Monday 4 August

Vaughan Roberts leading the morning Bible teaching at New Horizon
Vaughan Roberts leading the morning Bible teaching at New Horizon

This week at New Horizon, Vaughan Roberts (Rector of St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford) is leading the morning Bible teaching sessions from the book of Daniel.  Here is a summary of Monday’s teaching on Daniel chapter 3.

Daniel 3 challenges our “diluted” Christianity of the 21st Century western world.

Lord, give us such a view of you and your kingdom that we will be willing to live wholeheartedly for you.

There is a temptation for Christians to “mingle with the crowd”.  We don’t like to stand out. But that is not an option for those who want to live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ.

Daniel was born and raised in Jerusalem (a citizen of God’s kingdom) but now he was living in a kingdom of this world (Babylon). The world does not acknowledge God’s kingdom. We are “aliens and strangers” or exiles here. In recent years, there has been a greater disconnect between the way we live as Christians and the way the world is going.

When the crunch comes, will we really believe that God reigns and it makes sense to obey Him Have we discovered something worth living for? If we have, then we have found something worth dying for.

We have made Christianity safe. To deny yourself in the west means giving up chocolate for lent. To take up your cross means coping with a bad back. We have shifted the focus away from God’s glory to us and our happiness.

Yet, following God will not necessarily contribute to our superficial, short-term happiness. We are to follow Him not because it feels good but because it is right, whatever the cost.

The folly of wholehearted faith

Human power is finite. Divine power is ultimate and eternal. It makes sense to submit to divine power. That is all very well in theory but at crunch time… what do we do? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to submit to God!

Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a stark choice – bow or burn! Surely, it was no big deal? They could go back to the worship of their God afterwards.  But they knew God’s word. They knew the commandments. It was crunch time. What would I have done? They were respectful but defiant. Their ultimate allegiance was to God.

Choosing the invisible over the visible – they chose to worship the unseen God rather than the massive idol.

Choosing to be different rather than to fit in

Choosing pain over comfort – the instinct for self-perseveration is powerful. The furnace was blazing hot but they stood firm. So they were bound and thrown into the fire.

The wisdom of wholehearted faith 

v18 Our God can rescue us! But even if He does not… we won’t bow down!

They know that God is in control but they are willing to trust Him even if everything goes wrong.. It is not ungodly to pray, “If it be your will…”  When God has made a promise, we can pray with confidence. But there are other things that are not so clear. God hasn’t promised to make our life easy. So we pray, “Lord if it be your will, please heal… but even if you don’t. I will still serve you.”

God may be invisible but He is present.

God may not protect us from the fires of affliction but He will certainly be with us in them! Whatever the circumstances, we can be absolutely sure that Christ is with us.  It can feel as if He is a long way away, but even if it feels like that, He is with us in the fire.

He is powerful

They came out of the fire as if it were no big deal. That is the power of God. Nebuchadnezzar had to change his tune. Now he calls them, “Servants of the Most High God.” No other god can save in this way!

It is a lovely story because everything turns right in the end. But it is not always like that.   Faith is not always vindicated in this life but it is always wise because God is present and He is powerful.

There will be crunch times when we have to decide in a way that will be costly… will I choose to live for my God or for the idols of this world.  We need to have the courage, by God’s grace, to say, “No.” It always makes sense to say “Yes” to the living God who said, “Yes” to us in Jesus Christ.

Give us such a vision of your son and his kingdom that we are prepared to say “Yes” to Him and “No” to the idols of this world.