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Trendsetter or Trend Follower?
Every great man and woman of God that we read about in the Bible has been confronted with the question of whether they are affecting culture or if the culture around them is affecting them. And in that question, a decision arises: Will you set a new trend, or simply follow along with society and what the culture of the day dictates?
We see Abraham hearing the voice of God calling him out of a culture that worshipped false gods in Ur of the Chaldees, and he making the decision to leave all that he had ever known and follow God (Hebrews 11:8). Moses rejected a culture of tyranny and subjugation and chose to be numbered with the very slaves he once oppressed (Hebrews 11:24), Daniel refused to worship a king under penalty of death regardless of what society and the law dictated, and Esther refused to give in to an anti-Semitic culture, changing the course of a nation.
Today, the question still remains for every child of God: Are we affecting culture or are we being affected by it?
A Glimpse into Heaven’s Culture: The Azusa Street Revival
This past weekend, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday in celebration and commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church. One thing that is evident is that when the Holy Spirit comes, the culture around us begins to change and shift into Heavenly culture. We see this at the Azusa Street outpouring in 1906.
At that time in the United States, southern churches were separated and segregated by race, Christianity being divided among colour lines. But in a church on Azusa Street in downtown Los Angeles, people from all races came to worship together in a church that was pastored by a black man named William Seymour. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians sang together, prayed together and served one another in a way that was foreign for those times. From there, God would birth modern-day Pentecostalism and a revival that lasted three years, forever changing the world. Miracles became commonplace as people from around the world flew to that small church building to catch a glimpse of what God was doing. An eyewitness to the revival, Frank Bartleman famously said, “the colour line was washed away in the blood.”
Where there once was a trend of division and segregation, the Holy Spirit would shift the culture of racism and prejudice to that of inclusivity and unity, bringing Heaven’s culture down.
A Culture of Envy
Romans 12:2 (AMPC) says, “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]” The word “World” here is translated aion in the original Greek and literally means an age or a world system. Paul is admonishing us here not to be conformed or fashioned by the age or culture around us.
While Heaven’s culture invokes unity, peace and purity (James 3:17), a worldly culture is built on envy and jealousy, and according to James 3:16, “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” The evil we see happening around us in our schools, politics, media, and virtually all places of influence is due to a culture that is built on envy and jealousy.
I recently saw a tweet that said, “Twitter sells conflict, Instagram sells envy, and Facebook sells you.” Marketers, researchers and economists have found that one of the most powerful emotions they can arouse in a person is envy. And envy generally comes in three stages; we are confronted with someone who has something we don’t, we begin desiring what they have, then we begin to do whatever we can to have that. When we are unable to possess it, powerful destructive emotions begin to take over our lives, and uncurbed, James 4:2 shows us what happens: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
Do Not Love the World
Satan wants our world divided into two groups; the Haves and the Have Nots. He then works to convince the Have Nots to chase after the Haves, knowing that if we are too busy embroiled in this culture of envy and jealousy, we will forget God.
This was his strategy against Adam and Eve in the Garden, convincing them that what they had was not enough to satisfy them. Although they had everything, the world’s culture of envy began to poison them until they forsook everything they had to go after what they couldn’t have. Satan also tried this on Jesus in the temptation in the wilderness. But Jesus, in Matthew 4:10, countered by saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
For this reason, 1 John 2:15, 16 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” If we are in love with the world and a slave to its culture of envy, the love for God is not in us.
The Holy Spirit Makes You a Trendsetter
We can look around at our world and think we have no choice but to follow to its way of thinking, but the good news is that we don’t have to follow the trends of the world nor conform to its culture. The Holy Spirit that was poured out on the day of Pentecost gives you and I the power to not only not be conformed to this world’s culture, but to transform it!
When the early church after the day of Pentecost were released to into the world and preach the gospel, the Greco-Roman culture of that day was evil. Benjamin Wiker, an ethicist and historian writes about how bad it was: “the pagan Roman culture happily affirmed contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia, pornography, prostitution, concubinage, divorce, pederasty, and the mass killing of human beings for entertainment in gladiatorial combat.” You talk about an evil culture! Yet within only 300 years, facing major persecution a movement that started with one Person and His twelve disciples became the dominant religion within Europe and the Western world.
As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let’s not forget that the Holy Spirit never stopped working. From the days of the first century Christians and the early church to the Azusa Street Revival to today, He wants to make you into a trendsetter, a cultural transformer, and bring Heaven’s culture down through you, to the world around you.