Avoiding the Toxins
The process of purification in our hearts involves more than removing things that don’t belong. As James reminded us, religion that is acceptable to God is “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). In other words, what we avoid is as important as what we extract.
In the book of Daniel we read the account of some young men of God who courageous refused to compromise their faith. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had brought several young Jewish captives of royal birth into his court. They were “without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace”(Daniel 1:4). The king’s official was asked to feed the captives the king’s meat and wine for three years before entering his service. But Daniel had other ideas. He drew three young men, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, into an inner circle and asked the official to feed them only vegetables and water. When the official refused, Daniel was able to convince his guard to provide vegetables and water as a ten-day test. At the end of the test the four young men looked so much better than those with meat and wine the guard allowed them to continue their diet.
it is doubtful Daniel did this because he was a vegetarian. As a Jew, he would have eaten the Passover lamb with his family in his home country. But the test he devised was symbolic of the way God blesses us when we rely on Him. Incidentally, after three years Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel and his friends brought before Him, and he could find no one equal to them.
We are made pure by the blood of Jesus, we become pure by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and we manage purity by steering clear of sin. Every fall I wash and wax my car to prepare it for the harsh winter elements. I am always amazed at how dirty the surface has become. The cleaning and waxing changes my focus. Suddenly, I see every smudge and streak, and when I drive through a mud puddle I can’t wait to wash it off. Then, as time goes by my enthusiasm wanes and I fail to notice the new film of dirt as it forms.
In the case of Daniel, the sin was not in consuming the king’s food and drink, but rather the temptation to let a pagan leader usurp his reliance on God. He and the other young men of Israel were in Babylon as captives, partially because their nation had replaced the worship of God with pagan idolatry. Perhaps it was because Daniel and his friends had lost so much they weren’t about to turn their backs on God again. They weren’t ready to let the dirt collect again.