Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference 2012

20 Oct

Standing Up For God In A Hostile World

This was the 12th Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference (CABC).

Bishop Stephen opened by telling us that the Bible is the bedrock for how he starts the day. For +Stephen, the words “Let us pray” means, more and more, “Get out your Bible”. Praying the Scriptures is just as important as reading them, if not more so.
+Stephen tells us that his favourite verse in the Bible is John 6:68 where, in response to Jesus asking if the disciples are going to leave just as the crowd has, Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He says it speaks to him as a memory of his own conversion experience. He also says that his other favourite verse is Daniel 3:18 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, even if God does not save them from the furnace. He says that it speaks directly to our own lives now as we speak out against the threats of the modern world.

John Richardson then introduced us to our speaker, Andy Mason, who is a vicar in Battersea.

Session 1 – How to be distinctive/How to live

We had our first reading, Daniel chapter 1.

The world as it is and the world that the Church is called to inhabit are 2 very different places. The world around us is increasingly hostile to what the Church has to say. Very similar to the setting we find in Daniel 1. We see Nebuchadnezzar destroying all that Israel held holy, or stealing it and taking it back to his own land. Babylon was anti-God when it was created (Babel) and remains so at the time of Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar attempts to indoctrinate Daniel et al by teaching them how they should think and act, renaming them and feeding them new foods.

From this passage we learn 3 things:
1 – It is important to serve our pagan society.
Daniel worked for Babylon, serving the pagan king. This is not seen as a problem. Daniel is looking for the good of the empire that had conquered his country. The world outside does not have to be rejected. A Christians we are to see the good in the society we live in. We are not called to “build a bunker” and separate off. Christians in Roman times used to stay in the cities when they were hit by plagues, to bury the dead.

2 – Resolve to be distinctive.
Daniel resolved (put it upon his heart) to not eat the royal food. He chose to be distinctive. He draws a line to show he is different.
We are reminded about Jonathan Edwards and his 70 resolutions. He wrote these when he was 19 years old.
We need resolutions. We need to draw a line in the sand to show where the world stops and God remains.
Daniel did this early in his life and when it was both awkward and difficult. However he also did it in a reasonable fashion. He did not do it as though he was protesting, he was doing it to live differently.

3 – Know that God reigns.
In verse 2 we see that God is in control. He is the one that causes Israel to be “handed over” to Babylon. God is the one that looks after Daniel et al when they ask to change their diet. God is the one that gives them strength and wisdom. And they are only looking for what God has to offer. They choose to follow Him.
We have to remember that “Man does not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:4). We must look to live by the bread of life and follow God.
Following God does not mean that everything will go well. Daniel might have had a position of authority, but he nearly dies several times!
We also see that Daniel outlasts Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 21 we see that he is there until the first year of the reign on Cyrus. God’s reign is forever, it is eternal. The world will fade and die, God never will. We need to remember that the world and culture that we live in today is but a moment in time, that can change very quickly. But God never changes and is always there. Which is better to put our faith in?

Session 2 – How to be wise/How to keep spiritually sane

We had our second reading, Daniel chapter 4.

Everywhere we look we see examples, whether on a par with or to a lesser extent, of people being like Nebuchadnezzar, deciding that they run their life.

What this chapter shows us that no matter how much we think we might be in charge, at the end of the day to is God who is in charge.
God confounds the wise with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar so that they are unable to understand it. He has to turn to Daniel, the servant of God, to learn it’s meaning.
We see Nebuchadnezzar declare this at the end of the chapter, as he recognises that it is God who is in control.
This chapter shows us that we can all live in fantasy world, created by our own pride. That Babylonian pride, where we exalt ourselves above God, makes us lose our mind.

1 – Beware Babylonian pride
Nebuchadnezzar was a great general, a great leader and ruled a great empire. He is proud of all of this. He wakes in a sweat from a dream, even though he rules the largest empire ever seen before it. The wizards of his court can’t help him, so he has to turn to Daniel. The dream shows that he is overreaching himself and that he has forgotten where his power comes from.
He is told that he will lose all the things that he holds dear and that he will go from sheltering the beasts of the field to being one of those beasts finding shelter.
We have to ask ourselves if we are proud of things that are not us? How good are we at taking correction? How often does our mind turn what we are doing and get us thinking how good we are for doing it?
We also see that this passage shows God’s mercy to Nebuchadnezzar by sending messages of warning. We also see Daniel showing compassion as he warns Nebuchadnezzar of what will come. We are messengers to our world to talk about God’s love and mercy. We warn and we bring truth but we do it with mercy.

2 – Behold the Lord’s discipline
Verbal warnings are usually not enough. Pride makes us respond that it won’t happen to us. We see this in verse 28 where Nebuchadnezzar has clearly forgotten the warning and he declares his greatness, followed by God bringing him low both in a verbal and worldly sense.
We often forget that life is fragile, that it can break at any time. We forget to look after it.
Nebuchadnezzar does this and so God changes him to be on the outside as he already was on the inside.
The same can happen to us if we forget who is in control of our lives. We see this in the various scandals of recent years in our society.

However, judgement is not the end of the story. In verse 34 he declares God as King and his spiritual sanity is restored.

If we compare the Nebuchadnezzar example with that of Christ, we see that Christ came and put himself low. He became human and died on a cross and was then raised into Glory. Nebuchadnezzar built temples to himself, to raise himself up, and he was brought low.

Session 3 – Application in a hostile world/Questions -Andy Mason

Q1 – Service in a hostile world.
2 themes in Scripture, engagement and separateness (holiness). How do we put them together? Prayerfully and thoughtfully. Our influences from ministry we are under can impact. Our own temperament can also affect our choice withdrawing to boundary lines is not always helpful. Evangelism is not moralism.

Q2 – How do we set distinctives without coming across as people that just say no?
We are neither against everything nor for everything.
We WILL be misunderstood, we need to accept and expect this.
We need to be sure about why we are saying no.

Q3 – What about when we are looking to teach others (kids etc) about being distinctive?
Before we ask others to sacrifice, are we living a life of sacrifice? Modelling sacrifice teaches far more than words.
Kids need to know that Jesus is more important than football.

Q4 – Why does the world not learn that persecuting the Church doesn’t work?
Pride? They don’t think they are persecuting, they think the are reeducating them.
Why do we sin? W sin even though we know the Truth.
Satan. Principalities and powers.
The world doesn’t have the Word of God.

Q5 – Should we obey the laws of the land (re discrimination and sexuality) or should we put our beliefs above the law?
If someone comes into our house, would we ask them not to sin? Sin is sin.

Session 4 – Discipleship in the Church of England

The CofE needs deacons – servants. Acts 6.
People should not be “duffers”, but people full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit.
We need to look to serve the diocese so that we can bring the Gospel to the work of the Church.

Session 5 – How to get courage/How to live courageously – Andy Mason

Our final reading is Daniel chapter 6.

We need to manage our expectations if we are to have courage to live for Jesus Christ.

1 – Expect suffering
Satraps tried to find a reason to attack Daniel, but couldn’t. Daniel was a man of integrity. But he was not saved from suffering. Our integrity does not stop suffering.
The Satraps then look to create a reason to attack him. They target Daniel’s faith. Daniel suffers because he refused to stop praying to God. This should not mean that we have a persecution complex, but there are times when it will happen.
Daniel is now an OAP (70-90) but is still prepared to die for his faith.
The story is similar to chapter 3, but with a couple of differences:
a – Daniel is the victim of a conspiracy. It is a thought out, planned and set because they are against Daniel’s beliefs. It is against God’s people.
b – This is about leaving out something, rather than doing something wrong (omission, not commission). Daniel could have not prayed for a month and been fine. But Daniel’s personal holiness won’t allow this.
To pray in secret when prayer is allowed is fine. To pray in secret when prayer is under pressure is saying that you fear the King more than God.
When you are inflexible about your faith, accusations arise. We are called to full-blooded discipleship!

2 – Expect rescue
Darius – Powerful king with no power to rescue Daniel.
Daniel – Faith in a God who can save.
Darius is unable to control the situation he finds himself in.
God saves Daniel through his weakness. He doesn’t stop Daniel from being thrown with the lions, but stops the lions from harming him.
Daniel prayed to God because it made sense. I makes sense to pray to God because He rescues and saves!
The message of this story is NOT that if we have faith then nothing bad will happen! It is a pointer to Jesus, who went into the “ultimate lion’s den” for us. Whatever else happens to us, if we are reborn in Christ then we a already rescued! We lack nothing!

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