Jewish culture was drifting from the truth. I’d imagine it looked similar to what we see right now in America.
But Daniel was one of the few that didn’t give in to culture. He continued to live a righteous life even when a majority of Jewish people were drifting into the ways of the world instead of the ways of God.
Because everyone was drifting, things didn’t turn out so well for God’s people. Let’s take a look at what happened:
Daniel 1:1-7 NLT – During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
At this time, Israel was split into two kingdoms. One being Israel and the other Judah. Jehoiakim was King over Judah and not a great king. His dad was great, but Jehoiakim really didn’t have any interest in following God.
Actually, there was a time when the prophet Jeremiah warned King Jehoiakim that if he didn’t turn away from his wicked ways and follow God, not only would he die, but the Kingdom of Judah would be destroyed.
Guess what the ole king did with the written prophetic Word from Jeremiah? First, he didn’t even read all of it because it made him mad. And then he just threw it in the fire and said, “I’m still king.”
And that’s why God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to do this:
Daniel 1:1-7 NLT – The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God.
This is a message in itself. King Nebuchadnezzar only had victory because God allowed it to happen.
Listen to me. When you are living in God’s kingdom – when you are living in His ways, this stuff cannot happen to you! There is a divine protection over your life. That is, until you abandon God’s protection by following your own way.
And I’m not talking about living a perfect life here. I’m talking about a life where you are quick to confess your sin and turn away from it. A life where you humble yourself before God and say, “Not my way, but your’s.”
You are still going to mess up. But the difference is, what is going on in your heart? Are you like King Jehoiakim when you get confronted with sin in your life? Do you puff out your chest and say, “Well, I’m king of my own life.”
Or, do you humble yourself before God and say, “God, I need your power to help me overcome this sin, this addition, this thing I can’t seem to shake.”
You see the difference? I hope you do. It all comes down to one simple question:
Are you prideful about your sin or are you humbled by your sin?
Some of you all were led to listen to me right now because you needed to hear that. Let that truth set you free.
Alright, let’s keep reading in Daniel to see what happens next:
Daniel 1:1-7 NLT – Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace.”
Pretty much everyone from Judah was taken as captives. But King Neb only wanted the strong, healthy and good-looking men to serve in the royal palace. Obviously, he would have chosen me.
For those of you who are disgusted by such arrogance, I’m just saying that to make you laugh. Although the truth of the matter is, all men think they are good looking. It’s kind of strange, but it’s true.
Daniel 1:1-7 NLT – “Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”
This stood out to me. The reason is, I’ve watched many people who once lived their lives for God completely shift course, abandon the truth in God’s Word and instead follow the latest revelation from culture.
You know that the catalyst was that caused them to shift? They went into college with one belief system and came out with another.
I know this isn’t going to be popular, but you need to know so you can guard yourself. If you don’t maintain your relationship with God and His Word while you are in college, there’s a good chance you’ll come out trained in the language and literature of the world.
I’m not saying don’t go to college. I’m saying that if you do, guard your heart. Keep your eyes on God. Test everything you learn against the Word of God.
Daniel 1:1-7 NLT – The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
The word trained stood out to me, so I looked up the expanded definition of the Hebrew word:
Gadal – to grow, become great or important, promote, make powerful, praise, magnify, do great things
Have you ever met someone who has a degree or two under their belt and kind of just comes off as arrogant? They devalue people who don’t have the same training as them and they like to magnify themselves as being great and important.
I know that’s not you, but you’ve probably met someone like that. And if you want to know what that kind of behavior gets you, just go find out what happens to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel Chapter 4.
In short, if you don’t humble yourself, at some point God is going to take care of it for you. As a favor, really.
Let’s recap. The best of the Jewish young men were brought to the palace to be trained in the way of the Babylonian culture so they could enter the royal service. Here’s what happens next:
Daniel 1:1-7 NLT – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego.
A name is how you identify yourself. So, of course, the first thing they had to do was change the names of these guys so that they would no longer identify with who God created them to be.
You see, the devil has an agenda. And his first order of business:
Culture wants to change our identity.
It wants to label you as an alcoholic. Or a drug addict. Or a homosexual. Or a transgender. Or as someone who will never amount to anything, who will always be poor, or will always have health problems.
Culture has a slew of identities it could throw on you. And chances are, you’ve struggled with one of those I’ve already mentioned. But there are many more.
Let’s look at these four different guys that were just mentioned and see what kind of identity Babylon was trying to put on them.
Daniel – God is my judge
Belteshazzar – Lady, protect the king
They gave Daniel a girl’s name. And you know what, in every worldly culture there has been gender confusion.
The devil wants people confused about simple matters like gender because, if he can get you confused about who you are on a physical level, you’ll always be confused about who you are to God.
Hananiah – Yahweh has been gracious
Shadrach – I am fearful of God
And this still goes on today. There are lots of people out there who are afraid of God. They’re afraid if they mess up, God will make their life miserable. They think God is the one who causes all the natural disasters.
They think God is this furious, intimidating being sitting on His throne just looking for people who are going to mess up so He can punish them.
That’s not God at all. God loves us so much and wants to be with us so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, to restore our relationship with Him. And now, because of Jesus, we can walk confidently up to God and know that He will just love the heck out of us.
Mishael – Who is what God is?
Meshach – I am despised, contemptible and humiliated
His original name was all about confidence in who God is and what He does. And his new name was all about cowering down and believing you have nothing to offer.
We’ve all seen both of these identities. There’s Christians who have fully accepted the forgiveness of God. They don’t waste time in regret. They live their life for God with boldness and confidence.
And then there are Christians who are just so humiliated by their past that they walk with their head down. They don’t have any joy. They’re just trudging along through life.
If that’s you, it’s time to take off the Meshach identity and put on the Mishael identity. God needs you confident! Not in what you can do, but in what He can do through you regardless of what you’ve done.
Azariah – Yahweh has helped
Abednego – Servant of Nebo
In other words, this guy was living side-by-side with God. He knew he wasn’t doing this alone. He was accomplishing great things with God by his side.
But the Babylonian name wanted to strip that away and make him a servant.
Culture has been trying to force these name changes forever. But are you going to accept it? Are you going to accept a fake name from culture, or are you going to accept the name that God gave you?
Let’s keep reading to see what happens with Daniel:
Daniel 1:8 NLT – But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
In his mind and heart, Daniel didn’t accept what the Babylonians tried to put on him. He wasn’t about to take on the new name, and he didn’t want to eat their food either.
But notice that Daniel didn’t get all upset and throw the plate across the room and tell them they were all going to hell. No, he simply asked, “Is it okay if I don’t eat this food?”
This is a great example about how saying no to culture doesn’t have to be ugly. But you still got to have the confrontation, but you can be calm and respectful.
Culture has an agenda for you. It wants to change your identity. And here’s the second thing it wants to do:
Culture wants to compromise our standards.
Have you noticed lately how culture wants to change what you believe. They want you to ignore instructions you find in the Bible in the name of “inclusion”.
And boy they can make some clever arguments. Because here’s the deal. The devil ain’t stupid. He’s the master of deception. He sneaks sin into your life in a way that you don’t even realize it until it’s almost too much to handle.
Let me give you an example:
“Sex outside of marriage is no big deal. As long as you’re not committing adultery, you can just do what you want. Oh, and pornography is fine too because the only person that knows about it is you.”
Ok, yeah. This stuff doesn’t seem so bad. Plus, we don’t have any right to confront our fellow believers about such matters because that’s their personal business.
And now that the devil has whittled his way in, here’s what happens next.
“Oh, by the way, sometimes people are born gay. It’s completely normal. Some people might want to have a sex change and that’s fine too. So let’s go ahead and promote that kind of behavior so they don’t feel bad about it.”
This is uncomfortable isn’t it? And when you think it couldn’t get worse, it gets worse. Now they are trying to get us to believe that pedophilia is a sexual orientation. And this is about the time we all wake up.
Wait! That’s too far. What’s going on here?
Well, the enemy started perverting God’s plan for sex just one little thing at a time. And he did a really good job at getting the church to stay silent about it so his deceiving little plan could just keep moving forward. And here we are.
But we get stuck because we don’t know the best way to stand up for what we believe in without being called a bigot. That’s why today I am going to show you the most effective way to stand up for the Word of God.
But first, you must understand this:
Culture wants to create confrontation.
In other words, they are not just going to let you sit over in your Christian bubble and enjoy all your counter-cultural beliefs. They are going to confront you and try to intimidate you.
Let’s look at how this played out for Daniel. Remember how he just mentioned that he didn’t want to eat their food? Here was the response:
Daniel 1:9-12 NLT – Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine.”
So the only reason the chief of staff didn’t want to let Daniel honor his beliefs is because of fear. He was afraid of what the big boss would do.
Sound familiar? Remember when the Black Lives Matter movement came front and center a few months ago? And culture was using fear to coerce people into posting something on social media or join a protest.
Make no mistake, I’m all for racial reconciliation. And God is too. But elevating one race above the other is never going to solve the problem, it’s only going to make it worse. All you gotta do is look around to know this is true.
Or how about when culture was using fear to try to get you to wear a mask? And not necessarily the fear of the virus, but they tried to make you fear that you might be a bad person because you supposedly didn’t care about others.
I’m not here to argue if we should wear masks or not. You can find solid medical advice on both sides of the argument. I’m just trying to show you how culture wants to create a confrontation, and usually with a fear tactic.
So what did Daniel do when he was confronted with a fear tactic?
Daniel 1:9-12 NLT – “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.”
I love this. Daniel was so confident in his beliefs that he was willing to put them to the test. That is the confidence we need to have in God’s Word.
When your faith is tested, when what we believe is made fun of, when our beliefs don’t agree with what’s popular in culture, we stand firm in our beliefs knowing that, in time, people will see the results of it.
Let me make this practical. I don’t have to be a part of BLM to stand for racial reconciliation. I stand on the Word of God where it says there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
And you can test me in this. See if you can find a racial bone in my body. Because you are not going to find it. Not because I’m awesome, but because the love of God is alive and well on the inside of me.
Alright, let’s do a quick recap. Culture wants to change your identity, they want to compromise your standards, and they want to create confrontation.
Now that you understand how culture works against God, you will be able to recognize when it is happening and not give in. And when that confrontation comes, you’ll need to know how to handle it.
How to Handle Confrontations with Culture
When it comes to the church, there are two types of responses to these confrontations, both extremes, and neither one is right.
You have the dogmatic Christian who walks around with the stigma, “I know I’m right and you’re wrong. And I’m going to passionately tell you how wrong you are so you can see that I’m right. If you don’t do what I’m telling you to do, then I don’t even care that you’re going to hell. It’s your fault.”
The thing is, this stance is not completely wrong. It’s important to follow the truth in God’s Word. The problem is, it’s not effective because it’s missing something.
Then you have the other side that’s like, “God loves everyone, so it doesn’t really matter if they change or not. We should just let people do what they want to do. Plus, it’s too uncomfortable to talk about living a holy life.”
People that think this way are basically saying that they love people more than God does. Because in God’s love, He not only gives us grace, but He also loves us enough to correct us and lead us into truth.
So the whole “love others and never correct them” strategy feels good and it appears to be right until you realize that you have to set aside God’s Word to let this happen. And we can’t do that.
If neither of these is right, what do we do? How do we stand firm in God’s Word and love others with unconditional love?
Well, it starts by realizing this is not an either or, it’s both and. The truth from God’s Word can be in perfect balance with love.
Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example. Take a look at this:
John 1:14 NKJV – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Ah ha. Jesus didn’t just come with grace, He came with truth too. He didn’t just have a little bit of each. He was full of grace AND full of truth.
So, let’s break this down. What is truth?
Truth = God’s Word
John 17:17 NKJV – Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
If we want to find truth, the only place we will find it is in the Bible. In other words, if what culture is pushing goes against the Bible, you can be 100% sure it is a lie.
What is grace?
Grace = God’s favor
Favor – an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.
Jesus died for you when you were still a sinner. God loves you even when you’re living in sin. And He loves you too much to leave you there.
You didn’t earn God’s grace and favor. Actually, you can’t do anything to earn it. It’s a free gift. You don’t deserve it, but He gives it to you anyways.
Let me put it to you this way. You can’t do enough good things to earn your way to heaven. There’s only one way into heaven, and that is believing that Jesus died to save you from you. And all you have to do is receive the free gift.
Ephesians 2:8 NLT – God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
This is our example. Because God has given me grace, I can extend grace to others. I can be kind to them even when they don’t deserve it. I can be kind to them even when everyone else tells me not to.
So now we have to merge these together: grace and truth. One of the best ways to figure out how to merge them is to look at what happens when they are separated.
Without truth, we are corrupt.
For several years, I was a web developer. I’d sit in front of my computer all day and write code. I remember spending an entire day working on one website and when I ended the day, I felt really accomplished.
I worked from home and we had two computers that connected to the same backup system. And for whatever reason, when Beth logged onto her computer, something didn’t work quite right and everything I had worked on that day became corrupted.
All the files were unusable and the only choice I had was to rewrite all the code that I had just spent an entire day working on. That was a bad day and a simple example of this truth:
When something is corrupted, it is of no use to those around it.
In other words, when you stray from God’s truth, you lose your ability to help people. You may think you are helping them by letting them live in their mess, but the only way you can help them is with God’s truth.
This is why it’s so strange for Christians to be advocates of the LGBTQ movement.
We all agree that we should love these people and treat them with the same respect we would anyone else. But, when we advocate for sin, we actually do them a disservice. It’s like encouraging them to live in bondage. Doesn’t make sense when you think about it.
The Bible is really clear about sexual purity. We don’t have to wonder, we don’t have to guess about what truth is in this area. The problem is, we tend to deliver truth without grace.
Without grace, we are condemned.
In other words, you can’t undo bad things with good things. The only thing that undoes the bad in your life is God’s grace.
Here’s what God says: “I love you and I want to help you, so I’m going to send my only perfect son, Jesus, to die for you. Because without Him, you’re stuck trying to earn something that you can’t earn.”
So that’s God’s grace. He sent Jesus to die for you so that you could be made right with God. And it’s all a gift. You just have to reach out and receive the gift by believing in Jesus.
At the same time, God loves you so much that He gave you His Word to guide you into all truth so you can live a life of freedom.
God’s grace came to save you and His truth came to free you.
The only way to your best life is with grace and truth. You receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus and then submit yourself to the truth of God’s Word.
Let’s look at another comparison to help drive all of this home:
Without truth, we become worldly.
Without God’s Word, you’ll live your life just like the world does. Therefore, you’ll have the same problems, the same hangups, the same disappointment, and the same unfulfillment.
Without grace, we become judgmental.
If you submit to God’s truth but leave grace out of the mix, you end up looking at your own trash heap, realizing it’s a lot smaller than those around you, and think to yourself, “At least I’m not as bad as they are.”
“I may have a few things messed up in my life, but at least I’m not as messed up as them!”
We can’t think that way. Actually, I believe this attitude actually turns people away from God when we are supposed to be drawing people towards God.
Truth without grace is mean.
Grace without truth is meaningless.
Truth with grace is love.
If you want to bring healing into your life and other’s lives, you need grace and truth working together. In other words, your only motivation to bring truth into someone’s life should be because you love them too much to see them suffer.
If your motivation for sharing truth is because you want to prove you’re right, or because you want to feel better about your own hang ups, you better just keep your mouth shut.
But if love is your motivation, then you owe it to them to share the truth, even if it’s hard. We are a church that offers grace and truth at the same time. And here’s why:
Grace invites us to be free. Truth sets us free.
You know, one of the biggest confrontations throughout history between Christianity and culture is this whole idea of inclusion. Culture preaches their message of how they include everyone and Christianity doesn’t.
What’s ironic is that culture doesn’t include everyone. All these movements are actually an outward display of something that’s not even true. I mean just look at the whole mask issue. Wow.
But let’s think through this whole Christian exclusion thing. Because sometimes I think they’re right. We do exclude people because we forget to deliver truth with grace. We forget that we are not fighting against people, but against darkness.
We forget that truth should be delivered at the right time and the Holy Spirit can help us know when that is.
It’s clear why people would think that Christians exclude people, because sometimes we do. And then we tend to get too far on the other side and start advocating for sin without realizing we are doing it.
A few weeks ago, the Holy Spirit gave me a very clear response to those that struggle with the issue of Christian exclusion. I want to share it with you:
Christianity doesn’t exclude people, it excludes sin. And sin isn’t defined by Christians, it is defined by the most read book of all time – the Bible.
People actually exclude themselves by choosing a life of sin rather than a life of obedience to God’s Word.
In their sin, they sense a need for freedom and think it will be found in getting others to accept their sin. But freedom is only found in turning away from sin and towards Jesus.
I want to close today with a story about Jesus that illustrates this very well.
John 8:1-11 MSG – Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?”
Isn’t it interesting how this same accusing spirit lives on today? I remember back when the racial tensions started and everyone was pressuring us to say something. “If you’re silent, then you approve of the sin of racism.” Remember?
John 8:1-11 MSG – They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt.
In other words, they were trying to get Jesus to choose between grace and truth. Are you going to follow truth and kill her? Or are you going to follow grace and disobey the Bible? What are you going to choose, Jesus?
John 8:1-11 MSG – They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone.
We’re about to see how respectful Jesus is when He confronts sin. He doesn’t do it while everyone else is watching. He’s not looking to humiliate us. No, He waits for a private moment.
So, when you are moved by love to help someone out of their sin, take the example of Jesus and be respectful. Do it in private and don’t talk about it to anyone else.
John 8:1-11 MSG – Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?” “No one, Master.” “Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
Jesus knew this wasn’t an either or. He gave the woman grace and He gave her truth, “I don’t condemn you. So move forward and leave the sin behind.”
Did you know this applies to you too? Right now, Jesus is extending grace. He’s saying, “I don’t condemn you. Come, let me help you walk away from your sin.”
Jesus is inviting us to have an encounter with Him right now.
Maybe you’ve already given your life to Him but you’ve been stuck in sin. Right now, Jesus is saying, “Come. I’m not mad at you. Let me help you step into freedom.”
Maybe you’ve never given your life to Jesus but today you realize that He’s real. You sense His presence and He is tugging on your heart to come closer. Go ahead. All you gotta do is say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you.”
Here’s a simple prayer for you to say out loud:
“God, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It’s pretty clear I can’t do this without you. So I put my faith in Jesus today. Thank you for forgiving me through the blood of Jesus. Thank you for eternal life. Now, fill me with the Holy Spirit – so I can walk out your plan for my life.”
Salvation Next Step
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.