Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Before I get started in my message this morning, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you about an amazing thing our church is doing this August…
(Put up Rwanda Info Slide)
We will be going back to Rwanda (in Africa) for 12 days from August 5th – 16th
And we are looking for something like 5 – 10 people from Renovation to go with us and help us reach hundreds of people for Christ.
Rwanda is a country where God is moving in revival-like fashion right now, and we, as a church, have a unique opportunity to go there and make an enormous impact for Christ.
But we need people to make that happen…to follow the call to go and make disciples of ALL nations as Jesus says in Matthew 28.
We’ll be going to Kigali, Rwanda, the capital city this year and will be working with International Evangelist Sammy Wanyonyi and Shine.
They will be putting on a massive festival outreach for thousands upon thousands of people.
We will help with that, but most of our help with come at smaller festivals throughout Kigali
(Transportation is difficult there, so every afternoon we partner with the local churches to put on outreaches in local parks and open areas.
The people of the churches come and dance and sing, and people just stop by to see what’s happening.
And before long there are 300-500 people standing there.
And we come, our team members share testimonies, and I or Sammy or someone else gives an invitation to accept Christ, and you get to watch and pray as sometimes 20-50 people will just walk out of the crowd and give their lives to Christ because YOU helped and shared your testimony
In the mornings we work in all sorts of different teams.
Many team members put on Vacation Bible Schools for kids.
Others work to put on teaching conferences for women or leaders
Others go to the prisons to share testimonies.
If you go…you will see God move like you never have before.
You’ll be thinking, “This is what it must have felt like to be a part of the early church!” It’s amazing.
It’s a 12-day trip.
It’s $4,250 to go.
Don’t let that number scare you
When we went the first time, every single person on the trip fundraised at least HALF that amount…and some only paid a few hundred dollars to go to Africa.
Plus, you’re raising money to go reach people for Christ,
It’s not a vacation; it’s a ministry investment
And also, if enough people are interested, this year, we are offering an optional 2-day Safari at the end of the trip
It’s only an extra $1,000.
The cost of going on a Safari in normal life is almost all wrapped up in FLYING to Africa, but since you’re already there…
It’s an optional thing, but if you want to go to Rwanda, and you want to do this too…you can.
You’ll get a few more informational details in announcements.
If you have questions right away, talk to me too.
I’d love for you to come with me to share the Gospel in Rwanda this summer.
Let’s get into our message now.
The culture around us is changing…and thanks to things like globalization and technology, it’s changing faster than ever.
The values, the morals, and the beliefs of the American culture at large are quite different for what they once were in 1900…or 1950…or even 1990.
We’ve seen a massive change in terms of the number of people who attend church in America.
Even 30 years ago, only 10 percent of college freshmen identified themselves as having no faith background
Today, it’s over 27%...and rising quickly.
Beliefs on sex and sexuality have massively shifted in even in the last 50 years.
We’ve gone from TV shows where producers were so afraid to insinuate sex even between a married couple that they used to show married couples as having two twin beds in their room.
And yet, in present day…you can barely watch 30 minutes of TV without seeing sex
Beliefs on when people should have sex…and beliefs regarding monogamy have massively changed.
Beliefs on homosexuality and the transgender issue have shifted enormously in the last 25 years.
In 1990, 10% of Americans supported Gay Marriage…
In 2015, 60% of Americans supported it.
Regardless of what you think of the issue, those stats are some of the best evidence that we have that culture not only changing fast…but faster than ever.
For a culture at large to change a moral or ethical belief usually takes over 100 years to happen…not 25.
Traditional Christian beliefs about heaven and hell were once largely embraced by the culture at large…
Even if the people were Christians in name only…the everyday American used to generally assume that when people died they were going to 1 of 2 places: heaven or hell.
And now, it’s downright offensive to insinuate that some people might go to hell.
It used to be that the average American believed that one of the religions had to be right, and the others had to be wrong
Now…to say that one is right above the others is ridiculously arrogant.
It used to be that the average person generally assumed that God created the earth…now we’re not so sure how he fits in the picture…if at all!
The culture is changing, and it’s changing fast! Really fast!
And as a Christian, it can feel like you’re a stranger in a strange land.
Just for having Biblical beliefs, it feels like we’re weird…like we don’t fit in anymore
And as a result of that tension, many Christians are beginning to adapt their beliefs.
They don’t want to be called an idiot.
They don’t want to be called a bigot.
And they think, “Maybe…it just would be better to go with the culture anyway.
“Maybe that IS the WAY FORWARD…rather than holding on to some beliefs from a very old book”
So what do we do with all this?
How do you handle being a Stranger in a Strange Land?
THE PASSAGE / WHY THEY REFUSED THE ROYAL FOOD
What I want to do in this series…is take you back to an incredible story in the Bible.
A story of a Stranger in a Strange land.
600 years before Jesus…a young Jewish man named Daniel was exiled to Babylon.
A completely strange land to him…with different customs, beliefs, theology, and morality.
And yet…Daniel by sticking to his Biblical beliefs…was able to not just honor God, but to thrive, and to have influence on that culture as well.
And I think that Daniel’s life is a much needed and timely example for how we as American Christians should interact with what now feels like a “strange culture”
Because the answer surely isn’t to merely conform to the culture…to become exactly like the culture
The answer is not to go to war with the culture
The answer is not go build walls and run & hide from the culture
The answer is to TRANSFORM the culture.
But how do you do that when feel like you’re a Stranger in a Strange Land??
That’s what this series is going to attempt to answer by studying the first half of the book of Daniel
We’ve been studying the book of 1 Samuel as a church this year…and the Book of Daniel takes places about 400 years later.
400 or so years after King David starts his reign, the monarchy is ended with the destruction of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar attacks Jerusalem for the first time, and he exiles the best and brightest Jews with him to serve him in Babylon (and Daniel is one of those Jews)
We’re now going to take a look at that account and how Daniel begins to navigate life being a stranger in a very strange land
(Daniel 1:1-8) – NIV
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 delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god. 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. 6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 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 this way.
Let me pause us there to explain a few things.
This young man Daniel is being trained to be one of the best and brightest leaders in Babylon…the largest city in the world at the time.
And as part of the training, they want him to eat and drink the Royal food and wine from the King’s table every day.
And Daniel…at the risk of his own life…asks for permission not to defile himself in that way.
Why would he do that?! What’s wrong with the King’s food?
There are a couple of reasons Daniel did this.
Firstly…as you probably know…Jews have many Kosher food laws (They don’t eat pork among other things)
Well, those “food laws” about what they can and can not eat can be found in in the Old Testament
Laws that God put in place until Christ came…
Laws that helped the Jewish people stay distinct as a people until a Messiah could arise out of them.
And so for Daniel, to eat the common Babylonian meals of pork and horse…would have been against the practices of his God and his scriptures
And Secondly, it can almost certainly be assumed (and Daniel 5 actually gives us an example of this) that every meal at the King’s table would have been sacrificed to idols…and false gods.
This is probably why Daniel abstains from the meal and the wine even though there is actually no direct prohibition from wine in the Old Testament
Daniel was not going to partake in food & drink that was first sacrificed to an idol…and a meal he wasn’t supposed to eat in the first place.
THE DECEPTIVE PATH “FORWARD”
So what is Daniel to do? Let’s keep reading.
(Daniel 1:9-21) – NIV
9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.” 11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. 18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
So Daniel is willing to trust and follow God…even at the risk of great consequence…and God moves mightily through his faith.
Now, before we go any further in this series, it should be said…that not all of culture is wrong.
Much of what makes up a culture “music, style, dress, customs” aren’t necessarily “wrong”
Even Daniel does not resist his Babylonian education and Babylonian language…He’ll need it to influence the culture.
Much like a good missionary first has to learn a culture if they’re ever going to transform the culture
The problem is not “culture”
The problem is…when culture directly contradicts the Word of God.
But being faithful to the Word of God isn’t that easy.
Put yourself in Daniel’s shoes.
I imagine for Daniel, the real temptation was to blend into the culture.
To most of the young Jews who were captured in Jerusalem and sent to Babylon, the road to influence, success, and even honor looked like it apparently was through blending in with the culture.
It’s only Daniel and his 3 friends that do otherwise.
I imagine that the other Jews simply thought, “You know what...let’s just eat the meat and drink the wine. It’s not that big of a deal. We’re in a far away place.”
“Plus, if we eat his food and drink his wine…even if it is offered to idols…if we just go along with this, pretty soon, we’re going to be in a place of influence…and THEN we could make a difference for God”
But you can’t sin your way to Godly influence.
Because character is made in the smaller decisions
I imagine their fear was…and maybe they even said this to Daniel… “If you keep rejecting what the King sends you from his table, you’ll never get to court…and thus you’ll never have influence!”
But here’s what we need to understand…so clearly: The ways of the world will not bring you forward, they will bring you backward.
Listen, if you want, sell out to the culture…see if it brings you forward.
Sell out to materialism and the American dream.
Do everything you can to get as much money as possible so you can spend it all on yourself, so you can be happy!
That’s not going to bring you forward, but backward
Think about this!
Daniel doesn’t do the worldly thing.
He completely stands up against the culture. He goes with God’s ways.
And yet, who really goes forward in the end?
The other Jews who ate the meat just blended into the culture and faded into obscurity.
You can feast off the lavish living of the culture if you want…just like Daniel could have feasted off all the world had to offer form the King’s table…but it won’t really bring you forward.
You can join the culture…and see if you can find life in sex…like the culture says.
Go ahead. Sell out to the cultural beliefs…see if it brings you forward.
Watch porn every day like it’s not a big deal
Sleep around like sex is truly just physical…and waiting until your married is old fashioned!
Commit adultery because you deserve to feel loved, and because your feelings come first
Try the ways of the culture out!
See if they will bring you forward!
I guarantee you that these ways of the culture will not bring you forward, but backward.
If you were to do all of those things, your life…your relationships…in a span of 3-5 years would be utter chaos.
And yet for most of us the temptation is not to 100% sell out to greed or sex…it’s in the little things.
It’s in the everyday decisions where we say, “You know what…everyone else is doing it this way these days…everyone else believes this way…so I think it will be better for me if I do too”
“It’ll go better for me if I abandon my Biblical beliefs on this
“It’ll go better for me if I just ‘take care of myself for a little while’ instead of serving others like the Bible says…”
“It’ll go better for me if I lie or cheat at work like everyone else”
But it won’t.
Because the ways of the world will not bring you forward, they will bring you backward.
We have this deep-seeded fear that a lot of us don’t admit…that if we really trust the Bible… we’d actually go backward
Just like the official told Daniel at first, “I can’t do this for you Daniel! When the king sees you looking worse, he’ll have my head!”
Deep down (like that official)...we’re afraid…that God’s ways won’t work
That’s why we don’t fully trust Him.
That’s why we’re not that seriously dedicated to His word.
And maybe that’s why most of us…just end up eating the food from the King’s table.
It’s the safer option.
Everyone else is doing it…the majority of people don’t seem to think it’s really that big of a deal!
But you’re not called to follow the crowd.
Even if we’re strangers in a strange land, we’re called to trust in our God
That He’s the one who can take us forward.
THE WAY FORWARD / A DEEPER CURRENT
And surely He will.
There is a deeper current of truth (God’s truth) than the present ways of the world
Think of a river current.
Thanks to the continental divides, rivers flow in a certain direction.
It may look on some days, due to the strong wind of the day, that the waters are blowing in a different direction
And maybe if you were a silly and foolish fish, you might think, “Huh, surely THAT’S the direction we should be swimming today!”
But the wise fish doesn’t trust the wind of the day.
They trust the deeper current of truth to bring them forward.
Even if for a time, to every other fish, it looks like they’re swimming the wrong way.
They know that over the long haul, it’s the deeper current that is the way forward.
By the way, be back here next week for chapter 2 because we’re going to dive even deeper into that point of Godly wisdom vs worldly wisdom.
And Daniel gets this.
He trusts in God.
And we’re going to see later in Daniel, through the lives of his friends, that first and foremost their primary focus is obeying God…not what they get from obeying God (getting forward)
We’ll see in subsequent chapters that they’re willing to obey…even if getting forward means you die and go to heaven.
But we see in this particular situation because of Daniel’s trust in God, God blesses him.
Daniel gave himself to God in a remarkable way, and God blessed Daniel in a remarkable way.
After only 10 days on a vegetarian diet, he and his friends look better nourished than all the rest!
Now, many have tried to take this and sell Biblical diet plans out of it…but the NIV Translation is bit too PC here when it says they were “better nourished”
See, in those days, wise men were supposed to be well, “plump”
The Hebrew word for “nourished” is actually “fat”
The old King James before the days of politically correct says that Daniel and his friends looked “Fairer and fatter” than all the rest
So, what’s happening here is that God is doing this!
You’re not going to get fatter eating vegetables.
God is blessing Daniel for his faith in Him.
And so because of Daniel’s faithfulness, God helps him miraculously look “more nourished” to the king…more ready to be a wise adviser.
And God can move in your life like this if you trust His ways to take you forward.
The great preacher of the 1800’s, Charles Spurgeon, once told a story about a gentleman who was a trustee for one of the wealthiest men in all of England…
And over decades that wealthy man, and later his children, trusted this same one man with overseeing their great wealth.
Spurgeon once asked the trustee how it was that he had gained the confidence of this family so that they put him in such a position where all that they had was under his care and discretion.
The man said that he remembered, when he was but a boy, the head of the establishment said to him one day, “Say that I am out,” and he replied, “Please, Sir, I could not say that, for it would not be true.”
He said, “Of course the master of the house was very angry with him and told him that he must not bring his scruples there, or he would never get on in life…
But then, something curious happened:
That great wealthy man never asked him to tell a lie again—and when somebody was needed to act as confidential clerk, that young man was selected
Because they knew him as one who would be faithful and true,
And years later when they needed someone with integrity to oversee all of their finances, guess who got picked?
It can feel like ways of God will never get you forward, but don’t be so sure!
Let me give you a different type of example of swimming in the deeper current…even if the wind is blowing a different way
If you and your friends or co-workers are ever hanging out or talking over lunch and the conversation over turns to spiritual things…
If someone ever asks you about heaven, or Islam, or different religions, and they ask you if you think there’s a difference?
That’s an opportunity for you to tell them that Jesus is the only way to salvation…the only answer…our only hope!
Now IF you do that…there is a chance…maybe even a good chance nowadays…that they put you off.
Maybe they even get mad
But let me tell you this…when they come on hard or difficult times in life and start questioning, I can assure you where they won’t go.
They won’t go to the other co-worker who thinks it doesn’t matter what one believes
There are on answers and no comfort in nothingness.
But if you pull back from your beliefs when questioned no one will come back to you when they truly have questions and truly need answers.
The ideas of the world will not bring you forward, they will bring you backward.
You can’t lead someone to Christ by downplaying his truth along the way…hoping that’s going to somehow give you a better shot later.
This is what the other Jewish men were going to do…downplay their beliefs to get a shot at influence later.
No, trust in the deeper truth, the deeper current, even if you’re afraid it might work against you.
If you can do it like Daniel, out of gentleness and love (notice the text says that the guard had favor and compassion for Daniel…he liked him)
Daniel didn’t go on Facebook and tell all his friends they were idiots for what they believed, and then try and lead them to Christ. J
He sticks to the Word, but with a winsome attitude
Believe that through your trust in God’s ways, God will not only move through you, but give you influence.
The king finds Daniel and his friend very impressive!
There were none equal to them.
They were 10 times better than the rest.
But again, you can’t sin your way to Godly influence.
And neither can you choose the culture’s’ ways over God and then ask God to move mightily in you!
Follow the progression of the text with me here:
Daniel and his friends are faithful to God
God blesses them (the vegetable diet works, they get knowledge & understanding)
And THEN…they get influence/position too.
But the way forwardstarts with faithfulness…in the little things.
“But when you act like everyone, you influence no one.
So trust the progression.
Be faithful in the little things.
Trust the Word of God.
Don’t be afraid to be a stranger in a strange land…because you’re swimming in a deeper current.
Let’s go forward.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.