Living in Babylon, Part 1


The world will try to define who you are, but because of Jesus we can live a godly life in an ungodly world. In this message we look at the story of Daniel and how he stood firm in his identity and beliefs.

Alright. Hey everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I am so glad that you are here with us. We want to give a big welcome to all our campuses, whether you’re in Denton, The Venue, Flower Mound, watching online, wherever you are in the world, we are really glad that you are here with us today, because today, we’re starting a new series called In The Lion’s Den.

And for the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about the Book of Daniel and we’re going to have a conversation about a really sensitive topic. We’re going to talk about living a godly life in an ungodly world. And if you’ve been tracking with us for the last few weeks, I told you these two series, we’re going to dovetail right in with one another.

And so we’ve just finished up our series called The Backdoor, talking about serving our way to greatness. And that really was the set up to bring us where we are today because I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not but we live in a really ungodly world. In fact, the more you look at it, the more messed up it seems to get like Supreme Court decisions and increasing deaths and racism and riots and shootings and anti-authority issues and identity confusion and political redirect and immorality.

It’s like everywhere you turn it seems like it’s getting worse and worse and it can leave you feeling hopeless, it can leave you feeling confused and fearful, it can make you feel like you’ve been tossed into the lion’s den. And so what do we do with all that? Like how do we respond? And the reason this is such a big deal because these are deeply emotional issues like they’re electric, they’re charged, you touch it and you can just see the shock come out of it from people. And so what I’d like to do for the next few weeks is I would like us to just talk about this stuff together, okay?

And so right out of the gate as we start, here’s what I want to ask you to do. Can you lay down your walls and your stones? Can we lay down our walls and our stones? So that nobody gets hurt, especially me and let’s have a conversation. Because here’s the reality most of us — and I realized that’s a big term, but I would say most of us, we have ungodly beliefs in these areas because we’ve allowed our opinions to be determined by experience, not by Scripture. We’ve allowed a lot of — we’ve allowed a lot of what we believe and what we’re really charged up by to be determined by experience, not necessarily Scripture, but here’s the deal, either Jesus is Lord of everything or he’s Lord of nothing. And we like Jesus as Lord of our salvation, we’re just not so sure we like Jesus as Lord of our politics or our morality or our finances. Okay?

So we need to lay down our walls and our stones and we’re going to have a conversation together. I have like eight weeks’ worth of content but I only have three weeks for this series. So I’m going to break like every preaching rule I have. We’re just going to go for it, we’re going to see how far we can get. I’m not even sure we’ll get as far as we got in the last service with you guys today. But I want you to lay down your walls and your stones and let’s go on a journey, okay? You with me on that? Okay.

So to understand the chapter that you’re currently living in, you have to understand the context of the story. If you want to really understand what’s happening in the world today, in the time that you live in, in your chapter, you have to understand the big picture story. So go with me all the way back to the beginning. In the beginning, God creates the heavens and the earth and he makes Adam and Eve man in his image and his likeness and he puts them on the earth and he puts them in the Garden of Eden. And after he makes them, the Bible says that everything is very good. It’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

And the very first thing God tells mankind is Genesis 1:28, he says, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” In other words, God looks at mankind and he commissions them. They’re on a co-mission with God to rule and reign on his behalf on this earth and they’re calling us to increase and multiply and bring the rule and reign of God from where they are in the Garden of Eden to all the way to the ends of the earth.

And what’s often missed in that verse is that it says they’re called to subdue things. And what we forget is that outside of the boundaries of the Garden of Eden, the rest of the earth was in darkness. It was in chaos and you say why? Well because Satan had rebelled and been cast to earth. And what you have to remember is that Satan is not the opposite of God, he is inferior to God in every way. He’s a created being, okay? He was one of the angels and he decided he wanted to worship for himself, so he rebelled against God, so God threw him down to the earth. He took about a third of the angels with him there, the demons, they were living outside of the boundaries of the Garden of Eden in that darkness and in that chaos and God could’ve quickly and easily just destroyed Satan. But in his wisdom, he decided he would defeat the one who refused to worship him by those who had worshipped him by choice.

That is why your worship is so important. That’s why there is always a battle for your worship because Satan knows your worship was designed to destroy him. Those made in the image and likeness of God, who would choose to worship by choice were the ones who were giving the keys to this earth, the authority to rule and reign and defeat the works of darkness. Subdue, literally take over the world, expand the boundaries of Eden. Okay? But you know what happens, when Satan comes in to the garden as a snake and he comes to tempt Adam and Eve. The only thing God told them they couldn’t do is eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were supposed to worship him through their obedience.

And so God says, “I don’t want you to eat from that one tree.” And Satan comes one day and he tempts them and he says, “Hey, the reason God doesn’t want you to eat from that tree it’s because he knows if you eat it, you’ll be like him.” And so he tempts them to pursue in the world what they already have in God. This is the Garden of Eden, this is the perfection of creation, there’s no sin, they were made in the image and likeness of God. They’re more like God than they will ever be. And yet, they tried to get through effort, what they have already received by grace and then that’s how we spend our lives. What we try to perform and get through performance what we have already received by grace.

And so you know the story, they reached out and they take a hold of the forbidden fruit, they eat it and in that moment, they gave all of their authority over this earth, they gave it to Satan. And he said why? It wasn’t because they disobeyed God, it was because they obeyed Satan. Romans 6:16 says, “You are slaves to whomever you obey.” They gave Satan authority, not because they disobeyed God but because they obeyed Satan and you become a slave to whomever you obey.
And in that moment, when they gave him the authority, sickness, disease, death and destruction entered into this world. And from that point up until today, the world has been winding down. The world is in a continual process where it’s literally crumbling. That’s why when you sit there and think, man, it feels like the world is getting so much worse, it’s because it is. It’s winding down. Think about it. Generation after generation, consequence after consequence, the compounding exponential impact of sin, all of those years, the world is literally coming apart at its seams.

In fact, this is why Jesus even in Matthew 24, he says, “Because of the increase of wickedness — it flat out says, sin is growing, the world is crumbling, the love of most will grow cold. But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.” The corrupting influence of sin is literally winding the world down, exponential impact of it. But while the world is winding, the Kingdom of God is winding up. While the world is crumbling, the Kingdom is coming.

That’s why Jesus in Luke 16 says, “The Law and Prophets were proclaimed until John the Baptist, but since that time, the good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forcing his way into it.” In other words, he says, “Yeah, the world is winding down, but good news, the Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing its way forward. You see, when Jesus showed up on this earth, he brought the Kingdom of God. He came to do for you what you could never do for yourself. That’s why he declares, I finished the work you have given me to do.

He hangs on the cross, he said, “It is finished.” He took our sin, our pain, our punishment. He died on our behalf was buried in the grave. The Bible says, he went to hell, so you don’t have to. And He got the keys back from Satan, because he perfectly obeyed God. And in Matthew 28, the resurrected Jesus looks at the disciples and He says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given under me.” Catch it. If Jesus has all authority, then Satan has none. He has all authority and the disciples, they would have known that Jesus had authority in heaven, but they would have been shocked and now they — and he said, “I have all authority on this earth. Well, what does that mean? It means Jesus got the keys back from Satan. He redeemed our purpose. He renewed who we were created to be. Got our authority back and he’s giving it to the disciples and this is all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. Catch this, Jesus is about to go to heaven and he doesn’t sit there and say, “Oh, I need to take my 11 disciples with me and let’s go to heaven.” No, he sends them into the world.

He didn’t take them into heaven, he sends them into the world with the keys of kingdom with the authority he got back for them. Why? Because he wants them to disciple nations. We’re not just called to disciple individuals, we’re literally called to disciple or influence nations. We’re called to take the rule and reign of God within us and release it into the world around us. But we’ve lost sight of our mission. And whenever you lose sight of your mission, you will lose sight of hope. And that’s why so many Christians are so hopeless in this chapter of history is because, they’ve lost sight of their mission so they have no hope. Okay, let me just say this to you, yes the battle is real, but spoiler alert, we win because He won. It’s already over. Matthew 16, Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give you, the people of God, the keys to the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth, will be loose in heaven. You have authority.” He says, “I will build my church, Kingdom of God winding up, gates of hell, the world, winding down. Gates are a defensive mechanism.”

I mean, have you ever tried to attack anybody with a gate? It’s ridiculous. You go in a city, you close the gate and you hold on, because, you know the advancing army is so powerful, you’re terrified by them. So that means, hell is on the defense, the Kingdom of God is on the offense. So no matter how dark it may be, you can know that Satan only has the authority to bark, not bite. Or I should say in this series, he only has the authority to roar, not bite, okay? When you know how the story ends, you don’t have to be afraid of a bad chapter. First John 4:4, “Greater is he that is in the world — or he that is in me than he that is in the world.” We have already won, we have victory in Jesus and you have to understand the big picture story to understand the chapter that you’re currently in. Makes sense to you?

Okay. That was all free, that was set up for where we’re going. Now, if you got your Bible, Daniel chapter 1. Throw me to Daniel chapter 1, because you need to understand the context or the rest of it doesn’t make sense. Daniel chapter 1, what I’m going to look at with Daniel is, I think this is probably the best example of what it looks like to live a godly life, a belief in the Kingdom of God in the midst of an ungodly world. In Daniel chapter 1, starting in verse 1, here’s what it says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, those are the people of God, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, that would be a picture of like the epicenter of the world in darkness, came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 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 and put in the treasure house of his God. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility. 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.”

Now, catch this. “He wants to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 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 entered into the king’s service. Among these, were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names. To Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. For Veggietales fans, in other words, Rack, Shack and Benny. Okay. Now, that’s our story. You guys laugh with the funniest thing sometimes for me. I just — so you know, there’s things I think you’re going to roar at, you just look at me and things I think aren’t funny and you crack up. That’s our story. It feels like one day, we just woke up and we looked around to realize we’re living in an ungodly world.

Like, how did we get here and how did this happen? You see, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the picture of the world came in and he destroyed Jerusalem. He destroyed the temple and he took all the treasures of the temple where the people met and worship God, the people of God. And, oh by the way, he didn’t just take the treasures. He actually took the best and brightest of the people and he took them back to Babylon and so one day, these guys, they just wake up and they’re living in the epicenter of an ungodly world. And you have to understand, Babylon was a horrible place. It’s evil. It was full of immorality and idolatry, the sacrifice of innocent life, ruled by this crazy evil king named Nebuchadnezzar. And what’s fascinating is what you start to understand when you study world history is that if you really want to conquer a culture, you have to indoctrinate them with your belief system. If you really want to conquer any culture, it’s not enough to just say we’ve claimed your land because if you don’t indoctrinate them with your belief system, with your way of life, eventually, they’ll rise up and throw you off.

So, if you can indoctrinate them with who you are, you’ve completely conquered that culture and you’ve made them one of you. And so, Nebuchadnezzar, as evil as he is, he’s an incredibly smart guy and so is Satan, whom the Bible calls the god of this age. And there’s four things that we see Nebuchadnezzar, same trick Satan wants to use on us today that they literally tried to use to indoctrinate these guys into their way of life. Babylon wants to make you a Babylonian. The world wants to make you part of its world system, so we need to be aware of how the world is attacking us. Are you with me on that? Okay.

So, four things the world tries to do to make you part of this world system. First thing is this, it wants to change our thinking. The world wants to change our thinking, verse 4, it says, “He was to teach them the language and the literature of the Babylonians.” So, catch this. They’re brought into Babylon, they’re literally living in the palace structure and here they are and they’re supposed to be taught the language and the literature of the Babylonians.

If you study any world history, you’ll discover that if you want to erase a nation, all you have to do is erase its language and its literature. If you literally want to erase a people group off the face of the earth, erase its language, the way it speaks, and erase its literature because its literature is its history, its story of who they are as a people and what they believe. And so the Babylonians are trying to erase the language, the Hebrew language of the Israelites and they’re trying to erase their literature, their history, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that tell them who they are and who their god is. That’s what the world is trying to do to us. The world wants to take our language and they want to take our history. They want to take the way that we speak and they want to take our history, our story with God. This is not a book of rules and regulations, this is a story of an amazing God who loves His people and has come to redeem them and the world wants to take away our history of who we are and who He is by changing the way we think.

Maybe the least polarizing grenade I can pull the pin out and throw on the table for us to talk about here for a moment is this, is just evolution. Just think about evolution for a moment. Years ago when it first got introduced as an idea, it was considered ridiculous. It was a demonic idea, like are you serious, bro? You think we came from a big bang and then we were an amoeba and then we grew out of monkeys? Like it was ridiculous, no one believed it, it was silly. Okay, but generation to generation, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, here we are, we woke up one day and all of a sudden, it’s considered scientific fact and it’s what the world completely and wholeheartedly believes. And you’d be amazed at how many followers of Jesus believe it. And what do they do? They took our language and our history, they took what we speak and what we believe and all of a sudden, we’re not telling the story of creation being made in the image and likeness of God, we’re walking around believing we came from amoebas and monkeys.

I mean listen to me, if you think you came from a monkey, no wonder we don’t value human life, no wonder it’s not a big deal. If we came from a monkey, we may as well eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow, we die, Paul says. That’s what’s happened. They’ve taken our language and they’ve taken our history and that’s what they want to do in every area of life. So you literally think of your own grenade than you can pull the pin out and throw it on the table of sensitive issues today, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, and all of a sudden, you take away people’s language and you take away people’s history, you take the whole thing. Think about it. If we start to believe we came from monkeys, you just stole our identity which means you just took our purpose. You can completely erase us if you change our history and make us believe something else, so think of the next generation. There’s a whole generation of kids growing up, that are good kids growing up in great churches like this, kids in our church, and they believe things that would shock you, that are completely counter to the word of God. Why?

Because the world has taken their language and their history. And they don’t know it anymore, so they don’t know who they are, so they start to become like Babylon. Think of what Nebuchadnezzar’s doing. He’s trying to take the best and brightest, bring them into his kingdom, indoctrinate them, culturize them and then send them out to accomplish his agenda and build his kingdom. Satan wants to take the best and brightest students in this church, bring them into his kingdom, culturize them and then send them out to accomplish his agenda and build his kingdom. I mean just think about it. Music, media, movies, they’re all tools to change the way we think. What used to be super offensive is now celebrated. I mean just think of the music and this isn’t to convict you, it’s just to kind of put it out there. Like think about when you’re driving down the road and you’re just singing like the latest songs on the radio, just think of some of the words you’re saying and speaking over your own life. How about some of the movies we watch? Look at the hidden agendas that are buried within them.

How about the media, the stories they choose to cover and the stories they choose to ignore? You see, what may seem like harmless entertainment is a strategic assault on who we are as the people of God. That’s why Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The world wants to conform you. It’s put so much pressure on you, it wants to shape you into its mold and make you think like and live like them but the Bible says be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Change the way you think; it’ll change the way you live. Right thinking leads to right living, wrong thinking always leads to wrong living. So at the end of the day, whoever you agree with, you align with and whoever you’re aligned with, you’ve given them authority in your life.

So if you agree with Satan, you’ve aligned with Satan and you’ve given him authority in your life, Satan is only empowered through human agreement. If Jesus has all authority, Satan has none, you say, “Then how does Satan get authority?” When we choose to give it back to him by agreeing with his thoughts instead of God’s thoughts.

And I know some of you here are like, “Bro, I don’t think demonic thoughts, I just — I agree more with the world.” Okay, listen, you remember when Jesus was going to the cross and Peter tries to stop him from going to the cross? He says, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of man.” Peter wasn’t Satan and he wasn’t filled with Satan, he was just thinking worldly thoughts like, “Jesus, I don’t want you to die.” Which, as a friend, that’s probably a good thought.

Okay, but what Jesus is saying is worldly thinking is agreement with darkness. We cannot allow the thoughts of this world to wash over our mind, we need the thoughts of the kingdom. So our response to the world trying to change our thinking is we have to meditate on the word of God. Psalm 1:19, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” I’m thinking so much about what you have said, who we are as a people and our history that I will not sin.
Sin doesn’t mean to do bad things, it means to miss your mark, to miss the created purpose for which you were designed. You see, we’re not called to have the mind of the world, we’re called to have the mind of Christ. And it doesn’t matter, hear me. It doesn’t matter if we know our language and our history, it matters if you know our language and our history. Jesus defeated Satan when he tempted him by saying, “It is written.” But you can’t say it is written if you don’t know what it says, okay? So the world wants to change our thinking, that’s the first assault.

Second thing is this, they want to change our tastes. Want to change our tastes. Look at verse 5, “The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.” At first you might think, “Hey, this Nebuchadnezzar guy, he’s not so bad. He wants to feed them from the king’s table, this is about as strategic as strategic gets. These are the Israelites; they have a kosher diet. Part of the law of God is is that they can’t eat certain foods, they need to eat clean foods to show themselves different from the unclean people of the world.

And so what the king’s trying to do is to give them a taste for the darkness of Babylon. He’s trying to give them a taste for the way of their life. And isn’t that what the world wants to do to you? Give you a taste for the pleasures of sin? Because the truth is, is that at the end of the day, whatever you feast on you’ll crave. If you feast on righteousness and holiness, you’ll crave it. If you feast on the things of this world, you’ll crave it. And so the world wants you to give you a taste for the ways of darkness and let’s call it what it is, sin is pleasurable. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a temptation. I don’t know about you; I am not tempted to eat Brussels sprouts.

I am tempted to eat chocolate cake, okay? Sin is pleasurable but it leads to death. I mean listen, flat out Hebrews 11 says, “Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Bible even says it’s pleasurable, but it’ll destroy you. That’s why James 1 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me,’ for God can’t be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one when he is tempted by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed, then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” In other words, whatever you’re feasting on, you’ll crave. If you feast on the things of the world, you’ll crave it and it’ll ultimately destroy you. Okay, but we’re the people of God. We’re not called to have a desire or a taste for the things of this world, we’re called to have a taste for the presence of God. That’s why Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that our God is good.” Psalm 16:11, “In His presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 23:5, the passage about the good shepherd, in the presence of my — “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” In other words, even when I am living in an ungodly world, God you still show up and you will feed me the best things.

Whatever the good shepherd offers you in the valley of shadow of death is better than what the king of darkness offers you in his palace. Because the valley of death is always leading you to green pastures but the palace of darkness will ultimately become a prison. And so our response is to feast on the bread of life and drink from the springs of water. John 6, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry, he who drinks from me will never go — or believes in me will never be thirsty.” We need to be Jesus-focused people and let him be the desire of our tastes. Are you with me on that?

Okay. Two more, third one is this. They want to train us in the ways of darkness. Look at verse 5 again, they took away their language and their literature, they gave them the food and then they were to be trained for three years and after that enter the king’s service. So they literally want to take these Israelites who knew the ways of God and they want to train them in the ways of Babylon. They want to train them in the ways of darkness, to literally start living the Babylonian way of life, to get rid of the law of God in exchange for the rules of man. To start to believe that the ways of the world are better than the ways of God.

Isn’t that what the world is doing to us? You understand everywhere you go, every single day, the world is training you in the ways of darkness. It’s trying to get you to believe that its worldly system is better than God’s system, and so you need to jump in, and play by the world’s rules, called, lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, using other people to get ahead, because that’s how the world system functions.

That’s why in John 10, Jesus says, hey, just so you know the foundation of the kingdom of darkness is stealing, killing, and destroying. But Romans 14 says, the foundation of the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Totally different. Isaiah 55, God say, my ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts are higher than your thoughts in other words, even though you don’t understand that my ways are way up here, and they’re superior, heavenly wisdom will not always make sense in earthly circumstances, but it will always lead you to life.

That’s why 1 Timothy 4, Paul says to Timothy, “Timothy, I’ve nothing to do with godless myths, and old wives tales,” I’ve nothing to do with the ways of the world, rather train yourself to be godly, to live God’s way. And so our response to that, has to be, to embrace our spiritual training. Okay, listen to me. If we are going to thrive in Babylon, we have got to change our view of church. It’s probably the most important thing I’ve said so far in the message, and I’m glad I don’t like that one, well good.
We have got to change our view of all these. Church is not a resort where you are entertained. It is an equipping center where you are trained in the ways of God, and there is a dramatic difference between those two things. This isn’t a resort. I’m not trying to entertain you. Every time you walk in these doors, are you engaged with any of our people? We’re trying to train you in the ways of God. And we’re a whole lot more like cross fit than we are like LA Fitness. Okay? Let me explain this to you.

If you go to LA Fitness, you got a lifetime, and you watch new people walk in, they walk in, there’s like a bazillion machines, and they don’t know what to do, and so they walk in and they walk over to a machine, and it’s like a leg curl, but they’re to do arm curls on it, you know? Or they’re trying to do squats on a shoulder press, it’s like, bro, that’s not what it’s for.

And not only is it ineffective, it’s actually dangerous. You can get hurt. Okay, can I just tell you? What’s probably a realistic picture of the average American church. People walk in the door, and it’s full of a bazillion programs, and the whole point is, just pick whichever one you want to do. And so people started doing arm curls on the leg thing, and they’re going to get hurt. And just like a person in the gym that doesn’t know what they’re doing, the person in church with all these programs, will do so much activity that they think they’re making growth, they think they’re making movement, but it will just be wasted energy and effort.

And so we don’t want to have a bazillion programs, we want to be like cross fit, where we have a work out, and a circuit, and we all do it together, and you can jump in at any point in time, wherever your fitness level is, that same circuit or that workout for that day applies to everyone, we’re going to tailor it and shape it, to fit you. So we’re a whole lot more like cross fit, which means, sometimes you’re going to come here and we’re going to push you, we’re going to pull you, and you’re going to leave sore, sometimes, let’s just call it what it is, but we’re going to coach you and we’re going to do it together as a community, and everyone has a part to play when they jump in. We only want to do a few things and do it well.

My hope is that, you’re getting the circuit, that you’ll come to weekend services, you go to the pathway classes, you’ll get in a group, you’ll join the team, you’ll go the freedom gathering which we have one next weekend, you’ll then go to leader step, which is our new way of training leaders, and then we’ll teach you how to live a lifestyle of next steps hearing the voice of God, that’s like all we want to do.

You’re like, well, that’s not fun. No, that’s the best. Because it doesn’t matter where your fitness level is, that applies to every single person in different gradients and depth, you might be able to lift 20 pounds, you might be able to lift 200 pounds, it doesn’t matter, we’re doing it together. And so what you have to understand is that church in today’s day and age, this is not an optional experience, it’s a necessary gathering, this is the only place in your life where you are being equipped with a renewed mind and healthy heart and skillful hands.

I mean there’s a whole bunch of data right now on American church, and the data says that the average engaged, okay, this is engaged, this isn’t for each person — the average engaged church person, goes two to three times a month. So I want you to think about this with me for a second, okay. This is not just Valley Creek, I mean this is everywhere, average engaged person, two to three times a month, so let’s give it 35 times in a year, okay. 35 times, and that average engaged person isn’t in a group, on a serving team, they don’t go to any other events or trainings, so you have 35 times a year.

Now, let’s just call life what life is, five of those times, it was probably pouring rain that morning, your kids are out of sorts, and when you got here, you got here late, and your like hair was on fire, kind of thing, you know, so take five out.

Another five, let’s say, something’s going on in your life, you’re depressed, you’re discouraged, you’re defeated, you’re distracted, you’re not really engaged, or listening. So let’s say 25, okay, so 25 times in a year, and this is only one-hour service, so 25 hours, in an entire year to be trained in the ways of God, versus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, of the world training you in the ways of darkness. And we wonder why the world is confusing, and we wonder where morality went, and we wonder why we don’t understand. I mean, what are you going to do with 25 hours when every day, every hour of every day the world is shaping you into its system?

I am convinced a whole lot of us wake up and look at the world around us and we’re stressed because we know it’s wrong but we no longer know what is right because we don’t know what the ways of God are. So we want to train you in the ways of God, not just in the ways of darkness, the way the world is. Are you with me on that? Okay?

And the last thing is this, the world wants to change our identity. Literally want to change our identity. Look at verse 6 and 7, this is terrifying. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah, Shadrach, to Mishael, Meshach and to Azariah, Abednego. Do you understand your name is a representation of your identity? So if I changed your name, I can change your identity and if I can change your identity, I just changed your purpose. If I can change your name and steal your identity, I just stole your purpose because who you are determines what you do. You do who you are.

And so the world has waged this assault on our identity to change our names, take our identity because he can take our purpose. So they take these Israelites who have names that represent Yahweh and the goodness of their God and they give them names that are all symbolic to the demonic gods that Babylon worships.

Daniel — catch this, Daniel’s name literally translate, it means, God is my judge and they gave him the name Belteshazzar. Bel is one of the leading demonic gods in Babylon and it literally means Bel’s prints. So they changed Daniel’s name from Yahweh is my judge to I’m Bel’s prints. It will be like changing your name from Christian to Satan’s son. And that’s what the world is doing. It’s defining you by where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what you look like, what you have, what you’ve achieved, where you failed and the question I would ask you is how is the world tried to change your name? Maybe it’s from those rogue comments someone made about you when you were a kid.
Maybe it’s the shame of yesterday or the brokenness of the past or your inability to measure up to those around you. The world wants to steal from — look at people’s eyes, they are hopeless because they don’t know who they are. But once God tells you who you are, the world can’t tell you who you’re not.

So at 1 Peter 2:9 says, this is talking about you, “You are a chosen person, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare his praises who called you out of darkness into life.” Our response to the world changing our identity is to literally by faith, believe that we are who he says we are regardless of how we feel. His truth is superior to my feelings. It’s no longer about what I do, it’s about what Jesus has done. That makes sense to you?

So that’s where we find Daniel. We find Daniel within a complete assault to erase him as a nation and a people group to literally transform him and use him as an instrument or a tool of darkness. And let’s be honest, that’s where we found ourselves. And so how do we respond to that? Well, trying to pull all this together for you real quick, there’s four ways we respond, these are four birds. This is really dorky, really simple but you’re going to remember it. This is how most of us in this room we respond. Some of us respond like ostriches. We just bury our head in the sand.

We just want to pretend it’s not happening. La, la, la, la, la, you know, like ignorance is bliss. As long as I can like numb myself on Netflix, Jesus return, return, return, I’m just going to pretend it’s not happening. Okay? You know what I’m talking about? Okay. That’s not healthy. So some of us are ostriches, some of us are roadrunners. We see what’s happening around us but we just want to outrun it. We want to fill our life with so much stuff that we run so fast that we don’t have to deal with it. One more activity and kid’s sports practice and game and work trip and commitment. I’m just going to pack my life so full and as long I can get to the end of my time on this earth with my few kids or my spouse or whatever it is and we’re okay, then you know what?

I’m going to heaven and the next generation can figure it out. We want to kick the can down the road which is absolutely unacceptable. It is unacceptable for any generation to hand in death to those coming after them. They are called to handle life. That is why there is such outrage over the national debt because we are literally handing the next generation death. Saying, “Oh by the way, stand on our shoulders.” I can’t stand on your shoulders if you’re handing me death in our life.
That’s why God says, “Hey, I will punish the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. But to those who love me, I will –” I can’t remember what I’ll say. “To those who love, I will show compassion for the — for a — thank you, Jason — for a thousand generations.” Okay? So we can’t be roadrunners. The third group of people is we respond like roosters. Okay. We respond like roosters. We strut and we cluck and we crow and we cock-a-doodle-doo.

And you’ve probably de-friended some of these people on Facebook over the last — a little bit because they use bible verses like weapons. And if you’re not laughing, you might be the person that’s been de-friended on Facebook because it’s really hard to find an example in the bible where Jesus was walking around cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. Okay?

Or we can respond like eagles. Eagles, Isiah 40, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” In other words, we can get above the fray, we can get out of the junk, out of the fray, out of the garbage that the world system and tries to make us engage like the world system. We can get up here. We can have a 30,000-foot perspective on what’s happening. Look from heaven to earth instead of earth to heaven and have God’s perspective on how to respond to the world around us. It’s a totally different way.

We need his wisdom on what to do. And so, the question I would ask you is this, if you’re just honest, which of those are you most like? You see, what I love about Daniel is, Daniel was an eagle. Just catch this. You can read this on your own but here’s what happens, they put all the food. The simple food in front of him and Daniel, he doesn’t respond by saying, “Oh, no, no, no, no. We can’t eat that stuff. I mean, that’s heathen food, that’s sinful, this is wrong. None of you should be eating any of that.” Okay, he doesn’t do the obnoxious Christian thing. Come on. Again, if you’re not laughing —

He pulls the servant over to the side and he says, “Hey, I don’t want to embarrass you, I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but you know what? We can’t eat that food. We can’t eat that food, so how about this, what if you give us a test? For the next 10 days, feed us our food and at the end of those 10 days, compare us to everyone who’s eating that food and you’ll see that we’re going to be stronger and we’re going to be even healthier.

There is always a right way to stand up to the wrong thing. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. And so, what does he do? They gave him a test. Let me pull this together. They gave him a test, verse 15, “At the end of the 10 days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 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. At the end of time set by the king, the three years to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.

The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. So, they entered the king’s service and every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them 10 times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. You want to know how to have a mission strategy in a godless world? Right there.
Walk out the ways of God. Wholeheartedly, mind, soul, body and strength, walk out the ways of God and you will be 10 times better than the world around you and they will come to you and say, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what your God is, but I know this, you are 10 times better than everyone else around you. I need your wisdom in my life.” It’s Daniel. He didn’t become like Babylon, he lived the Godly life in Babylon.

And, oh, by the way, for the next 70 years, he becomes the personal confidant source of wisdom to four ungodly kings and they asked him to tell them wisdom from his god on what they should do. Disciple nations. We are called to disciple nations. And so, the question you have to ask is, how did Daniel do that? That’s what we’ll talk about next week.

Here’s what I’ll leave you with. 2nd Corinthians 4, I told you, this is as far as we can get, “We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted but abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death, the finished work of Jesus so that the life, the resurrection life of Jesus may be revealed in our body to the world around us.” Daniel never lost sight of hope because he never lost sight of his mission.
And no matter how dark you may feel like it is today, no matter how many lions there are around you, you never have to be afraid because you walk with the one who tames the lions. So, Jesus, we thank you that you are the great lion tamer. We thank you that no matter how dark, how bad, how scary it may seem, you are the one who’s in control and so, we choose today to understand the chapter of our time in history. We choose to acknowledge that Satan wants to conform us to this world. But we have been transformed by the finished work of Jesus.

And so, we do not run, we do not hide. We do not leave afraid or scared. We walk with faith, hope and love. And so, Lord, I pray to you to expose the lies of the enemy in our lives as individuals, show us where we’ve changed our thinking, where we’ve changed our taste, where we’re trained in darkness or where we’ve changed our identity away from your ways. And give us courage and strength to respond to you in this season.

You are the good God whom we follow. And so, Lord, I just pray today that everyone that leaves this week, we would rise and soar on wings of eagles that we would have 30,000-foot view of every bit of stress and chaos and brokenness and pain around us, that we would bring heaven to earth. In your name we pray, amen.

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