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NSR: Progressive Christianity, Nationalism, & the Hope that Outlasts them Both

Christians are falling into the trap of finding their identity in politics. Our hope should not be in the government or society but in Christ alone. Our role of being a citizen in the United States should never feel bigger or more pressing than our role of being a follower of Christ. To start off season two of NSR, Brody discusses the culture today by looking at the life of Daniel who shows us how to live in a world that is so divided.

Daniel was captured by the Babylonian Empire, whose hope to try to change his allegiance and teach him their ways. But Daniel resolved that he would not be reeducated or defiled but would remain faithful to Yahweh.

Though we live in this world, we cannot embrace its ways. The world will try to redefine what is just, right, and good. There is no way for believers to live at peace with the world. Jesus brought division and came to preach repentance, not a Gospel that leaves us comfortable.

When we look at the craziness and instability of this world right now, we can know that Jesus is still on His throne. He is still in control and He will bring about justice for all people. God preserved Daniel and He will preserve us to advance the true cause of Christ to the very end. This world and all that it has to offer us is temporal. Don’t get caught up in the fray of it. The kings of this earth will rise and fall but only Jesus will last.

Resources & Links

  • Daniel 1
  • Leviticus 25
  • Genesis 11

P.S. If you liked this episode, we’d love to hear your feedback! Please leave us a review on Apple or Spotify and help us get the content out to help others grow in their faith and mission to equip the Church.

Read Transcript

I’m so excited. Listen to the crowd, everybody’s fired up about it. I hope you’re excited to be joining in, be tuning in, and it’s gonna be in an awesome season. Before we dive in, we’re gonna be looking at the life of Daniel today, and it’s kind of a part two to episode 66. We’re gonna be on the Flannelgraph, we’re gonna look at Daniel in captivity, thriving in Babylon, in a place controlled a pagan and demonic system of government and worldview, philosophically. We’re gonna be looking at that. I’m excited about that.

Also a couple of announcements for you coming up. We’ve got DNOW which is our Discipleship Now Weekend, so check that out, And then at the end of this episode, scroll down in the show notes and there is an offer for No Sanity Required listeners, it is exclusive to our listeners, an offer for you that I hope you’ll take advantage of for just in this first episode. So we’re gonna look at the life of Daniel, how it applies to us. Stay tuned. Welcome back.

Welcome to No Sanity Required from the ministry of Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, a podcast about the Bible, culture, and stories from around the globe.

So welcome to episode one, season two. A lot has happened since season one ended. It’s only been a few weeks ago, but man, it’s crazy times right now. I’ve had, like everybody, just kind of trying to figure out what is going on in the world and where do we fit into it, and what’s our responsibility.

I’ll tell you, there’s a couple of things that I’m seeing right now that are not… I guess I might say alarming from Christians or professing Christians, on both sides of the argument, blue Christians, red Christians, people that really fall I think into the trap of identity politics or progressive Christianity or super right-wing conservative nationalist Christianity.

I don’t think either of those are a good place to be or go, and we’re gonna be talking about that in some of the episodes coming up in the first part of this season. And I’m excited about that, I think it’d be helpful. I hope it will be. And let me define some of those terms for you, ’cause it will fit into what we’re talking about today, it will give some context.

After episode 50, I talked about who I was voting for, I said I’m voting for Trump. Had people actually ask me, were we gonna take that episode down now. [chuckle] Now that he’s acting the way he’s acting. I’m like, “No, man.” He was… The dude that you’re seeing act a certain way in the news now, that’s who he was then.

When we did that episode, one of the things we were very clear on, if you go back and listen to that episode and the series that that was in, and then later the Critical Race Theory series of episodes, we’re not taking political stances, we don’t… I don’t practice identity politics, I’m not…

I was simply, you go back and listen to that, “Here is the candidate that we will vote for, and here is why. The two candidates we had in the presidential election, and probably you could say this is true in the Georgia Senate race or North Carolina Congressional races or whatever, it’s hard to find candidates where one of them can take moral high ground over the other.

So typically, when you’re making a selection of who you’re gonna vote for, nobody’s got the moral high ground, everyone’s flawed and fallen and sinful, and so you do the best to say, “Okay, which one of these candidates do I think makes the most sense according to my worldview?”

Now, here’s what’s crazy, is that identity politics is something that… When you say “identity politics”, what you’re talking about is people who politics and political stance as an agenda sort of become their main identity. “I am a Biden supporter, or I am a Trump supporter. I’m red, I’m blue,” or whatever. And that’s just bizarre to me because it doesn’t seem to fit the narrative of Scripture as far as where a Christian fits into society and cultures.

I’m just kind of rambling here, I’m gonna get into my notes and work through some stuff from the life of Daniel. By the way, there’s gonna be some changes in the format, we’re gonna do one a week, so we’re only rolling on Mondays, but it’s gonna be a longer episode. There should be close to the same amount of content, maybe a little less in terms of time.

But we’re gonna streamline things and trying to make it more manageable. We asked people to respond, by a slim margin, the bigger response we got was that a single episode a week would be more manageable. Some people said, “Hey, do one a day.” You can’t please everybody, but I think one episode a week is what we’re gonna go with.

But back to what I was saying, identity politics is such a bizarre thing, and what’s happening is in the church, that’s a little bit concerning, is Christians are falling into this trap of identity politics. And what it does is it polarizes Christians within the church, like I’ve never seen.

There’s this interesting thing that we’re gonna see when we look in the life of Daniel today, and that is at the Tower of Babel, you find that when the world is unified, they are stronger than Christians who are divided it. So the world unified is stronger, unbelievers unified are stronger than believers divided.

And the strength of the church needs to be the centrality of the mission, which is to proclaim the gospel, make disciples, advance the kingdom. Not a political kingdom, but the spiritual kingdom that Jesus came to bring all people under Himself, and to bring people to Himself, one race, one nation, one creed under the blood of Jesus. And that’s not political. That’s not national.

And so what you’re seeing within the church that’s a little bit disturbing is this identity politics that’s so prevalent because of social media, I think. I think back to when I was growing up and even back 10 years ago and back, you voted for your candidate, but man, it was like you got along with other people just fine.

I was thinking about this, back in 2004, we’re right at the beginning of… Or right in the middle of a war, a couple of wars, regardless of whether you thought we should be fighting those wars or not, there was this national unity that occurred after 9-11, and most people can’t remember this, or if you remember, you were 12. Eight, 12, 14, and you’re seeing things to a different lens.

But I remember there was this unified approach to being an American, and even the only time I ever remember taking a strong political stance was we had t-shirts, our staff shirts in 2004 said “G-Dubs for President” or something like that. G-Dubs and American flags, talking about George W. Which by the way, by today’s standards, George W. Bush was a moderate Republican, and his opponent, John Kerry was a moderate liberal or moderate Democrat. So those two guys weren’t too far apart.

And politics back in the day, you had guys like, I think about stories of guys like Ted Kennedy and John McCain playing golf together, getting lunch together. During that election, I can also remember during that 2004 election, a couple of local buddies of mine who were diehard Democrats, in the South you’ve got a lot of Democrats, the old… Southern Democrats go all the way back to the Civil War, which is, you know, ideologically things change in time, but that a lot of Southerners remained Democrats. That’s just kind of what you did.

And I remember these guys, we were yelling back and forth or cutting up and talking trash to each other, ’cause I was voting for Bush and they were writing for Kerry, and those guys, they’re good friends of mine and we had fun with it. You know, like at the end of the day or the end of the conversation, you’re still friends.

You don’t see that now. There’s this polarization. And the left says it’s the right’s fault, and the right says it’s the left’s fault. People that… We gotta get past that. And for the church, we gotta be unified in advancing the gospel and the kingdom. We’re gonna talk about this in an episode here in just a couple of weeks, but I think what you’re seeing is progressive Christianity on the left, and nationalist Christianity on the right, and neither of those are good.

Let me define it. Progressive Christianity, what that looks like is people who profess faith in Jesus, who are Christ followers, they align themselves with the far left ideology, so you’ve got these alliances and alignments politically with these far-left agendas that are being driven by progressives that are so far to the left, that those progressives have turned back in on what has historically been liberal democratic ideology.

So in other words, they attack people who are left-leaning Democrats, the progressive left is turning back and saying, “You’re not progressive enough. You’re not liberal enough,” and they’re attacking them. So you’ve got Christians that are really aligning themselves with that crowd, and where, sort of the catalyst where you see that play out is the Black Lives Matter movement, you see it within the social justice movement.

Which makes sense, ’cause modern social justice has become a religion. That’s where virtue signaling is, “Because I’m a social justice warrior, I am righteous and holy and good.” And so there’s this virtue signaling because I speak out against racism by posting such and such on my social media, or I’ll wear a t-shirt or whatever.

So there’s this far left progression that a lot of Christians are being pulled over into. And that’s just weird, that’s progressive Christianity. To get there, you have to sort of de-emphasize something like historical doctrines of the Christian faith, so you gotta become more consumed with things like social justice, than you are with the repentance of sin and calling people to faith in Jesus. So that’s not good.

And then on the right, you’ve got this nationalist ideology where people who profess to be Christians believe that Jesus is Republican or that Jesus would vote for a particular candidate in your governor’s race, or your senate race, or in the presidential race. Or you see Christians waving, instead of being faithful to the gospel, they’re faithful to Donald Trump, and they’re wearing, everything they’ve got is stickered or logod with “Trump 2020” or “Make America Great Again”.

There’s this weird Trump/Christian nationalism that’s very uncomfortable, by the way, very uncomfortable. Because you’re doing the same thing with Christian nationalism, just in the other direction. You’re jumping out of the building of the kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel, and you’re jumping into the building of an Earthly kingdom that protects the rights of gun ownership or how my tax dollars get spent, or the sanctity of marriage.

On both sides, all these things can be argued for. Social justice, caring for the poor, you can argue for that. So the progressive Christian agenda, you can argue for that from a biblical perspective. Jesus ministered to poor people and marginalized people, and so we can see that in Scripture, and it’s beautiful.

But you can also hear Jesus saying, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” And so, unto God, we render our lives for His service and holiness. And then you can see on the right side of national Christianity, you see some of that ideology coming out in the New Testament life of Jesus, where He, where Jesus fought for the sanctity and dignity and honor of human life, for instance.

Where Jesus did say, “Yeah, pay your taxes, but also, remember that you’re not… You shouldn’t come under the final authority of like a civic government.” You belong to God, and so your identity is not in government or society, it’s in Christ and His kingdom, and so fighting for the sanctity of marriage, fighting for the censorship of pornography, fighting for the life of the unborn. Yeah, you can line… You can see where all of that is at the heart of who Jesus is and what He did.

So both of these extreme standpoints or viewpoints, you can see biblical support for ’em, but what’s happening is the church is now divided with these left progressive Christians aligning themselves not just with Democrats, but they jump over and go to the left progressive like wing of that party or that movement.

And then you’ve got nationalist Christians jumping beyond just, “Well, I vote for X candidate or this Republican because he’s pro-life,” to white nationalism or Trump nationalism or Christian nationalism, whatever. And then we align ourselves with the guys that are carrying a confederate battle flag on the Hill, the Capital steps.

It’s like, no, I’m not on that guy’s team, I don’t wanna be on that guy’s team, I don’t wanna associate with that guy any more than I wanna associate with the people that were smashing windows and hauling and MacBook Pros out of… Looting during, in the name of social justice or fighting racism.

These extremes we’ve gotta push away from. And so, yeah, vote for your candidate, but I ain’t putting no sticker on my truck. Vote for your candidate, but I’m not waving the flag. In my lifetime, you’ll never walk into a church service at Red Oak Church and see the flag of a country or a candidate flying. I wanna be careful with where my role as a citizen of these United States fits within with my role of being a Christian. I gotta be careful.

So that being said, should you vote? Yeah. Should you be patriot? Yeah. Should you stand for the flag? I think you should, but also I’m not… That’s not a debate I wanna get into. Like I stand and put my hand over my heart because of men and women who have fought and died to preserve our freedom and it’s to honor them. Yeah, I do that, and I do it unapologetically.

But that is not the hill that I live and die on. The hill that I live and die on is my faith in Jesus. I have strong friends in the veteran community, the veteran community at Red Oak is strong and connected to Snowbird Outfitters is strong. I love those brothers that have suffered so much to defend our right to vote, our right to burn a flag or kneel during the national anthem.

To me, and it might be that I’m old-fashioned, and it might be that I do have some strong ideology that is tied to certain political leanings, but I just, it doesn’t sit well with me to dishonor those guys, is what it feels like. So yeah, I have opinions, but I have brothers and sisters in the faith who we don’t agree on everything.

And so what does it look like… I wanna do is take the next few minutes and look at what can we learn from Daniel about how to live in a world that is so divided. As Christians, in a world that is so broken. To repeat the question that has been asked in so many times and cultures, and think of Francis Schaeffer’s book, the question is, how then should we live? How now should we live?

We’ve been pressed from every side over the last few months to take political stances or to speak for this or speak out against that. We’ve got people that, they listen to our podcast, they listen to NSR, people that I love, people that I love, who listen to NSR, just so… But they just kinda pick the episodes that they know will give them something to ridicule, and then they text or email or write in and complain about, “Why aren’t you standing up for this, or why do you stand up for that?”

Listen. Here is what we wanna do. We wanna proclaim the gospel. Wanna proclaim the gospel, and we wanna do so knowing, give you a couple of things here that we wanna do, is we go into this season, knowing that the exclusive claims of Jesus and His demands for our lives will bring us to a place where the world and all of its ideologies will oppose us.

There’s no way to live at peace with the world, and Christians today, especially progressive Christians, tend to be obsessed with finding peace with the world that rejects their Lord. Where on the other hand, nationalist Christians tend to wanna start a war that we’ve not been called to start. To create a fight where there doesn’t need to be a fight.

We can’t live at peace with the world in every sense. Jesus said, “I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.” He brought division, and He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He didn’t come first and foremost to do ministry to the poor or to establish an Earthly kingdom that is like patriotic.

He came to preach repentance and faith and call people, and along the way to use the platforms that we’ve been given to minister to the poor and for the marginalized, but ultimately to proclaim the gospel. Because social justice is a religion, and White Nationalist ideology has become a religion. We don’t need a religion, we already have a faith in Jesus and a model of how we’re to live our lives through His life and that of the apostles.

And so I hope that as we dig into this season, that this will be helpful for people, and I wanna start by looking at the life of Daniel. Again, we covered some of Daniel’s life back in episode 66 on introductory thoughts, but recently, preaching and teaching on this at the Snowbird Outfitters college retreat.

So got some things that I wanna bounce off of you. So let me grab… Let’s see, I got the wrong notebook in front of me. But some thoughts and ramblings from the life of Daniel that I think will be very helpful. So Daniel Chapter 1 says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”

Now, what is significant about that timeline? Well, first, you gotta know that the reign of Jehoiakim came was a reign that occurred in Judah, which was the southern kingdom of Israel, and Israel was a divided kingdom. So quick history. You had three kings in Israel who led a unified kingdom, you had Saul, then David, then David’s son, Solomon. After Solomon reigned and ruled as king, the kingdom divided.

So you had like a civil war and the kingdom divided, and you ended up with a southern kingdom and a northern kingdom. There were 12 tribes in the kingdom, and after they divided, it was like 10 tribes in the north, two tribes in the south. Each kingdom, the northern kingdom of Israel, the southern kingdom of Judah, had their own prophets, had their own rules and laws and governance, and they were literally two separately functioning groups of people.

In the northern kingdom, God sent them into captivity to a group of people called the Assyrians, they were Chaldean. And they were… They carried them into captivity, they enslaved them, they raped and pillaged and trafficked the women and killed the boys and men, and it just, it was a brutal time in history, and God had said He was gonna bring that about.

Well, the southern kingdom of Judah, He spared them. And that happened in about 720, 722 BC. Before Christ. That the people of Israel were carried into captivity. People of Judah, they had another 100, about 100 and a half, not quite 150 years of freedom before they were then carried into captivity, and they were carried into captivity by people called the Babylonians.

Now, in the Scripture, you’ll see the Babylonians as a world power in the Books of Daniel and Ezekiel. Here at this time in history, Babylon was a world power. But when you read all of the Bible, this is interesting, if you read from Genesis to Revelation, you’ll constantly see Babylon resurface. And what you realize is that throughout Scriptures, there’s this sort of… There’s a spirit of Babylon, there’s an evil demonic force working behind the spirit of Babylon, that Babylon becomes sort of the symbol of the anti-kingdom to the kingdom that Jesus is building.

So like in the Book of Daniel, Babylon is against an oppressive of Judah, but back at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, Babylon represented the spirit that was raising itself up to go against what God’s plans and purposes were for humanity. And then all the way to the end of the Book of Revelation, you see the spirit of Babylon still at work.

So what the spirit of Babylon wants to do is bring confusion to people, chaos to people. We’re seeing that, by the way, in our society right now, confusion, chaos, division, and to work against God’s plans and purposes. That’s what the spirit of Babylon does. And so you see in the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. This is God’s judgment on Judah. So Judah watched Israel going to judgment, and Judah remained in their sin, and eventually God then gave them into judgment and captivity.

Now, a little bit about why God is bringing this about. One of the reasons He’s bringing it about is because back in Leviticus 25, there was an order given by God that every seven years, the people of Israel should let the land rest. So for six years, you’d gather crops and you save food, and so you’re storing food in dry storage. I don’t think they had… I don’t know if they had a canning process back then or what. [chuckle]

But you build up enough food that the seventh year, and this is crazy for me to think about, the seventh year, you don’t farm. So I think, “What did those people do in the seventh year?” It’s literally, you’ve got this sabbath principle in Scripture that one day a week you should rest and just worship. In Israel, on the seventh year, you had a whole year of rest and worship, and the land was allowed to rest.

Well, the Israelites did not honor that rule, that command. And so, listen to this, this is crazy, for 490 years, they never took a year of rest for the land. So if you do the math, 490 years divided by seven is 70. So there were 70 years of rest that would have been required of the land that the people didn’t give God. The sabbath rest, which was an act of worship.

So what God does is He brings the Babylonians in, carries the people into captivity, and He gives their land 70 years of rest, because the Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years. So interesting fact that lines up with the Old Testament teaching on the rest and the sabbath rest for the land.

Now, what you’ve got is this principle that the people didn’t give to God what was His, and so He took it, and He took it in His way, so He brought judgment on Judah. So in Verse 1, the Babylonians are God’s tool of judgment. And a principle here is that even though they are ruling and governing over God’s people, God is still in control of the situation.

And so it says that, “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand with some of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them to the house of God. He brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.” So the land of Shinar is the place of pagan temple worship in Babylon, which interestingly enough, this is fascinating y’all, if you go back to Genesis 11, Shinar is the place where the Tower of Babel took place.

So Genesis 11:1-9 reports the Divine intervention. Listen to this quote from Allen Ross, he’s a commentator, wrote a book called, Creation and Blessing, this is from page 233 of that book, it’s a commentary on the Book of Genesis. “Genesis 11:1-9, reports the Divine intervention among the human family to scatter them across the face of the earth by striking at the heart of their unity, namely their language.”

So in Genesis 11, what’s happened then is the people have unified themselves, they’ve got one language, one culture, and they’re gonna use their unification to try to ascend to a position of equality with God. This is the opposite of what Jesus does. So you’ll see this, the spirit of Babylon is always doing the opposite of what Jesus would do.

Philippians 2 says, Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but He emptied himself of it. And so as Daniel emerges in this story, he’s gonna be a type of Christ, where we see a lot of the principles of who Jesus is, emerge in the life of Daniel. So continuing. Here in Babel the people raise up this tower, and we learned that principle that I alluded to earlier, which is that unified unbelievers are stronger than divided believers.

And what God does is He takes the strength of that unified group of people, they’re trying to push God out of their lives, and they’re trying to become autonomous, and so God tears that down by scattering the people and He uses languages to disperse them, and He disrupts the cohesion and the unity of people who are against him.

So that happens at Shinar, so now that the central place of worship for the Babylonian Empire many centuries later is in Shinar. Actually, thousands of years later. So Daniel and his three compadres that we’re getting ready to meet are part of this captivity that the Babylonians take over the people from Judah.

Now, a couple of thoughts on that. Verse 2, you see that they take the thing, the vessels from the house of God, and they carry them over to the temple of their pagan god. And we talked about this back in episode 66, but this is a way of saying, “Your God is in submission to my god.” But what we know is that Yahweh, God, the Lord God was really the one in control.

Now, something that we can learn as Christians, again, regardless of your political leanings, is that when we look at the craziness and instability of our world right now, we can know this, Jesus is on the throne, the spirit of Babylon is at work to create chaos, confusion and evil, but King Jesus is in control and in command, and He is going to bring about justice in the end, for all people. The gospel is going to prevail.

So Daniel and his three friends. It says in Verse 3, “Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning, competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.”

So Daniel and the three; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is what we know ’em as. We know ’em… They had Jewish names and pagan or Babylonian names. But the three of them with Daniel are exiled, and because they are… We know a couple of things about these guys, they’re teenagers when this happens, they’re young men. So we know that they’re young, they’re very influential, they are the cream of the crop of Judah’s society and social structure. They are very intelligent, they’re very gifted. The first.

So what the Babylonians do is they invade Judah, and they conquer their king and their people, and then they begin to move the people of Judah by waves and make them walk to Babylon. So it’s about a 700-mile foot journey. And on that walk, they take Daniel and his three friends. We know, we know a couple of things from the text at this point. They become Babylonian slaves, they are castrated because they serve under the chief eunuch. In fact, you see in Verse 3 of Daniel 1, again in Verse 8, again in Verse 10, Verse 11 and verse 18.

So five times, I think in Daniel 1, Daniel was under the authority of the chief of eunuchs. His boss is the chief of eunuchs. Would they castrated these boys? Well, the spirit of Babylon wants to emasculate, the spirit of Babylon wants to reason gender and redefine sexuality. The spirit of Babylon is an assault on God’s intended design for multiplication. See, you go back to Genesis 1, and we did an episode on dominion, “Let them have dominion.”

You go back to that episode, and what you’ll see is that God has called us to multiply and fill the earth, and what the spirit of Babylon wants to do is restrict that and control that and redefine that. So they castrate Daniel. This is a removal of God-given gender. This is the spirit of Babylon, when gender is reassigned or changed or rebelled against, that is being driven by an evil and demonic spirit, that’s the spirit of Babylon, and we see that in our society today.

You’re taking away what God assigned and designed them to be, and you’re trying to recreate. The problem is the spirit of Babylon cannot recreate, and so with the spirit of Babylon, what evil and wickedness will do is pervert and distort and change, but at the root and the core of who a person is and what God has intended them to be, that doesn’t change. And so Daniel is emasculated.

Now, I think some principles here that we need to point out. One, Daniel and his three friends are suffering because of the sins of someone else. Daniel is, let’s say he’s 15 at this time. He hasn’t done anything, particularly in the area that Judah was being judged for. So though Daniel and his friends are sinners, we’re all sinners by birth, they were not guilty for what they were suffering for. This is an injustice.

So Daniel and his three friends have been enslaved, emasculated, and they’ve done nothing wrong, they are being punished for the sins of other people. So then they begin the 700 foot… 700-mile journey. It’s a foot journey. So think of this, they’ve been castrated, emasculated at age 15, 16. Separated from their family, removed from their lineage. And the process of re-identifying who they are and assigning them a completely new spiritual and physical identity has begun.

So they’re taken from their family and they’re marched all the way to Babylon. And then it says that they were taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. So this is public education in Babylon, in the university system, this is re-education. They’re being re-educated. “Let’s remove what God has instructed through His word, let’s remove what God has designed through His covenant law, let’s remove the education that God gave the people of Israel and Judah to practice and teach and learn, and let’s put in the place of it, re-education that teaches the ways of Babylon.” That’s what’s happening.

So it’s a re-education. Y’all, this is what we’ve seen in America over the last 50 years, of moving away from God’s design for the nuclear family, certain structures within the home and the church, where mother and father have equal roles in terms of value, but differing roles in terms of execution of those roles.

Where the family comes together to bring glory and honor to God, where sons and daughters are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Where we educate with the Scripture as our source of truth. All of that’s been pushed away from. There’s a re-education at the University of Babylon, and it looks scary similar to what re-education in our society looks like.

So let’s keep going. “The king assigned them a daily portion of food that the king ate and the wine that he drank, they were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time, they were to stand before the king.” So three years of learning the king’s language, learning the new religious system.

Forgetting and being brainwashed from everything that they knew of Yahweh, God, the Lord and King and God of Judah. To be completely repurposed in life. They’re given… So imagine this scene. They’ve been marched 700 miles, castrated, separated from their family. They are completely beaten down, completely beaten down.

If they march seven miles… Let’s say they march 10 miles a day, then they’ve just walked the better part of three months, two and a half months, okay? Walking day after day in chains, hurting, wounded, bleeding. And grieving the loss of their national identity, their family identity and their spiritual identity. And then beaten down and at their end, the doors open and they’re brought into the King’s banquet hall, and there before them as a feast of the royal food, the best food.

Remember, these are the choicest young men of Israel and Judah. So they’re brought into the King’s banqueting table and his banqueting hall, and the finest wine, the finest meats, the finest fruits and vegetables, everything’s put in front of them. Now they’re gonna be rewarded if they will just change their allegiance. And they’re like…

See, the spirit of Babylon will reward you. You can push away from historical Christianity and embrace progressive Christianity, and you will be rewarded in the here and the now, because you will be patted on the back and embraced by the world. You can push away from historic Christianity and pursue national Christianity, nationalism in the Christian world, and you will be rewarded as “patriotic”.

But the reality is that if you remain firm and steadfast to the historic teachings of Jesus and the core tenets of Christianity, the world will ostracize you, marginalize you, hate you and persecute you. That’s the reality. And so Daniel walks into this banqueting hall, and what is put before him is an opportunity to embrace a new worldly and pagan identity that will be rewarded with wealth and comfort and notoriety, and popularity and status and position. And now all of a sudden, everybody’s gonna take you serious.

“Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. That’s of the tribe of Judah.” That’s the four guys. And the chief of the eunuchs, that’s the second time he’s mentioned… I think he’s mentioned, I said five times. I think he’s mentioned six times. And remember that guy’s named Ashpenaz. Chief of the eunuchs gave them names. So their boss man, the chief of the eunuchs, he’s the slave master, he gives them names. “Daniel, he called Belteshazzar. Hananiah, he called Shadrach. Mishael, he called Meshach. And Azariah, he called Abednego.”

Now, something that I want you to understand is that he has removed… In giving them those new names, he’s removing the names that they had that were Jewish, that were Hebrew, that were connected to Yahweh the Lord, and he’s giving them names that connect them to pagan deities. This is very, very significant to the story.

So the names Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, let me tell you what those mean. If you look… Those are Yahwistic names, but in the place of their good Hebrew and Yahwistic names, Daniel, which means “God is my judge”. Hanna means “Yahweh is gracious”. Mishael means, “Who is what God is”. And Azariah means “The Lord Yahweh is a helper”.

They were assigned new pagan Babylonian names. Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I’m gonna read here from Iain Duguid. I don’t know if I said that right. He’s a commentator, he’s got a good commentary on the Book of Daniel. “These Babylonian names invoked the help of the Babylonian gods, Marduk, Baal and Nebo, rather than Israel’s Lord Yahweh.” So they’re not just given new names, but they’re given new names that reflect a new pagan deity in their lives. Multiple deities, each of them at different Babylonian deity.

So this crazy, let me continue. Let me read a little bit more from this commentary. “Isn’t this how Satan still operates today? He may violently persecute believers in some parts of the world, yet often he works more effectively by seducing and deceiving us into forgetting God and thinking that our blessings come from somewhere else.”

“He wants us to forget the truths expressed in those Hebrew names, that God is our judge as well as the one who shows us His grace. He wants us to forget the uniqueness of our God and the help that only He can provide. He wants to control the educational process so that our children grow up immersed in his worldview and his philosophy of life.”

“If he can still further instill in us a dependence upon the material comforts that make up our own life or certain pleasures of this world that we’ve grown to love, then he can far more effectively draw us away from the Lord. His fundamental goal was always to obliterate our memory of the Lord, to re-educate our minds to his way of thinking, and to install in us a sense that all of the good things in life come from the world around us and from satisfaction of the desires of our own flesh.”

“Recognizing the Babylonian strategy helps us to see and evaluate the strategy of resistance formulated by the four young men. These four young man accepted the will of God for their lives and served the Babylonian community. They also inwardly resisted the assimilation process of the Babylonian empire in a number of specific ways.”

“In the first place, they resisted the total renaming program of the Babylonians. They didn’t refuse to answer to their Babylonian names, to be sure, but they did maintain their Jewish names and identities as well. Daniel did not become Belteshazzar, even though he answered to that name. Nor did the others. They preserved their Hebrew names among themselves as a marker of who they really were, and as a reminder of the true nature of their God.”

So this is, I think this is so insightful and helpful. See what’s happening here is, I think that we need to understand that we have a responsibility to live in the world, to live in our Babylon or in our society in America in the 21st century, or Uganda or India. Or France or whatever, and to have… And to be assimilated into culture.

But we have to maintain that the name that we bear is the name of Christ. We’ve been given a new name, the Scripture teaches us, and so we bear the name of Christ. So we live in this world, we embrace this world, we love this world for what we offer this world, but we don’t embrace the world in alliance against historic Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. Or to advance a social agenda. Or to advance a political agenda.

We live in the world so that we might be firm and resolute in our relationship with Jesus, in our confession of faith, and then we make the impact that we’re able to make in the name of Jesus and for the good in advance of the kingdom. Then it says, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drinks.”

Daniel resolved that he would not be re-educated, that he would not lose his true identity. He resolved not to be defiled, he resolved to live by faith. This is a man… Think about this, he’s never gonna experience marriage, he’s never gonna experience relationship romantically. He’s never gonna experience sex. He’s never gonna experience family. He’s separated and disassociated with his family from back home. He’s never gonna have the possibility for any of these things.

He’s gifted, he’s handsome, he’s chosen, he selected. And yet, he’s now a man with no home and no family, and essentially it’s like he’s got no name. So what do we make of that? Well, Daniel resolved that he would be faithful to Yahweh and who God would have him to be. In Verse 9, it says, “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.”

It’s funny, Daniel, you know the story, Daniel goes on, and he and his three buddies there, they say, “We’re not gonna eat the king’s food.” In fact, and this is I think a huge… I think there’s a big principle right here, it says, “Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over him and the other three, test your servants for three days.” For 10 days rather.

“Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.” So they’re gonna be cucumbers and romaine lettuce for the next 10 days, while everybody else is on the king’s diet. Lean meat, muscle building. They’re on a muscle building regimen. They gotta look good. They’re gonna flesh out. “And let our appearance and the appears of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” He’s like, “We’re gonna live in obedience to the Lord and trust in Him.”

And there’s a principle here. He puts himself in a situation in Verses 8-10, where if God doesn’t work for him through him and deliver him, then it’s gonna be a disaster. ‘Cause he’s saying basically, “Let me just eat a little bit of vegetables each day, and I guarantee you at the end of 10 days, I’ll be stronger and healthier than those who have lived on a very nutritional diet provided by the king.”

And so he does that, “And at the end of 10 days,” Verse 15, “it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.” So they found favor, God gave him favor. It’s funny, they were fatter, I guess it’d be nice to live in that city where fatness was celebrated. [chuckle] So, “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

Listen to the close, the end of all of this. “At the end of the time when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. The king spoke with them, and among all of them, none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah. Therefore, they stood before the king, and in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them 10 times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.”

Listen, they were faithful to Yahweh. God gave them favor. They did not progress with the ideology of the age. They did not align themselves with political parties. They stood firm in their calling to be worshippers of Yahweh, faithful to the covenant love that He had for them. Faithful to His word for them to worship in spirit and in truth. And God gave them favor and they stood strong. And listen to this, “And Daniel was there until the first year of king Cyrus.” Verse 21.

What does that mean? Well, the king Cyrus was the Persian king. 70 years after this story happens, the Persian king Cyrus comes in and the Persians conquer Babylon, and Babylon becomes a slave to the Persians. And the Babylonian Empire, that at this point in Daniel’s 16-year-old life seems to be unstoppable, the world is Babylon, seven decades later, it comes crashing down.

Because listen, listen, guys, I want you to understand this. All the vain philosophies of this world will come crashing down. If the world defines social justice or justice in any format, that will not preserve humanity, that will not endure and persevere. The world is going to define and redefine what is just, what is right, what is good.

But the gospel is always good, and Jesus is the source of truth. And 70 years later, Nebuchadnezzar the king, is no more, the Babylonians are no more. A new king is in place, and Daniel is still standing. And faithful Daniel, under the favor of the Lord and in radical obedience to God’s plans and purposes has outlasted an entire kingdom.

Those of us who walk in faith with Jesus will outlast the rise and falls of movements and kingdoms, and presidents will come and go, and governors will come and go, and global economies will rise and fall and tank and recover. Whatever happens, know this, that only Jesus will remain for all of eternity. And the kingdom He’s building is perpetual.

This is an exciting time to be a Christian, because like Daniel, we’ve been given opportunities. Where others are seeing despair, true Christian leaders will see opportunity. To advance the calls of Christ, which is to love people with the gospel, give them Jesus, the hope of the world, and watch God change their lives in a way that will be eternal, that will be powerful, that will be earth-changing and globally impactful. We get to be a part of it.

Don’t get caught up in the fray. Don’t be discouraged, take heart, dear one, and trust that Jesus is on the throne. Yahweh, who preserved Daniel and his friends, is who’s going to preserve us in one way or another, to advance the true cause of Christ, which is not social issues, which is not what the world is pushing, but is to advance the gospel.

And along the way to love people well, to care for the marginalized, to reach into urban poor communities and distraught trailer parks and rural post-industrial America. To care for widows and orphans, and to pay attention to the foster system, and to minister to those who have been abused and marginalized and trafficked. To care about people, but to care about them so that they might know Jesus and know that this world and all that it offers us or all that it takes from us, is temporal.

See, the world’s gonna offer you a whole lot and the world’s gonna take from you a whole lot, and if you stand fast in the truth of who Jesus is and what He’s called you to be, you will remain 70 years later, when the world has given us new empires and social causes and economies and candidates. And all of them have come and gone.

Think about this. 70 years ago. 70 years ago, Hitler had only been gone for just a few years, you go back 76 years, Adolf Hitler’s still in power. Right? You got about 70 years in the rise of like socialist, communistic, Marxist China and the Soviet Union were happening. And between the Marxist, like global impact of the Soviet Union under Stalin and Maoist China, literally so many millions of people died, that sociologists and historians can’t figure it out, they can’t count at all.

But you know what, you know what still standing in former Soviet Russia? The church of Jesus Christ and the gospel is advancing. In China, since 1981, 30 years after the rise of a Marxist regime and government and Communist control, 30 years after it, the church of Jesus Christ began to grow, and at one million, it has now grown to over 100 million believers, and the house church movement in China is like a machine that can’t be stopped. Because the kingdoms of this Earth will rise and fall, but only Jesus will prevail.

Hope that’s encouraging. I hope you are fired up to be a lot in a dark world, to be a city on a hill. Let’s do what Jesus would have us do to make a deep impact on our world in 2021. Amen? Oh man, I’m excited to see what God’s gonna do. I’m excited for season two as well, and so we’ll keep putting content out, look for it every Monday, and we’re excited for the line up.

If you’ve got things that you want… We’ve had some people ask for some content. I actually had someone ask if we would do, like we did the Critical Race Theory series, if we would do one on nationalism. I think we’re gonna do one. We alluded and referenced a lot of this today, we’re gonna talk about progressive Christianity and nationalism in the church, and then what historic Christianity really looks like and how we gotta push away from those two extremes.

Aligning ourselves with the extreme right-wing agenda, aligning ourselves with an extreme left-wing political and social agenda, and looking at the historical teachings of Jesus and why and how that’s better. We are gonna cover that. And then some other… We’ve had a lot of other questions, like deconstruction, a lot of people have had a deconstruction of faith, we’re gonna be covering that early in the season. What happens when celebrity Christians walk away from the faith? What do we make of it?

The next episode, we’re gonna look at the fall of strong Christians, how devastating it is when people that we have looked to as models and as examples, when they fall. Particularly we’re gonna examine the devastation that a lot of us here at SWO have had to work through over the fall of Ravi Zacharias and allegations that are now looking to be true of him.

So I hope you’ll join us for those episodes that are forthcoming. We’re excited about it. We’re glad to be back in the saddle. 2021 is here. Like it, love it. Don’t know what to do with it. It’s crazy, but the gospel is gonna prevail. Let’s be a city on a hill. And we’ll see you in the next episode.

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January 18, 2021

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