Series: We DON’T Believe
Our Culture Determines Our Values
What is culture anyway?
Definition of culture: the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a particular nation or people
It is how we get along with each other – what things are considered normal and proper and what things are frowned upon. All groups have cultures within which they operate society. We are in many ways a product of our culture.
It affects the language we speak.
The way we dress
The foods we eat
The holidays we observe
The entertainment we enjoy
Our literature, music, sports, and theatre are all cultural those are normally things associated with every culture – normal -the problem comes when we discern our spiritual values from our culture as opposed to from the Lord through his word.
In Amsterdam, it is ok to have sex with a prostitute – but what is culturally acceptable may not be morally acceptable to us as Christians. There are things in every culture that are acceptable by society at large but we must reject because they are sinful.
Christianity is cross cultural – it works in any society and influences our values despite the traditions, customs, and social practices of that group. We have to decide if we are going to be thermometers or thermostats. Explain.
Thermometers record the temperature – thermostats control the temperature.
What is our American society telling us about moral values: while not everyone believes these things, our world is forever attempting to press us into its mold and mindset. We are told to wear our values loosely; there are no absolute truths. Anyone who disagrees is a right-wing religious fanatic...
Everyone lies a little to get ahead
Who wouldn’t steal if they had the chance
What’s the harm with a little pornography
What I do in the privacy of my own home is my business, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else
Sex shouldn’t be confined to marriage.
As Christians we are often faced with two extremes: Preach against everything no matter how small or minute and return to an OT philosophy of law. Or preach against nothing and say we live in grace so anything goes.
I believe there is a better alternative: we have to develop a solid, objective set of values based on scriptural principles? These principles then guide our decisions and relationships. It is something Daniel had to wrestle with – what to accept and what to stand firm on – we find his story in the book of Daniel beginning with the first chapter.1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—
4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.
5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
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.
9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel,
10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] 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.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,
12“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 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.”
14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.
19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.
20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. (NIV)
The story of Daniel : grew up in a Godly home –in Israel with its Jewish culture. The Babylonians conquered Israel; destroyed the temple and deported much of its population. as a teenager Daniel was transported to a new culture – language, way of doing things, customs, new religious practices in a foreign land.
Can you imagine how hard it would be to be a small minority group in a society where everyone else thought different than you?
So Nebuchadnezzar begins the process of incorporating four young Jewish men into Babylonians. Daniel was being tempted to do three things: to learn the world's wisdom, to live the world's way, and to love the world's wealth. It is eerily similar to what our culture wants us to do today.
In finding themselves in a new culture, they were willing to accept some of it’s customs, but when those customs violated their conscience before God, they refused to go along with societal norms. Nebuchadnezzar tried to change them through three mediums
1. education vs. 4 train them in the language and literature of the Babylonians
Now why was this done? Well, it was simply a form of brainwashing. They were doing everything they could to remove from their memory any thought of God. Education no longer had the purpose of information, but rather indoctrination.
For the first time in his life Daniel went to a school that did not begin each day with prayer. No longer were the Ten Commandments posted in his classroom. The Torah was ridiculed as being full of myths and fables and rejected as being dangerous to young people.
Education is a powerful tool. The role of Christian education is very important to the Christian lifestyle. God says study the scriptures to show yourself approved of Him.
Teachers have a powerful role over students. Unfortunately many of our schools resemble happy hour in Ybor City more than educational opportunities. .There is a connection between the values that we teach, and the people that we produce. Franklin D Roosevelt once said, "To train a man in mind, and not in morals, is to train a menace to society."
Their old names had been related to Yahweh, the Hebrew name of God. But Nebuchadnezzar gave them new names, related to the gods of his culture. The name Daniel means "God is my judge." Hananiah means "Beloved of the Lord." Mishael means "God is without equal." Azariah means "God is my helper."
But their names were changed so that they would be reminded of a pagan god. Daniel's name became Belteshazzar, meaning "the god Baal favors." Hananiah's name became Shadrach, meaning "illuminated by the sun god." Mishael's name was changed to Meshach, meaning "who is like unto Venice." Azariah's name was changed to AbedNego, meaning "the servant of Nebo."
Names are important. We have a historical name Bates reflects on my family Christian reflects on Christ.
they were to be served the finest food and wine. Good deal – maybe. Vs. 8 Daniel says: Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. Vs. 12 just give me vegetables and water – trial by fire – trial by vegetables – because if it didn’t work – the official and Daniel were in deep trouble.
As a Christian in all cultures there must come a time where we draw a line in the sand and say: I can’t do that. For Daniel, it was the issue of food; I’ll go to your schools, I’ll even let you change my name but I won’t defile myself with your food.
It’s helpful to distinguish between personal convictions and Biblical convictions.
Personal Convictions come from family, community, and are often based on personal tastes and preferences.
Personal convictions are just that and should not be forced upon others Biblical Convictions have clear teaching in the Bible. The Ten Commandments are clear. You don’t need a conviction to not commit adultery or lie or steal.
The challenge is some people want to battle over every personal conviction, drawing the line in the sand when anyone disagrees with them over their preferences.
To refuse to eat at the king's table was an insult to the king. Furthermore, to refuse a direct order was an act of disobedience and either rebellion or refusal carried with it the penalty of instant death. In other words, when Daniel said, "No" he was putting his life on the line.
Why? the issue was not the meat and the wine. The issue was Daniel's convictions. Daniel had a choice and that choice revealed his character, because choices don't make character, choices reveal character.
1. Daniel with his strong Jewish background did not want to eat that which was not kosher.
The issue of what food to eat made the Jews unique – it was one of the signs of their Jewishness. Let people know who they were and they weren’t ashamed of it. When we get to the NT, Jesus says the sign that lets people know you are Christians is not a physical sign by what you eat or wear or say; it is a spiritual sign by the way you love. “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” Mark 7:15 “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him:” I Cor. 8 he says if you eat meat offered to idols it doesn’t defile you.
2. Even more importantly, the meat and the wine had been dedicated to some heathen god and in Daniel's mind, to eat this food and drink this wine, would mean that he would be honoring a pagan god and pledging allegiance to that pagan god and Daniel refused to do it.
Conviction is the mortar of morality
Did you notice what Daniel did? He didn't stage a protest. He didn’t have an occupy Babylon sit it. He didn't firebomb the banquet hall. He didn't threaten the king He just very quietly and graciously proposed an alternative.
He could say no to the world, because he had first said yes to God. But Daniel had the courage of his convictions. Daniel did not let his value be determined by his culture. As a result, he and his friends were:
Physically Enriched vs. 15
Spiritually Enlightened vs. 17
To interpret visions was a spiritual experience
Politically Enthroned vs. 18
If we do not have convictions on what we believe, our culture will determine our values for us. Ultimately our values must be based upon the Word of God.