The Great Conflict Part Two
Well, as we learned last week, there's more than meets the eye to the world we live in. With the human eye, we can see the physical world we cannot see the spiritual world. And in the physical world, we see the tragedies that follow upon the heels of another tragedy. We continue to read the statistics of the numbers of babies that continue to be aborted each and every year. We witness far too often humanity's inhumanity to man. And the more we see all of these evil actions, we ask ourselves why? Why do these atrocities continue to happen? Why can't we put a stop to them once and for all. As Christians, we continue to experience increasing hostility towards our faith in general, and specifically towards those who follow Christ as Lord and Savior. This hostility can be mild in the form that Christian bakers and T-shirt makers are being sued simply because they dare to be loyal to the Lord, which ranges also to the extreme of hundreds of thousands of believers who are physically attacked, and many of them killed, simply because they will not deny the Lord who saved them. And like the martyrs under the altar in the book of Revelation, we cry out how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth. Many, most, all Christians continue to fight our battles. We battle our past, we constantly battle temptation, we battle our flesh. We fight ongoing battles with discouragement, depression, and the idols of our hearts. And let's be honest, life is more of a battlefield than it is a bed of roses. Sometimes we win. Many times we lose. Sickness can be our constant companion. And the shadow of death grows larger and darker with every passing year. And Gerald from 20Schemes posted this quote from John Newton that I think is fitting for our subject this morning. John Newton said "the Christian lives in a strange, mysterious life that seems to swing daily from darkness to light, from peace into strife."
That's the bad news. But the good news: time and time again, our friend Jesus breaks into this strange and mysterious riddle of life and empowers us for a sweet and stable life in the storm. What is the responsibility of the church in the daily struggles, the daily swings of life, as Newton says? It is the responsibility of the church, through and by the preaching of God's Word, and the administration of the sacraments, to prepare you not only for life, but also for death. In any church, that doesn't prepare you for both life and death is not being faithful to its God-given charge. When you come to church, you have the right to expect the church to recognize the realities of life, your life. You have the right to expect the church to acknowledge and to accept the full spectrum of life. The sorrows, the fears, the pain, the anxieties, and of course, yes, there are joys. And I'm afraid many churches have forgotten the wise words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes chapter three, who said "a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a to hate; a time for war and a time for peace."
But you know, sadly, many churches operate as if Christians should only experience two emotions. You know, those emotions are? Love and happiness. As if that is the only two legitimate expressions of life, of the Christian life. That's all that we as Christians should experience. But listen, the church is not an isolation chamber, where you come each week to be shielded from the realities of life. You know what that's called? That's called a cult. The church is a classroom to teach you from the Holy Scriptures, what to expect in life and how to deal with life's realities.
Now, for that reason, we structure our worship service accordingly. One of the great weaknesses of the modern church is either they remain willfully ignorant of the purpose of worship. Or they're just ignorant of the purposes of worship. Or they know the the real true purpose of worship and they go their own way. For instance, we structure our service according to the Scriptures, the elements, not necessarily a sequence, but the elements. The passage of scripture that we read each week factors in the realities of life. The pastoral prayer supposed to bring the needs of the people before the Heavenly Father. The sermon is God's life-giving word proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of his children. The Lord's Supper strengthens, encourages, assures, and comforts the believer. We make no apologies for our service. It's not cool. It's not flashy. Guess what? It's not supposed to be. Life is not cool. Life is not flashy. We are not free to freestyle it or to design our worship service according to our whims according to our desires. We do not have that liberty. For instance, someone says "Well, I don't I don't particularly like your style of worship in the church." Listen, listen, listen, listen. Style is not nearly as important as substance. If worship has no substance, I don't care what the style is. Do not be deceived by falling for the lie that worship is a style. Worship is based on truth. It's based on substance, not the whims and the passing fads of our modern worship culture, whatever that is. Say "Well, I like worship that perhaps is a little more lively, or you know something maybe you could dance to." Here's my response to that line of thinking, and I mean no malice at all. I have no ill intent at all. I honestly believe that the average Christian has never been taught from the Bible about worship.
So let me give you three or four things to think about when it comes to worship. First of all, we want to be careful as we approach worship that we don't do so with a selfishness and a self-centered attitude. Say why? Well there's several problems with that type of thinking. Second thing, if you if you think that worship, that you can choose your style of worship based upon your your preferences, let me ask you to consider that perhaps you don't truly understand what the Bible teaches about worship. You don't understand the biblical priorities of worship. And I'm not faulting you, I'm faulting the churches that perhaps you've been brought up in. Okay. And again, this is not a rebuke, this is a teaching time, okay. In the priority of worship you are number three. Say, "well, who's first?" Well, hopefully that's obvious: God is. God is first in our worship. Our worship is to be directed to God and by God. Our worship is to be for God. See, worship is the redeemed heart's response to what God has done for them through Christ. Worship that is acceptable to God originates in our minds, as we understand and apply the truth of Scripture. I don't mean this to be irreverent, I use this to make a point. Worship does not begin with our feet and our dancing shoes. You're starting at the wrong end.
Second, after God, our worship is to benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ. Worship can and should be a means of comfort for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Doesn't the Bible teachthat we are to minister to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? Tim Kelly linked to an article on Friday titled "Five Pleas For Sung Worship". And the author of the article said, "I have five pleas to make my brothers and sisters when we gather to give God glory and song." And just let me give you three of them. The first one he said is this: "Brothers and sisters tell me the truth." What do you mean, tell me the truth? Tell me the truth about life. it's not all flowers and chocolates in a bed of roses. It's not. If that is your perception of life. I'm here to wake you up. Tell me the truth. The truth about life and the truth about God. Listen. If your worship songs are not teaching anything about God, they're not worship songs. If it's all about you and your response and making you feel good, it's garbage. Say, "Well, you've just you've just trashed 99% of modern worship songs!" I'm sorry. I'm not here to defend modern worship songs. I'm here to defend God's honor and glory.
Second, he went on to say "Brothers and sisters, let me hear your voice." Sing out! And we do, we sing out. I look forward to Sunday to hear everybody sing. See, when you don't sing-- maybe you've never considered this before-- but if you come to the worship services and you don't sing. It's not anything about the quality of your voice. You sing out loud you sing out proud because you want to honor and glorify God and you want to minister to your brothers and sisters in Christ. That's why you sing. I'm not a good singer. I'm always afraid Mark's going to hit the wrong button and my mics going to come on and then chaos ensues. Yeah. See? Then he said this: "Brothers and sisters, bring your laments." And this is what really got my attention. The author went on to say "we are gathered together in the presence of God and we will not serve him or one another with sugar coated praise. I know you well enough to understand that your life isn't often isn't linear. I know that you carry insecurities and uncertainties. I know that we have no immunity to slings and arrows, that you are sorrowing but still rejoicing, doubting but still believing, sinning but still growing, and we need to sing the stuff of life in light of the Lord." He said this: "Brothers and sisters, let's banish all fear of the minor key of faltering voice, of the wrung out heart. Please, bring your laments, ask your Lord how long, ask him to wake to your cause, tell him the truth of your troubles. Bring your laments, don't park your losses, we sing in the name of the one who allowed Gethesemane to ring with Pslams before he prayed the same in his own dereliction. Brothers and sisters bring your laments." And for those of you who think that life is peaches and cream, please don't make the mistake of thinking that is what life is made of.
Get attached to a church, a church family, so you can learn what awaits you in life and what God has provided for you to deal with what lies ahead in your life. And when you put the needs of your brothers and sisters before your own, guess what? You are serving Christ and not yourself. You know our members come to church some with broken hearts, some with heavy hearts. There are some here with a smile on their face, yet that smile masks the incredible weight of the burdens they're carrying. A loved one sick and spends time in a hospital. Others deal with continuing issues at home, others deal with chronic disease that's slowly destroying parts of their body. And you want to go to a church that dances?
Life certainly has its joys, but most assuredly has its sorrows. Well, God's people, God's informed people, let me put it that way, have always understood this. And that's part of the message of Daniel chapter 10, 11, and 12. And about now you're probably wondering what any of this has to do Daniel chapter 11. And I don't fault you for that. But here's the connection. God reveals through Daniel, that the history of the world, that much of life is an ongoing series of battles, conflicts, victories and defeats. And much of this activity is focused, is centered on the people of God. Yet, amid all of this frantic activity, we see our God working out his purposes, in all the circumstances of their lives and our lives. So what we have here in Daniel chapter 11, is an overview of the flow of history, from the time in which Daniel lived, which would be the sixth century BC, all the way till the end of time, the ultimate end of time, which will culminate with God's ultimate victory and the establishment of His kingdom. Now, we first encountered the events of Daniel 11, in Daniel chapter 8. But here in chapter 11, the vision goes into much greater detail about these future kings, these future kingdoms and these geopolitical events that would take place down through time. Listen, again, the purpose here was to show Daniel how history was going to impact the people of God. It wasn't give Daniel a history lesson about every event that was going to happen in history. He's focused on how the people of God will, what they will have to endure. So know this, all I'm going to do is give you a very brief overview of these events. Because for a couple reasons, one, much of this has already played out on the stage of the world. Verses 1-35 are history, they have all taken place. The events in the closing verses, that'd be 36-45 I believe, are still to take place. And they deal with, as Paul describes him, that man of lawlessness, which is the final antichrist, who has yet to be revealed.
So to help us at least gain a rudimentary understanding of Daniel chapter 11, I'm going to break it down into three periods of time. The first period of time is covered in verses 1-4. And in verses 1-4, those verses cover the rise and fall of the Persian and the Greek empires. Now after Cyrus, who, at the time of this vision was the present ruler of Persia, there would be three more rulers to come. Then after this, after these three rulers, there would be a fourth ruler who would possess more wealth, and more power than all those who ruled before him. This fourth king would wage war with Greece. Say who was this fourth King? By the way, he wages war with Greece and he loses. So who's this fourth king? Well, his name was Xerxes. You may not know Xerxes very well, you may have heard his name, but I bet you know his wife, Esther. Esther. Okay. So the next king or the next empire to arise was Alexander the Great. We know from history, he died at the age of 32 or 33. And upon the death of Alexander the Great, his kingdom was broken into four pieces. And two of the kingdoms, two of the four kingdoms, that emerged were the kingdoms of the Ptolemies based in Egypt, which in our text is referred to as the king of the south. The second kingdom would be the Seleucids based in Syria and Babylon. And the text refers to this king kingdom as the king of the north. And the conflicts between these two kingdoms were some of the most significant events in world history that takes place in the second and third centuries before Christ. And really those events make up the heart of much of Daniel chapter 11. So again, the first period is the history of Persia and Greece, verses 1-4. The second time frame is the time of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids and is covered in verses 5-35. And just, by the way, one of the major characters during this second time frame was that madman Antiochus Epiphanes, who we looked at in some detail in an earlier message.
But here's what I want you to see. Both of these periods of time, share numerous characteristics. Such as there's multiple conflicts, there's multiple wars, there's even marriages for political gain that didn't turn out. They also shared this in common: despite all their best efforts, depite everything that they did, none of these things produced any kind of satisfactory conclusion. They conquer one another, yet they can never live in peace with one another. So I thought to myself, this sounds familiar. Because this is the pattern that continues today, there's war, there's strife, one country invades another, there's a lack of peace and harmony. So we ask, why is this true? Why does history continue to repeat itself? Because all of these periods of time, including our own, share a similar characteristic. And it is a universal characteristic of selfishness. Selfishness. Now you're intelligent people, so let's think this through here this morning. What do we know about selfishness? We know one thing for sure, that selfishness only seeks its own good. Selfishness carries within its DNA, the seeds of destruction. Destruction of others first, and ultimately the destruction of self. Do we have a contemporary example of this? Yes, without going into too much detail because it's a sick story, but Jeffrey Epstein. He destroyed countless lives of others and ultimately, either he destroyed himself or somebody did the job for him. Selfishness. Selfishness, self centeredness, are just synonyms for sin. Sin always destroys, but love always builds up. Sin tears down and destroys. Selfishness seeks its own good, while genuine love seeks the good, the welfare of others. Selfishness is like pursuing the wind. You can never catch it. It's a pointless, fruitless activity. Make note of this: the world's power is effectively powerless. The world's power is effectively powerless. Say what do you mean? Well, what the world desires most is not the answer that seeks. It wants power for the sake of power, it thinks power will solve everything. Why do we have such fighting in governments? Because they think power, if I can get the power, I can fix this thing, I can right this ship. But the power of the world is effectively powerless. History tells us this. Babylon rises, Babylon's conquered, Persia rises, Persia's conquered, and on and on it goes. So there's a warning here for the church. Which is we the church must never attempt to accomplish the purposes of God and the work of God with the world's power, trying to use the world power. We must never resort to worldly power in order to accomplish the purposes and work of God. The power of the world is powerless in accomplishing God's work. But yet what do we see the church doing time and time and time again? Looking to the world, trying to make alliances with the world in order to bring about God's desired purposes. Listen, you don't need the power of the world. Church, we don't need the power of the world to accomplish what only God can accomplish. Why waste your time, your energy and your resources, the world laughs at us anyway. All true power, all real power belongs to God and God alone. Therefore the power of the church is there to be found in the power of the world. The power of the church is to be sought in the means revealed to the church through the Scriptures, through the Word of God.
So let's draw out, I think three lessons for the church today. Number one, Daniel 11 teaches us the instability of the kingdoms of this world. Daniel 11 teaches us the instability of the kingdoms of this world. Babylon ruled the world, but where are they now? Persia ruled the world. Where are they now? Greece ruled the world. Where are they now? Rome ruled the world. Where are they now? Great Britain at one time ruled the seas and was a world power. What are they now? They're nothing more than a minor player trying to extract themselves from the European Union. And because these kingdoms come and go, we as believers must never put our faith and our trust in them. Or should we look to them to supply what they are incapable of supplying. We do not look to the government to save us we only look to God, the only one who can save us.
Second. Daniel 11 teaches us that the people of God have much to be encouraged about. Daniel 11 teaches us that the people of God have much to be encouraged about. Why? Because there is one kingdom and one kingdom only that will outlast all others. That is more powerful than all others. Guess what kingdom that is? That's the kingdom of God. And if you're part of that kingdom, guess what? You're on the winning side. You don't need the world's influence. You don't need the world's power. One day all wrongs will be righted. All unrighteousness will be judged. Know this: our joy, our glory are assured. It's waiting for us. And Daniel's vision makes it clear that the goal of these kingdoms, read Daniel 11 carefully and you'll see that these kingdoms you know what they were bent on doing? Destroying the people of God. But guess what? Every attempt fails.
Thirdly, Daniel teaches us that God is working out his purposes for his people in all the circumstances of their lives. Daniel 11 teaches us that God is working his purposes for his people in all the circumstances of their lives. I made reference to this in prayer meeting, Romans 8. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation [no],or distress [no], or persecution [no], or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, for your sake we are being killed all the day long. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." I love this by Paul, "For I am sure." I'm not wavering, I'm not on the fence, I'm not hoping this is true. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." That is God's promise to his children. Nothing, no world power, no disease, no sickness, no circumstance, nothing will be able to separate us from His love for us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Asometimes this is all we have to cling to, but beloved, it's all we need to cling to. We need nothing else.
Iain Duguid says the lessons of Daniel can be summed up with four imperatives. Let me give them to you quickly. One is believe. Believe. That's our text: "the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action." See, God's sovereign power is clearly displayed in Daniel chapter 11. And it is our faith, our belief in the sovereignty of God, that is the basis for our actions, and our hope. Believe.
Second: resist. As a believer, you and I are called to resist, even if it means death. We've seen this throughout the book of Daniel. Duguid says "sometimes obedience to God will mean a lifetime of faithfulness in a hostile environment." As I was thinking about this, I don't know that we hear this enough. It takes effort to be a Christian, don't misunderstand me. It is not your effort that saves you, far from it. Christ saves you. But it takes effort for you to, what? Stand strong. It takes effort for you to defend the Word of God. It takes effort for you to keep getting up after you've been knocked down, knocked down, knocked down, and knocked down again. But you keep getting up. It takes effort. It takes effort to keep moving forward. It takes effort to resist the temptations of our flesh, to resist the siren call of sin of this world. It takes effort. You cannot coast through the Christian life.
Thirdly, teach. Believe, resist teach. Verse 33 of Daniel 11 "And the wise among the people shall make many understand." Do you realize it is our responsibility as believers to help the unbeliever understand what's actually going on in this world? It's not CNN's responsibility. It's not Fox News' responsibility. It's not the New York Times' or The Washington Post's responsibility to make them understand what's going on in this world. They have no clue as to what's going on in this world. That is our responsibility as believers. We are called to teach others around us. We're called to evangelize our friends, our family members, our neighbors. By the way, in this is discipleship, We are to teach one another. Okay. Say why did you go on and on about worship this morning? Because it's my responsibility to teach us about worship. Not to just let you float out there with your own ideas, maybe unbiblical ideas, ideas that aren't helpful. Ideas that won't bring you any closer to God. I assume you worship God to get in order to get closer to God. But we must worship in spirit and in truth, not according to our fancy and whims.
Then finally, pray. Believe, resist, teach, pray. Say how will the conflict, how will the victory be won in this conflict? Well, hopefully we are smart enough to know, though I wonder at times, that we can't overcome evil with our own wisdom, our own strategies, and our own political alliances. I'm sick to death of politicians courting the evangelical vote. I'm sick to death of evangelicals acting like we got to depend upon candidate X, Y or Z in order for our survival. Poppycock. Okay. God doesn't need your favorite politician or my favorite politician or somebody else's favorite politician to help us as a church. We don't need them. Quit bowing down to them. Bow down before God. Get on your knees before God. See, victory comes when the heavenly host arises to deliver the saints. Look at Daniel chapter 12 verse 1, if you have your Bibles open. "At that time shall arise Michael," saw him last week, "the great prince has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time." Well, that's that's bad news again, isn't it? Persecution, turmoil, trouble, tragedy. "But at that time, your people shall be," what's it say? "delivered." Delivered. "Everyone whose name shall be found written in the book." One commentator said prayer is the revolutionary activity by which weak, mortal creatures take our stand in the great cosmic battle and do our part to move heaven and earth to God's final victory. You remember how all this started? An 85 year old man on his knees, praying the scriptures, praying the promises of God. See, prayer is never a wasteed activity. It is a powerful activity, but please do not make the mistake in thinking that the power is in your prayer per se. Say what do you mean? Why is prayer effective? Why is prayer powerful? Because of the one that we pray to. Lots of people pray to a multiplicity of gods. But they're powerless. Because the gods don't exist. They're powerless. We pray to the almighty sovereign God of the universe, and he is the all powerful one and when he moves, things happen. And all God's people said what? Amen