Tuesday, July 2, 2013
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The church we attended in New Jersey grew a lot over the years. So much so, that it was hard to spot visitors. So, our pastor would ask first-timers to stand and introduce themselves right where they were. He'd take one section of the sanctuary at a time, and ask the visitors to stand and introduce themselves.
Well, our family brought our share of visitors, and many of their faces went through three or four colors when they were asked to stand up! We brought Nancy one day. When the pastor mentioned standing up, we gave her that "How about it, Nancy?" She gave us a look back. I would interpret it as saying, "No way!" Well, you can't blame people. I mean, most of us have a pretty great fear of being conspicuous, and hey, what if no one else stands?
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Only One Standing."
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from the book of Daniel 3:1, "King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura." Okay, now, a decree went out that everyone was supposed to bow down to this image. Here's how the decree went: "As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." It goes on to say, "Therefore, everyone fell down and worshipped it." Well, almost everyone.
Okay, get the picture. In verse 12, this complaint comes back to the king, "There are some Jews who you've set over the affairs of this province-Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego-who pay no attention to you, O king. They did not worship the image." Here's the scene, and it is incredible! This flat plain, this big statue, everyone's on their knees, there's no place to hide, and here are these three men standing. You talk about conspicuous! And they got heat for it...I mean literally. They got the furnace. And then verse 30 says, "Afterward the king promoted them." And the story has this happy ending. What's going on here?
Actually I think the King-that is capital K, The King-promoted them. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego should still be our heroes, because they had the courage to be the only one standing. Do you? Everyone else at your school, your office, among your friends may be bowing down to the gods of pleasure, money, sex outside of marriage, and increasingly you'll have to be the only one standing. Don't bow down.
There may be something even more difficult, though, than taking a stand among unbelievers, and that's taking a stand among believers. See, the standards and boundaries are moving inside the church today too. Not just in our culture; the church is moving with the culture. God's people are increasingly compromising on what they watch, and they listen to, and they talk about, and tolerate. Biblical standards on marriage, and divorce, and sexuality are drifting. Christians are tending to forget the lost, and they are retreating into a comfortable entertainment faith, "Just meet my needs." Sometimes you even are being asked to bow down and compromise within the context of the church when the majority have followed the cultural drift. But God's truth has never been decided by a vote, and God's truth hasn't changed-and it won't.
As sin seduces more believers, you'll need the courage to feel a little old fashioned, a little lonely even at church, but you've got to remain standing. People sometimes feel conspicuous when they're asked to stand at our church. Well, more and more, discipleship will mean what it did in Shadrach's day: the courage to be conspicuous; to be even among God's people - the only one standing.