“RESIST” – PART 2
…IN A NUTSHELL…
We live in a Godless (notice the capital G) society. It is so easy to criticise from the “comfort of our armchairs” and do nothing about the degeneration of our nation. Instead, let us:
- Rejoice in what is good in our nation
- Resist what is wrong
- Reaffirm what is good
- Refuse to allow the “world’s ways” to come into the Church
- Recognise where the “world’s way” is deceiving us into compromise
- Rebuild our spiritual lives and the life of the church
Well…there we go…I sit down now and rest my case! This is what we should do to “RESIST” ….now let us break this down and see what it actually means in practice…
RESIST THE DEMANDS OF THE WORLD TO CONFORM
When the devil, our enemy, can no longer subtly deceive us, he will set out to directly destroy us. When the Church refuses to compromise with the philosophy of the world, then the world will demand that we conform to their philosophy. We must resist the temptation to comply. Yet, when we do resist the world’s demands we must expect the world to put us “through the fire” of persecution.
Let us learn the lesson of “The Hebrew 4” because the experience of 3 of them was exactly that…
“THE HEBREW 4” RESIST THE DEMANDS OF BABYLON
Daniel 3 –
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, 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, advisors, 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.
4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, ‘Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 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. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’
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 worshipped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘May the king live for ever! 10 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, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 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.’
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?’
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude towards them changed. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisors, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’
They replied, ‘Certainly, Your Majesty.’
25 He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisors crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Let us look at how the experiences of “The Hebrew 4” can help us resist the demands of the world in which we live to conform to their ways:
- The World always has its images that it demands we worship…
Nebuchadnezzar made this whopping great image of gold and said that all had to bow down and worship it.
Make no mistake – behind every worldly man of power lies the Prince of this World – the devil. And an image is any way in which the devil manifests himself in the world. Where can we begin with what this “image that must be worshipped” will look like?
- It might be a philosophy or world view – such as communism or fascism, socialism or communism.
- Or it might be a world leader – a prime minister, a president, a monarch
- Or it might be an idealised object of desire – a woman, a pop star, a football player, a film icon
- Or another religion – in many Islamic countries the people are commanded that they must worship Allah alone and that any worship of YHWH is punishable by death – this is the case in much of the world of the Persecuted Church. Or it might be postmodernism – and a view that “all religions are equally valid”.
- Or a teaching – such as “Evolution is true” and we demand that our children all learn this.
- Or a lifestyle – such as homosexual love is equally valid as heterosexual love. And the demand on us is that we accept this, embrace this, and even practice this.
- The World backs up its demands with authority
Nebuchadnezzar had all the secular powers on his side over his demand that all worship the great image of gold – the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials (verse 2). These were the “top honchoes” – the rulers, the intellectuals, the powerful and the influential. Who would dare stand up to these?
And in our world, the demands of society that we conform to what they believe and what we are told to practice, are backed up by the powers and authorities of our age – the politicians, the ruling classes, the academics and the intellectuals, the thinkers and the “movers and shakers”. Who would dare stand up to these? It’s hard to say “no” when the rich, powerful, influential and intelligencia say that something is “right” that we know to be “wrong”.
- The world backs up its demands with threats
The herald of Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed: “this is what you are COMMANDED to do” (verse 4)
Nebuchadnezzar declared: “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (verse 6). The full force of the law – a world-constructed law – would fall on those who refused to obey his demands.
We are living in a society now where the law of the land is threatening arrest and prosecution if we refuse to acquiesce to the world’s way of living.
And this is a hard one…we are called to obey the law of the land (such as the rule that churches must close in the first Lockdown)…but what about when the law is ridiculous (such as the regulation that if you are “double-jabbed” you can continue to go to work if you live in the house of someone who has Covid-19 and you test negative for Coronavirus, but if you have not been vaccinated then you have to isolate for 10 days – even if you test negative every day! This is ludicrous! You are either negative or positive in your test – your vaccination status has no bearing on it at all). Well…we are STILL called to obey the law.
But what if the law of the land is against the Law of God (as was the case with the command of Nebuchadnezzar)…well, then the Law of God is a “higher Law” – and we must obey this rather than the lower law of man – in this case we MUST RESIST!
- The world will be accusing God’s people
In the society of “The Hebrew 4” were those who were jealous of them, who hated their religion, who hated their power, who were looking for an opportunity to accuse them and see them destroyed. In this situation there were “some astrologers” (verse 8) who sought trouble for them.
In our time and our society there are those who are desperate to malign the Church, to attack the Church, to accuse the Church, to destroy the Church: there are those of the Humanist persuasion, LGBTQI+ activists and others who seek to find any opportunity to say that Christians are breaking the law of the land. It may be hard, it may be “scary”, but the challenge for me and for you is to RESIST these threats of the world – in any way possible – sometimes by just being quiet and continuing to do what is good; sometimes by “putting our heads over the parapet” and declaring that we will not do what society is demanding that we do when we know it is wrong.
- Resistance to conforming will lead to persecution
You don’t get more persecuted than the three Hebrews who refused to bow down to the image of gold! Nebuchadnezzar was angry with them, and he ordered them to be thrown into the fiery furnace.
What examples we have today – even in our own “tolerant” society – of the persecution of those who resist what they see to be wrong?
This week, about 2500 church leaders from all over the country have presented a petition to 10 Downing Street where they ask the Government to change the proposed “Conversion Therapy” laws. They point out that they are firmly against the abuses of “therapy” forced upon some people who are confused by their sexuality (and that these are already illegal) but that they cannot accept the proposal that “Conversion” techniques of praying, counselling, preaching etc should be made illegal. They declare that “conversion” is a primary aim of the Church – the call to people to repent and live in the way that Jesus calls us to live – and they state they are willing to go to prison rather than accept a law that would make such normal church practices illegal. Current proposals would mean that potentially a pastor or youth leader, teaching under 18s the Biblical understanding of love, marriage and relationships, would be seen as illegal. If this bill passes without amendment, then sermons on 1 Corinthians 7 would become illegal!
- Will you accept the challenge of “The Hebrew 4”?
I don’t like conflict – some people do…I don’t! I don’t like the idea of being persecuted in any shape or form. I want God to save me and deliver me and give me the “victory” in any situation. Maybe He will…but maybe He won’t deliver me from my “fiery furnace”.
The attitude of the three young men, cast into the fire for resisting what they knew was wrong was:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (verses 17-18)
I hope that this might be my attitude – that I am willing to suffer loss, even to die, for my commitment to resist the demands of the world when they go against the Law of God. May each of us be strengthened to have this attitude.
Here we have a news report dated 8th Jan 22 by “The Marriage Coalition”. Why have I added it here? Because the family (Daniel and Amy McArthur) stood their ground and resisted what was wrong – and they have been vindicated – and the key part is underlined – that we cannot be compelled to express things we disagree with. This is resisting the demands of a Godless society to accept their ways – sometimes we have to take a stand and say “no”– here the Ashers were thrown into the fiery furnace but were saved from it.
Good news – the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against an activist who took Ashers bakery to court for refusing to bake him a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.
The activist, Gareth Lee, said he had been discriminated against on grounds of his sexual orientation and political beliefs and started legal action in 2014. Ashers said the slogan was contrary to their Christian belief in real marriage and argued they may not be compelled to express something with which they disagree.
Mr Lee won his original case and the subsequent appeal in the UK courts, but in 2018 the UK Supreme Court overturned those rulings and found in favour of the bakery.
Mr Lee then took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, but in their ruling this week the judges said the case was inadmissible because Mr Lee had not “at any point in the domestic proceedings” made his argument by invoking his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. This meant he had “failed to exhaust domestic remedies”, making the application inadmissible.
Mr Lee said his case had been dismissed on a “technicality”, but in fact the judges hinted the case would also fail on its merits, writing in their ruling that “it is not self-evident that the facts of the present case – in which the applicant complains only about the judgment of the Supreme Court – fall within the ambit of Article 8, 9 or 10 of the Convention”.
The outcome has been welcomed by many observers – including Christian organisation the Evangelical Alliance and LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell – for confirming that compelled speech is contrary to a person’s human rights.
This is not always the outcome…sometimes we have to suffer because of our decision to stand and resist what is wrong. Sometimes we will “die” in “the fiery furnace”.
But let us decide now that we are no longer going to be weak as a Church – but that we are going to make a stand and RESIST the threats of the world to conform to what we know is wrong.
QUESTIONS TO ASK OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER
- What images does the world demand that we worship?
- What laws do you think are ridiculous? Should we still follow them? What laws do you think are wrong? Should we obey them?