If Not (Church Basement)

You’re probably familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. These three Hebrew men are brought before the king of Babylon and commanded to worship a giant, golden idol. “Bow down and worship,” they are told, “or you will be thrown into the fiery furnace.” The men courageously respond, “Even if God does not deliver us, we still won’t bow down to the idol.”

It’s a great example of someone not knowing whether God would deliver them, and still fearlessly accepting the possibility of death. Except… that’s not actually what happened. Let’s take another look at the text.

The scripture in question is from Daniel 3. The king orders the three men to worship the golden image or be thrown in the fire. And in verse 16, we read that, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’”

So the question is, what does “if not” refer to?

Well, grammatically, it would be the “if” statement the men made in the previous sentence. They’re saying, “If that is the case, God will deliver us; but if that is NOT the case, we will not bow down.” So, what is “the case”?

We have to go back another verse, to Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. It turns out, the king had made an if/if-not statement of his own. In verse 15, he told them, “If you fall down and worship the golden image, we’re good. But if not, you’ll be cast into the fire.” Then the three men respond by saying, “If that is the case—if you throw us in the fire—God is able and willing to deliver us. But if not—if you don’t throw us in—we still won’t worship.”

These men weren’t expressing uncertainty to God’s willingness to deliver them. No, they were expressing indifference to the king’s threat. If he threw them in, God would deliver. If he didn’t throw them in, they still wouldn’t worship the idol. The king didn’t have any power over them—which is exactly what we read in verse 27: “The king’s counselors saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power.” There was nothing that the king could do to turn these men, because they were under the protection of God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would deliver them from danger.

And if you think about it, it doesn’t even make sense to read this as uncertainty about God’s willingness to save. For one, the three Hebrew men had just declared that God was both willing and able to save them in the previous verse: “Our God is able to deliver us… and He will deliver us from your hand.” They literally just said that God WOULD deliver them. It doesn’t make sense for them to immediately backtrack and say, “But actually, maybe He won’t.” No, they knew He would deliver, which is why they “had no need to answer you in this matter.” It was a done deal for them. God was both able and willing to save.

And that’s what we’re talking about, right? God’s ability to save vs. God’s willingness to save. I’d imagine that every Christian watching this video knows that God is able to save. The question is, Is He willing? That was Nebuchadnezzar’s question, too. He tells them, “If you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who WILL deliver you from my hands?” The king is asking the same question: Is God willing?

So with that in mind, it doesn’t make any sense for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego to then say, “Well… our God is able to save us, but who knows if He’s willing?” No, they confidently declare, “Who is the God who WILL deliver? The God we serve is the God who WILL deliver.”

This is the God who promised in Psalm 50, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I WILL deliver you,” the God who declared in Psalm 91, “I will be with him in trouble, and I WILL deliver him and honor him,” the God who delivered David from Goliath, the God who delivered Hezekiah from Sennacherib, the God who would very soon deliver Daniel from King Darius.

Deliverance is what He does, victory is in His DNA, Salvation is His name. Literally. Jesus in Hebrew is the word Yeshua, which literally means “salvation.” Of course God is willing to save those who call upon His name. Of course He showed up in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Of course the fire and the smoke and the heat and the threats had no power over them. They knew who their God was, and they put their faith entirely in Him.

And that’s exactly what we read in the only New Testament recounting of this story. Hebrews 11 is sometimes called “The Hall of Faith.” It’s all about people who received from God because they placed their faith in Him, because they had unwavering confidence in Him. We read that Noah was saved from the flood by faith, that Moses and the Israelites were saved from Egypt by faith, that Joshua took the Promised Land by faith. We’re told that Gideon and Samson and David were all delivered by faith. The list of men and women who were supernaturally delivered by faith goes on and on and on. Then the list ends with those who “stopped the mouths of lions and quenched the violence of fire.”

Who’s that talking about? Daniel, and his three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. They were supernaturally delivered from lions and furnaces and kings and death. Why? Because of their faith. Because they were confident in the things not seen. Because they knew who their God was, and knew without a doubt that He was both able and willing to deliver them from whatever threat would come their way.

And we, too, serve that same God, so we should have the same confidence in His ability and willingness to save. Those same promises of deliverance belong to you. So don’t question His willingness to deliver. Don’t doubt it, even for a second. Stand firm in your faith, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did. The devil has no power over you.

Have a great week, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.

The Great Commission (Church Basement)

Welcome to the Church Basement. My name is Garrett, and today I want to talk about “The Great Commission.”

The Great Commission. You know, that thing your youth pastor is always going on and on about. To refresh your memory, the Great Commission is the last instruction Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection and before ascending into heaven. Recorded in Matthew chapter 28, Jesus said:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the age. Amen.”

Now here’s an easy question: What was the first thing Jesus commanded His disciples to do in the Great Commission?

That’s right, GO… is the wrong answer. I know I know, it says “go” right there at the beginning of the verse. But this wasn’t written in English. It was written in Greek, and if you read it in the original Greek, the word “go” is actually in the passive tense. In fact, if you read this in Young’s Literal Translation (which, as the name suggests, is a literal translation), it actually reads, “Having gone, then, make disciples.” Today we might translate it, “As you go, make disciples.”

You see, Jesus wasn’t telling His disciples to go anywhere… because He already knew they would go to plenty of different places. Jesus probably gave the Great Commission on a mountain (I mean, He did loved preaching on mountains). He didn’t think His disciples were going to live on that mountain forever. No, they would eventually go home.

Same with you. You’re probably watching this video at your house. In your bedroom, in your kitchen, hopefully not in your bathroom. And when this video is over, you’re going to go to school, or go to work, or go to the gym, or go to church. And Jesus tells us that as we go, we are to make disciples.

The problem is that we’ve put so much focus on going that we’ve forgotten to do what Jesus actually told us to do, which is make disciples. We think we have to go somewhere special to fulfill the Great Commission. We need to go to Mexico or Haiti or Africa. We need to go witnessing at the food court or the pier. So we delegate the command to “make disciples” to those special times in those special places, instead of making disciples in our own communities every day.

Jesus wasn’t telling us to go somewhere special and then make disciples. He was telling us to make disciples wherever we go. At school, at work, at home, at church. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are all saving up for mission trips.

Now don’t get me wrong. Going on mission trips and going witnessing is awesome. But if you’re only making disciples one week a year in a foreign country or every other Tuesday at the food court between 6 and 8pm, then you’re not really making disciples. You’re trying to make converts. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not the Great Commission.

Look at Jesus. He had twelve disciples. He didn’t spend a week with them in Egypt and call it discipleship. No, these guys lived in His community, and He saw them on a daily basis for over three years. He prayed with them, ate with them, did Bible studies with them, answered all of their stupid questions. He taught them how to live a Christian life. And after three years, He told them to go make disciples of their own.

So Jesus started with just twelve. Well, eleven, because Judas kind of sucked. And then those eleven went and made disciples. And then those disciples went and made disciples. And then those disciples went and made disciples. They followed this simple pattern that Jesus laid out. They started in their own community first, and then eventually started to branch out.

And after a few generations, half the civilized world had become disciples of Jesus. Who woulda thunk?!? They did what Jesus said, and they transformed the entire world.

But somewhere along the road, we lost sight of what Jesus told us to do. Instead of all of us making disciples wherever we go, we decided that a small number of us should make converts every now and then. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it’s not really working.

Now again, there’s nothing wrong with street witnessing or mission trips or anything like that. But when you’re not doing those things, I want to challenge you to give the Great Commission a try.

Make just one disciple this year. Pray for him, pray with him, spend time with him, answer his questions, read the Bible together. Show him what a godly life looks like. Teach him everything you know. Teach him how to make disciples of his own. Make this a daily practice. And after a year, send him out to make a disciple of his own.

That’s the Great Commission. So go. And wherever you go, make disciples.

And remember, you’re greater than you realize.

Have a great day.