Tony Evans - Culture
This series is on American idols. One of the things that the Bible makes clear is that, when we choose competing gods, we jeopardize ourselves, our families, and even our nation. America was founded on the premise that faith in God would have to be a key component to the wellbeing of the nation. And only to the degree that we worshipped the God of the Bible could we experience the freedom that this nation so passionately desired. But we have wandered far from that commitment. We have wandered from that faith. We have chosen competing gods to our detriment. It's our hope that this series will draw all of us back to the one true God so that we can have the peace and unity that our country desperately needs at this time.
There was a time when Christianity in America had homefield advantage. That is, the Judeo-Christian ethic and worldview dominated the environment. Everybody wasn't a Christian, but they respected Christianity. So, during those years when we were enjoying the homefield advantage, you could pray in school and it was okay. You could quote Scripture, even read Scripture in classrooms in the public school because it was okay. People weren't trying to take the Ten Commandments off the wall in legal locations or cancel prayers before sporting events because we had the homefield advantage. However, over this last generation, we have been progressively losing homefield advantage.
Now, Christianity is no longer the normative worldview in the culture. It is being resisted and rejected in every direction of our society. In our passage today, God's people had lost homefield advantage. Because of their rebellion and sin against God, God allowed in 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar to descend upon Jerusalem, ransack it, and slaughter all gobs of people, and then lift people out and bring them to the pagan culture of Babylon. There are three stories in this book that are well known that will help me introduce to you what we're facing today, this idol, the idol of culture, where the society wants you to worship it instead of worshipping the one and only true God. Everybody is affected and are being sought to be influenced by the idol of culture.
So, I want to alert you to this idol, and I want to give you the secret for not worshipping it because it is so pervasive, you can worship it and you don't even know you're worshipping it. Daniel finds himself now with his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar knows if he's going to get the most out of these boys, he's got to de-Israelize them and pro-Babylonize them. He's got to rip away from them their Christian background, and he's got to inculcate within them a secular Babylonian way of thinking. So, in order to accomplish this, he picks the best of the best, he says, "Intellectual, good-looking, used with no defect". Why? Because he's interested in generational impact.
So, you parents need to know that the culture is after your kids. The generational impact, so he brings these four, among others, to Babylon, and the first thing he does is, relocates them. You see, he knows as long as he leads them in Israel, they might keep running in to the true God. He had to relocate them in order to indoctrinate them. So, this wasn't just going to school, it was going to school to learn the religious worldview behind the educational information that was being handed out in the University of Babylon. The culture has created an idol that is being informed through education. But not only are our kids being reindoctrinated, you and I are being reindoctrinated. And the major educational tool that is reindoctrinating even us as adults is the media.
The media is the contemporary idolatrous mechanism to introduce us to the idol of culture so that we are reintroduced to another way of thinking. Things that used to shame you 20 years ago don't shame you today. Stuff that was hidden on side streets is now on the front screen, and you don't have an option if you're going to watch TV for it to pop up sometime because the culture has used entertainment and the fun it brings to dull our senses about the standards of God. So, now what used to not be okay is now okay because we are entertained by it. The jokes may be filthy, but because they're funny, they know they can get us to laugh and dull our sensitivity. Why? Because they are creating a god of culture. They're trying to de-Christianize and pro-humanize the society, and we have lost homefield advantage because it now dominates, it now dictates, it now indoctrinates, it now accommodates. And then they tried the zinger, it was a zinger.
They said, "We want you to eat our food and drink our wine", okay? "Eat our food and drink our wine. We're going to entertain you. Like, we're going to entertain you". The food and wine was not just food and wine. It says in verse 8, Daniel made up in his mind he would not be defiled by the king's choice food. In other words, it wasn't just eating and drinking, it was adopting the lifestyle, the lifestyle of the pagans. 'Cause when you eat and drink, you eat and drink as part of a religious party. It was part of the evil living of the day, so it involved immorality, it involved greed, it involved drunkenness, it involved, because see, the Babylonian god let you do what you want to do.
See, that's why people don't want the Christian God, 'cause he don't let you do what you want to do. He doesn't let you do what you want to do, how you want to do it, as you want to do it because the Christian God has a standard, calls us to the standard. See, the reason why folks don't want Christianity is, they don't want God telling them what to do. So, in order not to have God telling me what to do, I will keep religion, eat and drink, but I won't eat and drink to the biblical God, I'll create a cultural God that will let me eat, drink, and party hardy until I can't party no more. And so, that was the entertainment of the culture, using religion to justify lifestyle. Daniel made up in his mind he would not defile himself.
Now, let me not go too fast. Let me start with what he did do. He did go to the king's school for three years. He couldn't control what people called him, so he had to wear the king's name 'cause that's what they were calling him. He was now getting ready to be employed by the king's business 'cause he was going to work in a secular job for the king, Nebuchadnezzar, okay? So, he has to adapt to the new reality that he's no longer in Israel. This is no longer his mama's nation. He's in a secular culture. And the reality, saints, is that's where we are. Shouldn't be here, don't want to be here, but get real, that's where you are.
You are now living in non-Christian America. That's where you are, okay? But even in non-Christian Babylon, he made up in his mind there are some things I won't do. I will not defile myself. I'm not going to sleep around, I'm not going to get drunk, I'm not going to be a bad employee. I am not going to contaminate myself 'cause I need my God more than I need y'all. So, he made up in his mind, "I will not defile. I am not going to contaminate myself with worshipping the culture just because everybody else is in the culture". We have too many Christians who haven't decided to draw a line in the sand. I'll do this, I'll do this, and I'll do this, but we ain't going there. We ain't going there.
Now, he did it respectfully. He said, "May I not". He said he made up in his mind privately, "I'm not going to defile myself", but then he went and said, "May I not defile myself". So, he was being respectful, but he was determined. If he had to go down the ladder, he was going to go down the ladder not to be defiled, not to lower the standards of God to satisfy the idol of culture. Or the desire, here it is, watch this, for success. Watch verse 9, and I'll go to the next story. Verse 9 says, "Now, God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander". Oh, everybody want favor, everybody. Everybody wants favor. But God did not show him favor until he drew the line.
See, we want favor without drawing a line. We want blessing without drawing a line. We want the supernatural, but we won't draw the line. He drew the line and then he got favor. Says, "God gave him favor more than all the other youths". That's number one. Number two, chapter 3, three Hebrew boys. There's one word that shows up over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and did I say over? In chapter 3, I will read the Word in a number of places where it shows up. Verse 1, Nebuchadnezzar made an image. Verse 3, at the end of it, "The image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up". Verse 3 again, "The image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up". And then it says, "The image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up", again. Verse 5, "The golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up". Verse 10, "Worship the golden image". Verse 12, "The golden image which he had set up". Verse 14, "The golden image which he had set up". Verse 15, "Fall down and worshiped the image I have made". Verse 18, "The golden image that you have set up".
What's the word? Image, image. Folk are concerned about their image. Nebuchadnezzar built a statue, watch this, to himself. This is called self-worship, the idol of you, the idol of self. People worship themselves. They don't want to answer to God, so they answer to themselves, that's why they got my truth. Praising those we emulate, even though the ones we emulate aren't worth the praise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were asked to bow to image, bow to image. Three Hebrew boys said, Nebuchadnezzar said in verse 15, "Now, if you're ready, at any moment when you hear the sound of the music, you can worship the image". But then he gave them a warning 'cause he was their boss. He's the king. "If you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire, and what God is there who can deliver you out of my hand"?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king. Okay, all three of them talking at the same time, they say, "Oh Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. Since you said which God, our God", verse 17, "who we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire. And he will deliver us out of your hand, oh king". Okay, so you ask which God? Since you asked, our God. But don't stop there, our God who we serve. Not our God who we talk about. Not our God who we go to church to worship with. "Our God who we serve on the job is able to deliver us". Oh, but that's not all they say. They go on to say, "But even if he does not". 'Cause God is also sovereign. "So, even if he does not, let it be known to you, oh king, that we are not going to serve your gods, idol of image. We're not going to serve your god or worship the golden image that you have set up".
They drew a line in the sand. "We will work for you, but we won't worship you. We'll be employed here, but don't ask us to bow to the deity of your image". So, they said, "We're not going to bow to the company. We'll work in it, we won't bow to it". Well, Nebuchadnezzar is ticked off. He's ticked off. He makes the fire seven times hotter. Now, you don't need to make no fire seven times hotter to burn your body up, but that's how hot he was. He was hot, so he made the fire hotter. Threw them in. Verse 24, "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood in haste, and he said to high officials", verse 24, "'Was it not three men we cast bound in the midst of the fire'? They said to the king, 'Certainly, oh king'. He said, 'Well, look, I see four men loosed walking around in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the God'".
Oh, I wish I had some time to preach. The Bible says that they tied them up and put them in the furnace. So, let me stop right there. When you take a stand for God, it doesn't always mean you won't get fired. When you take a stand for God, it does not mean you will not face suffering, persecution, and opposition. They took a stand for God and still were thrown in the fire. Oh, but why could they take that stand knowing they're going to be fired? Because they had enough Bible in them to know that, Isaiah 43, verse 2 and 3 says, "When you are in the fire, I will be with you".
So, they got thrown in the fire. Nebuchadnezzar looked through the window. He called his assistants, he said, "Now, wait a minute, we threw three in here, right? I'm counting, right, one, two, three, right. Well, why am I seeing four folk? That's question number one. Question number two, we tied them up, didn't we? Well, why are they loose in the fire? Number three, we made it seven times hotter, didn't we"? "Well, yeah, you did". "Well, help me out here. 'Cause why they walking around in the fire"?
I wish I could promise you you take your stand for God, you won't get fired. You don't bow to the idol of image and you won't be challenged. I am telling you you won't be there by yourself. That the living God, if he doesn't bring you out of it, will join you in it. See, some of us are waiting on God, when God's waiting on us to draw the line. Finally, finally, finally, chapter 6, chapter 6, last story. In verse 3, "Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom".
Oh, wait a minute. He's working on a secular job 'cause he's now in a post-Christian culture, and he's advancing. And the reason he's advancing, even though he's working on a secular job is, even non-Christians recognize an extraordinary worker. But like in any job, he had some haters. It says that these men said, "We need to find", verse 5, "a ground of accusation against him". We got to find something wrong with him. But they couldn't find anything wrong with his work. So, they said, "This Daniel, unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God". In other words, we can't criticize his work. Ah, but he's that committed Christian guy. We're going to find something wrong and we're going to use his faith against him. Can't criticize his work, so they came up with a law that says you can't pray to any other God for 30 days except to the king. And the king liked that law 'cause it fed his ego, so the king signed it.
So, now prayer has been kicked out of the public square. You can't pray. Can't pray to anybody else but to the king. Can't pray on the job, you can't pray at school, you can't pray to any other god. It's now the law of the land. Verse 10, "Now, when Daniel knew the document was signed, he entered his house". Now, in his roof chamber, he had windows open towards Jerusalem. "And he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God as he had been doing previously". Mmm. The law says you cannot pray to any other god except the king for the next 30 days. Daniel's googled prayer, up came Psalm 55:17, which says, "You pray morning, noon, and evening".
So, he had developed a pattern of three a day prayers. The law says you can't do this anymore. And so, they found out he was still praying and told the king, and he got thrown into the lion's den, and let's see what happens. "The next day, the king came", verse 20, "When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a trembling voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, 'Daniel'", watch this, "'servant of the living God, whom you constantly serve, has he been able to deliver you from the lions'? And Daniel answered and he said to the king, 'My God sent his angel and shut the lion's mouth, and they have not harmed me in as much I've been found innocent'." "King, I'm all right down here. Lions are nice pillows, my pillow. The lions are nice, I'm doing good down here".
He brought Daniel out of the lion's den. Then he went and took the haters and cast the haters in the lion's den. And the Bible says, "And then the lions got hungry". Ain't been hungry all night, but now the lions got... What I'm trying to tell you is, God didn't deliver Daniel until he drew a line in the sand, "I'm going to pray 'cause I know I need God more than I need y'all. And since I need God more than I need y'all, I'm going to talk to God 'cause I'm going to need him when you throw me away to the lions". Brothers and sisters, we have lost homefield advantage. But now that we're on a pagan territory, you are called to be salt and light, you're not called to fake it to make it. You are called to responsibly, kindly, lovingly, but clearly represent the Christian faith, and then watch God do his thing. But you won't watch it unless he sees you draw a line in the sand.
The idol of culture is devastating because what it does is, it makes our history, our backgrounds, our race more central to our meaning than God ever intended them to be. When we allow society to dictate the rules rather than the God of the Bible of how we view ourselves and how we view others, then it will begin to act as a deity, controlling our decision making, defining our being, and ultimately destroying our lives. God has created a multiplicity of cultures because he's created a variety of kinds of people. Putting it in its place, we all then can be unique and give glory to God. Taken out of its place, it becomes a destructive idol that unravels us at the core of our being. Let's put culture in its proper place, and it is not the place of God.