As a believer in Jesus Christ, one will encounter situations in life where the values and principles of God's Word stand opposed to the values of the world system in which one lives, works, and experiences life. By nature this conflict must take place as the believer in Christ no longer conforms to the patterns of this world but is transformed by the renewing of his mind in, and through, Christ Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). Thus, the believer must come to a place of understanding where he/she is ever aware of the fact that, because of your acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you do not belong to the present world. Your eternal citizenship is with God Almighty in heaven but your current physical state requires you to be alive in a world that is diametrically opposed to everything you represent through Jesus Christ. So naturally, the questions then become "How do I live in a world that represents everything opposed to my nature?" or "How do I continue to live in a world where God's standard says "no" but the standard of the world declares "yes," and vice-versa. As with any question of this magnitude, it is critical one approaches Scripture as the authority. In other words, what principles of Scripture shed light upon this topic? Regarding the topic of living in a culture opposed to the holiness of God, one should look no further than the book of Daniel.
In Daniel 3 we encounter the story of Nebuchadnezzar's Fiery Furnace. In order to understand fully this account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego one must take into consideration the historical and cultural backgrounds that influence the story. To begin with, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not natives of the kingdom of Babylon. Rather, from Daniel 1 we discover they were Israelites taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, invaded and conquered the city of Jerusalem. During this conquest Nebuchadnezzar ordered that young men from the royal line and the noble class be gathered and trained to serve in the king's service. Among those collected by this edict were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but their names were changed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively. In an effort to remove any cartoonish ideas from our minds we must study this account as an actual historical event involving living human beings, physical locations, and authentic circumstances. Therefore, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were three men who were taken as captives from their home city of Jerusalem into the foreign land of Babylon—they were slaves. These young men were stripped of their families, their freedom, their country, their social standing, and even their names. Then these young men were thrust into a culture of paganism, immorality, and idolatry and required to study the customs, rituals, literature, and interworking core of this culture so that they could serve the king and his desires. These young men were surrounded by a culture that stood in direct opposition to God Almighty whom they served.
By definition, God's holiness demands that we honor Him above those items the culture of the world demands we accept. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah made a bold declaration to honor God above the sin of their surrounding culture. This declaration, founded upon the holiness of God, was displayed with actions. Believers in Jesus Christ today can learn a deep spiritual truth from the actions of these young men in Daniel 3. The spiritual truth is this: we live in a culture that is corrupt and sinful, a culture that promotes a standard that is contrary to the holiness of God, but believers must possess boldness and act in accordance with God's standards even when the rest of society is bowing in worship to any given idol. Boldness founded upon God Almighty is how believers operate in pagan culture. The word "bold," as defined by Merriam-Webster can have several different meanings. One of these meanings is "not afraid of danger or difficult situations." If one's allegiance is to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then there is no situation too difficult for God to handle. Thus, one's focus should be upon making a bold declaration for Jesus Christ in the midst of a society that is diametrically opposed to God and his holiness.
James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years.
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.