It turns out, we currently face the same dilemma a man named Daniel faced more than 2,600 years ago.
Daniel was Jewish which means he belonged to the people of God. Back then, Jewish people were the only ones who had access to God. But thanks to Jesus, now all of us have been adopted into the family of God.
Since Daniel was Jewish, you’d assume that he was just surrounded by people who were godly people and obeyed all the scriptures. Unfortunately, at this time in history, Jewish culture was drifting from the truth. I’d imagine it looked similar to what we see right now in America.
But Daniel was one of the few that didn’t give in to culture. He continued to live a righteous life even when a majority of Jewish people were drifting into the ways of the world instead of the ways of God.
Because everyone was drifting, things didn’t turn out so well for God’s people. They were captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon to serve him and his kingdom.
Last week, we talked about how culture has an agenda for us. It wants to change our identity, compromise our standards and create confrontation. And Christians really struggle with this confrontation thing.
We tend to either spew truth out of our mouths like a toxic substance or head all the way to the other extreme and start advocating for sin without even realizing that we’re doing it.
The thing is, we need grace and truth working together. We need to be compassionate towards those around us while remaining confident in the Word of God at the same time.
Once we are full of grace and full of truth, we are ready to go out and affect positive change in culture. That’s why on the night before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed this prayer over us:
John 17:15-16 NLT – I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
Christians tend to get a fort mentality, “We going to barricade the doors of the church to separate ourselves from the world.” But Jesus cleared this up for us.
No, we do not belong to the world, but the last thing Jesus wants is for us to be taken out of the world. Instead, He wants us safe from the evil one as we go about making a difference in the world.
Sounds like a better plan than creating a fort, doesn’t it?
When you receive the gift of salvation by believing in Jesus, the devil can’t take that away from you. So he changes his strategy and works hard to make sure you don’t take anyone to heaven with you.
The devil would love for us all to create a fort and separate ourselves from the world. And that’s why you see so many churches that are inward focused. They don’t even care about the lost, they just want a safe place for themselves.
Well, you aren’t going to get that here. Actually, what’s most important to us is that those who don’t know God come through those doors every Sunday and find Him here at NoLimits.
If you’re looking for a church where everyone behaves like a mature Christian, you’ll probably be disappointed here. We are a church who accepts you as you are and at the same time, loves you too much to leave you there.
So, this poses a challenge.
How do we live in the world but not become like the world?
Well today I am going to simplify this for you. There’s really only one culprit to an ungodly culture. There’s one thing that drives every ounce of ungodly behavior.
It’s all rooted in one mindset. And once you are able to identify that mindset, you’ll be able to be in the world without allowing culture inside of you. What is this one thing?
And here’s the deal. When you recognize how the devil works through individualism, you’re not going to fall for it so easily. This message is going to be like turning the light on in a dark room.
This is the devil’s one lie that spawns all the other lies. And you can see it the very first time he spoke in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. He’s always trying to get you to elevate yourself above God. Individualism.
You can move forward just a few chapters in the book of Genesis and see satan using the same exact lie that he used with Adam and Eve. This is the story of the Tower of Babel:
Genesis 11:4 NKJV – “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves.”
God? Who needs God? We got this. God can just stay out of the way.
You see, the devil knows that all he has to do is promote and elevate you and fill your little pride tank to get you off track.
Genesis 11:9 NKJV – Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth.
This is where the name Babylon comes from. And the word Babel literally means confusion.
Because if you follow a way other than God’s way, it’s going to produce confusion in your life. You’ll find yourself living in chaos. Can you see why the entire world is in chaos right now?
If you are living a life of chaos, if you spend your days confused, you might just have bought into individualism.
And the beginning of your Bible isn’t the only place you’ll find this. You’ll also find it at the end of your Bible in the book of Revelation:
Revelation 17:5 NLT – A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.”
All the obscene things you see happening in the world started with someone elevating themselves above God, just like Babylon did.
That’s why you hear things such as “my body, my choice” as an excuse to kill a baby. That’s why it’s called the Pride movement, because we are elevating our ungodly choices above the Word of God.
You can even go to the middle of your Bible and find it there:
Isaiah 47:8-10 NIV – Now then, listen, you lover of pleasure, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.’
With the individualist mindset, you become so full of yourself that you believe you are untouchable simply because you are so awesome. But look what happens:
Isaiah 47:8-10 NIV – Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day: loss of children and widowhood. They will come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and all your potent spells.
Individualism always starts off with fun and games, but it doesn’t end very well. At first, it’s fun to put other people down and elevate yourself and listen to everyone telling you how great you are. But it all ends in destruction.
Isaiah 47:8-10 NIV – You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’
Anyone else seeing how this has taken over our culture? You don’t even have to go to the dirty places to see this happen. Just open up Instagram. It’s like an endless feed of individualism.
In this scripture we find the exact mentality we need to watch out for. And it comes on so suddenly you don’t even know it’s there until someone points it out for you. This is what it sounds like:
“I am, and there is none besides me.”
This is the biggest trick of the devil right here. If he can get you self-focused, he can eventually get you to think that you’re smarter than God, that you know more than God and that your ways are better than God’s.
Every sin, every ungodly behavior can be summed up into one idea:
And this expresses itself in three different ways:
Let me post this selfie so people look at me and see how cute I am. Oh, and I better hit the gym, and take a pic while I’m there, so people can drool over my muscles.
I can do this without God. I’ll let you know when I need you God, but until then, stay out of my way. I’ll come see you on Sunday, but I don’t need you in my day-to-day life.
Truth is, most people truly believe they don’t need God until everything falls apart.
In other words, if it feels good, do it. I mean, no god would ever ask me not to do something that makes me feel good. How dare he call that sin!
In order to elevate self, there’s something else that has to take place at the same time:
You have to make God less than He is. You have to put Him below your ideas, your passions, your pleasures. And that’s exactly what culture does. They want to mock God every chance they get.
There are three lies that cause us to lower God:
Lie #1: God doesn’t love me.
Why would God call me out of something that makes me feel good?
The greatest expression of love is God who lavishly forgives and then calls you to live according to His Word so you can live in freedom.
About a year ago, on a lovely Monday morning, Beth and I rolled out of bed struggling to find a good attitude while fixing the kiddos breakfast. When walking into the kitchen, we both noticed a rank smell.
We were both sniffing around trying to find the source. Was it the trash can? Did the dog poop somewhere? Are the onions rotting? What is it?!
We searched everything. Beth cleaned the floor. We couldn’t find the source, but yet the smell kept coming back.
As we were sniffing around, one of our girls, Adalynn, woke up. I went to her room, opened the door, and BAM, I was hit in the face with a terrible smell. I had found the source.
Apparently, at some point in the night, Adalynn not only threw up several times in her bed, but also blew out of her diaper. Yeah, she had a rough night.
There’s only one way to fix this problem. You have to tackle it head on. So I put her on the changing table and unzipped her little onesie sleeper to find that poop was all over her. And, it had been there awhile.
At this point, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. I started playing the scene in my mind of what the night must have been like for her. In her room, all alone, wondering what was going on while rolling around in her mess.
We have a baby monitor in her room. So, we heard her fuss a bit in the night, but it was never anything extensive. But, if I’m honest, there was a moment in the night where I wondered if she had gotten sick.
In hindsight, now I know it was the Holy Spirit giving me a gentle nudge. But I never went and checked on her. I fell back asleep.
So, after playing the scene in my mind and then realizing that I should have been there to help her, I fell apart. I don’t cry often, but at this moment, I was sobbing.
God is a much better dad than me. He loves you too much to let you sit in your mess. He’s not going to leave you in it. He’s going to help you out of it.
He forgives every one of your mistakes, yes. But that’s not enough! His love extends beyond that by correcting you when you’re headed the wrong direction.
He’ll put people in your life that will call you out and lift you up out of your mess. He’ll show you the truth in His Word that may hurt a little, but deep down you know it will lead you to freedom.
Our culture is telling us that God doesn’t love us and is trying to take away our freedom. But the truth is, God loves you too much to let you flop around in your mess. He is actually helping you step into freedom.
Lie #2: God isn’t for me.
People think that God punishes us with sickness and natural disasters and other kinds of calamity. But this is all a lie. We bring all of that on ourselves when we separate ourselves from God!
He says, “Hey! Keep sex between one man and one woman who have committed themselves to each other in marriage.” And we decide our way is better and then get mad at God when our relationships fall apart.
God says, “Hey! Take care of your bodies because you are going to need them!” And then we blame God when type 2 diabetes comes knocking at our door from all the sugar and processed food we’ve been eating.
Every instruction in the Bible is for YOUR benefit, not God’s! He put it in there because He wants you free. He wants you to live your best life.
We just get convinced by culture that our own way is better.
Lie #3: God wants too much from me.
Is it a challenge to live according to the truth in God’s Word? You bet. But God doesn’t leave you to do it on your own. He gave you the Holy Spirit to help you.
God loves you so much that He clearly shows us what to get away from. And then He gives us the power and help we need to follow those instructions. How good is that?
So individualism can be defined as four simple words:
Elevate self. Lower God.
There is one pillar story in the book of Daniel that illustrates this really well. It is found in chapter four:
Daniel 4:4 NLT – “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity.”
Here is the Babylonian king content without God. And he was elevating himself in the process. Imagine that.
The story goes on and Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that frightens him.
In the dream, he sees a tree that is healthy, strong and tall enough for the whole world to see it. It’s leaves were beautiful, it had abundant fruit, and every living thing enjoyed its presence.
And then a messenger came down from heaven and had the tree chopped down to a stump and all the animals went running off.
This dream frightens Nebuchadnezzar so he calls in all his magicians and enchanters to interpret the dream and no one can do it. So he ends up calling in Daniel to interpret the dream, since Daniel could hear from God.
Here comes Daniel influencing culture the right way. He had the interpretation, and he knew the king could kill him for it, but he comes in with strength and courage:
Daniel 4:22 NLT – That tree, Your Majesty, is you.
That’s a great way to start off a conversation with a king… and it gets even better:
Daniel 4:25-26 NLT – You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven.
Wow. I bet the king was really loving Daniel in this moment.
But remember how the word Babylon means confusion? You get deep enough into elevating yourself and you go insane and start acting like a wild animal.
Daniel 4:25-26 NLT – Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.
The only way to step out of confusion, the only way to get away from individualism, is when you figure out that God is the one to be elevated.
Daniel 4:25-26 NLT – But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules.
This is how good God is! King Nebuchadnezzar totally walked away from God in favor of himself. But as soon as he gets his eyes focused back on God, God restores his kingdom. Come on, now. That’s awesome!
He doesn’t just leave you in your insanity even though you are the one that caused it. He leads you back to truth and restores you back to a prosperous life. That is how much God loves you!
But get this. Even with the foresight of what was going to happen to Nebuchadnezzar if he didn’t change, he still didn’t change. He continued to elevate himself and exactly what was predicted happened.
He was driven from human society and he ate grass like a cow. No joke.
But after seven years, he had finally had enough of living like an animal and look at what happened:
Daniel 4:34-37 NLT – After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal.
Wow, talk about a perspective shift. And it gets even better:
Daniel 4:34-37 NLT – All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him…
Wow. This is like night and day for King Neb. He finally realizes without God, we’re nothing. And we have no place to question what God does or what He asks us to do in His Word.
And look at the result of Nebuchadnezzar switching his perspective:
Daniel 4:34-37 NLT – When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before.
Only God can restore you and make you better than you were before. Only God loves you enough to call you out of your mess. Only God can give you honor with man because you honor God first. Only God.
Daniel 4:34-37 NLT – Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.
He finally got it figured out. Too bad he had to spend seven years acting like an animal before he stopped elevating himself and chose to elevate God instead.
This is my prayer for America. I pray that this virus, the racial tensions, and the economic turmoil moves us to a place of humility where we stop elevating ourselves and instead elevate God.
It starts with you. You can humble yourself today. And when you do, God is not only going to restore you. He’s going to make you better than you were before. He’s going to elevate you to a place of honor with those around you.
When you elevate God, He elevates you.
Try to elevate yourself and you are going to fall hard. But put God first, and you don’t have to worry about being elevated because He will take care of that for you. And it’s going to be way better than anything you could ever do by yourself.
Now let’s wrap this up with three practical things you can do on a daily basis to make sure you don’t get sucked into the gravitational pull of individualism.
#1 I will elevate God above everything.
Not just on Sunday. Not just at church. No, I will live my entire life elevating God and His Word above everything else in my life.
We are really good at elevating a football team. So, if you are wondering how to elevate God, just take some tips from these crazy football fans.
They put everything else on the back-burner when it’s time to watch a game. They get focused in and don’t let anyone distract them. They scream, they yell, and they tell all their friends.
I’m not saying football is bad. I’m just giving you a picture of what it means to elevate something. And we need to elevate God in our lives with the same energy and passion.
Just keep in mind, culture is okay with you elevating football. But they are not okay with you elevating God. So, get ready for people to look at you weird.
But it’s worth it! Because when you elevate God, you rid yourself of individualism and wind up living in freedom. Who’s making fun of you now?
Here’s how the Psalmist elevated God:
Psalms 145:1 NLT – I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever.
#2 I will acknowledge God.
Acknowledge that everything God does and says is right and realize that you have no grounds to argue about it.
Acknowledge that God’s Word is 100% truth. And there is no law that culture can pass that will get me to disregard the truth I find in the Bible.
If they tell me I can’t believe something in the Bible because it’s offensive, I’m sorry, but you aren’t going to coerce me into abandoning God’s truth. Because I care too much about people to abandon truth.
Here’s a practical example for you. Culture currently tells us we shouldn’t gather because of the virus. Well, the Bible tells me not to abandon the gathering, so I’m going to follow God’s Word and trust in His protection.
Culture tells me to elevate one race over the other because apparently it’s the only way to eliminate racism. Well, the Bible tells me there is no longer this race and that race, we are all one in Christ Jesus.
Truth comes from God and God alone. You can’t convince me otherwise. I will acknowledge God above all else.
Here’s the deal. When you elevate God and acknowledge that everything He says is true, culture can’t touch you.
1 Corinthians 4:7 LB – What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why act as though you have accomplished something on your own?
There it is right there. God made you. He gave you your gifts and your talents. He saved you by giving His one and only son. He provided everything we need on this earth to eat and build shelter and make a living.
It’s not you. It’s God. So, don’t ever get caught up with yourself. Which leads us into the third thing:
#3 I will humble myself.
Listen to me. Humility is coming whether you initiate it yourself or something else does it for you.
But can I tell you something? It’s much more pleasant to humble yourself. That’s why the Bible says:
James 4:10 NLT – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
Nebuchadnezzar was given a choice with the dream. He had the opportunity to humble himself. But he didn’t, and therefore was humiliated in front of everyone.
The same choice is before you. Are you going to choose humility? Or are you going to wait for humiliation? Because I can promise you, if you don’t humble yourself, humiliation is coming and it’s not going to be pleasant.
Don’t you see what’s happening to America? Our country has elevated itself above God and now we’re being humiliated in front of everyone.
We’re killing our future with abortions. We’re killing our future with homosexuality. Because, I don’t know if you realize it or not, but two people of the same gender cannot reproduce.
We have people who sit around and let the government take care of them even when they are well and able to work and contribute to society. America is a laughing stock and it’s all because we elevated ourselves above God.
Isn’t it clear to see how this happened? Don’t you see individualism running rampant through our country? It’s like our religion. Life has become all about what is convenient for me and what feels good to me.
But you have the ability to change it. And it starts by humbling yourself.
And listen to me. Humility is not cowering down as if you are worthless. True humility is simply elevating God above yourself. You still walk around with confidence, but not in yourself. Your confidence is in God.
And like James 4:10 says, when you humble yourself, God will elevate you. He doesn’t leave you down in the dirt. No, He lifts you up into the amazing things that He’s called you to do.
This is how you have an impact on culture without it getting inside of you. In every moment of your life, elevate God. Seek Him first. Give Him your best. Prioritize Him. And take initiative and humble yourself.
During this message you might have realized that you’ve never given your life to Jesus but now you see that He’s real. You sense His presence and He is tugging on your heart to come closer.
Go ahead. Go closer. All you gotta do is say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you. I’ve been living my way, but today I’m ready to follow Your way.”
Here’s a simple prayer for you to say out loud:
“God, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It’s pretty clear I can’t do this without you. So I put my faith in Jesus today. Thank you for forgiving me through the blood of Jesus. Thank you for eternal life. Now, fill me with the Holy Spirit – so I can walk out your plan for my life.”
Salvation Next Step
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.