"Courage in the Fire"

The Book of Daniel Part 1 (living a life of integrity)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God is sovereign over the details of our lives. We can communicate God’s presence in other people’s lives by being bodily and emotionally present with them.

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Daniel 3:1–18 ESV
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Note: The scenario changes but the plot remains the same. This feature of Daniel teaches us that the persistence of the kingdom of darkness may eventually wear down the resistance of God’s people.
When someone stands up for his/her beliefs in the face of adversity, they are called a “moral rebel.” A prominent example is the case of the sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. He seemed too big to fall until actors Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan courageously came forward, risking their careers if unsuccessful. Moral rebels also confront a bully or correct a friend even when it comes with a cost.
Secular psychologists say moral rebels have high self-esteem and are confident of their own “judgment, values and ability and thus that they have a social responsibility to share those beliefs.” The Christian outlook says “Exactly!”
The moral rebel isn’t afraid of occasional embarrassment or a lack of social harmony. They are far less concerned about conforming to the crowd. So, when they have to choose between fitting in and doing the right thing, they will probably choose to do what they see as right. The Christian outlook says “Exactly!”
A moral rebel needs to have grown up seeing moral courage in action, from parents but also peers.
Those who have experienced the pain of rejection are less likely to be moral rebels. They need to fit in. For the Christian a close relationship with God and good fellowship mitigates against this.

BIG IDEA: God delivers you in the furnace not from it.

Jesus said what he says to people still, " I'll meet you in the furnace. Follow me. It's going to look dark, it's going to look dangerous, it's going to scare you, but you keep following me. I'll meet you in the furnace."
The previous chapter of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. There is no doubt that the building now of the image of gold expressed in his dream was the desire to see the dream fulfilled, but surpassed. Daniel had said to him, “You, O king, are a king of kings…you are this head of gold (2:37,38). The image that Nebuchadnezzar had seen was composed of various metals, which indicated that inferior empires would arise in the course of history.
Daniel made it very clear that his “little kingdom” would have its day, but would eventually perish and all the glory he had created would be destroyed.
Had Nebuchadnezzar wanted to memorialize this vision God had given him to the point that the Kingdom God builds cannot be shaken or rival his kingdom. Apparently on the heals of this dream Nebuchadnezzar was trying to make a point that no kingdom should destroy or rival his kingdom, not even the kingdom of God.
Notice that in the first seven verses of chapter 3 Nebuchadnezzar’s own name appears 7 times and no less than 6 times that Nebuchadnezzar had been the one to set up the enormous statue.
Remember that Nebuchadnezzar paid homage and praise to Daniels God however, it was shallow and surface praise that would not last long. Nebuchadnezzar place Daniels god among the other God’s of Babylon.
How often do we place the God of the Bible among the other god’s in our life. We claim allegiance to the God of the Bible, however, when it comes to counting the cost to follow Christ our loyalty falters. How far are we willing to go to make His name great.

1. Vanity is the insanity of Humanity

Doctor Notes Rise in 'Selfie Wrist' Cases
It's a sign of the times--and maybe a sign of our culture. People are taking so many selfies, they're getting "Selfie Wrist." Tina Choi, 29, works in digital media promotion. She says a successful selfie can raise the profile and income of her clients. Choi believes selfies are an effective way of sharing a sense of yourself. "It’s really about telling a story. Where you're at. What you're doing. How active you are," Choi said.
But all that selfie taking started causing tingling in her fingers and wrist and later discomfort. After a few months she said it felt like a sharp pain in the corner of her wrist and it actually would prevent her from working. "It's a form of carpal tunnel because this hyperflexion of the wrist appears to cause … the nerve to become inflamed and angry," said Dr. Levi Harrison, an orthopedic surgeon. He said the problem begins when patients constantly hyper-flex their wrist inwards in a rush to capture that perfect angle.
Harrison showed her exercises to do for just minutes a day. After a few weeks, Tina's pain improved. Now she takes much safer selfies. "That is the nature of our generation right now," she said, "We're taking so many selfies these days."
Conflict: Will the image of God bow to the image of man? How does our culture today bow to the image of man over the image of God? (our sexuality or defining sexual orientation, abortion holocaust, self-indulgent society)
The word for statue occurs more than 10 times in this chapter. Whether this is some other God like Marduk or Nebuchadnezzar we are not for sure, it possibly could be both.
However, this is a direct assault on the first commandment in Exodus 20:2. The writer places this upfront and as a constant theme in the chapter because he wants you to respond the same way Daniel and his friends responded.
Note: The pressure on these young Hebrew’s is beyond what we can imagine this cannot be understated.
1). It was set up in a unique location in the plain of Dura in Babylon. Dura means wall of fortress so we are not completely sure of the exact location. The mention of Babylon reminds us of the tower of Babylon in Genesis 11 with the goal of unifying all nations and ethnicities of the earth. (one world religion and power) How does the world today set up the idol of vanity in plain sight for everyone see.
2). The who’s who of people in the kings kingdom are invited. He invited all of those dedicated to serve the kingdom and the king.
3). Set a time when national and religious allegiance would be put on full display.
The King set a specific time and place for this lavish show of worship.
4). Powerful psychological aspect of grand and emotional music played.
The music being plaid would have been loud and grand in nature, making the worship experience emotional.
5). Precise moment is specified.
6). There is a death sentence issued for violators. Not just any death but being burned alive in the furnace.
7). When the moment came it appeared everyone submitted to the command.

* Vanity confronts us with the idols of this world.

The People of God will be confronted with the idols of this world.
We may not be confronted with such forced worship, however, the worship of our day presents itself over and over again. Some may come quietly without drawing much attention, while others present themselves in public ways that are put on display for all to see.
When this happens, and it will, what will you do?
We may not live in the ancient city of Babylon but we are exiles just the same. We are in a foreign land that is not our own and idols present themselves daily biding for our affections.
When a good thing, becomes a god thing, it then becomes a bad thing. Do not be deceived God’s people will be confronted with the idols of this world.
IDOLS: anything that captures or anyone that captures our hearts, minds, and affections more than God.
Colossians 3:5 ESV
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Idolatry is a big deal with God. Remember that God is referred to as a jealous God
Exodus 20:5 describes God as a jealous god but this is different from the way it is used to describe the sin of jealousy in Galatians 5:20. When we use jealousy we use it in a way of being envious of someone who has something that we do not have or possess. It is not that God is jealous or envious because someone has something that He wants or needs. Exodus 20:4-5 says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down and worship them; for I, the LORD your God am a jealous God...”
Notice that God is jealous when someone gives to another or something else that rightfully belongs to Him.
Exodus 34:14 says, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God.”
The word for Jealous in the Hebrew is quanna, which also means zelous, as in caring passionately. God does indeed love us with passion, fervent zeal and wants us to be His people. He does not want us to fall under the spell of any other.
As our creator and Father he knows what is best for us and wants to keep us safely in His fold. Where he can love, guide, and protect us. That is the jealousy that God speaks of. John 10 speaks of Christ as the good shepherd who know’s his sheep and the sheep know His voice, and the shepherd willingly lay’s down His life for His sheep.
Note: It’s not enough to memorize some verses about anger and self-control. We must go after the Heart! All of our sin can be traced back to our idols every time.
John Piper -
“Sin is what you do when you’re chasing after something other than God, namely, one of your idols.”
Idolatry is at the center stage of our heart, because idolatry is nothing more than a metaphor for human craving, yearning and greedy demands. Look what Paul way’s about idol worship in Romans 1:21-25
Romans 1:21–25 ESV
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

*Vanity is at the heart of the great exchange.

Anything that you exchange for God is a lie. It will never deliver on it’s promise.
For Example:
Marriage: if you put all of your eggs in that basket thinking: Marriage will provide all of my peace, all of my hope, all of my love, all of my joy, then you are doomed to unending disappointment and heartache. Marriage was not designed to replace all of the things that only God can fill.
Children: what about children? Aren’t they a blessing from the Lord? Absolutely. But if-you place all your hopes, all your expectation and joy and security in your kids, you will be miserable.
Paul Trip “Lost in the Middle”
“Children make terrible trophies.” Love them, enjoy them, train them, work with them, but don’t make your children trophies, because you are setting yourself up for sorrow.
Richard Keyes writes:
The natural Human response to the true God after the Fall is rebellion and avoidance. Sin predisposes us to want to be independent of God, to be autonomous, so that we can do what we want without bowing to His authority.
At the most basic level idols are what we make out of the evidence for God within ourselves and in the world - if we do not want to face the face of God Himself in His majesty and holiness. Rather than look to the Creator and have to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards creations, where we can be more free to control and shape our own lives in our desired direction.
The blatant nature of the conflict was between the City of God and the City of this world. Nothing has changed over the centuries, this is the same conflict we have today. The only difference is what is it going to cost you? It may not cost you your life now, the conflict raging all around us today is much more subtle.
Remember last week we identified Nebuchadnezzar’s problem: He was insecure which led to hostility and anger.

*Vanity is the accuser of God’s people in this world.

The children of this world have a wisdom all their own.
Rather than pleading for mercy for the three young men the Chaldeans choose to accuse them of paying no regard for the kings order. The Chaldeans knew their king, and all they needed to do was mention the failure of these Hebrews to pay respect tho his wishes and his rage was all but guaranteed. They knew his arrogance would show up.

2. No purpose is so worthless as Idol Worship.

The Experience of religious conviction without Spiritual Conversion
When Daniel explained his dream to him he knew that he was in the presence of a greater wisdom than his own. Daniels God he confessed was “God of God, the Lord of Kings.” Was Nebuchadnezzar a changed man, had he truly been converted. In fact he had experienced only superficial and a temporary setback to his self-glorification. His sinful heart had been shaken at the news of what was to become of his kingdom but, he had not been renewed.
Truthfully instead of having a changed heart, he had the same old heart, now a little more hardened, as his blatant blasphemy on the plain of Dura demonstrated. It is like a fire that seems temporarily out of control, and then it is given new wind and explodes.
Sometimes the worst and most cynical persecutors of God’s people are those who have had some kind of religious experience in their earlier life.
Nebuchadnezzar definitely shows the difference between true heart change conversion and temporary spiritual diversion.
Note: notice that the worship Nebuchadnezzar was demanding found itself led by the widespread character of Greek culture. Daniel puts the reader there. Note the event is surrounded by a religious aura and doubtless made a magnificent aesthetic impact. The three Hebrews recognized that acceptable Biblical worship involves the submission of the mind to truth.
Remember in Daniel 1 how we read that Daniel had resolved or purposed in his mind that he would not defile his body with the kings food. This is a submission in worship to the truth. The choice was idolatry or death. At this point in history the faith of these three Hebrews shone brighter than the flames of their impending death.

*Idol Worship changes how you see yourself.

Bad Influences
I remember when I was a kid. My mom would say Mark, I know who you have been hanging out with today. She knew that i had become something like the person that I was hanging out with. You could tell by my changed speech, attitude, mannerisms, body language. So do adults, we are affected by the influences on our lives. God makes it clear not only is it a sin to bow down to idols and worship or serve them, but that there is an effect which follows very definitely. People who worship idols become like them.
Brad Bigney
“Whey you are snared in the trap of idolatry, you take on an entirely different identity. You start redefining yourself in light of that particular idol. Now, not only do you live for your marriage or your kids, you also define yourself by your idols.”
So, you become your marriage, you become your kids. That’s why when one of these fail you, or you feel threatened you begin to react fiercely and violently. You are struck with panic if it is taken away, or if someone gets in the way of that thing, because now it is not just a thing or a person you enjoy; it’s who you are. There is a loss of self.
This is what is happening with Nebuchadnezzar, he had built this great state to make his name great and now these three Hebrew young men are getting in the way of the identity that Nebuchadnezzar has built for himself.
Paul Tripp -
you are identity amnesiacs. And when you suffer with identity amnesia, it always leads to identity replacement. Whenever you stop rooting your identity in who you are in Christ, you replace it with something lesser.

*Idol Worship Changes how you see God.

When we replace our identity that is in Christ with something else it affects the way we see God and his place in our lives. For Nebuchadnezzar, even though he recognized the God of Daniel as a most high God his heart was still a heart of stone. Until our heart is turned to a heart of flesh we will continue place ourselves at the center of our affections and not God.
1). We are our own God
The replace God with the praise of men, the recognition, the “atta boys.” We have crossed over the line from working for the glory of God to idolatry. You know that God is loving, gracious, merciful, and kind, but have you forgotten that He is a jealous God. King Nebuchadnezzar was more concerned with making his name great in all the earth. (the king was agreeable to have Daniel call upon his god when it fit his purposes)
2). We make God #1 but not the only one
In our day we do not like narrow exclusive options. We prefer to keep our options open. We might think God is constraining or constricting our choices.
Imagine if I told my wife, “Baby you are number one. No matter how many wives I take, you will be my first.” That might make for compelling reality television, but that is not going to be a good marriage. Love demands exclusivity. My wife doesn’t want to be number one; she wants to be the only one - not because she doesn’t love me but because she does.
The reason idol worship is listed first in the Ten Commandments is because idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong. “We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.”
The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the idols of the heart. Dismantling these idols is difficult because we do not want to expose them. We do not want to admit even to ourselves that we have made and idol. Not everything that we love is an idol, of course, there is much in creation that we have been given for our enjoyment. We can appreciate the gifts of God without making them a replacement for God.
Joe Carter - Gospel Coalition Contributor
Examine your imagination: What do you daydream about? When your mind wanders, is it to material goods, or intangible items, such as fame or approval of others.
Examine your attention: Consider the times you would rather be doing something else other than practicing spiritual disciplines. What activities would you rather be doing instead.
Examine your finances: How do you spend spend the money that God has intrusted to you. For what material goods or services are you likely to go into debt to finance?
Examine your Relationships: What person do you love the most? What person do you most want to please? Do you have friendships or romantic attachments that lead you away from God?
Examine your Emotions: What do you most fear? What do you most hope for? What are you most passionate about? What do you most desire?
Examine your concerns: What do you worry about? What makes you most anxious? What do you most fear losing?

3. The Device of the Price is Sacrifice.

Note: Satan believes that every person has a price. The Holy spirit reminds us that the device that we are called to follow is Sacrifice. If I am going to live for Christ I must always count the cost for my allegiance.
“Mark Dever’s view of teaching evangelism is his insistence that we tell people who are not yet Christians that it will be costly to follow Jesus, but it’s worthy it. Unfortunately, I think we find more preachers and evangelist emphasizing the “worth it” aspect of following Jesus, while feeling the pressure to share honestly the cost of following our Lord.
When one teacher of the law cried out, “Teacher I will follow you anywhere you go.” The Lord did not get all giddy with glee of “one more” in His corner. He told the man to count the cost in these words: “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head” (Matt.8:18-19) which basically means welcome to a life of homelessness and costly sacrifice.

*God’s people must be willing to Count the Cost

Bonhoeffer - (Cost of Discipleship, p. 51)
“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”
I think in concept many of us will have difficulty with the truth of these words, even if we all experience the difficulty of living them out. Dying is a hard process. And for many Christians, the subjective experience of that death which leads to life may properly be called “excruciating” - both for its pain and for its cross-related reality.
I would venture to say many Christians are not purposefully trying to avoid the cost experience or the “worth it” of discipleship. Most are not looking for a cheap grace experience. But the cost is heavy.

1). They had confidence in God

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king” (v.17). Trust in God implies the recognition of His power, of His omnipotence. It is one thing to hold a general conviction, it is another thing to believe he actually will save them.
With all true faith, their confidence was not blind to the realities of the situation nor to the fact that God works out His purposes in the way He chooses and sees fit, not in the way we choose. So there was a second element of their faith.

2). They were completely submissive to God’s will.

“But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your Gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (v.18).
Note: This is where every true believer should stand up and cheer as loud as they can so that the heavens can hear us. The faith shown here was not in their deliverance but, in their God.
These men did not see death in the flames as a failure but God’s will, and in a strange way as a victory. Remember Paul saw death as a win not the end.
The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 21: Daniel (Obeying God Rather Than Men)
By faith the flames may be quenched, but in that same faith “others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection…. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword.
Hebrews 11:35 ESV
35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.

*Christ meets us in our worst trials.

Daniel 3:19–25 ESV
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Note: The pre-incarnate Christ met the three would be martyrs in the flames. He meets us today in flames of this world and our greatest trials.
Apparently they spent a little time together in the furnace. I wander what they talked about? I wonder if He told them how proud He was of their faithfulness and that their names would be written in history for the stand they were taking in Babylon? Perhaps they responded how many of the Old Testament people did when coming face to face with the living God. They worshiped!
Note: Remember God meets you in the Furnace of this world!
1 Peter 4:12–19 ESV
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
3 Times Peter refers to Christians as Exiles, sojourners, and refugees in this world.
Note: When we go through the fire let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their lives to a faithful God.
The mother of a nine-year-old boy named Mark received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon. It was the teacher from her son's school.
"Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son's third grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about it immediately." The mother began to grow worried.
The teacher continued, "Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching. This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing. And as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper:
"The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food. But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work.
"Then winter comes. The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food. So he begins to beg, 'Please Mr. Ant, you have much food. Please let me eat, too.'" Then I said, "Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story."
"Your son, Mark, raised his hand. 'Teacher, may I draw a picture?'
"'Well, yes, Mark, if you like, you may draw a picture. But first you must write the ending to the story.'
"As in all the years past, most of the students said the ant shared his food through the winter, and both the ant and the grasshopper lived. A few children wrote, 'No, Mr. Grasshopper. You should have worked in the summer. Now, I have just enough food for myself.' So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.
"But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child, ever. He wrote, 'So the ant gave all of his food to the grasshopper; the grasshopper lived through the winter. But the ant died.'
"And the picture? At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn three crosses."
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