A Different Kind of Integrity

Steve Viars September 4, 2016 Daniel 3:1-30

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 “The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls, who have conviction of heart, and who will not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances.” (David Jeremiah, The Handwriting on the Wall)

“Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.  Grieve the losses.  Then wash your face.  Trust God.  And embrace the life you have.” (John Piper)

3 principles to help us stay true to our convictions

I. The Pressure to Bow to Other Gods is Great

A. Fundamentally speaking, integrity is an issue of worship

“It is entirely possible that Nebuchadnezzar, remembering the spectacular image he saw in his dream more than 15 years earlier, attempted to duplicate it in material form.  Daniel had told him that he would be the head of gold (2:38) but that he would be followed by ‘another kingdom inferior to you’ (2:39) made of silver.  Rejecting now the idea that any kingdom could follow his own, he may have determined to show the permanence of his golden kingdom by having the entire image covered with gold.  Thus, he clung to the more flattering aspects of the dream interpretation but dropped the rest.  The fact that he was no longer honoring the God of the Jews is clear from his statement to the three friends of Daniel: ‘What God is there who can deliver you out of my hands?’ (3:15) (John Whitcomb)

B. Are you aware of that pressure?

C. What makes this harder?

1. The existence of our adversary the devil

2 Corinthians 11:3 - But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

2. Our own past

1 Thessalonians 1:9 - For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God…

3. This isn’t a matter of the body, it is a matter of the heart

Ezekiel 14:1-5 - Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.” ’ ”

II. The Price of Integrity May be High

A. The price for this kind of integrity may be very high

B. Observations from this passage

1. The jealousy of others

2. The anger and rage

Daniel 3:13 - Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; then these men were brought before the king.

3. Repetitive pressure

Daniel 3:15 - Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well…

4. Threats

Daniel 3:15 - …But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire…

5. Ridicule of your God

Daniel 3:15 - …and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

“The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls, who have conviction of heart, and who not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances.  These three men knew what God wanted them to do, and they weren’t afraid of the consequences.” (David Jeremiah)

“If I profess with the loudest voice and with the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not professing Christ, however boldly I proclaim I am professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.  No matter how steady on all fronts beside, it is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that vital point.” (Martin Luther)

III. The Protection for Those Who Stand for God is Sure

Daniel 3:17 - If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Isaiah 43:2 - When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.

Revelation 2:10 - Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Romans 8:17 - …and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

Psalm 37:7-9 - Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

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Pastor Dave Jeremiah and just excellent commentary on the book of Daniel. They called handwriting on the wall said this, "The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls who have conviction of heart." There it is. "And who will not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances." Do you agree with those words this morning? No doubt about that. It wouldn't be hard to come up with examples, whether it be politics or sports or culture where the lack of integrity of the lack of convictions is just shocking. Those are the easy targets. Those are the easy targets.

You know there's also the possibility of thinking about this quote and this concept from a positive perspective. About how delightful it is when a man or a woman or a boy or a girl chooses to live on the basis of their convictions, regardless of the cost. We had a great example of that last weekend at the wedding of Beth Hill and Andy Larson. Beth has been our church pianist for the past 16 years, an elementary music teacher here at our school. A great example of joyfully and faithfully serving God as a single person in this church family. Thankfully, we have a lot of single men and women who are just like this.

Well, I had the privilege of doing Beth and Andy's wedding last Saturday. In preparation for that, Beth gave me a copy of her journal. A portion of it was back on December 31st, 1992. What she titled as a 14-year-old girl, "Beth's rules for dating and the like." She was in ninth grade when she essentially laid out her conviction, her dating standards. I told the folks at the wedding, "I'm not sure the apostle Paul could have met those standards." But, as you read them, honestly, they were more concerned with what she was promising the Lord, and what she was promising her parents that she would do and would not do before marriage. By God's grace, she kept those standards.

She even told me about conversations she's had over the years with women who told her she ought to go back on her convictions. She ought to go back on her standards because there's no way to meet and date a man in this culture anymore if you don't. One statement I found amazing was where she wrote, again as a 14-year-old girl, she said this. I quote, "I will not hold it against God or any person if it's not God's will for me to marry any special person." In other words, I'd like to be married. I would. But if not, I'm going to find my joy in Christ. I'm not going to become bitter if God doesn't give me what I want when I want it. Nor am I going give in on my convictions, my standards, my integrity in order to advance my time table. There's a lesson there for all of us, because we all have things in our lives that are not going the way we would desire, or at the rate we would desire them.

John Piper recently tweeted, "Occasionally we deeply over the life you hoped we'd be. Grieve the losses, then wash your face. Trust God and embrace the life you have." We all understand that struggle when the plan doesn't go our way and the temptation to compromise what we believe. But Beth, even as a 14-year-old young woman, said, "With the help of God, I want to stay true to my convictions." It was marvelous at her wedding, then, to be able to praise God. We weren't praising her. We were praising the Christ who worked in and through her that she was able to keep them ...

The story. She graduates from college, she's not married. She hears about this church down in Indiana that's starting an elementary music program. She takes that job. She moves here. That was 16 years ago. Well that wasn't Beth's plan. Frankly, it wasn't even her desire to stay in Lafayette as a single woman for 16 years. But everybody at Faith Church, everybody at Faith Christian School could stand to their feet and give testimony to this fact. Beth Hill did not allow her sometimes disappointing circumstances to result in her becoming a young woman who was bitter. Nor did she abdicate her standards in order to get what she wanted. Instead, she chose to be a sweet servant of God, and to use the gifts that the lord gave her in order to be a joyful benefit to every last one of us, for sure. Even when it was hard. God allowed her to stay true to her convictions. That's the point.

This quote is true. "The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls who have conviction of heart and who will not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances." Well, here's the question. Are you a person of conviction? Are you a person of integrity? With that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible this morning to Daniel chapter three. Daniel chapter three, that's on page 630 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. I know we have some folks who will be visiting with us today because of the holiday or just because you're getting back into church after the summertime. I'm really glad you're here. Let me just explain to you that we put our preaching schedule together in December. We had planned months and months ago that we were going to be talking about this text on this particular day.

I'm going to try not to enjoy this too much, but I'm just going to tell you right now. There is no passage in the entire Bible that I would rather be talking to you about today than Daniel chapter three. The sovereignty of our God is enjoyable and delicious and I want you to enjoy it and take a big ol' bite of it. All right? There you go.

This fall we're doing a verse by verse study of the Book of Daniel titled, "Loving the world by choosing to be different, even if they don't love you back." Loving the world by choosing to be different. Now, if you're new to the book, let me just kind of thread you up to where we are. Daniel was a Jewish teenager, remember that, who's deported against his will to the country of Babylon along with some other choice Jewish young people by King Nebuchadnezzar around 605 B.C. This entire book is about how Daniel and his friends were able to faithfully live for God, even though they were in a pagan culture. They were far away from home. They were far away from parental authority. They were far away from parental influence. That's how powerful God is if you let him work in your life this way.

Last week we saw how Daniel was different even in the way he handled trials. The King has this troubling dream. He comes to his so-called wise men and he says here's the deal. I want you to tell me not just the interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself. Not that people can be unreasonable ever. If not, all the wise men, including young Daniel and his Jewish friends, well they'll be killed. That's a trial. Okay. That would be a trial. Daniel's response was gracious. It was prayerful. God, in his sovereignty revealed the dream to Daniel of the statue made of medals of descending quality. There was gold, then there was silver, then bronze, then at the bottom iron mixed with clay, probably depicting Babylon, the nation of the day. Then Persia. Then Greece. Then Rome.

The dream was clear. Ultimately, there was a coming king and a kingdom set up by the God of Heaven himself. There was, listen to this, there was a stone cut without hands. That's the great king. I wonder who that was. You're going to see him before this text is over, by the way, with a pitcher of Lipton Iced Tea. Seriously. A stone cut without hands that would crush the other kingdoms of man. The chapter, it's amazing. If you just let your eyes focus on chapter two, verse 47 for a minute. King Nebuchadnezzar, when it's all said and done, acknowledges God's power, and he promotes Daniel and Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego. It's a great text.

Well, our goal this morning is to study all of chapter three. We're talking about loving our world by being people of integrity. God's powerful enough, even in an antagonistic culture that wants to kill you. Pretty much. God can help you maintain your convictions even then. Let's read this part of this story. Verse one. "Nebuchadnezzar, the king, made an image of gold. The height of which was 60 cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects, the governors, the counselors, the treasurer." You talk about big government. "The judges, the magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king, had set up. Then the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, the magistrates, all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king, had set up."

"They stood before the image." Are you picturing this in your mind? "That Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the herald loudly proclaimed, 'To you, the command is given oh peoples, nations, and men of every language including you Jews that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe'," the whole orchestra was there. "'And all kinds of music, you're to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king'," uh-oh. Uh-oh. Think of the ten commandments. But, in case you need a little motivation, "'But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.'" We're going to throw you in the fire.

"Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king, had set up." We're going to find out in a few minutes it wasn't exactly everybody. Let's stop right there though. We're talking about loving our world by being people of integrity. What we're going to do, we're going to work down through this text and find three principles that flow right out of the word. Do you love the word? Do you? Did you love it last week? You love it today? You going to love it next week, regardless of the pressure that might come upon you not to? I hope you're going to love God and love his word. Those are the presuppositions on which we live.

Three principles to help us stay true to our convictions. Here's the first one.

I. The Pressure to Bow to Other Gods is Great

The pressure to bow to other Gods is great. My oh my oh my. Which means, fundamentally speaking then, integrity, it's an issue of worship. That's why Daniel chapter three can be such a help to us. Every person in this room faces that issue every day. Who am I going to worship? Who's going to be my God? Now remember, this event is not recorded in the word of God as a bedtime story. It's here to help us understand the kind of pressure that we're going to face and how to overcome it victoriously. The pressure to bow to other Gods is great.

The passage says Nebuchadnezzar sets up this large image of gold. It might be helpful if you're in the habit of writing in your Bible just to note that these events took place probably 15-20 years after what we read about in chapter two. There's a time gap here. We saw at the end of that chapter Nebuchadnezzar made some sort of profession of faith based on what he had said in verse 47, surely, of chapter two. "Your God is the God of Gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries." Some kind of a profession of faith. But like many professions of faith, time proved that it wasn't genuine because 15-20 years later, in Daniel chapter three, Nebuchadnezzar is setting up this 90-foot image of himself, he's a humble fellow, overlaid with gold, and commanding everybody, including the Jewish exiles to worship him.

John Whitcomb, one of my professors at Grace Seminary, wrote a great commentary on Daniel years ago. He said this is entirely possible that Nebuchadnezzar remembering the spectacular image he saw in his dream more than 15 years earlier attempted to duplicate it in material form. Daniel had told him he would be the head of gold, but that he would be followed by another kingdom inferior to you made of silver, rejecting now the idea that any kingdom could follow his own. He may have determined to show the permanence of his golden kingdom by having the entire image covered with gold. Thus he clung to the more flattering aspect of the dream interpretation, but dropped the rest. The fact that he was no longer honoring the God of the Jews is clear from his statement to the three friends that comes later in this text.

"What God is there who to deliver you out of my hands?" Bad question Nebby. We'll get to that in a little bit. Now I think it's wise for all of us, and I am going to try not to enjoy this too much. I just love my job. Okay? I love it. Today I'm loving it a lot. It'd be wise for us all to try to picture all of this in our mind. Nebuchadnezzar had this huge image built. Huge. Then he calls the leaders together. He assembles this large orchestra. He says at the end of verse five, "Now as soon as you hear the music, fall down and worship the image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king, has set up." The principle is clear. The pressure to bow down to other Gods is great. I would just ask you this morning, are you aware that pressure? Are you? This is in the Bible for a reason. Are you on guard for the pressure you face to worship other Gods? It's everywhere.

For example, you walk in the mall. What's the message that comes screaming out? You need this. You need this and you need this and you need this. You don't have to pay for it now, we'll bill you later. Bow and worship at the God of self-fulfillment, immediate gratification. Material things can be your God and they're worth sacrificing a lot for. How many families find themselves under extreme financial pressure because they bowed, foolishly, to that God? Hmm?

Or you go to work. You go to work. The variety of possible idols there is staggering. You walk into Vanity Fair. You might have a boos who wants you to worship your job, because after all, he doesn't have much of a life. Doesn't have much of a family. He worships work and he wants you to worship it as well. There's this pressure to bow at the idol of the company and if you do, you'll receive the praise of men. For some Christians, that's their God. The approval of people. Whatever it takes. I'll avoid anything that might mean I don't receive approval of the world. I will do whatever it takes to get it.

Or, I mean just everywhere. Somebody at works wants you to be deceptive, because everybody in the group is padding their expense account and it's going to look really bad if yours is low. By the way Christmas bonus last year was kind of lame, so we're just going to kind of get them back, but we've got to all do this together. Bow at the idol of greed. I'm just saying the pressure to bow to other Gods is great. You may not have had anybody this week to suggest that you bow down to a statue that was 90 feet tall. We'd be very short sided to think that we haven't faced that same pressure even this week. I'm asking you do you recognize the pressure to bow to other Gods and are you handling that pressure appropriately?

Now, you say man that's hard. Oh, you want to make it harder? I got an idea. Let's make it harder. We should. If you're going to bring some other Biblical truth into this point, it's like the existence of our adversary, the devil. Now are we so sophisticated in this culture to think that ain't really going on anymore? I hope not. All through the Bible, Satan's goal is to promote the worship of false Gods. That's why he fell out of heaven himself because he did not want to worship the true go anymore. He wanted to elevate himself above God. That's why he took that approach with Adam and Eve. You don't have to listen to God's commands. You don't have to follow his word. In fact, you can be like God. That was part of the temptation he used with Christ in the wilderness. Taking him up to a high mountain and saying all these things I will give to you if you what? If you worship me.

Friends, our adversary is using the exact same method with you today. You say oh. Feel free to give me an, "Oh," like that. And let me give you this. Second Corinthians 11:3 where Paul says, "I'm afraid." And look when the apostle Paul says he's afraid of something, it's probably wise for the church to listen up, huh? He said, "I'm afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve ..." And by the way if you just thought, "Oh, best verse. You mention Adam and Eve as literal figures a few minutes ago. We can't talk about this in this sophisticated culture or they'll mock us. They might even throw us in the fire." Mock away. Because do we all understand we're a Bible believing church? And we're not mad about it. We're not bad about it at all. But we're not going to be intimated away from that belief. We're not going to be ashamed of the gospel like ever. We were started as a church that believes the word of God. We believe all of it.

We believe Adam and Eve really happened. We've got Faith West. We've got to tone that down if we're going to campus ministry. Seriously? We have more people attending Faith right now than ever. There were 600 people there a couple of weeks ago. God can put his product on the market this day in age without you and me doctoring it up. We all got that, right? If that's not true, then I'm not coming here on Sunday mornings unless I can come a whole lot later and there's a whole lot better cinnamon rolls. If it's not the real thing, then what are we doing? Have you noticed the new method? Glasses off, off the notes. Now at least you have a sign. We know when he's doing it, okay because of that. Where were we?

"I'm afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds," who's? That'd be you. You. "Your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion." Here's what I'm saying. What we read about regarding Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and this pressure that they're under. We ought to remember that that's the exact kind of pressure that our adversary places on the Church of Jesus Christ today. We're not wrestling against flesh and blood. That's what Paul said in Ephesians six. We are not wrestling against ... I'm not some big spook. But on the other hand, we're not going to deny what the word of God has to say about the nature of the battle that we are in.

That makes it harder. The pressure to bow down when you have foe that wants you to. But it's not just that. It's also our own past. None of us could hear what we're studying this morning and say, "Boy this temptation to worship other Gods is real. I better not let that start." I love you. I love you. You know what? It already started. Every person is born in sin. The scriptures ... I know that's not a particularly positive message. That'll get you on the front page too. I'm just simply saying ... I'm simply saying ... Again, we're a bible believing church. We're going to proclaim what the word of God has to say about our condition.

"In sin, my other conceived me," David says. What that means is, it's not polite, okay? But tweet this if you want. We're idol worshipers from the womb. Which is why Paul said this about the great Thessalonians. He said "For they, themselves, report about us what kind of a reception we had with you and how you turned to God," what? "From idols to serve a living and a true God." That phrase could be used of any person who has come to Christ. What I'm saying is we bring to the Christian life a propensity to worship false Gods. Serious business.

Also this. You say, "Oh, I'm going to have to stop behaving that way." It's not a behavioral issue. It's a matter of the heart. It's a matter of the heart. Here's a fascinating text. It's Ezekiel 14, where we read, "Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying 'Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their inequity. Should I be consulted by them at all? Therefore, speak to them and tell them thus says the Lord God, 'Any man of the house of Israel who sets up these idols in his heart puts right before his face the stumbling block of his inequity and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from me through all of their idols.''"

This issue of standing for God, of being a person of integrity, of who we're going to worship, it doesn't start with the hands. It starts with the heart. The lesson from Daniel three about integrity, first and foremost is the pressure to bow down to other Gods is great. We've had a bit of that pressure this week. For some of us, this is not our first rodeo, okay? But if you looked at the paper this week, there's an incredibly negative article about our community development corporation on the front page today. They're not happy with us a bit. Now let's put this in context, okay? We've had an incredible amount of positive media coverage over the years.

Do you realize I have people tease me because they say that this church quietly, actually owns the journal and courier? I've had that said all the time. In fact, the newspaper actually gets that from the world of people fussing at them about being too nice toward us. Let's not be whining too much, okay? Can we just relax? Can we have a little fun? Can we enjoy Jesus? Is he on the throne? Then that's all we need, right? Let's enjoy life, all right?

But here's what's happening. I do realize while I'm playing ... I'm sorry. See, now you know. You're saying, "There went lunch, Martha." I realize while I'm playing golf the rest of the week, some of you actually have to go to work this week. Your friends and coworkers, they're going to ask you all kinds of questions about ... I know. Let me just give you the facts. One of the board of works members is upset because the first houses that we completed were eventually sold, not given, sold to people associated with Faith. The article suggests that we're being unethical. What they're saying, what this board of works member is actually saying, and what the reporter, the narrative she took was well we're not letting people in the community know about the existence of these homes. We're just using the program to enrich ourselves.

Well, nothing could be further from the truth. On the assumption that we really want to talk about the truth. By the way, I knew that this article was brewing even before I left for South America a couple of weeks ago. I worked with these dear folks. A number of people from our church have worked trying to give them the facts just to try to help them understand this program and the way it works, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Don't let the truth get in the way of a juicy headline. We've worked with this board of works person repeatedly. We've worked with this reporter repeatedly. The facts did not meet or match their preconceived narrative, so they went with the headline. They found a non-profit ethicist at IU. Now I asked God to help me be kind today, okay? I'm just going to let that go although there's a joke right there. I'm just going to leave it. You can go down that ... Non-profit ethicist at IU.

Anyway, who interestingly violated the first rule of ethics by not taking the time to actually get both sides of the story before she spoke out. That would be like ethics 101. A really wise king spoke about that 3,000 years ago when he said, "If you answer a matter before you take the time to hear it, you're going to end up being foolish and shameful." Just go with that. Here's the truth. The government asked us to start this program. We didn't ask them. The government asked us. The reason is, there's federal funding that is available to communities where there's distressed housing in order to buy those homes on the assumption you're actually going to lose money on every project. But you're going to bring that house back up to a neighborhood standard, and then you're going to make it available to a home owner. You're going to stabilize that neighborhood. It's not about enriching the church. What do we get out of it? It's not about enriching the buyer, because the buyer has to purchase the home. It's about improving the neighborhood.

Now the neighbors have a nice home next to them. You say, "Why does the government do that?" The idea is you're raising the standard of that neighborhood and then eventually raising the tax base. That's why the government does that, but the government can't spend the money themselves. The federal government can't, nor can the city government. They have to partner with a non-profit. The city came to us and said, "Listen, we don't like the fact that our community is not getting the benefit of this federal money. Would you please do that?" Faith, because they asked us to, started a community development corporation. The challenge is when it comes to selling those homes. The federal government has, and the guidelines are incredible. The federal government has income requirements. You can only make a certain amount. That level is low.

Obviously the banks who are providing the mortgage for that home owner, they want a credit rating that obviously is high. You've got those two issues scrunching one another. Talk to any realtor. Talk to any banker who actually looks at the facts. The pool of people who would even meet those qualifications in town like this is incredibly small. And oh, by the way, throw this fact in. Then once you find the people who actually meet those requirements, they also have to be willing to buy that house in a distressed neighborhood instead of somewhere else. We have advertised the fire out of this program. That was what the article suggested is that we haven't. It's a patent lie. What I've said to the newspaper before I left South America is at least take the time to get the facts and at least tell the truth.

That's a fairly reasonable expectation of the media, is it not? They chose to lie. That's just it. Pretty that up in your head all you want, they chose to lie and suggest that we haven't. The irony, by the way, okay now I'm actually going to put my glasses down. Do you realize that the newspaper itself has actually done repeated feature articles about this program and told people how to contact us? And yet now they're saying that we haven't promoted the program. This is the one snarky comment I'm going to make. Okay, here it comes. Unless they're actually making a comment about their declining readership, and their inability to get the word out, what are they saying by suggesting that we're not promoting the program?

In addition to that, Lori Walters, who by the way has worked tirelessly for the last three years like nobody else in this town on this project, she ought to be commended for what she has done instead of the way she was treated in that article. If you say, "You're a little wound up about this." I'm a shepherd. Do you know what they issue you when you become a shepherd? A staff. You know what you do with a staff? You guide the sheep, and you beat the wolves. I'm going to try and do it as sweetly as I can because I'm so sweet. I'm going to do my job. You pick on Lori Walters and you're going to get whacked. In fact, my son, the bear, says, "You mess with the bear, you're going to get the claws." I am. I'm going to try and be as biblical as I can about this, but Lori has ... She's done ... She's gone to all sorts of civic groups. She's advertised this program in all sorts of ways she possibly can.

The bottom line is, here's the bottom line. We've only had four families who are willing to actually go through the application process. All four of them were associated with Faith. After we did everything we could to promote it to everybody else, we provided, sold, sold those homes. Those four homeowners ought to be commended for courageously being willing to sacrifice and move into a distressed area in order to make ... They were not enriched in any way, shape, or form. Anybody who suggest otherwise is lying. Absolutely lying.

I realize people could say, "Well then just get out of the program is you're going to get that kind of criticism." That means that the community loses out on the benefit of those federal funds to rehabilitate stressed housing. Here's today's news. We're not planning on being intimidated. We're not planning on bowing to the idol of we have to have the approval of every last person in our town. Sometimes, no good deed goes unpunished. If we're doing what we believe what God wants us to do, then we're going to keep doing it as long as we believe it pleases him. Now back to these notes.

Let's read little further in the text, shall we? "For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward," the Chaldeans, "and brought charges against the Jews. They responded and said to king Nebuchadnezzar, '"Oh king, live forever. You, oh kind, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, et cetera, is to fall down and worship. But whoever doesn't fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews,'" picture this now, "'whom you have appointed over the administration of the province, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,'" we assume, by the way, Daniel was somewhere else or he would have been in the middle of this. "'These men, oh king, have disregarded you. They don't serve your Gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.' Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage," the guy's an angry man, "gave orders to bring these men."

Verse 14, "Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, 'Is it true? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't serve my Gods or worship the golden image that I've set up? No, no. Maybe you didn't hear me. If you're ready, we're going to start it over. At the moment you hear this orchestra, stop. Let me explain it to these boys. When you hear the music, you fall down and worship the image that I have made very well. But if you don't, you're immediately going to be cast in the midst of a furnace of ... We're throwing you in the furnace. Oh,'" said sneakily, "'What God is there that can deliver you out of my hands?'" Really bad question Nebby. Really bad question.

Shadrach, you've got to love ... This is where you want to live. This is where you want to live. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, "Oh Nebuchadnezzar, we don't need to give you an answer concerning this matter." Meaning we don't have to pray about this. We don't have to think about this. We already know, "If it be so our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he'll deliver us out of your hand, oh king. But even if he doesn't, let it be known to you, oh king, we're not going to serve your Gods." Don't you love that? We are not going to serve your Gods. We're not going to worship the golden image that you have set up.

II. The Price of Integrity May be High

The price of integrity, it might high. In fact, it might be very, very high. Can we make a few observations from this passage? Remember we planned to preach about this back last December. I love the sovereignty of God. Look at the jealously of others. The Chaldeans in verse 8 couldn't stand the fact that these Jewish men were not worshiping their idol. It angered them that they were standing out from the crowd. Now again, I'm trying to be as sweet as I can. I really am. I prayed about that. I'm going to tell you this, I've had this observation made to me in the last two days. I believe it. Had it been a liberal church doing those houses, the article you read this morning, if you did, would never have seen the light of day. In case you're wondering, why is it that some folks really don't seem to like Faith? I'll tell you exactly why. It's because we're a Bible believing church. That is why.

We're not mad about it. Do I look mad? I slept like a baby last night. I absolutely ... I'm going to have to many brats this weekend. It's not like we're not mad about it, but we're not going to be intimidated away from it either. We're a Bible believing church. We believe all of it. That angers some. Our culture is so confused. We believe that if you're born with boy parts, you're a boy. You ought to go potty with the boys. That's what we believe. That's pretty obvious, is it not? Yet we have a culture that is ... By the way, you might say, "I can't believe, that's so mean." It's not compassionate to say otherwise. We're not mad about it, but within our church family, without apology, we are going to believe all the word of God.

I'll tell you the best way to never have a mean article written about you again is stop believing certain aspects of scripture. That's it. But, what would you say next? Over my dead body. You would say that, and so would I. I try not to use that very often, by the way. This church was founded on the belief that God's word is inspired. It's inherent. It is sufficient. It's all we need for life in God. We've been believing that for 52 years, and it doesn't matter the pressure that might come by those who don't like it. That is who we believe that God has called us to be. We're not trying to impose it on anybody else. We are certainly going to live that ourselves. It does. Some folks just get jealous.

Then there's the anger and rage. Nebuchadnezzar, he should have been mad at himself. He's the one who built the goofy image. Yet he chooses to be angry at Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego. Then there's this. It's the repetitive pressure. If you say, "Listen. What I'm going to do, I'm going to have integrity once and then I'll never have to have it again." It doesn't work that way, does it? This is not going to be our last rodeo. Just in case you're wondering. Unless Jesus returns this will not be the last one. It's funny what happened. It's like okay, you didn't hear me. You must not have heard ... Stop the orchestra, let me explain it to you one more time. Can you ... Remember, they're teenagers. Maybe they're a little bit older now, but they're still young men, relatively.

There's also threats. Listen, if you don't worship, you're going to be immediately ... Do you understand how hot that fire is? I will tell you, people will threaten you. You saw it in that article. We're going to be watching them. We're going to be watching them. Seriously? If you were around our church during the Faith West days, speaking of a fire, we actually went through five public hearings. Each one of them got larger to the point they actually had to move the last one to the auditorium of West Lafayette Public High School just to contain the crowds. You remember that?

Our church offered to bring Culvers in so that after the meeting, however the vote went, we would actually just have a little community ice cream social. The mayor of West Lafayette asked me not to do that because he was not sure they could contain the violence. That's a fact. They brought the police and fire department in for that. What the fire department had ... I never figured that. We're going to hose them down, hose them down. If you know anything about a public meeting, you know this. Robert's Rules suggest that you don't speak to anybody in the meeting. You speak to the chair. You speak to the chair. You know why I would bring that up, because it was amazing how many people in the meeting looked right at me and called me out by name, right there in the meeting. Then at the end, this was a choice moment by a dear man. A dear man, an African American council member at that time. Do you remember what he said to me? He said, "I'm going to tell you right now pastor Viars, we're going to be watching you."

Really? We're to say in public to a pastor of a church, a Bible believing ... "We're going to be watching you." Now why? Did he say he was going to be watching me because of my ethnicity? Did he say he was going to be watching me because of my gender? Did he say he was going to be watching me because of my sexual orientation? No he said he was going to be watching me because of my religion. Do you understand how discriminatory that is? Think about this. What would've happened if the roles would have been reversed? If as a counsel person, in that office, I would have said in a public meeting, "I'm going to be watching you because you're black. I'm going to be watching you if it were the case because you're gay. I'm going to be watching you because you're a woman. Or you're a man. Or whatever options we now have." Can you imagine? Can you imagine the outcry?

I would've been forced out of office that day. Yet, it's perfectly appropriate in this culture to say things like that to people who believe the word of God. That's the day in age in which we live. Listen, do I look unhappy? I love being right in the middle of it. I'm just going to tell you that. I want to be right in the middle of whatever God is doing. I love it. But it's going to get worse. You got that? It's going to get ... The best thing to do is either to stand up and get ready for that, or not associate yourself with a church that believes the Bible. That's what it's going to come down to. I already made my decision. Yeah. Way to go Curtis. Curtis says him too. Me and Curtis.

They might even ridicule your God. "What God is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" I started with this quote from Dave Jeremiah. "The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls who have conviction of heart, and will not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances." These three men knew what God wanted them to do, and they weren't afraid of the consequences. Hey, by the way. Why wouldn't they bow down? Why wouldn't they? It's because it would have been a direct violation of the scripture. That it already said to them, "You shall not have any other Gods before me." End of story. I'm living by the Bible.

"King, with all due respect, we're not bowing down to your image, and whatever price comes with that, we are ready to pay the bill." Do you have any opportunities this week to think thoughts like that? Did you have any opportunities to say words like that? If not, if you'd say, "I'm not facing any pressure at all for being a Christian right now." Maybe you're not saying enough. Maybe you're not living for God enough. This is also a really good way to raise your kids. Don't say, "Man, I hope my kids don't see that article." I'd get that thing out and I'd read it to them.

Stoddard Kennedy was a chaplain in World War Two. He had a 10-year-old son. Here's a letter he wrote while the armies were advancing in France. Many times, he was on the front lines. Chaplain Kennedy wrote this message to his son. He said this. He said, "The first prayer I want my son to learn to say for me is not, 'God, keep daddy safe,' but 'God, make daddy brave.' And if he has hard things to do, make him strong to do them. Son, life and death don't matter, but right and wrong do. Daddy dead is daddy still, but daddy dishonored before God is something too awful for words." That's how you raise a young man. Then he said this, "Now I'd suppose you'd like to put in a bit about safety too. And mother would like that I'm sure. Well put it in afterwards." Don't you love that? "Put it in afterwards for it really doesn't matter nearly as much as doing what is right."

That's a willingness to pay the price for integrity. I wonder if followers of Jesus Christ are willing to pay that price. Martin Luther said this, "If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I'm not professing Christ, however boldly I proclaim that I am professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, no matter how steady on all front beside its mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that vital point." We think the lord has called us to do good in the north end.

Let you light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in Heaven. I've been down at the Hartford hub multiple times this week. We're having a blast, and so are they. We want to be right in the middle of some of the most challenging areas of this town because we believe the word of God has called us to be that and called us to do that. You might say, "You know I'm not sure I could have stood like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." You know that might be because you don't yet know Christ. I would encourage you, if you don't have a personal relationship with God that allows you to have strength to keep your convictions when it's hard, I would encourage you to acknowledge your need and to place your faith and trust in him.

If you would say, "Pastor Viars, I am a Christian, but man. I find myself bowing down at the idol of the approval of man or whatever it might be." Friends, listen. This passage can help us run to the cross. It's only through the power of the resurrected Christ that any of us can live with our convictions even when it's hard. Well I wonder what happens? Man I bet those guys are about to be burned up. Well somebody is.

Look at verse 19. "Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath." He's an angry guy. Did you notice that? "His facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie the men up in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. Then these men were tied up in their trousers," that's going to become important. "Their coats, their caps," these Jews thought it was probably going to be cold in there, "were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire for this reason. Because the king's command was urgent and the fire had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried out Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But these three men fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king, was astounded. He stood up in haste. He said to the high officials was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire? They replied certainly. He said look, I see four men loose and walked around." Who's the fourth one? It's the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ who came to the party with a pitcher of Lipton Iced Tea and ice cream sandwiches for all of God's people. That's in the original Hebrew.

Verse 26, and you saw it's fascinating the appearance of the fourth is like a Son of the God's clothes. "Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire. He responded and said Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out. You servants of the most high God, come here. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps and all those guys they saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on their bodies of these men, nor," hear this, "were the hair of their heads singed. Nor were their trousers damaged. Nor had the smell of fire even come upon them." That's how powerful God is.

"Nebuchadnezzar responded and said blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who went sent his angel and delivered his servants who put their trust in him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any God except their own. Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation, or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb." It's amazing how much he's tearing people limb from limb. "And their houses reduced to a rubbish heap in so much as there's no other God who's able to deliver in this way. Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to prosper in the province of Babylon."

III. The Protection for Those Who Stand for God is Sure

Is there a principle there, friends, that people like you and me need? Do we need it today? Absolutely. The protection for those who stand for God is sure. That's why these men said, "Listen. I don't know if God's going to deliver us, but I know that he can. That's all that I need." We're going to walk through the fire Isaiah says. We might be cast in prison revelations says. In Romans seven, we are going to suffer with him. But if that's part of what it means to be a person of conviction, bring it on.

Hey factor that back into that wedding I talked to you about a moment ago. Andy and Beth. You know I read from Beth's rules of dating and such. She also had, after that, a 14-year-old girl, she had this my wish list. 14 years old. She said, I quote, "If I could wish for some husband, that person would've grown up on a farm or something close to it and would love every kind of animal. He would know how to ride horses and teach me how." Seriously? Isn't that just some dreamy-eyed 14-year-old little girl? I'm not saying it always works out this way. Sometimes you don't receive your reward until Heaven. But, Christmas break, Beth goes home.

Goes home, and she meets this guy named Andy whose wife had just died in a terrible car accident the year before. They start dating, and they were married last Saturday. You want to guess what kind of property Andy lives on? Well, an 80-acre farm. You want to guess what kind of animals Andy has? Yeah. Those boys right there. Yeah.

Psalm 37. "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Don't fret because of him who prospers because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger," pastor Viars. "Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Don't fret. Leads only to evil doing, for evil doers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord," they'll what? "They'll inherit the land," and God may throw in some horses. He may throw in some horses. It's true. Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.

One other thing. When Beth was 20, so now six year later, she adds to the journal. She says you know, what I said when I was 14, a kid, that was kind of childish. Now it'd be nice if the guy's in the ministry where we could actually serve together in some way. You know what Andy does? He's the general manager of a Christian Radio Station. I wonder if there's a place for Beth there. Selfie. Selfie. Don't be worried if somebody's trying to throw you in the fire because of your convictions. Okay? Just do what is right. Just do what is right and the Lord ... You know what? Even if you've got to wait a long, long time, long, long time, Jesus will show up. Iced tea. I love ice cream sandwiches. He'll sustain you until the proper time.

Let's stand together for prayer, shall we? Father in Heaven, thank you for this fabulous text. We needed it today, Lord, and I pray that we would be men and women of conviction even when there's a price to be paid. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video