The Hostile Cosmic System; Revelation 2:12-13
Much of this lesson was review.
Theology impacts our everyday life and how we handle the pressures that come our way when we live in an environment, a culture, a country that is hostile to biblical presuppositions and to biblical teaching. This is the case that we have in the third short letter of the seven letters at the beginning of Revelation, the letter to the church in Pergamum.
The question where we ended last time was: How do we live as a believer in the midst of the kind of hostile environment as there was in Pergamum?
Two branches of cosmic thinking, the kind of thinking that characterized Satan's fall: On the one hand there is arrogance, the desire to be independent from God, the assertion of autonomy. So one of the characteristics of human viewpoint thought or satanic thinking or cosmic thinking (all are synonyms representing thinking that doesn't come from the Bible) is to always emphasize human independence, human autonomy. This is cosmic one. Cosmic two always is antagonistic to the Word; there is always hostility. Satan said in the garden: "God did not say." That is the perfect example, and it is not true. So we see this constant assault of the veracity of the Word of God. We see it in the creation-evolution debate, in many of the morals and ethics debates today, in the Da Vinci Code challenge to the Scripture. There is always a challenge to the Word of God, that there is another way, and that characterizes all human viewpoint thinking.
Daniel 1 is a tremendous example to us of believers who are forced into a pagan structure, where they are specifically put within a human viewpoint education system that is designed to completely tear down all the divine viewpoint in the soul and replace it with human viewpoint. Other men in the Old Testament who faced this same type of experience as Daniel would be Joseph, who was faced with all of the pagan culture of Egypt; Moses, whom Hebrews tells us rejected all the riches and benefits that he could get physically and materially from Egypt in order to suffer reproach with God's people, because that was the basis for truth. An idea that is foreign to so many people today is: "I am going to give up all the status symbols of life because I am going to put all my emphasis on truth. Truth and living life on God's principles and dependence upon Him are more important to me than any physical comfort, than any financial gain, or any success that has value in the eyes friends, family and those around me." Daniel and Ezra are other examples. These were believers who came to spiritual maturity in the midst of cultures that were extremely antagonistic to everything they believed. Yet, today as we live in 20th century America where the culture around us is becoming more and more hostile to biblical Christianity we can learn how to handle this is a wise manner. What we see with Daniel is that it is possible to survive in the midst of a pagan human viewpoint educational system. If you have to go to college or university, or in some cases in the companies that you work for, you are forced to go through various continuing education or employee modification systems that force everyone to think in a certain way about problem-solving and dealing with life. So if men like Daniel could do it, and it was much worse for him, you can too.
One of the commonalities that each of these men had was the role of their parents in their early training. Joseph was trained while he was a young man before he was ever sold into slavery. He has a good understanding of who God is and the plan of God in his time. Moses who is raised by his mother after he is found by the daughter of Pharaoh trains him in doctrine in those early formative years. So when these men get the adversity that they faced when they were taken as captives to Babylon and forced into this brainwashing system of Nebuchadnezzar's bureaucracy they knew how to handle it. They had no choice. They are forced to go through a certain regimen. First of all, their names are changed. Their previous names, their birth names, all had something to do with doctrine. Daniel meant God is my judge. Hannaniah meant God is gracious. Mishael meant who is like God? Azariah meant God is my helper. It indicates that these boys were all raised by parents who were positive to the Word and understood doctrine. But in typical human viewpoint fashion they are going to get new names to try to eradicate that doctrine that is in their souls. Their identity is being changed by their names; they seek to impose pagan thought.
We see a real clue as to how to handle paganism in Daniel 1:8: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." There is a predetermination. We have to recognize that there are a thousand battles that we have to fight. We have to identify the ones that are crucial. Daniel identifies the one that is crucial, he is not going to defile himself. He makes this decision ahead of time. Today we have all kinds of decisions to make as a Christian in the workforce. As a believer we have to decide how we are going to handle this because it is just another attempt of the cosmic system to reprogram you and brainwash you with systems of self-improvement, teaching you how to handle the problems in your life without being dependent on the Word of God.
Daniel 1:9, "Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you." The reason Daniel is making diet an issue is because there is specific dietary revelation in the Mosaic law that he can't violate. He is not just taking some principle that he thinks is doctrinal and making that the issue, he is making a specific point of revelation the issue and it has to do with diet. He also recognizes that this diet that he is being forced to practiced, that is being imposed upon him, has a religious connotation to it. So it is a compromise of his core doctrinal values to change his diet.
But then he presents a case to the chief eunuch in verse 12: "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." This is real wisdom here. He doesn't say, "But the Bible says"! He knows that that is not going to cut any ice with the chief eunuch. What is going to matter to the chief eunuch? That Daniel is going to be healthier and stronger, etc. He is going to appeal to him on the basis of the unbeliever's value system, and he is going to use that to turn it back on him. That is real wisdom. In a hostile environment we have to think creatively about to engage the hostile culture around us. Daniel wins the battle but he shows us how to do it. The foundation, though, is back in verse 8: he purposed in his heart.
We see the same thing with Ezra in Ezra 7:10: "For Ezra had had set his heart [volition] to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel." It started with his decision, and that is the issue for the believer living in a hostile environment. If we are going to make doctrine the number one priority in our life then that is the only thing that matters. How are we going to implement that? And what are we going to do when the conflicts come up? And they will. As soon as you make the decision to make doctrine number one everything is going to affect that. We have got to decide what we are going to do and start making decisions accordingly. Otherwise we will end up being steamrolled in the Christian life by cosmic thinking, and we will end up thinking doctrine doesn't work. Doctrine always works. It is that we as individuals fail to be consistent in the application of doctrine.