Craig Groeschel - Under the Influence
All right, well, who's in the mood to have a little fun today? Anybody ready to have a little fun? To have a little fun, what I thought we could do is, we could talk about politics. Let's do that, all right? Let's talk about politics today. What we're gonna do, is at the count of three, I'm gonna ask you to shout at the top of your lungs, who you're gonna vote for next week. Are you ready to do that? I'm not gonna do that. Don't shout at the top of your lungs I'm only joking, but we do know that we have a very big week ahead of us for those of you who are part of our country. And this Tuesday, and in the coming week we're going to elect the person who will be the president for the next four years.
And I think you would acknowledge, that we're living in a season that's very, very complicated, perhaps more tension in our nation than for many of us for our entire lives. And certainly, this is a complicated time. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that whoever you're voting for is the best candidate and whoever else everyone else is voting for their complete idiots. And the reason I know that, is because I've seen you on social media, talking about how crazy everybody is. What I want to do though, is I want to take a step back today and I want to let God's Word reset our hearts and prepare us to be faithful no matter what the future holds.
So we're gonna look today at God's Word from 1 Peter 5:6, and let this speak to our hearts. Peter said this, he said, "Humble yourselves". It's a great place to start to recognize that we're not always right, we don't know it all, and we can humble ourselves. "Therefore, under God's mighty hand". Who's thankful for the powerful hand of God that has evolved in our lives reigning and ruling a sovereign and a Supreme God, we will humble ourselves under God's mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. I want to focus on a phrase, "Humble yourselves, therefore under God". Can somebody say, "Under God". Under God. Those of you online type that in the chat, "Under God". Just type it in there, "I'm under God, I'm under God, I'm under God". "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand that he may lift you up".
I want to talk about being under God and try to answer the question. How do we, as followers of Christ, live under God in a culture that's becoming increasingly hostile toward God? How do we, as disciples of Jesus, faithfully serve him, faithfully live for him, faithfully represent him in a culture that's becoming increasingly hostile toward God. I want to talk about how we live under God. But before we talk about how we live under God, I want to first try to identify and help you identify in your own walk. What you're actually under.
In fact, I'm gonna show you a scale that will come up on the screen behind me with the numbers between one and 10. And I want you to try to identify and discuss this. Talk about it with your family, with your spouse if you're married maybe with your children, talk about it with your Life Group and ask yourself, what are you you under? When you look at your own life, what is influencing you? Are you under the influence of God? Is he influencing most of your decisions, directing your steps, moving your emotions and leading you every single day? Or would you say you're more under the influence of culture, the systems of this world, the thinking of this culture.
And so you might say, "Well, yeah, I don't even believe in God. So obviously I'm under culture. I'm a one or a two". Or you might say, "No, I'm really, really passionate about the things of God, I'm under God". Don't say you're a 10. You're not a 10. Jesus is a 10. You might be a nine, but you're not a 10. But what I want you to do, is try to think about, and talk about what are you under? What is influencing you? So let's talk about some different categories. Let's start with like, "What entertains you"? I want you to think about whenever you watch something, enjoy something, listen to something to entertain you.
Would you say that you're more under the influence of God? Meaning before you watch a show on Netflix, before you listen to some music, before you read something, before you open up social media, you're thinking consciously asking, "Is this pleasing to God? Is this going to help build my faith"? And if the answer is no, you might stay away from it. If the answer is yes, you might go to it. Would you say that which entertains you is influenced by God? Or would you say you're more under culture? In other words, you're kinda entertained by whatever is recommended next, perhaps on Netflix. Does it matter if it's God honoring? Does it matter if it's filthy?
If it's funny, that's good enough for you. Or if it's high quality. Does it matter what's in the music you listen to? Does it matter about what you read? Would you say, when you look at that which entertains you you're more under culture or maybe are you more under God? Let's talk about another category. Let's talk about your money. Maybe you get paid once a week, once every two weeks or so. When you receive an increase, when you have money, what influences what you do with your money? Would you say that you're really, really, really under God. Like you recognize this comes from God is a gift from God, so much so that I wanna worship God with the very first that comes in.
I wanna give him the tithe, because I know this comes from God. And then you recognize, "I really want to honor God with what I have. I want to be a good steward. Sure, I'm going to enjoy some but I'm gonna use what I have to make a difference in this world". When it comes to your money, you're really, really under the influence of God. Or would you say, it's probably more under the influence of culture? In other words, you probably don't even think about God. And if you're gonna give to God, it's not first, it's probably last, whatever's leftover if you can afford to. Because culture drives and consumes your spending and you find that almost whatever comes in, goes out because you see the ad and you want it.
And you think, "If I have that, I'll be happy". And you're chasing something out there to find something consuming, something that's gonna be meaningful. When it comes to your money, would you say, you're more under the influence of God? Or would you say you're more under the influence of culture? Let's think about the words that you speak. Think about the last week, just what you said during the week. Would you say that you were under the influence of God, as you were speaking to people. In other words, your words were life-giving, your words were God honoring, your words were encouraging and pointing people toward eternity and the things that last and the things that matter.
Or would you say you're more under culture? Meaning, yeah, you kinda just go along with the flow and everybody else is griping so your griping too. And you're tearing people down and your words are angry and sometimes hateful and often critical. They may have been harsh to your spouse or maybe your children. You found yourself gossiping a little bit talking bad about all those liberal idiots or all those conservative idiots or whatever it is. When it comes to your words, would you say that they're more influenced by God? Or would you say they're more influenced by culture? What influences your life?
Let's just do one more category. How about your self-worth? How do you feel about yourself? Would you say that you're under the influence of God? Meaning it doesn't really matter what they say about you or what they think about you. You're secure, you know who you are in Christ. You're valuable because of what God says about you, or would you say that your self worth is more under the influence of culture? Meaning if you don't have the right label on or your hair is not having a good day, you don't feel good about yourself. It really matters what they say and what they think and how many people like your post or comment. Because if they don't, you don't feel valuable.
Would you say, that you are more under the influence of God or under the influence of culture? And here's, what's really sad. Many of us don't even know. We've got no idea what influence we're under. I'll illustrate it this way. How many of you, all of our churches, how many of you have ever been around a drunk person? Raise your hands. Notice I didn't ask you if you've ever been drunk. See what I did there for you? If you've been around a drunk person online, type it in, "I've been around a drunk, I've been around a drunk person".
What's interesting, is if you've ever been around someone who's under the influence of alcohol, they don't always know, they're under the influence of alcohol. I'm not drunk, I'm okay, I'm not drunk at all. They don't know they're under the influence but they're under the influence and something on the outside is influencing what comes from their inside. What happens when you're under the influence of alcohol? Well, alcohol influences how you think, if I'm right, say you're right, I'm my right? You're right. It influences what you say. If I'm right, say you're right. You're right. It influences the way that you talk. Am I right? You're right. It influences who you think is attractive. You're right. You're laughing, right?
After four drinks or so, the percentage of attractive people goes up. After six or so, you start thinking you're attractive. The more you drink, the uglier you get, the more attractive you think. When you're under the influence of alcohol, you may not even know you're under the influence, but it influences who you love. You can meet a total stranger. One dude is talking to another dude. "I love you man, you're my best friend". When you're under the influence of alcohol, it lowers your guard. You become way more vulnerable to do stupid things you'd never do otherwise. And you're not always aware when you're under it's influence.
What if, we've been so intoxicated by our culture that we're not even aware that we're under its influence. What if we're so poisoned by the thinking of this world that we don't even realize how far we drifted from God Humble yourselves, therefore under God's mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. Humble yourself under God. How do we, it's a very complicated season of life. How do we live under God, in a culture that's becoming increasingly hostile toward God.
What I wanna do is I wanna show you a story in the Old Testament, its incredibly powerful to me, in the book of Daniel. I'll give you the context of it, then we're gonna look at several verses and we're gonna zero in on one particular verse. If you don't know about Daniel in the Old Testament he was raised worshiping the one true God. He would worship Yahweh in every way but tragically, King Nebuchadnezzar, who was a very evil King, came in with the Babylonians and completely destroyed Daniel's Homeland, Jerusalem. And the Babylonians, the evil Babylonians burned the temple to the ground, completely wrecked the city. And in this evil plan, they went and took as prisoners, the brightest of the bright, the best of the best of the Jewish people including Daniel to kidnap them, make them prisoners or slaves to indoctrinate them with the Babylonian culture, so these very talented, very bright young men could eventually become Babylonian leaders in their government.
You can read in the story very clearly in Daniel 1:3, it says, "Then the King ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials to bring into the King's service, some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility, young men 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". Now, what was he to do? "He was to teach them the language", do you know how to learn a new language? "And the literature of the Babylonians and the King assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the King's table".
Now this was not the normal food they would eat. This was food that was dedicated to pagan gods and the scripture says, "They were to be trained for three years, and after that, they will enter into the King's service". So what do we have? Daniel was one of several young men that was taken prisoner. And the Babylonians then changed their language, changed their education, indoctrinating them with the Babylonian views so they would be under the culture, under the thinking, change their names. Originally their names reflected the one true God but these young men now had names that represented the pagan gods and even changed their diet so they wouldn't eat that which was good, right, pure and healthy but instead would eat food that was dedicated to pagan gods.
Without knowing it, the goal was to bring these people under the influence of the Babylonian culture. If, the King thought, "If we can change the way they think, then we can change what they believe. And if we can change the way they think and what they believe, we can change how they will behave". Do not forget, we have a spiritual enemy. His name is Satan and he is the father of lies. And there is a all-out attack against your mind to convince you of lies, because if he can change the way you think he will change what you believe. And if he can get you under the influence of culture and change what you think and what you believe, then he can change how you behave.
And every single day, I believe, our enemy is lying to us. Lowing us into spiritual complacency. You may even kind of like believe in God, like y'all believe in God. I mean like, I mean, I'm not a Buddhist or anything like that. And, you know, I go to church every now and then, and I pray over my meal before thanksgiving and you wake up and you realize without even knowing it, "Oh my gosh, I'm more under culture, than I am under God. How did I get there"? The answer is, we have to recognize, embrace, believe, that we cannot half way follow Jesus. We can never be just a partially devoted follower of Christ. Why? Because you will never, and I promise you this, you will never just accidentally, stumble into righteousness. You'll never be going along half-heartedly through life and just follow into holiness.
Oh my gosh, I can't believe I'm more holy today than I was yesterday. I mean, suddenly my passion for Jesus just grew out of nowhere. I have no idea why. Suddenly I just let go of the things that were holding me back and the sin that was holding me hostage. And now suddenly for no reason whatsoever, I crave God's Word. And I want to live for eternity. You will never stumble into righteousness. We can't halfway follow Jesus. You know this, but yet we often forget it. Because we don't recognize how much under the influence of culture we really are. It is funny to me.
Think about any other era of your life, and ask, "Can you just kinda sorta try and become great"? Take your body. Let's say, you wanna get healthy. What's your plan? Well, I'm gonna work out one time a month. It has really gonna be a good workout. You think you can go one time a month to get in good shape. No, you'd just laugh your head off. Or let's talk about your diet. Some people have a cheat meal once a week, like one meal a week, I'd eat something unhealthy. You, "I'm gonna have a good, I'm gonna have a healthy meal once a week, and I'm gonna get in shape". That's just crazy, that's just crazy.
Same with your relationships. Imagine with my wife, Amy. Imagine if I said, "I wanna have a really good marriage, so I'ma be nice to her at least once a week". It's crazy, right? And yet, for so many of us as followers of Christ, "I want to be close to God, so I may go to church once a week". But that's about it, nothing else. And one day we wake up wondering why we freak out and panic and are vulnerable to whatever the latest rumor is, believing there's no hope for the future. Putting our hope in a temporary world and in people who can never meet our needs instead of in a God who is always good and always faithful. Even in our hard times, he's still on the throne.
How did Daniel stay faithful to God, when everything in the Babylonian culture was trying to bring him under its seductive influence? There's one little verse, that's so powerful. And this is the verse for which we're going to apply to our lives. Verse eight, they said, "Daniel, eat this food devoted to pagans". In verse eight, "But Daniel resolved". Somebody say I'm resolved. I'm resolved. Type in the chat, "I'm resolved". Daniel made a predetermined decision, he pre-decided. Before he was in the moment, he had already made his resolution. "But Daniel resolved, not to defile himself with the royal food and wine". I love this, the King said, "Eat the food devoted to pagan gods". But Daniel had already predetermined where his line in the sand would be. He had pre-decided, I am under God.
What's fascinating to me, is that Daniel didn't fight when they took away his name. Because he knew that was an outward label, and inwardly, he knew who he was. He didn't defend his name, but when someone attacked the name of God, that's when he said, "No one defames God's name. I have predetermined, I pre-decided, I'm not eating this food devoted to pagan gods". How do we live under God, at a culture increasingly hostile toward God? We make some predetermined resolutions in our lives. And this is what I'm gonna ask you to do. I'm not gonna ask you to make five or 10, predetermined decisions. I'm gonna ask you to simply make one, just one, just one. Whatever the Holy Spirit reveals to you is your most important one. And what we're gonna do is we're gonna change the trajectory to drifting mindlessly under culture. And we're gonna take one step back toward being under God in all that we do. We're going to humble ourselves under God's mighty hands.
To live under God, I've decided to what? One decision, one decision. To change the momentum toward culture back and take a step toward God. I've pre-decided, this is what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna share with you just a few of the predetermined resolutions I made along the way. Probably my first one was when I was 20 years of age and I was a brand new follower of Jesus. And I recognized, I didn't know anything about God, nothing about the Bible. And the temptations to go back to the life from which I came, back to culture, the temptations were so strong that I made a predetermined decision, that I would spend the first moments of my day with God. My first moments would be daily time with Christ. I don't know about you, but I eat every day and I drink every day.
So as a follower of Jesus, I better feed on the bread of life every day. I want some time with God every day. So the first part of my day, technically the second part. First I go to the bathroom. The second part of my day, is that now I opened up my YouVersion Bible App and I'm reading again all the way through the Bible and I'm letting God's Word nourish my soul. It's a predetermined decision. And then I spend time in prayer. And so tomorrow when I wake up, I don't have to ask myself, "What am I gonna do first? Am I gonna go to Instagram? Am I gonna worry? Am I gonna go and read the news"? No, I've already predetermined the first thing I do is spend time with God.
Another decision I made as a young believer is before I was a Christian, I was not sexually pure. And I learned that the gift of lovemaking is reserved for the context of marriage. And so I made a decision, took me a few weeks to commit to this, but I committed, that I'm gonna wait until I'm married and not have sex again until I'm married. So whenever I would meet a girl that would be interesting and maybe we were about to go out on a first date. I would just tell her my commitment. "Just so you'll know, I'm not gonna have sex until I'm married".
Yes, it was a very awkward conversation. And a lot of times they weren't very interested in me and they go, "I'm not planning on having sex with you". But I would just tell them, because I wasn't gonna wait until things were hot and heavy in the backseat of the car, where I go, "Stop, wait, I gotta pray. God, what should I do next? I have no idea, where is the line"? I wasn't gonna do that. It was a predetermined decision. Because I don't wanna be under culture. I've chosen to be under God, I've pre-decided this is what I'm gonna do or not do.
For me financially, I pre-decided that every time God blessed me I'd worship him with the tithe. I don't wait until the end of the month. I don't wait until the see what's left. I've determined, my God is a good God, he's been faithful to me. So the first thing I do every single time is I worship him with a tithe. Church, hey, long before I was a pastor, I decided that were people of the church that we don't go to church, that we are the church. The church exists to meet the needs of the world. So when our kids, when we're on vacation, we just found a place to go to church. My kids have never ever said, "Dad, are we going to church today"? That's not a question that's asked in our household. Why? Because we've predetermined, that as people of God, we go to church.
I love it, Jesus did not say, "I will build my government and the gates of hell will not prevail against it". What he said was, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it". I have predetermined, I've pre-decided, this is who I am, this is what I'm called to do. What's yours? What's yours? The pool of culture is so strong. If you don't constantly fight against it you're not gonna understand you're under its influence. I've predetermined, one decision, one decision. It could be time with God, it could be you need this, you know, go more basic, like, "I'm not doing meth anymore".
Whatever it is, that's a good place to start, right? It might be that in the social media world, you're not going to engage in the hate. It could be with your words in your marriage, you're not gonna trash talk her or trash talk him to your friends. You're not gonna belittle your children. You're not gonna gossip, you're not gonna lie. You're gonna speak words of life. It might be, you're gonna commit to pray every night before bed with your children. Every night, you want your children to know we're people of prayer. It might be before you walk out the door, you pray with your spouse. 30 seconds, what's it gonna be? One decision.
Listen and ask the Spirit to show you. Holy Spirit, what's one thing I can do to change the trajectory of being pulled under culture and take a step back to be under the influence of the goodness of my God? Lead me. Humble yourselves, humble yourselves. Therefore under God's mighty hands that he may lift you up in due time. God, if there's any area that I've been deceived if there's any area I'm floating under the influence of culture. Show me, reveal it to me, because the difference between culture and God is night and day, is dark and light, is good and evil. Think about what culture tells us every single day. And we just accept it and get used to it, and get sucked into it and embrace it. Without even realizing we're under its influence.
Culture tells us, "Promote yourself. It's all about you, if you're gonna get anywhere you got to put yourself first. Go beg". Jesus says, "Deny yourself, humble yourself, consider others better than yourself". Culture says, "Consume, take, accumulate". Jesus says, "It is way more blessed to give than it is to receive". You can make a difference if you'll fight against the pool of culture and take a step toward the things of Jesus. Culture says, "Hate those who aren't like you, hate 'em. If they hurt you, swing back. Curse those who mistreat you". Jesus says, "Bless those who curse you. Love those who hate you". It's night and day. It's light and darkness. Culture says, "Pursue things". Jesus says, "Pursue eternity". Culture says, "Pursue happiness". Jesus says, "Pursue holiness".
How do we live under God, in a culture increasingly hostile toward God? Today, I'm just gonna ask you to take one step, predetermined decision. If you ask God, I believe he'll show you something. Then we're gonna commit to it and we're gonna talk about it because God is calling us, to be humbled, to be dependent on him, under his mighty hand. And he still has the ability to lift us up in due time.
So, we're gonna make some predetermined decisions. Who are we? We are citizens of heaven. We are ambassadors of the Most High God. We will be informed, yes, we will be prayerful, yes, we will vote, yes. We're gonna be involved, yes. We're gonna pray for our leaders. Whoever's elected next week, we will pray for our leaders. Yes. We will love others. But we will never be more committed to our political party than we are to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We are under God, we are under God, we are under God, we are under God, we are under God, we are under God, we are under God, we are under God.
Next week, we will elect a president. Some of you, you're gonna be happy. Some of you, you are gonna be sad. Some of you are moving to Canada. All of us, as followers of Christ, we are pre-decided, predetermined, resolved, to be under God, under his mighty hand. The sovereign hand of God who rules through righteous Kings and unrighteous Kings. The one who brings good out of all things because we know that no matter which party holds office our God holds the world, who are we? We are followers of Jesus. We are people of faith. And we are always under God.
Father we pray and we ask that by the power of your spirit, you will use us. As the world grows darker may our lights sign brighter. Now God speak to us, every person individually, and show us God, how we can be predetermined, pre-decided. Resolved to be under you, your truth, you're leading, you're kingdom. You are our King. We're resolved to serve you.
And all of our churches, those of you watching online, you're willing to just ask God. You may already know, you've got your one. If you don't, I'm going to ask the spirit God to show me my one. And you're gonna make a decision, a commitment before God. One decision, one decision, to fight against the seductive lure of culture and take a step toward being under the Kingdom of God. If you'll prayerfully seek God, make that decision, talk about it with someone around you, pray and live it out. Would you lift up your hands right now? Just lift up your hands. You can type in the chat, "I'm deciding, I'm pre-deciding, whatever it is".
Father I thank you that you're gonna show all of us. I pray God that we would hear from you and be resolved, to take a significant step towards you. And God we thank you that you will guide our steps. Speak to us clearly. God help us to recognize any places that we've been deceived. We don't want to be under the seductive lies of this culture, God. We want to be under you. God may our faith be in you, no matter what happens this week we choose to be under you God.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches and those of you watching online. If you ask yourself what are you under, under culture or under God? A lot of you would probably say, "Men, I'm like massively I'm under culture. I'm really not influenced by the things of God". And you may come to recognize that even though you might've liked grown up in church, like I did, I grew up church but I didn't know God, I wasn't a follower of Jesus. And you may recognize you're not that. Or you might not be a church person at all and you're doing your own thing. But suddenly you realize you're being drawn to the things of God. What is that? That's the Holy Spirit. That's the goodness of God. That's his loving kindness.
And you're not watching, you're not here by accident, it's God's grace, his goodness, his love, that's drawing you. What do you do? How do you live under God in a culture that's increasingly hostile toward God? You simply surrender to the goodness of Jesus. Who is Jesus? The perfect Son of God. The one who came for sinners and broken people and hurting outcast, those that religion rejected. Jesus was perfect and died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And our God raised him up so that anyone who had humbled themselves, cry out to him for mercy, our God would hear your prayers, forgive your sins and make you brand new. If you're overwhelmed with fear, you feel uneasy. Why don't you look up to the God who is sovereign and supreme and humble yourselves before him.
And all of our churches, those who say, "Yes, I want his grace, I want his forgiveness". Today, I'm humbling myself. I'm surrendering to Jesus, Jesus take my life. I want to follow you. I want to know you. When you cry out to him, he'll hear your prayer and you will be brand new. It doesn't matter what you've done. Doesn't matter how dark your world it is. The light of Jesus is about to come in. All of our churches are those watching online. Say yes, I want his forgiveness, I want his grace. Today I'm humbling myself, I surrender Jesus, today I give you my life.
If that's your prayer, lift your hands high now all over the place and say, "Yes, that's my prayer", chats are online, just type in, "I'm giving my life to Jesus". And as we have people all over the world, humbling themselves and surrendering before Jesus, would you just pray with those around you? Just pray aloud, pray:
Heavenly Father. I humble myself and come to you asking Jesus to save me, to forgive all of my sins. Fill me with your spirit, so I could know you and live for you. Not under culture, but under God, direct my steps. My life is not my own, I give it all to you, in Jesus name I pray.