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The Giant of Conformity - Daniel 1:5-16

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There are giants in the land, both moral and spiritual, and we need courage to confront them! Truth is, the world around us is not at all sympathetic to the Christian cause. In fact, they would like nothing more than to silence us and make us conform to their standards. As our Lord said, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19, NLT). Daniel and his three friends were pressured to conform, but they refused. Let’s find out the source of their strength to make such a courageous stand.

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The Giant of Conformity
Daniel 1:5-16
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
There are giants in the land, both moral and spiritual, and we need courage to confront them! Truth is, the world around us is not at all sympathetic to the Christian cause. In fact, they would like nothing more than to silence us and make us conform to their standards. As our Lord said, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19, NLT). Daniel and his three friends were pressured to conform, but they refused. Let’s find out the source of their strength to make such a courageous stand.
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Hunting Giants

Hunting Giants

There are giants in the land. They are not easy to recognize like the literal giants of the Old Testament, "tall as the cedars and strong as the oaks" (Amos 2:9, NIV), but they can be just as dangerous. And we must have the courage to destroy them. In this teaching series, Skip Heitzig explores literal and symbolic giants throughout the Bible and the heroes who slayed them. Daniel challenged the giant of conformity. Nehemiah obliterated the giant of apathy. Esther executed the giant of self. Courage starts where confidence ends.

Outline

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  1. The Predicament (vv. 5-7)

  2. The Protest (v. 8a)

  3. The Petition (vv. 8b-14)

  4. The Payoff (vv. 15-16)


Study Guide

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Connect Group Guide: August 15, 2021
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: “The Giant of Conformity”
Text: Daniel 1:5-16

Main Point
There are giants in the land, both moral and spiritual, and we need courage to confront them! Truth is, the world around us is not at all sympathetic to the Christian cause. In fact, they would like nothing more than to silence us and make us conform to their standards. As our Lord said, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19, NLT). Daniel and his three friends were pressured to conform, but they refused. Let’s find out the source of their strength to make such a courageous stand.

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” —Romans 12:2 (PHILLIPS)

Talk about It
  1. What unexpected pressures to conform have you experienced? Looking back, can you see how God worked behind-the-scenes? Read Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28-32, and Philippians 1:12.
  2. What have you let in your life that may be defiling you (e.g., what you look at or listen to, or who you spend time with)? Where is your line in the sand when it comes to conforming to worldly things?
  3. Read Romans 12:1-3 and 16-21. What would your life and influence look like if you chose, like Daniel, to purpose in your heart to do what is right before God regardless of the pull of the world?
“Saying no to conformity will open the door of opportunity.” —Pastor Skip

Make It Practical
  • Write down your commitment—your line in the sand—and post it in a place where you can see it daily: on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, or steering wheel.
  • Read Romans 12:1-3 and 16-21. List the ways these verses show how to resist the ways of the world. It often comes down to doing what is easy versus doing what is right.
  • Learn to develop convictions. Develop the conviction to say no, so you’ll have occasion to say yes. When you close the door to defilement, you open the door to development.
Pray
Father, sometimes we are faced with unexpected challenges to conform. You warned us that the world would want to squeeze us into it’s mold. But You are sovereign and working behind-the-scenes. Help us to purpose in our hearts, like Daniel, with inward conviction to honor You. You’ve charged us to occupy until you come. Pressure us inwardly by Your Holy Spirit to be self-controlled, winsome, and kind—not afraid to petition for change. We know You are a God who honors commitment. Use us for your purposes so that many might know You, the one true God. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Cross references: Exodus 2:11-12; Leviticus 11:4-8; Proverbs 5:21; Romans 12:2; 16:7; 2 Timothy 2:24

Transcript

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The Giant of Conformity - Daniel 1:5-16 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Welcome to our new series. Welcome to church. And turning your Bibles to Daniel Chapter 1 this morning. Kudos to our incredible creative team in putting that video together.

[APPLAUSE]

I'm going to throw something up on the screen, a quote. "Religion must die in order for mankind to live." These are the words of TV host and atheist Bill Maher. In 2008, he put out a documentary that was designed to make religious people, people of faith, look like utter idiots. In fact, he called them terrorists.

Look at the quote again. "Religion must die in order for mankind to live." That is not very different from what Karl Marx famously said in 1843. "Religion is the opium of the people." I'm believing that you have probably seen that or heard of that before. That's the philosophy of Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism.

After Marx came on the scene and people were dazzled by him in Russia, the followers of Karl Marx yanked all the religious teaching from the school system, and they outlawed criticism. Anybody who would speak against atheists or agnostics was punished. They then burned 100,000 churches in Russia.

And so the clergy of the country demanded religious freedom, as you might expect. And because they demanded religious freedom, they were sentenced to death. Now, don't think this happened 1,000 years ago. Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Russian Orthodox priests were arrested, and 95,000 of them were executed by firing squads. That's recent history.

I've told you before about my first day of college. I told you this story on many occasions, how my professor found out that I was a believer, and he stood and in front of a class said, pointing at me, my aim in this class is to dismantle your belief system. It is this dismantling of our belief system that happens to be the aim of people both outside the church and inside the church, sadly.

On one end of the spectrum, you have progressive liberals on the left, and on the other end of the spectrum you have Christian deconstructionists, all who want to marginalize us as being sheer idiots if we believe in this book, if we teach our children the truths of the Bible. And what they want is basically for us to shut up and go away. That's their agenda. They want to remove our voice from the public square. In short, they want us to conform, just shut up and do what we say.

A psychologist by the name of Nicholas Humphrey was lecturing at Oxford University, and he admitted in his speech his goal. And I'm going to quote it. His goal is to argue in favor of censorship against freedom of expression. And then he even admitted who he was aiming at in particular. Again he said, "Moral and religious education, especially the education a child receives at home."

I want you to see what he said in that speech, made a shocking statement. He said, "Children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon."

Interesting that he would equate teaching your kids the Bible with child abuse. That is the same ideological stance as Communist Russia. That is the same ideological stance as any totalitarian regime. But you need to know that there's a method to their madness. It comes in stages. First, they will redefine vocabulary. They use words you're familiar with, and they'll on purpose choose noble, lofty sounding words that nobody would argue against.

Who would dare oppose equality? Who would dare speak out against freedom or science? Problem is, the meaning they pour into those words are vastly different from the understood meaning of those words. So they'll use vocabulary that you're familiar with, but they begin redefining it.

Second, they will stigmatize their opponents. If you don't agree with them, they will label you. They will vilify you. They'll call you names. They'll call you homophobic. They'll call you xenophobic or Islamophobic or misogynistic or sexist, or the big one now is racist. And the reason they do this is they just want you to shut up. Don't say anything at all. Because if you can label somebody as phobic or unscientific, you can then perhaps take away their First Amendment right of free speech and even get them banned, canceled, from Facebook or Twitter or any big tech platform.

The Apostle Paul said, "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." A better translation, I think, is the Philips version. "Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold."

Well, how do we do that? How can our little voice and our presence stand up to the giant of conformity? Fortunately, a little kid by the name of Daniel shows us how, in Daniel Chapter 1. I don't have time to read and comment on the whole chapter, but we are going to read sections of it. And I want to begin with the predicament that Daniel was in.

Now, let me give you the long and short of it. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, has gained power. He has taken over the known world, the world of the Middle East. He has taken captive Jerusalem. And he has brought people with him to Babylon, including Daniel and his friends, and he is looking for servants for his palace in Babylon.

That takes us into verse 4, where we read, "young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.

Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hanania, Mishael, and Azariah. To them, the chief of the eunuchs gave names. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hanania, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; to Azariah, Abed-Nego." I'm going to fill in a couple of the gaps. A battle had just taken place, one of the most famous battles in history. If you're a history buff, you'll know of this, the Battle of Carchemis. Happened in 605 BC.

Carchemis is an area today in present-day Turkey. It is where Babylon defeated the combined armies of Assyria and Egypt. When that battle was won, Nebuchadnezzar was large and in charge. He was the new sheriff in town. The rest of the world was easy pickings. So he could pick off less powerful kingdoms, including the kingdom of Jerusalem.

So in that same year, 605 BC, he attacked Jerusalem. He did it again and 597 BC. He did it again in 586 BC. The last time he did it, he destroyed the city, burned the temple with fire. But on that first date, 605 BC, is when Daniel was kidnapped from his home and taken 1,600 miles away to live now in the courts of the Babylonian king.

I've told you on a few occasions that I've been to Iraq a few times, the area of Babylon. First time I went was in the Gulf War, the first Gulf War. And we were trying to get in. Planes could not fly into Baghdad, so we had to take a taxi from Ammon, Jordan, all the way across the Jordanian and Iraqi desert to get to Baghdad. It was 25 hours one way and 25 hours back one way.

So we did this drive, and we hired a taxi driver who was a chain smoker. I just want you to feel for my predicament. One cigarette after another after another after another all day long. And his favorite music was Madonna. So he had a stack of Madonna tapes and a carton of cigarettes. I felt like I was in the Babylonian captivity. Has nothing at all to do with this text. Just wanted to throw that in free of charge.

Nebuchadnezzar had a four-tiered process to get to these kids. Number one, he isolated them. He took them from their home, took them away from their friends, took them away from their parents, took them away from their temple, their worship, their religious influence, and sequestered them in a new environment. He isolated them.

Second thing he did is he indoctrinated them. He reeducated them. Notice it says they were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans. Now, you read and go, that's not so bad. That's like a free college education. The government's paying for that. Language and literature of the Chaldeans? Sign me up.

But the goal was not just academic. The goal was to reorient their way of thinking to a Babylonian worldview. It was a three-year program. The literature of the Chaldeans promoted the Chaldean worldview of many gods. There's not one God like they were taught in Israel, in Jerusalem. There are many gods. And so the worldview changed their thinking about God, about life, about mankind.

Archeology also has shown us that the Babylonians practiced divination. They looked at the stars to predict the future. They took the livers and entrails of animals and put them on a plate and let them wiggle around and somehow they looked at that and could predict the future. All of that Daniel and his friends would be taught in school. Basically, it was a three-year cultural assimilation course to get them to forget everything they learned as kids.

I don't know. That sounds to me a lot like college. I don't want to poke fun at college, but a lot of how true that can be, that, like in my case, you'll get professors who are paid to teach integrated zoology or biology or whatever is the discipline, and they'll go out of their way not to teach that but to undermine what you taught them, actively so.

So they were isolated. They were indoctrinated. Third thing that Nebuchadnezzar wanted to do is intimidate them. They were intimidated. In verse 5, we read that they were given a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank. Now again, that doesn't sound bad at first blush. You're in college and you get free food. Sign me up for that, especially this food. If you're a Jewish kid eating falafels in Jerusalem every day and now you're in the biggest city in the world given delicacies, those are perks. That's like desserts and fine meals and all the wine you can drink.

Leo Oppenheim, the scholar, said, but the food that was offered in the Babylonian court was first offered to Babylonian gods and then brought to the king's table. So all of that would be used to intimidate these young Jewish minds. And they would start thinking thoughts like, well, why should I believe in my God? First of all, I never ate like this in Jerusalem. Second, my God couldn't protect me from all of this.

And Babylon itself was intimidating. The Greek historian Herodotus says the walls of the city of Babylon were 80 feet thick, 320 feet tall, and 56 miles long. If you walk through the center-- the opening to the town called the Ishtar Gate, which I have done in its rebuilt ruins, you're on a street that's 65 feet wide made out of limestone flanked by red tiled sidewalks ornately decorated.

The River Euphrates runs through the center of town parallel to that street. You would see the most magnificent palace in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world called the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Any Jewish teenager would drop their jaw at wonder. Wow, where am I? This is awesome. They'd be enamored by it.

And then the fourth thing Nebuchadnezzar did is he redesignated them. He took away from them their most personal, private possession, their name, and gave them new names. It's basically social engineering. So the name Daniel, his Jewish name, is a name that means "God is my judge." His new name given by Nebuchadnezzar is Belteshazzar, which means "may Bel protect the King." Bel is one of the chief deities of Babylon.

Hanania meant "beloved of the Lord," but his new name was Shadrach, which means "illumined by Aku," the moon god. Mishael means "who is like God," but the new name, Meshach, means "who is like Aku," the moon god. And Azariah means "the Lord is my help." That's his Jewish name. But he was given the name Abed-Nego, which means "servant of Naboo." All of these are pagan deities, and they had so many that they worshipped.

But what I want you to latch onto is that they are banning words. They are banning foreign names. And the only words allowed is the words this new culture has provided for them. Sound familiar? So that's the predicament they were in. Now, the predicament takes us to the second phase, that is, the protest. So we read what we read, but look at verse 8. What's the first word in the verse?

But.

But. That's a good sign. But Daniel-- See, it doesn't say "and Daniel" or "so Daniel" or "therefore Daniel," but "But Daniel." So immediately, we have opposition to the pressure. The pressure represented in the first seven verses is met with a "but Daniel," a negative conjunction. "On the contrary." What we have going here is Daniel, young Daniel, young teenage Daniel, making a choice. And the choice he is making is, will I conform or will I not conform?

So look what it says. "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with a portion of the king's delicacies nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." Notice that Daniel's choice began with inward conviction. It says he purposed in his heart. That is, he made a choice deep inside. After soul searching, he came up with his choice.

So this is really good news. All the indoctrination, all the intimidation, all the isolation, all the redesignation is met by Daniel's determination. You have a young teenage boy who's been abducted saying at this point, nope, not going to cross that line. So he's determined. He purposes in his heart.

Listen, the power to not conform to the culture around you is always an inside job. It always begins on the inside. And it happens when your decisions become your convictions. Anybody can make a decision, a choice. But when those decisions and choices become your defined nature, your conviction, "this is who I am," it's different.

Now listen, the effectiveness of the rest of Daniel's life depends on this very moment. If he doesn't make the right choice, Daniel would not make the right impact. This choice that he makes that day will determine the man that he will become every day after this day. He's making a very, very important choice. I want you to see what WA Criswell-- he's been in heaven a while, but look at what he said about this.

He said, "All of life is filled with crises and decisions. There are right decisions, wrong decisions, high roads, low roads. And almost every day, there will be a fork in the road. Where you are today is due to the turn in the road you took yesterday. You are the product of your choices. You are where you are because of the choices you have made."

And you have many more to make. So your decisions must become your convictions. Purpose of heart. Purpose of heart. So it began with an inward conviction, but notice something else. It included a spiritual definition. Notice that Daniel doesn't see the delicacies offered him as delicacies. Daniel sees the delicacies offered him as defilement. He didn't go, hot dog! I'm a teenager and I get all the wine I can drink and all the desserts I can have? He didn't see it that way.

Look at verse 8. "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." I know, you're still thinking, what's the big deal? Food is food. Not to Daniel. He's a Jewish kid. And according to his law, Jewish law, there are certain kinds of food you can eat and certain kind you can't eat.

And when you can eat it, it's called kosher cuisine, and when you can eat it, it's unkosher. And it's a practice still to this day. So according to levitical laws, you certainly couldn't eat stuff that has been sacrificed to pagan gods. And the way the Babylonians prepared it evidently was not according to Jewish kosher law. So he just says, not going to do it.

And then he said, I don't want the wine, because the wine had been poured onto pagan altars. That was their practice. And then the rest of the wine was taken undiluted, and the Jews didn't drink undiluted wine. They would mix their wine, 20 parts of water to one part of wine, because wine was basically used by the Jews to kill germs. So the idea of something that was offered to a foreign god that might give me an altered state of consciousness as well as this pagan revelry, no, I'm not going to do it. So he called it a defilement.

And I know, you might think, yeah, I still don't see what the big deal is. Daniel is not in Jerusalem, he's in Babylon. So dude, accommodate. When in Babylon, live like the Babylonians. Your parents aren't even around. Your friends aren't even around. The rabbis aren't here. Nobody's going to see. Do what you want. You've got a lot of excuses. That's the deal.

Daniel wasn't looking for an excuse because Daniel was living with purpose. And when you live with purpose, you don't look for an excuse. The only reason you look for an excuse is if you don't have a purpose to live for. So he had a purpose. He had a name. He had a goal. He's saying basically to the king and to the king's head of the eunuchs, look, you can isolate me and you can re-educate me and you can intimidate me and you can redesignate me, but you can't change me. This is who I am at the core. No matter what happens, this is who I am. I'm not afraid of that.

Which brings up a topic. What is it that defiles you? There's all sorts of things that taint us, that pollute us, that corrupt us, that can contaminate us. And they could be movies or TV shows that you now feel the freedom to binge on, websites you go to, places you frequent, relationships you're involved in.

What I am suggesting from the scriptures is that you develop the conviction to say no so that you will have the occasion to say yes. Develop the conviction to say no so that you will have the occasion to say yes. When you close the door to defilement, you open the door to development. God will do some great thing. You say no to certain things, new opportunities the Lord will spring into your path.

Now, it all begins in the heart. It all begins deep inside. It begins with a belief system, a mindset, that no matter where I am at, whether I'm in Jerusalem or Babylon, whether I'm in church or in Starbucks, no matter where I might be, God is always there. The camera is always on. The microphone is always on. It says in Proverbs 5, "The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all of his paths."

Remember the story of Moses before he became Moses the leader? And he was disgruntled because he knew that the Egyptians were oppressing the Israelites. And he looked one day, and he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite. And Moses went over and killed him. But this is what the Bible says. Moses looked this way, and Moses looked that way, and then Moses killed him. You know what his problem was? He didn't look that way.

And if you live that way-- I'm looking this way and that way, so are people looking? God is always looking. And Daniel knew that. Even as a young teenager, he's in Babylon going, God's here. God's here. So that was his protest. That's the predicament. That's the protest. But I want to show you something else. I want to show you the petition.

Go back to verse 8. "Daniel purposed in his heart he would not defile himself with a portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore he requested--" notice that word-- "he requested of the chief of the units that he might not defile himself. Now, God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuch said to Daniel, 'I fear my lord the king--'" I'm afraid of Nebuchadnezzar "--who has appointed your food and drink.'" This is his menu, not mine. "Why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king." Look, our king isn't a nice guy. He cuts heads off. Mine's next.

"So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for 10 days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.'" So it's a vegan diet. "'Then let our appearance be examined before you and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies. As you see fit, so deal with your servants.' So he consented with them in this matter and tested them for 10 days.'"

Now watch this. Daniel isn't just reactive. Daniel is proactive. He's not just resisting an order. He is requesting an alternative. So please note, first of all, in verse 8 it says, "Daniel requested." Doesn't say "Daniel demanded" or "Daniel picketed" or "Daniel yelled and protested and screamed and defamed." He requested. That's showing honor.

Look at verse 12. What's the first word? What does Daniel say? "Please." His mama taught him right. He uses please and thank you. "Please test your servants for 10 days." See, Daniel is not some holier than thou kid saying, look here you filthy pagans! He's respectful. He's nice. He is honoring. And God brought him into the respect and honor of the servant, head of the eunuchs.

Did you know in Proverbs 16 it reads, "When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies be at peace with him." That's what you have happening here. Yeah, be a nonconformist, by all means, but be a nice one. You don't have to be a mean one. You can be a nice one. Don't try to pick a fight.

In 2 Timothy chapter 2, verse 24 it says, "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition if God perhaps will grant them repentance. Some people, some Christian people, some preachers, always seem mad, mad at those that disagree with him or her, rebuking political leaders, ranting about what is really a personal opinion. Ben Franklin was right. He said you'll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.

I want you to remember what I'm about to say. You need to be winsome if you want to win some. You need a winsome personality if you want to win others to Christ. You need to be winsome if you want to win some. So Daniel requested, and Daniel said please, here's an alternative. Let's do a test.

Still, I don't want to forget that Daniel was not silent. He spoke up. He didn't agree. He dug his heels in. There was a line he wouldn't cross, and he made it known that he wouldn't cross. Against this onslaught of Babylonian cultural pressure that is thrust on him, he says, I will not conform. No. It's not that he's going to change Babylon, because he won't. Babylon will not change because of Daniel's ministry there.

Oh, yeah, you'll get a king in chapter 4 confessing the God of heaven, but they're going to continue in their pagan practices. They're not going to stop worshipping their false gods. They're not going to stop being corrupt. And the judgment of God will rest upon Babylon. So he's not going to change Babylon, but that's not what this is about. Daniel's not trying to change Babylon. Wasn't about changing Babylon. This is about not letting Babylon change him. It's this cultural conformity that I will not bow to.

And I think this is important, especially in this day and age. If your agenda becomes, we've got to take America back, you're going to die disappointed. If you think you're going to go back 200 years to Founding Fathers Ville, you're going to be very, very disappointed. That ship has sailed. There has been too many elections. There have been too many laws passed. And yes, there are certain things we can hold on to, but it's really not about trying to get America back to where it was. It's about the church standing strong in the midst of it.

[APPLAUSE]

I'm not called to be worried about America. As a pastor, I'm more worried about God's people. It's time for the church to refuse to conform to the culture. It's time for the church to refuse to go along with the agenda. It's time for the church to refuse letting the culture tell us how to raise our kids or how to live our lives.

[APPLAUSE]

They can live any way they want. They just don't have to tell me how I'm going to live my life or what I'm going to teach my kids. Now, it's funny, because they're always saying to people like me and people like us, stay in your lane, Christians. Stay in your churches. Stay in your cubicle. Stay in your corner. Don't get involved in our issues. What's interesting about that is they have no qualms getting involved in our issues, sticking their nose in our tent, trying to mandate all sorts of things to us.

And all the while they say, separation of church and state. Yeah, they don't even know what that originally means, typically. And so they say, separation of church-- get out of here, church. But they want the state to impose things on the church. And if we don't, they resort to humiliation and vilification and censorship. All that to say this, and I believe this with all my heart-- we are living in a Daniel moment. We're in that moment.

[APPLAUSE]

We have unprecedented pressure all around us, so we need to pray for the same kind of wisdom that Daniel had in the moment that he had. Certain things I'm going to refuse, just so you know going forward. There are certain things in this culture-- I don't care what government says. There's certain things I will refuse. But I'll do it with respect. I'll do it with a smile. They may lock me up and put me in jail, but I'll do it with class. So that is the petition.

[APPLAUSE]

Good. You'll be my cell mate. I want to close with this, the payoff. There's a payoff to all of this, and that is verse 15. If you're wondering, well, all of this saying no, what did it get Daniel? Verse 15. "At the end of 10 days, their features--" these little vegan kids. "The end of 10 days, their features appeared better and fatter in flesh."

Now typically, that is not a compliment, but in this context it really is a compliment. Hey, you're looking fat. Thank you.

[LAUGHTER]

Because that would score them points. "At the end of those days, they looked better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. Thus, the steward took away their portion of delicacies and wine that they were to drink and gave them vegetables." I know Daniel became their enemy after that. Like, really? Now we can't eat dessert. We're eating your stupid vegetable and water diet.

"As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." So God honored their commitment, first of all in their appearance. They looked great. Second of all in their prominence. They graduated at the top of their class. They aced the test.

Look in verse 19. "The king interviewed them, and among them all, none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore, they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them 10 times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his realm."

10 times better. Literally in the Hebrew text, 10 hands. 10 hands. So that's like horse measurement. The idea is that one of Daniel is worth 10 of these magicians from the Babylonian court. 10 times better. Appearance, prominence, and there's a third payoff, influence. Influence. Verse 21. Look at the very last verse of the chapter.

"Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus." Now, we would just read through that and not really camp on that, but I need to explain that. We believe Daniel came to Babylon as a young teenager because he lives through the entire 70-year captivity into his latter years. And for him to live 70 years in Babylon, he must have gotten there as a teenager because the introduction of King Cyrus is in 536 BC.

So from 605 BC to 536 BC through the entire captivity, Daniel had influence. He influences King Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2, 3, and 4, introduced Nebuchadnezzar to the God of heaven in chapter 4. He influences Belshazzar in chapter 5, the handwriting on the wall incident. All the way to Cyrus. The Medo-Persian Empire that takes over the Babylonians.

And I'm going to add something else to that. I would say that Daniel's influence even went beyond that, because years later, centuries later, it says, wise men from the East showed up in Jerusalem saying we have seen his star in the East and we have come to worship him. The Magi. The Magi were Babylonian priests from the court of the Babylonian King-- Babylon, then Medo-Persia.

The big question is, how on Earth would Babylonian priests know to look for a Jewish king unless a guy told them about it? In fact, if you know the book of Daniel, that's the theme of the Book of Daniel, the Jewish King who will rule the world. And years later, they were still being influenced by Daniel.

So here's the takeaway this morning. Go against the flow. The flow out there is pretty strong. It's a cultural flow. It's a political flow. It's a moral flow. It's a musical flow. Go against it. Go against the flow. It's not easy to do it. It's hard to go against the flow. Any dead fish can float downstream. Easiest thing to do is go along with what everybody thinks and tells you to do. Fit in. Don't speak up. That's easy. Anybody-- everybody does that.

Don't. Go against the flow. Be a live fish. Buck the system. Go against the flow. Stand up for Christ. Don't be ashamed of the gospel. I want to close by reading to you something that was found. This is from the 1920s and '30s. It was found among the papers, a journal, of a missionary to Zimbabwe after he was martyred for his faith in Christ.

He writes this. "I am a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His, and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I'm done and finished with low-living, sight-walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary.

I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy or ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up till I've stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ."

[APPLAUSE]
You live like that, world will not know what to do with that kind of boldness, that kind of nonconformity. And that's what this missionary wrote, and they killed him. But I got to say, that's a good way to go out. All the ways I could think of going out of this world, that sounds pretty good.

Thank you, Father, for the love of Daniel, for the truth that was taught him by his parents, the Jewish faith he was raised in, that there is one God in Heaven who is sovereign, in control, sets up kings, deposes them. All of this incredible theology that is exhibited in this book that he knew as a young teenager.

And so bold to be able to stand before a king who could execute anybody and often did and say to his servant, yeah, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to cross that line. I am going to stand up to this giant of conformity and not be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Lord, help us in these last days. Help us to be faithful to you, to always be aware that you are with us. And you're not just watching in a way that is a detached character watches, but you're watching as a involved father would watch. You care. You are concerned. You hear, you see not only what we say and think and do, but what others say against us or about us.

I pray that we would live with the reality that your determination and your evaluation of us is far weightier than what anybody else might think of us, because that'll just set us free. It'll set us free to be bold, set us free to be courageous, and set us free to live unencumbered lives. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus' name.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us MYSTORY@CALVARYNM.CHURCH. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at CALVARYNM.CHURCH/GIVE. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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8/22/2021
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The Giant of Silence
Matthew 14:1-10
Skip Heitzig
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"Silence is golden," says the old adage. But that is true only sometimes. Many other times, to be silent is to be complicit in the evil that is being committed around us. John the Baptist, one of the most outspoken prophetic voices in history, helps us navigate the need to speak out against evil and immorality. He confronted a powerful political leader of his day, pointing out where he had violated God’s law. John was imprisoned and executed as a result. Should Christians enter the public square to dialogue about moral issues? Yes, but let’s see how.
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8/29/2021
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The Giant of Apathy
Nehemiah 2:1-9
Skip Heitzig
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The Oxford Dictionary defines apathy as “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.” It’s the state of being indifferent to something that should otherwise arouse, provoke, or motivate you. It has been noted that cooling down a fanatic is easier than warming up a corpse. When a person ceases to care, that person ceases to attempt change. Though Nehemiah had it made in terms of his earthly status, the condition in his homeland wouldn’t let him stay silent and inactive. Let’s explore the five steps he took to overcome the giant of apathy.
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9/5/2021
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The Giant of Fear
1 Samuel 17
Skip Heitzig
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One of the most paralyzing of all human emotions is fear. It can rob us of reason and faith. It makes a bad situation worse than it really is, and it saps us of energy and confidence. David would write later on, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). But in our story today he faced a fearsome giant (literally) that his country was in dread of. Let’s consider how fear works and by what means it can be defeated.
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9/12/2021
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The Giant of Self: How One Person Can Make a Difference
Esther 4:13-17
Skip Heitzig
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On this weekend that commemorates the tragedy of September 11, 2001, we especially honor those who gave their lives in trying to rescue others, especially the first responders in law enforcement and fire departments, as well as citizens. Journalist Geraldine Brooks reminds us, “September 11, 2001, revealed heroism in ordinary people who might have gone through their lives never called upon to demonstrate the extent of their courage.” Today we look at the story of Esther’s choice to put self aside and make a difference for those facing death. Here we see the extent of her courage!
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9/19/2021
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Addressing Deconstruction and Cancel Culture
Sean McDowell
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Sean McDowell is a sought-after international speaker on cultural, ethical, theological, and apologetics topics, and he retains a PhD in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has authored and co-authored over one dozen books and study guides, including So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World and Chasing Love.
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9/26/2021
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Skip Heitzig Interviews Cissie Graham Lynch, Vince Torres, and Lenya Heitzig
Skip Heitzig
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In this special service, Skip Heitzig interviews Cissie Graham Lynch, Vince Torres, and Lenya Heitzig. Cissie Graham Lynch is the host of the podcast Fearless, in which she discusses living with a fearless faith in a compromising culture. Vince Torres is president of the Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, and he joins us to discuss political issues facing Christian families today. Finally is Reload Love founder Lenya Heitzig, who speaks about the global efforts to fight terrorism and how everyday people can help.
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10/3/2021
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The Giant of Overwhelming Odds
Judges 7:1-15
Skip Heitzig
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By now you have discovered that we who are Christians are surrounded! There seems to always be more who are against us than who are for us. We face the reality (and we feel it, too!) that we are living in enemy territory. That doesn’t give us permission to be adversarial or combative, for we’ll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25). But Christians are either overcome by their unbelief or they are overcomers because of their faith. How do we navigate through life when the odds are stacked against us and circumstances seem overwhelming?
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10/10/2021
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The Giant of Religion
Acts 6-7
Skip Heitzig
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Religion might not seem like a giant to overcome unless you’re an atheist. But did you know the source of much persecution and oppression around the world is religious groups? The prophets, the apostles, the early church, and even Jesus Himself all had run-ins with religious leaders and formalized religious systems. Some of you come from a very religious background but now enjoy the freedom of a relationship with God through Jesus. How does one successfully stand up to religious pressure while impacting it with the gospel? Let’s see how Stephen did it.
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10/17/2021
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The Ultimate Giant Slayer
Hebrews 12:1-3
Skip Heitzig
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10/31/2021
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A Courage Revival
Psalm 31:24
Johnnie Moore
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Johnnie Moore is an author, businessperson, and itinerant pastor who is best known for his religious freedom advocacy all around the world. His latest book, The Next Jihad, is about the persecution of Christians in Africa. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the prestigious Medal of Valor from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. He has been twice appointed to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom by the president of the United States.
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There are 10 additional messages in this series.
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