Dare to Be a Daniel
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, December 2, 2007
Copyright © 2007, P. G. Mathew
Today we live in Babylon, which stands for the corrupt culture surrounding us. As Christians who have been made new creations, we are not to conform to this culture, but to live holy, separated lives and shine as stars in the universe, standing up for God and for the Bible. We receive encouragement and instruction in how to do so from the lives of four Hebrew men who did so in their lifetimes-Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. We must dare to be a Daniel in our Babylon.
In Daniel 1 we are introduced to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, four young men who lived for the glory of God in the midst of the corrupt alien culture of Babylon. They were fifteen years of age when they were taken by the conquering king Nebuchadnezzar from Judah to Babylon in 605 B.C., and Daniel was about eighty-five years old when the captivity ended. These four were royalty, born in aristocratic Jewish families. They lived at a time of extreme apostasy in Judah. Yet their parents were godly-they were from high class, godly families-and trained their children to be God-fearing, Bible-centered, and holy.
God always has a remnant who serve him. They are a minority, but they will stand for God's truth and for holiness. These young men were great students of the Scriptures (cf. Daniel 9:2). They were like pious Joseph of old, who would not sin though he was in Egypt (cf. Gen. 39:9). These four were non-conformists, people with spiritual spine, counter-culturalists. They were truly the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
As teenagers, they lived for one purpose only: to glorify the God of Israel, the absolute Sovereign of the universe. They refused to be corrupted by Babylon or by its king, Nebuchadnezzar. The king tried to reeducate them in paganism and idolatry, hoping they would soon forget their country, their Bible, their temple, their God and their customs. He wanted them to become well-adjusted, nice pagans, so he gave them pagan names linked to pagan gods and began to educate them for three years in pagan literature and pagan ways at the "Harvard University" of Babylon.
But these teenagers refused to become pagans. They remained holy even in Babylon. Brothers and sisters, we also are living in a pagan country, a pagan state, and a pagan city with a pagan school system and university. We are indoctrinated every day, not in truth, but in the godless culture surrounding us. How, then, shall we live? Should we conform to the culture, or be transformed by the word of God and stand against the culture and stand for God?
We are in the same situation that these four Hebrew young men were in. Accordingly, we also must shine as light in our world and stand for God and truth. We must live holy lives, glorifying our God triune who alone is sovereign. We have no choice but to live for God's glory, knowing that a holy life is a happy life. The pleasures of sin last only for a season. God has spoken: "Be ye holy for I am holy." As good trees, we must produce good fruit, whether we are planted in Egypt, Jerusalem, Babylon, the United States or anywhere else in the world. As God's children, we are to shine as stars in this crooked and perverse generation, holding forth the word of life. We are Bible people, obedient people, praying people, wise people, hardworking people, believing people, successful people, witnessing people, people of God destined for glory.
Although Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of these Hebrew children, he could not change their nature. Instead, through them the Babylonian elites eventually praised the God of Israel as the only sovereign God. Let us, therefore, examine the first six chapters of Daniel and learn from these young men how to be resolute saints, praying saints, confessing saints, ministering saints, judging saints, and persevering saints-saints who persevered to the end, from fifteen to eighty-five years of age, confessing Christ and living for him.
Resolute Saints (Daniel 1)
"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine" (Dan. 1:8). We see these Hebrew children at fifteen years of age in this chapter. In his paganizing effort, Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of these four teenagers to pagan names, asked them to eat pagan food from the king's table, and began to train them to become good pagans. We can imagine that some young people would have rejoiced in this great blessing. They would write home, saying, "King Nebuchadnezzar has taken a special interest in us and is teaching us the ways of Babylon. He is even feeding us with food from his own table. What a blessing! Please keep praying. We are moving on up in the world."
Nebuchadnezzar thought the God of Israel was weak and less powerful than he was. After all, had Nebuchadnezzar not just defeated Judah, taking captives and removing holy vessels from the temple of Yahweh and putting them into his own god's temple? But he was wrong in his interpretation of history. Daniel 1:2 tells us the truth: "And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand because of the evil Judah had committed." Our God is a holy God; judgment must begin in the household of God. If God's people refuse to live holy lives, God's judgment will come to our houses. The Lord was punishing his own people for their wickedness and he used Babylon as his rod.
Now the captives in Babylon were faced with a choice. We have heard the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Should God's people behave as pagans because they were in Babylon?
These four teenage saints refused to be paganized. They made up their minds to remain holy and not defile themselves with pagan food-food offered to idols, the meat of unclean animals. Such food was contrary to God's word, and they would rather obey God than men. They would rather obey God than violate God's law. They would rather die than eat unclean food and become unclean.
What a muscular faith! These young people dared to be holy in pagan Babylon. When we resolve to obey God and please him, our God helps us: "Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel" (Dan. 1:9). Decision-making is very simple when we resolve to serve God. When we do what is right according to what God says, we can then leave the matter to God, and God will help us and show us favor.
I believe God's Holy Spirit came upon Daniel and gave him wisdom to propose an alternative to the king's command: "Give us vegetables and water for ten days and then compare us with these others who are eating meat and drinking wine. Our God is able to give us physical health and competence. We are honoring God and God will honor us. Go ahead. Please give us vegetables" (see Dan. 1:11-14).
These four Hebrew youths trusted their God to give them physical health and looks. Sure enough, at the end of ten days, they looked healthier than all the others. Our God is transcendent, but he is also immanent. He comes into our affairs, our homes, our lives, our schools, our workplaces, and helps us. If we honor him, he will honor us. God was with these people in Babylon to help them, and because they dared to stand for truth, they did not have to eat pagan food anymore. God helped them. God is not only the God of Jerusalem; he is also the God of Babylon and the God of Egypt and the God of this country. He will help us as we stand for him.
When you are tempted in your Babylon, be true to God and his word. Do what is right according to the Bible. Make your decisions to please God, and God will help you succeed. God will solve your problems.
"To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning" (Dan. 1:17). God gave them superior wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, and they successfully completed their three years of university education to qualify them for the king's diplomatic service. They became the top four in the university, ten times better than the others and received the best jobs in the kingdom. They proved the truth of what God spoke to Eli: "Those who honor me I will honor" (1 Sam. 2:30).
Praying Saints (Daniel 2)
In chapter 2 these four youths are seventeen years of age. The God of Israel, the Lord of history, gave great king Nebuchadnezzar a dream about the future of world history. When he awoke, Nebuchadnezzar was deeply troubled because he could not remember the dream: "So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When the came in and stood before the king, he said to them, 'I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means'" (Dan. 2:2-3).
The magicians failed, so Nebuchadnezzar grew angry and was about to kill them off. Daniel came to know this, so he went to the king and asked for some time for prayer. Not only was Daniel resolute, but he was also a praying person.
"Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon" (Dan. 2:17-18). Daniel and his friends prayed to the living God. True saints make decisions according to the word of God and true saints pray to God to solve their problems. These four teenagers prayed fervently and earnestly all night for God's mercy. They prayed with thanksgiving. They prayed believing God would hear them. They prayed with fasting and in a spirit of unity. They prayed with tears. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (Jas. 5:16). Jesus said, "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven" (Matt. 18:19). When you are in Babylon, always do what is right and pleasing to God. When you face troubles, pray earnestly, and God will hear your prayer.
After prayer, they went to bed. Toward the morning, God gave the dream and its interpretation to Daniel in a vision. Do you know what these young people did? They woke up and started another prayer meeting. This time it was a praise and thanksgiving meeting. When you are in Babylon and God answers your prayers, do not forget to give him thanks. So they prayed: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers. You have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king" (Dan. 2:20-24).
Daniel went to Nebuchadnezzar and told him the dream and interpretation. God delights in doing the impossible. God does what only God can do. Nebuchadnezzar learned that soon his kingdom, as well as all other kingdoms, would come to an end. The rock, Jesus Christ, would crush all kingdoms of the world and become the everlasting kingdom.
God used these Hebrews in Babylon to glorify him. Daniel was highly honored, not by making compromises, but by living a holy and obedient life. He was made governor of Babylon proper and became the head of all the wise men. Through his recommendations, the three other Hebrew young men were made high-ranking administrators. "Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering of incense be presented to him" (Dan. 2:46; see also vv. 47-49). This great honor came to the one who honored God.
Do not be tempted to compromise. Be godly, be separate, and be holy. The way of success is the way of godliness.
Confessing Saints (Daniel 3)
Anyone can confess faith in God in times of prosperity; in Daniel 3 we see what happens when such confession can cost one's life. In this chapter, the three Hebrew youths are now about twenty years of age.
Nebuchadnezzar did not learn his lesson from the events of Daniel 2. Instead, he remained an arrogant pagan and refused to accept the divine verdict about the end of his kingdom. He made a gold-plated image of a man ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and made a decree that everyone in his kingdom bow down and worship it. In essence, Nebuchadnezzar was saying, "I am going to ascend to the throne of God." Satan was inspiring him to oppose the Almighty God. We read about such pride in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. Arrogant man challenges the very existence of God. But God will not put up with proud people. God casts down every arrogant creature, whether angel or human. God will put them down.
Nebuchadnezzar constructed this ninety-foot high statue representing himself and decreed that everyone fall down and worship it when the clear signal was given. Everyone did so, except the three Hebrew youths-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel was not there at the time). They remained standing in defiance of the king's command and in obedience to the King of kings. They were people of Scriptures, people of conviction, who clearly understood God's commands to not worship idols (Ex. 20:3-5).
After they were brought before Nebuchadnezzar for this infraction, they were given another chance to worship Satan (Dan. 3:15). But notice the arrogance of Nebuchadnezzar. Satan is speaking through him and causing him to pretend he is stronger than the God of Israel: "But if you do not worship [the image], you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" In other words, this king who earlier had acknowledged Daniel's God as the God of gods and Lord of kings was now saying, "I am greater than your God. Your God is too small. Your God is nothing. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Worship Satan or be burned in a furnace."
Then these young men made their courageous confession. Notice, there was no debate or argument. God granted them great faith to make this confession, knowing it could cost them their lives:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Dan. 3:16-18).
They were saying, "Our God is able and he will deliver us. And even if he chooses not to, we refuse to worship Satan. We worship and serve only the true and living God, the most high God, the God of heaven, the Sovereign God, the God of gods, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our parents." They were saying, in effect, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"
They were promptly bound and thrown into the fiery furnace now made hotter seven times. But to the great surprise of Nebuchadnezzar, their God rescued them. In fact, God was with them in the fiery furnace. God was with them in Babylon, even in the fiery furnace. God is with us in all our trials and troubles. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Ps. 23:4).
The only damage these young men suffered is the burning of the ropes that bound them. Their hair was not singed, their clothes and turbans and everything else was fine-there was not even the smell of smoke. "Our God is able to rescue us from your hand," they had told the king. "You said he cannot, our God is God Almighty, God of heaven, God of earth. He is able to deliver us, he will deliver us, and he did deliver us."
"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego'" (Dan. 3:28). Can the people of the world say the "God of" before your name, demonstrating that your life reveals the glory of God? God is defined as the God of Daniel, the God of Shadrach, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac. Notice, these men were further promoted. Stand for truth and do not compromise. Do not conform, and you will be successful through godliness in our Babylon.
Ministering Saints (Daniel 4)
In this chapter Daniel is about fifty years old. Nebuchadnezzar remained arrogant, so God gave him another dream, which made him afraid. He saw a very large tree full of branches, leaves, and fruit. Suddenly, it was cut down. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know what this meant. The wise men failed as usual, but Daniel gave God's interpretation. He told the king, "You are the tree, and God is going to cut you down to size." God warns all arrogant people that he will cut them down to size. He said, "God is going to cut you down. You will become insane and suffer from lycanthropia. You will behave like an animal for seven years until you acknowledge the true God, the God of heaven, rules the affairs of men, and that God is the God and Lord of history. Everything is under his sovereign control."
This is the ministry of the saints. Daniel stands before the great king of Babylon, which was the world power of the time, and tells him to repent: "Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice. Repent of your sins and your wickedness and do what is right. Otherwise, God is going to cut you down to size" (Dan. 4:27, paraphrased).
The king did not learn his lesson. Within a year, in great arrogance he exclaimed, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as a royal residence by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:28). In other words, Nebuchadnezzar was saying, "Of me and through me and unto me are all things." This is utter defiance of the God of heaven. At these words, he was interrupted by God and became insane, acting like an animal. If we want a sound mind, we must love and obey God. When we persist in sin, the first thing to go is our mind. God will give us over to what is called a depraved mind. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God and was restored.
In our Babylon, we are to emulate Daniel by helping people, ministering to them and pointing them to God. Therefore, let us speak boldly about God Almighty and his purposes. Let us be unafraid to speak about sin and encourage people to repent. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit as we declare the truth. As we pray and practice righteousness, God shall be with us and will glorify himself through us.
Judging Saints (Daniel 5)
The Bible teaches that the saints shall judge angels and the world, including all the powerful and mighty people. In Daniel 5 we see Daniel at eighty-one years of age, in 539 B. C. Nebuchadnezzar had died long ago, and now Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar were co-rulers of his empire, with Belshazzar remaining in Babylon. Belshazzar was a playboy, a party animal who did nothing in his life to distinguish himself. He gave a feast for a thousand nobles and showed his defiance and contempt for the God of heaven by drinking wine from the golden vessels from the Jerusalem temple. While he was in high spirits, having a good time, he saw a hand writing something on the wall: "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way" (Dan. 5:5-6).
How many people dare to despise God and treat him with contempt! But God mocks those who mock him. The God of heaven noticed Belshazzar's arrogance and now there was writing on the wall: "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN." The mighty fool Belshazzar became pale and frightened. (PGM) His knees knocked together and he fell down. The psalmist says, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment" (Ps. 2:12). Sudden destruction will come, and without remedy, for a fool (cf. Prov. 29:1).
The wise men failed to interpret the ominous writings on the wall, so Daniel was brought. Daniel was filled with the Holy Spirit, which even the pagans recognized as "the spirit of the holy gods" in him (Dan. 5:11). Daniel interpreted the dream and pronounced divine judgment upon Babylon, essentially telling Belshazzar, "Your days are finished. You have been weighed in God's balances and found wanting. Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and Persians, and you will die." There was no time given to him to repent.
God had judged Nebuchadnezzar years ago for his pride when he refused to bow down before the true God, but Belshazzar failed to learn from history. So Daniel told him, "You learned nothing from the story of your grandfather. When he became arrogant, God cut him down to size and he became an animal. You are to read history and learn something." So also everything in Scripture is written for our learning, hope, encouragement, comfort, and warning. "All Scripture is profitable for teaching, for rebuke, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished to do every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Belshazzar not only did not learn, but he became even more arrogant. So Daniel said there was no mercy for him anymore. This is the ministry of judgment coming through a man of God: "But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. . . . But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways" (Dan. 5:22-24). God held Belshazzar's life in his hand. He holds the whole world in his hand.
Daniel was again greatly honored and was proclaimed as the third ruler of Babylon. The same night, the kingdom of Babylon, in accordance with God's decree, came to an end and Belshazzar was killed.
As we live in our Babylon, may we be the solution to human problems by being servants of the Most High God. We have the answers to the world's problems. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We can succeed always, for God is with us. We succeed, not by conformity, but by holiness. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of his world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).
Persevering Saints (Daniel 6)
In Daniel 6, we find Daniel at eighty-three years of age. Babylon is finished and the Medo-Persian empire has been in effect since 539 B. C. Darius the Mede is reigning in Babylon proper, and Daniel is serving in his administration.
In Daniel 6:3 we read that Darius was planning to make Daniel his assistant ruler. At this, all the pagan officers became full of envy and assembled together to plan a way to destroy Daniel. They realized they could not charge him with corruption because Daniel lived a righteous life always. So they planned to enact a new law. They told a lie to King Darius that all officers had agreed to enact this new law, even though they did not consult Daniel. The law said that for thirty days no one should pray to any god or man but to King Darius. As a megalomaniac, Darius approved of this idea that he could be god for thirty days and the decree was issued: If anyone was caught praying to any other god or man but Darius, that person would be killed by being thrown into a den of hungry lions.
Finally, the elderly Daniel came to know about this decree designed to destroy him. How would he respond? Would he rationalize and close the windows when he prayed, or just pray in his sleep, or in silence? Would he stop praying altogether just for thirty days to save his neck? The answer to all these questions is no. In Daniel we see an example of a persevering saint.
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before" (Dan. 6:10). He continued to pray openly and loudly: "Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help" (Dan. 6:11).
After Daniel was discovered praying, he was thrown into the lions' den. It is my imagination that these hungry lions became his bed, his pillow, his cover, and his companions. An angel was sent to shut the mouths of the lions (Dan. 6:22). The writer to the Hebrews says by faith some shut the mouths of lions (Heb. 11:33). "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). Daniel was rescued, but Daniel's enemies and their families were thrown into the lions' den and destroyed.
Look at these great words of an old man: "My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me because I was found innocent in his sight" (Dan. 6:22). Our God is almighty. He is with us in our Babylon and he is for us. We can pray to this God and he will help us.
Daniel persevered to the very end, serving and glorifying God in pagan Babylon. He was successful in all his endeavors. He was like a tree planted by the waters, that produces fruit in its season. Whatever he did prospered.
Daniel began living in Babylon at fifteen and continued until he died there while in his eighties. As a true servant of God, he never conformed, compromised, or negotiated away truth. Yet he was truly successful in everything because he honored God and God honored him. He was committed to his God and to the Scriptures, to his fellow saints, and to his responsibilities. He truly shone as a star in Babylon.
Dare to Be Like Jesus
We are living in the Babylon of today. Our culture is the dominant one in the world, corrupting the people of the world, and our country is the greatest power in the world. Our Babylon is opposed to the God of the Bible and his laws. Babylon is indoctrinating paganism into our schools and universities. Laws are being enacted and will be enacted against Christians. Even now people are trying to come up with laws against parents' rights to discipline their children. Even now ministers are encouraged not to preach against homosexuality, premarital sex, or abortion. Our society says parents should not require children to obey them. We are told not to preach the Bible as the only word of God or Jesus as the only Savior. We should preach pluralism and multiculturalism. Be tolerant or be punished.
We must make up our minds. If we are true Christians, we will not only survive, but thrive in the midst of a rotten culture because God will be with us. The Holy Spirit shall be poured out upon us and God will perform miracles and wonders.
However, we are not saying to be like Daniel, but to beyond that, to be like Jesus, who was tempted in every way but always pleased his Father. Finally, he went to the cross, having said, "Thy will be done." Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. He accomplished redemption for us and the Spirit of God is applying that redemption right now to people, opening their hearts, giving them the gift of repentance and faith.
When he was asked to worship Satan, he declared, "It is written: You must worship God and serve him only." Through Jesus Christ we can say the same thing. We can worship God and serve him only in our Babylon, whether in our workplace, in our community, in our state, in our schools, in our university, or in our family. Let us honor God by a holy life, and he will honor us.
Why Should We Be Holy
In the midst of complete apostasy and moral darkness, God always has his people who will shine as light. There in Babylon, in the midst of paganism, God's people stood against the corrupt culture. They became successful, not through conformity and compromise, but through holiness and living God-centered lives.
How many modern teenagers can say they are living holy lives? If we look at today's young people, we see many displaying negative characteristics that are considered normal for our culture, including deceit, lying, and laziness. When parents or teachers tell some youths to do something, a negative attitude exudes from their faces. Then they verbalize it, coming up with reasons why they cannot do it. Others have an entitlement mentality. They are parasitic, not productive. They want others to provide for them, but they will not produce. Some have a know-it-all attitude when, in fact, they know nothing. They are what Proverbs calls "simpletons," in need of wisdom to be received from God through God's agents.
Many young people are self-centered: they think the whole world revolves around them and their interests. Others are characterized by frequently making decisions emotionally, without careful thought or advice. Many are caught up in the technological hazards of our age, spending hours on the Internet, but not for the glory of God. Many are influenced by movies and music, much of which is designed only to corrupt and make people into passive morons rather than wise people. Many, especially in the Western world, are addicted to sports, which can lead to both physical and moral problems. Others are addicted to fashion, wanting desperately to be like the world. The way one dresses or wears one's hair can reveal much about where one's mind is focused. Much of our modern society is taken up with outward appearance while the inner man wastes away. God says he does not look on outward appearance, but on the heart. We can have a rotten heart but a nice outward appearance.
Others fall into drug and alcohol abuse, or become slaves addicted to pornography. Some manifest disobedience to parents and then to other authorities in their lives. Others fall into evil associations, rejecting the counsel of Psalm 1. Children raised in churches often neglect the word of God, even though, if they read the Bible and cried out to God and sought the fellowship of godly people, they would be blessed and successful. Some are into sexual impurity of every kind, even though the Bible does not teach that. Some look for worldly praise and approval, rather than seeking the only approval that matters, which is God saying, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Some are subject to an insatiable consumerism. They are always buying gadgets. We think that technology will make us better people, but, in reality, I have not seen any person become better because of technology.
Why, then, must we be holy? We want to give a summary of what Bishop J.C. Ryle said in the nineteenth century about being holy.
1. God Commands Holiness
The first reason we should be holy is because God commands it. In the Old Testament he commanded it, and Peter cites it in 1 Peter 1:14-16: "Be holy, because I am holy."
All pretended Christianity will go up in smoke in the fiery trial of our faith. But the four Hebrew teenagers were tried and their faith came out as pure gold. When we look at these four people, we notice these characteristics:
1. They were Bible-reading people.
Daniel 9 says Daniel read the Scripture and discovered from Jeremiah's prophecy the time had come for the people of God to return from exile. These word-centered people studied, memorized, and understood the Bible. Their standard of living was God's word.
2. They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
People testified that Daniel was the man in whom the spirit of the holy gods resided. I would say that is the Holy Spirit.
3. They enjoyed fellowship with God's people.
Read it in Daniel 2. When the demand came to tell and interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the four godly youths came together to pray and cry out to God. Theirs was a dynamic, thriving Christian fellowship.
4. They prayed earnestly.
These young men knew God and cried out to him. And God heard and answered their prayers.
5. They excelled in their work.
God gave these youths wisdom, understanding, capacity, and competence to serve in the government of Babylon. If we are dull in our minds, we are not experiencing the Holy Spirit. Show me a man who reads God's word, is filled with the Holy Spirit, who prays and fellowships with God's people, and I will show you a man who is excellent in what he does. Even unbelieving elites will commend such a man. If you say you are a Christian worker, you must be excellent in what you do. Otherwise, you bring shame to God by saying you are a Christian.
Why, then, must we live godly, holy lives? First, God commands it. It is not optional. Children of the devil are unholy. The moment we say we are Christians, we are to be godly. Yes, we live in the world and do business in it, but we cannot have heart fellowship with the wicked. Paul admonishes:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people" (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
This idea is from the Old Testament: "I will put my dwelling place among you and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. Therefore, come out from them, and be separate" (Lev. 26:11-13).
What a wonderful statement: God will be our God, and he will do what only God can do for us. We may face troubles but he will be with us to solve the problems and open the doors that are closed. If you say you are a Christian, you must live a godly life because God commands it. Paul writes: "'Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (2 Cor. 6:17-18).
2. God Became Man to Make Us Holy
The second reason we must live holy lives is that the very purpose of incarnation is our holiness. Paul exhorts, "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:25-27). Why did God become man? To clean us up from our filth.
3. A Holy Life Evidences Saving Faith
The third reason we should live holy lives is because a holy life is the only evidence of saving faith. James writes, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead" (Jas. 2:26). The only evidence of saving faith is holiness, good works.
4. Holiness Proves We Love Christ
Holiness is the only proof that we love Jesus. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). May God help us from lying and pretending to be Christians when we do not want to obey his commandments! We love him because he first loved us. When we look at the cross, we see that Christ paid for our salvation. Is it too much that he asks us to keep his commandments?
5. Holiness Proves We are Children of God
Holiness is the only evidence that we are children of God. Paul says, "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). The more correct translation is: "Those who are being led by the Spirit of God, they and they alone are children of God." Holiness is the proof that we are God's children. These four Hebrew children proved that they were children of God in a pagan place, far removed from their parents, the prophets, the Bible, the temple, the sacrifices, and the festivals. But they regulated their lives by God's word.
6. A Holy Person Does Good to Others
Bishop Ryle says holiness is the most likely way to do good to others, citing 1 Peter 3 as proof of this point, about unbelieving husbands and believing wives: "Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair and the wearing of gold and jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Pet. 3:1-4). You cannot help a drunkard by being a drunkard. You cannot help a lazy man by being a lazy man. You cannot help a fornicator by being a fornicator. You cannot help a person in darkness by being darkness. Be light, be holy, if you want to help someone.
7. Our Present Consolation Depends on a Holy Life
Why should we live a holy life? Our present consolation, our present comfort depends on it. Bishop Ryle's argument is that our sin always produces sufferings. That is a law of God's universe. Every time we sin, it produces suffering. That statement itself should help us. If we want present consolation, do what is right. Happiness is holiness. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit in the midst of all problems.
8. Without Holiness, No One Goes to Heaven
Without holiness no one can see God. That means without holiness, sure hell awaits us. The Hebrews writer exhorts, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). By reading Daniel 1-6, we must be blind if we do not understand that these people functioned as the light of the world. They lived a holy life, and the world praised them, and God praised them.
We live in Babylon, surrounded by paganism, darkness, moral corruption, wretchedness, enmity toward God, pollution of every type that affects our minds. May God help us to commit ourselves to the study of the Scriptures, mastering, memorizing, and meditating upon the Scriptures, and doing the Scriptures. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit, that other people may say concerning us, "The Holy Spirit is in these people; there is something different about them." May we engage in personal prayer, wrestling with God, praying in faith, praying with tears, praying with passion, praying with urgency, praying with petition, praying with thanksgiving, praying with expectation, knowing that our God is able to deliver us and he will deliver us. Finally, may we have such dynamic, vital, personal relationship with God's people. As iron sharpens iron, may each one sharpen the other, contributing to our common good of godliness, because godliness is profitable in this life and in the life to come. May we be holy and strive to excel in all we do, that may we bear witness to God supreme-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2007, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™