Frequently people hear the Gospel of Jesus and respond. Often experiencing an initial joy and exuberance that frequently begins tapering off as their old ways return and the new are pushed aside. It is a challenge to stay faithful and true for life, when those around us are behaving differently. The best way to ward this off is through a church involved in discipleship, prayer, and dedicated Bible reading, but a person has to be willing to put Jesus first.
Last week, Ms. Stephanie was assigned Daniel 1: 1-20 in our witnessing Story. After a week of preparation, she came prepared, and as a group we learned much. Daniel, like the other youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in wisdom etc., were brought back to Babylon to serve the king by the chief eunuch. There was a plan to replace their past with a new culture and belief system.
Upon arriving in Babylon the process of removing their past and instilling the new culture began in earnest. They were involved in a program to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldean’s, while also being provided new types of food and wine, just like the king consumed. Not only was a targeted effort being made to provide a new culture and language, they were also given new names and their old were stripped away.
Daniel though would not defile himself with the food and drink of the Babylonians, he stayed true to the Lord and His requirements. In doing so, he also sought to redeem the other three youths in his block from being defiled. The chief eunuch agreed to their conditions. Even though Daniel and the other three were put in a position where it would have been easier to just go along to get along. They stayed true to their faith and God rewarded them with greater understanding and wisdom than all the magicians and enchanters in the kingdom.
For us as Christians, we also need to stay true to our new life in Christ Jesus. Often, just one person needs to stand firm in the faith and in so doing, provide the strength to others to also stand strong. We cannot embrace the new life we are given while holding onto our past sinful ways, we must stand strong, together. We know our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we are no longer enslaved to sin (Rom 6: 6). As such we cannot claim our new life in Jesus, while ignoring the new marks of a true Christian while still embracing our past.
These marks from Romans 12: 9-21 being:
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
There is no cheap grace in that. With belief, comes a new life, and that new life is involved in a church, with other believers, being honorable among sinners. We cannot come to belief and then think church involvement is not something we need or that the Bible is not for us. The Bible is our source and the Church our new family, through thick and thin. Daniel gave us a great witness in how to do this and when one person is willing to stay true, that lifts up others to do the same.
For believers, Jesus provides the strength to stay true, but we have to follow Him. This involves discipleship, a concerted effort to stay strong, and involvement in the church. We cannot profess our faith and think we can stay a free agent. With belief comes faith and with faith comes following. We no longer are the masters of our own domain, Jesus is.