Pastor Dan Borgelt
“God is quite impressive and faithful when it comes to his timing… as he’s given us this series this idea of “Faith Over Fear” to talk about for these few weeks, and that this week would line up with the message that Pastor BJ just talked to us about, and the song that we just sang, and the life of Andrew Brunson is something that I don’t think of as just a coincidence.
Backstory on Andrew Brunson:
Andrew C. Brunson is an American prisoner in Turkey, arrested in the purges occurring after the aftermath of the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt, imprisoning tens of thousands of Turkish military personnel, civil servants, educators, academics, dissidents, and journalists. Brunson is an evangelical pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant church with about 25 congregants.
Brunson, 48, who was applying for Turkish permanent residency, having lived there 23 years, was imprisoned on 7 October 2016, accused of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government considers to be a terrorist organization.
The charges were later amended to include spying and attempting to overthrow the government. Brunson shares a small cell with 17 Turkish prisoners also allegedly in some way affiliated with the Gulen movement.
Pastor Dan (Audio Transcription)
“We’re looking at this series this idea of choosing faith over fear. I think when we talk about the idea of choosing faith over fear we look at sort of the Andrew Brunson’s of the world, and we can kind of like imagine ourselves sort of being the type of person who would choose faith over fear in a circumstance like that… like us looking at someone who’s in great physical shape and saying like, “Oh I can see myself maybe someday looking like that person.” Like you just use you strive for that, you would love to imagine sort of being that type of person.
I think we do that with the idea of faith over fear… we like to think that if we were put in the same situation as someone like Andrew Brunson was, and has been, that we would repeatedly, as he has, choose faith over fear.
We can even imagine going further with it… we think of the martyrs as we learn about church history, who gave the ultimate price of their life for their faith. And we can imagine ourselves and we want to we want to be the type of people who would indeed choose faith over fear even in those types of circumstances.
And you know as commendable as it is for us to be thinking about choosing faith over fear, and big picture in these extreme situations, it may unintentionally come at the cost of us missing the reality that we have daily, perhaps, right here in America in our current culture and society, opportunities to choose faith over fear.
Is it possible that you may be unintentionally missing some of those opportunities to choose faith over fear, and perhaps, is it possible that you’ve been choosing fear over faith in some of the opportunities that God has been giving you?
So it’s what we’re going to talk about this morning, and in fact our big idea is this as we continue in this series. We’re going to see that sometimes, not all the time, but…
Sometimes we will need to have the faith to act against the cultural norm, even though we might fear the consequences of doing so.
I love the release, if you will, that comes from embracing the second half of that sentence… even though we might fear the consequences of doing so.
We’d love to think that we might get to a place in our faith where when we are forced to choose to go against the grain of the cultural norm and we hear about the potential consequences we have no fear of them at all, but nonetheless we identify with those who often do have fear.
We’ll see biblical characters today who I think probably had fear and had to wrestle through but ultimately chose faith over fear.
Sometimes we need to have the faith to act against the cultural norm even though we might fear the consequences of doing so.
To see this big idea played out we’re going to look in a book of the Old Testament known as The Book of Daniel. It’s in the prophetical section of your Bible–the Major Prophets. There are five major prophets and Daniel’s one of them.
For those of you love to turn your Bible and open up with us we’d love to have you turn to the Book of Daniel.
The narrative that we’re going to be looking at this morning is found in Daniel Chapter three but we’re going to spend just a few minutes looking at Daniel Chapter one starting in the first verse, and the reason we’re going to be doing that is because although this is not the narrative that we’re looking at, is the important backdrop and information that surrounds the narrative that we are going to be looking at.
Daniel’s always been one of my favorite books of the Bible, and we’re going to be looking at it now here. Daniel chapter one starting in the very first verse, This is the backdrop to our narrative that we’re going to be looking at, as we see that God puts his people in cultures and circumstances where they’re invited, through faith, to choose to go against the cultural norm. [00:04:15]
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, [somewhere around 605 BC] Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon [so this is different King] came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
So this is the first of three waves that Babylon waged on God’s people, and ultimately Judah falls around 586 B.C. But in this first siege they come in and they make great military conquests.
2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand,
And so we see that actually God was judging his people by allowing a pagan nation to come in and win and have victory over them.
Along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia 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.
So you can see that many people of course when Babylon came in and waged war against Judah would have been put to death, but not everyone was put to death. It was quite customary to take some of the people of the of the nation that you conquered and bring them back to where you came from, and that’s the King’s plan.
Only not just to use this group of people as like lowly servants, but he’s going to use this group of people, these young men from Israel who are smart, and attractive, and all these types of things, and he’s going to train them up and teach them, coach them up to a place where they’ll be serving around him; like this sort of daily trophy of like look who I’ve conquered, and look what I’ve done with the people that I conquered.
It says in verse five,
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.
I suppose if you’re going to have to get conquered this is probably the best gig to land in the aftermath of it.
In verse six,
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 [So if you’re ever trying to get my attention and you go, “Hey Pastor”, and you can’t remember what comes next you can say Belteshazzar… (laughter) or Daniel either one]; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
So these people are brought from their nation, their land, their culture that they’re totally used to, and brought into a completely foreign land, the nation of Babylon.
What an incredible cultural shock this must have been for them… to have to learn to live in this new environment, to go from living in a place where the society reinforced God’s laws and principles, to also going to a place where there’s really no word of the truth of their God, and all kinds of false gods are being introduced. They’re having to learn what it’s like to live in this new society, and experience an incredible cultural shift.
And I share all that background information with you to help you see, to help you identify, as someone living in our current culture in society, that although we may not have had some nation come in and take over us and completely change our culture and society, many people feel like they’ve experienced a dramatic cultural shift like these Israelites would have experienced.
There’s a book out there called “Who Stole My Church” https://tinyurl.com/ybel3nl6,
and the book was written for the purpose of helping people who’ve been used to church a certain way for years and years, and then some young pastor comes in and makes all these changes… and it’s like, WHO_STOLE_MY_CHURCH?…
Some of you are looking for the book on the shelf that says, Who Stole My Country?… thinking ‘What I see today is not at all what I’m what I’m used to, what I grew up with… this is not the way it’s always been.
And so what I want to suggest to you is that many people, to identify with what these young Isrealite men experienced here, many people in this room feel like they’ve experienced that same thing right here in our society.
I think it’s one of those things that the older you are, the more perspective you’re going to have to offer on a subject. The younger you are, you’re probably not going to see the shift as much. But those of you who have lived in our culture and society longer are probably able to testify to a greater sense of change on many issues and subjects.
I want to suggest to you these four indicators of a declining society, and then I’ll just let you be the judge as to whether you think our nation is shifting, so that Christians who are living in America might be experiencing a similar type of change, as if they once lived in Israel, and then they got moved to Babylon.
I think one of the first signs of a decline of society is that true faith is removed.
- True Faith is Removed
Before you can start inserting a bunch of stuff into society that shouldn’t be there that you’ve got to take the conscience out of society–true faith is removed. I think we’ve clearly communicated to God over the last few decades that he’s not welcome in our schools, that he’s not welcome in our workplaces, that he’s not welcome in our Government, and he’s not welcome in our legal system either.
Then, for whatever reason, one of the first things that seems to fill the culture in society after faith is removed is this idea of sexual immorality rising.
- Sexuality Immorality Rising
I see it all over the Bible, it’s just sort of right there soon as it happens. Romans chapter one.
For those of us who went through that, there it was, and here we see it in our culture and society as well. Do I really need to convince you of a declining sexual morality that exists in our culture?
The next thing you see is sort of an unethical behavior that becomes required,
- Unethical Behavior
I’m thinking about like the workplace particularly. I’m probably one of the few people in this room who has a work environment that is still ethical. No one’s asked me to do something that I didn’t think I should do. But many of you are experiencing a work environment that’s changing.
Someone would have never asked you to do what they’re asking you to do now, or they would have asked you to do it sort of under the table, or with some sort of guilt or something like that in a subtle way.
Now it’s just much more overt. “Hey you want to climb the corporate ladder, you want to keep your job, you want to get a promotion, you want to get a pay raise? … here’s the behavior, here’s the expectation that we have for you.”
I know many of you have been forced to make some of those decisions along those lines.
I drew a line between 1-3 and #4 because I think there’s a strong argument to be said that these first three things are indeed happening, that we’re shifting to what many people refer to as a digital Babylon, a modern day Babylon in our culture and society.
Where we haven’t gotten so far is what we’re going to see in our text this morning which is number four, and I think one of the final points of a declining society is that not only you go full circle, true faith is removed to the place where false faith is required.
1. True Faith is Removed
2. Sexuality Immorality Rising
3. Unethical Behavior
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
4. False Faith is Required.
So now someone above you, a government or a law is instilled that says you must believe this, you must worship this, and it’s a false form of faith.
All right so let’s then move on to our passage… one last verse to kind of help set the scene so you understand what’s happening.
In Daniel 2:49, right before chapter three our narrative begins, the Scripture tells us this,
Now some time has passed since these young men have been brought to Babylon, and Daniel has risen right up the ranks, he’s a pretty important person in Babylon at this point.
49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
Now this is important to realize because these three men have come to a position of leadership as well. So when the king is about to call all the important people to gather together, they show up–they’re there.
The Scripture tells us then and in Daniel chapter three verse one this… and now we’re getting into our narrative; thank you for your patience in that background. The Scripture says,
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, 90 feet high and 9 feet wide,
They say a human is usually six to one in ratio… this is much different, it’s a really tall, skinny person… it’s not a statue of me in any way at all (laughter); it’s not even a statue of King Nebuchadnezzar most likely… it was most likely a statue of some sort of false god… it’s plated or covered, at the very least, in gold.
and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they’re there… they’re invited because there now in a position of leadership.
Then a verse four it says,
4-6 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do [no one is exempt from this]: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
I guess you can’t blame the king for not having clear expectations and clear punishments that’s been set up… right?
7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
So everybody’s doing it people… everybody’s worshipping; they’re all doing exactly what they were told to do… but in verse 8,
8-12 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Oh king, live forever! [kiss up, right?] Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
There’s a lot of text there so just in case you drifted off here’s a summary:
The king makes of decree that everyone’s going to come and worship this image he’s built when the music plays. The first time comes around the music plays, and almost everyone around bows down and worships.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have had their first opportunity to choose faith over fear.
They had a decision to make. As soon as they heard the decree they would have started talking amongst each other… “How are we going to do this… how are we going to handle this situation?”
I wonder who first had the suggestion, “Let’s not bow down and worship.” I wonder if one of them at first said, “No maybe we should!”
And so they eventually come to the conclusion that they’re going to do this thing together–they choose Faith Over Fear, not fear over faith, and they decide, decree together, form alliance with one another–we’re not going to bow down and worship this thing.
And so they make this decision.
And they would have had so many reasons, so many excuses for why they should have just done what everyone else did. Some of the very excuses that you and I come up with for why we just sort of fit into society when God would call us not to.
Of course the first one is, “Hey, everyone’s doing it.” … right? “If everyone’s doing it must not be that bad… surely God’s sense of morality is guided and directed by the majority. How could this many people get it wrong? So if everyone‘s doing it, then surely it would be OK for us to do as well.”
We might come up with the excuse that says something like, “Hey I’m trying to blend in… if I don’t follow along, I’m not going to blend in.”
Then we might use theological missional language like, “Hey I’m even trying to be incarnational… I’m just trying to fit in with the crowd and be amongst the rest of them. God doesn’t really want me to stand out.. I’m just going to fit in… I’m going to blend in.”
We might come up with an excuse that says, “But if I don’t follow the cultural norm I will be viewed as weird.” “What kind of witness, oh God, will I be for your name if everyone thinks I’m a weird person?”
We might come up with excuses to say, “But listen, I know what I’m doing outwardly, but that’s not a good reflection of what’s in my heart.” “So why don’t we just go ahead and bow down and worship… we’ll pretend like we’re worshipping, we won’t get in trouble at all… but in our hearts we’re really only honoring God and therefore, like, we’re all in here.”
“We’ll save our lives, and God will be honored, and surely that’s OK with him.” You know that’s NOT the excuse they use… but we might say things like, “God, what good would I be to you, if I get fired… from my job?” “What kind of representative in your workplace will I be if I get fired, or if I get kicked out of this, or if I get kicked off of that.”
“How will I provide and give to the church and be a witness to the world if my business has to close for going against the cultural norm?” Or the excuse that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego must have been thinking for a moment… “What good can I be to the kingdom of God here on Earth, if after all I’m put to death? “Maybe I should just bow down.”
But no, see, we’re convinced that our faith needs to move us to a place in our BIG IDEA that…
Sometimes we go against the grain of the cultural norm despite the fear that we might be experiencing.
[00:19:12] Continue reading Faith Over Fear: Week 2