BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
More than ever before, there is a conscious desire nowadays for people to become celebrities. The youths are in the vanguard of those who have caught this bug. It appears to be the norm rather than the exception to see and hear people struggling to become celebrities. Nobody wants to live and die without his or her name rigging a bell. To die unsung is to die a failure – so we have come to believe. Such belief even appears dominant in the church right from the pulpit to the pew. We wrongly equate popularity with success. In the church, the pastor wants to be a celebrity as much as the member.
Consequently, the pastor may try to outsmart the member by suppressing him. He may deny the member whatever platform in the church is making him or her to be in the spotlight. Flesh! My concern really in this message is not the world but the church. Evangelist and author, Leonard Ravenhill, rightly observed, “Preachers who should be fishing for men are now too often fishing for compliments from men.”
Let me make myself clearer. The dictionary defines a celebrity as a famous person or the state of being famous. It has nothing to do with morality or God. A person can be famous for what is good or for what is bad. Knowing how depraved our world has become, most people who are famous today, those who are being celebrated, are famous not by heaven’s standards but by the world’s standards. Most of them would never have passed heaven’s test to deserve the fame they have.
Who is a saint?
Do you want to be a celebrity or a saint? What does the word saint mean? The word saints, used in the New Testament, means holy people. God’s people are referred to in the Old Testament as holy people. In the New Testament believers are referred to many times as saints. In fact, some translations of the Bible actually use “holy people” rather than saints. The word saint does not mean becoming or being an angel. It simply means being a holy person. The era of sainthood has not passed; it did not end with Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Mark or other earlier believers that had the “Saint” put before their names. No, all believers are called to be saints.
Romans 1:7says, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…” (KJV). What applied to those believers in Rome also applies to believers in our generation – we are all called to be saints. Paul, writing to the Corinthians says, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2 KJV). Believers everywhere, whether in Rome, Corinth or Nigeria are called to be saints, and we must live a saintly life. Ephesians 2:19 says, “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family” (NLT).
If they were saints or holy people, what does God expect of them? Ephesians 5:3-5 tells us: “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (NLT).
You can see that the word saints, is used to convey the mind of God to believers that they were called to be holy people, and they must live their lives as saints or holy people. What God is saying to us in the New Testament, He actually said long time ago in the Old Testament. His demand on us today was the same demand He placed on those in the Old Testament dispensation.
In Leviticus 11:44- 45, 19:2 and 20:26, God said to the people then to be holy because He is holy. “For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy…Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 NLT). See also what God told Moses: “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 NLT). “You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own” (Leviticus 20:26 NLT). Did you see any change of mind by God on this demand on believers in our day to be saints? Didn’t you see that God is saying the same thing to us today that He said in the Old Testament? We are called to be saints or holy people; we should live a holy life. God hasn’t changed His instruction notwithstanding the vagaries of the age we live in. In Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 21, 26:19 and 28:9, God’s people were referred to as holy people. Thus, reference to believers in the New Testament as saints or holy people is not anything strange. Rather what is strange is that believers today are more desirous of being celebrities than saints. That is the big problem.
Called to be saints not celebrities
From the Scriptures it is unambiguously clear that believers are not called to be celebrities; we are called to be saints. Our heart desire and preoccupation should be to live up to our calling not to preoccupy ourselves with how to become famous – celebrities. A conscious desire to become a celebrity is flesh; it is not the Spirit of God. The highest honour a person can have on earth is to be called into sainthood; that is what you have been called into if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Sainthood is superior to celebrity. The applause of heaven is better and long lasting than the approval of human beings, mostly the unsaved who set ungodly standards and celebrate people who meet them.
Saints are to please God and not the people of the world. The focus of the saints is to obey the Word of God. Celebrities want to be politically or socially correct, but saints want to be biblically correct.
Be careful child of God. Choose to be a holy person; do not desire to be famous. May be you do not like that last statement. But hear me out: In the course of trying to do what would make people celebrate you, you may miss God. In fact, you may lose God. The Bible says people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction (1Timothy 6:9). However, let me also add that if your foremost pursuit in this life is fame, you are also at the risk of falling into multiple temptations of pleasing the world and displeasing God, which may lead you to hell fire.
Am I against the world recognizing you in your chosen profession or career? No. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is do not make it your ambition or a conscious effort. Do not go out looking for it. Do not say, “I want to be a celebrity” or “I’m going to do what will make me become a celebrity.” With that mindset, you will never become who God wants you to be. Your focus will be to please the world. God has no celebrity; He has only saints! It is the people of the world that have celebrities.
Choose to be a holy person according to the Word of God. If by doing God’s will or fulfilling your destiny, God brings you into prominence do not let it enter into your head or influence you negatively. We are not here on earth to gain prominence, fame or popularity, but to do the will of God.
The danger of fame
The Bible says concerning Uzziah, the king of Judah, “His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful” (2 Chronicle 26:15 NLT). Unfortunately, Uzziah could not handle the fame he enjoyed because God had given him marvelous help. It went to his head. He assumed wrongly that he was responsible for the exploits that brought him to fame. From then, he began to get things wrong. He became so proud that Azariah the priest and 80 other priests could not prevent him from intruding into the office of the priest to burn incense. Right there in the temple God caused leprosy to break loose on him. This was somebody that the Bible had recorded earlier in his reign that he did what was right in the sight of the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:4). But he died a leper and was denied the honour of being buried in the burial ground for kings. “But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the Lord, all brave men. They confronted King Uzziah and said, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!’ Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. But as he was standing there raging at the priests before the incense altar in the Lord’s Temple, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the high priest and all the other priests saw the leprosy, they rushed him out. And the king himself was eager to get out because the Lord had struck him. So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord. His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land” (2 Chronicles 26:16-21 NLT).
Uzziah was destroyed by his inability, and the display immaturity to handle the fame that God allowed him to have. If the fame the exploits God did through Uzziah could result in his destruction, because of his pride, how much more the fame and recognition that human beings are seeking from fellow human beings? That is lethal! Except God hides us in the cleft of the rock, as he did with Moses, even His glory that we desire so much to see in our lives will destroy us (Exodus 33). We cannot carry the glory of God successfully without abiding in Him, living in His ever presence always. Otherwise, we shall be carried away by the manifestation of His glory in our lives that we shall become proud and begin to act in the flesh until we perish and lose our soul. Our inflated ego will result in our irredeemable doom.
Pursuing celebrity status is worldliness
A child of God, seeking for fame rather than living up to his or her calling as saint amounts to worldliness. The Bible warns Christians against worldliness. “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity” (1 John 2:15-17 The Message). Did you notice, in particular, that phrase, “wanting to appear important”? The Bible says it has nothing to do with God. Certainly, God has nothing to do with it.
The devil is misleading the people of the world, to desire the things of this world, thinking they would be here forever. A child of God should know better. 1Peter 2:11-12 says, “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives (The Message). The Bible is saying here that a child of God is not a native of this earth; he or she is a citizen of heaven, and, therefore, there is no need to make himself or herself cozy on earth. Seeking to become a celebrity instead of being a saint is tantamount to ego massaging, which will lead to damnation of one’s soul. Celebrity will not give you an advantage before God; it may only sway vain minds.
Are you walking with the LORD or flirting with the world?
The epistle of James also adds to this important discourse. Hear what it says: “You’re cheating on God if all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way” (James 4:4 The Message). May I ask you? Are you walking with the LORD or you are flirting with the world? If your goal in life as a child of God – pastor, youth, student – is to become a celebrity rather than live your life as a saint of God, you are flirting with the world.
Is your goal to receive the crowns from God or to receive honours from the world? The people of the world know those to give awards, those to recognize and celebrate – those who participate in their race not in the race that the Bible says God has set before believers (Hebrews 12:1). It is logical that you must participate in a race for you to receive medals or prizes (Phiippians.3:14 2; Timothy 4:7-8). Those who desire to become celebrities should be ready to run the world’s race. Romans 3:15 describes such would-be celebrities: “They race for the honour of sinner-of-the-year” (The Message). Romans 1:32 gives us a clear picture of those crowning such participants in their sinful race as celebrities: “And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care – worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!” (The Message).
Do you understand what that Scripture is saying? The sinners are in competition and the prizes go to those who do worst things best! What a horrible thing! Is that not the reality in the world today – those who do worst things best are the ones most celebrated oftentimes. So, in order to become celebrities, even those who started out initially with righteous motives, misdirect themselves by doing less than saintly things to get recognition from quarters where they neither subscribe to godly values nor are they guided by them.
It is appalling that in order to become to celebrities, many youths today, including those in the church, are doing weird things that are contrary to God’s Word and His purpose for their lives. They talk, sing, dress, live and behave strangely and abnormally for them to be noticed and recognized! The wrong people are their role models. For their participation in the race, the “race for the honour of sinner-of the-year,” those who are keyed into the same realm as they are, celebrate them. They are as guilty as those celebrating them (Romans 1:32).
Living in peace with everyone without sacrificing holiness
Anyone who is on the LORD’s side cannot but be miffed that in order to be noticed or to secure recognition people, especially young men and women today, have come under Satan’s influence, perverting their destinies. The pre-occupation of such would-be celebrities is to please men to gain fame and wealth. But that is not why we are on this earth. We are not on this earth to please mortals like us. We are only to live in peace with them without sacrificing holiness. “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NLT). Notice that working at living in peace with everyone does not excuse you from holy living for without holiness no one shall be able to see the LORD.
Let me digress a little, and this is a useful digression. Though 2 Corinthians 13:11 says to believers to be in one mind and live in peace, Romans 12:18 qualifies it thus: “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you live peaceably with all men” (KJV). Another translation renders it thus: “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone” (NLT). The New Century Version says, “Do your best to live in peace with everyone.”
What I am trying to point out here is that you do not sacrifice holy living because you want to live in peace with all men. 2 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV) seems to recognize that sometimes it may not be possible for you to live peaceably with all men, or living peaceably with all men may be beyond you. In other words, there could be cases where doing all you can, would not be adequate to ensure living peaceably with all men. For instance, you want to live in peace with them, but they have made up their mind not to live in peace with you. When you have done all you can, what do you do? Leave the rest to God to handle. He knows what to do. You cannot force anyone to live in peace with you but you can decide to live in peace with others.
Let us go back to the issue of pleasing people. Christians are to walk to please God not to please humans (1Thessalonians 4:1). If our walk pleases the LORD, people may not celebrate us but our enemies shall live in peace with us (Proverbs 16:7). Please the LORD, do not go about seeking to please humans and eventually displease Heaven.
Paul knew this truth well that his business was not to seek to please men but to please God. In Galatians 1:10, he said, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). Christians need to behave like Paul not to be seeking to please human beings hoping in the process to secure recognition and fame. Paul knew that those in the flesh cannot please God because there is no holiness in the flesh (Romans 8:8). Without holiness, no man shall see the LORD (Hebrews 11:6).
The only time the Bible tells Christians to please others is with respect to their edification. “Let each of us please our neighbours for their good, to help them to be stronger in faith” (Romans 15:2 NCV). Put in another version, “Each of us needs to look after the good of the people around us asking ourselves ‘How can I help?’” (The Message). Pleasing others in this scripture should, therefore, not be seen as compromising the Word of God to make them accept us, celebrate us or gain fame at all cost.
Do you want to be a celebrity or a saint? Our purpose on earth is not to become a celebrity or popular but to do the will of God. The preacher puts it succinctly: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV).
As a child of God, do not make becoming a celebrity your life goal. Do not seek approval from the world. Saints are superior to the people of the world – the non-believers. Why should a saint be looking up to the world for approval when the Bible says the saints will judge the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2). What a reversal of roles! Think about that. “Don’t become well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking” (Romans 12:2 The Message). Do you still want to be a celebrity or a saint? Celebrity has only temporary vain value; sainthood has eternal reward. Think!
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing and Bible teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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