October 4, 2015
Those who play professional sports have guidelines for speaking to the media. Team members do not go out and say whatever they feel like saying. The team is supposed to present a unified front. It is the same when a large company is called on the carpet for something. Company reps must support the company. We all intuitively understand the need for this and we probably think it is okay as long as laws are not being broken and people are not being hurt.
It is also important for Christians to present a united front. In Jn.17 Jesus prays that we might be one; that we might dwell in unity. Jesus says that we should be known for our love for one another.
As we wrap up in the book of Daniel I want to say that in a post-Christendom society Christians must exhibit godly character.
I. GODLY CHARACTER’S POWER. Dan.6:1-9
A couple of weeks ago we saw in Dan.5 how Daniel read the handwriting on the wall announcing the demise of Belshazzar’s reign in Babylon. That very night Belshazzar was defeated by the Medes and the Persians, and Darius the Mede became king. By this time Daniel would have been close to being 70 years old. Verse 1 tells us that there were 120 satraps (provincial governors) ruling in the kingdom with three high officials over these 120 satraps. Daniel was one of the high officials. In v.3 we learn that Darius was planning to promote Daniel over the whole kingdom because it was quickly becoming clear to Darius that Daniel was extraordinary. He had an excellent spirit in him.
Now imagine yourself working for a company and your company is bought out by a bigger company. The bigger company brings in its own people and corporate culture, but you are retained as a vice president because of your expertise and knowledge of the product. The new president begins to realize that you ought to be promoted over the other vice presidents. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the other vice presidents harbored ill will towards you. I mean you were never a part of the bigger company. No doubt those other vice presidents will have many conversations about you and seek to oppose you. This is what happened to Daniel. Once the word was out that the king planned to promote Daniel, all the other high officials and Satraps got together to see what they could do to disqualify Daniel. I mean, Daniel wasn’t even a Mede or Persian. He was a Jewish captive.
In v.4 we learn that they left no stone unturned in trying to find something against Daniel. And this is what I want us to think about. They could not find anything against Daniel because Daniel lived a faithful life. In other words, Daniel was trustworthy. Daniel was not careless in his work, nor was he corrupt. Now one would think that the others would find Daniel’s life to be compelling, but that is not often the case in our world.
Last Sunday evening I was outside looking at the eclipse and our neighbor and I were catching up. She is an attorney who worked for a company that wanted her to carry out illegal actions. She refused and blew the whistle and was fired. The EEOC only accepts a few cases each year. They accepted her case and after a number of years found serious illegalities in that company. She has been unable to find work as an attorney because she was blackballed. Now she is being exonerated. She told me last Sunday that she used to believe in the general goodness of mankind, but has since come to see that most people are willing to corrupt themselves. And she’s right.
My hunch is that the high officials and satraps did not like Daniel because under Daniel’s watch it was far more difficult to carry out corruption. What we do not know from the passage is what it must have been like for Daniel to show up every day for work, knowing that these others were against him and talking about him. I mean, it is never easy to work when you know others do not like you and are in fact, working against you.
These satraps and high officials finally determined that if they were going to disqualify Daniel they would have to challenge his loyalty to the king by forcing him to compromise his loyalty to God. What they did not realize is that Daniel was loyal to the king because of his loyalty to God. As a believer in God, Daniel’s life exhibited the highest sort of character and integrity. Godly character is powerful. But godly character often brings opposition in this ungodly world.
So these guys got together and devised a plan to have the king sign into law a document that would require everyone to pray only to king Darius for the period of a month. And why not? Darius was a newbie on the throne and it would be helpful in establishing loyalty to him. King Darius was clueless about what this might mean for Daniel. After all, Darius was a pagan and didn’t see any harm in it. So he signed the document into law.
Men and women, in a post-Christendom society, morality and law are relative. Fewer and fewer people today believe in moral absolutes. If morality is not absolute, then law is always negotiable.
Now if you are a Christian then it means you embrace moral absolutes that come from the character of God and are expressed in the Ten Commandments. So when God says, you shall not lie, he means it. And when God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” he means it. And when Jesus comes and tells us that the Ten Commandments are to be written on our hearts so that we understand that hatred is equivalent to murder and lust is equivalent to adultery, we embrace the truth of this. We seek to embody the goodness of God in our character. Such character is always good for the world to see. And such character will always eventually bring trouble to us from the world. Do you embody godly character?
II. GODLY CHARACTER’S CURRICULUM. Dan.6:10-15
I am assuming that most of us here are professing followers of Jesus Christ. We have called upon the name of the Lord to be saved from our sins and have received his eternal kind of life. Of course we all know that there are many sinful desires and habits that reside in our bodies and exert a powerful presence in our lives. So having a godly character is something we must pursue and cultivate on a daily basis. How do we do that?
When the king signed the document into law, Daniel did what he always did. Look at v.10 (read). What’s wrong with Daniel? Any normal person would have gone home and shut the windows in his upper chamber. Any normal person would have waited until dark to kneel in prayer to God. But Daniel didn’t respond in this way. It was his practice to kneel in prayer three times a day as he faced towards Jerusalem, where the temple of God had been located. Daniel was a man of prayer. Prayer is one of the most important activities of a godly life. Daniel made time to pray. He was disciplined in his prayer life.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not really disciplined in my prayer life. In fact I don’t pray in any regular sort of way and I seem to be doing okay.” Men and women we do not pray so that we may be doing okay day in and day out. When we pray we are cultivating an intentional dependency upon God. When we pray we are seeking strength from the Lord to honor and exalt his name in every dimension of our lives. When we pray we are seeking to align our thoughts, desires, and activities to be consistent with the ways of God. If you think you are doing well as a Christian without a regular turning to God in prayer, then your definition of “well” is shortsighted and sub Christian. How can I say that? I can say it because Jesus himself was a man of regular prayer. If Jesus saw the need for regular prayer, what makes us think we don’t need it? There was a lot riding on Daniel as he lived his life in Babylon and he did not fail to pray, even when prayer to God was outlawed.
But there’s more. Look at Dan.9:1-2. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans--in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”
Daniel had been reading, studying the book of Jeremiah, the prophet. Daniel was a student of God’s word. We know that since Daniel grew up during the reign of king Josiah that he was taught the Law of God, the first 5 books of the Old Testament.
Now why is reading the Bible so important? It is important because it is the primary means through which our minds can be renewed so that our lives can be transformed into the image and character of Christ. Again, there are many professing Christians who think they are doing just fine without a regular reading of the Bible. But what I can tell you is that without a regular, thoughtful reading of the Bible, your life will not reflect the character of Christ. You may be a moral person. You may be a nice person. But your life will not reflect the priorities of God and his Son, Jesus. And the reason is because you do not have the priorities of God in your heart. Being moral and nice is wonderful, but it is not the same as being godly.
2Pt.1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” How do we gain a knowledge of God? It is through the word of God.
If Daniel was afraid, it certainly doesn’t show. The pattern of his life with God was well set and he was not about to change it in order to preserve his life. Daniel had come to understand that God is the one who secures a person’s life. We can never secure our own lives.
If you have any desire to become a godly man or woman it is important to pursue regular prayer and thoughtful Bible reading. If you have little desire to be a godly man or woman then you need to consider what your relationship to God is. Those who know Christ desire and seek to be like him.
III. GODLY CHARACTER’S PURPOSE. Dan.6:16-28
We know the story. Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s den. The King realized the treachery of the high officials and Satraps, but he could not change the law. As Daniel was being thrown to the lions the king said to him in v.16, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!" King Darius was so upset that he spent the night fasting and he could not sleep. The first thing in the morning the king went to the lion’s den and cried out, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions.”
And Daniel called back, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm."
It says in v.23, “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” Then the king took the wicked men who devised the scheme and threw their entire families into the lions’ den where they were consumed.
Now look at v.25-28 (read). What is the purpose of having a godly character? Well, for one thing, it is the best way to live life. But far beyond that, the purpose of living a godly life is to show to the world the goodness and power of God. We do not pursue godly character so that we can have material prosperity and wealth. That is not God’s promise to us. We pursue a godly life so that God might be glorified in our lives.
I guarantee that many Christians today would think that God had let them down if they were thrown in a lion’s den. They would be thinking, “Is this the way God treats one of his children?” Think about that. Think about how God treated his only Son, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sakes. Such thoughts did not enter Daniel’s mind because he knew the goodness of God. His life was secure in God.
Brothers and sisters, often our vision is too narrow. We live for ourselves and our families but we do not see that our lives have significant purpose in proclaiming the glory of God in this dark world. Recently I was listening to a lecture by Dallas Willard. He said, “Imagine someone asking you what you do and you respond with the words, ‘I am the light of the world.” But that is exactly what Jesus says about believers in the Sermon on the Mount. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world because we show the glory of God in how we live. Daniel was not living for his own glory; he was living for the glory of God. Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
How can you begin to live each day for the glory of God? Here are five steps. 1. Read a portion of scripture from the New Testament or Psalms. 2. Memorize verses that will help you focus on God and his ways. 3. Pray Ps.119:36, which says, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” There are many verses like this you can pray. 4. Spend time with other believers in worship and fellowship. 5. Make prayer be as normal as breathing in your life.
In the past month alone three high profile Christian leaders have had to resign their posts for violating their marriage vows. Two of these were caught in the Ashley Madison scandal. One was a Christian college president. Earlier this summer we heard about the Duggar family, former pastors Matt Chandler in Texas, Matt Mikela in Michigan and Tullian Tchividjian in Florida, along with former U.S. House speaker, Dennis Hastert. These all profess to be followers of Christ. Now of course, we are redeemed sinners, but we are redeemed sinners who have been filled with the Holy Spirit. We belong to God and not ourselves. Men and women, this is not a time for spiritual laziness. We must exhibit godly character to the glory of God. Amen