Convictions vs. Compromise

Study of the Book of Daniel

Lesson 3

Daniel 1:8-21

 

“Those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.”– 1 Samuel 2:30b

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” – Proverbs 16:7

Some ships go east, and some go west,

Before the wind that blows;

It’s the set of the sail, and not the gale;

That determines the way it goes.

–Unknown

God’s people, whether Israel or the church, always stand as the countercultural opponents of the systems of this world. Never was that reality more poignantly lived out than in the Old Testament captivity and exile, and particularly the dominance by Babylon. That national struggle will emerge early in our book, but the first chapter primarily teaches us that righteousness begins with a firm commitment to God. When God’s people respond to adversity with courage and courtesy, God may melt the hearts of the adversaries.[1]

Leviticus 11:44–47

44‘For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45 ‘For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ” 46 This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.

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Daniel and his friends refusing the rich foods of the king’s table[2]

 

Magicians and Enchanters

The king consulted magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers, wise men, and diviners. “Magicians” (arūmmîm, Dan. 1:20; 2:2) was a general word referring to men who practiced the occult. (This word is also used in Gen. 41:8, 24; Ex. 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18-19; 9:11.) “Enchanters” (’aššāp̱îm, used only twice in the OT, Dan. 1:20; 2:21) may refer to those who used incantations in exorcisms. The word “sorcerers” (meaššepîm, 2:2) probably is from the Akkadian verb kašāpu, “to bewitch, to cast a spell.” (This participial noun, rendered “sorcerers,” used only here in Dan., occurs only four other times in the OT: Ex. 7:11; 22:18; Deut. 18:10; Mal. 3:5.) “Astrologers” (Heb., kaśdîm, Dan. 2:2, 4; Aram., kaśdā’în, 2:5, 10 [twice]; 3:8; 5:7, 11) seems to refer to a priestly class in the Babylonian religion (misleadingly rendered “Chaldeans” in the kjv) who depended on revelation through the stars, which were objects of worship. “Diviners” (gāzerîn, 2:27; 4:7; 5:7, 11) may be those who sought to ascertain or decree the fate of others.

The practices of these five groups may have overlapped extensively. Several times Daniel referred to these men under the general rubric of “wise men” (2:12-14, 18, 24 [twice], 48; 4:6, 18; 5:7-8, 15).

Daniel’s ministry in the royal court of Babylon continued until the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire by Cyrus in 539 b.c. God had said, “Those who honor Me, I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30). Daniel determined to honor God even though he was living where people did not have the high standards God demanded. And God honored Daniel’s obedience to the Law and promoted him in the king’s court. This incident would have reminded Israel that obedience brings blessing and that righteousness is a prerequisite for enjoying the covenanted blessings.

The fact that God gave Daniel the ability to understand and interpret visions and dreams (Dan. 1:17) meant that throughout Nebuchadnezzar’s long reign he depended on Daniel for understanding future events, revealed through dreams and visions. This anticipated the ministry Israel will one day fulfill. God had set Israel apart to be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). As such they were God’s light to the world (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). They were to receive God’s revelation and communicate it to nations that were ignorant of God. They were continually reminded of their role by the lampstand erected in the tabernacle. Daniel, during his tenure in the royal court in Babylon, fulfilled that function as God’s spokesman to the Gentiles. When Israel will enter her millennial blessing under the reign of the Messiah, she will fulfill the role for which she was set apart by God and will then communicate God’s truth to the Gentiles (Zech. 8:21-23).[3]

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:15–17

Daniel did not leave his actions to a spur-of-the-moment response. He “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (v. 8). He had made a decision before God. He had found one of the great biblical secrets of spiritual success that was better known to our forefathers than it is to us: He entered into a solemn covenant in the presence of God that he would turn away from sinful behavior in whatever form it presented itself.

The Example of Jonathan Edwards

There is no finer example of such living in the presence of God than the eighteenth-century American preacher, theologian, and philosopher Jonathan Edwards, whose life and work have prompted so much interest in recent years. In his late teens, he began to write a series of resolutions, seventy of which were completed prior to his twentieth birthday. They include:

Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God …

Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.[4]

Elements of Moral Heroism

  • Discernment: They saw precisely what was wrong with eating the prescribed food. Where did they learn it? From pious parents (Deut. 6:4-9).
  • Resistance to evil: Distance from critical observation did not weaken it (see Mt 10:26-28; Jas 4:7). This resistance to evil also developed in their very early years in godly homes. Children do not naturally resist evil; rather they embrace it. They must be taught to hate evil! (see Heb 12:9-13; Prov 3:11, 12; 13:24; cf. Eli’s sons, I Sam 2:12-30)
  • Power to voice disagreement: Youth is often an age of conformity; this incident gives strong evidence of special grace in the lives of these four.
  • Physical courage: The prince of the eunuchs was right. His head as well as theirs could have been in danger (cf. Dan 2:5, the lions’ den, the fiery furnace.)
  • Perseverance: When no help came via the chief eunuch, Daniel tried the steward.
  • Determination: His purpose “in his heart,” the very center of his being; not a shallow purpose.
  • Meekness: Without mock heroics Daniel respectfully “requested” or “besought” his superiors.
  • Good sense: The trial suggested was reasonable and feasible. (See also Ezek 28:3; Prov 2:11 in context.)[5]

 

Why Do We Hesitate to Take a Moral Stand?

Sometimes we are hesitant to take a stand. Why?

  • Lack of confidence
  • Apathy
  • Ignorance
  • Time
  • Fear
  • Concern about Consequences

Daniel made up his mind to do what was right, for God was his judge. We should make the same commitments. Instability comes from not making up your mind. Daniel shows us that inner convictions can overcome outward pressures to compromise. God-honoring convictions yield God-given rewards as we will see later in the book. Is your mind made up to serve Jesus Christ? Some folks may ask, “How do you make up your mind and become decisive for God?” What does it really mean to be “decisive?”

A decisive person is one who has the ability to recognize the important, crucial factors of a situation and finalize difficult choices. This word “decisive” comes from a Latin word de-caedere which means “to cut off once for all as with a knife or sword.” Decisiveness then is the ability to cut quickly to the heart of a matter. It is the ability to cut through chaos and confusion. Gordon Graham said, “Decisiveness is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight. Indecision is a dull knife that hacks, tears, and leaves ragged edges behind it.”

Decisiveness is an open-eyed character trait, willingly facing all factors bearing on the decision. Getting the right information is also an important part of decisiveness. So how does one become decisive? What will help you and I to be decisive and make up our minds? [6]

 

Conviction or Preference

“Difference between a conviction and a preference, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. A preference is a very strong belief, held with great strength. You can give your entire life in a full-time way to the service of the preference, and can also give your entire material wealth in the name of the belief. You can also energetically proselytize others to your preference. You can also want to teach this belief to your children, and the Supreme court may still rule that it is a preference. A preference is a strong belief, but a belief that you will change under the right circumstances.

Circumstances such as: 1) peer pressure; if your beliefs are such that other people stand with you before you will stand, your beliefs are preferences, not convictions, 2) family pressure, 3) lawsuits, 4) jail, 5) threat of death; would you die for your beliefs?

A conviction is a belief that you will not change. Why? A man believes that his God requires it of him. Preferences aren’t protected by the constitution. Convictions are.

A conviction is not something that you discover; it is something that you purpose in your heart (cf. Daniel 1, 2–3). Convictions on the inside will always show up on the outside, in a person’s lifestyle. To violate a conviction would be a sin.” [7]

 

Diet in Scripture

Bread is a comfort food.

Genesis 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

The blessings of Canaan include butter from cows, lamb meat, grains and grapes are the provisions for food from God.

Deuteronomy 32:14 Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.

Dinners of vegetables are far better where there is love, than banquets where there is hatred.

Proverbs 15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

We are to be careful when eating the rich foods of the rich and not eat very much of them.

Proverbs 23:1-3 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.

God commands that we drink goats milk instead of other kinds.

Proverbs 27:27 And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

There is a day coming when those that eat luxuriously will eat dung.

Lamentations 4:5 They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.

Christ gave the disciples fish and honeycomb.

Luke 24:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.[8]

 

A Study on Self Denial

by Rod Mattoon

When we look at the character of Daniel, we find that he was willing to deny his selfish desires of pleasure, popularity, and prominence to do what was right and in compliance with God’s commands. He was a unique man because he knew how to govern his graspy, greedy desires that can grab a young man in a convenient situation. Self denial is a trait that is difficult to acquire and maintain because denying your fleshly desires is a struggle. Our flesh likes to be pampered and we don’t like to say, “No” to ourselves. So how do we get consistent victory in this area of our lives? God provides some answers. A survey of Scripture provides insights on this issue. We will look at two basic areas:

  • The Reasons for Self Denial
  • The Rudiments for Self Denial

A. The Reasons for Self Denial

1. Self denial is a Substantive Element in following Jesus Christ.

If you are going to be a disciple of the Lord, then “self must be conquered and kept in check. The conflict between your will and God’s will is a constant battle that you will face continually. If it is your desire to be used of God, then you need to learn to deny yourself. To deny oneself not only means in every moment of life to say “No” to self, but also “Yes” to God. To deny oneself means to dethrone self and to enthrone the Lord Jesus Christ as the master of your life.

Kamikaze is the Japanese word for “divine wind.” Divine the wind was in 1281. Never was a typhoon more God-sent, if one were Japanese. The typhoon crushed the invasion fleet mounted by the ambitious Mongol emperor Kublai Khan (Marco Poli Kublai) in the wake of his conquest of China’s Sung dynasty. To take the wind out of the sails of the United States naval juggernaut, the retreating Japanese organized their own kamikaze in World War II…. a suicide air force. Navy pilots slammed their bomb-laden planes and themselves into American ships in the Pacific. Twelve hundred pilots killed themselves taking out thirty four U.S. ships. Today, we need “Christian Kamikazes” who will take the faith anywhere the “divine wind” blows regardless of the cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who was imprisoned by Adolph Hitler said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” This is what eventually happened to him as he died for Christ in Germany.

Matthew 16:24—Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

When Jesus used this picture of his followers taking up their crosses to follow Him, the disciples knew what He meant. Crucifixion was a common Roman method of execution, and condemned criminals had to carry their crosses through the streets to the execution site. Following Jesus, therefore, meant sacrifice, true commitment, the risk of death, and no turning back. Taking up the cross meant that death was imminent for the cross-bearer. We are to live our lives for Christ each day as if it were our last. You never know, do you? Let me ask, “If this was your last day to live, what did you do with your life? Did you make it count for the Lord and have you wasted and thrown away your opportunities to serve Him?”

James 4:14—Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

2. Self denial is a Significant Principle in accomplishing difficult tasks.

Mark 9:28-29—And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? [29] And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

In this situation, Jesus explains that the demons could not be cast out accept by prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting involve self denial. It is hard work. The principle we are making here is that a difficult task sometimes requires self denial, especially in areas of time, money, energy, personal goals and desires. There are times we must sacrifice and do without to reach difficult goals.

3. Self denial helps to Strengthen those that are weak.

Romans 15:1—We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

The comforts that come from blessing and strength are not for the sole purpose of self indulgence. The philosophy of our lives is not to be eat, drink, and be merry. No, we are to be alert to the needs of others and do what we can to encourage and help them. Our life is not to be consumed in living for self, but for God and for others. A good motto for the believer, whether poor or rich, is to be “ministry to others.”

Philippians 2:4—Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Christian History, Issue 39, speaks of the Later Years and Legacy of Martin Luther. The article reveals that when Martin Luther married, neither he nor his bride, Katherine von Bora, felt “in love.” Katherine was still getting over a broken engagement to a man she truly loved and Martin admitted, “I am not ‘in love’ or burning with desire.” Yet, their love for each other blossomed throughout their 20-year marriage.

In 1527, a terrible plague struck Wittenberg, and virtually all of Luther’s students fled for their lives. The prince begged Luther to leave town also, but Luther felt pastors should stay and help the afflicted. Because he and Katherine took in so many sick and dying people, their house had to be quarantined even after the plague ended. They denied themselves to strengthen the weak.

Luther was so generous he was sometimes taken advantage of by people. In 1541, a transient woman, allegedly a runaway nun, came to their home. Martin and Katherine fed and housed her, only to discover she had lied and stolen. Yet, Luther believed no one would become poor by practicing charity. “God divided the hand into fingers so that money would slip through,” he said.

Even on his wedding night, Luther couldn’t refuse a person in need. At 11 p.m., after all the guests had left, radical reformer Andreas Karlstadt knocked at the door of the newly weds. Largely because Luther fiercely opposed him, Karlstadt had fled town. But now, when Karlstadt was fleeing the Peasants’ War and needed shelter, Luther took him into his home. Luther was able to strengthen someone who was weak by denying himself.

We have seen several reasons for denying self.

  • It is a substantive element in following Christ.
  • It’s a significant principle in accomplishing difficult tasks.
  • It helps to strengthen those that are weak.
  • Next, it safeguards our life from being disqualified by moral failure.

4. Denying self Safeguards our life from being disqualified by moral failure.

Lord Joseph Duveen, American head of the art firm that bore his name, planned in 1915 to send one of his experts to England to examine some ancient pottery. He booked passage on the ship Lusitania. Then the German Embassy issued a warning that the ocean liner might be torpedoed. Duveen wanted to call off the trip. “I can’t take the risk of you being killed,” he said to his young employee. “Don’t worry,” said the man, “I’m a strong swimmer, and when I read what was happening in the Atlantic, I began hardening myself by spending time every day in a tub of ice water. At first I could sit only a few minutes, but this morning, I stayed in that tub nearly two hours.”

Naturally, Duveen laughed. It sounded preposterous, but his expert sailed, and the Lusitania was torpedoed. The young man was rescued after nearly five hours in the chilly ocean, still in excellent condition. Just as this young man did, so Christians should condition themselves by practicing devotional discipline, behavioral discipline, and discipline in doing good. This is what Paul did in his own life. He disciplined himself to do what was right.

1 Corinthians 9:27—But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Paul denied his flesh, bringing it into subjection. This word “subjection” is a powerful word. It is from the Greek word doulagogeo {doo-lag-ogue-eh’-o} which means “to lead away into slavery, to make a slave and to treat as a slave; to subject to stern and rigid discipline.” This is what we are to do with our body. Paul said, “I treat my body as a slave. I subject it to rigid discipline.”

The reason he lived in self denial was to avoid behavior that would disqualify him from ministry. This is the idea behind the word “castaway.” This word is from the Greek word adokimos {ad-ok’-ee-mos} which means “not standing the test, not approved.” It was used of metals and coins that were examined and not found to be of the genuine weight because they had been shaved on the edges. People would shave the edges of their coins and melt down the shavings to form their own coins. The tampered coins were disqualified from circulation and use because they were not genuine or accurate.

Paul denied the desires of his flesh to keep himself in check. He did not want to do anything stupid that would hinder his service for Jesus Christ and put him out of circulation in serving the Lord. He wanted God to use him and was careful to practice what he preached because he wanted his listeners to know that he was genuine and his message was genuine.

We have seen the reasons for self denial, now we will examine the rudiments for self denial.

B. The Rudiments for Self Denial

What are the elements of self-denial? What is involved in denying your self? The Bible provides a number of insights.

1. Self denial may involve Surrendering Special Treasures in your life.

Exodus 33:5-6—… For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. [6] And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.

Mark 10:21—Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Not long ago at a high school, three military recruiters showed up to address some high school seniors. Graduation was only a few months away, and the military men were there for the obvious—to articulate to these graduating young men and women some of the options that military service would provide them. The meeting was to last forty-five minutes. Each recruiter-representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps-was to have fifteen minutes. Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away.

When it came time for the Marine to speak, he had two minutes. So he walked up with two minutes to make his pitch. He stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds—half of his time. Then he said this: “I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps. I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed.” He turned smartly and sat down. When he arrived in the dining hall, those students interested in the Marines were a mob. They acted without delay. He appealed to the heroic dimension in every heart and challenged them with difficulty, sacrifice, and a difficult standard. Jesus made the same challenge when He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

A great hindrance to 100% total commitment to the Lord is the treasure of the believer. I am talking about those things or those people that are so important that they keep us from being or doing what God wants us to do. It may be money, a material possession, a position, even a person such as a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. There is nothing wrong in treasuring things as long as they are the right treasures and they don’t have a prominent position above our relationship with Christ. God’s challenge to us is to replace our earthly treasures with eternal ones that will never be destroyed.

Matthew 6:20—But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

Our relationship with the Lord is to be our greatest treasure. He is to be number one in our heart. If there is something or someone that has prominence above Him, He will want us to surrender that treasure. If it can be removed or demoted, then do it. If a husband or wife is hindering your dedication to the Lord, then some serious discussions need to take place with your spouse and some difficult choices about your time and priorities need to be made.

This is why the Christian should not marry an unbeliever or a carnal, backslidden Christian. Can two walk together unless they agree? If your spouse is a hindrance, don’t divorce them. There are many other options available. Christlike consistency, loving care, kindness, and intimacy in the marriage go a long way with any husband or wife. When your love and kindness are linked to following Christ, your spouse 99% of the time will want you to follow the Lord if you cherish and adore them. This is what Peter was trying to get across to the wives of unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1-5,7—… Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; [2] While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. [3] Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; [4] But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. [5] For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:.. [7] Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

The word “conversation” deals with the lifestyle, the behavior, attitude, and actions of the person.

2. Self denial involves Sacrificing to Serve the needs of Others

1 Kings 17:13—And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

Ruth 2:11—And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.

Elijah asked the widow to deny herself and son and give their last portion of food to God’s man. She did and the Lord blessed her in a huge way. Ruth chose to deny herself in order to meet the needs of Naomi. In so doing, the Lord put her on the path of Boaz who became her husband. Ruth and Boaz were part of the family tree of King David. The willingness of the widow and Ruth to deny themselves put them in a position where they could be used of God to be a blessing. God has honored both of them by having their decisions recorded in Scripture for us to read several thousand years later.

3. Self denial involves Shunning the exaltation of Self.

Proverbs 25:6—Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

People get themselves into trouble when they start bragging or exalting themselves. They do this many times because of the insecurity they feel in their own life about themselves. By promoting themselves among others or claiming to be great, they diminish what they have accomplished. Solomon warned us to let others brag on us. If you have done something that is worthy of praise, someone will note it. If not, the Lord will reward you.

Proverbs 27:2—Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

Self exaltation is a by-product of comparing your life with the accomplishments of others. Paul warned us that comparing yourself with others is not a smart thing to do. Why? If we compare ourselves and find that we are weaker or less successful than others, we can become discouraged. We can also become so focused on out-doing someone else that we pursue that which is unimportant and is not going to satisfy us. If we feel that we are greater than others, we can become proud, unteachable, or content with mediocrity in our Christian growth and dedication. Paul made it clear that the opinions that really matter are the Lord’s opinions of our life.

2 Corinthians 10:12—For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

2 Corinthians 10:18—For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them either now by His blessings or in eternity. His opinion is really what matters, for He is our judge.

When Ptolemy, outstanding astronomer and mathematician of the second century, decided to build the Pharos, he chose Sostratus to design that mammoth lighthouse which later became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Ptolemy insisted that he should be exalted and that the structure should bear his inscription as a personal memorial. However, Sostratus didn’t think the king should get all the credit. He therefore put the title of Ptolemy on the front of the lighthouse in a thick plaster which would be eye catching at first, but years later would eventually be worn away by the sea, sun, wind, and rain.

Secretly, Sostratus had cut his own name in the granite underneath the plaster. For decades the sea dashed against the inscription of Ptolemy’s name and gradually eroded it. Though it lasted the lifetime of that earthly monarch, it finally was obliterated, leaving the name “Sostratus” standing in bold relief!

In like manner, worldly fame often disappears before the relentless waves of time. In the same thought, those folks whose names are buried, who humble themselves, will eventually be known and honored. May our priority be the commendation of the Lord.


 

4. Self denial involves Striving to keep oneself pure.

Daniel 1:8—But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Galatians 5:24—And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

One of the blessings of keeping yourself pure is a clear conscience. One of the curses of involving yourself in sinful living and immorality are the depression and guilt that shadow your behavior. A popular belief among doctors and social scientists has been that many teens begin drug use and sexual activity to deal with depression. However, a study published in the October, 2005 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reverses those beliefs. Health policy researcher Denise Dion-Hallfors comments: “Findings from the study show depression came after substance and sexual activity, not the other way around.”

The data was gathered from a national survey of 13,491 adolescents. A large group of these teens, about 25 percent, were called “abstainers.” They never had sex, smoked, drank alcohol, or had taken drugs. Only 4 percent of these teens experienced depression. The study also reported that girls among the 75 percent who had taken drugs and experimented with sex were 2-3 times more likely to experience depression than abstaining girls. Boys who engaged in binge drinking were 4 to 5 times more likely to experience depression than boys in the abstaining group. Boys smoking marijuana were over three times more likely to be depressed than those who abstained. The Bible warns of the consequences of sinful living.

Proverbs 13:15—Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.

The word “hard” is from the Hebrew word ʾethan {ay-thawn’}. This word means “ever-flowing, constant, permanent.” The ideas of “hard, harsh, enduring rut, or rugged” are derived from this word. The reason his way is rough and uneasy is because the consequences of his choices are unpleasant to himself and unacceptable to other people, especially when they are affected by his lifestyle.

Those who live in wickedness do find they get into an enduring rut that leads to a difficult, bumpy path, especially when they are addicted to something destructive. Their way is “constant or ever-flowing” because some sinful choices that people make have consequences that they have to live with for the rest of their lives. These consequences may involve a pregnancy, harm to the body or someone else, or imprisonment. The consequences can lead to severe depression and stress.

Rafiq Abdul Mortland clearly needed to choose another career. The 38-year-old found that what he was doing put him under pressure, not to mention that the work was illegal. Mortland committed a string of robberies in Hennepin County, Minnesota. After capture, he received a sentence of eight to ten years in prison for holding up eight local businesses. During his crime spree, Mortland received the nickname “The Rolaids Robber.” This came about after Mortland repeatedly asked store clerks for antacid tablets while the felony was in progress. His explanation? Mortland said he needed the antacid because of the stress that came from committing crimes. Beloved, the way of the transgressor is hard!

Jeremiah 2:19—Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.

Your sinfulness will bring its own punishment and chastisement. When you get away from God, it will lead to your shame and discipline. Indulging in the sweetness of sin will lead to bitterness and a sour life.

We have seen so far that self denial involves several elements.

  • Surrendering Special Treasures in your Life.
  • Sacrificing to Serve the Needs of Others
  • Shunning the Exaltation of Self
  • Striving to Keep Oneself Pure
  • Next, Subtracting Hindrances from our Lives.

5. Self denial involves Subtracting Hindrances from our lives.

Matthew 18:8—Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

Self denial involves removing stumbling blocks that cause us to sin. This does not mean to cut off a part of the body; it means that any relationship, practice, or activity that leads to sin should be stopped. We are to remove the hindrances from our lives. The writer of Hebrews referred to them as “weights.”

Hebrews 12:1—Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

1 Peter 2:1—Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

Colossians 3:8—But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

6. Self denial involves Shunning Behavior that causes a brother to stumble into sin.

Romans 14:21—It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

Self denial involves removing from our lives that which can cause another to fall into sin or spiritually weaken them. What you may be doing is not wrong, but it may be offensive to someone else or detrimental to a new Christian.

7. Self denial may involve Shelving your Security and comfort zone to do what God wants you to do.

Matthew 4:20—And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Matthew 4:22—And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

The disciples left their security and comfort zone of fishing to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Many a Christian today has left their comfort zone to serve the Lord in the ministry and God has blessed their decision and denial of self. They may have left their home to serve the Lord on the mission field or a very lucrative job to serve the Lord as a preacher. Denying yourself may involve putting your security and comfort zone on the back burner and truly living your life by faith. God promises His blessing when we make this sacrifice for Him.

Matthew 19:29—And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

8. Self denial involves Seeing your Success or accomplishments as lost or unimportant.

Hebrews 11:24-25—… By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; [25] Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Philippians 3:7-8—… But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. [8] Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

If anyone had a reason to be proud, it would be Paul. In spite of his success and accomplishments, he counted them as worthless or broken in comparison to the value of walking with God. His accolades were discarded like garbage or dung so that he could know the Lord more. Nothing was more important than his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. What a challenge to us all!

Paul reveals an important truth in spiritual growth. Many folks achieve victories for Christ, only to rest in those victories and not progress or go forward. They say, “In the past, I did this or that. It’s time for someone else to serve.” Living in the past brings ruin and waste in the present which brings emptiness and shame in the future. Beloved, make each day count for the Lord. Whatever happened yesterday is now in the past. Today is a new day with new challenges and new opportunities to glorify God. Don’t waste them. What we do for Christ and our relationship with Him is what really matters. Howard Rutledge found this out the hard way.

Howard Rutledge, a United States Air Force pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam during the early stages of the war. He spent several miserable years in the hands of his captors before being released at the war’s conclusion. In his book In the Presence of Mine Enemies, he reflects upon the resources from which he drew in those arduous days when life seemed so intolerable in a Vietnam prison. Here is what he said:

During those longer periods of enforced reflection it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. For example, in the past, I usually worked or played hard on Sundays, and had no time for church. For years Phyllis (his wife) had encouraged me to join the family at church. She never nagged or scolded—she just kept hoping, but I was too busy, too preoccupied, to spend one or two short hours a week thinking about the really important things.

Now the sights and sounds and smells of death were all around me. My hunger for spiritual food soon out-did my hunger for a steak. Now I wanted to know about that part of me that will never die. Now I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. But in Heartbreak (the name POWs gave their prison camp), there was no pastor, no Sunday School teacher, no Bible, no hymn book, no community of believers to guide and sustain me. I had completely neglected the spiritual dimension of my life. It took prison to show me how empty life is without God.

Beloved, have you learned this truth? How important is your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you made up your mind to live for Him? May the Lord help us all to stay close to Him![9]


[1] Kenneth O. Gangel, Holman Old Testament Commentary – Daniel, ed. Max Anders (Nashville, TN: Broadman Holman, 2002), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 14

[2] Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (450). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[3] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Da 1:18–21). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Ferguson, S. B., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1988). Vol. 21: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 21 : Daniel. The Preacher’s Commentary series (35). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[5] Pfeiffer, C. F. (1962). The Wycliffe Bible commentary : Old Testament (Da 1:21). Chicago: Moody Press.

[6] Rod Mattoon, Mattoon’s Treasures – Treasures from Daniel, (Springfield, IL: Lincoln Land Baptist Church, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 14.

[7] Macomber, C. A. (2005; 2005). What Really Matters (30). Pleasant Places Press.

[8] Macomber, C. A. (2005; 2005). What Really Matters (28). Pleasant Places Press.

[9] Rod Mattoon, Mattoon’s Treasures – Treasures from Daniel, (Springfield, IL: Lincoln Land Baptist Church, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 21-32.

    Chris Eller is a Christ Follower, Husband, Father, Pastor, Geek, Writer, Photographer, and Church Technology Consultant.

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