Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Daniel 3:13-18
Preached at Turramurra Uniting Church in Sunday 17th November, 2019
We all know John 3:16 … but did you know that there are some other 3:16’s in the bible which can also speak of God’s love & grace? Today I want to show you something which I found really amazing that when I was exploring my bible a few months ago. It started with a prayer a number of years ago when my prayer partner before he prayed he read the passage from Malachi 3:16 and I remember thinking … wow, that is a great verse … and it is chapter 3 verse 16, just like John 3:16. And it started a thought process in my mind. What if there are others great 3:16’s in the Bible. So the next chance I got, I sat down with my bible and started to explore.
The bible is truly an amazing book and can speak to us in most unexpected ways. For example, if we turn our bibles to 2 Timothy 3:16 we read …
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
That is so true. The bible is an amazing gift from God, able to help teach us, guide us, correct us and equip us. We should be opening ourselves up God and reading the bible every day. But it is not the easiest book in the world to read. As the Apostle Peter acknowledged when talking about the writings of Paul in 2 Peter chapter 3 verse 16
2 Peter 3:16. He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Yes, the bible is sometimes hard to understand, but if we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit as we read the bible, the holy Spirit will help us to see, and learn, and understand. Actually Paul in his letter to 2 Corinthians describes how even the people of his time struggled with the scriptures. He said that for some people when they heard the scriptures of Moses read it was like there was a veil covering their hearts – making them dull and not able to see and understand. But in 2 Corinthians 3:16 we read,
2 Corinthians 3:15-16 Even to this day when the law of Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
So my hope this morning as we step through the bible is that God will speak to us … that God through the Holy Spirit will remove any veil that we have that is stopping us seeing the glory and the wisdom that is held in this book.
Before jumping into this … during the week I was asked about where the chapter and verses come from because they are not in the original text. Jesus never quoted scripture using chapter and verse. Rather, the chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury around 1227. The verse numbering was added by Robert Estienne in 1551. These two systems are the basis for what we still use today.
So … lets open ourselves up to the word of God this morning and be guided not only by the Holy Spirit, but the framework of Langton and Estienne … and the numbers 3 and 16.
Let’s jump back to our bible reading … Daniel 3:16
Daniel 3:16-18. 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
How were they so confident?
The obvious answer is that they put their faith in God. As the prophet Joel affirmed in Joel 3:16 –
The Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel
Yes, they trusted in God … put their life on the line but I think for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, it was more than just a simple trust in God’s ability to save. They seemed to have an inner strength to be able to be bold and make such a definitive stand for God. Where did this inner strength come from?
Ephesians 3:16-18 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
Three things here – we are strengthen in our inner being through the Holy Spirit, that we are strengthened by Christ dwelling in our hearts and by understanding God’s love.
Firstly let’s look at the Holy Spirit…
Matthew 3:16-17. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus inner power came from God’s call on his life and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. But Luke says that we can be baptised with the Holy Spirit too…
Luke 3:16 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
So John saying that through Jesus we too can receive the Holy Spirit, and the inner strength that comes through that. Actually there is another 3:16 verse that sort of explains how this works.
1 Corinthians 3:16 16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
So God’s spirit lives in us … and the Holy Spirit gives us inner strength. That’s a great promise. But what about the part in Ephesians 3:16 where it says that Christ will dwell in our hearts. How is that related to inner strength?
There is no doubt that one of the clearest messages of the Bible, one of the absolute mega-themes is the good news that comes through Jesus. The message of Jesus is central to our faith and all that we are.
Have a listen to the poetic way that Timothy sums up the message of Jesus in 1 Timothy 3:16 (the 10th 3:16 of the sermon) … He [Jesus] appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
And it is this message of Jesus that has the power to save, the power to transform, the power to change a person’s life completely. Listen to how Peter and John talk about this power following the healing of the crippled man near the temple in Acts 3:16
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
Now this faith in Jesus, this power to transform and change is not only something that people in the Bible experienced but it is something that we can too. As Ephesians 3:16 reminded us, Jesus can make his home in our hearts.
Colossians 3:16 says the same thing. Actually I will read verse 3;15, 3;16 and 3:17.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Did you catch all the promises in that 3:16 verse? When the message of Christ dwells in our hearts we find peace, gratitude, thankfulness, praise and a hunger of teaching and wisdom.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 also talks about the Jesus, the Lord of peace, granting us peace at all times and in all ways.
2 Thess 3:16
16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
So … inner strength, the sort of inner strength that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had as they stood before the fiery furnace not only comes from the empowering of the Holy Spirit, but also from Christ dwelling in our hearts. But what about the last part in Ephesians 3:16 … the bit about understanding how long, wide, deep God’s love is for us. Is there any 3:16 verse that points to God’s love?
John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God’s love for is so complete that it can change our lives and our
situations. I love this image from Zephaniah 3:16-17 (CEV) Jerusalem, the time is
coming, when it will be said to you: “Don’t be discouraged or grow weak from
fear! 17 The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is
always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh
your life with his love.
So how do we respond to God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling of Christ in our hearts and the gift of his love?
1 John 3:16. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
God wants us to love with all we have. He warns in Revelation 3:16. 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Don’t be lukewarm … We to give ourselves completely to being people of God’s love. We need to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3:16 who said they were going to stick by God no matter what. Good or bad, they were with God. And that makes God pleased. Listen to Malachi 3:16 (#18)
16 All those who truly respected the Lord and honoured his name started discussing these things, and when God saw what was happening, he had their names written as a reminder in his book
God does not forget … he has written your name in his book! With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and the knowledge of God’s love shaping our lives and our actions … the prayer of Ephesians 3:16 comes true.
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.