Michael Jackson was one of the world’s most accomplished performers. He symbolized everything our culture worships. Traffic across the Internet spiked to virtually unprecedented levels as the news of his death spread.Google's search engine slowed to a crawl. Yahooreported "one of the biggest things" in its history. Social networks Twitterand Facebook nearly collapsed under the weight of traffic. Jackson became in death the most beloved media figure since Elvis Presley and President John F. Kennedy.
As a culture, we are fascinated with celebrities because they appear to live extraordinary lives. The word extraordinary literally means extra ordinary, as in, way more than average, exceptional. Based on what we read, hear, and see, we believe celebrities live amazingly full lives and get to do extraordinary things—things we’d really like to do. But we must ask ourselves, is that to live authentically, which is to live as your real self, the person God created you to be?
There is nothing wrong with seeking to live extraordinarily. God put that desire in each of us. He has called us to live an authentic life, to shine and rise above the ordinary. The problem is celebrity obsession provokes us to focus solely on them and ourselves. The word obsession means to think about someone or something unceasingly or persistently. That person dominates or preoccupies our thoughts, feelings, or desires. The result is often an abnormal haunting.
We all seek authenticity and the extraordinary. Yet far too many waste precious time aimlessly looking for value in the wrong places while it is right in front of their face. Obsession keeps us from living an authentic, fulfilling life—unless that obsession is on God. He is much more concerned about what is happening on the inside of us. He wants our passion to be directed toward himself and his Son, Jesus Christ, not a celebrity.
As our inner life grows and prospers in him, our outward life follows. This world desperately needs authenticity. What our souls really desire is not mere imitation but radical identification.That is, becoming one with Christ as his life becomes enmeshed with ours. Becoming aware of the influence of celebrity within our lives and then recognizing the need for change equals liberation. The Bible says that God, “In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change” (Romans 2:4, MSG). The trademark of a Christian is the transformation into a new and far more authentic person.
Many say they don’t want “religion” because it’s too binding and controlling. They’d be right; many religions and practices are. Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” God even said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, NIV). Every person has a choice between serving two masters: an icon or Jesus Christ.God also tells us that before we were born he set us apart (Jeremiah 1:5). Our purpose is not to copy or out do the next person or to become famous and accumulate wealth. Every person has been set apart to do something no one else can do.
A YouTube moment may only equal five minutes of fame. There is always someone else standing in the wings waiting to step up to limelight. There is only one Person who can guarantee us real success—day after day, year after year. Knowing and following Jesus means freedom from the culture’s opinions, deliverance from our egos. The starting point is realizing that developing an authentic relationship with him takes time, intention, risking trust, and may involve traveling on some tough roads—just like any other important relationship. As we come to know Jesus on a personal leveland fix our thoughts on him we become difference makers.
Scripture says, “For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession” (Psalm 135:4, NIV). Substitute your name for Jacob and Israel. The Bible says that God chose you before the world was ever created. He planned your birth long ago, calling every believer into a very special relationship with himself. Chosen people are special people, destined to be different. Everyone needs to know and feel this. It increases our self-worth.
One enduring attribute of most human beings is that we obsess about the approval of others. Most often we don’t realize it is an obsession, but it is. We are approval junkies shaped by other people’s opinions—real or assumed. If we have put our faith in Jesus, we are “perfect” in God’s eyes even though we may not live up to the world’s standards anymore.We will not always be favored with our peers. That’s a fact of life. One of my professors stated that ten percent of the people you interact with will not like you—no matter how nice you are. The point is, you have been chosen first. God chooses you.
As a child of God, you have immense value and are equal in personhood to everybody else. Think of the person you most admire—you are equal to them. They are no better than you are. What makes human beings distinctive is we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). “Image” implies we mirror or reflect God: his spiritual, emotional, and relational dimensions. Ignoring who you are, a reflection of God, often results in destructive consequences. You are precious because you are loved unconditionally; you belong to, and are being formed by God himself to do something no one else can do. When you hang out with Jesus you are destined to be different.
When Princes William was born to England's Prince Charles and Lady Diana, being the firstborn son, he is held as the future king of England. That position determines how he will live. It has shaped his character, values, behavior, identity, thoughts, and attitudes. He knows, without a shadow of a doubt, he is a king, even though he is not in that position yet. His guaranteed future impacts his present behavior and beliefs. He is also held to a higher standard and is a role model, especially for young men.
When one is born into royalty, one's identity and destiny are fixed simply by being born. The same is true of Christians. The moment we are born again by God's Spirit, we become children of God and heirs. We know who we are—a son or daughter of King Jesus. That knowledge increases our self-worth.
Really look at your world. Do you see what I see? A lot of plastic people with hardened hearts, void of souls, controlling and power hungry manipulators, ads laced in with lies designed to get you to give up your money. Open your eyes. Start to see deceptive people and advertisements for what they are. As your relationship with Jesus gets stronger, you will begin to understand the difference between image: the expression of this culture; and identity: who you are in Jesus Christ.
Scripture says, “Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)” (Ephesians 1:4-6, MSG).
You are royalty—not a copy! God took great care in designing every person ever born—and that includes you. No one can ever duplicate what God created and purposed. We must learn to listen to God by making a commitment to study the Bible so we can see for ourselves that real beauty and excellence comes from deep inside, from God himself.
[This material, although reworked, is an excerpt from Torn Between Two Masters]
Dictionary.com Unabridged; Based on the Random House Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2010.
See John 1:12; Galatians 3:29