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Tuesday
Apr242012

Though You Knew

The old saying about ignorance being bliss has been proven and disproven many times in different arenas. Sometimes, when there is no physical or spiritual harm, it is good to be ignorant, even as harmless and innocent as a dove. At other times, however, being ignorant of vital and essential, life-saving or soul-redeeming information is surely fatal. What of those times that seem to be a bit in between, the times when someone should have been aware of something, or really was but chose to feign ignorance to avoid accountability? There is no bliss there, either.

 

Discussion

I. God Resists the Proud

A. What Belshazzar Knew

1. after the fall of Judah, Daniel continued to serve the Babylonian king in his palace, although sometimes with less prominence than in the days of Nebuchadnezzar

2. his interpretive skills were required again when King Belshazzar's decadent feast was interrupted by the enigmatic handwriting on the wall -- a disembodied hand wrote in his presence a coded message that terrified the king in its mystery

3. he promised Daniel great rewards if he could interpret the message (Daniel 5:17-28)

a. immediately, the prophecy was fulfilled when Belshazzar was assassinated that very night

b. here was the most powerful man on Earth feasting without a care in the world while on the brink of death, wasting his final moments on blasphemy, and provoking God to greater wrath in his exceptional ignorance

4. Daniel deepens the indictment, however, when he adds to Belshazzar's guilt the simple fact that he had been warned and knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway

a. Belshazzar's more famous predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, not literally his father, but his idol, had learned the very lesson that Belshazzar was ignoring -- and he knew it

b. Daniel had warned Nebuchadnezzar years before that he would be cut down to size unless he acknowledged God; he chose to take that chance and paid for it with his sanity (Daniel 4:28-33)

c. it was only when his heart was made tender by humiliation that God restored Nebuchadnezzar to his former status (Daniel 4:34-37)

d. Belshazzar knew this and yet he chose to provoke God with idolatry, with orgy, with blasphemy -- all exercises of a heart so proud that it no longer feared God sufficiently to respect him

 

B. Pride and Risk

1. our focus is on the fact that this king knew what happened when his predecessor rejected God and yet he made the same mistake, but we also want to explore what Daniel identifies as the common sentiment that drove both men to their doom -- pride

2. it is axiomatic that pride goes before a fall, but think about how many of our conflicts, disappointments, and hurts can be traced to inflated pride, self-interest, and personal idolatry

3. in so many cases, pride leads to risk -- risking the approval and patience of God in order to do things that are proven to be dismissive, destructive, even deadly

4. that was the warning to the Roman Christians whom Paul worried were at risk of becoming complacent and promiscuous in their faith due to the pride that came from feeling favored over the lost (Romans 11:17-22)

5. that kind of pride emboldens us to step further out on the ledge, toward the edge, to slip our toes over the side, to peer into the chasm, even to step off in the misguided belief that angels will rescue us in spite of our insolence; if Jesus wouldn't go that far, why would we? (see Luke 4:1-11)

 

C. God Gives Grace to the Humble

1. like Belshazzar, the pride of life leads us to risk divine approval in the quest for material success or physical thrill, but God resists people bent on that kind of pride (James 4:1-7)

2. that pride, however, extends beyond our boldness in pursuing sinful excitement; it extends to the conflicts we create with people whose own goals and personalities get in our way or under our skin (First Peter 5:5-8)

3. what does it mean for God to resist the proud?

a. it is the opposite of giving grace to the humble – God withholds his favor from those who are proud

b. it does not mean that they will necessarily starve or be struck by lightning or sent to wander in the wilderness, but it does mean that their souls will go hungry, their lives will be struck by spiritual loneliness, and their paths will lead away from redemption (First Peter 3:8-13)

 

II. What You Know

A. The Plan of Salvation

1. the plan of salvation is summed up in the word faith, not that salvation is by belief alone, for it is not, but that genuine faith is exercised in an attitude and life marked by trustful obedience

2. the plan of salvation might be illustrated this way:

 

SAVING FAITH

___________________________________________________________________________________

| | | | |

Hear and Believe Repent of Your Sins Confess the Lordship of Jesus Be Baptized Live Faithfully

(Mark 1:15) (Acts 2:38) (Romans 10:9-10) (Mark 16:16) (Revelation 2:10)

 

3. this is knowable because the New Testament teaches it; nothing in it provides for a merit-based system of salvation or deviates from God’s plan

4. all men are accountable to the Lord’s invitation and we are without excuse who have the Bible always accessible to us (Romans 1:16-20)

 

B. The Place of Works

1. we know the place of our works in God’s economy, that nothing we could ever do would be sufficient to remit our sins apart from the shed blood of the perfect atoning sacrifice

2. our works instead are part of a necessary response built on trust and willful obedience to the call of God (James 2:18-23)

3. our obedience, and the works that necessarily result, are no attempt to merit salvation, but are the answer of a humbled heart who trusts the will of a higher power and intellect than our own

4. it is likewise vital that our works consistently reflect the content of our hearts (Matthew 7:21-23)

 

C. The Requirement to Love Neighbors

1. you know the requirement that we love our neighbors – our brethren, our families, people in our communities and around the world, and even our enemies

2. you might not like that or you might prefer to keep that love in the abstract, but you know that Jesus requires us to love people through service and sacrifice (Romans 13:8-12)

3. you know it is easy to love people who do nothing but love you, but the real test – where you prove how much of that faith has made it into your heart – is when you find it possible to love the unlovable and unloving; you know there is no excuse for anything less than patience and forbearance

4. spirituality includes the duty to restore others (Proverbs 24:11-12; see also Galatians 6:1-2, James 5:19-20)

 

D. The Shortsighted Folly of Immorality

1. you know sin is generally fun, but you also know that feeling wears off quicker than the guilt and regret; you know one time does hurt, especially in that there can never be a second time to sin without surrendering to that first temptation – to lust, to drink, to smoke, to withhold worship

2. sin’s pleasures are fleeting and every foray into sin is followed by a hangover of regret and capricious promises of reform, even as the conscience grows hard against conviction (Romans 6:20-23)

3. good morals are corrupted by bad company and by the misconception that death is spiritually final (see First Corinthians 15:32-33)

 

E. The Bad Bargain of Apostasy

1. the deadliest thing you know is something the Christian cannot forget, even in Hell (Second Peter 2:20-22)

2. imagine for all eternity being compelled to recall that the crown was in your hand, about to be on your head, but you threw it away in exchange for a cheap thrill (see Hebrews 12:11-17)

3. “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5).


 

Conclusion

In the day of judgment, there will be no successful appeals to ignorance. The Bible is so ubiquitous, preaching so accessible. We must be ready to answer God.

 

Questions for Review

  1. Identify Belshazzar and Belteshazzar.
  2. What did Belshazzar know?
  3. How is pride related to risk?
  4. How does God resist the proud?
  5. What actions are subsets of faith?
  6. What is the place of works in discipleship?
  7. Explain the shortsightedness of immorality.

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