We’re starting a new series today called Truth or Dare. Does anyone want to admit to playing that game when you were a kid?
As a kid, the game is usually harmless. But add in hormones and impaired decision-making as a teenager and things start to get a little wild. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you confess what you did as a teenager.
As adults, we are still faced with this dilemma called Truth or Dare. We live in a culture that is falling further and further away from God and we’re faced with this tension of deciding which way we are going to go.
Are we going to dare to live our lives like the world? Or are we going to face the truth of God’s Word?
In the game, there were usually negative consequences regardless of what you choose, truth or dare. You either had to reveal something you didn’t want people to know, or you had to do something that had a negative consequence.
But in the context of your spiritual journey, there’s an obvious best choice. Come clean about your secrets with God and you are going to find freedom. Dare to live like the world and you’ll find yourself drifting further and further from God.
This entire series is based on the book of Daniel because Daniel lived in a time where the nation of Israel, the people who are known as God’s people, rejected God and were paying the price for it.
But, Daniel took a stand for truth in the midst of all the compromise.
As you probably know, history tends to repeat itself. So, what we see in Daniel, even though it happened years ago, can be paralleled to what we are seeing today. And we all need to find out how to live like Daniel.
How do we stand firm and love well in a culture of compromise? How do we remain close to God in a culture that is drifting further and further away from Him? That’s what this series is all about.
It’s actually really interesting. The world is trying to get us to believe that when we live according to the Bible, we’re giving up our freedom. But it’s actually the opposite.
When we live according to the Bible, we step into freedom.
We get free from guilt, shame and regret. We find freedom from all those addictions and bad choices that have been holding us back.
And then we get to step into our purpose. When we live according to the Bible, we discover what God put us on the planet to do and begin to live the most fulfilling life anyone has ever known.
Take a look at what happened to the nation of Israel when they got tricked into thinking that living like the world would bring freedom:
Daniel 1:1-6 NLT – During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
Judah was one of the tribes in Israel. They decided it’d be better to live like the world instead of living according to the Bible, and as a result became slaves to Babylon. Let’s keep reading:
Daniel 1:1-6 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. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.
So, the Babylon king didn’t just enslave the people of God, but he also took all the stuff they considered sacred and holy and then defiled it all by placing it before his own false god.
Daniel 1:1-6 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.
So, everyone in Israel became slaves to Babylon. But, the smart people, the ones who had been well trained and had more to offer, instead of having them do common work, they wanted to use them for their knowledge.
Daniel 1:1-6 NLT – “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. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”
They wanted Israel’s elite to serve in the royal palace. All the smart, healthy and good looking men. But notice they didn’t want Israel’s culture in the palace. No, they wanted to put their own culture into Israel’s elite.
Daniel 1:1-6 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. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah.
I want you to really grab ahold of what is happening here. These men have been taken captive but now it looks like they’re getting a really good life because they get to be in the palace.
But you can probably see that the Babylonians are just using these men for their benefit. They want to pull these men away from God and train them into their own culture so that the rest of the Israelites will follow.
And if we’re not careful, our culture will do the same thing to us. They will lure us in will all these pretty things: more money, nicer car and nicer house. And they will use all of this to train us in their ungodly ways.
Before you start blaming our culture, I want you to realize that this is just the devil using culture. The devil had the same bag of tricks in Daniel’s day and he’s still using them today, and we’re still falling for it!
Here’s what happened next in Daniel:
Daniel 1:7 NLT – 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.
My question to you is: Who do you identify with? Do you identify with what culture created you to be? Or who God created you to be?
You see, culture has an agenda. And its first order of business:
Culture wants to change our identity.
I grew up in a wonderful home. I have wonderful parents, lived in a great house and had a home-cooked meal every night. But when I got to middle school, things started to head in a different direction.
My parents were the same, my home life was still peaceful, but culture was setting in and trying to redefine my life.
And I found myself in eighth grade sinking further and further into an identity crisis. It’s the same one that many people are struggling with today. I was drifting into a lifestyle of homosexuality.
The whole time, I knew it wasn’t who I really was. But the culture around me was pulling and tugging and telling me, “This is who you are. You were born this way. Just accept it. It’s okay. God still loves you.”
Only one part of that was true. God did still love me. Actually, He loved me so much He wasn’t willing to leave me in that mess.
After several years of struggling with this identity crisis, I found freedom. But man was it a process to redeem who I really was, who God created me to be.
This is the main reason I am so passionate about letting you guys know that God created sex to be between one man and one woman who have committed themselves to each other in marriage. Because I don’t want you to go through what I went through.
Culture tried to tell me it would be fun and it was who I was supposed to be and all kinds of other stuff that sounded good. It just wasn’t the truth!
It led me into captivity. I was disgusted with myself. I was buried under regret and shame. And the only solution the world has was to keep digging. Maybe if I just keep doing it, it will get better.
And that’s why I’m not afraid to stand up here and encourage you guys to take God’s Word seriously. The instructions you find in His Word aren’t to take away your freedom, they’re there to set you free!
You may not have the same story as me, but I imagine that culture has tried to put a different identity on you too. Maybe it’s an alcoholic, or a drug addict, or a life of poverty.
Whatever label culture has put on you, it’s a lie. And it’s time to step into your true identity. You can just tell the world you don’t accept the name change and you’re taking your original name back, “I’m a child of God”.
Now, let’s take a look at these four different name changes that we just read in the book of Daniel to see what culture tried 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.
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. Have you taken on this identity?
Azariah – Yahweh has helped
Abednego – Servant of Nebo
In other words, he went from living free with God helping him along the way to a slave, handing his life over to someone else.
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 because it was food that had been offered to false gods.
I want you to 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?”
Wow, I think Daniel knows God. He doesn’t just know about God, he must really know God relationally to be able to respond to such a situation with peace, calm and respect for the other person.
So, saying no to culture doesn’t have to be ugly. But culture does have 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.
It’s been on my heart to do this series for more than six months now. And you know why? It’s not because you are a bad person. It’s not because I want to tell you the things that are wrong in your life.
It’s because I recognize the pressure that culture puts on us to compromise God’s Word. And if we don’t talk about it here at church, we begin to lose sight of what the truth really is.
We start to believe it’s not a big deal to deviate from God’s plan for sex. We start to think that going to church regularly is not important. Eventually, all of our attention goes inward and we become selfish, just like the world wants us to.
As a pastor, it would be a lot easier for me to not even talk about these things. I could just show up every Sunday with a surface-level message and never get into the nitty gritty of reality. But, I am not willing to do that.
I’m not willing to watch you take steps away from your best life. I’m here to keep you making steps towards your best life. And you best life is the one that God created you to live. The world can’t give it to you!
Our culture is going to try to get you to compromise what you believe. But you’re going to have to make a decision to stand firm in God’s Word. No matter how clever their argument is, you choose to believe the Word of God.
So, we just read where Daniel was taking a stand for what he believed in. Now, let’s see how the Babylonians responded:
Daniel 1:9-14 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. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
So, the chief of staff wanted to honor Daniel’s beliefs, but culture was threatening him and he was afraid of what would happen.
I bet some of you have felt this way before. You knew what was right, and you wanted to do what was right, but you were afraid of what your friends or coworkers would do, or what they would say about you.
Here’s how Daniel responded:
Daniel 1:9-14 NLT – “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said.
I love this. Daniel was so confident in his beliefs that he was willing to put them to the test. It’s kind of like when someone tells you, “You can’t do that.” and you respond, “Oh yeah? Watch me.”
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, we stand firm in our beliefs knowing that, in time, people will see the results of it.
Daniel 1:9-14 NLT – “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.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
So here’s the third thing that is on culture’s agenda:
Culture wants to create confrontation.
You’re probably feeling this now. Maybe it’s with the school system. Or, the Pride movement. Or, at work. All around you, culture is confronting you so that you have to make a decision one way or the other.
Beth and I got married two months after graduating high school. And if that’s not enough to throw you for a loop, we had only known each other for about 11 months and had only been dating for about 7 months.
Culture was screaming at us the whole time, “Don’t do it. You need to meet other people and have fun. You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t throw it all away by getting married so young.”
And get this. Beth’s aunt even had a getaway car at our wedding. I believe it was running and ready for a quick escape out of the church parking lot. Luckily she didn’t use it.
That was one of many times that culture has confronted us through the last 12 years of our marriage. But if you’re wondering how I got to where I am today and how Beth and I are still together and happily married, it’s 100% because we take a stand for what we believe in.
But what’s important for us to catch today is that we need to learn how to respond the right way. 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 that 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, these people are right. It’s important to follow the truth in God’s Word. But, even though they are right, they’re not effective because they’re missing the other piece of the puzzle.
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.
This is something Daniel did extremely well and we are going to learn from his example throughout this series. And 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. And He was full of both of them?
So, let’s break this down. What is truth?
Truth = God’s standard.
What is God’s standard?
John 17:17 NKJV – Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
God’s standard is His Word. 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 2:8-9 NLT – God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
We need God’s grace. And we need God’s truth.
That’s why, here at NoLimits Church, we love everyone and everyone is welcome to come be a part of our church. At the same time, we take God at His Word and we don’t budge on the truth.
That’s why we have two core values that go hand-in-hand:
We love others without reason.
In other words, our love is a free gift. It can’t be earned or taken away.
We take God at His Word.
We believe the entirety of God’s Word. When we find something in the Word that goes against our personal belief system, we update our beliefs.
We can’t just have one of these core values, we have to have both of them. It may seem like they oppose each other, but they actually compliment each other. We need to stand firm in God’s Word while loving people unconditionally.
Because, what happens if we take one of these away?
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. This was a bad day, but what I want you to get from the story is this:
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.
But truth has to be accompanied by grace because:
Without grace, we are condemned.
You can’t do enough to get saved. Your good works are worthless without grace because you can’t undo bad things with good things. The only thing that undoes the bad in your life is God’s grace.
God’s like, “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. Like, “I’m going to save you and then I’m going to give you a guide that will lead you to your best life.”
God wants you to live a holy life. But this has nothing to do with your salvation. Heaven is a free gift through Jesus. At the same time, God still wants truth in your life so you can live your best life.
God planned this amazing life for you and culture is doing it’s best to pull you away from it. They’re enticing you will the thrill of sexual immorality. They convince you that more money is going to bring lasting happiness.
But, they’re lying! Our culture, the news and the media only know how to do one thing:
Culture leads us away from our best life while making us believe we are headed in the right direction.
Don’t get mad at them. Don’t get on Facebook after this and bash the news and the media. They honestly believe they are helping you. That’s how good the devil is at deceiving people.
Remember, you’re not fighting against people. Our worldly culture was designed by the devil and he does a really good job of getting people to believe that they are headed to their best life.
But 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 one more 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!”
No, we can’t think that way. Actually, I believe this is the very attitude that has turned so many people off to the church.
Christians are walking around in self-righteousness, elevating themselves above those around them because they think they know how to keep the rule book better than most.
Truth without grace is mean.
Grace without truth is meaningless.
Truth and grace is medicine.
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, if you truly want to help someone live their best life, 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.
I want to close today with a story in the Bible 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?”
This is the tension that we all feel right here. What would Jesus say about what is going on in the world? What would He say about the LGBTQ movement? What would He say about the abortion laws? What would he say about my life?
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.
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 our sin. He doesn’t do it while everyone else is watching. He’s not looking to humiliate us in front of the church. 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 welcoming you in with open arms. And at the same time He’s holding the door open for you to walk into truth.
You might feel like you’ve been caught in sin, just like the woman we just read about. But, I don’t want you to leave today condemned. I want you to leave free.
And the way to do that is to have a one-on-one with Jesus. He already knows what you did and He loves you anyways. So take a moment now to receive His love and let Him lead you into truth.
There may just be a strong pull on the inside of you because it’s time. It’s time for you to surrender your life to God and receive a new life from Jesus.
You know you’re not that good at managing your life anyways. It’s time to give Jesus the control of your life. It’s time to receive forgiveness and get your past washed away.
If that’s you, if you are ready to do that, I want you to say the following prayer out loud. And when you do, Jesus is going to wash you clean and give you new life. He’s going to fill you with joy, peace and purpose.
“Jesus, I’ve been living without you and I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve done a lot of things wrong and I need your forgiveness. I accept Your love and grace for me and ask that You would be my Lord. Thank you for making me new. Thank you for washing away my past. I hand my life over to you and ask that you’d help me walk out your plan for my life.”