Assimilating Well Without Compromise

Assimilating Into A Culture While Holding Fast To Your Faith.

Ross Sawyers
Nov 8, 2020    55m
How do we navigate a culture that is new to us? We are called to assimilate into the culture where we live and live well there, but we must also be resolute in holding fast to our faith at the same time. This informative message gives us advice on how to make a smooth transition during this time of change in our lives. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: 00:10 I'm glad you were able to hear from our Arnaldo this morning, and he just done an amazing job with our Spanish service. And one of the blessings of COVID is what has happened with our Spanish service, I mean, it's just taken off, and just so excited about what God's doing in the community, yeah, in the community around us and so forth. So Arnaldo is doing a phenomenal job, a phenomenal team of people with him, and we're just grateful for what God's doing in the midst of our church body ,and just love his kindness towards us in that way.

Ross Sawyers: 00:52 So I've got a question for you this morning, how have you done in this election cycle? How is your soul? How are you? How's your spirit? What is happening within you? And what has that been like, quite candidly, for the last few months, not just this week? Where are you finding anchoring? Where are you finding stability? Where are you finding peace?

Ross Sawyers: 01:32 Arnaldo just read from Daniel chapter 2, and one thing that we know for sure about who God is, is that he's the God who removes leaders, and he's the God who places leaders. Nothing happens outside of his sovereign hand and his purposes, our confidence is in God who puts leaders in position all over the country, all over the world, and he will accomplish what he desires to accomplish. In Proverbs, we're told that he channels the hearts of kings. God is the one is ultimately in control. That's not a nice tack on for Christians, it's not a little tagline that we embrace, it's where our hope lies. It's where the truth is, regardless of whether the person that you would prefer is in office or not, locally, statewide, nationally, God is the one in control. Our stability, and our anchoring, is in him.

Ross Sawyers: 02:56 In First Timothy we're told to pray for our leaders, this was written in a time where the Jewish people were under tyrannical rule. It's not just certain times we pray for our leaders, it's all the time, doesn't matter which election cycle, doesn't matter which leaders, we're to pray for leaders. Why? Well, Paul writes Timothy, we pray to our leaders so that we might live tranquil, peaceful lives. So we pray for them, we pray that God will place godly leaders in positions, and that they'll lead in strength, conviction, and towards the ways of God. For those who are not following after God, we pray God will turn their hearts towards himself, that, that might be public displays of his grace, that we just see right before our eyes, and that God would work through those who are actually opposed to him as well.

Ross Sawyers: 04:17 And then we recognize today, in Philippians 3, and I'm speaking to those who are Christians. And I hope if you're not a follower of Jesus, that you would consider Jesus. And I know you may have different ideas of what a Christian is and what a Christian is not, I want you to know Jesus himself is worth following, he thought you were worth dying for. But as a Christian, we have a different identity, our primary identity is who we are in Christ. We live in an age where, for actually one of the first times, people are deriving their identity from within themselves, rather than allowing an outside God to determine who they are. Our primary identity as Christians, is in Christ, we're safe in Christ. Once we know Christ, we're sons and daughters of the King. And in Philippians 3, we're told we're actually citizens of God's kingdom, that's our primary citizenship, is in God's kingdom. We want to get above everything we're in the midst of, and recognize where our true citizenship lies. And while the majority of us will not hold political positions, every person that knows Jesus in the Kingdom of God, a son or daughter of the King, is also an ambassador or representative of the King. What a privilege, that no matter what is rolling in our culture, that that never changes. We're not ambassadors depending on who's in control at a particular time. because God's always in control. We're always ambassadors for Jesus Christ, that's primary, that's ultimate, that's where our hope lies.

Ross Sawyers: 06:51 You recognize today that our enemy is not other people, it's not a politician, our enemy today is Satan himself. Who is an attacker, a deceiver, and a liar, and he'll do everything he can to fragment and divide, to fragment and divide Christians. Masks are one way that he has divided Christians, that's just one, he's a divider. Jesus Christ is a unifier, our unity comes in unifying around Jesus Christ, not unifying around our politics. The primary unity for us is in Jesus, and our citizenship in heaven has to rise above anything else. That's where our strength is, that's where grace is, that's where love is, and that's where hope is.

Ross Sawyers: 08:15 Matthew chapter 5 verse 9, Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Sons and daughters of God are to be peacemakers, peacemakers. So how are we doing in this election cycle? Are we helping to make peace? Are we helping people to see Jesus? Are we unifying around Jesus? Have we been on our knees, praying for the hearts of men, and women, teenagers, boys, and girls for hearts in our nation to turn to God? I don't know if this is fair or not, it's a question. Do we ring our hands, and fret, and get anxious, over the number of people that are lost and far away from Jesus, and not a part of the kingdom of Jesus, as much as we wring our hands, and are anxious, and fretful, and fearful over the election? That's not to dismiss the importance of what's going on in our own country. I simply this morning want us to rise above, to lean into Christ himself, and for the sake of the gospel, that our hearts will be burdened for people far from him, that that would be our deepest burden on this day.

Ross Sawyers: 10:36 Turn your Bibles to Daniel chapter 1 verses 1 through 21. We've been in Jeremiah for the last several weeks, and I believe God wanted me to pivot today to Daniel 1 for this cultural moment in which we find ourselves. I originally had us in Jeremiah 51 and 52 today, and it was about judgment on Babylon, I didn't find that to be the most encouraging scripture for us on this particular day. There are times where God pivots us, and today is one of those pivots. It's not out of context of what we've been talking about over the last several weeks, so thinking about the underground church, and persecuted Christians all over the world. And we've gone to Jeremiah, someone that proclaimed a message of truth to his own people, the people of God, and they rejected it. It wasn't just like people that were not God's people didn't like it, it was God's people didn't like it, they didn't want to hear it either. And yet, Jeremiah is absolutely faithful over time.

Ross Sawyers: 11:50 And then Daniel is a contemporary of Jeremiah, he was in the same timeframe as Jeremiah is a prophet, so we're in the same era. And then if you look in your Bibles in Ezekiel, Ezekiel was also one of the prophets in this season of time as well. All contemporaries, might've known each other, and certainly speaking the same message of leaning people towards God. And Daniel, not only a contemporary of Jeremiah, he spent the bulk of his life in exile, in Babylon. That's where he spent his life, and this is a man who knew how to thrive in the midst of his exile. He knew how to thrive in the midst of Babylon, which would have been a godless culture, a culture that was not interested in the God of Israel, not interested in the God from whom Jesus would come, not interested in that God, they were interested all kinds of gods, anything but God, and wanted to stamp out God. And yet, Daniel managed to thrive in exile, in a culture that was completely opposed to the culture that he was accustomed to.

Ross Sawyers: 13:05 I'd like for us to think about, and I'll make sure I explain, because I said it to someone earlier this morning, and it maybe didn't make as much sense as it did in my head. But I'd like to think about it this way, assimilating well, without compromise. How do we assimilate well into the culture in which God has placed us, without compromise? To assimilate is to absorb the experiences and what's happening in something, so how do we do that without compromise, without compromising God and his story? Daniel gives us some help, we have a culture in which we're increasingly moving away from God. I mentioned last week, regardless of election results, the culture is moving the way it's moving, it's not changing. Chuck Colson said this about government. he said, "Government is always downstream of culture." It's always downstream of culture, it's catching up with where the culture is. And our culture is increasingly turning away from God, and the ways of God, and leaning into themselves for authority.

Ross Sawyers: 14:22 I want to give an overview from verses 1 through 7 in Daniel 1, and then take us from 8 through 21, and I'll hang out primarily in verses 8 through 10. That idea, it'll make sense in a moment. Historically, there were three separate exiles in this period of time, 605 BC, 597 BC and 587 BC, three different waves where Babylon came to Jerusalem and the Southern half of Israel, which is called Judah, and came in there, and three different waves of exiles. In the wave of exiles in 605, that's when Daniel was taken to Babylon, he was taken out of Israel and to Babylon in 605. Along with several other influential youth, we've mentioned before, this was a strategy of regimes, it still is today in our own history, we can look at it. There's an elimination of the influential people in a culture, and then a leaving behind those who are the influenced. And then the other enemy regime comes in, and when they come in, then they're going to influence the influencers towards their culture and their way of life. That's what's occurring here, and Babylon's coming in and they're removing the influential youth. These were all, these were the students. Think about our students today, they were removing all the students to be re-educated and assimilated into Babylonian culture. They were going to be taught a different language, they were going to be taught the Babylonian literature, they are going to be taught the traditions of Babylon, and they were going to learn the religion of Babylon, and all of it was with the goal of obliterating and wiping out their previous identity, their previous faith, their previous culture. Daniel is one of these.

Ross Sawyers: 16:26 They chose good-looking men, intelligent men, discerning men, is the descriptor. They would be educated for three years before they would enter into the King's service, almost equivalent to a university education in our culture. Part of how they were assimilated is they would be given, because these were the influencers, they would be given the king's best food, and the king's best wine, that's important for the way the rest of this story unfolds. And interestingly, their names were changed. Daniel's name means God is my judge. And he had three friends that get mentioned here, that we may know them for those who are familiar, some are not, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But their names, originally their Hebrew names, are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, their names were names that reflected God himself. Daniel, God is my judge. Hananiah, Yahweh is gracious. Mishael, who is what God is. And Azariah, Yahweh is a helper. And the Babylonians changed their names, Daniel became Belteshazzar, and then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that's their Babylonian names. And there was some tie we believe to the Babylonian gods, with the way they were renamed. So you take in teenagers who are the influencers in Israel? Now they're placed into Babylon, they're getting a three year university education in Babylon, their names have been changed, and they're getting all the comforts and all the lavishness of the King's table themselves.

Ross Sawyers: 18:18 I think it's fair to say in our culture that depending on the university we send our students off to, we're sending off students to get a reeducation into a culture that is increasingly opposed to God. We live in a culture today, and we've seen it at breakneck speed in the last several months, where the names of things are continually being changed to give new reality, to make us think differently of it. A good question to ask when you hear something that maybe is a new term, a good question to ask would be, tell me what you mean by that? Engaged dialogues, let’s not just get mad about something, let's engage the dialogue. What do you mean by that term? What are you saying, when you say X, I want to understand what you mean by that.? And then just see where the conversation goes.

Ross Sawyers: 19:25 This is the big picture, it's the environment Daniel and his friends are in, and then they do a remarkable job of assimilating well into that culture, but they managed to do it without compromising their God. Three things that help anchor us to this idea. The first is resolve, I think this is the most crucial, in verses 8 through 10, of what Daniel did. There was a resolve to him, in Daniel chapter 1 verse 8, "But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself." He made up his mind, Daniel made up his mind. he was resolved in his mind of what he was going to do.

Ross Sawyers: 20:19 I've mentioned Martin Luther King Jr. many times since this summer, when we taught a series about race. And I love one thing in his sermons that he wrote, "Is to have a tough mind and a tender heart." Daniel had a tough mind and a tender heart, he made up his mind. As a follower of Jesus it's important that we have resolve, and that we have a tough mind, that our minds are made up, that there's a resolve. This word could also mean we set our hearts upon. So we're just in a heart, in Hebrew that word heart, it included the way we think, the way we feel, and our actions, it included everything. So he made up his mind with all of who he was, he had a resolve of what he would do. And of all the things, I mean, he's about to be reeducated, he had his name changed on him, but the thing he's choosing to not do is to eat the King's choice food and the best wine. Now I don't know about you, but if I read that, I think I would try and reject the other things, and see if I could still get the food. I'm not a wine drinker, a lot of you are, you would have chosen the wine as well. Why would he make that choice? It seems a little odd to me in light of what was happening. There was a place where he drew the line. And with the resolve and a tough mind, we draw a line at some point. Everybody has a line, by the way, it doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what your beliefs are, what your political persuasion is. You have a line, there's a point where you say, yeah, no, I can't go pass out. Everybody has a line, it's just a matter of where is that line, where do you draw that line? Well, there are a number of reasons why, that are suggested, to why Daniel said no to this particular food choice. The one that actually makes the most sense to me is this, to sit at someone's table, to eat the best of their food, and to drink the best of their wine, it communicates a kind of friendship with what you're doing overall. And more than that, it would show a loyalty and a total dependence on the King. He was choosing to draw the line at the spot where he would not be dependent on the King, he would not be dependent on the state, if you will. He wasn't going to allow himself to be dependent to that level, and this is where he drew his line.

Ross Sawyers: 23:25 The goal for the Babylonian was for them to be well fed, to have lavish comfort, so that they would forget their God and that their total dependence would be on the King, that was their goal. Cool things we see about Daniel. He was respectful, he could have just taken a hard line and said, I'm not going to eat the food, I'm not going to drink the wine, I'm not doing it, I don't care what you say. But do you know what, he sought permission from the king's official. He's in their culture, and he's working within the culture. He's respectful, seeking permission. If we expect to be heard, then we ought to be as Christians, the most respectful, winsome, gracious people. Daniel was respectful of authority.

Ross Sawyers: 24:31 Verse 9, "Now God granted Daniel favor." God gave, God gave favor three times, we'll see in 1 through 21, God gave. God actually gave them into Babylon, he actually placed them there, and then God gave Daniel favor in that spot. And we'll see later, another thing that God gave them, he gave them favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. When we're seeking God, walking inside the will of God, respectful of people around us, we're dependent on God's favor. And God gave him favor with that commander, and the one who was in charge. God, places, us, exactly where he wants us to be. I love what somebody said, he said, we really ought just relax, because God puts us where he wants us to be, in the time that he wants us to be there. So wherever we are, we're there as a citizen of God's kingdom, and an ambassador of Jesus Christ. What a privilege that he would trust us, and place us anywhere.

Ross Sawyers: 25:35 In verse 10, "And the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” This is a moment of vulnerability, and it really shows already the level of trust that Daniel had, even though he was different than the culture he was in. Because here's the kings official that's below him, that's telling Daniel, I'm actually afraid of the King. If I do this, I'm going to have my head cut off. I mean, that's a vulnerable position he put himself in. We talked last week about fear of man versus fear of God, it's who what controls us, either people do, or God does. We see here a case of the king's commander, and he's leaning towards fear of man, he's being controlled by what might happen to him. In Daniel, we're seeing a man who has a fear of God, he's just trusting God.

Ross Sawyers: 26:41 So resolve, we've been talking about the underground church, Richard Wurmbrand. There's a reason, by the way, that God has led us in this path of talking about persecuted Christians all over the world. That we might be well-prepared, regardless of anything that goes on within our culture, that we'd be able to have a resolve when there's persecution towards people that are following after Jesus. Richard Wurmbrand was born in Romania in 1909, he died in 2001. In 1945, when communism took, hold he started the underground church in Romania. And he talks about ways to prepare, we're talking about being resolve. And he knew when the communist regime took over in Romania, that that was going to be a whole lot of bad news for those who are followers of Jesus, and so he started the underground church. And he was teaching people to prepare to suffer, to be prepared to have new assignments in prison, to eliminate an emotional attachment to the world and to things of the world. One of the ways he suggests prepping and having that resolve, is to go to grocery store, routinely walk through the store, look at the things you want, and openly say no, and leave the store with nothing, because that's what it might be like someday. He was resolved, he was prepared, he knew what was about to happen, and he was accurate in what was about to happen. He said, as a person of resolve to speak little, and when you do speak, speak with great weight.

Ross Sawyers: 28:32 And then he suggested that we memorize a Bible like nothing else. I mentioned last week that we're starting on this coming Wednesday, November 11th, a 44 day memorization plan of scripture. And I think we have a slide, if you're interested, we have suggestions on how to memorize scripture. It may be something that you haven't done before, and so here's some plans and ways to do it. You can certainly do it however you'd like, and then there's three separate plans, one more aggressive, one kind of intermediate, and one a little less aggressive. And there may be ways you want to do it, but could you just imagine and put yourself in the shoes of someone that does not have access to the scripture? And if you knew in 44 days from November 11th, that you would no longer have a Bible, no longer have access to the scripture, wouldn't that create a whole different hunger to hide God's Word, knowing that wherever you are next, the only thing that you would have is what you've memorized and hidden. I hope you'll consider doing that, people all the world are doing that today, they're hiding God's Word at rapid paces because they don't know if they'll be able to have Bibles.

Ross Sawyers: 29:48 This is also when we talk about the eight ways, these ways we think about being a follower of God's commands of loving him and loving neighbor, to abide in him is to hide his word. That's Richard Wurmbrand, there is a much resolve for him. When we look in the scripture itself, Daniel chapter 3, we see Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, their Babylonian names. And there's been an edict now that this big statue has been made of the king, and everybody is to bow down to the king whenever the instruments play. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, their allegiance is to God himself, not to any earthly king, and they're not bowing down to someone else. The king finds out about it because his little cronies come and tattle on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and say that they're not going to bow down. So the King is enraged, Nebuchadnezzar, he comes to these guys and he says, look, I'm going to give you another chance. Can you imagine, can you just see this setup? All right, we're going to do this again. We're going to get all the instruments playing, and then you three guys, you're going to bow down. Here's what they said, these are three of my favorite verses in the Bible, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the King, O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” That's resolve, we're not bowing down to anybody but God himself. I'm going to be respectful to you, you can play the instruments, but we're talking about assimilating well, without compromise. There's a point where it becomes sin to assimilate, and I'm not bowing down to your image. And if God chooses this time to deliver us, because the penalty was killed in a blazing fire, I know God can deliver. I don't know if he will or not, I'm good either way, but I'm going to go down faithful to my God. That's resolve.

Ross Sawyers: 32:24 The ultimate resolve is in Jesus Christ himself, in Luke chapter 9 verse 51, it's a turning point in the gospel. And Jesus said, when the days were approaching for his Ascension, he was determined to go to Jerusalem. That's an easy verse just read over, but what he meant was he was determined to go to Jerusalem where he would lay his life down on cross, and nothing was going to stop him from moving that direction. Out of his deep love for his Father, and for humanity herself, he was willing to voluntarily lay his life down for your sins and mine. Resolved to break the chains of sin, to break the hold of Satan, and to take away the sting of death. He did it, he was resolved, resolved to go to the cross. Do you know, and do you follow, the Jesus who is resolved for your sake and mine to go to that old rugged cross?

Ross Sawyers: 34:00 Daniel, resolved, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, resolved, Jesus, resolved. Richard Wurmbrand, understanding what Jesus did for him, resolved. No question, I'm following Jesus without compromise. I'm going to enjoy the good and beautiful things of the culture of which I'm a part of, up to the point that it's sin against God, and then I stop. I heard Tony Evans say that this summer, I thought it was just the most freeing way for me to think about how do we participate in our culture, our traditions, the languages, all of us have just a multitude of traditions, different ethnicities, there's beautiful things that go on in all of our different cultures, and we can embrace and celebrate and enjoy each of those up to the point that it becomes sin. And to give allegiance to anything other than God is a point, that's where the line drawn, resolved. Increasingly in the days ahead, there are so many issues of which we have to figure out, from God's Word, where will we stand. And it will be on those issues, if we choose to stand where God draws the line, that we will face persecution. Are you resolved on this day to be like Daniel and his friends, to follow hard after Jesus Christ.

Ross Sawyers: 36:17 There's two other pieces to this story, there's resolve. And it's one thing to be resolved, and have the tough mind and the tender heart. It's another thing, this particular test [inaudible] and tested them for 10 days. Daniel, respectful to the authorities, who were not his culture. Now they agree, and he asks us to a 10 day test, we're just going to eat vegetables, that's it, that's all we're going to do, and then let's just see how we look in 10 days compared to everybody else. Now, this is where things get a little unfortunate to me, culturally. So people have capitalized on this idea of Daniel, and came up with a Daniel plan diet, and wrote a book. Not really the point, do whatever diet you want to do, but this is the kind of stuff, the cheese ball stuff like this, that gives us a bad name in the community, quite candidly. That, and New Testamints, you know, just all the little cheesy stuff. You're just thinking really, we're talking about a Savior who died on a cross and rose from the grave, and we're naming mints after the New Testament, it's embarrassing. So diet however you need to diet. It worked for them, but the point of why he did it was not to lean into the lavishness and comfort foods of the King, that was the point. This would show a dependence on God, it was a risk to the commander, he respected Daniel, and so he allowed them to do it.

Ross Sawyers: 38:19 Now, we all get tested, every one of us, most of the time, we're not choosing the test. Daniel is presenting, he said, test us this way. And we do that sometimes, we'll test ourselves in our eating, we'll test ourselves in exercise, but there's things we'll test ourselves. We might test ourselves to the limit of what we can do in our work, different ones of us will push the limits in the way we test ourselves. Most of the time though, we get tested, and are most of the time, tests we probably don't want. We're not usually excited about health-related tests, we're not usually excited about deaths in family and friends, those aren't things we're excited about . We're not excited about complications and conflicts at work, and so forth. We're tested all the time, and how will we respond to our tests, and how deep will our resolve be.

Ross Sawyers: 39:10 Richard Wurmbrand, in 1948, was imprisoned. In Romania, communism took hold, and in one day, one day, all the Catholic bishops, priests, nuns, monks, and then a large number of Protestant pastors, were arrested. One day, a sweep of the country, to obliterate the people who were leading people to God himself. Because communism does not work that way, there's not a God in that system. Wurmbrand had prepared a large number of people, he said, when you're in prison, and he was in prison 14 years, divided by a two year stint. I believe it was like eight and six, with a two year break in between. And he said, when you're in prison, you lose everything, you lose your wife, you lose your children, you lose anything that was pleasant before. Wurmbrand was in solitary confinement for three years, simply for being a follower of Jesus Christ, leading people to follow Jesus. For three years, he was 30 feet underneath the earth, and saw no one. He said, you learn to appreciate silence. When he was not in solitary confinement, they would try to drug him to destroy his mind so that he would forget all of who he was, but part of the way he would deal with this was to mentally compose sermons. He'd write a sermon every night in his mind, to keep his mind sharp. They would try to brainwash them 17 hours a day, you'd have to sit up straight, imagine that, to have to have good posture for 17 hours, and just, they would just repeat, Communism is good, Christianity is dead. Communism is good, Christianity is dead, hours upon hours, day after day after day, tested his resolve, he passed

Ross Sawyers: 41:53 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the furnace was heated up seven times the normal amount, they were thrown into the furnace, the king was outraged at them. It was so hot when they approached the furnace, that the men who were throwing them into the furnace were actually killed by the heat of that furnace. The king somehow has a view of what's going on from a distance, and he looks in, and there's not three men walking in at first, there's four. And he said, I thought there were three in there, I thought we just put in three, who's the fourth? And he goes near the door, which I'm thinking you're not the brightest king in the world, you just saw these men get wiped out for getting too close, but he obviously didn't get that close. And he says he yells their name, and he tells him to come out, and they come out. They had resolved long before that test came, that they would be true to their God, they passed the test.

Ross Sawyers: 42:57 Jesus, determined, resolute, to go to Jerusalem to be crucified and risen. In the garden of Gethsemane, he's tested on that night, before he would die on the cross. His test came in such a way that he asked God, would you remove this cup from me? Would you remove this from me? He said, not my will, your will. He passed the test.

Ross Sawyers: 43:37 The last piece of this resolve, resolve is tested, and there's reward. In 15 through 21, "At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food." So the overseers said they were better than everybody else, that makes for a good diet plan, iIt must work, it worked for these guys. "So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables." So they continued on this plan, they continued on this idea.

Ross Sawyers: 44:10 In verse 17, "As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge." God gave. Remember in verse 2, the Lord gave them over to the Babylonians to be an exile there. Verse nine, God gave Daniel favor. In verse 17, these four youths, Daniel and his friends, these students, "God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams." When I think about so many students that I know today that are bright, intelligent, the best of the best, influencers, they're off at schools, they're in places where they're trying to be influenced in a way against Christ, and yet they're standing firm and resolved. They're learning the culture, they're understanding the culture. It's important that we understand the culture we're in, so we don't get swept up in the culture, when we're [inaudible] on the things that are not of God. And the more we understand the culture, and the more we understand of God, the more we can speak winsomely and graciously into it because we understand what we're saying. We usually get mad about things, and all upset, when we don't have anything to back what we're saying.

Ross Sawyers: 45:14 So it's knowing where we are. And they understood it, God gave them that ability to learn it and know it, to be able to respond to it, and then he even gave him visions and dreams that he would understand. "Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel and his friends, so they entered the king's personal service." These guys rose above, God gave him favor, " As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm." Ten times better, these foreigners that followed after God, "Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the King." That'd be 60 plus years that he would spend an exile in Babylon under several different kings, never compromising. Assimilated well, without compromise.

Ross Sawyers: 46:32 He figured out, as Jeremiah said, how to seek the Shalom, the peace, the good, of the city which he was in. As Christians, we seek the good of the city where we are, the nation where we live. God has called us to be the best citizens, to seek the good of the city, so that we might have peace, we might have shalom, the Hebrew word.

Ross Sawyers: 46:57 Richard Wurmbrand, rewarded. After being released from prison in the early 1960s, he started Voice of the Martyrs, we've leaned a lot on Voice of the Martyrs over the last several weeks. He founded it in 1967, he and his wife together, they traveled the world, he determined that he would help people who were imprisoned Christians all over the world for the rest of his days. He stood before Congress, and he was asked before Congress to take off his shirt and show the wounds and the brand marks on his body from what had done to him in prison, brand marks of Jesus on him. During that space, he was always under the threat of the communist regime, he still wrote numerous books, he was taken out of the country for refuge. One thing he said, he said, hate the evil systems, but love your persecutors, love their souls, and try to win them to Christ. The man who was persecuted, beaten 14 years of his life in prison, three of those in solitary confinement, loved his persecutors, prayed for them, how do you win them to Jesus?

Ross Sawyers: 48:20 Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, they came out of the furnace, reward, no fire effect on them, no singeing or smell on their clothes from being in the fire. And what did Nebuchadnezzar do, he blessed there God. He didn't say, man, you guys are something else. No, he said, their God was something else. How cool would it feel to just look at our lives and say nothing about us, and saying, your God is amazing. It's evident in your life, in the way you're living life.

Ross Sawyers: 48:55 Then he made a decree, this is typical government, you just go to the extremes. One minute, I'm mad as fire at you, I'm throwing you in the fire. The next year I'm making a decree, and his decree was, any people, nation, or tongue is not to speak offensively about their God, or there'll be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be reduced to rubble, there's no other God who can deliver like this. And then verse 30, the king caused them to prosper.

Ross Sawyers: 49:25 Jesus Christ, the cross couldn't keep him, resurrected from the dead, raised. In a weird way, part of his reward are those who are his children. Hebrews 12:2, "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Rewarded. I hope that we're encouraged today, and that we would be a people. And I hope if you're not a follower of Jesus that you consider it, we'd love to have that conversation with you, just to what that what would that really even mean. But to today, as followers of Jesus, that we would be resolved, no compromise, to enjoy the traditions, culture, the languages, enjoy other people's traditions and cultures up to the point of sin, and then we say no. And then with grace, and truth, winsomeness, graciousness, let's respond well. When we're tested, I don't know what that looks like, but when we're tested, let's lean into God himself, so we might pass the test, and be even stronger for the next one, and the harder one after that, and the harder one after that. And I don't know what reward looks like on this earth, I do know what it looks like beyond here. And we're the people that have the greatest joy, the greatest hope, the deepest peace, and the most amazing love, possible in Jesus Christ.

Ross Sawyers: 51:41 Eyes on him today, let's pray. Father, thank you for your goodness towards us, and thank you for your word. God, thank you for people like Daniel and his friends, and I pray that we would take encouragement in that today. Help us in where you've placed us to love you well, to love people well, to love those who are enemies well, to love persecutors well, to love our friends well. Father, will you help us please to keep our eyes on you, to be tethered to you, anchor to you. And God, I pray. You'll lead our conversations, that take us there. And Father, I pray that we just might be mutual encouragers as we move ahead, would you cause current leaders, and future leaders, Father, to be godly men and women. Would you cause those who are not following after your ways, women and men, to be ones who will have a bended knee before you, their hearts would change and move towards you, God. And then we're grateful today that you're sovereign over all, meaning, you're in control over all, and your purposes will be worked out. Your word says, and your promise is, that you will work together for good, those who love you, and those who are called according to your purposes. We know you work all things for good, and we trust you for that God, and pray that we would walk faithfully as you lead, and hold, and keep us. And I pray in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: 53:10 Let's be quiet before the Lord. Just consider anything that you've heard today, and let that be your prayer to God personally.

Ross Sawyers: 54:31 Amen. Thank you so much for being here, and for those who are routinely here, you know, this there's
opportunities to give on your way out, or online. The majority of you are giving online now, thank you for your faithfulness. You've been radically generous in these days, and it's enabled us to be radically generous to those around us, and really across the world. So, I love what God's doing, and thank you for your part in that generosity. And can I encourage you today, it is an absolutely gorgeous day, to maybe just not look at your social media feeds, and enjoy God's creation. Breathe deep, relax, enjoy, I'm just really working my way out the back door, but also think those are fantastic ideas, so have a great day today.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051