Daniel: Spiritual Insanity!

-It’s Insane To Tempt God!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

Don’t ever tempt the Lord God,” Jesus warned Satan! And, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar learned the consequences, of stepping over that line, according to his own testimony in the book of Daniel, chapter 4.  God caused Nebuchadnezzar to dream about a great tree that stood taller than any other tree on the earth. It provided shelter for the birds; and, produced fruit that fed every living creature. In his dream the King saw a “Holy One” come down from heaven & cut the great tree down to a stump. So, he went to Daniel & asked him to interpret the meaning of the dream; and, just as God had done—back in chapter 1—He gave Daniel the meaning (see vs. 24-27).  “You’ve got a pride issue, oh King,” Daniel warned him, “You think YOU’RE Sovereign over the Kingdom of Babylon! That it’s great because YOU’RE great! But, God is going to show you how insane your pride really is!” Unfortunately, for Nebuchadnezzar, when you’re full of pride, you’re not in your right mind!

-God’s Patience Does Wear Thin!

The verses, that follow, tell us that “At the end of 12 months, as he was walking on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, the king exclaimed, ‘Is this not Babylon the Great that I have built by my vast power to be a royal residence and to display my majestic glory?’ While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared that the kingdom has departed from you.  You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals, and you will feed on grass like cattle for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He wants.” For 12 months God patiently waited for the King to repent of his pride; and, for 12 months the King tested God’s resolve to follow through on His Word!

-Are You Spiritually Insane?

Clearly, it’s a form of insanity to think you can overpower the OMNIPOTENT God! It’s a form of insanity to think you can outwit an OMNISCIENT God! It’s a form of insanity to think you can hide your sin from an OMNIPRESENT God! Nebuchadnezzar’s sin was claiming credit, for himself,  what belonged to God alone! “Insanity” happens when a person loses touch with reality!

-He Was Out Of His Mind!

Nebuchadnezzar lived in a “make believe” world that he had created in his own mind—an unreal world! That’s where everyone lives who takes personal credit for anything! It’s spiritual insanity! And, for 7 years, Nebuchadnezzar was “out of his mind”, living like a wild animal until he acknowledged that everything he had—including his kingdom—was the gift of a gracious, benevolent God! That required “humility”; or, yielding to God’s Sovereignty! Only repentance—literally, the “changing of one’s mind”—would bring the king restoration! Pride is all about “control.” Humility is all about “giving up control.” Pride is an unwillingness to acknowledge that it’s God who gives us all the stuff we take pride in! Humbled, by God’s grace, the King acknowledged that it was God who made him great; and, his sanity returned to him!

 

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Daniel: From Pride To Praise!

GOING ON VACATION! NEXT POST WILL BE: JUNE 14

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Handling Compliments!

What are the things in your life that people tend to notice & compliment you over? Is it your intelligence? Or, maybe you’re an attractive person; so, people notice your good looks! Or, is it your wardrobe? Are you a snappy dresser? Maybe it’s your wit! How clever you are! Or, do people compliment you for your talents? Maybe you’re a gifted musician, artist, or athlete! Perhaps people praise you for your work ethic; or, for your leadership abilities. Maybe it’s your house, your car; or, some other material thing that draws a compliment! How do you respond? Do you take credit personally when someone compliments you? Do you accept the glory & praise for those things because you think you deserve it? Perhaps there are things about you that you wish people would notice & offer you a compliment for! Maybe you feel inclined to kind of point out, to others, your superior talents or abilities—do a little bragging and self-promotion!

-The Shame Of Personal Pride!

As I look back at my earlier life I see many times where I was filled with pride! Many times where I bragged about myself! Those memories bring me shame because I attempted to steal glory that wasn’t mine! I accepted glory & praise that were meant for God alone; and, as long as I live in this sin-plagued body I’ll be tempted, by my flesh & depravity, to think prideful thoughts about myself! Oh how I give praise to God for the work He’s done in me—and, continues to do—through His Spirit! He quickly points out those times I begin to well up with pride; and, He helps me to confess it for the sin that it is & to redirect all praise to Him! Scripture often contrasts God’s judgment when we allow pride in our lives with His blessing to those who humble themselves before Him & others! Pride is our attempt to steal glory from God! Any time we take credit for anything, that’s our prideful attempt to steal God’s glory! “What do you have that you’ve not been given?” Paul asks the Church of Corinth (1 Cor. 4:7).  Humble yourself; or, God will do it for you!

-I Did It My Way!

King Nebuchadnezzar had been warned, by Daniel, to give God the glory! But, as he walked on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, he said: “Is this not Babylon the Great that I have build by my vast power to be a royal residence & to display my majestic glory?” (Daniel 4:30) The verses that follow declare that a voice came from heaven, while those words were still in the King’s mouth, “…the kingdom has departed from you. You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals…until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men…” God commands us to humble ourselves; and, we can do it the easy way by confession & repentance; or, we can do it the hard way & force God’s hand—not recommended!  Make no mistake! “Every knee will bow & every tongue will confess” that Jesus is Lord & we’re NOT!

 

Daniel: A King’s Pride Is Broken!

-Here’s Nebuchadnezzar’s Story!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

Should you find yourself reading the Book of Daniel someday, you’ll note a significant change as you start the 4th chapter—it’s no longer Daniel’s story! This is King Nebuchadnezzar’s personal testimony of how he came to have saving faith in Yahweh—it’s become Nebuchadnezzar’s story! His words are directed at “…those of every people, nation, and language, who live in all the earth”; and, reads like what someone would say if they stepped up to the mic in a worship service & shared a testimony of faith! “I am pleased to tell you about the miracles and wonders the Most High God has done for me” (v.2).

-Your God Becomes My God!

Up until now—throughout the first 3 chapters—the King always referred to “YOUR God…” Daniel; and, to “YOUR God…” Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego! In this chapter, the King describes a personal relationship with God—he shares what “…the Most High God had done for ME.” In v.4 the King said he was “…at ease & flourishing in my palace”—some translations render it “…content & prosperous.” Rarely do the “content & prosperous” seek after God! In fact, Jesus said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven”; and, then He follows with one of the most misused statements in all of Scripture: “But, with God all things are possible!” Be careful! Don’t carelessly quote that verse outside of it’s context! What Jesus is saying is that it’s humanly IMPOSSIBLE for the rich to enter into heaven; but, “…with God ALL THINGS are POSSIBLE!” Even the salvation of a rich, powerful & pride-filled King, like Nebuchadnezzar, is possible with God; but, ONLY after he’s been broken & humbled!

-Until He Acknowledged The Most High God!

And, the rest of the chapter is Nebuchadnezzar’s incredible story—how God drove him away from people to live, as a wild animal, with the wild animals! For 7 years he ate grass & acted as a wild animal; until, he acknowledged “…that the Most High God is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He wants” (v.25).  The King learned that pride is way more dangerous than it appears! Pride blinds us to our sin; and, we become self-absorbed in our own little world of self-importance!

-Failure Can Be A Gift!

The British playwright, George Bernard Shaw, said, “There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire, and the other is to gain it…we tend to listen more when God speaks through sorrow, pain, loss, and personal failure. Success tends to make us complacent…” What he’s saying, in a sense, is that failure can be a gift from God! It was for Nebuchadnezzar! Getting himself knocked off his perch of pride became his salvation because it broke his sinful self-confidence! Thank God! He will cut us down to size in order to save us! Nebuchadnezzar had taken credit for his accomplishments when it was God who had blessed him with his abilities! Someone said: “Pride is like plagiarism because it attempts to take for ourselves Glory that belongs to God alone!” God will not share His glory with us! Repent of pride or face His judgment!

 

Daniel: Pride Comes Before The Fall

-Wearing Pride Like A Badge!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

As a young boy, I remember being taught by well-intended parents & teachers that I needed to take pride in my accomplishments! I needed to take pride in my grades & my education! I needed to take pride in my work ethic & everything I did! Wear pride like a badge! I learned that pride was important to  my “self-worth” & that it was even “healthy”! So, I “bought in” and became a pretty good bragger; and, I was proud of myself for that!

-Pride Makes “Me” The Standard!

And, since “I” was the standard by which I measured everyone else, it was easy for me to look down on you if you didn’t compare favorably to my ACT score; or, if school didn’t come as easy for you; or, if you weren’t as good as I was at sports or drama or music! But, that all began to change for me, as I began to understand the claims of the Gospel. As a young believer & follower of Jesus, the Scriptures began to come to life for me; and, I was forced to reconsider my pride on the basis of God’s Word!

-Pride: #1 On God’s “Hate List”

How could I justify my personal pride when I read in the Bible: “These 6 things the Lord hates, Yes, 7 are an abomination to Him…”; and, #1 on God’s “hate” list? “…a PROUD look…” (Prov 6:16-19) The Lord HATES PRIDE, it says! It’s an ABOMINATION to Him! How could I continue living with all this pride? Could all my teachers have been wrong? Additional Scriptures like Proverbs 8:13 & Proverbs 16:5 & Mark 7:21-23 confirmed that “PRIDE” was a SIN to be avoided at all costs! It’s like spiritual suicide! Jesus listed it right up there with sexual immorality, murder, adultery & wickedness!

-Pride Can Damn Your Soul

The 4th chapter—in the book of Daniel—indicates that it was pride that nearly damned the soul of King Nebuchadnezzar! Pride had deceived him! It blinded him to his true condition before God! But, God would not leave Nebuchadnezzar where he was at! Yahweh was about to get in the King’s “grill.” Things were going to get very personal! The King was about to experience God’s response to His pride; and, it would ultimately lead to his eternal salvation!

-A Personal Encounter With God

In the first 3 chapters of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar had only seen God from afar!  Each chapter found Daniel and/or his 3 friends dealing with a personal “crisis of faith.” Each time they trust God’s Sovereign plan—in the face of adversity & possible death—and, each time God shows up and delivers them!  But, for the King, none of those events were “personal.” He had not personally encountered Daniel’s God up to this point! There’s an individual application here:  We cannot live vicariously through someone else’s faith! The King thought well about Daniel’s God because he had seen what Yahweh had done for Daniel! Yahweh had made a favorable impression on him; but, the King didn’t “know” Him personally…..YET! That was all about to change! King Nebuchadnezzar…let me introduce you to KING YAHWEH!

 

 

Daniel: Standing Against Evil!

-Evil Always Gives You A 2nd Chance!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

Have you ever noticed how evil will always give you a 2nd chance to do evil? If you miss the first invitation, there’ll always be a follow-up! That’s what Daniel’s 3 friends—Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah—observed after they failed to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold image as he had commanded them to do (Daniel chapter 3). “Ya know boys,” I imagine the King saying, “I’m thinking you just must not have heard me! When the music starts, all you have to do is follow the crowd! Just bow down & worship my gold image & all’s cool!

-He Picked On The Wrong Deity!

And, then he lays down the gauntlet: “…and who is that God who can rescue you from my power?” Oops! You just picked on the wrong deity, Nebuchadnezzar! Don’t ever draw a line in the sand & dare Yahweh to cross it! But, that’s what he did! He bragged that no God could deliver them from his hand! I love how they stood up to evil—they “…replied to the King, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the King. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as King to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” They had faith in God’s ability to deliver them—that God was ABLE!

-Don’t Make Promises For God He Doesn’t Make!

But, even if He, according to His Sovereign plan, didn’t deliver them, they would not bow to his image! There’s a great application to take from their example—we need to be careful not to put words in God’s mouth! Don’t make claims for God on His behalf! We may think that God has to respond in a certain way; but, our knowledge is finite and limited! His ways are higher than our ways! Don’t make promises for God that He doesn’t make! We can’t presume, on Him, about how our story ends! God doesn’t always deliver the way we “think” He ought to! While He brought these 3 through the fiery furnace unharmed, He may not do the same for us! We don’t know! We just know that He’s ABLE! Our response is to take a stand against evil no matter the personal cost! “When ungodly men make ungodly laws, godly men disobey them!”

-This Was Real: It Was Life Or Death!

One of the biggest challenges, to preaching this text, is overcoming some of your childhood perceptions. This isn’t a “fairytale” or a “myth”—Daniel & his 3 friends were real people who loved God! They were people just like you & me trying to live out the difficulties of life by faith in God. And, their story—like our story—put them in a place where they had to make a tough decision! And, like they experienced, when we obey God rather than man, we’ll be judged, by the world, as insubordinate & NOT a “team player.” This 3rd chapter of Daniel points out that “…some (of the King’s counselors) took the occasion to come forward & maliciously accuse the Jews…” of ignoring the King! Nothing could be further from the truth! They had proven their loyalty to the King! Be prepared to pay a price if you obey God over man!

 

 

Quit Trying So Hard!

-Is Change Even Possible?

Have your “New Year Resolutions” already hit the skids! Perhaps you’re at a place in your life where you think it’s impossible to change! What you’ve confirmed is the weakness of your flesh. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church of Colosse, points out that human “regulations”—like “New Year Resolutions”—are powerless to change our fallen flesh:  “If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations:  ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch?’ All these regulations…are commands and doctrines of men.  Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence” Colossians 2:20-23.  That’s a sample of the world’s system for “behavior modification.” In our flesh, we wanna prove we can discipline ourselves to a “better behavior.” That gives us bragging rights to judge all the other wicked sinners by—but; that’s “legalism.”

-Legalism Is Simply Self-Effort

Legalism is our attempt to reach holiness through our own self-effort; or, “regulations” as Paul calls them here! Let me be clear—Paul is NOT referring to God’s law! You’re not a legalist for keeping His law! Sexual promiscuity, lying, stealing & murder are ALWAYS sin! It’s all the other stuff they ADD to God’s law that makes them a legalist!  I used to be a legalist—I wouldn’t play cards; or, go to the movie theatre! I wouldn’t think of going to church unless I was wearing a suit! I would never consider being part of a church where there were drums & guitars; or, anything other than a King James version of the Bible used in the pulpit! You may find that bizarre; but, be careful! Legalism is rather chameleon in nature—your “list” might be different; but, you’re “extra biblical” rules to perform by & force on others is just as legalistic!

-To Be “In Christ”

If you’re “in Christ” you’ve “…died to the elemental forces of this world,” Paul says, “Why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” Jesus Christ is the great liberator! He set us FREE from “performance-driven faith”! If you’re “in Christ” remove the masks! Stop pretending you’re a super saint! Quit trying so hard to make yourself acceptable to the Father! He’s already accepted you “in Christ.”

-Declared Righteous!

If your faith is in Christ’s work on the cross, you’ve been “declared righteous.” That is your forever standing before God! There is NOTHING you can do that will ever make you more acceptable to God; and, there is NOTHING you’ve done that makes you less acceptable to Him! Jesus bore ALL YOUR SIN—past, present & future; and, His righteousness was placed in your account when you trusted His work by faith! Then, God’s Holy Spirit moved in; and, told your spirit that He’s ready to go to work in you! But, it will be HIS WORK! He doesn’t need you to get in the way & put on that “HOLIER than thou mask” by keeping a bunch of man-made, human-inspired rules! It’s in your “weakness” that He is strong! God rejects all human effort!

 

Motivated By God’s Glory

-What Does A “Win” Look Like?

I greatly enjoyed the years I helped coach the varsity boys basketball team for our local Christian school! One of things we constantly focused on was cutting down on the number of “turnovers”—giving up the ball to your opponent because of a bad pass, a double dribble, or some other violation. Our mantra was: “Every PASS counts! Every SHOT counts! Every DRIBBLE counts!” The ultimate goal was to win more games & it’s hard to win when you keep giving the ball back to your opponent! So, what does a “win” look like, if following Jesus is the goal?

-It’s A “Win” When God Is Glorified!

To the Church of Corinth, Paul wrote:  “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” 1 Cor. 10:31. To use the basketball analogy, Paul is saying that a “turnover” occurs whenever we do anything that FAILS to bring glory to God! And, a “win” happens whenever God is glorified! In James MacDonald’s book, Vertical Church, he explains “glory” like this:  “When someone or something evidences the reality of God’s existence, that revealing is God’s glory. We don’t see God; we see the evidence that He has been at work; we see His glory.” So, glory is like a “trail” that evidences that God had been there; that, He had been at work! It’s His “supernatural signature”, MacDonald says.

-What Does God’s Glory Look Like?

That’s what Moses saw, in Exodus 33,  when he asked God for permission to see His glory. He couldn’t actually look upon God; or, he’d die, God said! So, God showed him his “back”; or, literally where God had been; or, His “trail.” Here’s the application we take from Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian believers: We will see the glory of God; or, the evidence of His presence; or, His supernatural signature, on our churches, in the changed lives of our members! Changed lives—that’s the proof that God has been there! Lives that do everything with a passion for God’s glory! And, we can’t manufacture that! We can’t produce changed lives! Only lives, under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit, will live for God’s glory rather than for self-glory! God’s glory isn’t present where ministry is done “in the flesh”—leaning on our own understanding! Worldly wisdom says, “God helps those that help themselves.” That’s man’s glory, not God’s!

-When It’s Not God’s Glory!

The more I get used to “walking in the Spirit”, the more terrified I become of doing anything, in my life, that’s not for God’s glory; for, His praise & honor! The opposite of His glory is “my glory”; and, that’s pride. God hates pride! Pray that Christ’s Church would be motivated by a passion & a desire that our Sunday Worship services bring Him glory; that, our Small Group ministries shine forth His glory;  that anything and everything we do be bathed, in prayer, with a God-honoring longing for God to be revealed in our cities and our nation! God is glorified when we make much of His preferences, plans & program!