Simone Biles won bronze in the Olympic balance beam final last week, earning her seventh career Olympic medal. A week earlier, she took herself out of several competitions to focus on her mental health, a decision that made global headlines.
Pop star Justin Bieber made similar news in 2017 when he canceled the remaining dates of his Purpose tour to focus on his well-being. When Simone withdrew from the all-around individual final to “focus on her mental health,” Bieber responded with this message on Instagram: “nobody will ever understand the pressures you face! I know we don’t know each other but I’m so proud of the decision to withdraw.”
He continued: “It’s as simple as — what does it mean to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul. Sometimes our no’s are more powerful than our yes’s. When what you normally love starts to steal your joy it’s important we take a step back to evaluate why.”
Bieber added: “People thought I was crazy for not finishing the Purpose tour but it was the best thing I could have done for my mental health!! So proud of you @simonebiles.”
Simone Biles and Justin Bieber are both followers of Christ. In fact, Bieber’s Instagram message included a statement by Jesus in Mark 8:36.
By contrast, athletic shoemaker Converse made headlines by collaborating with designer Rick Owens to launch a new line of sneakers featuring a satanic pentagram. Owens explained, “I’ve been using this pentagram for a long time because obviously, it has adolescent occult associations.” He added that the pentagram suggests “empathy and a consideration of systems of living that might not be standard. So that leads us to be more accepting and tolerant of other systems, which I think is a good thing.”
Of course, rather than being “accepting and tolerant” of satanic “systems,” we are taught by Scripture to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Culture presents the choice daily between tolerating what is unbiblical and resisting deception with biblical truth. For example, CNN is carrying a glowingdescriptions of the “Gay Games,” which it calls “an event for queer and trans people to gather safely, play sports they love, and be themselves without fear of intolerance.”
A new ad by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly features a biological woman with double mastectomy scars wearing an open shirt and identifying as a man. “Because the body you are randomly assigned at birth shouldn’t determine how well you are cared for,” says the ad.
Worldviews that reject biblical truth are not only deceptive but can be dangerous for those who live by God’s word. For example, Communist authorities in China recently arrested five Christians because they attended a Christian conference in Malaysia last year where Tim Keller and D. A. Carson were speakers. The five had legally traveled to Malaysia with valid passports but are now facing charges.
What would Abraham Lincoln say of us?
In what could be called his “farewell address,” Joshua admonished his people in the Promised Land: “Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).
It seems implausible that they would persist in worshiping false gods from their former lives. They had seen the one true God deliver them from Egypt through miraculous plagues, part the Red Sea, stop the flooded Jordan River, destroy the fortified city of Jericho, and empower them to defeat their enemies in their Promised Land. However, the present tense of Joshua’s statement shows that such idolatry was still a present-tense problem for them.
Unfortunately, the same can be said of us.
On March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in which he said of Americans, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no nation has ever grown.
“But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
What would he say of our nation today?
“Choose this day whom you will serve”
Those who follow biblical truth and those who follow secular falsehoods are on increasingly divergent paths. But the latter will not allow the former simply to be different. We, our children, and our grandchildren are now living in a culture inundated with LGBTQ ideology and other unbiblical deceptions.
Like Simone Biles on the balance beam, we can move forward with the encouragement of our Coach and fellow competitors, or we can fall from our intended path in defeat. Justin Bieber was right in quoting Jesus’ question: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). The verse earlier, our Lord warned: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (v. 35).
He offered no other option.
Joshua called his people to choose: “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell” (Joshua 24:15a).
Then he set the example for them with his famous declaration: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (v. 15b). Can you say the same?
Jim Denison is co-founder of @Denisonforum, designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth.