Newsletter July 2018
Conformed or not conformed
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)
When Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C. he looted the temple of the true and living God and took its precious articles to his home country to be used in the worship of its idols. (Dan. 1:1ff) He also took some of the most gifted young nobles of Israel as captives and instructed his chief officer Ashpenaz to form them into a new elite for his kingdom. He gave them Babylonian names and presented the best food from the king’s table to them, hoping that after a three-year period of training they would be ready to serve him. However, the young men from Judah were determined to keep their identity as God’s people and refused to eat meat that was unclean according to God’s Law.
Ashpenaz feared that they would grow weak and that the king would notice this and would punish him with death. So he urged them to eat, but Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah made an agreement with him: they requested that they be allowed to abstain from the forbidden meat for a trial period of ten days, fully convinced that God would keep them strong and healthy. (Dan. 1:11-14) And so He did. At the end of the trial their appearance was healthier than that of any of their fellow trainees who had eaten the king’s food. And God blessed them for their faithfulness and gave them great knowledge and skill, and to Daniel He gave an understanding of visions and dreams far beyond that of any of the Babylonian learned men.
As God’s people today, we live in a world that seeks to shape us into its image. The enemy of God, the devil, constantly tries to lure us with his attractions in order to distract us from serving God. Before we know it we are conformed to this world and find ourselves serving the idols of greed and selfish ambition. This is why Paul pleads with the believers in Rome that they present their bodies to God as living sacrifices for God’s glory. He warns them, and us, not to be shaped by the surrounding world but instead to be transformed by God’s Spirit so we can fulfil His perfect will for our lives.
As Daniel received spiritual understanding of God’s purposes, we need our minds to be transformed to think God’s way in order for us to understand His purpose for us and the world within which we live as foreigners. We are citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom and, as such, His ambassadors in this world. His purposes are ours and therefore we must be determined, like Daniel and his friends, not to adapt to the ways of this world.
Daniel always remembered who he was and put his God first in everything. Therefore, when Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that none of the wise men of Babylon could interpret, it was Daniel who interpreted it to him. (Dan. 2:1ff) Giving glory to God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe and the source of all wisdom he explained the dreams meaning. Consequently the king too gave glory to the God of Israel, the true God of gods, and appointed Daniel chief administrator over all his advisers. (Dan. 2:46-49)
If we follow Daniel’s example and seek God and His kingdom first, He will open doors for us and add to us all that we need to progress in this life. (Matt. 6:33) We may be tempted to trust in our own ability as we strive to make it in this life, but we will always find that we come to a place where we recognise our limitations. With God there are no such limitations! Therefore let us always put Him first, live in obedience to Him and allow Him to transform us into the perfect image of Christ. Let us give ourselves as sacrifices to Him as He gave Himself a sacrifice for us. God is able to do far more than we can imagine when His power works in us and through us – to His glory. (Eph. 3:20-21)