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Eugene W. Prewitt

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Daniel 4 — A Sermon on How God Saves Us

Sermon

Textual, Daniel 4, Emphasis on verse 27

Turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel 4. [pause while pages are turning…]

It was a beautiful day for the king. He was an architect by hobby and all around him were monuments to his creativity. Tourism was booming—the main attraction included the hanging gardens. Families traveled grand distances to see the marvel of man-made waterfalls, rare orchids, and tropical birds. Most of the city’s imposing buildings had been built in the last thirty years under his guiding eye.

Not many rulers have had it so well. The king’s foreign policy had softened the sting felt by his defeated enemies. He invited representatives of their conquered cities to take a place in his court. His capitol had become a center of learning and culture. Read verse 30. “Is not this great Babylon that I have built, by the greatness of my majesty and by the excellency of my power?”

Three minutes later he was on his knees, wild-eyed, devoid of reason.

Today we are going to explore God’s plan for separating us from our sins. Our Savior has a plan A and a plan B. Nebuchadnezzar experienced seven years of craziness in his life, a time when nothing made sense, when he was unappreciated, when pleasures were few.

While this experience led to his thorough conversion, it was not God’s plan A. While it opened his eyes to God’s power and kindness, there were other ways these attributes could have been seen. While the years on his knees had humbled and softened a hard heart, there were other means available to Omnipotence to bring him to spiritual life.

Our goal this morning will be to discover God’s other way, the way of peace, the best way to secure life.

We will examine six things God does to separate us from our sins, and we will do this by looking at how God did these things for Nebuchadnezzar before allowing him to suffer in the field.

Then we will examine three things God leaves for us to do. We will find what the Christian may do to free himself from the chains of iniquity.

You are in Daniel Four. Look with me at verse 2. “I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.”

The purpose of this chapter, according to Nebuchadnezzar himself, is to show what God did for him. That was his intention. And we will approach the chapter in that way, to see what God did.

Look at verses 4-5. “I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.” God disturbed his peace. This is God’s first step in many lives. He leaves us uncomfortable, lacking something, searching for something. He creates a need. We know that we are not quite right, that something must change.

Nebuchadnezzar sought for human help to his problem. That seeking of human help is not what God suggested—that was the king’s idea. God’s purpose was to create a need.

Then God provided more than human help. See in v. 8. “But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar.” These are often God’s first two steps. He makes us aware of our weakness and then sends one of his servants our way. It may be a lady named Ellen through a book on your book case, or it may be a consecrated friend, or a guest speaker. God sends his message to you, like he did to the king, through someone that will speak His words.

Then God gives us an illustration of our own experience. With the king God gave him a figurative dream. In our case it may be a testimony written to someone else that fits us. It may be the life of someone in our family that is struggling for reasons that we can see, and for causes that exist in our own life. First God creates a felt need in our life, then he prepares someone to help us. And a third thing he does is illustrate our own experience. He lets us see ourselves.

Look at verse 27. “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.” Our helper came straight to the point. God gives us straight, understandable, counsel. That is his fourth gift. He shows us what to do.

And the counsel is connected to a wonderful benefit—we can have lasting tranquility. We can have peace and a life with purpose.

And look at verse 29. He gives us time. Let’s review what these six gifts before we examine the counsel in verse 27.

 

  1. He creates a felt need
  2. He provides a helper
  3. He illustrates our own experience so that we can see ourselves
  4. He gives us straight counsel
  5. He gives us an incentive – lasting tranquility
  6. He gives us time to implement what we heard.

If we follow the counsel, we can break off our sins by plan A. If we ignore the counsel, we leave God no option but to save us through a plan that removes our “tranquility.”

What was the counsel that God gave to Nebuchadnezzar? “Let my counsel be acceptable to me. Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.”

There are three things that we can do to cooperate with God in the work. The first is to appreciate the counsel, to “let” it be “acceptable.” We can not afford to go back and forth, or to question whether it is worth it. We will ever regret dodging the help that God has sent our way.

The second step is to “overcome evil with good.” Habits are not replaced by thinking of them, or wishing against them. They are replaced by other habits.

When we think of our evil habits, we give them more of our attention, more of our mind. And when they have more of our mind, they have more of us. Thinking of our evil habits gives them possession of our mind and weakens are resistance.

We must overcome evil with good, by choosing good things to do, good places to go, wholesome things to contemplate, blessed activities for our leisure moments. Examine little flowers. Call your mother. Play a musical instrument. Read Prophets and Kings. Go after these things, fill your life with them. That is the second step to overcoming evil.

The first was to accept God’s counsel. The second to fill your life with good things.

The third step Daniel mentioned was to “show mercy to the poor.” When we show mercy we make ourselves a channel for God. He shows his mercy by letting it flow through us. We are filled with mercy when we show it. And mercy crowds out our iniquities.

Hosea wrote that God would rather have mercy than sacrifice. Turn to Matthew 9:13 “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice:” What does this mean? From Daniel we learn that showing mercy prevents our sins. Sacrifices come after and represent forgiveness. God would rather have us prevent the evil by caring for others than to confess it while seeking forgiveness.

What does God require of us? To love mercy. Showing mercy to those who have need changes our own nature. Jesus asked a rich man to show mercy to the poor by selling his goods. This would have changed his nature, would have freed him from his love of his things.

So look for opportunities to give to those that lack. Give a hand to those that need a hand, an ear to those that need an ear. Share your rich resources of kindness with those that have little of that kind of wealth.

Our first duty was to accept God’s counsel willingly. Our second to replace our habits by filling our life with good things. Our third duty is to lift up the hands of those whose hands are drooping.

It was by ignoring those that needed help that our life filled with selfishness. It was by a lack of noble activity that we had time for doing ill. It was by the cultivation of bad habits that we came to view God’s counsel as a narrowing restriction of our liberty.

We are freed from wrong by reversing the very process that bound us.

Being free brings the promised blessing of tranquility. Life here becomes a foretaste of heaven.

But only by this method of cooperating with God do we get the tranquility without the experience of the king in the field, without years of emptiness and powerlessness, without shame and moral weakness.

Nebuchadnezzar received peace the other way, by submitting to heaven’s chastisement. He ignored the warning but accepted the discipline. This is far better than rejecting both.

But my appeal to you, the youth of today, is to take the higher road. I want to give you a chance to make a commitment to that way. On your seat you found a card with check boxes. Take it out.

Do you recognize that you have sins that must be broken off if you are to have a lengthening of your tranquility? If you do, check that box.

Do you recognize that God has counseled you to fill your life with good things and to seek opportunities of showing mercy? If you do, check that box.

Do you appreciate God’s counsel and warnings? If you do, check that box.

And finally, do you choose the high road of accepting God’s counsel now rather than dealing with his chastisement later? If you do, check the last box and say the same to God in a silent prayer.

[Time for silence.]

This choice made here is not a public one. Let us kneel in prayer.

[Prayer of consecration.]

[Decision cards are in an excel file called “decision cards” designed with six to a page. Print three copies for the class.]

—-

Hanging gardens, monuments to creativity

Foreign Policy

Wild-eyes on knees

Explore God’s plan – A and B

Nebu used plan B

His story shows what God intended for plan A

Goal:  Plan A is the way of peace

v. 2; v. 4-5;           STEP ONE                            Create a Need

v. 8                         STEP TWO                           Send Help

-story-                    STEP THREE                       Show us our experience in figure

v. 27                       STEP FOUR                          Gives straight-forward counsel

v. 27                       STEP FIVE                           Gives incentive of lasting tranquility

v. 29                       STEP SIX                              Gives time to implement

If we follow counsel – PLAN A

If we don’t – PLAN B

THREE THINGS WE DO TO COOPERATE AS SEEN IN DANIEL FOUR

v. 27                       First, Let the counsel be acceptable

Second, Fill life with good things

Third, Make ourselves a channel for doing good

Matthew 9:13

Take the higher road

Appeal

For the Word Document, click here: Dan_4_-_Sermon

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