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Redemption and The Work of our Hands (Vol 17) - Cultural Transformation #1

Sunday English Service - 04 MAR 18


Please turn with me to Jeremiah chapter 29, Jeremiah 29. We've been teaching about work as you know in the first part we taught about why work, we showed you how God has designed us for work. And showed you the reason why we work, so that we may bring glory to God, express our gifts and talents, and abilities. And produce what God has intended for us to produce in this world, for His glory. So that He can be seen in all our work, so we saw about why we work. And then we looked at how through the sin and fall, work became a toil, difficult. And then we came to this third portion which we're in right now, which is about the redemption and the work of our hands. 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to remove the curse and the sin, and to bring us into the blessing. He has done it and how does it affect the work today, is the thing that we've been talking about for the last several weeks. And in that, we talked about the concept of vocational calling, because before the Protestant movement began, for about a thousand years the church went in the wrong direction in so many ways. For about a thousand years, particularly in this whole concept of calling. They said calling is only about being called for ministry, full time ministry. It's about going to a monastery, becoming a monk, a priest and so on and serving God in that way. Only such people are called, only those jobs therefore have dignity and meaning. All other jobs have to be done, someone has to do it, so somebody does it. But they don't really have a great meaning and purpose, all of the jobs do not carry any sense of dignity with it.

Now just imagine what work would be like when there is no dignity about it, there is no particular meaning or purpose to it. So for a thousand years there was stagnation, no growth because people were not really excited about their work. Unless you're engaged in ministry doing something, you don't even enjoy the dignity that work should bring to you. One of the reasons we work is because work is supposed to bring us dignity, even that is undercut. So since there was no meaning and purpose in work, and you just worked because it needs to be done, work was done at a mediocre level and excellence was not found in it. But once the Protestant Reformation came and Martin Luther began to unearth the truth concerning work, vocational work, and began to see calling as something that has reference to every single person, he began to interpret calling in this way. He said, even all the other kinds of jobs that we do in this work, apart from the ministry, any kind of job that may be, even a housewife attending to her children and her household, is fulfilling a calling. God has specifically called that person for that purpose and has given the abilities and talents and gifts to do that job. This is the way he interpreted the word calling from the Bible.

Now that brought what we call the dignity to work. Every work now carried dignity, everyone felt very meaningful in working. Everyone felt that they have certain gifts and abilities, called to do some things, God has really called them to do something. Not only are priests and people who are engaged in ministry are working for God, everybody's working doing God's work. Everybody is doing something to fulfill God's call upon their lives. So this has become a life changing thing for so many people, so through that a whole society... a prosperous, successful society which had a totally different attitude about work, came about.

Now today I want to talk about the core purpose of our work, we may do different kinds of work, but what is that one underlying core purpose of our work. The core purpose of our work I would say, according to the scriptures and the Protestant teachers taught this, is that we must bring back everything or restore everything to the condition that it ought to be, that God designed it to be. It has to be restored because through sin and fall, even all of creation and everything about creation has been affected. And therefore now work, though we may do different kinds of work, I preach and you do some other work, everyone does different kinds of work. Our works... the professions are different, but our work is basically the same. It is dealing with this fact, that is we are trying to bring the entire society and culture, back to the condition that God first designed it to be.

Now in order to understand that I wanted to remind you of one thing that I taught earlier, that is the gospel is a four-part gospel. It's very important because in the recent times, in the last 100 years or so they've reduced it to a two-part gospel. Where they believe gospel is only about two things, that is - man is a sinner, Jesus is the Savior. So man needs salvation, Jesus provided salvation, so through Jesus you have forgiveness of sins, and so when you die you can go to heaven. This is the gospel they say. Wrong, the Protestant teachers since the reformation have taught that the gospel has four parts not just two parts. It's not just man is a sinner and sin is the problem, and that Jesus is the answer. It has four parts, what are the four parts? First is God created everything, and the creation of God is good. This is something that the Reformers taught very strongly, that the creation is good. In the first chapter of Genesis the word good occurs seven times, six days of creation, each day at the end of the creation God calls what He created good. And then, after he created everything, he looks at everything together and then He says, it's very good. So seven times the word good comes. The word good is very important in the first chapter. Creation is good, everything that God created is good and to be enjoyed by man, and to be received by man, and to be used by man in a proper way. This is the first part of the gospel.

The second part of the gospel is that what God created entered into a state of ruin, through sin and the fall. The creation is good, but sin is bad, it corrupted everything, ruined everything. And therefore the creation itself suffered from sin and the fall. So first is creation, second is the ruining of God's creation, including man, all of creation is ruined because of sin. The third thing in the gospel, is that God sent His son Jesus, to die on the cross and to be risen again to save mankind and the creation. And that is the third thing, redemption is the third thing. And the fourth thing and a very important thing, and without which salvation will not be complete or the gospel can never be complete. And that is, all things, not only should man be saved and the sin be forgiven, salvation or gospel is not just about man's sin and just the forgiveness of man's sin. It is about the restoration of all of creation to its originally intended condition. Restoration of all things, that's the fourth thing.

Romans chapter 8, if you read from verse 18 onwards all the way to the end, you read about the whole creation is groaning for its redemption to come. Even creation has experienced the fall, it's not what it was meant to be. The trees are not bringing forth fruit the way that it was originally intended to. The lands are not yielding the crops that it should yield. So the creation itself has suffered as a result of the fall, it's not functioning to the optimum level. So the creation knows its fall and has experienced the fall, it is groaning, the Bible says, so that it can come back to the condition that God had intended it to be. And also in that same passage in Romans 8 it says, that our body is going to be restored back to the original condition, because of sin the body has entered into a state of death. Today dying and death has become a fact of life, but when all things are restored back, one of the things that is going to happen finally, is that our body itself will become an immortal body, where it will not die. And all of creation will come back to its perfect original condition. That is when the salvation or gospel, the salvation is complete is complete, the scheme of salvation is complete. That's why Jesus said in talking about the last days and the signs of the end times, He said, when you see all these things happen, lift up your eyes and see, your salvation draweth nigh. What did He mean when He said, your salvation draweth nigh? We're already saved, our sins are forgiven, in that way salvation is already there, already we are redeemed. In what way is salvation yet to come? See there is a part of salvation that has already happened, there is another part that has yet to happen. The yet to happen salvation is the salvation of our body, where our body is to be redeemed from the death, the state of death that it's in, and the creation must be brought back to its original condition. So the restoration of all things is the fourth thing. So let me mention the four parts of the gospel, creation, sin and the fall, thirdly redemption, and restoration of all things.

So this thing that I'm talking about today, the core purpose of our work, is about the restoration of all things, that's very important. And for that I'm choosing Jeremiah chapter 29, and I'm gonna deal with this passage because this passage illustrates beautifully this truth that we're gonna talk about today. It shows how that our work, no matter what kind of work it is and what kind of work we're involved in, it has to do with that restoration. What is the restoration? That is the bringing back of that original condition in which God created everything. So let's turn to Jeremiah 29 and let me start reading from verse 4. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon. Build houses, dwell in them; plant gardens, eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters--that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. Now let me explain the background of this.

You've all heard about the Babylonian captivity of the people of Israel, the people of Israel, after they came out of Egypt and so on that big experience of being a slave and then brought out with a great deliverance under Moses, came into the Promised Land and so on. But again in the 6th century BC, the Babylonians took them captive. The reason for the captivity, the Bible states is the backslidden condition of the people of Israel. They wouldn't listen to God, they would not obey Him, God warned them so many times, He told them exactly what was going to happen, but they will not listen. So they were taken captive by the Babylonian armies, they lost the battle and they had to be carried away as captives. This is something that happened in the 6th century, before Christ.

Now, I can imagine today we hear about Syrian refugees stationed in so many cities of Europe, trying to enter these countries and so on. And they're temporarily stationed there in tents and refugee centres, in thousands I believe. I saw a television program where they're housed by the thousands, trying to settle down, trying to put them in different countries and so on. So I can think of what the scene looked like, when these captives were taken to Babylon from Jerusalem. I can imagine the Babylonian city, and outside the city is the great temporary shelters put up, tents put up for these Israelites that have been brought in as captives. The Babylonians were invading other countries, and when you're a small nation often times you're invaded and you're looted. All your property is lost and you lose your men and women, especially the ones that are young and talented and can be useful, they're taken as slaves by these invading armies. This was very normal in those days. So the Babylonians took them, they destroyed the city of Jerusalem, they killed so many people. The temple was desecrated literally, even the vessels in the temple were taken. You know such disrespect was shown to this place of worship, and to the city of God, the city of Jerusalem which the people cherished and thought so much about. Their hearts were literally crushed by what happened, they've lost so many lives. Plus, the best among the men and women of Israel, were taken as captives to Babylon. And there they're stationed, I can imagine in tents outside of the city of Babylon. You can imagine the state of mind of these refugees, captives. They've been forcibly taken from their homeland by an invading army, so how would you feel if you're forcibly taken? You'll hate the invader. Their cities have been sacked, their families murdered, their sacred place of worship has been destroyed. They are bitter towards their captors and they're ready to rise up and fight and get back to their own countries. But they're not able to do it because Babylonians are so powerful, they're caught with nowhere to go. This is the scene of all these Israelites living in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC.

One day, in that state and condition, one day they receive a letter from Jerusalem. Remember some people were still in Jerusalem, not everyone was taken captive. Particularly the Babylonians took only the best out of the Israelites as captives so that they could use them, they didn't want to take everybody and keep feeding them there you know. They took the best so that they'll be useful for their purposes. So some people were left behind, one of them was the prophet Jeremiah. And he writes a letter and sends it to the people that have been taken as captives. And it is from that letter we just read just now. And what is the letter saying? Verse 4 says that this is written to the people who've been carried away as captives to Babylon. And what does the letter say? Listen to this, he says, Build houses, dwell in them. Now these people are so heart crushed, ready to go back to their own land, hoping for freedom, liberty, that God would somehow deliver them and that they can get back to their nation. But prophet writes and says build houses and live in them, he's talking about settling down there. And he tells them, plant gardens and eat of it. And then he says, take wives, beget sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. In other words, go and keep arranging marriages, conducting marriages, go on living your normal life. Go on working, go on building houses, go on arranging marriages for your children, so that you may be increased there, and not be diminished. Increased in number he says, and then he says, And seek the peace of the city where I've caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Now this is the hardest thing for these people to take, they hate the Babylonians because they invaded their country, destroyed their land, destroyed the temple, brought them as captives. Now the prophet is writing from Jerusalem, telling the captives, pray for this land into which you've been carried away as captive. Pray to the Lord for it, why? Pray for its peace, because inits peace you will have peace. In other words, if that country where you've been carried captive enjoys peace, then you will have peace. These are very important words because they're in a foreign land, in a culture where people worship different Gods, where people live differently, the Babylonians were known for their riotous living, everything bad they're known for. Babylon is known for a place that is evil in every way, and the Israelites hated it. They are God's covenant people and they thought, "My God, how can this happen to me? I am coming and living in such a culture, among such a civilization! How am I supposed to live here? How am I supposed to work here? How am I supposed to exist here?" And lo and behold the prophet is writing saying build houses, plant gardens, eat of them, dwell in the houses, and pray, he says. And conduct marriages for your children, and then he says, pray that the Lord will bless that land into which you've been taken captive, because your prosperity depends or your peace depends on its peace. Hardest thing for them to take.

The key thing in this whole passage is the word peace, he says, seek the peace of the city, where I've caused you to be carried away. That's the key, the peace of the city. The word peace is a tremendous word you know, it comes from the word Shalom as you know in Hebrew. Even Christians are very familiar with the word Shalom; it's a Hebrew word, it means peace. And that's the word that is used here and translated here in English as peace. What is peace? It's a very far more comprehensive word than what it looks like. It's a word that has very rich meaning, when you go to Israel there's... I've not been to Israel by the way, they say... they greet everybody saying Shalom you know. It's a very important word and you need to know the meaning of it. There's a great Bible scholar who gives the meaning of it, and listen to the meaning. He says, "It's the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation, in justice, fulfillment, and delight." Now this guy is a theologian, so writes in that way, so let me make it very simple. He says, this is peace, what is peace? He says it's the webbing together, webbing together it's basically putting together or stitching so to speak, together of various things, what are the various things? God, human beings, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Putting together God, human beings, and all creation, in a situation where everything exists in justice, fulfillment, and delight. He's talking about a society, where God, human beings, and all of creation exist in a harmonious manner, put together in such a way in a situation of justice, fulfillment, and delight. And then he goes on, he says Shalom means universal flourishing, what is universal flourishing? Universal flourishing simply means that everything is well, universal is everything, flourishing is everything flourishes, everything is good. These theologians write like that, universal flourishing is simply its peace is a state and condition where there is universal flourishing. That means there is nothing that is bad in it, everything is well.

This other preacher that I know, went to Israel, an American, and he came back and he had found... he was excited because he had found the meaning for the word Shalom there because tourists are greeted with the word [inaudible] there. The hotel obviously had printed a brochure explaining what Shalom means. And he found it very meaningful, he said, "They say Shalom means nothing missing, nothing broken." And he found it so interesting, he never thought of it like that. Shalom means nothing missing, nothing broken, so when they greet one another saying Shalom what they're saying is may there be nothing missing, and nothing broken. In other words, may there be no shortage of any good thing, may there be nothing wrong with you, may everything be well with you, may there be universal flourishing, may everything be well and alright with you. That's what Shalom means, it's universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. That means everything is well, wholeness is that everything is in one piece as it originally was meant to be. And delight simply means that there is joy and gladness about it. And then he continues and says, "A rich state of affairs in which the natural needs are satisfied, and natural gifts fruitfully employed." Now I find this very interesting, this guy is not from AFT. He says a rich state of affairs, in other words what is peace? He's a big theologian you know, he's not fooling around, he's not messing around with words, he's very pointed. He says, Shalomis a rich state of affairs, what does he mean? He means where everything good is in abundance and plenty, that's what he refers to as rich state of affairs. Shalom is a rich state of affairs, in which natural needs are satisfied. That means every need, natural need of every person is fully satisfied, that's the rich state of things. What does he mean, every natural need is satisfied? That means nobody's hungry, nobody's without clothes, nobody's naked, nobody's without a good place to live, nobody's lacking anything. All the natural needs are satisfied.

And then it's very interesting here because we're talking about work, he says, "And natural gifts fruitfully employed." Very interesting, natural gifts fruitfully employed. In other words, he says where there is Shalom there'll be a rich state of things where all natural needs of every person will be met. And where every natural gift of every person will find fruitful employment. That means every person is gifted, every person has a certain ability and gift, naturally given to him through birth God has put something inside that man. And as he grows up, that person must discover his gifts and there must be a place in that society where there is an opportunity for the expression of those gifts, for the use of those gifts in a fruitful life.

Hello, so according to this man, who's a great expert with words and so on, and Christian teaching, the Old Testament teaching. He says "Shalom is a rich state of things where every need of every person is met. There is nothing missing, nothing broken, and every gift of man, every natural gift that God has endowed that man with, is able to find employment. It is used in a meaningful way, in a productive way, through a work that that person does." Now convert it into ordinary words, for ordinary citizens of any nation like us. It means a nation which has peace, that's what this person's talking about. Pray for the peace of that nation, when that nation has peace you will have peace. So what does he mean? He means when any nation has peace, that nation will be a nation in which you will find that God, human beings, creation, justice, fulfillment, and delight will be woven together, webbed together. It will be a society where there'll be universal flourishing, where everything will be right, everything will be in the right condition. There'll be wholeness and delight, and there'll be a rich state of affairs, and two things will be there and that is that rich state of affairs, every need of every person, every natural need will be met. No one will be hungry, no one will be naked, no one will lack a place to live. And every natural gift will be fruitfully employed, that every young person born and raised in this society, grows up and realizes his gifts, or not only realizes his gifts and ability but also will find a place of employment where he can fruitfully use those gifts and live through it. That's the society that enjoys peace, Shalom.

Hello, now some people are looking at me saying you're slowly becoming a politician aren't you? No, I don't have any plans of becoming a politician, I'm talking about any nation in this world. If it's going to be a nation with Shalom, what is Shalom? Shalom is the original condition that was there in the garden of Eden, when God made man. When God envisioned a society, a culture, He had Shalom in mind, He didn't have any mess in mind, He didn't have lack in mind, He didn't have want in mind, He didn't have confused society in mind, He didn't have a torn society in mind. See after the sin and fall, this society that must be webbed together God, human being, creation, justice, rightness, abundance of every rich resources, all put together in a healthy manner, joined together, has come unravelled. That's what has happened through the fall. It must belong together, webbed together, stitched together, belong together, but it has come apart. It was not so when God made the earth and put man there, it was a Shalom situation. Man never lacked anything, no good thing was lacking, nothing was broken, nothing was missing, it was a Shalom world. What a wonderful word Shalom is, you know.

In the Garden of Eden there was Shalom in the first two chapters. That's why the first two chapters of the Bible are very important because it tells me what kind of world God wanted originally. What kind of world did God envision? He wanted a world of Shalom described by the words of this great man here. The words that I find very useful to understand, every single word must be gone into, it's so meaningful. A rich state of things where every need, natural need of every person is met, where every gift is fruitfully employed. A condition where everything is woven, webbed together, God, man, creation, justice, rightness of everything, is brought together to function together in harmony, that's Shalom. That's the first two chapters of Genesis, that's why first two chapters are important. It tells me without any doubt, what kind of world God intended and what kind of life God intended for us. Last two chapters of Revelation also is important, because it tells me when everything is restored back to its perfect condition again, when the end comes, and the restoration of all things is complete, what it will be like. That's what it's called heaven, the last two chapters. So the first two chapters tells me how it originally was, last two chapters tells me what it will be like in the end when God gets through redeeming the whole of creation and everything. And we are living right in between, and we must get our idea of what life ought to be and what we are supposed to do here, through our work and through our life here, what the church is meant to accomplish here. The church is meant to play a part in this redemption, where it works for God through the various professions that we're engaged in to bring back all of creation to its original state and condition. Wherever we go, wherever we engage in any kind of work, we must be agents of this Shalom. We must be people trying to bring back justice, we must be people that must bring back fulfillment, delight. We must be people that bring about a society where there will be a rich state of things where every natural need of man is met, where every natural gift of every person is fruitfully employed. Are you there?

So whatever work we do, I'm a preacher, that's my work. You may be a doctor, engineer, lawyer, teacher, businessman, whatever, it doesn't matter what you are by way of your profession, we're all God's people working for God, called by God, endowed with gifts and abilities by God to do something in this world. And what are we doing? Our work, the core of our work is... the core purpose of our work is that we must bring the Shalom back. We must bring everything back to this Shalom condition. How many of you can remember this Shalom condition? Whenever you see a confused world remember that's not what God wanted. That's why we must pray for our nation, that's why whichever nation you are from you must pray for your nation, why? The confusion, the situation, the restlessness, the violence and all the lack and want and insufficiency, and all of those things are not Shalom. Don't let anybody tell you that this is Shalom. Don't let anybody tell you that this is God's plan and purpose. See that's why the four part gospel is very important, it's the people that don't understand that the gospel is four part, it's the people that don't listen to the reformers and think of the gospel in the four part manner - they are the ones that are against the enjoyment of everything, because they don't have this concept that the creation is good first of all. They don't start with that, that's the first point, creation is good, that's the first part of the gospel. Creation is good, everything God created is good, everything that God created is for my enjoyment, it's good, I must rightly enjoy it, it's a blessing of God intended for mankind.

Churches have become totally opposite today, they say, "Gold is bad, evil, don't even touch it. Don't wear it because it's evil." They'll take verses like the people of Israel buried it you know, because they're starting from Exodus and they're on, they're not starting from Genesis. Whenever you start from the middle, you have a problem. You must start reading the Bible always from the first chapter, the first chapter tells me it's good. If you have any doubt about gold, the second chapter tells me that the Garden of Eden, that land in which God set up that garden, the gold was good, particularly about the gold. That means it's not like T.Nagar gold, it's really good gold. Everything is good you see, can it become bad? Yeah many times all these earthly resources have been turned into weapons in the hands of the wrong people, to do the wrong things, yeah. But don't start with that, that is because of sin, go back always to the beginning. The beginning says that everything was good, therefore it's good, it can be enjoyed in the right way. If it cannot be enjoyed in the right way, God would not have made it in the first place. Everything is good, they don't start there because the gospel is not a four-part gospel for them. Then you understand yeah, the sin and the fall came that's why the love of money and the wrong use of all these wonderful resources that God has given has come to ruin man's life because sin has entered in. So man uses everything, the good things that God has made for the wrong purposes many times. But that doesn't mean that we cannot rightly still use it and enjoy it as God's people today. Thirdly, the redemption we understand that the redemption is bringing us back to the enjoyment of those things that God originally made for us. And fourthly, it's the restoration of all things back to its original condition.

So that is the key in that verse, let me read that verse again, And seek the peace of the city where I've caused you to be carried away captive. In other words, pray to the Lord for it he says. For in its peace you will have peace, the prophet is writing to them and saying pray that this will turn into a Shalom city, Babylon. That evil place, that wicked place full of corrupt people, will turn into a place of Shalom where nothing is missing, nothing is broken, there will be a societal transformation. That there will be good things happening there, that there will be development, there will be blessing, there will be prosperity, there will be... every need of every person will be met, everyone with their gifts will find proper employment. Pray, because even though God has allowed them to go into exile, God has not forgotten them, God wants to bless them in the place where they're exiled. God is a good God, He didn't want them to go in the first place. But their backslidden rebellion is what caused them to go there, but God wants to bless them even there. So he says you pray then they'll have peace and you'll enjoy peace, then you'll get jobs, then you'll become prosperous and every need of yours will be met. You'll not be frustrated because your gifts find no place of employment. You will find good employment, you'll enjoy your work and your life, that's what God is saying. Now, so in Genesis there was Shalom, in the end there is Shalom, in the middle we are told to work on Shalom wherever we are. I know things are not perfect yet, things can never be perfect in this present period. But things certainly can be a lot better than what they are. By the grace of God we can make our world a better place, a lot better than what it is. We know that it's not perfect, but we can certainly make it a lot better. Amen.

Alright, now when the letter was read there, remember it's a letter sent from Jeremiah to the captives. When the letter was read there, many talented, young, gifted people were there as captives from Jerusalem. The Jewish people are generally very gifted, they have a great blessing of God. And among them was a young man named Daniel, who was listening to this letter from Jeremiah saying build houses, plant gardens, eat of them, marry, carry on with life, bear children, don't diminish, increase. And pray for the city that you're in, so that you will have Shalom. This man was listening as the letter was read, and when he was listening to this, I believe that he felt a call of God upon his life. He probably already knew that he's tremendously gifted, that God has given him tremendous leadership abilities. Abilities in education, he's got a brilliant mind, very able young man. Probably was sitting there thinking, what am I supposed to do? I'm so gifted, I'm so talented, I know so much, I can do so much but now I've ended up as a prisoner in this foreign land, I hate these people, I don't even want to be here. My life is going to go to waste, and all of a sudden he hears the words from Jeremiah read and he hears the call of God upon his life. He says, "God has brought me here to use me for some purpose. I may not like this place, but God has placed me here. He wants to bless me here, He wants to make me a blessing. My gifts are given to me to be used here, for these people that I don't like. So that they can be blessed with it and God's purposes can be achieved through it." He feels the call of God in that place.

So he decides to find ways to use his gifts and talents that God has given to him, to transform that society and culture that he's in. Restore everything back to God and His purposes. So he goes to work, ends up working in the government. How would you work for the Babylonian government, you know. Like I said in the Bible, Babylon is known for its evil, Babylon means it's evil, it's like hell, life is like hell there. There's no justice there, there is no decency there, there is corruption there, there is all kinds of evil there. And here this man convinced that God has placed him there, in that bad situation just like the salt of the earth and the light of the world, God has placed him there and God is going to use him there, so he goes and works for the Government, and lo and behold everything he puts his hand to do becomes very successful. He becomes a governor of a whole province, comes to a high level. So high that others are jealous about him. I think a lot of our people must have been there I think. People are very jealous because this guy is going higher and higher in position. He has beat all the locals to become the governor, head of a whole province. Things so many official work under him, he's a foreigner, he's an alien, he's a captive... brought as a captive there, supposed to be like a slave, but this guy is going higher and higher and higher. I believe he must have worked real well, his work must have brought such profit, such development to the country, to the Babylonians. It must have meant so much for them to elevate him to such position, otherwise it's very difficult for him to come so high. He must have been extremely successful, his services, his wisdom, his ability was needed by the country.

So in spite of the fact that he's not a local, he was elevated to the highest positions in the country. So others hated him, wanted to get him in trouble. They knew that they could not find even one fault with him, just read the Bible it says. They looked and looked and looked, searched you know, every department came and looked and searched. Any fault, anything we can find wrong with this guy, throw him in somehow, somehow destroy him, find some fault. You gotta have one fault at least, but you combed through everything and nothing, they couldn't find even one fault. Only one thing they could find, three times a day he's praying. Just imagine some places, all kinds of things can become a fault you know. His only fault is three times a day he's praying. So they said alright, we can't find one fault, no corruption, no taking bribes, no none of this nonsense that others do, you cannot find anything. Let's nail him on this, he's praying three times. So they went to the king, now those kings were no different from others you know. They all have their sidekicks who always praise them and you know say you're the greatest and so on. So all these in Tamil we say thuthipaadis you know, people who sing their praises, they keep them around you know. Some of these guys keep them around, they pay them, they bring them in truck loads and so on.

So these guys all joined together and said okay, there's nobody greater than you, so please pass an order, sign an order saying that for the next 30 days no one should ever offer a prayer to any God other than the king. To no one other than the king, tailor made snare for Daniel. So the king he himself was snared because how can you refuse something like that. Pray to no one but the king, the king felt good, my goodness what a nice idea. Pray to no one else but me? These guys are such good guys, they love me so much. Pray to no one but you oh king, pass an order. And he passed an order, signed the order, Daniel came to know of the order. He ought to know because he's the governor. He came to know of the order, now here is a challenge. You see God had called him and put him in in Babylon and told him to go to work. God said build houses, plant gardens, eat, marry, carry on, live among those people. In other words it means cooperate as much as you can possible and work for the welfare of others in that strange land, even though you don't like them, even though they are captors. Cooperate with them, cultivate relationship for common good, do something for the development of everybody. Find avenues and ways in which you can extend your cooperation to these strange people, to these bad people. Offer them your services, work for them, do something for them he says. That's what it meant to Daniel, when Jeremiah's letter was read. So he was offering his cooperation, he's working with that corrupt society, he was doing all kinds of things. You know offering his services, doing everything good for the development of that society. But now comes a challenge where he's told to do something that violates his faith.

What a wonderful lesson for all of us. We are told to live in the place where we live following all the laws, doing everything right and so on. But there comes a point when you can't do it, when it comes to our faith. When he was told not to pray for anyone else other than the king, he went on as usual three times a day, praying to the God of Israel, Isaac, and Jacob three times a day, continue. So they found him, threw him in the lion's den. A lot of people when you talk about Daniel, they only know the story of the lion's den. Many places I found churches only in the level of Sunday school you know. What do you know about Daniel? Yeah, the lion's den. Even in the Sunday school they are taught better, they know more things about what is there in Daniel. Daniel's story in the book of Daniel is not just the story of lion's den, it's a story, a very mature story about how to live in an alien place among the people that you cannot get along with. The people that you find are not right, are not worshipping your God, following your God, not living the way that you think the Bible says they should live and so on. Live among them, cooperate among them, work effectively among them for the common good. How to do it? That's Daniel! Daniel is a very wonderful book, teaching us how to do it effectively, how to do our work effectively in an alien society which is against our values. Working so successfully that you can turn their values around and turn it towards the direction of God's values, as much as possible. So they threw him in the lion's den and he comes out completely well, the king who threw him couldn't sleep all night you know. But Daniel had a good sleep, in the morning he came out, he was vindicated of his stand and he continued to prosper and excel in everything that he did, and God used him mightily.

What I'm saying is this, that young men stood there as they read Jeremiah's letter and he found the call of God. He realized yeah, I am in this society, I've been questioning why I'm here, I'm going to waste my time, I'm going to waste my life. No, I'm not going to waste my life, nobody's going to waste our lives, God will use us in the place where we are. If we realise our call in our lives and do the things that God has called us to do, in God's ways, never compromising. We are not teaching to tell you to go out there in the world and become like the world. We are not telling you to go out into Babylon and practice Babylonian living. No, I don't think any pastor will teach that and I'm not teaching that. I'm not saying go live like unconverted people, no, I'm saying go out into the world, be the salt of the earth and the light of the world because you're called to be such.

You can imagine in those days how it happened, when the letter was read, people must have been divided into many kinds. Some of them heard this and say, "No, I'm not going to pray for these guys. I'm going to pray that God destroys by fire, the Babylonians you know." There must have been on group like that. There must be another group that says, "Well I'm not going to use my gifts and talents and abilities in this ungodly place, for these ungodly people, in this ungodly society. I'm not going to cooperate with them, I'm not going to... no, no, no I will not have anything to do with this society because I'm holy, I want to keep myself holy for God. I won't go out in the society and go to work and all that. No, I'll eat the refugee kanji you know, and stay in the refugee camp, not go to work." There will be such people also, but there were some young man like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who found that this is a call to take the challenge and go out into this world, into that evil society. It was a society that they cannot agree with the values and so on, and do their work for God. And thus transform that society itself, and bring in God's light into that society. See, I'm sure there were others also who decided, young people that decided, "Well, the best to get along here is to become a Babylonian you know. Just get along with them, just become like one of them, just go and practice their ways of living then you'll have no problem, you'll become another Babylonian." So some of them probably went and did that, but Daniel decided "I will never compromise on my faith in God. I will never go out of the way, I will always cooperate as much as I can, in the best way possible. I'm truly interested in the welfare of this nation because their peace means my peace." And he went out and worked.

Now this is something that is a challenge for us today, I think Christians of all kinds all over the world can read themselves into this story. Though we are not captives of any kind, there's some similarities. We all live in societies that we cannot agree with, their values don't go along with us and so on. But how to work among them needs a lot of wisdom. Now the reason why Christians are not able to work in this world effectively and literally shine in this world for God, and show forth the light of Jesus Christ is this, you'll notice this. A lot of Christians have this idea of separatism, separation from the world is taught in the wrong way. So they think you must separate yourself from the society. Now just imagine what will happen if you separate yourself from the society, that you become so holy you don't want to do anything with the society, anything in the society because it's so bad. You'll hear Christians commonly saying things like, "I don't want to do any business here, all these fellas are crooks, you know. So I don't want to do any business, I don't want to go work for this kind of job because everybody is corrupt there, you know." You'll find a lot of Christians talking like that, they have this in their mind that they're so holy they cannot mix with a unholy crowd, you know. And that is the reason they're unable to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But then there are others you know. See sometimes they go to extremes.

One extreme is, I don't want to have anything to do with this world, I don't want to go to work, I don't want to work in this world, I don't want to do anything. The other extreme is go to work and shout hallelujah from morning till evening you know, hallelujah! You know, and quote verses. And you ask the guy, what are you doing? They say, "I'm here to be a testimony for God you know." Or wear badges from top to bottom you know, Jesus saves, Jesus heals, Jesus delivers, Jesus is coming soon. They think that as you walk around everybody will read your badge, and somehow come to Christ you know. They use strange things, become like real eccentrics, where nobody wants to listen to them many times. How do we do it? How do we get into the world? Work is an amazing channel, through which you can infiltrate this world with the values and the thoughts of God, with the ideas from the word of God you can make a difference. Work is something that God given activity in this world. We're engaged in it for so long, with so many kinds of people it opens the doors in so many places. So work is one of the avenues through which you can be in contact with the world. And without a microphone, without being a preacher, without doing all these other things, you can still reach the world. You can still be a tremendous witness in this world.

You know, in the first three centuries after Christ, there was 40% growth per decade, they say, of Christians. Tremendous growth, very fast, rapid growth. And after that only, these other ideas came in you know, these other ideas of don't have anything to do with the world, the world is bad, come away from the world, separate yourself from the world, be separate from the world and all those ideas came in. And then it deteriorated you know. Up to the third century there was 40% growth per decade they say, historians say, of Christian faith. Why? Because Christians can be found in deep involvement in the fabric of that culture. In every place they were there, they were in the palace of the Roman Emperor, believers were there. People serving in high positions, believers were there. In the government in all kinds of positions, believers were there. But somehow because of some persecution and so on, they lost hope and they thought world is an evil place, we don't want to have anything to do with the world. This evil world is different so we don't want to have anything to do with the world, that is how they got away from it. Even during the Protestant Reformation, in one generation they made such a difference in the society. It was such a remarkable impact, through the reformation, why? Because people in the main streams of life, in literacy, in education, in art, music and all of these people, leaders and people that were so talented and gifted and influential, were people that believed in Christ, people that influenced society to a large extent. So this idea of coming away from the world is not a good idea, you must find ways to get into the world. Not become like the world but get into the world, and through your work show forth Christ. The reason you're made in the image and likeness of God is this, so that the image of God, the imprint of God can be seen in your work and in everything that you do. It's usual for people to say oh this music, it must be so and so, this art it must be so and so.

I remember when I was in college you had to study this art and all that you know. For every period you know there was some artist and their different ways of drawing the pictures and so one, and sculptures and so on. So in the exams they'll show you the slides of various sculptures and big famous pictures, paintings and so on. And you need to identify which period this is from, which artist, which period it belongs to, because you can look at it and tell whose it is, because there is the imprint of the person who did it. And God has made you in such a way, He's given you His image and likeness. So that in everything that you do, God's image and likeness is imprinted. Everything that comes out of your work has this stamp of God's image and likeness. And I'll tell you, it must be there in every field, in every area of endeavor, and that is how we are called to work. We are called to bring glory to God, and we're called to turn everything back to and restore everything back to its original condition. The thing is bring back [inaudible] into this world, bring back that condition that God envisions for mankind into this world, into the realm that you're engaged in. In that place, in that little place where you're working, in that little community where you have influence, that is what the Bible teaches about work.

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