Summary: A sermon promoting Christian camp and also talking about how Christians are to be distinct (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, What the Bible Says About the Church: Rediscovering Community, chapter 2 Culturally Distinct, pg. 63- 69)
I was listening to High Schoolers/ Junior Counselors talk about what they loved about Christian camp. I will never forget the testimony of one young man. He said that he was living in a rough neighborhood. His friends always wanted him to do things that he knew as a Christian he should not do. At camp he did not have to worry about that because he experienced peer pressure to do good things. It was like he was in a place where the outside world was shut out.
Sometimes we all need a place where the outside world is shut out. Pray that camp is that way for many. However, there comes a time when we must leave that holy place and go back to the world. It is to be hoped that the time at camp and other places like camp strengthens us to live the Christian life in a dark world. Times away from the world surrounded by fellow Christians should “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:12, NIV.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matthew 5:13, NIV.
Salt affects the world not despite its saltiness, but because of its saltiness. If we lose our saltiness we will not affect the world and we will be good for nothing. Our saltiness is our holiness, set apart for God. Because of this we will be different, or distinct, from the world. When we are distinct then we are “the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14, NIV. When we are not distinct from the world then our light grows dark and it does not light up anything (Matt 5:15). From the actions of our everyday lives do people know that we are Christians?
Thesis: A Case Study: Daniel
Pearls Against Black Velvet
First chapter of Daniel provides a picture of the distinctiveness God requires of His people, giving us an example of holiness. Read Daniel 1:1-2
The Israelites, God’s people then, were no longer salty. “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:16, NIV. God warned his children that if they did not repent He would send a band of pagans to conquer them and that is exactly what happened.
Israelites mocked all that was good and right and pure- not going to give a list but they did most of the sins the Lord told them not to do. And these were supposed to be God’s people.
Now the book of Daniel highlights the faithfulness of a godly few. When a jeweler wants to display a string of pearls, the jeweler sets the pearls against black velvet. The dark backdrop provides a contrast that causes the pearls to gleam. This is what the book of Daniel does. The first two verses describe God’s punishment inflicted on His unfaithful people. Much of the remainder of the book describes how God honored a faithful few. Daniel is one of a few Bible heroes who, as far as we know, had no major flaw on his resume. He managed to help a few of his friends stay pure too.
A resolve not to defile
Daniel 1:3- 8a- Stop at Daniel resolved not to defile himself. This is not that big of a deal for us under the NT, but under the OT this was one of the things that set apart the Israelites, made them distinct, made them holy. Must eat kosher foods.
Daniel knew his options and weighed the consequences. He understood that if he defied Neuchadnezzar’s order, the ruler might have Daniel’s head on a platter. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself.
Most probably Daniel made a commitment and a decision before he ever got to Babylon that he would remain faithful to God’s ways, he would be distinct from the world. Nate Smith, a missionary who along with Jim Elliot died as a martyr in South America, once wrote in his journal, “Obedience is not a momentary option, it is a die cast decision made beforehand.”
Daniel wanted to be pure even though he was far from home and in the minority. Daniel wanted to be pure even though the temptation was very desirable and appeared to be the way to get ahead.
Wisdom in action
Resolve by itself will not keep us pure. Along with his resolve, Daniel developed and executed a wise plan. Read Daniel 1:8-14
When asked to do something that would compromise his integrity, Daniel spewed no hate or vengeance. He wrote no angry e-mails. He did not storm out of the banquet room and march with a picket sign around the palace (like he would be able to do this?). Instead, Daniel used tact, showed respect for his superiors, and displayed careful judgment and wisdom. Daniel kindly offered an alternative- a way to both respect the authorities over him, and keep himself and his friends pure, distinct, holy.