Theme: Becoming Strong
In these lessons we see that our growth in holiness is dependent upon our being grounded in the Word of God, which points us to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only source of salvation and sanctification.
Scripture: Psalm 1
The last point I want to make is that the Word of God makes Christians strong, strong enough to resist the idols of their culture and go God’s way. I do not think we have a very strong church in the United States today. We have many people who are Christians. When the Gallup Poll tells us that there are fifty million born-again people, that is a very impressive statistic. But it is much different from saying that the church of Jesus Christ is qualitatively strong.
We are like an army that has a million people, none of whom can fight. What we need is a smaller group that really knows how to do battle. A smaller, disciplined group is worth more than a large number. Why do we not know how to fight? The reason is that we do not know the Word of God. The Word of God brings us into contact with God, and it is the knowledge of God that makes Christian people strong. When you know that God is able to do anything that is necessary in your life and that He is directing your life perfectly, then you are able to do what is right. You trust Him. If He wants you to be a martyr for the truth, that will be all right.
A great example of this is in the book of Daniel. Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were taken away from their pleasant life and home in Jerusalem into the pagan environment of Babylon where they had to function as believers in the midst of unbelievers. They did well. Probably they were of greater integrity than those around them, and they probably worked harder. People like that usually get ahead. These men quickly rose to prominence in the Babylonian empire. Then the requirements of the kingdom in which they were came into conflict with God’s requirements.
Nebuchadnezzar had set up a great golden statue on the plain of Dura and required all who were leaders of the empire to bow down and worship it. We could think of many reasons why they might have compromised in that situation. Nebuchadnezzar had threatened that if any person should refuse to bow down, that person was to be thrown into a blazing furnace and killed.
If we argue the way many modern people argue, we could say, “Now look here, you’re very young men and you have a great deal of zeal. That’s all very good. But we’re somewhat older than you are, and we know a few things that perhaps you need to learn. We’d just like to call to your attention the simple fact that if you’re dead, you’re not going to be useful to anyone. And there aren’t very many righteous people in Babylon. Your duty is to stay alive.”
If they would not buy that particular pragmatic argument, we could have used a theological one. We might have said, “Now look, I know the New Testament isn’t written yet, but it will be and when it is it will say that an idol is nothing. If an idol is nothing, then to fall down and worship the idol is to worship nothing, and to fall down and worship nothing is obviously not idolatry since idolatry is worshiping a false god.”
We could have argued psychologically. We could have said, “You have to understand this from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view. It is not a question of false gods versus a true God, because Nebuchadnezzar probably doesn’t even believe in God. This is merely a symbol of the unity of the empire. To bow down to that statue is just like saluting the flag. That’s all you have to do. Besides, Nebuchadnezzar likes you. So I am sure you would not even need to worship in a public way. I think if you only stood at the edge of the crowd and tipped your head a little bit, somebody would notice it and say, “These poor Jews are trying to comply; they’re doing the best they can.” Then Nebuchadnezzar would say, ‘All right, I’m satisfied with that.’ So why don’t you do it?”
They did not buy this argument either, and the reason they did not was that they knew their God and their Scriptures too well. They knew that God Almighty did not want them to compromise, even in a small way. So when they were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, they replied: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:16–18).
This world has set up many golden statues. Many are asking us to bow down. Will you? Only those who know the God of the Scriptures are able to be strong in such situations.
Far too often we have not walked in the way of the righteous, but we have walked in the way of the wicked, heeded the counsel of sinners, and discussed sin and sometimes even sat down to practice it. If you are in that position at this moment, you must flee from the danger that implies. And while there is time, you must draw back to those streams of living water that flow from God’s Word. Then your soul will be revived and you will overflow with joy and spiritual goodness. May God make us all like that to the praise of Jesus Christ our Lord.
How does the Word of God make Christians strong?
What different arguments do people sometimes use to avoid doing what is right?
Application: Were you able to memorize Psalm 1 this week? How can you use it to be an encouragement to someone else?
For Further Study: To learn more about the Bible’s teaching on the two ways, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Two Ways Only.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)