..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bible Study on the Book of Daniel: Lesson 3, Identifying Babylon

Book of Daniel Bible Study: Identifying
Babylon in Your Life: Daniel 1:1-17

Daniel determined that he would not fall
prey to the spirit and ways of Babylon.
Even in his captivity he had to determine
what was of God and what was not of God
and choose to serve God alone.
He had to set his face like flint against
the spirit of Babylon even while
surrounded on every side by Babylon.

Have you ever felt surrounded on all
sides by evil and ungodliness? Consider
Daniel. He was immersed in the ways of
Babylon but Babylon was not touching
him! How did he keep his heart separated
to God? Everything in our lives is
either leading us toward God or toward
Babylon. We have to discern and recognize
the spirit behind that which we let into
our hearts.

How is Babylon crossing your life?
We need to examine everything that
we let into our lives because, like a Trojan
horse, once Babylon comes in, it infiltrates
to conquer. We don't need to fear
Babylon, we just need to have good
sentries, and ironclad--indeed "Spirit-clad"
boundaries to separate us unto God.

What are you filled with? You only have
so much inner room, so much time, so
much strength. What is your life filled with?
Did you know that you can build for God
even in Babylon?

Our lives will become something--we need
to ask ourselves how will that happen and
what are we building? When we get to the
end of our days we will be something--either
something for God or something for Satan.
We have to make deliberate and conscious choices
or we will be swept toward that which
is mediocre or worse yet, entirely not of God.

Daniel understood this principle. Daniel
understood that spiritual discipline
would aid him greatly in keeping his
heart pure and focused on God. We have
to incorporate biblical practices and disciplines
into our lives that keep us pointed in
the right direction. It is so easy to
drift off course.

Daniel prayed and saw that he could use
the disciple of fasting to set his
heart toward God. He did not have
control over very much in his life.
He was fed that which the king saw fit
to feed him, and the king no doubt
felt he was giving Daniel the best
kind of food. Daniel knew otherwise:
perhaps he was asked to eat pork
or unclean things according to
the Law. Perhaps the food was not
prepared the way the Law stated it
should be. Are you partaking of
things that Babylon offers without

Daniel asked to fast from the
"dainty meat" that was brought to
him. Even then there was a myth
circulating that fasting would
make you weak and take your strength
(Daniel 1:10). We need to realize
that while fasting may deny
the physical body, it strengthens
the spirit when we look to the Lord
(Matthew 17:21, Is 58:6). Fasting
can free us to find or rekindle
our reliance on God alone and
to gaze upon Him unhindered.

Each time Daniel ate his meal
of vegetables he was reminded
who he served and where his
strength really came from:
The Lord God! We need disciplines
such as these to carry us through
our walk in the Babylon of this
world. What might God be asking
you to do so that your focus on
Him might be strengthened?

God is looking for a consistency
in our walk with Him. We cannot
be full of zeal one day, and
compromise the next! We cannot
be for God on Monday, and
for Babylon on Tuesday! We
need "a long obedience in the
same direction"! We have to
"purpose" in our hearts to
not be defiled (vs. 8)
or we will drift away from God.

Jonathan Edwards, the noted
revivalist, himself made a
long list of resolutions
to serve God. It is a formidable
list and one that might seem
impossible to adhere to. But
his heart was set toward the
Lord. He did not want to waste
one minute of his life with
lesser things.

Jesus will direct us, as we
seek Him, with guidance that
He tailor-makes for us. This
guidance is born out of the
relationship we maintain with
God minute by minute, day by
day, week by week, month by
month, year by year. Daniel
spent his whole life in Babylon
but Babylon never conquered him. God
knows the details of our life
and situation and He knows what
will keep us with Him. Ask the
Lord what He would have you do.
Avail yourself of His Spirit.

Often we are spiritually ignorant
and we fail to recognize
Babylon in our lives and Satan's
devises in our midst. We need
to examine everything in our
lives to see if it something
that God wants for us.

Often we do things, even
spiritual things, and only
have a vague idea why we
do them or if they are backed
up by scripture. We may have
a mixture of truth and untruth,
human wisdom mixed with
eternal truth. We should
allow God to test our beliefs.
"God helps those who help
themselves" The Lord works in
mysterious ways, etc": we have
many truisms that circulate in
our minds that are not true at
all or are only partly true.

Where is Babylon in our lives?
We must identify where it is
coming in, and we cannot do
this without the aid of the
Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5-11).

What does Babylon say to us:
That youth is desirable, that
being good looking is
what makes a leader, that
social status is important,
that intelligence will get
you to the top, that human
charisma is the same as
divine charisms (Daniel 1:4).

These were all the things that
the Babylonians looked for
when they chose leaders.
Is this not the same message
we hear in our culture today?
In some sense these things
are ok, but they are
not the ways of God. God
looks at the heart, He is
after a pure heart that is
set on Him. He does not
consider the outward man,
nor that which is politically
correct. He does not consider
your looks, your heritage,
your intelligence, your
ability to charm others
when He calls you. Daniel
became a hero of faith not
because of what he looked like
but because of his strong
trust in God.

We need to ask where Babylon has
infiltrated our thinking and
what we actually value. We can
identify some of the more gross
areas of things that are against
Christ but there are many subtle things
that we must test. We often
accept things and never bother
to see how they contradict
the message of the gospel.

There are many things that we
as Americans value and sometimes
they become entwined with what
we feel we should value as
Christians. How is the American
gospel different from the gospel
that Christ presents?
How is
American Christianity different
from "mere" Christianity? When
you answer that question you
will uncover some of the blueprints
for Babylon's plan of attack in
your life. (Each culture, not
just Americans, has to look at
where it strays from the Lord).

American Christians often speak
much about family values, about
being a good "witness", about
being full of purpose and practical
vision. We stress balance, happiness,
and tolerance. We seem to want to
make the gospel palatable so that
people will be able to say "yes" to
it without undue inward change.
Jesus is often seen as someone
who will help us become a better
version of ourselves--who will help
with our problems, give us financial
and spiritual counsel, an occasional
tip for the stock market, find us a house
in the suburbs and a parking place
near the door, all from a
safely hidden seat in the bleachers.
Let me tell you, from everything
I know about Jesus, that is certainly
not what He is about!

We want to be seen as committed
to the Lord but not seen as fanatical.
We want to seem balanced but not
overly mystical. We say we value
a bold voice but we are very quick
to avoid confrontations. We want
to be seen as appealing to the man
in the street, even when the man
in the street in no way shares our
worldview. How will that work?

As Americans we seem to draw our
boundaries around what is already
there, around the status quo of
what we assume is good, rather then
staking out what God has told
us He values and letting
everything we do and believe fall
into place around that. I challenge
you to read the teachings of Jesus
and you will soon see quite a variance
with some of our most cherished
assumptions about family relations,
patriotism, and sucess.

So much pulls us away from
the ways of God.

What spiritual disciplines might
God be calling you to in order to
create a watchfulness against the
invasion of Babylonian values within you?

What reminders do you have in your
life that you belong to the Lord and
not to Babylon?

How can you make a stand for God in
your life?

What things are talked about in the
first chapter of Daniel that helped
Daniel stand in the place that he

How do you think you can live "in
the world" and not 'of it"? (John 17:14&15).

How can I make use of Babylon to help me
serve the Lord whole-heartedly? God allows
us to be in Babylon and He can cause us
to build up a resistance against evil.
Our hearts can be completely purposed
to obey only the Lord. Babylon can keep
us close to God by driving us into a
continual dependence upon Him. We desperately
need God ALL the time but when things are
easy we can fall into self-reliance and an
unguarded complacency.

Let us begin to use our sojourn in Babylon
to build spiritual muscle, purpose, discipline
and determination to serve God wholeheartedly.

(this bible study is a continuation
of a Bible Study on the book of Daniel,
further installments are archived in
this blog under "Daniel Bible Study"
and "Bible"

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