Pressured to Conform

Pressured to Conform

What if conforming means compromising?

This morning I would invite you to Daniel Chapter one.  We’re just going to look at verse 8 primarily this morning. Daniel 1:8. This is kind of like a little mini two-week series that really is kind of directed more towards our graduates than anybody else.  Today is certainly going to be targeted to our teenagers and our young people.  I don’t listen to the news much because it depresses me and it makes me angry.  But I do turn on the news and I listen to the radio occasionally and what I hear is a lot of pressure to just accept the direction that the world is going.  There’s a lot of pressure to accept the culture as it is, and for Christians just to kind of be quiet and step back and have no influence and just kind of go with the direction that the world is going.  I think Daniel chapter one, especially in verse 8, gives us an idea of how to respond to that.

I was reading this week, Chuck Swindoll in a book entitled Above The Level of Mediocracy, writes a very interesting story about a spider and a fly.  A very intelligent fly. I might add. He says this.  “There was once a spider who built a beautiful web in a very old house.  He kept the web clean and shiny so that flies would patronize it, and the minute he got a customer he would clean them up and then other flies would come in and he would clean them up. Then one day there was a fairly intelligent fly that came buzzing around.  He came close to the clean spider web, and old man spider called outm ‘hey, come on in and sit awhile.’ But the fairly intelligent fly said ‘no, sir!  I don’t see any other flies in your house, so I’m not going in alone.’ That’s a wise decision by this particular fly, but.  But presently he saw on the floor below a large crowd of flies dancing around on a piece of brown paper.  He was delighted he wasn’t afraid because there were lots of flies doing it, so he came in for a landing.  And just before he landed a bee zoomed by and said, don’t land there stupid, it’s flypaper. It’s a trap.  But the fairly intelligent fly replied back and said, don’t be silly, those flies are dancing. There’s a big crowd there. Everybody is doing it that many flies can’t be wrong.  Well, you know what happened.  He died on the spot.”

You know some of us want to be in the crowd very badly. We want to be in the in crowd.  We want to be with the cool kids so badly that we can end up following them the wrong direction.  As a young man, as a teenager myself, I kind of had an inkling to be a part of the crowd. I saw this group over here doing things that I thought was really fun.  So I would go and I was a good intelligent fly.  I would try to get permission from my parents.  I’m not gonna tell you what they were doing ’cause then you’ll think less of me for wanting to do it, but they were already doing it.  I said “hey, can I go do this?” And my mom and dad are like no.  I said what most teenagers say.  “But everybody is doing it.” Then my parents responded with what just about every parent has said at least one point in their life.  “Well, if everybody was jumping off a cliff, would you jump to?”

If there’s a bungee cord attached, maybe. But no, no, that’s a joke, that’s a joke.  Yet logically speaking though, the answer’s no. We wouldn’t jump off the cliff because there’s danger at the bottom.  But there is such a desire in so many of our heart to be accepted by the in-crowd that we actually do, jump off that cliff more times than not.

It’s interesting that in another sermon that I preach, I talk about sheep and this just kind of came to me.  Jesus calls us sheep a lot, right? He’s the shepherd and we’re the sheep.  I just want you to know that’s not a compliment.  There’s a video that went around a couple of weeks ago a month ago of a sheep who was stuck in a ditch, and so a little boy came and helped him out of the ditch. The sheep bounced around. He went, hop, hop, hop and guess where he ended up?  Right back in the ditch.

There’s another story of a herd of sheep on the edge of in this valley, and there’s a really big cliff and one sheep got too curious and so he walks to the edge and he just jumps off the cliff.  Now I mean that one sheep didn’t make it.  150 sheep followed him right down the cliff.  So you know when Jesus calls us sheep, it’s not a compliment because we are like that. We have a desire to fit in.  We have a desire to follow. We have a desire to be accepted.

This is true for a lot of teenagers, teenagers and pre teenagers and young people, they want to have the latest fashion, they want to listen to the hottest music speak the trendiest language.  They want to do what their friends are doing.  I get it because for a teenager and for a young person to be left out is to be left out.  To not be included in the crowd can be extremely difficult in those formative years, and so I get it.  It’s hard, it’s not easy, but you know, I also understand that we adults are pretty much the same way.

Many of us we want to be accepted by our peers. We do things that they’re doing because, we want to be like them. We don’t want to be different.  But then there’s also this thing for adults as we begin to feel pressure in teenagers, you feel pressure to do things too. We feel this pressure to do what everybody else is doing. It could be at work. It could be in our neighborhood and just the pressure just mounts up that hey, just just let go and just do it.  Just forget about your morals and just and just accept it and move forward and that’s what we hear. We’re bombarded with that message as Christians. Just let’s just let’s your old-timey religion go.

And I’m just going to tell you.  This is kind of bad news, but the closer we get to the return of Jesus, the greater that pressure is going to be, and the harder it is going to be for us to stand firm, but we’re going to have to have the courage to do so. The question that I want to look at this morning is what if conforming means compromising?

There are some things that it’s OK to follow the crowd on. There are some things it’s OK to kind of fit in, but what if conforming means that we have to compromise what is right and what we know to be wrong?  What if it means compromising? How are we supposed to respond?

The young man, Daniel, in the beginning of his book in Daniel Chapter One, gives us a verse that helps us as Christians today understand how we respond to the pressures to conform when it means compromising.  The young man Daniel, is going to teach us the day that we can have a determined and unshakable commitment to God.  And by the way, he’s 15 years old at this point in his life.  We can follow the example of a teenager as he determines to have an unshakable commitment to God.

So here’s what Daniel 1:8 says.  “Daniel determined (or resolved) that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief eunuch not to defile himself.”

Let’s pray together.  Father helped this Word guide our path and light our be a lamp into our feet and a light into our path.  Father help out to speak to our hearts today. Give us the boldness and the courage to stand firm in a world pressuring us to give in and conform.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

To give you a little context, back in verse 4, the King goes to one of his assistants and ordered a guy named Asaph to teach the literature and the language of the Chaldeans to Daniel and his friends.  Now just to think back, we went through Nehemiah back when I first got here. So, Daniel is the first generation of exiles from Judea and Jerusalem, who are now exiled in Babylon.  Daniel and his friends have kind of gotten a little bit better fate than some of the other exiles, because they have been instructed to be placed into the training and then in the service of the king. And so there’s a training program that they’re going to have to partake in.  They’re going to be trained in mathematics. They’re going to be trained in astronomy, natural history, agriculture and architecture.  After three years they’re going to be placed in a position of personal service to the king.

Now when you look at the other exiles and how they were scattered and how they were homeless, this doesn’t sound like that bad of a situation for Daniel.  It sounds like he got the better end of the stick because he’s going to have a pretty easy life, theoretically. But with that comes the pressure to get rid of the past.  With that comes the pressure of conforming to the new culture, the new way of life.  To throw out his childhood upbringing and just do what the king said to do.  If he gives in, he’s going to be successful and he’s going to be accepted.  If he rejects it, quite possibly he’ll be killed or put in prison.  Now, Daniel doesn’t really seem to object to the education or to the training program, but where he draws the line in the sand is where Scripture draws the line in the sand and it’s over the food that he’s going to eat.

Now, listen.  I like food and so I read this and I did my study.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but it was probably tender meat, sweet junk food and lots of starch.  I mean I’m talking about the meat, beans, potatoes of Thanksgiving.  I mean, this is Grandma’s cooking and he’s never had it before. We’re talking good stuff.  But the problem is not necessarily with the food, although it could be, the problem is more so with it is likely to have been sacrificed to the idols of Babylon, and it would be unkosher.

You see the Word of God is very clear as to the dietary guidelines of Daniel and the Jewish people.  By eating this food, Daniel would have violated God’s laws and he would have become unclean. Now, if you want to write these down, you read about these guidelines and Leviticus 7 and then Leviticus 11. So very clear instructions from God’s Word on what they’re to eat. That word defiled means that he’s going to be polluted, corrupt, or contaminated.  That he would lose purity.  If he would eat this, thenhe would defile himself and become unclean.  He would be seen as un-pure in God’s eyes.

Now, I’ve just got to say.  You might be sitting there thinking, “why in the world did he choose food to make his stand? Does it not seem like just a little thing?  It’s such a small thing, it’s just food. Why not just eat it? Come on, can you not just see it?  Daniel, come on man. It’s just a piece of meat.”  But I want to give you this principle.  If you do not determine to follow God in little things, you will never be determined to follow God in big things.  I want you to hear that again if you do not determine to follow God and the little things you will never be determined to follow God and the big things.  Let’s just be honest, if you give in on the little things just because you think the problem is going to go away.  Now we do that.  We say, well, I’m going to give in here. I’m going to compromise. I’m going to move the line 1/8 of an inch. Just ’cause I want this problem and this pressure to go away. Do you know what I’ve learned in my life and what you’ve probably learned in your life? The pressure doesn’t go away, it just moves to something else.  If you give 1/8 of an inch, you’re going to be pressured to give 1/4 of an inch. If you give 1/4 of an inch are going to be pressured to give a whole inch.

Just because you compromise on something little doesn’t mean that it’s going to go away. It’s going to get worse, and it’s going to get worse.  If you do not resolve to stand firm on the little things, you’re never going to stand firm on the big things when they come.  Daniel made a resolution that he was not going to be immersed into this pagan worldview, in this pagan culture.  He made a decision that his commitment to the Word of God would not be shaken, and at 15 years old he stands firm. And he says, no, I’m not going to do it.  Now, he did so in a respectful way.  He says I’m not going to defile my body. I am not going to compromise my knowledge of God’s Word because he knew something that Jesus is going to tell us many years later.

In John 15, Jesus is going to say if you belong to the world, it would love you as its own.  If you belong to the world, if you follow the world, they’re going to love you.  You’re going to be accepted. You’re going to fit in.  But Jesus continues as it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. We saw in Philippians when we studied that book, we are citizens of heaven, not here.  If we are believers, and if we’ve committed our life to following the Lord Jesus Christ, this is not our home.  Our home is in heaven with God the Father. Our home is surrounding His throne, worshipping Him for all eternity. That is where our home is. We are ambassadors of Christ and we ought to live like it.  We shouldn’t live like the world tells us to live. We ought to be different. We ought to follow the Word of God and nothing else.

I’ve said it pretty much every other week since I’ve been here. This (Bible) is the most powerful tool we have as Christians and it’s more than a tool.  It is a guiding truth. It is the inspired and errant infallible Word of God.  God gave it to us because He knows what is best for our life.  He gave it to us to show us who He is. He gave it to us to show us how much He loves us by sending His Son to die on a cross for us.  From Genesis to Revelation, the main story is Jesus. It is how we had a problem in that problem with sin.  And for many of us, our sin means it’s almost easier for us to conform to the world than to be transformed by God. We’re naturally wanting to conform to the world, into the culture, because we’re sinners.  But God loved us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us, so that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.  So, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to stand firm and say no, I’m not going to be defiled. I don’t care what the government tells me to do, I don’t care what the TV tells me to do. I will not compromise my convictions as a Christian.  I will follow the Lord Jesus in the little things and in the big things.

But you know, JD Greer says “the number one tactic of Satan is to break the hold of God’s Word on God’s people. Satan wants to put a question mark where God has put a period.”  Satan wants to cause us to question the teachings of this Book. Oh, did God really say that that’s what he tempted Eve with?  Did God really mean this? Oh, that sounds so harsh. Why would God do that? Satan is causing us to question the very truth of God’s Word and we should not allow Satan to put question marks where God has put periods.

Daniel is putting a period on his life by saying I am going to resolve and be determined not to defile myself one bit.  Now, that can be scary.  That can be scary for a young person. It can be scary for an adult. I promise you it was scary for a 15-year-old Daniel.  He shows great courage in what he’s doing. He shows great leadership in what he is doing and the courage that he has comes from trusting God. Don’t miss that.  The courage that Daniel shows come from the fact he trusts God completely.  He goes up and he says, I want you to test your servant. I don’t want to eat this food test us by giving us our food.  But that shows great trust ’cause there’s no guarantee it’s going to turn out for his good, in his mind.  There’s no guarantee that he’s going to live. There’s no guarantee he won’t be put in prison, but he knows that God is good, that God’s got a plan, and that God is in control and God is going to get him through it, whatever the outcome may be.

We have to come to a point in our life where we say are we going to trust God enough to say that I don’t know whether it may be good for me or it may be bad for me, but God’s got a plan for me and I trust it.  And when I say it could be bad for me, I need you to understand that it’s always going to be good because it’s God’s plan for your life. We just don’t always see it that way.  Sometimes we see things as bad that God is really using for good.  And we have to trust that God is working it out. Listen, it’s going to work out for Daniel in a really good way.  He’s going to go through 10 days and he’s going to be fatter and he’s going to be stronger.  Now, I don’t know about you, but most people don’t like to be called fatter.  But Daniel is going to come out of this after eating vegetables, and he’s going to gain weight. He’s going to be healthier than everybody else.  God uses the situation to demonstrate His glory, His power, and His righteousness to a lost pagan people.  And it worked out for Daniel.

Later on in the book, you’ll read about him and his three friends who get thrown into a fiery furnace, and it’s going to work out because they’re going to be saved.  But what they say, and I’m going to paraphrase it, whether they live or die, God is in control of that fiery furnace situation.  So, I don’t want you to think it’s all prosperity gospel. You could choose to stand firm and you could get thrown in prison, or you could lose your job.  That could happen.  But God still has a plan for your life.  And God will honor you and God will get you through whatever the earthly consequences may be of you of you standing firm.  So, I don’t want you to think that Pastor Trent saying if I stand firm, there’s a guarantee it’s going to be OK. There is no guarantee, other than God will get you through whatever He puts you in.  Have the courage to stand firm.

A very encouraging verses in Romans 8:28 “and we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes.”  I summarize it this way. God is always working things for our good, but it’s for His Glory more than anything else.  Because God knows what is good for us more than we know what’s good for us.

We may see jumping off that cliff as a good thing because everybody else is doing it. We may see that flytrap as a party because there’s a whole bunch of flies on it.  God says no, no no, no.  Trust me, that’s not good for you.  That’s not good for you. Daniel knew these five things.

He had God’s presence in his life.

He had God’s promises in his life.

He had God’s power in him.

He had God’s people around him.

He had God’s protection over him.

Church, I want you to hear me very closely, listen.  At some point, every single one of us here will have to take a moral stand in our life.  We will have to stand up against the multitudes and we will have to say we are not going that direction.  We do not need to make the multitude our model because Jesus Christ is the model that we are to follow. We surrender to His commands. We follow His example and we remember that we were to take up our cross daily and follow Him.  And just like Daniel, I want you to remember this, that you have Jesus with you.  He said he will never leave you, nor will He forsake you. He will never leave you alone.  Remember that you have the Holy Spirit in you. The power to stand firm comes from the Spirit of God that it dwells in your heart that empowers you to do what you need to do. You have the promises of God that are found in the pages of Scripture. There are over 6,000 promises in the Bible that are for you.  And very importantly, you have God’s family around you.  When we as the church resolved to stand firm on the Word of God, we will be united by the Word of God with one voice and one purpose.  When Regenerant Church members are united, we are unstoppable in accomplishing of the spreading the Gospel. We have to love each other. We have to pray for each other.  We have to study with each other.  When things are going bad in a member’s life, we surround them and lift them up and hold them up and help get them through.

And the fifth one is you have God’s protection with you.  So, the question that you have to answer is, will you be determined in your life? Will you determine today that no matter what the world tells me to do, I will resolve not to do it.  That I will resolve to stand on God’s perfect and holy Word.  Will you resolved to let your heart and your life be unshakable?  With an unshakable commitment to God?  When you do that, you will find that you will thrive in your life, because you will be thriving in God’s will for your life.

Let’s pray together.  Father, we thank You for the Word of God.  Father, as we are continuously faced day in and day out with the pressure to conform, help us to stand firm on the Word of God.  Help us to see clearly what is right and what is wrong. Do not let the world influence us with all the gray areas, but give us a clear truth so that we know exactly what to do in every situation. Help us to have the courage and the trust to boldly make decisions to stand firm in little things so that we will stand firm in the big things.  Father help us to be faithful to Your leadership and Your Lordship.  Help us as a church to unite around each other, to carry each other through those challenging times and then protect us every day.  Father, we love You and we thank You.  In Jesus Name Amen.