Sunday, October 4, 2015

An American Babylon?

What would our lives be like if we ceased to care what humans thought of us and instead sought to glorify God in all we do and say? What if we stood up against people and governments that create rules and laws that blatantly go against God's word?  What if we stopped being afraid of what others might say or do to us and stood up for TRUTH and MORALITY and JESUS CHRIST instead?

I've been thinking a lot about the story of Babylon lately. I can't help but wonder if we are living in a modern day Babylon right now. Do you know the story? The city of Babylon was the capital of the ancient land of Babylonia in southern Mesopotamia. It was situated on the Euphrates River about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad, just north of what is now the modern Iraqi town of al-Hillah. It was thought to be Biblical myth until its foundations were unearthed and its riches substantiated during the 19th century.

The Bible reveals that all false systems of religion began in the land of Babylon. The influence of Babylon on Israel and world history is profound. King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon's king, was a very prideful man, and after having his pride hurt, conquered Judah and thousands of Jewish people were taken from their homes and forced to live in Babylon. There, the Jews were indoctrinated into Babylonian culture in order to transform them into loyal servants of their new king.

Most Jewish exiles fell in line with this indoctrination.  Why?  Well, King Nebuchadnezzar was one of the most powerful tyrants that had ever lived.  No one had ever been equal in authority, and there were no restraints whatsoever on anything he wanted to do.  He was an expert on torture, and everyone knew what he was capable of.  He also promised great things and made it seem like a benefit to follow his ways.  How do you stand up against that?  They had every reason in the world to fall in line and not stand up for their faith, and that's what almost all of them did.  "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", right?

But- there was one TEENAGER and three of his friends who were able to stand strong against all the temptation that was in Babylon: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.  Daniel was a faithful servant of God.  He never waivered in his faith or commitment to the Lord.  He stayed faithful, even in the midst of a culture that despised such faith.  He stayed faithful without having to quit his job or hide out to do it.  He and his friends felt the pressure; you know they did.  But because of their faithfulness God honored them and gave them the grace to stand strong despite the pressure.  The story of this pressure goes on throughout the book, it wasn't over quickly or early.  For 70 years Daniel served in one of the highest roles in the Babylonian government, and he did so without EVER compromising his relationship with and commitment to God.  When he was expected to eat the food and drink provided by the king, food and drink that was against God's law,  he devised a way to have other food brought to him and did not submit.  When he was forced to worship the statue of the king- he did not.  When he was commanded not to pray for 30 days, he got down on his knees each day and prayed in full view of his window.  I'm sure his three friends did the same.  I'm sure they weren't popular with the other Babylonians. I'm sure they were probably excluded from many of the the social groups and even ridiculed. It could not have always been easy.  For these things and others they faced the fiery furnace, the lions den, and who knows what else over the course of that 70 years, but they never waiver in their commitment to the Lord and the Lord never failed them, saving them from death each time it was ordered upon them.  

How is any of this this different from today- at least fundamentally?

How we are to live our lives as Believers is very clear.  God's word in the Bible is there for all to read.  He has given us a manual for living, all you have to do is study and follow it.  Sound easy?  Not so fast.  Our culture and non-believers will try to trip you up at every turn.

There are those out there that will try to use the Bible against you.  They will quote Romans 13:1 "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities..." and claim that even the Bible tells us to obey the government.

Don't be fooled- there is important CONTEXT needed here.  Acts 5:29 goes on to say: "We must obey God rather than men."  Contradiction?  No way- God is telling us that we are to follow the law of the land UNLESS or UNTIL it violates scripture.

Can't quite get there?  Then let's talk about something that may make this a little clearer.  In Exodus we are given the 10 commandments.  Commandment #5 says "honor your father and mother.  Commandment #6 says "thou shall not murder".  So, if you are following commandment #5 by honoring your father and mother and they tell you to commit murder, should you follow their command?  The answer, of course, is NO! Why?  Because obedience to your parents is only appropriate unless doing so would go against scripture. Man is fallen which means that man is subject to weakness and sin.  We are never to follow man, but to follow God.  Therefore, following governmental systems is only appropriate when it is consistent with scripture.

How about a real life present example?  Consider Kim Davis- the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage.  For those who say that she should either do her job or quit I ask you- when did we stray from providing religious accommodation to Christians?  We provide accommodation to others following their religious beliefs, why not here?  How about students who cannot even say the words "Merry Christmas" in public schools anymore?  Or Seniors being prohibited from praying before meals in a Senior Center?  Or college students being docked on a grade because the paper was religious in nature?  When did Christianity cease to be eligible for religious accommodation?

What does Babylon have to do with any of this? Well, Babylon is mentioned 260 times in Scripture, and is a city second in importance only to Jerusalem.  I believe that God speaks about it so often as a warning and example to us of what is going to happen to selfish, greedy, unbelieving countries when He returns.  Reading about and understanding Babylon's story will help us open our eyes to what is around us and avoid falling into the trap, which is a very real risk for Christians living in such a culture.

What about our culture is in line with Babylonian culture?  Well, to name a few examples:
  • Glorifying sex outside of wedlock (the sexual revolution) in movies, music, and through the prevalence of birth control available to everyone INCLUDING to teenagers without their parents' consent (thus eliminating sexual responsibility and the need for abstinence)
  • Abortion glorification (it is touted as a VICTORY for women)- example: even in the face of evidence that Planned Parenthood has tricked many into them AND is selling aborted fetuses for profit, even sometimes being harvested from live babies, people are still standing by them and taxpayers' money is funding them. Christians are often vilified for being against this.
  • The definition of marriage as created by God has been rewritten to include marriage by same sex couples which is against God's law- and Christians are called intolerant or worse for speaking out against this
  • There is no longer only the two genders created by God: man and woman.... there are now "other" genders, and God's perfect creation in Adam and Eve has been perverted by man.
  • We glorify physical beauty above all else- who can trust ANY of the pictures we see on TV or in magazines or in front of clothing stores in the mall these days? They have been photo-shopped beyond recognition to enhance only the physical beauty that has somehow been deemed desirable
Are you at risk of falling victim to our culture- pulling you further and further from God?  The answer is YES. We are all at RISK of falling into the ways of our culture.  It is a part of our human nature; we are fallen and cannot follow God fully without His help.  If serving God and following Him completely is not your strongest desire, you are at risk.  Heck, I love God with all my heart and I AM AT RISK. One of my greatest weaknesses is coveting what others have. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I spend time reading about and/or am I even a little bit infatuated with the wealth and power of movie stars, sports celebrities, political figures or other powerful people (be honest, do you grab that People magazine or the Enquirer or US or any of the dozens of other magazines as you stand in the checkout line just to check out the story on the cover or read the latest gossip)?  
  2. Do I ever covet or crave wealth, power, prestige or connections that would enhance my comfort, popularity or influence (even just a little)?
  3. Do I take steps to protect myself from exposure to the things of this world that would tempt me away from the life God wants me to live?  Do these steps involve avoiding any or all of the above?  Do these steps involve praying to God for his help?
Friends- now more than ever we need Jesus Christ to help us stay strong in the face of very difficult and dangerous attacks on our faith. Our culture is hunting us down one by one and trying to destroy Christianity. That sounds so alarmist I know, but it needs to be!  The alarm is sounding, Christians.  It is blaring at full volume.  There are landmines everywhere you look that compromise your ability to stay faithful to our Lord and His word.

You must not try to do this on your own though, and you must not rely solely on your fellow Christian to help you through, either (even the most Godly person in the world is still a flawed human in need of the Holy Spirit).

Stand up for God and His word.  Even now that there is real risk to doing so don't back down, but call on the power of the Holy Spirit to help you stand strong.  God will never forsake you. He will always forgive you. He sent His son Jesus to die for you so that the doors of Heaven will be open to you no matter how many times you fall down.  All you have to do is repent and accept this gift of salvation, and God will do the rest in you!  With a God like this on your side you don't need to worry what the crowd is doing. Our God is able to carry you through and to work the situation out no matter how impossible it looks.

God is ruler over all. The outcome of this war against Satan (which is really what this is all about) is already known. God is in charge, and you are either on His side or on Satan's side.  There is no neutral ground here, and the Babylonian culture, the American culture of today, is NOT on the right side.  Where do you stand?

"Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever, for wisdom and might are his. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and secret things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him." (Daniel 2:20-22)

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