Living for God in Your Culture
Since I do not have a recorder, I tried my best to scribble down the main points of the 2-day conference. Bill taught extensively from Daniel 1-9 but they can be best summarized into 5 critical questions to ask ourselves when faced with the 5 pressures of today's culture.
The Pressure to Conform
1) What is going to shape our convictions when under pressure to conform to the culture around us?
Will it be shaped by the pressures of the world or by the eternal truths of God's word? The easy route would be to go with the flow. Daniel's objective was obedience, in spite of his environment. He was determined to be true to his God. A life committed to God begins with purpose of heart. It gave him a foundation for living in a difficult culture. What about us?
The Pressure to Perform
2) Where is our focus when under the pressure to perform?
In life, there are times of high pressure or low pressure, but there are never times of no pressure. Our choices during these changing times tell a lot about us. Are we scrambling to protect ourselves at all costs? Are we doing desperate things that harm others in the process? Or are we more concerned about how our actions will reflect on our God? Is our focus on the blessing or the blesser, on the Lord of the work or on the work, on the God who answers prayer or on the answer? Will we wilt under pressure, or like Daniel, rise above it with a deep confidence in God? When we fail to put our confidence in God, it's easy to loose our focus. Our perspective becomes blurred and we see the trees rather than the forest.
The Pressure to Reform
3) What is it going to take for us to repent and be obedient to God; to abandon ourselves to him instead of being consumed with ourself?
For Nabuchadnezzar, the king of one of history's most powerful empire, Babylon, it was a humiliating (but God-given) bout of insanity. 7 years of living in the fields like a wild animal, eating grass, taught him a few lessons about pride. In the end the mighty Nabuchadnezzar himself wrote of Daniel's God, "Those who walk in pride, He is able to humble." His grandson, Belshazzar, who was consumed by the same pride that nearly destroyed his grandfather, tried to defy God but failed. As a result of his stubborn pride, God gave his kingdom over to the Medo-Persian armies. Belshazzar himself was slain that very night. What does it take for us to acknowledge the God of heavens?
The Pressure to Confront
4) How do I measure up - not in the eyes of the crowd but in the eyes of God?
Daniel was unmoved by the opinions of others, even at the expense of his own life. He was concerned only with what was right in the eyes of his God. Tension is good because it forces us to face up to what really matters. And what really matters at the end of he day is weather we have done that which pleases God. Am I living to please God or man? Am I living in my own energy and trusting my own effort or am I living in God's strength and by His grace? We must never forget that we are first and foremost called to live before the Audience of One - not other people. May we so live that we measure up to God's design for our lives. However we must also not forget that none of us can measure up to God's standard perfectly. That is why we need to lean on His grace. None of us can boast that we have attained purity by our own efforts. We can only boast of a Saviour who has saved us from condemnation by giving us His righteousness.
The Power to Pray
5) What is it that we cannot live without?
Daniel could not live without prayer. He defied King Darius's decree - a result of a conspiracy between the other king's officials because of their jealousy - banning all prayers. Violators would be cast into the lion's den. Daniel's response illustrates the biblical principle of obedient disobedience in which we must choose between obeying God's word or man. Daniel continued his daily communion with his God. This is the secret of a pure life in the midst of an impure environment. As the decree demands, he was sentenced to death in the lion's den......but God delivered him. We who read the story hundreds of years later, know the outcome but Daniel didn't. He knew God's ability, but he didn't know God's plan. We know through church history that there are many others who died for their faith because they refused to denounce their God. Daniel did not know God would deliver him from the lions. He only knew he wanted to live to honor his God. And he also knew he couldn't survive without prayer. Daniel's unflinching devotion to his God in the face of extreme pressure was a powerful testimony to Darius and the people of his day, as evident in Darius' own statement of faith later on in that chapter.
All of us know there are consequences for doing wrong. But there are also consequences for doing the right thing. For Daniel, his very life was at stake. For some, it is rejection and ridicule by family, friends or co-workers. Consequences that results from living in a world governed by forces diametrically opposed to God. How many of us are willing to accept it? Do we fear him who can kill only the body or Him who can destroy both the body and the soul? God is still in control, even when life unfairly banishes us to the proverbial lions' den. Are we prepared to suffer for righteousness sake, even if our only reward is to hear our Lord's pronouncement "Well done, good and faithful servant"?
RBC will be holding 2 bible conferences next year. One in January and one sometime in the middle of the year. As of now, I only have details of the conference in January. If you're living in Singapore, I strongly urge you to attend the conference. Joseph Stowell, former president of Moody Bible college, will be teaching from the book of Philippians. Here are the details.
The Transforming Power of Jesus
18th -19th of January 2007
St Andrew's Cathedral
(timing was not given yet at this point)