How many times in your life have you heard or said, “Aww man…if that person was a Christian, they would turn the world upside down?” A few times, maybe? Now, how many times was the individual referred to someone famous?

The latest news to pop on the social media boards is Justin Bieber’s tour cancellation attributed to (what sources say) is his Christian rededication and His ambition to start His own church, or something he will do along those lines (which, honestly, is frightening). Right away many Christians I have on my social media feeds reposted the incredible spiritual breakthrough as an incredible victory for the Christian faith, and something to be celebrated.

It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate sincere conversions, whether famous or not, but for some reason famous individuals who profess Christ, but neglect to change their lifestyles, become Christian heroes, and all of sudden you start seeing them replace  their concert tours with the all the various Christian equivalents. It’s the same grandeur on a different playing field. It’s like quitting the NFL to play in the MLB. What he’s abandoned is nothing different than what he’s gaining. He’s moved from the red carpet of Hollywood to the red carpet of Hillsong Church.

Christianity in many circles has become a product to sell. Churches are no longer concerned with preaching Christ crucified, like Paul and the rest of the Apostles, or being Biblically accurate, but are rather concerned on whether their music, style, and church programs can meet the growing need of a commercialized and consumer-based society. Church, in these circles, has become just another product to purchase and it’s nothing more than a supplemental dose for a culture addicted to entertainment and all that comes with that – fame, fortune, and influence (power). And do you know why they are committed to this? Because it works: It fills their seats, it fills their wallets, and it fulfills their obligations to meet the standards of morality that they have denigrated the Gospel down to. It meets all of their needs. If I am making a quick buck off of religion while helping the poor, then everything I gain through my proliferated means is justified, right? I feel comfort and I feel good inside. Mission Accomplished.

Unfortunately, Christianity is not a religion of morality. You cannot break Christianity down to simply an opinion on or a standard of morality or ethics. God hasn’t called men to be moral; God has commanded all men to be holy, and to be holy as HE is holy. Do we understand the difference?

It has become clear to me (through the example of my own life) that we can easily be moral without being holy. We can easily subscribe to a law of do’s and don’ts, and fulfill some arbitrary list of Christian morality that enables us to feel religious and “Christian,” and do so without surrendering our lives, our wills, our fortunes, our dreams, our souls and our hearts to the living God. We can believe in all the orthodox doctrine in the world and subscribe to it and become members of the most godly and relevant churches and Christian circles, and yet never bow our hearts in complete and total surrender to Christ, which should cause us to sell all we have for that pearl of great price.

This confusion, or deception I should say, isn’t something new. It has been exemplified throughout the Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments. God confronts such lifestyles throughout the Major and Minor Prophets by lambasting an Israelite nation that “followed” procedure (the Law) but denied God His rightful rule in their hearts. Their worship was insincere, empty, and worthless. Jesus confronted the same attitude of the heart with perhaps the most stunning and fearful text in the New Testament when He said (familiarly),

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (Matt. 7:21-23).’”  

We can most certainly be zealously in our morality, active in service, and visibly “Christian,” and yet never know the Savior, which will ultimately lead us to our doom. Dwell on this: We are not called to be moral; we are commanded to be holy.

What does this mean? Does this mean we work and strive to prove our holiness and perfection before God? No. That is nothing more than Christian moralism in disguise that attempts an adherence to the Law that can never be accomplished through human effort, which only leads to failure, frustration, and condemnation. True holiness is a satisfaction in God that produces willful obedience and joy; True holiness, as Andrew Murray says, is blessedness;[1] True holiness is true joy. Andrew Murray expresses this thought this way, saying,

“It is only under the inspiration of adoring love and joy that we can ourselves be made holy…Do all God’s children understand this, that holiness is just another name, the true name, that God gives for happiness; that it is, indeed, unutterable blessedness to know that God does make us holy, that our holiness is in Christ, that Christ’s Holy Spirit is within us? There is nothing so attractive as joy: have believers understood that this is the joy of the Lord – to be holy?”[2]

So why substitute the true happiness for fame, fortune, moralism, “success”, comfort, influence, and all these other things that the Christian industry and the world promotes? Why sacrifice the power of the Gospel for corporate strategies and entertainment? Why do we celebrate individuals who do not exemplify true holiness but, rather, represent a shallow and powerless Gospel that is only strong enough to create studios and mega-churches that are filled with earthly riches, but empty of true riches?

This isn’t an argument against Justin Bieber or any other famous individual who professes Christ. God knows who are His and everyone’s actions will demonstrate the validity of their faith. It is, rather, a discussion on what we do and why we do it. It is a question of our heart. Do we really know and love Christ and believe Him, or are we substituting His grace and true joy for something else? Do we desire Him and pursue Him as our joy, which leads to a life of satisfaction, godliness, and obedience, or are we checking off tasks on a clipboard in order to earn something we could never afford to purchase? Or, worse, are we in it for our own glory?

[1] The Best of Andrew Murray, 94.

[2] Ibid, 92, 95.

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