************ Sermon on Daniel 3:28 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 25, 2006

Daniel 3:19-30
Daniel 3:28
"Nebuchadnezzar's Hypocrisy"

Topic: Hypocrisy
Index: 2994-2995
Date: 6/2006.101

Years ago in Germany there was a young Jewish boy who admired his father and sought to imitate his father's acts of piety and devotion as prescribed by the Jewish religion. This father was zealous in attending worship and instruction and demanded the same from his children. While the boy was a teenager the family was forced to move to another town in Germany. After the move the father announced to the family that they were going to join the local Lutheran church. When the stunned family asked why, the father explained that all the leading families in the community belonged to the Lutheran church and it was good for business to also join. The youngster, of course, was bewildered and confused. His deep disappointment soon gave way to anger and a kind of intense bitterness that plagued him throughout his life.
He left Germany and went to England to study. He sat daily at the British Museum formulating his ideas and composing a book. In that book he introduced a new life and worldview and conceived of a movement that was designed to change the world. In the book he dismissed religion as an "opiate for the masses" which the world is better off without. The man's name is Karl Marx and the system is Communism.
Thank God that events in Eastern Europe over the last 15 years have thoroughly discredited the system invented by this bitter man. Yet, because of the hypocrisy of his father billions of people in our world have had to suffer for over 45 years under the tyranny of Marx's godless Communism.

Hypocrisy, dear people, is always dangerous. In my years of ministry I have met more than one person who refuses to come to church or is thinking of quitting the church because, they say, the church is full of hypocrites. But it isn't just fellow church members or potential members who are damaged by the hypocrisy of God's people. Probably the greatest victims are our children and youth who always see right through us when we say one thing and do another. Who knows what lasting damage this does to them? We can only pray that they do not become bitter and angry like Karl Marx.

I Nebuchadnezzar's Hypocrisy
A When we turn to Daniel 3 we see great hypocrisy from Babylon's heathen dictator, King Nebuchadnezzar. He praises God with his mouth but, as it soon becomes clear, not with his heart.

Imagine the scene: all the officials of the Babylonian Empire were assembled together for the dedication of King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. This was an image erected to the honor of human power, human might, human wisdom; all lips were to declare, "Glory to man!" But now the one who organized and decreed all this idolatry – when he sees how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have been saved from the flames – says, "Glory to God!" "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ..." The same man who had given the command that all nations were to kneel in worship before the statue suddenly changed his mind. Now he declares:
(Dan 3:29) Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.

Imagine that! A festival of dedication for a heathen idol ends in an acknowledgment of God. Imagine that! An orgy of idol worship ends up honoring the name of God. What a triumph, a glorious triumph, for the kingdom of God. It has been shown, it has been proven, that the LORD God is the one only true God and all other gods are false and impotent. Not only that, but because it is the king who has spoken a word of acknowledgment the name of the LORD is now recorded in the archives and records of heathen Babylon.

B "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego." The king's hallelujah, unfortunately, is suspect. These beautiful words come from his mouth but not from his heart. Not too much later we see and hear Nebuchadnezzar again singing his old refrain of "Glory to Man! Glory to Me!" He was walking on the roof of his royal palace one day, he looked over the city stretched below him, and he said,
(Dan 4:30) "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"

In King Nebuchadnezzar we see a man going from one god to another. He worships any god that strikes his fancy. Now that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego has done something amazing, Nebuchadnezzar decides to make a place for Him in his pantheon of gods. Nebuchadnezzar does say, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ... ," but he does so not out of true devotion but only out of self-interest. After all, who knows what advantages friendship with this God of the Jews might bring? I clipped an article in 1990 and have been waiting to use it ever since:
Topic: Hypocrisy
Index: 2994-2995
Date: 6/2006.101
Title: Two-Faced

In the mid 1970s West Bengali authorities banned tiger-hunting. During the next ten years that endangered population doubled in size to approximately 600 animals. But the thriving tigers also killed more than 500 people during those 10 years, prompting demands by nearby villagers for a resumption of hunting. When wildlife officials determined that the man eating tigers always attacked from the rear, they began urging villagers to attach face masks to the backs of their heads when they entered the forests. Since 1987 not a single two-faced villager has been attacked, while 30 villagers who ventured into the woods without such masks were devoured by tigers.
Nebuchadnezzar, like the villagers, wants to protect himself so he puts on two faces: the worship of the one only true God and the worship of his host of false gods.

The worst thing about Nebuchadnezzar is that he did not practice what he preached; what he did was not in harmony with what he said. It is true that the king did decree some very harsh measures: he ruled that anyone who speaks against the LORD God would be cut to pieces. But he never got around to doing the very first thing he should have done after bringing his hallelujah, his praise, to God! He never destroyed the statue.

There, standing before King Nebuchadnezzar is the enormous, gleaming statue. It was at the foot of this unholy statue that Nebuchadnezzar sang his song of praise to God. Hallelujah! For the sake of God he was ready to destroy everybody and everything – except for the statue he had made.

If I was to confront Nebuchadnezzar this is what I would have to say:
Nebuchadnezzar, your hallelujah is suspect. They are but words, and talk is cheap. There would be no better way for you to honor God than by destroying that statue, but that's just what you won't do. You are ready to strike out at anyone who dares to speak against God, but you don't get angry at yourself for leaving that blasphemous statue standing there untouched and undisturbed.

This is an old story, a story that has been repeated many times throughout history. In the New Testament, for instance, we read about another king – King Herod. King Herod heard John the Baptist preach. He even liked to listen to him. But he never got around to doing the one thing that needed doing most of all – namely, sending away his unlawful wife Herodias (Mk 6:14-29). There is nothing easier than shouting hallelujah, and there is nothing harder than smashing the statue on the plains of Dura.
Topic: Hypocrisy
Index: 2994-2995
Date: 6/2006.101
Title: Seat Belts

A man dropped by the city newspaper of Harlingen, Texas and said that he was from Cleveland, Ohio. His name was Donald Richards. He was visiting the Valley. He was crusading there and everywhere, he said, "to encourage more motorists to use their seat belts." He said that his wife had been killed in a comparatively minor car accident because she did not have her lap strap buckled. Mr. Richards said, "You newspaper people should do more to encourage the proper use of seat belts!"
One year later The Valley Morning Star of Harlingen, Texas received word that Crusader Donald Richards was involved in a head-on car crash. His head went through the wind shield and he was dead. State police say that he was not wearing his seat belt.
Hypocrisy, not doing what we preach, not living out our faith, is so easy for anyone of us to fall into.
This reminds me of the story John & Ellen told me about their recent trip to Hawaii. There is a beach known world-wide for its turtles. John & Ellen went to Turtle Beach and this environmentalist was yelling at them and all the other tourists that they should stay at least 100 yards away from the turtles. Meanwhile, she was standing closer to the turtles then any of the tourists and she built her home only 20 or 30 feet away from the turtles.

C Like Nebuchadnezzar we can say beautiful words, we can give testimonies, we can confess our faith; but beautiful words mean nothing, count for nothing, are but hot air, if they are not lived out.

Is the Lord delighted if we join Nebuchadnezzar in singing, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego," but continue in our old ways of sin and make no effort to change? Is the Lord happy if we keep our statues yet sing our praises to Him? Of course not! Again I say, we must live out our faith, we must practice what we preach, we must not be hypocrites.

What is true for individuals is also true for churches. Churches too must live out the faith, practice what they preach, and not be hypocritical. In the Christian Reformed Church we pride ourselves on being biblical, at taking God at His Word, at believing in Scripture as the infallible guide for doctrine and life. That's what we believe and we have some beautiful statements about this in the Belgic Confession of Faith. Yet, what is our practice?

You all have heard the decision of Synod 2006 to remove the word "male" as a condition for church office. Synod made this decision because it gives women the same privileges as men and acknowledges the equality of the sexes. Yet, the issue here is not privilege or equality. The issue is faithfulness to what the Bible says.

What does the Bible say? It says men – husbands – are to be chosen to the office of elder and minister (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9); it says women are to be silent in the church – that is, they are not to proclaim the Word in an official worship service (1 Cor 14:33b-36; 1 Tim 2:9-15); and, it says that the husband is the spiritual head of the wife (Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18).

Do you see what Synod's decision does to Scripture? The decision of Synod makes the Christian Reformed Church like Nebuchadnezzar: we can make nice sounding noises about the infallibility and inspiration of Scripture, but we do not practice what we preach.

D In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives a warning to all hypocrites, to people like Nebuchadnezzar who do not live out their faith. We read there,
(Mt 7:21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
In other words, there is no room in the New Jerusalem for the hypocritical Nebuchadnezzars of our world. And, churches that persist in unfaithfulness will eventually have their lampstand removed from its place because they no longer live or shine for Jesus (Rev 2:5b).

II Living the Faith
A In Article 1 of the Belgic Confession of Faith Guido de Brès says,
We all believe in our hearts
and confess with our mouths
that there is a single
and simple
spiritual being,
whom we call God ...
Not just Guido de Brès but all of our spiritual fathers believed in their hearts and confessed with their mouths. And countless numbers of them, including Guido, paid for this with their blood. They lived out their faith and died for their faith; they were not hypocrites.

Most of the Christians I know are the exact same way: sincere believers who try to live out their faith, who try to practice what they preach, who are not hypocrites. And, I know there are thousands upon millions of sincere believers around the world. In many places it is dangerous for them to be a Christian, especially in Muslim lands; I would not dare to call them hypocrites.
Did you know, 452 Christians will be martyred today! As incredible as it seems, it's true. An average of 452 believers are killed every day for their faith.
That's around 165,000 Christians martyred each year!
These staggering statistics come from David Barrett, editor of World Christian Encyclopedia and a leading authority on Christianity world-wide.

B In Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we meet three young men who also live out their faith, who practice what they preach, who are not hypocrites. As Nebuchadnezzar says,
(Dan 3:28) Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ... They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
These three men were faithful unto death. And, God used their faithfulness to bring Him praise, honor, and glory on the plains of Dura. Their faithfulness under fire changes a heathen festival of idolatry into a song of praise to God.

C Now, very few of us – probably none of us – will be required to be faithful unto death like the three young men. Yet, we have jumped to the wrong conclusion if we think we don't need their faithfulness. You see, dying for the Lord requires faithfulness, but so does living for the Lord. In fact, it may even be easier to die for the Lord than to live for the Lord. To die for the Lord involves one simple decision: will I or won't I? But to live for the Lord involves thousands of little decisions in everyday life. And, in each one Satan is there tempting and luring and trying to make us give in a little bit here and a little bit there. It isn't easy to live for the Lord every day and in every way; yet, that is the sort of faithfulness God requires of us.

We, dear people, must strive to be faithful to the Lord in all things. We must not only confess with the mouth but we must also live out with our lives. That is true for me, that is true for you, that is true for the entire church and denomination.

The only question is this: are we faithful to the Lord, do we live out our faith, do we practice what we preach? Or, are we hypocrites?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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