Oreo is the best-selling cookie brand in the US and the number one selling cookie globally. In this age of “woke” business, it’s not surprising that Oreo’s parent company, Nabisco, would want to capitalize on the popularity of their commodity. On Monday, they released a short film affirming a young Asian man who is coming out as gay.
Their film is just one example of the escalation of unbiblical sexual morality in American culture. Here are some others: GLAAD, a leading LGBTQ watchdog group, is urging Hollywood to incorporate more LGBTQ content into children’s programming. A former Disney Channel actor recently spoke of witnessing his female co-stars being sexually exploited at an early age. And new sex education guidelines in New Jersey will teach first-graders about gender identity.
“My identity isn’t a golf score”
However, if you’re discouraged by Western society’s continued decay and decline, take heart: God is still using his people in culture-changing ways.
For example, after Scottie Scheffler won the Masters last Sunday, he was asked at a press conference how he balances his fierce desire to compete without letting it define who he is as a person. He replied: “The reason why I play golf is I’m trying to glorify God and all that he’s done in my life. So for me, my identity isn’t a golf score.”
Then he added: “Like Meredith [his wife] told me this morning, ‘If you win this golf tournament today, if you lose this golf tournament by ten shots, if you never win another golf tournament again, I’m still going to love you, you’re still going to be the same person, Jesus loves you and nothing changes.’”
As a result, he said, “All I’m trying to do is glorify God and that’s why I’m here and that’s why I’m in [this] position.”
“No one ever spoke like this man!”
Yesterday we focused on the power of the Spirit to transform us into the character of Christ (Romans 8:29). Today, let’s build on this theme by focusing on one aspect of Jesus’ life and work: his brilliant mind.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, our Lord was confronted by the religious leaders of his day. They had already determined to put him to death (John 11:47–53) and now sought to bring charges that would turn the crowds against him as a false teacher and prophet.
One of their questions was especially incendiary: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). If Jesus said that it was, the crowds would turn against him for supporting the hated Roman Empire. If he said it was not, the Romans would arrest him for insurrection. It seemed that they had him trapped.
But Jesus turned the tables on them, asking to see the coin used to pay the tax in question. It was a denarius, with a profile of Tiberius Caesar. He then made his famous declaration, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21). Matthew records that “when they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away” (v. 22).
This event was by no means unusual in the life of our Lord. Even when he was just twelve years old, “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). When he concluded the Sermon on the Mount, “The crowds were astonished at his teaching” (Matthew 7:28).
When the authorities earlier sent soldiers to arrest him (John 7:30), the officers returned empty-handed and explained, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (v. 46). Jesus was such a brilliant thinker and speaker that biblical scholar Jonathan T. Pennington could write an entire book titled Jesus the Great Philosopher. (I recommend Pennington’s work highly, by the way.)
“He will teach you all things”
Here’s my point: Jesus taught and spoke in the power of the Holy Spirit.
John said of him: “He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34). Jesus said of himself, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).
He promised the same to us: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Jesus added that the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth . . . and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).
If we will seek and submit to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit each day, he will help us develop the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5). We will “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). And we will “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
“The test of the artist”
In To Change the World, sociologist James Davison Hunter demonstrated conclusively that we change culture by achieving our highest place of influence and living there faithfully. Scottie Scheffler is an example: he was as fully devoted to Jesus before he began winning PGA tournaments as he is now that he is the world’s No. 1 golfer. But his excellence on the golf course has empowered his witness and platform off it.
You and I can follow the same culture-changing approach: work hard to be and do your best to the glory of God in daily submission to the omniscience and wisdom of the Spirit. He will “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13) if you are willing to be led. And he will use your excellence for his glory and our good.
Thomas Aquinas observed, “The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.”
What kind of work will you produce today?
NOTE: Christians today are increasingly marginalized—yet consider how the early Christians lived under Roman rule. In our new book, How to Bless God by Blessing Others, Dr. Ryan Denison looks at how the early church responded to their culture—which was arguably much more antagonistic to the Christian faith. Request your copy today to learn How to Bless God.