2016-11-16 – Obeying Christ in a Culture of Lawlessness

Which Is Right In God’s Eyes: To Obey Man, Or Obey God? You Be The Judge!

Opening Prayer

Good Evening Everyone! Thank you very much for coming tonight. Let’s start off with prayer:

Precious Heavenly Father, You have seen fit to give us this opportunity to gather this evening to consider Your word, and to enter Your throne room with praise and petition. Align our hearts with Yours now, and help us to direct our thoughts, words, and deeds ever more closely with Your written word. Give us hearts that long to obey You, and help us to yield every part of our lives to You so that we would be completely filled with Your Spirit. Guard us against the pressures of the world, the flesh and the devil, and unite us together as we struggle with our weaknesses. We joyfully confess them to You, for where we are weak, You are strong. Prepare us for what is to come, for Your word says that the because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most will grow cold. This we ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Introduction

The title for this evening’s presentation is “Which is right in God’s eyes – to obey man, or to obey God? You be the judge!” Although we know that we are to obey God above everyone and everything else, it is good to review this subject, given that the state of culture is rapidly decaying, and at a moment’s notice, the enemies of God may be granted His permission to be used as a tool of discipline upon this nation. We are already seeing the effects of God removing His blessing and protection from us.

There are many scriptures that give counsel for how to handle the dichotomy and conundrum of what to do when faced with the choice of obeying God or obeying man. Tonight I have chosen the lives of Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), to give us insight on how to conduct ourselves when faced with corrupt or anti-God governments. Let’s read about their first encounter when they were being groomed by Pharaoh to be integrated into his household. Or, better put, how they were being indoctrinated into the ways and culture of Egypt. Let’s turn to Daniel 1:8-17:

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Acquiescing to Authority

At some point in our lives, each of us will be faced with a most difficult situation: the leaders that have been placed over us will either enact laws that require us to disobey God, or we will be told by them to do something that we know to be contrary to the will of God. When faced with this dilemma, we will each need to make a decision on how to address the issue. For some, it will merely mean that they will lose their job/position/status in their society. For others, it may mean that they will lose their lives, and possibly the lives of their other family members, friends, acquaintances, and perhaps everyone they know.

The most difficult part is that we have been given a directive by God in Romans 13:1-7:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Whom, then, will you serve?

Serve the Father First

The life of Daniel and his friends serve to give us guidance on how to live our lives in a world and culture that doesn’t know God – leadership that demands that we follow the rule of man rather than the rule of God. In each case in the lives of these men, they placed God first in their lives. And in each case, God blessed them for their obedience:

  • When asked to defile themselves with the King’s food, they offered an alternative – eating simple vegetables. God blessed them with favor in the eyes of their captors. (Daniel 1:8-17)
  • When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were commanded to bow down before the king and worship him when they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, they respectfully declined, and declared before the king that they must obey God. Thrown into the fiery furnace, God protected them and even the king gave glory to God. (Daniel 3:1-30)
  • When Daniel was told that he could only pray to the king, he continued with his practice of praying to God. Thrown into the lion’s den, God shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:1-28) until after he was released and the ones responsible for placing him there were brought forward and placed in the same situation. They did not fare as well as Daniel…

In each and every case where Daniel and his friends placed God first and obeyed God, the Lord God Almighty blessed and protected them, even when faced with what appeared to be certain death. John helps us to remember that fear has to do with punishment, and that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We are to live our lives in such a way that our enemies see no fear in us. When they see that, it will be a witness to them that God is who He says He is. It is then that they will experience fear.

We can also look to the example of Peter and John when they were accosted by the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:8-31

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

God’s Divine Delegates

But what about the leadership of men? Does not God delegate his rule and authority over men to other men that He puts into place? How do we reconcile submitting ourselves to the ruling authorities because God has instituted all authority and rebellion against what God has established is rebellion against God in the light of evil overseers? In each case, God must come first. And although God does institute all authority on Earth in men, we are to obey God first, and then obey men if it does not contradict the character of God.

How do you obey a leader like Kim Jong-un, who lives at the expense of his people (to the point that they are trying to boil the bark of trees for food and are starving to death)? Or Adolph Hitler, who attempted to murder all of God’s people, the Jews? Or Ali Khamenei, who requires that anyone who does not pray to his god to be summarily executed by beheading?

In each of these situations (and many others throughout the world today and in the past) we are faced with leaders that scripture tells us God has placed in power, yet oppress or destroy their own people, and especially God’s family. The Bible provides us with an answer, albeit one that provides little consolation to the present pain and suffering that is being endured by those who find themselves in these situations: The just shall live by faith.

Trust in the Trinity

This was the cry of the Reformation. Each of us must remember that regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, that we are to trust in the Lord God Almighty and Him alone for the strength to endure and deliverance through our trials. Paul notes in writings that he has had much, and little. And God had taught him to be content no matter his circumstances. (Philippians 4:11-13) In the same way, we must trust in the Lord God Almighty – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that through our adversity and the terrible trials that we face, that the purpose is that God will be glorified by our example to others. By others, I mean to say that this may be people who come long after us. After all, we all learn from the examples of those who came before us in the Bible. God intends to use us now, and in the future, for His good pleasure and purposes.

When we take on the mindset that life is about us and our pleasure or ease of living, we have bought into the culture’s ideals. We have been created to worship God (Luke 4:8) and to bring glory to His name (Romans 15:5-7). Nowhere in scripture is it written that God has said, “Once you become a Christian (or the disciple of Jesus, to be more precise) your life will become easy, and I will make you wealthy and protect you from any and all difficulty.” On the contrary – when we become Disciples of Christ, our lives are upended. We have given Almighty God the tacit, willful approval to do whatever He wants to do in our lives. And His purpose is to conform us to His image through sanctification.

The second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven tells us of the saints that have gone on before us. Many were raised up (like Daniel and his friends). Others were martyred for their faith. Some were driven from society to live their lives in solitude in caves and other places apart from the men who lived in darkness and despised the light of God. In each and every one of their lives, there was a tell-tale aspect that needs to be highlighted. Each and every one of them had faith in God, believed what God said, and it was credited to them as righteousness.

Remember our Royal Reward

Although Daniel and his friends were rewarded by God with Earthly accolades, positions of authority, power, and wealth, God has rewarded them with a far greater reward – eternal life. In this life, we must strive to remember that the reward that we seek is to be found in Christ, not any reward here on Earth. For where are hearts are, so is our treasure. (Luke 12:24) And where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

For the disciple of Christ, we should be looking forward to hearing these simple words from our brother the King and our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) This is the praise that each of us should seek. If God sees fit to provide us with additional reward on Earth, that is nice, but not needed. Does any one of us want to gain the whole world just to lose our soul? (Matthew 16:26)

We can rejoice that God is a God of justice. (Psalm 50:6) And when evil men have been placed in authority over us, we can rest assured that God will take care of them in His time. For this is what evil leaders have to look forward to: (Habakkuk 2:5-20)

5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.

6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ 7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! 13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. 17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

20 The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: What do we do when we are faced with evil leadership?

Group Discussion

Closing Prayer

Before we go on to our prayer time, let us have a quick word of prayer:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and there is none like You. You raise up leaders and you remove them from their lofty positions. It is You who is sovereign over everything that is created – everything on the Earth, beneath the Earth, above the Earth, and the Earth itself. Nothing is outside of Your reach and grasp, and everyone must give an accounting of themselves before You. Father, You have shown Yourself to be full of mercy and grace, providing for my every need. Remember me today, Father, as I struggle with the trials of life. Grant me the strength to endure, the wisdom to be disciplined by these lessons, and the opportunity to give You glory and speak of You to any and all who will listen. Thank You, Father, for reminding me that You are in control, and that my treasure is where my heart is. May it always been with You. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.