Gospel vs. Religion

September 9, 2020 

Daniel 5:24-31

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

So the administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.

Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

So King Darius put the decree in writing. 10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

We often say, “A Christian is someone who is the same at work, at home and at church.” In other words, there is a consistency in the life of a Christian that causes them to live for Christ all the time, not just when they are in the company of other believers.

The world, however, looks at a Christian’s life in a different light. The world sees religion as a vehicle to improve a person’s character. The world does not understand the difference between religion and the gospel.

Religion says, “live this way, do these things and you will be accepted by God and he will bless you.” As you start to excel in your religion, as your life is cleaned up and you feel accepted by God you consider yourself worthy to be blessed. You even start to look down on people who don’t have what you have, you judge them and compare them to yourself.

But the gospel says, “Come as you are, you are not worthy, but Christ has made you worthy. Believe in Jesus as your savior and you are accepted today.” The world thinks it is all about your goodness, the gospel says you are not good. The world thinks religious people look down on them, the gospel says we are all in the same sinful condition, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

So, when a Christian says, “It is not enough to be good, you need Jesus…” the world doesn’t understand. How could they? And when we say to them, “You need Jesus,” they get upset with you. Why? Because they consider themselves just as good as you, they just don’t have Jesus.

The 119 other officials in the kingdom considered themselves just as good as Daniel, the only difference is that Daniel put his faith and trust in God.

Any time a Christian says, “I know God. I know he loves me. I have eternal life. I’m utterly accepted in him right now,” the world has to consider that arrogant. Don’t be surprised by it, that is the way of the world.



Exceptional Qualities

September 8, 2020 

Daniel 5:24-31

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

So the administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.

Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

So King Darius put the decree in writing. 10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

The first part of this story finds Daniel doing exactly what Jerimiah told the Israelites they should all do. He said they should work for the peace of the city. They were not to assimilate, but they were not to remain separate. If you remember several weeks ago, we said that the false prophets in Israel told the people to stay in their own community and keep to themselves. God told them to mix with the people and reveal the joy that comes from being a servant of God while serving the people around them.

Daniel was doing that very thing. He was respected by the king because of his exceptional qualities. We see three things:

He was honest, they could find no corruption in him.

He was reliable, they found him worthy of the king’s trust.

The found him very attentive to details, the opposite of negligent.

For this reason, they could not find anything to accuse him of before the king.

Here is what I want us to see today: Daniel is the example for what we are to be as believers today in our own secular world. His integrity, his spirit of excellence and his devotion to his job were all above reproach. A Christian with these qualities presents a resume every employer wants to see. Daniel was successful, he was influential, and he was respected.

This was God’s reward to the captives of Israel who listened to the promises God made to them. They were working for the peace of the city; they were being used by God to have an impact on the people around them. But what we need to see is that when Daniel was faced with the choice to make his job, his career the ultimate thing… he did not. He chose God.



A New Kingdom

September 4, 2020 

Daniel 5:24-31

24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. 25 This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. 26 This is what these words mean: Mene: ‘God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.’ 27 Tekel: ‘You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.’ 28 Peres: ‘Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’ ”

29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

Belshazzar heard the words of Daniel and woke up to the message God revealed. He kept his word and rewarded Daniel, even though Daniel said he did not want to be rewarded. Belshazzar’s sin was pride. Did the party stop? We are not told. Was Belshazzar’s heart changed? We don’t know.

But while this party was going on, Darius, the King of the Medes was marching his armies into Babylon. But wasn’t Babylon the most fortified city in the world?

History tells us that Babylon was taken without a fight. Some accounts say the Belshazzar was betrayed by a general, and that may be true. Belshazzar was the fourth in line to the kingdom of Babylon, he was temporarily serving as the ruler of the city. He was not well regarded by the priests as there was a conflict over which god in their pantheon of deities should be supreme. Belshazzar chose the god Sin, the Mesopotamian god of the city Ur, but they preferred Bel-Marduk.

What Belshazzar did not know was that the engineers of Darius’ empire had diverted the waters of the Euphrates river which ran into the city of Babylon. They marched under the river gates and took over the city. Belshazzar was put to death.

The message on the wall of the palace was complete. The Neo-Babylonian Empire had come to an end. The Meads, who had taken the city were soon united with Cyrus and the Persian Empire and they remained in power until they were defeated by the Greek forces of Alexander the Great.

For Daniel and the Hebrew occupants of Babylon things did not get any better. They were still captive; they were still in a pagan culture. But they were to become the new handwriting on the wall to another king, another Empire and eventually to Cyrus the Great who allowed the temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt and the exiles to return home.

God’s message was revealed in the way they remained loyal to the God of Israel. It was in the way they served God and all the people, especially the people of the city and the new leaders. They served with honor and integrity, they remained faithful to God in their prayers and in their actions. It was a message that did not go unnoticed.

Today, we also need to remain faithful to the only true God who is in control of heaven and earth. He is the one who puts the rulers and kings in power in every nation. He determines who rises and who falls. While it may look like the world is spinning out of control, God is still on the throne, he is still in control.

What is next for the United States? Will democracy continue? Will socialism or even communism become the new normal for us in America? Will our right to worship be taken away? Only God knows for he is in charge. Whatever happens we know God has a plan. His will must be accomplished. His kingdom has come, it is at work in the world today.

Our job remains the same. We are the writing on the wall. That frees us to serve other people. Is your life different enough so the world can see the handwriting on the wall, that it’s kingdom is coming down?




Daily Devotions 2020