One King. Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus. This book begins with the same words as Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, meaning we are reading history, this actually happened. As I mentioned last week we are stepping into a world vastly different from ours, the oriental world of the Persian empire. Needless to say, this is a very small glimpse into just one tiny part of the Persian empire. This is the 1%. For the other 99% life was hard, very hard, not too different from life in the Middle East today. Wages would have been poor, getting food always a challenge. Whenever there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor, there will be much injustice, the rich getting rich off the poor. The story begins by painting a picture of the great chasm between the ruling Persians and the subjected Jews.
This morning we come to the final of the nine fruit of the Spirit, self-control. In Proverbs, we read: Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. In ancient times the walls of a city were its primary defense. Without walls, it was prey to enemy invaders. This is a picture of utter vulnerability. Proverbs uses this same image to describe our souls. Self-control is the wall to our hearts and souls, the means of waging war against the sinful desires that attack us from all sides. Without self-control, every temptation becomes an opportunity for sin.
Allow me to tell you the story of King William IV who unexpectedly became monarch of the England in 1830 as written by a pastor from South Africa. “With two older brothers William IV had not anticipated ascending to the throne. When they both died, William was shouldered with the burden of leadership he had hitherto evaded. Instead of the requisite stately life of a public figure, he had enjoyed a prodigal lifestyle of hedonistic indulgence and profligate spending. He drank like a sailor, swore like a sailor, and fathered ten children out of wedlock. Staring down the barrel of life as a broke bachelor William set himself to scouring the landscape of Europe for a princess who would deign to marry a fifty-something, lecherous, alcoholic philanderer who had ten illegitimate children. Unsurprisingly, the pickings were slim. His reputation of debauchery was so notorious that despite being the king, he couldn’t find a woman of royal blood willing to debase her own reputation by marrying him. Several proposals—issued in rapid succession—were declined. However, as providence would have it, there was one unmarried German princess, who was twenty-seven years his junior, who was courageous enough to try her hand at reforming the future king, for the sake of the British nation. Her name was Adelaide. The couple met once, a week before the wedding. William was surprised at how pretty and friendly she was. Unlike her irreligious fiancé, Adelaide was known widely for being deeply devout in her faith, chaste, kind, sensible with money, and extremely dignified in her demeanor. After the wedding, Adelaide soon endeared herself to her subjects and become one of the most beloved and respected queens in British history. She was loved for her kindness to the poor, her modesty, and her genuine faith in Jesus Christ. Not only was Adelaide able to put up with William, but slowly people began to notice her influence on him. The queen effectively curbed her husband’s spending, decreased his drinking, and even stopped his swearing. Against all odds, the couple enjoyed a happy marriage. Sadly, the queen suffered multiple miscarriages and never produced an heir for the throne. But her grace, dignity, and faith in God’s providence shone through that series of dark trials. Adelaide’s legacy is marked by how liberally her name was used in memoriam: the capital of South Australia is named for her, as well as countless roads, parks, rivers, towns, and forts in all corners of the commonwealth. But this courageous queen was not the first to marry a licentious man, only to model character and exert godly influence over the king for the sake of her nation.
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is about cultivating Christian character out of which flows God-glorifying conduct. Faithfulness is another essential characteristic of a Holy Spirit filled Christian. Character of Faithfulness. Faith and faithfulness go hand in hand. What we believe translates into action. Faithfulness is the outward visible sign of the inward reality of faith. Faithfulness is easy to define. There is a veritable cornucopia of synonyms we can use. Trustworthy, steadfast, reliable, dependable, constancy, fidelity, integrity, loyalty, devoted, honest, responsible, conscientious, principle-driven, true to one’s word. Furthermore, being faithful means all those things over the long haul. Hebrews 11 is a long list of saints who showed faithfulness over the long haul. They practiced a long obedience in the same direction. We just finished a study of Daniel. When his enemies tried to find some grounds for charges against him “they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (Daniel 6:4).
Well, we now come to the final, few verses of Jude, & Oh! what a relief! it is like peace & quiet after a severe storm. up to now Jude has been talking very seriously about those who forsake the faith & God’s Word. “[About] rejecting the truth, God’s judgment, & hell. These are sobering realities. o “The most natural human response to that of living in an age characterized by apostasy which God promises to punish severely is probably fear. “[And today as we are] acutely aware of apostasy it is like standing in the center of a hurricane with raging winds ripping apart everything around us.” But now, in the middle of all this despair & dome, Jude concludes in vs.17-25 with God’s wonderful words of command & comfort, courage & confidence. & in accordance with Jude’s desire he stated in vs.3 that he was going write about the salvation of believers, he now addresses us Christians. & he tells us how we can really experience & enjoy & exercise our salvation. o we can so that we have nothing to be scared of as we contend for the faith in face of today’s filth & falsehood. And Jude also reminds us of what we often forget. that the Lord knows His own so that, though He punishes those who proclaim & practice evil & error, -- o in today’s chaotic climate He will protect & preserve those who love & live for Him. He will, just as He did Israel of old when He devastated Egypt with those terrible plagues while He saved & spare His own.
Summary of the book of Daniel. The Bible is a story. Not a collection of stories, not an anthology of religious experiences, not a random assortment of things people did for God in the past. The Bible is one story, the story of God’s redemptive purposes for humanity from Genesis to Revelation. God is the central character. God created man in His image. Man sinned and fell and broke that image in his rebellion against God. The rest of the Bible is about how God set out to rescue and redeem fallen mankind and defeat sin and Satan and restore His image and His creation. The Bible is God’s tool to transform us and conform us to the image and likeness of Jesus. The part of God’s story told by Daniel began with a story of a great defeat, the defeat of the people of God and by implication, the defeat of their God. Nebuchadnezzar was able to carry off the holy items from the temple of God without interference, showing the gods of Babylon were superior to the God of Israel. Is this true? The rest of the book of Daniel is the answer. At every step and turn God demonstrates His superior power and wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar is impotent before the God of Israel and would soon be destroyed, and every kingdom after that until the kingdom of one like a Son of Man comes to establish His eternal kingdom. Revelation 11:15 The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Daniel is an amazing and remarkable and unique book. It reveals in ways unlike any other God’s plans for the world and for His people. The first six chapters are written about Daniel in the third person. They are historical events the happen in the lives of Daniel and his friends. They give numerous accounts of how God’s sovereignty and providence are personal, they reach down to individuals. In these stories we see their fierce loyalty to God and God’s faithfulness to them. The last six chapters are written in the first persons as Daniel describes a series of visions he receives concerning Israel and the surrounding nations. The details of the prophecies are so accurate that liberal scholars cannot bring themselves to believe Daniel wrote the book in 500 BC, that it was written by someone else around 150 BC, after all the events prophesied. In this last half of the book we see God’s sovereignty and providence extends not just to individuals, but to rulers and nations and armies. Who is the hero in Daniel? Who answers prayers and delivers from evil? Who saves from fire and rescues from lions? Who interprets dreams and handwriting on the wall? God is the hero, the savior and deliverer.
I was reminded by one of our Serve volunteers of something I said in my first sermon of this year. “My prayer is that 2017 may be the most spiritually faithful and fruitful year in your life and in the life of First Christian Reformed Church.” I believe what happened last week was one of the most significant events in the life of our congregation. I have never seen anything quite like this. As I watched and participated I saw how God was at work and realized there was no way I could just go on business as usual this morning. We have to stop and reflect on what God allowed us to be a part of. This summer Youth Unlimited offered 28 Serve sites around the US and Canada (9). Each student paid $360 plus airfare for the privilege of working hard and serving some people they didn’t know with other kids they didn’t know. 62 youth and leaders came here from four CRC churches from MT, MN, and IL. They served our community through nine work sites and we as a church served them to make it all possible. Over a hundred members of our congregation served led by an incredible team of volunteer leaders.