Sermon series: Jesus' Life and Ministry
Connection to unit theme
As the kingdom arrived in power and authority to God's people through Jesus, the book of Daniel portrayed both the rival and real kingdoms of Jesus.
We've all known a sports fanatic at some point in our lives. There is a huge difference between a fan and a fanatic. The fan follows and roots for a team. The fanatic centers their life on everything about the team. While the fan enjoys watching the games, the fanatic allows the outcome of the games to influence and determine his emotions and well-being. In fact, the fanatic allows a team to influence live in four main ways: king, culture, people, and place.
The king is the team's coach or best player – the object of greatest attention and affection. The culture includes conversations, attire, and even decorations that adorn the home and automobile. The people are the close friends and other fanatics with whom they share the team culture. The place is the stadium, restaurant, or home theater where they gather to watch the team perform. Which teams in your area have the craziest fanatics? Tell your audience about your funniest story involving a fanatic. Show a couple of pictures or a video clip of sports fanatics.
Everyone on earth is a fanatic of something or someone without even necessarily being aware of it. God actually made us this way. We all have a king we love to live for, a culture we enjoy living within, a people we love living with, and a place we love going to most. In fact, those four things fit together and become our kingdom. But God created us for Jesus' kingdom!
I. The rival kingdom (Dan. 1:1-21)
The theme of the book of Daniel is a kingdom. It is one of the most misinterpreted books of the whole Bible. Many people only talk about Daniel in terms of obscure prophecies and numerical codes. Some readers take the intense narratives of Daniel and minimize them into mere children's stories. The truth is that Daniel is a powerful book that points us straight to the true King, Jesus.
Daniel found himself in another kingdom along with God's people (1:1-7). Although forced to live there as a captive servant, Daniel found in Babylon a kingdom that offered beauty to behold, treasures to attain, and pleasures to enjoy. Daniel was one of the few men the Babylonians chose as the best-looking, brightest, and most brilliant of the Israelites. This elite group was offered the delicacies of the kingdom as well as the finest education of that day.
Daniel and his closest friends denied themselves those foreign delicacies in order to remain covenantally pure for their ultimate King, their Lord (1:8-21). Therefore, God showed favor to them and blessed them above the rest. They were found to be in far greater health, in much deeper wisdom, and in overall better standing than those who enjoyed the king's menu. Daniel's and his friends' obedience saved them through good-as-dead experiences. If not for the grace of God, he and his friends should have died in a fiery furnace together (Dan. 3), and Daniel should have torn to shreds by the mouths of ferocious lions (Dan. 4).
Application: Like Daniel, we find ourselves in the midst of another kingdom, the kingdom of this world. We are surrounded by the culture, people, and place of the world's king, Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). Every Christian must take a prayerful step back to contemplate how this worldly kingdom affecting our hearts. For which kingdom are you truly living: the kingdom of this world or the kingdom of heaven? Who is your true king? Who are your favorite people? What culture do you enjoy most? Where do you love to be? Those questions define which kingdom you claim as your own.
II. The real kingdom (Rev. 21:1-4)
The point of Daniel's story is not that we should "dare" to be like him, but that we should look to Jesus as Daniel's life points us to Him. Daniel remained covenantally faithful to God's laws through obedience. This ultimately led him to near-death experiences from which God saved him by grace. In a far better, more glorious, and perfect way, Jesus remained fully sinless and obedient His Father's laws, which ultimately led Him to His death for sin and resurrection for eternal life!
The real kingdom is ultimately all about the real King, Jesus Christ. Both heaven and earth will be renewed as they become Jesus' glorified kingdom for all eternity (21:1). The bride of Jesus (the church) is the unified citizenry of the real kingdom over whom Jesus will reign forever (21:2). The culture of the new kingdom will be a perfect, loving relationship between God and humanity for the rest of eternity along with extreme joy (21:3-4).
Application: It is time for all of us to do a heart check by asking ourselves this simple question: "Is Jesus my real King?" Do you listen to, love, look to, want to please, serve, and become like Jesus as your King? Do you enjoy His culture by living His ways, obeying His commands, and fulfilling His Word? Do you love his people by growing in community, meeting their needs, and ministering with them? Do you love His place by being faithful to your church and observing creation as His handiwork? Is Jesus' kingdom your kingdom?
Another way of putting all of this is, "Are you a fan or a fanatic?" A mere fan of Jesus likes to go to church, read an uplifting passage of Scripture, and even help a good friend. But a fanatic of Jesus centers life on His kingdom.