Being Different For Jesus

 

Luke 13:22-30 / Daniel 3:8-30

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

It’s not often I get to preach on the book of Daniel. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. Daniel is the person I was named after, so I do have some knowledge of the person Daniel.

His name means, “God is my judge.” That sounds familiar. He was carried off to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar sometime during his reign from 605 -562 B.C. and before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Luther says that Daniel was “a splendid, great man in the sight of both God and the world.” Though he was never a king he rose to the position of doing the duties of a king. He was loved by the king but hated by rivals. He was a brave man in the company of unbelievers and he was a prophet and messenger of God. Daniel was all these things but that’s not what I like most about him. I like Daniel most because, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in our Old Testament lesson, he dared to be different in a world that looked down on diversity.

Most, if not all of us, are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Because he would not follow a new decree and bow down and worship the king, he had to face the lions. Now the king loved Daniel, but his rivals convinced the king to make this law so as to get rid of Daniel knowing he would never acquiesce because of the love and devotion he had for his God, and they were right.

The king, by royal decree, could not back out of what he had written into law, even though he had a great deal of love for Daniel. And, because Daniel would not obey this new law he was forced to suffer the penalty the law decreed, Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den. But he survived because of God’s protection. After this, Daniel was saved and his rivals were forced, because of their deception of the king, to suffer the same fate. Only, this time, the lions did their duty.

Daniel dared to be different even though he knew it could cost him his life. This is the same fate the three heroes of faith faced in our Old Testament lesson. They dared to stand for what was right among other’s who wouldn’t dare. They stood firm on faith where others would have said what they must to stay alive. They dared to be different for God.

The Bible is filled with people of faith who dared to be different for God. Moses faced Pharaoh, Jeremiah and the other prophets faced their own people as they worshipped other gods, Esther faced the king to save those same people. And just as they did, we too are called to be different in a world growing farther and farther from Godliness.

Our calling is to be different. Different from each other in that we all are given different gifts and different from the world. Different in our thinking, in our actions, in our worship, in our devotion…different.

In our New Testament lesson, Peter says we are called to be Holy, something the world is not. He says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, be different than the world for Jesus sake. We are to set our hope on Jesus. Not in worldliness or selfish desire but in Jesus. Jesus is our hope and our source of grace. The world would have you believe something else….anything else. But the truth remains the same. We are called to be different for Jesus because only He can give us hope.

Romans 12 makes this even clearer. It tells us to, Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in Spirit, serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

All good advice to be sure. But to fulfill this calling you will have to be different than the world and you will have to be different for Jesus sake and not your own. 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were brought before the king for doing just as Daniel had done. They refused to bow down to anyone or anything other than the true God. The king and his men tried to change them into what everyone else had become but they refused. Even under threat of roasting in a fire they stood firm because they were different from the world. In the end, God saved them also for daring to stand up for what is right.

Philippians 2 makes it clear to whom we must bow, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is asking us to be like Him, humble, steadfast, faithful and determined. He knows people will try and change us to be more like the world but His calling remains the same. Instead, we are to be in the world but not of it. Focused on godliness and not worldliness. Faithful to one God above all false gods, Steadfast in that faith so much so that it defines us. Determined in mind, body and soul to make a difference for the sake of Jesus Christ.

We are to bow to no one but the one highly exalted, whose name is above all names. It was Jesus who gave us the perfect example of what we are to become. In a world that needed a Savior, He became the definition of deliverance. When He was persecuted for speaking the truth, he remained committed to His Father’s calling. When His own people would not believe in Him because they were expecting a Warrior Messiah, He proved that love was a better weapon then revenge. He was born in a different manner to reign in a sick world. In the end, He would stand victorious over sin and death because he was unique.

Now its your turn to live by that example. Will you be thrown to the lions or led to a furnaces fiery death? Probably not. But could you be persecuted for remaining different than the world? Most likely.

Yet that is what we must be. If we claim the name of Christian, it requires us to be unlike anything of the world’s creation. Jesus has won for you the right to be different. In Him we have hope so that we may take our distinctive heritage another step higher, another step further in faith. By His grace, He will lead us to greater places than hurt and anger could ever take us.

Let’s all be different for Jesus, our Savior, our Sanctifier, our King. The world might hate you for it, but your Savior, Sanctifier and King will show you one day that its all worth it in the end. By His unselfish death He made us to be children of God, but that requires us to be changed into the image of Christ and removed from this valley of tears.

In our story from the book of Daniel, our three heroes told Nebuchadnezzar that they did not fear the furnace for, as they said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” In his fury, the king makes the furnace even hotter and throws them in but something unusual happened.  It says in verse 24, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to the counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”

Then they answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

The romantic in me thinks the king was right. Only instead of it being the son of the gods it was the one and only Son of the one true God standing in that fiery furnace with the three. In the end, not even a hair was singed and the King bowed instead.

Dare to be different even against seemingly insurmountable odds. Let Jesus save you if that is required and face your challenges with the same faith as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The world will try to make you conform, but be different than the world. Trust in Jesus because its still all about Him. Amen.

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