Sermon:  Facing Cultural Pressure


Summary:  Living in the world while belonging to the Kingdom of God, which is not of this world, requires recognizing that pressure to conform to the world’s norms is always lurking and we need to be ready to resist it in every form so that we can continue to honor God and not allow it to change us through compromise, knowing that God is with us through any consequence that comes as a result.


Text:  Daniel 3


Scripture Reading:  1 Pet 2:9-12



1.      Have you ever traveled to a foreign country? - Things are very different with different values

2.      Do you realize that the Bible says we are living in a foreign country?

a.      Bible frequently refers to us as sojourners, aliens, or exiles

b.      We belong to the Kingdom of God – not of this world

c.      Our citizenship is in Heaven

d.      We seek first his kingdom – We don’t get entangled with this world

3.      “Every generation must be willing to be different from the culture in order to remain faithful to God.”

a.      This is what Daniel and the other Hebrews living as exiles faced

b.      We need to see ourselves

4.      Three Lessons from Chapter 3 when living in Babylon


I.     The Pressure Never Stops

A.   It seemed things should get easier

1.    Chapter 1 – Danger

a.    Refused to defile themselves with kings food and wine

b.    After the test with vegetables, they healthier and wiser than the rest

2.    Chapter 2 – Danger

a.    The wise men not able to tell the kings dream, scheduled for execution

b.    Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah prayed

c.    God revealed the dream and interpretation – they were spared

d.    Nebuchadnezzar’s response

i.      Declared to Daniel “Your God is god of gods and revealer of mysteries.

ii.     Promoted Daniel to ruler over province of Babylon and chief of all the Wise Men

iii.    At Daniel’s request – promoted Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego to high positions

3.    These Hebrews have proven themselves.  Should be easier right?

4.    (Dan 3:1-7) Nebuchadnezzar builds a 90 foot statue on the plain of Dura

a.    Text mentions all of the ruling class - a big, civic and religious event

b.    After chapter on the multi-metal, multi-kingdom statue – this is all gold

c.    Placed on the plain of Dura – Will see it for miles

d.    This is a way to ensure loyalty to the King and his gods

B.   When you put God first, danger always lurks close by

1.    (Dan 3:8-12) Certain Chaldeans maliciously accused the Jews

a.    Chaldeans was the title of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah

b.    Get the idea that their fellow co-workers did not like them?

i.      Could be because these Hebrews always served admirably

ii.     Could be because these Hebrews always excelled

iii.    Could be because these Hebrews refused to honor the gods

c.    Isn’t this the same thing that God’s people have always faced?

d.    Those in the world always looking for ways to accuse God’s people

2.    (Dan 3:13-15) Nebuchadnezzar issues an ultimatum

C.   ILL:  This is Cancel Culture on Steroids

1.     “Cancel Culture” has been added to our vernacular the last few years - When an unpopular statement or opinion results in drastic efforts to silence, banish, or punish the offending party, that's an example of "cancel culture." This "cancelling" goes beyond condemning offending behavior, or choosing not to support the person. It frequently extends to demands they be fired from their job, dissociated from their peers, silenced or banished from public view, and so forth. At times, cancel culture includes deliberately opening the offender up to stalking or physical violence, by highlighting or distributing personal information.

2.    Interesting to see how people view “Cancel Culture” differently

a.    Some define it as a way to hold people accountable to societal norms

b.    Others define it as punishment for espousing views they disagree with

3.    In our story – Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans would have defined it as the former.  – If you don’t bow down, it’s the furnace for you

4.    Probably can think of examples of how this cancel culture works today

a.    In our country: Causing people to lose their jobs, business, reputation, or moving people to being harassed

b.    All because of a refusal to walk in step with today’s values

c.    In other countries: Literally the loss of homes and lives

D.   Whatever the level of pressure, it is always lurking for the people of God

1.    Jesus warned us to expect this

a.    (Jn 15:18-21)  18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

b.    (Jn 16:1-2) I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

2.    Jesus warned us that what we call Cancel Culture will be ongoing reality

3.    Need to remember this so that we can be ready for it…


II.   Resistance is Necessary

A.   Need to always be ready to resist the pressure the world puts on you

B.   (Dan 3:16-18) Several things to note:

1.    We have no need to defend ourselves to you on this matter

a.    Nebuchadnezzar is not their judge

b.    They did not do anything wrong

c.    Not going to engage in a debate with Nebuchadnezzar on this

i.      Nebuchadnezzar does not serve Yahweh

ii.     It doesn’t matter what Nebuchadnezzar thinks, but what God thinks

2.    God is able to deliver us

a.    Answer to his contention – What God can deliver you out of my hand?

b.    Our God is able to – No doubt in their mind

i.      Same God who made mockery of all the gods of Egypt

ii.     Same God who destroyed Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea

iii.    Same God who fed his people in the desert

c.    God is able --- MORE than able

3.    If he does not, we will not bow down

a.    Our faithfulness is not dependent on what he will do or not do in this situation

b.    They did not know if God will deliver them or not

c.    Regardless – We WILL NOT bow down

4.    What is the big deal?  Why bring all of this trouble on themselves?

a.    Could make outward show, just one act, how much harm? Why resist?

b.    God clearly commanded NOT to do this – Am I going to be faithful?

c.    (James 4:7-8) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

i.      Two opposite poles – Submit to God and Resist the Devil (Cannot submit to God and submit to the Devil)

ii.     Purify your hearts you double minded – do not compromise

iii.    Blessed are the pure in heart (not double minded) – shall see God

d.    Therefore resistance is necessary, compromise is to be rejected

C.   ILL:  Reminded of a couple of stories

1.    ILL:  A bought a ranch out West to raise cattle.

a.    Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name.

b.    Rancher said, “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife wanted to call it Suzy-Q, one son wanted Flying-W, the other wanted Lazy-Y.

c.    So we’re calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y Ranch.”

d.    But where are all your cattle”? Reply: “None survived the branding.”

i.      That is what happens when you compromise your faith

ii.     We wear one name and one name only – Name of Christ

iii.    That’s kind of a light hearted story.  Here is a true story…

2.    ILL:  In the early 1900’s through the 1960’s A Church on Broadway in Upper Manhattan was a powerful force for the Gospel

a.    From the 60s to the 90s, subtle change in emphasis came

b.    Included massive feeding programs for the homeless and other socially conscious ministry

c.    Along with this was a de-emphasis of the Gospel

i.      Prayers no longer offered over the meals – concerned it would offend some of their clients

ii.     No longer made effort to preach and teach the Gospel

iii.    Church shrunk from over 1000 to 120

d.    It was discovered that the same people were coming through the line year after year

i.      There was no change happening in anyone’s lives

ii.     Free food does not save souls or transform lives, the Gospel of Christ does

iii.    This is what the spirit of compromise brings to the Gospel

3.    ILL:  At last year’s Harding Lectureship, Bruce McLarty spoke of the practice of “Arm’s Length Morality” for respectable Christians today

a.    Don’t want to be a misfit, to radical, too bizarre to the world

b.    Solution: Get close, but not too close – keep world arm’s length

i.      The way the world talks – We not as bad as them – arm’s length

ii.     Way world thinks, dresses, behaves – not as bad – arm’s length

c.    What happens as world shifts one step at a time?

d.    The me of back then might not recognize the me of today

D.   This is why resistance is absolutely necessary

1.    No one decides to kill their faith with one giant thrust of the sword

a.    Happens with the tiniest of cuts

b.    The first one might sting… just a little.  But it not too bad

c.    Followed by another, then another.  Until your faith is dead

2.    Purpose of resistance was not to change the powers that be

a.    Sometimes it might have that result, but it might not

b.    Notice that the resistance of these Hebrews was low key, until they were challenged on it

3.    The purpose of resistance is to keep the world from changing me

4.    Remember this the next time you find yourself faced with this choice

a.    Will get pressure to but something else before God, before church, before morality, before ethics

b.    You may be ridiculed, seen as stubborn, holier than thou, disloyal, etc.

c.    But like these Hebrew youths, make up mind – We will not bow down…


III.  God is With Us (v.19-30)

A.   God will never abandon his people, he is faithful

B.   The point of this story is that our Lord is with us

1.    (Dan 3:19-23) Nebuchadnezzar was burning out of control

a.    Can you imagine Nebuchadnezzar’s face?  It was “changed”

b.    I can imagine that the face of Hananiah, Michael, and Azariah – not worried

c.    Why heat the furnace up seven times hotter?

i.      As if Nebuchadnezzar saying – Not just going to make you dead, I’m going to make you deader than dead!

ii.     The fury of his anger led to the death of some of his servants

2.    (Dan 3:24-27) Nebuchadnezzar sees a fourth person, looks divine

a.    Can’t retrieve them from the fire, has to tell them to come out

b.    Fire had no power over them.  Didn’t even smell of smoke

c.    (Dan 3:28-30) Result – Nebuchadnezzar can’t promote, already had promoted them.  So pass a decree – No one speak against their god

3.    Q: Does being faithful to God mean that this will always happen?  No

4.    Acts 6 – Stephen, man full of faith and the Spirit chosen to minister to widows in the daily distribution

a.    Acts 7 – Stephen is accused of blaspheming God and Moses

b.    Dragged him before the council

i.      Was not able to finish his defense

ii.     They ground their teeth at him, drug him out of the city & stoned him

c.    Was God not with him?  No, he was – He saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, went to be with the Lord

d.    Stephen was not alone when they stoned him.  God was with him, strengthening him

C.   ILL: We went through video series, “I am N” by Voice of the Martyrs

1.    Told the stories of persecuted Christians around the world in places like Pakistan, Iran, India, etc.

a.    People lost jobs, body parts, homes, loved ones, driven from country

b.    Many live if refugee camps, not sure what the future will hold

2.    A line stood out from one of the interviews – “They took everything, but they did not take my faith”

a.    The thing most precious to them was their Lord and savior

b.    Nothing the persecutors could do would take that away

3.    Reminds me of a couple of passages:

a.    (Jn 10 ) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 

b.    (Jn 16:33) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

D.   Our Lord has already been down the road of death, and defeated it

1.    He is with us always, even to the end of the age

2.    Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ



1.      Because of his love, he came to the cross (inv)

2.      Do not worry about Nebuchadezzar’s fire, only burns for a moment

a.    The only fire to worry about is the lake of fire the burns forever

b.    Rev 21:8  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

c.    On the other hand…

d.    Rev 2:10 - Be faithful to the point death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

3.      When threatened with Nebuchadnezzar’s fire, remember that there is a crown of life on the other side of it. 

4.      Be faithful to the point of death, the point of being canceled