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God’s NOT dead, but you might be!
I heard an advertisement for a movie the other day on the radio, “God’s Not Dead 2,” and it got me thinking-not about the quality of Christian movies, but about us in America.
Well, I’ve been teaching the book of Daniel this semester. You’re probably familiar with the story, usually pictured in children’s Bibles and taught in Sunday schools, of Daniel in the lion’s den. But there’s a story in Daniel that you might not be familiar with about the last king of Babylon. As you might expect, since he was a king, he was pretty full of himself. Despite the fact that there was a vast army outside the city gates trying to get in, this king, Belshazzar, had no fears. Instead, he held a huge party and invited a thousand of his closest friends. All of his wives and concubines were there to raise the level of the party, and they ate and drank copious amounts of wine. Belshazzar started feeling a buzz, but the party seemed a little off track, so he tried to spice things up by going toe to toe with the God of Israel.
He ordered his slaves to bring in all of the vessels his grandfather had carried back to Babylon when he conquered Jerusalem. After they were brought from the store room, the king commanded all of the gold and silver vessels, holy to the God of Israel, to be filled with wine and offered to his guests. Then Belshazzar stood up before the partying throng and began using the holy vessel to praise his idols. His grandfather defeated God and took his treasure, and now those treasures belonged to him. His grand city, his immense wealth, his army and the fortifications he’s made are impenetrable. No one, not even a god could take him down.
The handwriting on the wall…
One drunken boast followed another, until suddenly, a man’s hand appeared, writing three words on the wall. Freaked out, Belshazzar screamed for his advisors to come and interpret the meaning of the three words. In his terror, he promised a third place in his kingdom to anyone who could tell him the meaning of the dire message.
His mother heard the commotion in the banqueting hall and hurried to make sure her precious son was not hurt-after all, the city was surrounded by powerful armies. She arrived in the immense hall and saw the handwriting on the wall. Quick-witted, she put it all together and immediately recommended that Daniel, one of the Jewish captives be called in to help. The queen assured her son that Daniel had been of great help to her father, Nebuchadnezzar, when he was king.
The party’s over!
So Daniel was called to join the assembled guests. Belshazzar slathered praise on Daniel and promised him third place in his kingdom if he would interpret the message on the wall. Disdainfully, Daniel refused the praise and offer, but interpreted the handwriting on the wall. He gave the inebriated king a history lesson, a theology lesson and a reading lesson. Like a skilled prosecutor, Daniel relayed the king’s offense: Belshazzar knew how the almighty God of Israel had proved Himself to his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, but had exalted himself above God anyway. The bottom line in the prophetic words written supernaturally on the wall meant that Belshazzar’s kingdom was lost to the Medes and Persians.
The room erupted in mocking laughter, and the king ordered his servants to clothe Daniel in a purple robe and give him a gold necklace. After declaring Daniel the third ruler, Belshazzar returned to his drunken revelry. That very night the Medes and Persians miraculously entered Babylon through an unlocked gate, and Belshazzar was killed.
What does that story have to do with us in America?
Like that proud king, we sit in our comfortable homes believing we’re protected from outside deadly forces. We see the devastating earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and fires on a screen in our homes and feel bad for those who suffer, but secure in all we possess. Like that proud king, we know about God. We’ve heard stories from our elders. Some of us even believe them-give them mental affirmation, but the facts about God haven’t ever gotten to the point of us believing in Him.
Like that proud King, we value the idols in our lives and boast in them; our positions, our titles, our possessions, our wealth, our talents. We live like that king, eating and drinking and partying, without reasoning that this life has an end.
God always warns before He judges. He warned Belshazzar even before the handwriting was on the wall. Belshazzar knew the stories about the true God and many of us know enough about Jesus to know better than ignore the truth that God has revealed to us, both individually and as a nation.
This life is going to end and you only have this life to decide where you want to spend eternity. There’s no “highway to heaven,” but there is a Savior-Jesus Christ. There is a God who will hold each of us to account for all of our attitudes and actions-a God who is just and will judge everyone according to their deeds.
Think about that…
Listen, I wouldn’t trust my best five minutes to get me to heaven. If I’m honest with you, any book that holds a record of my offenses against a holy God would reach higher than the Empire State Building. It’s not just what I’ve done that’s wrong, but the good I’ve failed to do. I need a Savior. We all do.
Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven, because He doesn’t want us to go there. He saw our situation and He went to the cross to take care of our problem for us. It wasn’t nails that held the Son of God to the cross-it was His love.
God died for us because He loves us even in our mess and filth. As one wise saint has stated, God spelled out love in great big red letters that day:
God died, but He didn’t stay dead.
Jesus is alive. He conquered sin and death for us. I’m sure you’ve heard this said before:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus was clear that He is the ONLY way to heaven. He’s offering each of us the choice to take the gift He offers. For us, there’s no handwriting on the wall. It’s in a book. A book which for way too many of us sits neglected somewhere on a shelf, or in a drawer. God never sends judgment unless He warns, and His warning is in that book. In fact, He’s made multiple warnings in that book.
What makes us ignore the warnings God’s given us?
God’s not dead, but we are.
Jesus flatly declared that unless we put our trust in Him, we are spiritually dead. He clearly stated that unless we turn to Him in faith, we stand condemned already. As natural disasters increase, will we come to our senses and repent of our idolatry and self-aggrandizement? Or will we party on like Belshazzar, eating and drinking ourselves into a stupor while our kingdom falls?
God is not dead. He is alive.
My question is, “Are you?”