Into the Furnace!
Every child knows what happens when you mix dirt and water. The end result has some of the characteristics of each component. Soil and water cannot be mixed without both being changed. The same can be said of a Christian in relationship with the world.
Paul admonished the Corinthians to remain separated from the world. He was simply echoing the words of Jesus when He prayed for His disciples in John 17. We must minister to the world without adopting the world’s beliefs or compromising our own.
The unsaved world always insists on setting the terms and standards for every relationship in which it is involved. If you would be friends with the world you must accept a compromise the likes of which God can never accept. For that reason, it is essential that we gain an understanding of what God expects us to become and then never allow our integrity to be compromised.
Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude is a perfect example of the world’s feeling towards believers. At first conciliatory, he gave them an opportunity to come around to his way of thinking (vs. 14-15). The unsaved world would rather convert us than kill us. But make no mistake, if you refuse to accommodate worldly views you will be taken to task.
Why do you suppose every other religion is tolerated? Could it be because they do not rest upon the authority of God – an authority that cannot be questioned or compromised?
It is certain that we will find ourselves more and more in conflict with the standards of the secular world. If we refuse to compromise, we will certainly follow the Hebrew children into the furnace.
I. Into the Furnace You Go!
A. Committed saints are more likely to be here than anywhere
1. We cannot keep quiet while the truth is trashed
2. We are to be on the offensive (Matt. 16:18 – “The gates of hell shall not prevail….”)
3. If we do not assail the world, the world will most certainly invade the Church
B. Furnaces into which we may be cast
1. The furnace of ostracism – ridicules for our beliefs; called ignorant and superstitious
2. The furnace of separation - isolated in our places of worship; forced from the public square (thousands of lawsuits every year because believer’s rights are violated)
II. What We Lose In the Furnace
A. God burns away the dross
B. The fear of man – the furnace will either purify us or prove us to be nothing but ashes
III. What Is Not Lost In the Fire – Anything of Value!
A. Our salvation
B. Our gifts and talents
C. Our faith is made stronger
1. An ounce of pure gold is preferable to a ton of gold ore containing just one ounce
2. Testing doesn’t even leave the smell of fire
Jesus is the reason we may prosper even in life’s furnaces. Just as He kept His children in ancient times, He will guard and keep us. The furnace sets us free of every hindrance and emboldens us to serve with diligence.