Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship, by the word, to the world.
Lord God, we come before you right now with expectancy, Lord, with belief that you want to speak to us, belief that you want to do something in our midst. God, I pray for everyone in here, Lord, from different walks of life, from different jobs, different schools, different families, Lord. And God, I pray for those who are experiencing the pressure, the weight, of life right now. Lord, maybe they're finding it hard to live for you, finding it hard to walk with you, finding it difficult to stand pure and stand strong in a fallen world.
Lord, I pray that you would give them the kind of strength and the faith that you gave to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Lord, that you would fill them with your Holy Spirit, that you would help us to be a group of Christians, a group of believers, that stand for what's right, Lord, that don't go with the majority, that don't go with the crowd, but that change and impact our moral climate. In your name, we pray. Amen.
Hey, question-- who has ever experienced peer pressure? Raise your hand if you've experienced peer pressure. I see people. You guys are looking around. Well, if they raise their hand, I'll raise my hand. It's happening right now, right?
You know, peer pressure is a serious thing in our culture and our generation. Have you ever felt the pressure to go along with the crowd, even when you knew that it was wrong? Anyone ever felt that before? So we've got some liars here. I'll raise my hand for peer pressure. But it was good peer pressure, I promise.
One study on peer pressure found that only 10% of teenagers say they have not been influenced by peer pressure. That means 90% admit to being affected by peer pressure. 28% of teenagers agreed that giving in to peer pressure improved their social standing. That's why we do it, right? Because we feel like it's going to help us fit in. It's going to help us feel cool. It's going to help us have friends.
50% of people admitted to picking on someone only after a friend picked on that person. Peer pressure is an incredible thing. Peer pressure will cause you to do things that you never would, go places you never should, and say things that you never could. It will turn you into a different person than the person that you want to be, if you let it affect you.
I have a story of when I was young and how peer pressure affected me. I was in junior high school, and I was on a snowboard trip with Calvary. And I had a friend who was a gymnast. Now who in here-- is there any gymnasts in the house? No. Maybe a few. Man, when I grew up, I don't know why I had a lot of friends who were gymnasts. And gymnasts always could do these crazy things.
And I had a buddy named Derek, who was a gymnast. And he was an OK snowboarder. I felt that I was a better snowboarder than him. But because he was a gymnast, he could do a backflip with a snowboard. And I was so jealous of Derek, that he could do a backflip on the snowboard. And being the person who had snowboarded for a lot longer than Derek, I felt like, you know what? If he's doing a backflip, then I can do a backflip.
And so my buddy Derek was telling me how easy it was. Oh, it's so easy. When you go into the jump, just lean backwards. Just lean. It's so easy. It's not a La-Z-Boy recliner. Come on. It's a backflip.
But he was making it sound so easy, so I took him up on his offer of doing a backflip. And I come down the hill, and I'm cruising. And I've got all the confidence in the world that I'm going to accomplish this trick. And I hit the kicker, and I start leaning backwards. And I really quickly realized I am not prepared to do a backflip.
And I get about 50% of the way, which, if you're wondering, is just upside down. And I start flailing like a little girl. And I proceed to finish the rest of the jump inverted, landing on my head, which caused the snowboard to kick up and hit me in the sternum, which gave me the worst pain that I have ever experienced in my life.
And so I got towed down to the bottom of the ski lift. And the medic at the bottom of the ski lift was poking me really hard in my sternum, asking me if that hurt, which yes, it hurt. I just told you my snowboard hit it. You don't have to poke it more to ask me if it hurts. It does.
And then he let me go, said I was going to be fine, just a bruise. After a couple of weeks, I'd feel better. Well, after a couple of months, after it continued to hurt, and I realized that I was getting this bump on my chest, I asked the doctor. I said, hey, can you feel my chest and see if this is normal? And they asked me if I had done anything that could have caused me to break my sternum, to which I replied, yes, three months ago, I was snowboarding, and my snowboard hit me in the chest.
And the doctor said, well, you probably broke your sternum. But there's nothing you can do now unless you want us to re-break it for you. And then we can set it. And that wasn't going to happen. So to this day, I have a reminder of peer pressure on my chest in the form of a bump on my sternum.
Peer pressure can make you do stupid things. It can make you do things that you shouldn't do, and it can leave lasting reminders on your body. It can leave lasting reminders on your soul, on your heart, on your moral condition, that you did something that you shouldn't do, just because someone else was doing it. The heat of peer pressure has the ability to turn you into an entirely different person.
I wanted to see what culture said about peer pressure. So I went on Google today, and I searched peer pressure songs. And the first song that I found was a song by a rapper named Kendrick Lamar, called "The Art of Peer Pressure." And I'm going to share with you what it says.
"Smoking on the finest dope, drink until I can't no mo. Really, I'm a sober soul, but I'm with the homies right now. Rush a brother quick, then laugh about it later. Really I'm a peacemaker, but I'm with the homies right now. I got the blunt in my mouth. Usually I'm drug free, but I'm with the homies.
I was never a gang banger. I mean, I was never a stranger. Rush your brother quick. Then we laugh about it. That's ironic, because I've never been violent until I'm with the homies. And Mama used to say, one day, it's going to burn you out. One day, it's going to burn you out. One day, it's going to burn you out. But I'm with the homies right now."
I don't think that there could be a song that could better describe peer pressure. We do things because we're with our friends. We do things that we normally wouldn't do. We do things that we know are wrong. We do things that we wouldn't dream about doing by ourselves, but we do it, because we're with the homies right now.
But let me tell you, if we live life based off of that kind of a mentality, Mama's right. It's going to burn you out. Peer pressure is like a fire. And if you're not prepared for it, then it will burn you out. You'll give into it over and over again, and each time, it will burn you up and spit you out, until eventually, you'll just be a hardly recognizable charred and scarred version of yourself.
Last week, we learned that the heat of life can either melt you, or it can make you. And how you respond to the heat determines how the world will remember you. Well, tonight, we're going to see that in the heat of the crowd, you have two choices. You can either rise through the heat of the crowd, or you can fall in the midst of the crowd.
The heat of pressure can either build you, or it can break you. The heat of other people's sin can either strengthen your resolve, or it can cause you to dissolve. And your response to the heat of the crowd truly will determine your legacy. How you respond to the sin in other people's lives, how you respond to what's cool and what's hip and what's normal for your friends to do, what's normal for your coworkers to do, what's normal for other couples to do, if you just fit in with the crowd, it will determine your legacy. And your legacy will be that you won't have one.
It is vital that in the heat of pressure, in the heat of the crowd, that we respond and let it strengthen our resolve. You've heard it said that you can either be a thermostat or a thermometer. That's what this message is all about. And so if you're going through a time of intense difficulty in your life right now, if you're experiencing persecution for your faith, if you have ever felt that you were all alone, then this message is for you.
And here, in Daniel chapter three, we see one of the most famous and powerful stories to be found in all of the Bible, the story of three real heroes of the faith, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And I want to point out that the only reason these guys are remembered, the only reason they are heroes of the faith, is because of a couple of big decisions that they made.
Remember I told you last week that in life, we really only have a few big decisions that our response to make the right decision or the wrong decision really determines how we're going to be remembered? That is the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We don't hear a great lot about them. We don't hear about a ton of things that they did. We don't hear about them like we did David or Joshua, hear them doing great conquests.
We remember them for two things-- number one, for not eating of the king's delicacies, along with Daniel, and number two, for refusing to bow down to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar. They did two big things in their life. And because of those two big things, they left an imprint. They left a legacy. They left a standard by which we are called to live by.
We're given a few defining moments in our lives that can cause us to either melt into obscurity or to make it. And this was one of those big decisions for these guys. I want to point out that if they wouldn't have made the decision that they did, they would have been just like everyone else. They would have been just like all the other Jewish captives who bowed before the image of Nebuchadnezzar. The reason they're remembered is because they went against the crowd.
So again, I challenge you to compare, throughout this message, your life. And ask yourself, what are the areas that I need to stand apart from the crowd? What are the areas that I need to be different than the people around me?
We pick up their story after they, along with their friend Daniel, make a brave and courageous stand for their conviction. These three Jewish teenage boys had been uprooted from family and friends and were taken away as slaves to the powerful nation of Babylon. They were picked out of thousands of other people to be personally trained in the court of the most powerful king in the world, Nebuchadnezzar. They were attending the Babylonian University, B of U, if you will, and they were allowed to sit at the king's table and eat of the finest food in the world. And that's where they first encounter the heat of the crowd.
We're told, in the first few chapters of Daniel, that they didn't want to eat of the food, because it went against their conscience. They took a stand in a seemingly small area that would help to prepare them for a far more difficult test, that we're about to read about here in chapter three. And there's a huge point here for us before we dive into our text.
Do you realize that the little decisions that you make now can greatly affect your resolve for the big decisions that you're going to have to make later on? The fact that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made this small decision to not eat of the king's delicacies strengthen their resolve to make the decision to not bow down before the golden idol and risk being thrown into a fiery furnace. The little decisions that we make now greatly affect the big decisions that we're going to make later.
You know, I hear Christians all the time that make a ton of really bad decisions. And they always say, well, it doesn't matter, because really, I'll make the right decision later on. And I think that how can we expect ourselves to make the right decision when it counts if we're not making the right decisions along the way to that decision? Our walk with Christ is contingent upon us making the little decisions correctly.
You know, I see it all the time with sin. No one wakes up one morning and says, hey, you know what? Today I'm going to go out and get an STD. I've never had sex, but I'm going to go sleep around today. I'm going to have as many sexual partners today as I possibly can.
No one wakes up one day and says, hey, you know what? I've never done drugs, but I'm going to get addicted to heroin today. That doesn't happen. What happens is they make a series of small decisions, a series of small, bad decisions, that lead them to a place where eventually, they're in a situation that they don't know how they got there.
It doesn't start with injecting yourself with heroin. It starts with going to a party and being offered a drink, and then another drink and then another drink; and then a couple months later, being offered a hit of marijuana, and being willing to do that; and then a couple months later, being offered to do a line of cocaine; and then a couple of months later, being offered something that, two years ago, you never would have done. A series of bad decisions lead us to a place where we find ourselves without hope.
No one wakes up deciding they're going to get pregnant out of wedlock. It's a series of decisions. They break the boundaries that they had with their boyfriend or girlfriend, that they said, we're never going to do this. And then they drop that standard a little bit lower.
And then a couple months later, their boyfriend or girlfriend asks them to do something they really feel uncomfortable with. And they drop that standard a little lower. And they find themselves in a position, after a period of time, not knowing how they got to the bottom of the bucket. The little decisions that you make will form the big decisions that are going to come your way.
If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't make these small decisions correctly, they probably wouldn't have had the resolve to make the big one. If they would have been willing to just break that small commandment of God and just have that food and say it wasn't a big deal. It's just some food. It's just some meat. What's the big deal? God's not really going to get mad about that. It's not like I'm worshipping an idol or anything.
If they were willing to drop their standard for that, when it came time for them to bow before the idol, they probably wouldn't have had the resolve to refuse it. They probably would have said, what's one more sin? What's one more drop into the bucket? It's not going to make that much of a difference now.
So I challenge you, before you're thinking about the big decisions that are ahead of you, start thinking about the small decisions that you have before yourself every single day. And that leads us to Daniel, chapter three, verse one, as we see this big decision that they're faced with, Daniel, chapter three, verse one through 18.
"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold whose height was 60 cubits, and its width was 6 cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud, to you it is commanded, oh peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, the flute, the harp, the lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately in the midst of a burning, fiery furnace.
So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, the flute, the harp, the lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music"-- basically worship-- "all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshipped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Therefore, at that time, certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, oh, King, live forever. You, oh King, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, the flute, the harp, the lyre, the psaltery and symphony, with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image.
And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast in the midst of a burning, fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these men, oh King, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So they brought these men before the king. And Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up?
Now, if you are ready, at the time you hear the sound of the horn, the flute, the harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good. But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning, fiery furnace. And who is the God that will deliver you from my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, oh, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace. And he will deliver us from your hand, oh King. But if not, let it be known to you, oh King, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."
Man, here in Daniel, chapter three, we see some incredible resolve from some men who purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves. You know, it's interesting. In the last days, we're told that the antichrist is going to do a very similar thing to what Nebuchadnezzar did, erecting an image of himself in the rebuilt temple. II Thessalonians, chapter two, verse four, says, "who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or is worshipped. So he is as God, sitting in the temple of God, showing himself as God." Daniel 11:37 says, "He will exalt himself and magnify himself above every God and speak against the God of gods."
I want you to imagine this affair that Nebuchadnezzar had constructed. This was an elaborate, huge, enormous event. All the nations and all the tribes that were made subject to Babylon were commanded to send a delegation to the ceremony. And keep in mind that Babylon, at this time, had conquered much of the known world. And so the whole world was casting their eyes upon this event.
The capital city was full of people from all over the empire. It was one of the greatest days in Babylon. And we're told that the orchestra was in place, waiting for the signal to begin playing their musical instruments.
It's interesting how many times the instruments are listed in this chapter, isn't it? They're listed multiple times. And they don't paraphrase it. They go ahead and list all of them every single time, to the point that you feel like you just read that verse, you know, like wait a second. Oh, no, I'm still in the right verse. Because they keep saying it over and over again.
This shows that music is a really powerful tool. In the hand of God, music can be used to turn back demonic powers, such as in the case of David playing his stringed instrument when King Saul was tormented by demons. Remember, it was music that made the walls of Jericho fall down. That is why, as the church, worship should be something that is very important to us. Worship has the ability to break down the walls in your life. Worship has the way of preparing you for the battle ahead.
That's why we named our worship team, here at Calvary, Battledrums, because every day that we go into the world, we're going into a battle. We're going into warfare. And just like the armies of old, who would have drummers, drum lines, that would be leading them into battle and encouraging them, strengthening them, worship does that for us. It strengthens us. It encourages us. It prepares us for battle. It prepares us for a war.
It's so important that we don't push out the importance of music within the church. Yet, in the hands of the devil, worship can also lead many down the wrong path. In Ezekiel, it's mentioned that Lucifer, while in heaven, was in charge of the music and praise of the heavenly host. No wonder the devil has all the good music, right? Well, he's a musician. He loves music.
Aristotle said music has the power to form character. In Hitler's time, music was used with great effect to move the hearts and the will of the people. Think about it. Think about all the mass shootings in our generation and how often they're associated with music that promotes violence and hatred. Think about the music that so many of the youth listen to today that is just pervasive with sex, with promiscuous affairs, with doing whatever your heart desires. No wonder so many people are led astray. No wonder so many people are doing the things that they are singing.
Look at verse eight in Daniel, chapter three. We see an interesting thing that will remind us, if you're familiar with Daniel, the last chapters. It says in verse eight, "Therefore, at that time, certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews." Now, why is this interesting?
Ironically, it was the correct interpretation by Daniel, one of Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego's buddies. It was the correct interpretation by Daniel of the king's vision that spared the Chaldeans' lives. It was the prayers of Daniel and these three Jewish friends that saved them, in the first two chapters of Daniel, when the king had a vision. He had a dream, and he called all the Chaldeans. And he asked them to interpret his dream. And he was ready to kill them all, until Daniel had the correct vision. He had the correct interpretation.
And yet, here, these same guys are ready to betray them. It says in verse eight and nine, "They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, oh king, live forever. You, oh king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn"-- I'm not going to list them all, the other instruments-- "shall fall down and worship the gold image, and whoever does not fall down, shall be cast in the midst of the burning, fiery furnace. Yet, there are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon."
So we see that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and Daniel, already, here in chapter three, have been set over the affairs of Babylon. They're Nebuchadnezzar's right-hand guys. They're in a place of leadership, a place of authority, no doubt because of the decisions they made in chapter one and two, not defining themselves with the king's delicacies, being able to interpret the king's visions and the king's dreams.
And while that spared the Chaldeans' lives, the Chaldeans grew with envy over Daniel and his buddies, grew with envy, because of the prominence that their faithfulness had produced. And here they are betraying them. How tragic is it when those we help the most appreciate it the least, when those who we bend over backwards for turn against us? And yet, how often does it come back to haunt them?
Now, it's easy to say, yeah, that's right. Someone that I know needs to hear that. Someone I know needs to hear that message, because I do a lot for them, and they betray me time and time again.
And yet, isn't that exactly what so many of us do with Jesus, the person who's done the most for us, the person who we should appreciate the most. And yet, it seems like time and time again, the decisions that we make, our decisions that hurt him, are decisions that go against what he wants for our lives, our decisions that he saved us from the last time? The person who did the most for us, the person who we should appreciate the most, is the person that we so often turn our back on, is the person that we so often appreciate the least.
Upon hearing about this insubordination on the part of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the king flies into a rage. He calls for the three of these men to come before him. And he does something that we would expect the king to do for three of his most prized workers. He gives them a second chance.
Look at verse 14. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, is it true, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now, if you are ready, at the time that you hear the sound of all those instruments, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good. But if you don't, you're toast. That's the paraphrase of that verse.
But he asked them, in verse 14, is it true that you won't worship my gods? Is it true that you're not doing what I told you to do? Is it true, basically, that you think you're too good to do what I've asked you to do?
This is something that will happen in the life of every Christian. If it hasn't happened to you already, it will. You might try to play it cool at first. But sooner or later, you will have the heat turned up, and this question will be asked to you. And it might be tempting to deny it, because it might be your boss asking you. But be careful, because Second Timothy 2:12 says, "If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us. Jesus said whoever confesses me before men, I will also confess them before my Father, who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father, who is in heaven."
Look at how that denial devastated Simon Peter before the fire. And for what, the opinion of some girl he had never met? When we are thrown into the heat of that awkward position, which side will you choose? And that awkward position can come in the form of any question. Oh, what, you think you're too good to hang out with us, Christian? Oh, you really believe what the Bible says? You really believe those fairy tales?
Maybe your college professor asking you that, you really think the Bible is true? Maybe your family asking you that question, maybe your boss asking you to do something that you feel uncomfortable doing. It could mean not getting that position because of your boss's personal prejudice.
When we are thrown into the heat of that awkward position, which side will you choose? It could be a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and it could mean the termination of your relationship. It might be close friends that you have. But make no mistake about it, you will be asked this question in some form or another.
It might not even come in words, are you a Christian? It could be a choice to do or not do something. Your boss asks you to do something dishonest. Your boyfriend or girlfriend asks you to do something that should only be reserved for marriage. Your friends want you to do something you don't feel comfortable with.
When that decision, when that choice, comes, what's your response going to be? I challenge you to prepare yourself for it. Too many Christians get blindsided by that question. They're not ready for that question, and so when that peer pressure comes, when that temptation comes, when that person in your life asks you to do something that you don't feel comfortable with, they're not prepared for it. They're not ready for it. And so they go into panic mode.
And in panic mode, when they're not thinking about all the Bible verses they've read, they're not thinking about all the church services they've been to, in panic mode, they try to take the path of least resistance that's going to maintain that relationship and that friendship. And so they make a decision that they end up regretting the next day.
Prepare yourself for that decision. Prepare yourself for that awkward moment when your faith is challenged, when your faith is tested, when what you believe is called out on the floor. What will you say? But I want to point out they had a choice.
King Nebuchadnezzar told the entire land worship my idol, or you're going to be burned. Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't worship the idol. So you would think that they'd be burned. But they're not burned. They're given a choice, a second chance.
Hey, maybe you didn't hear the loud music. Maybe you had your earphones in, and you were listening to something else. Maybe you don't like the style of worship inside our sanctuary, and so you were waiting out in the foyer until the teaching started. And you didn't hear the music start. I'm going to give you a second chance. Bow down and worship the idol. And if you do, good. But if you don't, this is your last opportunity.
They had a choice. Bow or burn. It's easy to look at it in hindsight and say, man, I'd make the same decision, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I wouldn't bow. I would look at the king, and I'd say, you don't control me. I'm the master of my own destiny. I control my own fate. I believe in God. He will save me.
It's easy to say that. But think about it. Everybody else was doing it. Presumably, the other Jews, who had the same faith that these guys did, who believed in the same God that these guys did, who had been taken captive into Babylon just like these guys were, they all did it. But they could have done it and made an excuse, or justified it and say, I'll do it now, and I'll repent later. God will forgive me. He's a God of mercies. He's a God of forgiveness. If I do it, he'll forgive me. I'm not going to go to hell because of that.
They were in a strange land. They could have said, hey, when in Rome. By complying, they could have been spared, and they could have still served God. They could have justified it and said, you know, if we're killed, we're not going to do any good to anybody. So why not live to serve another day. The end justifies the means.
What is your justification for sin? It's not as bad as other people's sins. I'm not murdering people. I'm not hurting anybody. I'm just doing what makes me feel good. I'm just doing what I want to do. Nobody's getting harmed by my sin. I'll stop after this last time that I do it. Then I won't do it again.
How easy is it for us to justify our sin? How easy is it for us to put, on the throne of our heart, a different God, an idol? That's what sin is. Do you realize that a good desire can become an idolatrous desire if it takes the throne of your heart, if it takes the throne of your life.
It's easy for us to think about the bad things, like, OK, drugs, sex, and alcohol, we're told those are the things we shouldn't do. And so as long as we're not doing one of those, we're OK. But it's easy for a good desires to become idolatrous desires.
Like it's a good desire to love your husband or your wife. It's a good desire to have. But if that good desire becomes more important to you than serving God, and it becomes an idolatrous desire, to where you're willing to disobey God in order to do something that your husband or wife is asking you to do, it's an idolatrous desire.
It's a good desire to work hard and to do well and to succeed in your workplace. But if that desire becomes an idolatrous desire, and that becomes the chief aim of your life, to where all you want to do is succeed-- it becomes more important to you to make money than to care and love your family, it becomes more important for you to maintain that job than it is for you to serve and love God-- then that good desire can become an idolatrous desire.
It's easy to look at a giant, golden image and say, well, I'd never worship that. But what are we worshipping? What is on the throne of our hearts? What is controlling our thoughts on a daily basis? Is it pornography? Is it alcohol? Is it that extramarital affair? Is it the pursuit of success and money? Is it maintaining our friendships and our relationships? Or is it God? Is it his word? Is it what he has set before us?
God told them to never bow to another God. And now they are told bow or burn. This was serious peer pressure. One of the hardest things that teenagers are facing today is the dilemma of peer pressure. Because of the breakdown of the family, as a result of divorce, there's no father to talk to, for many families. And even in homes where the parents are together, there is a horrible communication gap between parents and teenagers. And as a result, kids don't turn to their parents in times of trouble or crisis. They turn to something else.
A survey conducted by the University of Minnesota asked to who or what do you turn to in times of troubles? And the top responses that kids said they turned to was music, drugs, friends, and video games, all before mom or dad. They offered 54 different coping options. And talking with mom was number 31 that was chosen, and talking to dad was number 48.
I'll do everything else to cope with what I'm going through before I talk to Mom and Dad. I'll do everything else to get through the pain and the struggles in my life before I go to who might be able to really help me. Peer pressure is the number one reason given for turning to drugs, alcohol, and sex. Studies on peer pressure reveal that during the teen years, the most important area in the child's life is that of acceptance.
Parents, I want you to hear this, because this is really important for you in making sure your kids are trained up in the way that they should go, making sure that your kids know that they're accepted and loved by you, making sure your kids know that, no matter what they do, there's always a safe place to come to you and talk to you and communicate with you and cry with you, and that you're not going to respond in anger, flying into fury. There might be a discipline for the sin, but you're going to respond in love, and you're going to talk to them. And you're going to lead them through that.
The article said that parents need to understand that being accepted by friends is more important to their teen than being accepted by parents, which means the response to that means that your kids need to know that you accept them more than their friends. Your kids need to know that while their friends might turn on a whim, you never will. You never will leave them or forsake them. You will always be there for them, no matter what happens.
Now, this can be good or bad, depending on who those peers are, right? Again, talk about the importance of making sure your kids are hanging out with the right people. If they turn to their peers first, then we better make sure we know who their peers are.
Remember, we said last week that Satan wants to isolate you. Like a lion stalking his prey, he wants to isolate and destroy you. And there is nowhere this is more apparent than in peer pressure. Because if he can isolate you and make you feel like you're the only one who isn't doing it, then he can get you to give in to even the worse things that you know are wrong, that you think you would never do, if you just feel like it will give you some acceptance.
I want to point out, too, this isn't just teenagers that deal with this. This is adults, too. You're probably hearing this, thinking, man, I'm glad he keeps saying teenagers, because that's me. This applies to adults, too. This applies to business practices. This applies to marriage practices. This applies to sexual practices. This applies to voting practices. This applies to social media habits. This applies to a multitude of areas. It's easy for us to say, well, because other people are doing it, because other Christians are doing it, it must not be that bad.
I read of an experiment that was done to show how a person handled group pressure. And this was fascinating. It was done in the '50s, it has been done in more recent times in various ways. But what they did is they took 10 college students, and the college students were instructed to raise their hands when a teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. There was three different lines, and they were instructed, when we point to the longest line, raise your hand.
What one person didn't know in the group is that the other nine were instructed ahead of time to vote for the second longest line. See, the researchers wanted to determine how one person would react when they were surrounded by a large number of people who stood against what was apparently true. And so the experiment began with nine teens voting for the wrong line, raising their hands and saying, yeah, that's the longest one. And the isolated person would typically glance around them, frown in confusion, and slowly slip his hand up with the group.
And the instructions were repeated again. OK, we're going to do this again. Pick the longest line. And time after time, the person would sit there saying that a short line is longer than a long line, simply because they lacked the courage to challenge the group. This occurred in 75% of cases and was true of small children, all the way up to college students alike.
Now, you probably think that's ridiculous. I wouldn't do that. I'd raise my hand, and I'd say the long line is the longest line. But isn't that exactly what we do when we do what we know we shouldn't just because our friends are doing it? We know it's wrong. We know what the truth is. And yet, we look around and glance in confusion as all of our friends, even Christians, are doing the wrong thing. And we just slip our hand up, because we don't want the confrontation, because we don't want to be the one person who shines a flashlight in their eyes and says, you guys just picked the wrong line.
But they need somebody to shine the flashlight in their eyes. They need somebody to show them that's not right. And I'm going to stand for what is right. I don't care what kind of feedback I get because of that. I don't care what kind of criticism I garner because of it. I'm going to do what's right. I'm going to stand for what's righteous, regardless of whether it's popular or not.
Look, no one likes to be singled out in the crowd. No one wants to be the last one picked for the team. Americans are depicted as stand alone individualists. But that is not true. We would rather blend in and fit in than rise through the heat. We will do almost anything to be accepted. Our greatest fear, as human beings, is to be rejected by the group. We're more content with being thermometers, showing the temperature to the crowd, than being thermostats and changing the environment around us.
But church, it's time to rise through the heat, to be different than the world around us, to push aside cultural barriers that hold us back from living lives that are truly memorable. Just because the world says it's OK, doesn't mean it is. As a matter of fact, if the majority says it's good, it probably isn't.
Since when has the majority ever been right, ever? The majority hailed Christ as King and then a day later chanted, we want Barabbas. The majority of the spies that went into the land of Israel came back and said there's giants there. There's no way we can take the land. The majority bowed to this statue of Nebuchadnezzar. Since when is the majority right?
If you want to know what the right thing is to do, usually the best thing is to look at what the world's doing and do the opposite.
We're not called to be thermometers and just show what the world is doing. We're called to be thermostats. And sometimes that can feel uncomfortable. Sometimes a sudden change in the thermostat setting can make everyone else in the house feel a little bit uncomfortable. But that's what we're called to do.
It's no wonder the Bible refers to us as sheep. The Bible says all we like sheep have gone astray. You know, sheep always like to hear together and follow the leader, which is good if the leader is Jesus. But it's bad if it's anything else. Hey, you want to tell if you're following Jesus? Look at what you're doing and where you're going.
Are the things you're doing things that Jesus would do? Is the path you're headed down the path that Jesus would take? If it's not, then you're probably not following Jesus. Sheep are so timid and fearful, that an entire flock can be panicked into a stampede by one stray jack rabbit jumping from the bushes. It can cause a whole herd of sheep to stampede and run over and kill each other. When one startled sheep runs, others will follow in blind fear, bumping and bruising themselves, even breaking their own legs in excitement.
At other times, when they're approached by a predator, the sheep will form a little ball and watch dumbfounded and paralyzed by fear as one by one, all the sheep are torn apart, until it gets to them. Flocks of sheep have been known to go over a cliff because one greedy stray thinks that he's missing something over that ledge. And I actually found a story about that that illustrates that it actually happened. In Turkey, there was a news article that reported that 450 sheep jumped to their death.
And the article said this. "First, one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 other sheep followed, each one leaping off the same cliff. And in the end, 450 dead animals lay one on top of the other in a billowy, white pile. Those who jumped later were only saved as the pile got higher, and the fall became more cushioned." 1,500 making the same dumb mistake just because the last one did.
I understand why God called us sheep now. Because that's what mankind does. Even when we see the outcome of other people's sins, we do it. Even when we see people overdose and die, even when we see people get STDs and get pregnant, even when we see people lose everything, because they got a little bit too greedy, we make the same decisions, because we're all like sheep who have gone astray.
It's so true of our culture today. People ignore the thousands who have destroyed their lives with drugs, or they think they'll never get pregnant. But Proverbs 14:12 says, there is a way that seems right to a man, and its end is death. Think of how many have had their lives ruined because they wanted to fit in, be thought of as cool or acceptable.
In the heat of the crowd, you have two choices. You can either rise through the heat of the crowd, or you can fall in the midst of the crowd. And like a sheep, you can end up being at the bottom of a large pile of stupid sheep who are meeting the same fate.
The heat of pressure can either build you up or it can break you. The heat of other people's sins can either strengthen your resolve or cause you to dissolve. And the only way to break free from the crowd is to follow the Good Shepherd. Jesus said, in John 10:4, the sheep follow him, and they know his voice.
Church, it's time to put aside petty excuses. If you really want to follow Jesus, you will. You will. And all those who don't will be strays. The word that Jesus used for follow implies more than just the thought of a sheep tagging along blindly behind their owner and just, well, I don't know where I'm going. Let's just bloop-de-blue.
It means one who deliberately decides to comply with specific instructions. I think there's a theological word for that. It's called sanctification. Sanctification is following the Good Shepherd. Justification is coming down to the front and saying a prayer to accept Jesus Christ. Sanctification is what happens after that, as you walk out those doors, and you make a deliberate decision to do what God has told you to do.
You make a deliberate decision to, every day, take a step towards him instead of away from him. Sanctification is the continual process where a believer is constantly giving over the things of their life to Jesus and being made more in his image. If you want to know if you're following the Shepherd, the question is, are you sanctified? Because you can't have justification without sanctification.
If you're not experiencing sanctification, then the justification that you think is taking you to heaven was like a seed that was thrown on rocky soil. It sprung up for a second, but it had no roots, and it died. It's like a seed that was thrown into a nest of thorns, of weeds. And it rose up, but the peer pressure, the heat of life, the heat of the crowd, strangled it out.
I wonder, how many of those dead seeds know they're dead? I wonder, how many of those dead seeds realize that they're not producing fruit? Or if they just think, oh, this is normal. This is what Christianity looks like.
If you're not experiencing sanctification, then I challenge you to take a hard look at your justification. Second Timothy to 2:22 says, "Turn your back on the turbulent desires of youth and give your positive attention to goodness, integrity, love, and peace, in company with all those who approach the Lord in sincerity."
Look at verse 15 of Daniel, chapter three. It says, "Now if you are ready, at the time that you hear the sound of the horn, the flute, the harp, the lyre and the psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good. But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning, fiery furnace."
And man, here you hear the challenge, "and who is the God that will deliver you from my hands?" Wow. A direct challenge that Nebuchadnezzar makes, a challenge really to God. What a big mistake. Pharaoh said, who is the Lord that I should obey him? He found out who the Lord was. He found out why he should obey him, and so does Nebuchadnezzar.
Look at verse 16. "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, oh, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace. And he will deliver us from your hand, oh king." I like their response. Who's going to deliver you from my hand? Our God will deliver us from your hand.
In verse 18, "But if not, let it be known, oh king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image that you have set up." I love their response. They say, hey, God can save us. You want to know what will save us? God can save us. But if he doesn't, it doesn't matter, because you're right. We don't serve your gods.
And we'd rather go in the furnace. We'd rather be in the heat of the furnace than in the heat of the crowd. Basically, they say, hey, God can save us. But if he doesn't, it's better to burn now than to burn eternally.
I want you to point out. They weren't questioning God's ability to deliver them. We see that in verse 16 and 17. They had faith that God could deliver them. They had faith that God could take them from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. But rather, they're acknowledging that his will might not be that they're going to be saved.
Jesus taught us to pray, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. You know, this must have been quite a shock to a man as powerful as Nebuchadnezzar. It spoiled his party. They rained on his parade. Luke 12:4 says, "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, but rather that have no more that they can do to you. For I will tell you who you should fear. Fear him who, after he has killed, has power to throw into hell."
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found that the heat of the crowd was worse than the heat of the furnace. That is to say, they would rather be thrown into the heat of the furnace than to give in to the heat of the crowd. The thought of following God into a furnace was more appealing to them than the thought of following the crowd. And in that furnace, they would prove that they were thermostats, not thermometers.
As that heat got turned up, it didn't affect them. They turned the thermostat on and said, man, you can make it as hot as you want in here, because we've got the power to make it cool. You know, the furnace was really an illustration of what the heat of the crowd could do to them, nothing. If the furnace couldn't cook them, there was no way the crowd could.
These three Hebrew, holy boys rained on Nebuchadnezzar's parade. And imagine how it must have looked for them to stand up straight while everyone else was bowing down, while everyone else was lying prostrate. Again, remember, every single area that Babylon controlled was commanded to have delegates come to this glorious procession. And as everyone bowed down, not only did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not bow down, they said, you can't make us. We don't serve your god. Our God's bigger, better, and stronger than you.
They boldly proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ, not caring what it caused to their mortal bodies. It just goes to show you what a few people can do. Moses, by his godly living, kept an entire nation from turning to full idolatry while he was with them. It's interesting, when Moses left, how quickly the people went into idolatry with Aaron leading them.
One Christian acting as true salt can make a major difference in the world. It goes back to what we said last week. What big thing does God want to do with your life? It doesn't matter how small you feel. The little decisions that you make where you are now will eventually lead you to those big decisions that will define your legacy. Maybe God won't put you in that position to make a difference until your resolve to follow him is firm where you're at.
Look, God is not going to throw you in the deep waters if you still don't know how to swim without floaties. He's not cruel. If you want God to throw you in the deep end, then make sure you can swim first. Make the small decisions right now, the little decisions that you don't think matter, the little sins that you think aren't that bad. Clean your life up of those first, and then ask God to throw you in the deep end.
Then ask God to put you in a place where you can be trusted with a big decision that could define your legacy. And thank God that he hasn't given you one of those big decisions yet, if you're not ready for it. Because if you don't make those big decisions right, that determines the outcome of your life.
Like a thermostat, just a few people can affect the entire moral climate around them. Instead of sweating or burning up in the heat, they just turn on the air conditioning. Or the heat of the furnace doesn't seem that bad. Do you rise through the heat, or do you melt under its pressure? Into the furnace, these brave boys went, and the people of the kingdom watched with perverse fascination to see the fate of them.
And boy, how they were surprised when they saw not three, but four. The world watches with great interest when the Christian faces hardship and adversity. They want to see if our faith is real.
I want you to look at verse 25 with me. Let's skip ahead. And I want you to look at a couple more verses. We'll be closed. Verse 25, we know the story. They've been thrown into the fiery furnace. They say they're not going to do what's wrong. Nebuchadnezzar calls their bluff, throws them in the furnace.
In verse 25, Nebuchadnezzar says, look, I see four men loose, walking around in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt. And the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Wow. We see a Christophany here, Jesus coming before his incarnate, human form comes. We see Jesus standing in the fire with them.
Isaiah 43:2 says, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not burn. The flames will not set you ablaze. I wonder if that was a worship song, and if that was the song they were singing in that furnace?
Jesus said, I am with you, even until the end of the world. Hebrews 13 says, I will never, no never, no never leave you or forsake you. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what can man do to me. Oh Nebuchadnezzar, you want to know who can save me from your hand? My God can save you from your hand.
My God can save me from the things that you have planned for me. My God can save me from the things that you think are going to overcome me, from the things that you think are going to break me, from the things that you think are going to cause me to worship your god. My God is bigger than that, and he will never leave me or forsake me. So do what you can, because it's nothing. This is the unique hope that only the child of God has.
As we close, I want to tell you a story of two people in Rome, who had the same resolve. One is a guy named Polycarp. Polycarp was a servant, a follower of Christ. And as an aged man, Polycarp was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities in the amphitheater. And he was told, have respect for your old age. Swear by the genius of Caesar.
In other words, Polycarp, say that Caesar is Lord. And Polycarp said, look, 86 years, I've served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King, who saved me? While Polycarp was taken to the stake to be burned, and the guard who was about to torch him said, I don't want to burn you, old man. The fire will be hot. And Polycarp's reply was, not as hot as the fire that they will experience who reject my Lord Jesus Christ.
The soldier lit the fire, and the fire encircled Polycarp. But we're told, in Church history, that the flames did not touch him as he sang praises to God. And it drove the Roman authorities to be so angered that the flames weren't burning him and that he was still worshipping God, that they thrust him through with a spear. And the blood from his body extinguished the flames. And he continued worshipping God. Now, eventually, he did die. But he went to heaven. And he died exactly as he had lived. He died well, because he went to be with the Lord.
We have another story from Church history of a Christian who was persecuted by Rome. And the emperor said to him, give up Christ. If you don't, I'll banish you. And the Christian replied, you cannot banish me from Christ, for God says that I will never leave you or forsake you. The ruler said, I'll confiscate your property. The Christian said, my treasures are laid up in heaven, and you can't touch them.
The emperor said, I'll kill you. And the Christian said, I've been dead to the world in Christ for 40 years. My life is hid with Christ in God. You can't touch it. The emperor, so frustrated, turned to some of the members of his court and said in disgust, what can you do with such a fanatic?
Man, let those same words be said of you and I. Let the world look at our lives and say, what can we do with them? What can we do with them? Their faith is so strong. What can we do with them? How can we hurt them?
As we close, look at verse 28. Verse 28. "Nebuchanezzar spoke, saying, blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. And they have frustrated the king's word and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any God except their own God."
Romans 6 tells us, don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you yield yourself to? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego yield themselves to worship no God but the one true God. As we close, my question for you is, who do you yield your body to, the crowd or the Christ? What heat will you yield to? When the heat of the crowd gets turned up in your life and tries to melt you into its mold, will you go with it? Or will you, like Rach, Shach, and Benny, rise through the heat and make it through the furnace?
Some yield to sensual pleasure, sexual looseness, drugs, others to selfishness. But we should present ourselves to God. Church, I challenge you. It's time to rise through the heat. It's time to stand up in a world that doesn't like the way we live. Amen?
Will you stand with me as we pray? Lord God, we stand as believers in you, recognizing that your plans for us are a lot better and a lot stronger than the evil plans that the world has for us. And Lord, while the world wants to bend us, break us, and melt us into its mold, Lord, you want to make us into something new, something beautiful, something glorious, something that will bring your truth and your glory to a dark and sad world.
And so God, we ask that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit, that you would prepare us for the task that you have set before us, that you would give us the resolve to not dissolve, the strength to challenge the world system. And Lord, that you would give us the faith to make the right decisions, even the small decisions, even when it feels like no one's watching, even when it feels like it's not going to hurt anybody, even when it feels like nobody will know, Lord, help us make the right decisions. Help us live for you and walk with you. In Jesus' name, we pray. And everyone who agreed said.
What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying his word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ. For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.